- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 25, 2004

The weather has warmed down South, and I’m continuously asked by my 6-year-old son, “How many days until the pool opens?”

Feeling like the parent driving to Florida with anxious, persistent children in the back seat who want to know when we will finally get there, I give John the same answer I’ve given him for the last two months: “Memorial Day weekend. The pool always opens for Memorial Day.”

I remember that May feeling when school was winding down. You could feel summer. You could taste the pool water. You could smell hamburgers cooking on the backyard grill.

So, like John, with the pool and summer on my mind, I know our Memorial Day menu. It will begin with burgers and all the fixings, include baked beans and watermelon, and end with a terrific and easy chocolate-cookie recipe.

This is a great recipe not only because it’s a cinch to throw together (thanks to the cake mix) but also because these cookies bake up chewy and moist like a brownie. Pack these cookies, and tote them along wherever you’re headed this long weekend — to the pool, the beach, the mountains or just to your own back yard.

TIME-SHAVING TIPS

• Buy walnuts or pecans already chopped.

• Buy semisweet chocolate in chunks, or use the chips.

• Use the microwave oven to melt butter on high power for about 45 seconds in a liquid measuring cup.

• This batter can be mixed, refrigerated overnight and baked fresh just before serving.

• The cookies can be baked in advance, frozen up to 3 months and thawed before serving.

Menu: Burgers on the grill, baked beans, chips or oven fries, watermelon, and chocolate-chunk walnut chewies

Chocolate-chunk walnut chewies

The preparation time is 10 minutes, and the baking time is 10 to 12 minutes.

1 package (18.25 ounces) plain devil’s-food-cake mix

8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

Place a rack in the center of the oven, and preheat oven to 350 degrees. Set aside two ungreased cookie sheets.

Place the cake mix, melted butter, brown sugar, eggs and vanilla in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for 1 minute. The dough will be smooth and thick. Fold in the chocolate until well-distributed.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the dough 2 inches apart on two ungreased cookie sheets. Sprinkle a little of the walnuts on top of each cookie. Place the sheets in a preheated 350-degree oven. (If your oven cannot accommodate both cookie sheets on the center rack, place one on the top rack and one on the center rack and rotate them halfway through the baking time.)

Bake the cookies until they have set but are still a little soft in the center and the walnuts have toasted, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove the sheets from the oven. Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheets for 2 minutes. Then use a metal spatula to transfer them to wire racks and allow them to cool completely, 20 minutes. Repeat the process with remaining cookie dough. Makes 4 dozen 2-inch cookies.

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