Santa’s Cookies

Christmas is upon us so a few nights ago I decided to do a test run for “Santa’s Cookies”.

I made my Chocolate Chip Cookies and though the recipe as listed is still wonderful, we accidentally stumbled on a few improvements.

We were out of our usual so instead of using the Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Chocolate we used… Ghiradelli’s 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate.  John had them for another cookie recipe (that I will share with you as soon as I find it) and was nice enough to share. I got the bag at Target (eek, bring cash), so they are probably available in most baking sections. It was around $1 more than Tollhouse per bag I think you should indulge with it at least once, it is the holidays after all.   You can also use less than 2/3 of the bag in my opinion, but that’s up to you.

Chocolate Chips

Hey, it’s even All Natural 😉

I also discovered hand stirring the batter made for much better cookies too.   I have been lazy and using my Kitchen Aid for years to make these.

So Here It is…

The Way-Too-Good-For-it’s-Own-Good Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Original Recipe from Kids Cooking: A Very Slightly Messy Manual.

WARNING: Serving these to Santa might result in more than just an annual visit.

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup white sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg

1  1/8 cups flour

1/4 tsp salt (table salt is better for this)

1/2 tsp baking soda

2/3 of a 12 oz bag of chocolate chips (I use Nestle Toll House Semi-Sweet Morsels Ghiradelli’s) also note I put more chocolate chips in there than the recipe says to, they said only half (what fools) =)

Supplies:

MIXING BOWLl (I use a Kitchen Aid Bowl)

cookie sheet

spatula

big spoon

a SMALL MIXING BOWL

1. In a small pan, melt the butter.  When it’s hot add both sugars, stir and then let it cool down a bit.

2.While the butter mixture is cooling, mix the flour, baking soda, and salt into the MIXING BOWL.

3.In the SMALL MIXING BOWL, beat the egg lightly with a fork (I beat it just short of scrambled egg color-if that makes sense), then add the egg and vanilla to butter mixture. Stir.

4. Now add the butter, egg, and vanilla mixture to the MIXING BOWL.  Stir again, and then add chocolate chips.  If you are using a electric mixer only stir in the chocolate chips for a few seconds, enough so it is mixed but not enough to beat the chocolate chips to death.  Use some elbow grease.

5. Now the hard part: put the bowl in the fridge to cool for about an hour.

6. Ten minutes before you take the mixing bowl out pre-heat your oven to 375 degrees.  Don’t grease the cookie sheet.  Roll the dough into walnut size balls, put them on the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes depending on your oven.

Enjoy Everyone!

photo-2

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Green Bean Recipe

I have a confession to make, up until a few weeks ago I was not what you would call a Green Bean enthusiast.  I avoided the Green Bean Casserole at family holidays, I passed on the meals in restaurants that listed it as a side, I walked by them at the supermarket… but now I have converted to a Green Bean Lover.

We have been going to a local farmer’s market for the last few weeks and every week we are picking up a new item we don’t usually eat.  The first week was Green Beans and now we get them every time we go!  Below is a recipe that helped me take the leap.

Green Beans

Ingredients:

1 lb Fresh Green Beans

2 chopped up green onions

2-4 Cloves of Garlic (depending on how much love garlic)

1/2 of aGreen Bell Pepper (chopped)

1 Tbsp Olive Oil

1 Tbsp Butter (I prefer salted)

1 cup low sodium Chicken Broth

1/2-1 tsp salt (Kosher is best)

1-2 tsp Ground Black Pepper

 

1. Snap stems off of green beans (or cut if you prefer)

2. Over a low medium heat, warm the butter and olive oil in a skillet pan.

3.  Add Garlic & Onion, cook and stir for one minute

4. Add the Green Beans to pan and cook and stir until green beans become bright green (should be a minute or so).

5.  Add the chicken broth, green bell pepper, salt, and black pepper.

6. Turn the heat down to low, leave the lid cracked so steam can escape.  Cook for 20-30 minutes or until liquid evaporates.  The beans should still be a little crisp.

ENJOY!

The Firefly Priority

The main reason why I didn’t blog, write, or really communicate with anyone the last few weeks is because my sister was in town.  And no offense but I wasn’t going to sacrifice a single moment with her just to blog.  For her birthday this year we got her a round trip plane ticket to come see us for a week.  After a few discussions we decided to offer a more extended trip and changed it so she would stay for a month.  I am very happy we did because the poor kid had jet lag for the first four days she was here.  There would have been some serious caffeinated beverage IVs if she hadn’t had more time.  It worked out though because I used the mornings that she slept to help the house recover fro the move and make some sense of where I was going to put things.

At least Firefly got to recover from jet lag in the Guest Suite (we are giving it a fancy name to entice our friends out for a visit).  It was seriously put together only a few hours before her plane got here. and I added more stuff as time went on.  Some day I’ll paint it to match the color scheme.

gueststuff

Having Firefly here was a wonderful experience for Honey and I, and for her too I suspect.  We had fun showing her around, taking her to the shops and restaurants we liked.  We had excuses for day trips and of course we got to spoil her a little bit.  She’s 17 so we weren’t really baby-sitting or playing Mom & Dad, but she isn’t really an adult yet either so we had some say in the rules.  She was incredibly helpful with cooking and cleaning and a wonderful guest.  I also took her to a local University for her first college tour, it was a beautiful campus but she wasn’t feeling it.  In hind site I should have waited longer into the trip because she was just at that critical moment of homesickness for her friends that made her just see it as being far away from everyone she knew.  I tried unsuccessfully to explain that even if she goes to a college close to home or to the same school as some of her friends that doesn’t mean she will necessarily continue her friendships with them.  It’s hard trying to explain how everything changes once you graduate from high school without completely terrifying someone.  By the end of her trip, her tune had changed.

We had many heart to hearts while she was here, talking about college and our parents and what her real options were vs what she was being told her options were.  I think some of it helped.  We have offered to let her live with us for a while after graduation if she wants to set up residency here and eventually go to school, but we’ll see.  Going to school on the other side of the state would be a change, let alone across country.  I just wanted to let her know she has options, the world doesn’t seem as big as it is when you only grow up in one place.  The trip was good her because she came alone and got to where she needed to be be by herself, it probably taught to trust herself a little bit more.

Since she came here right as we moved in she became part of our lives in our new place.  I must admit saying good-bye to her at the airport was ridiculously hard, in fact the week before she left I was near to tears on quite a few occasions.  She was also upset at the prospect of leaving, we offered to have her stay longer if she wanted (another three weeks) and she deliberated on that for quite a while.  In the end she thought she should go home, I think because she didn’t want to deal with our parent’s reaction.  She told me the day she left that she wished there had been rain and delays so she could had stayed.  She killed me when she said that, it made me want to pull her out of line and call my parents on the way home explaining she wasn’t coming back.  I won’t lie, I gave serious thought to what would happen if we just never put her on a plane back.  But I wanted her to make a decision and have it just be hers, not what others wanted for her.  She has to make a lot of decisions in the next few years, so I figure a little practice wouldn’t hurt.

fireflywfireShe had a lot of firsts on this trip.  First of all she flew across country by herself, with a layover on each side of the trip (even I haven’t done that).  She saw fireflies for the first time, heard cicadas, saw new and unusual bugs, saw many real lightning storms, met relatives she only saw as a child, got to play with fireworks, read different types of books, explored new towns, roasted a chicken, and got caught in a downpour while swimming…what can I say, it rained around 6 inches while she was here. And of course her and I talked to each other in more of a sister way, than in the mom and child way that we have had in the past.

She told me things that broke my heart and then things that gave me hope.  This trip while giving her a break from daily life also gave her a chance to see the world from a different angle, which is probably important at this stage of the game.  It also made her know that even if there is distance, Honey and I have her back no mater what.  Sometimes just knowing that makes it easier to deal with the crap.  While I know the issues she has to face from growing up with the same cast of characters, the setting is a bit different and the plot has way too many twists.   I had Mimi to go to, hopefully Firefly feels like she can come to us.

Of course we were not the only ones that didn’t take her departure well.  Bailey was practically beside himself when he saw her luggage out of the closet and whenever she left the room he followed.  I think he is also onboard if she decides to come live with us, what do you think?

baileynotpleased

I do NOT approve

We have talked a lot since she got back, she seems to be doing ok.  She is keeping herself busy with friends and trying a few things to keep her mind busy so she doesn’t get summer brain rot.  I’m trying to keep myself busy too, with making the house ours and starting up my writing schedule again.  Since she was here at the beginning of our life at this house, it has been an adjustment in her absence.   But that just gives us a chance to do some more research into all things fun on the East Coast for her next trip out.

“Feed Me!”

After a couple of months of hiatus my husband has started making bread again!  There have been a few dishes that I have made since the move that has filled the house with smells that remind us of “home”, but none could compare to the smell of baking bread.  I love it when he makes bread; it makes the house smell good, he enjoys it, and it saves me from buying the bread with the nasty preservatives.  He usually makes whole wheat bread but now he would like to expand his horizons.

A few weeks ago hef asked if I would mind if he did a sourdough starter.  Sure! I said-who doesn’t like more bread?  And sourdough…mmm…good.  He said it would take a while.  Huh?  He explained that it takes like a week to get a sourdough starter going and you have to feed it.  Feed it?  Like Feed Me, Seymour!  Great, I already have Bailey that nibbles on my fingers and I suspect would be one of those cats that eats its owner if I was a heavier sleeper.

I said yes, but explained that he was responsible for feeding it and cleaning up after it. And if it needed a walk a one am in the freezing rain he would have to do it. =)

So here is our little sourdough starter in between meals.  I asked him if we could name it, he said if it made it to Sunday-maybe.

sourdough

Novel Housewife Tips

Once a week I am going to post up a “tip”.  Some might be practical, others amusing, and some just because it needs to be said.  Hope you enjoy.

This Weeks’ Tip:

Keep the chicken contamination at bay by choosing and labeling a brush, cutting board, one pair of scissors, etc. with “Chicken” and only use that tool when working with chicken.  This is extremely helpful with kitchens that have more than one cook.  It ensures that the scissors you use to open chicken pouches will not used to cut your herbs.  I just used a piece of paper and scotch tape, it took less than a minute.

chicken label

Feeling the Spring

Spring has not sprung here like I am used to. Instead it has crept in slowly making the trees green here and there, sprinkling a few yards with early blossoms, and making the little creatures around all twitterpated. It looks like the warm days and warmer evenings are here to stay so I think Spring has arrived in its full force. The forecast looks good  so Honey brought the little seedlings of tomatoes, peppers, and herbs out of the comfort of his home office and into the scary world of the back deck.  So far everyone is looking perky and will hopefully give us some yummy veggies.

We wavered for a while on if we should plant anything right now because we are renting and we don’t have the same unrestricted freedoms that we had with our house back West.  But after we settled in and started getting into our new version of our routine we realized that gardening and growing our own vegetables has now been written in ink to our routine.  Honey has picked up the torch on the gardening more than I have, I still feel like I can’t touch anything in our back yard (though it so desperately needs it).  I guess it has to do with my ignorance of the climate or  not knowing how the sun will shine on the yard or what kinds of things need to be kept around to keep the North Carolina clay soil in check.  I’m starting to feel more at home here so I suspect I will out staining my clothes in the dirt soon enough.

seedlings

For a while a rejected any kind of settling into this house because I knew it was only temporary.  I also began looking at it for all of the faults of the house rather than its positives, I think this was some weird subconscious thing with the moving and selling of the house that I had put a lot of myself into.  Don’t get me wrong I was and am on board with our move and selling the house, but I guess I was not ready to put as much of myself into our home (for now).  I guess I also expected that I could run this house like a well oiled machine quickly, because I had at the old one.  This was not the case.  We started from scratch on a lot things such as furniture and even things like our pantry items.  I tried my best to find the stuff we used and what we needed but there was always something I realized we were missing later.  It seriously took me four weeks to notice that we did not have any flour in the house and of course it came at the worst possible moment (making cookies).  I think those are the moments when you realize you’re not in your version of home anymore and you have start over.  I also finally agreed to get a small table and chairs, because the ottoman dinning was not cutting it for us.  It has made the breakfasts and dinners much more relaxing and has kept off that damn TV off more.

So I guess I am letting the place feel more like home, but not forcing it into any narrow constraints.  Over the weekend while Honey moved the seedlings into their “big boy” pots I sat out our lawn and read, I never did that at our old house-there was always something else to do even when we sat back relaxing.   As I sat there listening to the carpenter bees buzzing pass me and birds chirping everywhere, I got this strange multiple flashback of the Aviary at the San Diego Zoo and sitting out on the field in elementary school reading during lunch.  I think the Aviary sprung to mind because that was the only other place I heard that many different types of birds together at once, it almost echoes here there are so many birds.  As for the elementary flashback I can only think that I haven’t spent enough time sitting in the grass as an adult.  These two experiences, separated by decades melded together in a way that made me appreciate the moment I was in as unique feeling because while they reminded me of past experiences I was only taking tiny tastes of my past to help me get the bearings on my present. Once I did, I stopped seeing the backyard as this unknown miscellaous place and saw it as my home.

redb

I’ll get the hang of it here someday, the Spring is helping.

Bring on the Boeuf

The weekend before last we had a dinner party for a few friends.  I decided to finally make Julia Child’s Boeuf Bourguignon after I had been threatening to attempt it since I got the cookbook.  For those of you have not heard of this particular recipe , it is referred to as one of the best, it featured prominently in that Julia & Julie move, and it takes a long time to make.  Fortunately with that last part you can make the day before and just heat up twenty minutes before serving.  I chose to make it the day before, I have memories of my mom cooking some elaborate meal or making wedding cakes for weddings she was actually attending and being barely conscious for the actual event.  I wanted to relax before everyone came over and I also had an apple pie to make too.  I am so glad I did it the day before because on Friday night I was exhausted!  The recipe can take 4 to 5 hours to make and cook (it took me just over five) and some of it is down time, but I one of those crazy cooks that likes to clean as I cook so I didn’t have as much down time.

I had a little trouble finding the exact type of meat that the recipe calls for.  I needed 4 lbs of chuck roast cut into 2″ cubes.  I went to a few places and most of them had non-chuck roasts cut in 1″ cubes or worse they wouldn’t specify the cut, it would just have the cryptic “for stews” label.  I went to a bunch of places but I ended up at Iowa Meat Farms.  They actually asked what it was for and checked with the guy who teaches the cooking class there to see what I needed.  I was thankful for their attention but she must have forgotten about the 2″ cut requirement because she cut them into 1″ pieces.  Oh well at least it was the right type of meat.

I think it turned out pretty well, though it was very torturous on Friday night to have the house smelling so awesome and not be able to enjoy it.  I was nice and made a small tasting for Honey (I got to try it throughout the process).  We didn’t have any leftovers so I assumed it was good.  I will admit I was a lot more self-conscious about this meal because it was my first try but now I feel like a pro. By the way I really didn’t get that “feeling” that some people get when they cook it.  Some people describe that they really felt Julia in the room, helping them out.  I was questioning Julia’s sanity and odd commitment to such specific instructions.

Sprinkle meat with salt, pepper, and flour-toss…put in 450 degree oven for 4 minutes…take out and  toss with more salt and pepper then put in oven for another four minutes…then put oven heat down to 325 and cook…..

Wow.  You could tell the woman had done her research.  

I made garlic mashed potatoes as a side with Octana’s help and then guests brought yummy appetizers, the salad, and wine.  I had hoped to have a Black & White dinner Party only using those colors as decorations but I seemed to have miscounted how many surviving black and white plates I had left (my sink is brutal on everything).  I kept the rest of the decoration Black & White but the plates were our every day plates.

But my favorite part of the meal was the view.