Cooking With Myra: A little splurge

By Myra Starkey
March 13, 2012 at midnight
Updated March 12, 2012 at 10:13 p.m.

Nutella Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

Nutella Stuffed Peanut Butter Cookies

Our daughter, Hannah, is in medical school in Houston, and her spring break was last week. She chose to come here for a visit, and we figured she would just want to relax and take it easy since she just finished a round of tests.

She informed us that she could not waste too much time playing because she had another big test next week, which she claimed, "will determine her future."

It seems like I have heard her say that about other tests. She is very intense about studying and has been for a lot of years, but I guess that's what it takes to be a doctor. I only wish she would not put so much pressure on herself.

Hannah is married and her husband, Ben, is in law school. He did not have the same week off for spring break, so he did not leave Houston. She thought it would be easy to be away from him, but in truth, she missed him terribly and I was a poor substitute.

I think she felt I was lacking some of the compassion necessary in her situation.

She spent much of each day fixated on her computer and textbooks and occasionally jotted down study notes. I was at work during the day, so she had plenty of quiet time.

I joined her in the evenings and cooked. We would eat and talk and then she would go back to her studies.

Taylor was attending a medical conference in Houston, so he was away for a couple of days. I was glad to have Hannah's company, even if she was so intent on her work.

Most of our meals were healthy ones since Hannah is extremely disciplined where food is concerned. She is pencil thin and eats cereal on a regular basis. I believe she often prefers cereal to regular food because she can prepare it and eat it quickly, and she thinks it fills her up as well as eating regular food. Looking at her should motivate me to eat more cereal.

She does love to cook and she will use that as a way to relax. On one of the evenings she prepared a tuna tartare, which is a raw tuna "cooked" in lime or lemon juice. We ate it on crackers.

I admit I was still a little hungry after the meal, so joined her in a late night bowl of cereal and low-fat milk. I usually have whole milk on my cereal, so the low-fat version tasted a bit like white water.

At the end of the week, Hannah said we needed a little splurge, so on Friday night we took out a recent copy of Bon Appetit and made different types of pizza.

The recipe was not complicated, but some preparation of the dough was necessary.

We decided to test a pizza stone, which is a thick, porous ceramic plate, against a standard aluminum sheet pan to see which produced the best crust.

Hands down the stone won and I will never make a pizza on a sheet pan again. The crust was crunchy like a cracker and the topping remained moist under the cheese.

I think the stone allows the crust to cook quickly and therefore the pizza does not dry out.

I am continuing on my health kick, at least as far as my diet goes. I still have not gotten around to actually exercising. I have mostly been on my best eating behavior with the exception of a few unsuccessful attempts at resisting the temptations of Weight Watcher fudge bars.

These fudge bars contain so few calories that I don't seem to understand why I can't have multiple bars. Surely they don't think that a single-serving size is only one bar.

I sometimes help myself to several at a single sitting.

Anyway, I decided that I would celebrate the end of spring break with Hannah and eat a few cookies. Hannah decided to make Nutella stuffed peanut butter cookies. Yum!

There is a story behind this product that I have such an affection for. Nutella was created in the early 1940s by an Italian pastry maker named Pietro Ferrero.

He used hazelnuts as the base because cocoa was in short supply because of the rationing during World War II. These hazelnuts are plentiful in northwest Italy.

Originally Nutella was made into a paste, but later transformed into a spread. The delicious concoction is made of hazelnuts, skim milk and a hint of cocoa.

In Europe, it is considered a breakfast staple and is spread on toast, but it tastes so good, that I don't think it could be that good for you.

I did not serve my kids Nutella for breakfast during their youth, but all of them have discovered it during college. Hannah confessed her obsession, and we shared a few recipes.

I am printing the cookie recipe, so you can try it for yourself.

Perhaps the best way to try it is to purchase a jar and sit with a spoon casually dipping it into the Nutella. It may take several spoonfuls before you make up your mind. Surely all those Europeans can't be wrong.

The week of spring break is over for Hannah. Her husband, Ben, is just starting his break but because he has a real job in addition to going to law school he will not be able to leave Houston.

It is a difficult rite of passage to realize that you are an adult and no longer get a spring break. That cherished week of undeserved vacation often used for late-winter, chilly beach trips goes away once you have a real job.

Most of us can remember this revelation during the first year of our career and the temporary sadness that accompanies it.

Fortunately, when this sadness descends, you should get in your car and drive to the nearest grocery store and purchase a jar of Nutella. Take a spoon and fill it with the creamy, nutty spread and soon, you will realize it is like a vacation in a jar.

Myra Starkey lives in Victoria. Write her in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901, or email



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