Friday, December 30, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookies (#1 and #2 in the countdown)

I've made two decisions for the New Year.  (Dare I call them resolutions?)
1.  to  join Weight Watchers
2.  to find the perfect chocolate chip cookie  (besides the one my mom makes, which is the perfectest!)

You might think these 2 things are conflicting.  Except that WW teaches you can eat everything--in moderation.
So...that's my story!  And I'm sticking to it.

Time to dig out my many cookie recipe books!
(this would be stupid to do, because I have leftover Christmas cookies in the freezer, except I actually made these BEFORE the holidays)

These being 2 different recipes from my cookbook  "The Search for the Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie"  by Gwen Steege.  (I guess I am not the only one on a quest)
(that sticker is not coming off at all....it's stuck like glue... so now you know I am a bargain shopper too)



My quest, in today's post, will serve me with my  very own cookbook countdown too, as well, as  Cookbook Sundays, and  See Ya in the Gumbo, two great blog hops.
But back to the cookie--the Chocolate Chip Cookie. Everybody's favorite.  There are so many variations on the CCC.  What is your favorite?
I prefer a crisp/chewy CCC, while the Handyman loves a soft cake-like CCC.
I wonder if we can find a common CCC ground this year of me making  a CCC recipe a week?

This will be fun!  (for me)

I thought I would just work my way thru this cookbook to find out if what Steege says is the best, really is the best.
Her first chapter  is on Traditional Chocolate Chip Cookies....some that are quite similar to the Original Toll House  Recipe.

She says,  "the ingredients are all pretty standard, but each will produce a different texture and taste, depending on the proportions of those ingredients, the presence of butter, margarine or shortening, or even the method of mixing everything together.  We each seem to hold in our mind some archetype of  "The" chocolate chip cookie--is one of these that model for you?"

I was disappointed that none of her recipes had adjustments for high altitude.  I think it makes a huge difference in the chemistry of baking.  We sit quite high at just over  4000 feet above sea level.
I also had a slight problem using margarine, but, I am making the cookies as written, so... onward I went.
I began with cookie recipe #1.  It is labeled "Finalist".

Hmmmmm.....
too flat and greasy for my taste.  But that didn't stop me from eating them...I just didn't like them as well as my mom's.
I think the altitude thing played a big part here.  I followed the directions EXACTLY but the dough was soft and the cookies flattened out.  I don't like that.  Having said that, tho, my son and his girlfriend loved them.




Chocolate Chip Cookies I

1 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter
6 tbls granulated sugar
6 tbls brown sugar, firmly packed
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/21 cup chopped nuts  (optional)
6 oz  (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips or semisweet chocolate bar cut into pea-sized pieces

Sift flour before measuring, then resift with baking soda and salt.  Set aside.
Cream butter. Add sugars gradually, and continue beating until creamy.  Beat in egg and vanilla.  Stir in sifted ingredients. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips.
Drop by teaspoonfuls onto a greased baking sheet, placing cookies well apart.  Bake at 350F for about 8-10 minutes.



**********************************************

The second cookie I made from this book was touted as being softer and chewier than most traditional CCCs.
They were softer, but they were not the  crispy-chewy consistency I like.
And they were a bit heavy on the chocolate chips for me.  I love CCCs, but like about half as many chips as is usually recommended.
But again--this didn't stop me from eating them.



Chocolate Chip Cookies II

3 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup margarine at room temp
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon water
2 eggs
18 oz  (3 cups) semisweet chocolate chips

Sift flour before measuring, then resift with the soda and salt.  Set aside.
Combine the margarine, sugars, vanilla and water in a bowl and beat with an electric mixer about 2 minutes, until creamy.  Add eggs and beat until fluffy.
Gradually add the sifted ingredients and beat with the mixer for about 2 more minutes, until very well blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.
Drop by heaping teaspoonfuls onto lightly greased baking sheets. 
Bake on the middle oven rack at  350F for 10-12 minutes.  Do not over bake.
Remove from oven when slightly browned, lightly crisp on bottom, they may seem slightly undercooked. 
Cool 1 minute on baking sheet, them remove to paper towels to cool completely.



I'll be back next weekend with a new chocolate chip cookies on my countdown.
Do you have one that you always use?  Never vary from?  Or, are you like me and are always looking for that perfect cookie?
If you already have the perfect recipe, please share with me!  (except you mom, I already know your's,  and it really is perfect!)

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Confession?

This morning after reading,  Book  Journey's Morning Meanderings, I was very excited to 'confess'  and to post a picture of that confession.
 She asked where your books were laying around your home....besides bookshelves and baskets and places they should be, and how many you had...in places they shouldn't be.

For a bookworm (me) I thought that would be fun to go around and count, because I always have books just laying around in places  (3 and my Kindle right here by me on the compute desk),  BUT,  a few weeks ago, I started a project of  making the spare bedrooms into  "the grand children's room" (got twin beds, wall decals, funny pictures of them, a topee in the corner, etc)  and  'the library'.   I began to take all my books to the 'library'.   All of my books...well over 100.   Well over 200. 
This would be fine except the library doesn't have bookshelves yet.  (waiting for the Handyman to build them.  He was waiting for the holidays to be over).

To make a long story short--I have well over 200 books lying on the floor of a spare bedroom upstairs.
They are homeless right now.   And invisible, since I just shut the door to that room.
It's really not a pretty picture.  It's quite embarrassing.  I couldn't post it.
I will tho AFTER my book shelves are done.

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Countdown is on...

The countdown to 2012 is on!   I know this seems weird, but the turning of the year bothers me.  Like birthdays bother some people  (my birthday has never, ever bothered me.  I'm 52 years old.  Big deal) the new years makes me feel reflective, thoughtful and sometimes melancholy.    Does this ever happen to anyone else?  It's not that I am a  'glass half empty' person.....it's just that for a short period of time, I wonder where the heck times goes, because it goes so fast.  (sometimes  at this time of year, I will torture myself by watching old home videos of my kids when they were little)  (please don't take me seriously when I say torture--it just sounded so dramatic--)
I find a strange sense of pleasure in that melancholy--but only for a couple of days, then it's on to new adventures!  
It's the same thing as hating to turn older I'm sure...I just don't attach it to my birth date and age.  I attach it to  "Father Time".

I do, however,  love the fact that January is slower, and there is time to read.  I've missed reading lately.  I love the fact that January gives a sense of  organization and goals (yes, I do love the dreaded resolutions that everybody else hates),  fresh ideas and a clean white slate.  January and I have become friends of sorts--we have the slower time to  paint the bathroom, tile our hallway, get our new kitchen cupboard built....
...WAIT!!  What happened to 'slower'?   Doesn't sound like I'll be slowing down anytime soon.

Speaking of reading and books....I just finished  Three Day Town by Margaret Maron.  I love her Deborah Knott Series!   In  Three Day Town,  she  brought in the character Sigrid Harald of her previous series.  It was quite fun to see the two characters who are so different in one book.   I haven't finished the whole Sigrid Harald series of books, because I love  Deborah Knott so much, but in reading something by Maron a few months back, she said she hoped that people didn't disregard Sigrid and they come to love her for who she is  (she's not a warm and fuzzy character), anyway, reading that line and just having read  Three Day town makes me want to go back and finish the Sigrid Harald Series.
Needless to say, I enjoyed the book.


and now......I have just started  "the Night Strangers"!  I can't wait for this weekend.  I would love to just hunker down on New  Years Eve, with some Hot Buttered Rum and leftover Christmas Cookies and  finish this book.




I'll let you know how it goes,
....to be continued.....

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Cherries


When I was little, my mom would make a few treats at Christmas, that I just wouldn't eat.  I wouldn't touch them with a 10-foot pole!  Now, as an adult, I hunger for them.  It's that nostalgic feeling that comes over me during the holidays.  I'm still not sure that I love them, but I liked them very much. (maybe I should have tasted one when I was a kid)  They make me think of home and my mom.

Christmas Cherries--that's how I think of these, altho, my mom's recipe says "Quick Cherries".  I can't find anything like them when I google the recipe. To be fair, tho, I only spent about 10 minutes on Google.

Five little ingredients--that's all you need.
One being maraschino cherries with stems  (and when all else fails and you can't find them in your little town call your friend Karen, from Karen Cooks!  Thanks Karen)




Christmas Cherries
maraschino cherries with stems
1/2 cup butter
1 tsp almond extract
2 cups powdered sugar
graham cracker crumbs

Whip the butter, powdered sugar and extract together until it is of a consistency you like and you can wrap around a cherry.  Kind of like a good stiff frosting  (you may have to add or subtract a bit of powdered sugar).

Take a tablespoon  (I didn't really measure) and wrap around a cherry.
Roll in graham cracker crumbs
Refrigerate.
Eat.

These are super sweet, so you only need one or two with a good hot cup of coffee, but they are pretty and nice to have setting on a holiday plate.
A different take on a candied cherry, if you will.

Thanks Mom!  (and Karen!)

(the trick is to not get too much 'candy' around the cherry, but of course I kinda flubbed on that part. Still if you like the taste of  almond,cherry flavor, you are going to love one of these)

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

I do not procrastinate!!

I just reschedule!

I am having my coffee this morning in this cup.....




.....which I received in the mail yesterday from my friend Karen in Havre, Montana.   (Karen Cooks!  Check out her wonderful blog)
I have never met Karen face to face, but I think she is one of my BFF's!   Do they even say  BFF anymore?   I am usually behind the times, you know, in both my use of  current slang and, well, in most everything I do.
That is why I got the mug.  Because Karen knows me so well.
That has been one of the great benefits of being part of the blogging community:  getting to know people, you wouldn't otherwise meet.  Kind of like the old "pen pal" except with technology and video and Twitter and Facebook thrown in.
Karen and I will meet someday  and then I have to buy the first glass of wine, maybe the 2nd and 3rd too,  to show her I appreciate all the kindnesses she does.




I really don't procrastinate, I just reschedule!  HA!   
And that rescheduling has never let me down yet.  I love to work under pressure.  (okay, i might not LOVE  it, as it is stressful sometimes, but I don't know any other way to do it)

Thanks Karen!  I love my mug.  And this morning I poured hot coffee in it and sat in the living room with the lights of the Christmas tree and a book in hand. It was PERFECT!  The only thing missing was some snow falling and some sugar cookies.

In other news:
We put up our Christmas tree the day before they lit the tree in Rockefeller Center.  When we put up our tree,  we checked the lights---let me rephrase--the Handyman checked the lights,  before putting them on the tree and they all worked....until we were done decorating, and then the middle strand didnt' work.   The Handyman, in his ingenious way of thinking, solved that problem by  taking the strand and 'shaking' it.   They came on.  (he is so smart, it scares me sometimes).
The next night when we watched the news as the tree in Rockefeller Center was lit, I said,   "man, I'd hate to be in charge of that tree.  What if the lights didn't work from year to year and they had to --shake them??"
I thought I was funny.  The Handyman told me they probably got new lights every year.
REALLY??  SERIOUSLY?  What a waste.  I mean, if  they can afford to buy new lights every year, can't they just pay someone to "shake" them from year to year?   It's job security and not wasteful!
Don't tell me the White House does the same thing?  New strands of lights every year?   When there are tons of good shakers out there?

Oh man.

And last....I found this little article that I thought was kind of funny--the  7 types of book lovers.  What kind are you?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Banana Cookies


I have been collecting recipes for years.  I get them from friends and family and magazines and blogs.   Often I have been known to just randomly ask a friend if I can see her recipe box.   I will never live long enough to make all the recipes I have collected.  But I think I should try.



I keep my recipe collection  (which is different from my cookbook collection) in  notebooks that look like this  (below).  I used to have one with dividers for every category, but now I have 5.     Each category now has it's own notebook.
The other day,  I was looking thru the  "cookie" notebook and came across these Banana Cookies   made with a lemon frosting.  I  must have printed it off months ago and always meant to make them, but you know how we recipe collectors are--there is just never enough time.

The combination of lemons and bananas was something I had not  heard of before, so I was intrigued.    The Handyman was skeptical.   He likes  the banana cookies I usually make.
The cookies , without the frosting, were really great.  Soft and moist and just the perfect combination of spices.  We loved them!  

Then I frosted them.   The frosting itself was really good.  The tang of the lemon was perfect.  We just weren't thrilled with the two tastes together.   My son and his girlfriend on the other hand loved them.   So I sent them home with them.




But would I make them again? 

I WOULD.   Because once I gave them away, I wanted them right back.  Icouldn't get them out of my mind.  I craved them, once I didn't have them.  I yearned for that perfect banana and spice flavor and the tangy lemon frosting once they were gone.  I longed to bite into that soft cake like cookie once again.
It makes my mouth water even now, thinking about them. 

It's a  good cookie.  Try it and then if you aren't sure--try one in the morning with a cup of coffee.  You'll be hooked.




Banana Cookies with Lemon Frosting
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cloves
2 cups flour
6 oz chocolate chips  (optional--I didn't use)


FROSTING
3 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup butter
2 Tbs+ lemon juice (adjust until you have the right consistency)

Cream together shortening, brown sugar, eggs and bananas. Sift in soda, powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves and flour.   Mix thoroughly.  Stir in Chocolate chips if using them.

Spoon heaping tablespoons onto cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for  8-10 minutes.

Let cool and top with frosting if desired.