Monday, November 17, 2014

Caesar Salad: Life in 15 minutes

To my fearless moms-friends who work around their 15 minutes like the pros they are; you're awesome.

I think that a lot of parents will relate to the following statement about living with children: life gets measured in 15 minute increments.

I find myself planning my life in 15 minute moments of activity and inactivity.  Getting lunches ready in the morning?  15 minutes.  Taking a shower and getting ready?  15 minutes.  Walking to school?  15 minutes.  Grocery shopping? 30 minutes.  My day from the morning to the end of the night is planned in 15 minute increments.  When I'm driving kids to different activities (one or two 15 minute increments) I'm thinking of and planning the next 15 minute increment.

My mom friends and I regularly pull out our calendars and plan drop offs and activities in 15 minute increments.  My friends will work schedules around 15 minute increments.  And suddenly every single moment of my life is about the next 15 minutes.  And the next.  And the next.

Most household chores are a done over a series of 15 minute chunks.  I'll sort and manage to get one load of laundry started and another will be coming out of the dryer and I can start folding it, but 15 minutes isn't enough time to finish it all.  I'll start but not finish before I have to rush off to pick up the kids or start work.  I generally can make it through stripping the bed sheets of all the beds in 15 minutes, but I can't put the sheets back on in 15.  So I'll do one or two and then have to do the rest later in the day.  Dinner is mostly a series of 15 minute increments.  Usually I try to make it in two 15 minute increments, sometimes grabbing myself a 15 minute earlier in the day to finish the meal with another 15 minute later in the day.  As long as the kids are awake and hustling, my life is being boiled down to 15 minutes.

Sometimes, like on my birthday, the best present comes to you in an unexpected way.  As I rushed back from work on my birthday,  (yes I teach on Saturdays sometimes), I had in my head on the drive home (two 15 minute blocks) all the 15 minute tasks I had for the rest of the day.  First and foremost was emptying the dishwasher and cleaning up breakfast dishes and the rest of the kitchen that I hadn't had a chance to do before rushing off to teach.   I had whittled down the tasks to their most efficient order so that they'd be done in 15 minutes so I could begin my next tasks of getting the family lunch.  However, when I walked in, three cheerful children greeted me with the beautiful sight of my 15 minute activity all completed.  They had, of their own volition, cleaned the kitchen, emptied the dishwasher, loaded the dishwasher and organized things in the kitchen on their own (as a birthday present.)  I was excited because I got an extra 15 minutes back more than I was about the cleaning that the kids did.

Therefore, I present to you my favorite 15 minute Caesar Salad.  I love this one because it doesn't use egg or mayo in the dressing, but rather relies on mustard to help emulsify the dressing.  The croutons are baked in the oven quickly, and while they are baking, lettuce is quickly cut and washed, and dressing is made.  It takes 15 minutes if your lettuce is pre-washed, and for some who aren't so quick with the knife it could take 30 minutes.  However, the more you practice, you'll get it down to a 15 minute chunk of time, and oh - is it worth it.  Rich, tangy, satisfying.  Sometimes I throw some chicken on top, but most of the time I just sit and enjoy it for what it is - 15 minutes of heaven.

Caesar Salad
Serves 4

½ loaf crusty French bread
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons anchovy paste (available near the canned meats section of your supermarket)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (balsamic makes it nice and rich)
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
3 cloves fresh garlic, peeled
Juice of a whole lemon
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper

3 hearts of romaine, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Shredded Parmesan

Preheat oven to 425.  Cut loaf of bread into bite sized pieces.  Toss with olive oil and salt.  Place on baking sheet.  Bake for 7 to 9 minutes, until golden.  Set aside.

While croutons are baking, in a food processor (or mini food processor) put anchovy paste, dijon mustard, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, garlic and the juice of the lemon.  Process together and then slowly add olive oil.  Salt and pepper to taste.

Toss romaine with about ⅓ of the dressing.  Sprinkle with parmesan.  Taste.  Add more dressing if desired.  Top with croutons and more Parmesan.  Finish with another sprinkling of black pepper.


Printable recipe

Absolutely worth 15 minutes.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Pumpkin Scones with Brown Butter Glaze: the object of desire

My book fair team and I took on the job of keeping the book fair up and running for a week, in order to raise money for our school library.  It's a job I've done for the past 5 years, and one that I really enjoy, mostly because I love to talk to kids about books.  I run around, talk about book titles, encourage kids to try books out beyond an interesting cover, and give mini book talks to as many people will listen, in order to promote the reading of books.  There were a couple of not so great incidents this year, including a mom pointing (literally) her finger at me, when I wouldn't do what she wanted, and a young boy who shoplifted, and the other boy who insisted on coming in repeatedly asking for a book that we didn't have and wasn't going to get.

But the funnier aspect of this book fair, came in the form of the book Sisters.  I knew it was going to be the hot item of the book fair, especially since it had just come out in August.  I knew kids would be excited to read it, buy it, own it, only I underestimated the "hotness" of the book.  The first day of the fair, Friday, we opened, and before lunch I placed my first restock for 10 more copies.  The first 30 sold out in a day, and I promised a long string of girls that I'd be "getting more" very very soon. The weekend passed, and I didn't really think much about it.

However, when we opened on Monday, I saw a long string of girls come in and ask if I had Sisters.  Sweetly I reminded them that I'd be getting more, but I just didn't have any at the moment.  They all patiently walked away and I called out after them, "I'm supposed to get some more before the end of school!  See you then!"  I received my shipment, placed them on the shelf, and braced myself for the after school rush.

What I experienced was like being a rock star or some movie star where people want your autograph.  I was mobbed by girls and boys alike, all clamoring for a copy of the book.  I passed them out, first come first serve, disappointing many when I quickly ran out.  I cleverly came up with the idea of looking in the hold boxes for the teachers for some more, and suddenly a mob of girls closed in on me saying, "ME!  It's mine, it's mine it's mine!!!"  At the end of that Monday afternoon sales hour, I felt as if I had many people pulling and tugging at my clothing, all vying for a piece of me.  In reality all they wanted was the book, but still, I felt intensely drained.  That book was a serious object of desire.

As I've been baking a lot while on vacation, I decided to take on pumpkin scones.  Mostly it was kind of a casual experiment, as I had those many cans of pumpkin in my kitchen, and I just wanted to test some things out. However, as those in my neighborhood heard of my pumpkin scone, I received numerous texts and requests for one or more of the scones.  I discovered that the primary pumpkin scone purveyor, Starbucks, was no longer making them.  (Maybe your local Starbucks will, but ours in the Bay Area do not.)  I had people offering to buy them from me, some for their son, some for their mom, and one guy came over walking his dog, begging for one for his pumpkin-scone-starved family members.  I was inundated with request, but in this case it worked out, because the recipe I created makes 16 scones, and no family should eat 16 scones in a single sitting.

Once again, I designed the recipe to USE UP AN ENTIRE CAN OF PUMPKIN, because I do not like the remnant pumpkin in the can situation.  It actually drives me crazy when I get in that situation. The scone is tender and moist, with the fragrance of all those amazing spices we associate with fall. The brown butter icing is a favorite with everyone, and with a black cup of coffee - it is an object of desire.  Take your time making these, and enjoy the experience, because once they are ready, you'll be deluged with requests for your presence scones.

Pumpkin Scones with Brown Butter Glaze
Makes 16 scones

Scone Ingredients
4 ½  cups all-purpose flour
⅔  cup packed brown sugar
4 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter cut into one inch cubes
2 eggs
15 oz can of pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling)
¼ cup of milk, possibly more IF your dough is too dry

Scone Method
In a large bowl of a mixer, combine the flour, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, baking soda, and salt.  Add cut butter.  Turn the mixer on low and allow the mixer to cut the butter into the flour, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 2 minutes.   In another bowl, whisk the eggs, pumpkin and ¼ cup milk. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened.

Turn dough onto a floured surface; knead gently 10 to 12 times, until dough comes together.   Divide dough in half.  Pat each portion into an 8-in. circle and cut into 8 wedges.  Repeat with the other section of dough.  Separate wedges and place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Brush with milk.

Bake at 400° for 15 to 18 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to from pan to cool on racks.  Once scones are fully cool, make glaze.

Glaze Ingredients
1 stick (8 tablespoons butter)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 5 tablespoons whole milk (will vary based on desired consistency)

Glaze Method
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes. Carefully pour melted butter into a bowl, leaving excess sediment behind.

Add confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons milk and whisk together until uniform and smooth.  If glaze is still too thick, add more milk and whisk again, until desired consistency.  A runny glaze is easier to smooth everywhere but doesn’t set up as easily as a slightly stiffer glaze.  Choose accordingly.

Use glaze immediately.  Dip scones face tops down, lift and hold over bowl, allowing dripping.  Turn over and place on a cooling rack over a tray to catch any residual drips.  Serve with coffee.
Printable recipe

Objects of desire

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Brown Butter Glaze: Sometimes a "can" is all you have

I've noticed an alarming trend in my grocery shopping:  I avoid going to the grocery store if I have to take anyone from my family there..

I do not enjoy group outings to the grocery store.  I do not like taking Husband with me (as he'll buy something I don't approve of) and I do not enjoy very much, three chattering, active, no-longer-sit-in-the-cart-and-look-cute children, who ask and explore and get excited over things that I cannot imagine.

"Mom, did you know that Jello comes in this bright green color?  How do they do that?"

"Mom, can I buy this [points to most sugary cereal with 27 different artificial colors listed] and eat it for all three meals today?

"Mom, let's walk down this [chips] aisle.  I wanna see all the stuff here.  It looks really yummy here."

"Mom, lemonade comes in a BOTTLE.  Like already made!  How do they do that?"

"Mom, look at these applesauces.  It has only apples listed in the ingredients.  Can we get it?"

"Mom, we need more snacks.  There is nothing I like to eat at home.  THIS SNACK is allergy safe!!"

"Mom.  They have FROZEN pizza.  Now you don't have to make it homemade.  Let's get one."

The mass of craziness, questions, activity, and general flurry of three kids running circles around me generally means that I will avoid going to the grocery store by all means, especially when the kids are on break, and right now, my kids are on break.  They are on a three-week fall break, and I made the mistake taking them to the store once, and I subsequently vowed to myself that we'd have to be starving in order for me to go again.

Therefore I began rummaging through the pantry to find new things to cook without going anywhere to get ingredients, and I discovered 6 CANS of pumpkin.  Although the weather was hot, suddenly I felt fall.  I wanted to make something warmly spiced, rich, and typically autumn.  I toyed around with all six cans of pumpkin, making various permutations of this spiced bread, until I came upon the recipe that truly satisfied me.  One major requirement was that I had to USE UP a can of pumpkin instead of having one of those "I have 1/4 cup of pumpkin left that I don't know what to do with" situations.  The other major requirement was that I wasn't going to go to the supermarket to get any missing spices or ingredients.  The result was this super delicious bread that everyone who has tasted has been going nuts over.

(In a funny side story, I knew I wanted cinnamon, but could only find cinnamon sticks. In order to avoid the store, I cleaned out my coffee grinder and ground my own cinnamon, sifted it to make sure it was fine, and drank cinnamon perfumed coffee for a few days, only to find my ground cinnamon 3 batches of pumpkin bread later.)

Lucky for you, this recipe makes TWO loaves - one to give away, and one to keep. Or, if you're selfish, one to freeze and one to keep.  Or, if you have a ravenous family who needs to keep busy eating pumpkin bread, one to eat and another to eat.  The icing is optional - and as my #2 likes to say, "When it has icing, it's dessert.  When it doesn't have icing, it's breakfast."

Pumpkin Spice Bread with Brown Butter Glaze
Makes 2 loaves

Bread Ingredients
2 ⅓  cups sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
3 large eggs
1 16-ounce can solid pack pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½  teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½  teaspoon ground cloves
½  teaspoon ground nutmeg

Glaze Ingredients
1 stick (8 tablespoons butter)
2 cups confectioners sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 to 5 tablespoons whole milk (will vary based on desired consistency)

Bread Method
Preheat oven to 350.  Grease two 9X5X3 loaf pans (or a slightly smaller one, but just know it’ll take longer to bake, the deeper the pan).  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, oil, eggs, and pumpkin.  Set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg.

Gently add flour to pumpkin-egg mixture.  Mix slowly and gently, incorporating gently, being careful not to overbeat.  Once mixture is well incorporated, divide evenly between two loaf pans.

Bake for 65 to 75 minutes.  Bake until tester in the center of loaf comes out clean.  Allow breads to cool for 10 minutes, and then turn out onto racks to cool completely.

Glaze Method
In a heavy saucepan, melt butter over medium high heat, until golden brown, about 8-10 minutes.  Carefully pour melted butter into a bowl, leaving excess sediment behind.

Add confectioners sugar, vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons milk and whisk together until uniform and smooth.  If glaze is still too thick, add more milk and whisk again, until desired consistency.  A runny glaze is easier to smooth everywhere but doesn’t set up as easily as a slightly stiffer glaze.  Choose accordingly.

Use glaze immediately.  Pour over bread and allow to set, about 30 minutes.

Printable recipe

I can stay at home for this.  

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Roasted Beet, Walnut, Feta and Kale Salad: The harvest

We are headed into harvest time and I once heard Chef Michael Chiarello describe it as a time where one foot is in the summer and one foot in the fall.  I found it such a beautiful description - that split of the seasons, the moment that the year has a perfect balance.

Sometimes harvest is something different, which is what I experienced today.  For the past 4 years, I've been cooking the teachers at Children's elementary school a meal, twice a year, always on the Thursday that I set up for the semiannual book fair. It's at the Teacher's preview luncheon, when teachers have an opportunity to choose books for their wishlist boxes and enjoy the book fair without 30 or more kids running around and asking a million questions.  Over the past 4 years, I've cooked and served a light lunch to some fantastic teachers at our school, favoring simple wholesome food.  I've cooked chili  most often, as it is always a huge hit with the teachers.  This year I decided to go with a different menu, kale salad with pecans and Parmesan cheese, turkey arugula meatballs on top of a small dinner roll with provolone cheese, and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.  I served freshly cut apples as well as an assortment of drinks.  

With my two loyal and regular assistants by my side, we began serving the teachers.  One helped keep the kale salad flowing, and one made sure that there was enough of a rationing system so that all the teachers would be able to have some meatballs.  (I had hand rolled exactly 124, which makes 62 mini-sandwiches, and I knew there would be some people who would want more.)  My favorite part of the day, was looking over to see that teachers had grabbed chairs and were sitting around in a circle together.  They laughed while eating, and I saw shoulders relax, jokes made, and overall a feeling of warmth and goodness.

That was my harvest today.  I think through the continual planting of consistent food and service, teachers have come to appreciate the moment of respite in their day in the food that they ate.  I saw the harvest of goodness, happiness and kindness today and it made me smile.

In honor of the harvest, both of the bounty of the earth and the bounty of human happiness, I made this wonderful beet salad.  I often roast two kinds of beets all at once, peel the skin off, slice and leave them chilled in the fridge so that I can add them to a salad whenever I wish.  I candy the walnuts all at once, and leave them in a tightly sealed container so that I can enjoy them whenever I want.  I make the dressing ahead of time, so that whenever I feel like it, I can have this salad at my beck and call.  It's the perfect combination of sweet, salty, and nutty all in a harvest-themed salad.  I've served it multiple times at church functions, always to rave reviews.  You can enjoy it on your own, but I guarantee that if you share, you'll also notice a harvest of good will and love.

Roasted Beet, Walnut, Feta and Kale Salad
Serves 5 to 6

3 medium bunches Lacinato/dinosaur kale, washed and rinsed well, roughly chopped (8 cups chopped) OR 8 cups of baby kale

1 or two colors of beets, roasted, sliced

½ cup finely chopped red onions
¼ red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
¼  cup extra virgin olive oil
¼  teaspoon fine grain sea salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2 cups whole walnuts (You’ll need only 1 cup for this salad, but go ahead and make extra)
½ cup granulated sugar
2 tablespoons butter

¾  cup crumbled feta cheese
salt and pepper to taste

If you've never dealt with dinosaur/lacinato kale, you’ll need to remove the stem before trying to eat it.  I've found the fastest way is to simply grab the stem with one hand, and with the other, start at the base of the leaf, and it a quick motion, strip the leaf upwards until the stem is left stripped.  Wash, dry very well in a salad spinner, and then roughly chop.

In a large jar, add chopped red onions.  Pour red wine vinegar and sugar over onions and shake vigorously so as to coat onions with vinegar sugar mixture.  Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and set aside until rest of the salad is done, so that onions have time to pickle.  It’s okay if the dressing separates and the vinegar stays around the onions because it aids in the pickling process.

In a large fry pan over medium heat, add walnuts, sugar and butter.  As butter and sugar begin to melt, continuously stir mixture.  Heat for 5 to 7 minutes, until sugar is melted and and butter coats nuts.  Immediately turn nuts out onto a piece of parchment paper, and begin separating the nuts into individual pieces.  Move quickly, otherwise nuts will clump together.

Once all the components are prepared, put together the salad.  If using dinosaur kale, toss kale with dressing and massage and let dressing help wilt the kale for about 6 minutes.  Then place kale on desired serving plate and add sliced beets, walnuts, feta and a nice bit of freshly ground black pepper.

If using baby kale, quickly toss kale with dressing, and then add beets, walnuts, feta, and a healthy grind of black pepper on top.  Serve immediately.  Both versions are really lovely, with the regular tuscan kale version being a sturdier salad, standing up to a bit of time delay while the baby kale does not.  If you can serve it immediately, baby kale is an excellent choice.  If it is going to sit for a while, then definitely use the tuscan kale.

For the harvest.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Black Pepper Tofu: When the tables are turned

For SH - for revealing something about me I didn't know

Those who know me well know that I'm kind of inflexible.  If I have a schedule on any given day, before the day starts out, I've carved out mini projects that will take place all day long.  Work out.  Cook dinner (in the middle of the day because I can't in the evening.)  Read.  Bake cookies to give away.  Plan lessons.  Volunteer.  Practice music.  Blog.  Write letters.  Call doctors.  Call dentists.  Each day, I carve out what I need to do and get myself mentally behind all the tasks.  If' it's not in my calendar, I'm generally unwilling to do something.

Last week, I got a text from good friend asking me what I was doing.
SH:  U working this afternoon?
Me: I'm just finished with the dentist.  Not teaching until 330.
SH: Want to try a restaurant?
Me: Where?
SH: San Carlos.  If no, we can just have lunch together.
Me:  What kind?
SH:  American, we can split a burger or try the chicken sandwich.  Johnson's salt box
Me:  I'd rather eat with you at home.
SH:  Are you sure?  Could be fun to try something new.  My treat.
Me:  I have sausage kale pasta.
SH:  Come on you have the time
Me:  I ate out on Saturday. I am surprised you are craving American.
SH:  I'm not, trying to spread my wings.
Me:  Hmmm.  Can I fry you a banana?  A round one.
SH:  When are you home?
Me: 10 minutes
SH: I'm going to kidnap you.
Me: You psychological.
SH:  We walk afterwards.  Must take advantage of our freedom.
Me:  You a force of nature.

I tried politely to push my own agenda of staying at home but it didn't work.  SH didn't know this, but I had my afternoon at home carved out.  There were some phone calls that needed to be made, a bunch of cookies that I had planned to bake, a dinner for the family I had planned to cook, but suddenly I found myself on my way to lunch.  I wasn't sure how it exactly happened, but I decided just to relax and give it a whirl.

As we sat down and waited for our food, SH turned to me and said, "You know I channeled you earlier."

"What are you talking about?" I asked.

"I pretended I was you and didn't take no for an answer," she said with a smile.

"What are you TALKING ABOUT?" I repeated.

"I noticed that when you want something, you ask more than once.  Sometimes you ask two or three or even four times, so I decided I would keeping asking until you came."

"What are you TALKING ABOUT?" I asked incredulously.

"You're persistent.  I wanted to see if I was persistent if you would come and it WORKED!!" she said gleefully.

"I'm persistent?" I said in wonder.

"Yes.  When you really want something, you won't take no for an answer."

This conversation really blew my mind, because there flew out the window my self-perception that I am easy going and a go-with-the-flow type of person.  Instead I got "persistent" as a label.  And I'm not sure if being persistent is exactly good.  Flies are persistent.  As are weeds.  Grey hairs are persistent.  So are children.  Wrinkles are really persistent and so is the layer of fat on around my belly.  As far as I can tell, persistent isn't necessarily a flattering thing.

I decided to take my persistent label today, the unflattering version, and turn it into something good.  Although I was kind of tired, I decided to be persistent and create this recipe that had been rattling in my head for a while.  I saw a version of it in Saveur, and decided to play around with it and make it much more me.  The chopping took a bit of time, but I was persistent; the frying took a bit of time, but I was persistent.  Thankfully the bringing of everything together was quick, but I was persistent anyway.  I texted SH and told her to come over to taste it, and was prepared to be persistent, but she readily agreed.

Push your way through cooking this one.  You won't regret your persistence.  It's peppery, flavorful, and oh-so-good with steaming hot white rice.  Can't you just taste it in this picture?

Black Pepper Tofu
Serves 4

1 cup canola oil
1 ¾ lb. firm tofu, cut into 1″ cubes
½ cup cornstarch

2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
3 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
8 small shallots, thinly sliced
12 cloves garlic, crushed
4 jalapenos, stemmed and thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cut into slices

2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
5 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoons molasses
16 small scallions, cut into 1 ¼″ pieces
Cooked white rice, for serving

Heat oil in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat. Toss tofu and cornstarch in a bowl until evenly coated. Fry tofu until browned all over, about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside; discard oil, and wipe skillet clean.

Return skillet to medium heat canola and sesame oil. Add ginger, shallots, garlic, jalapeno and bell pepper; cook until soft, about 8 minutes.

While ginger garlic mixture is cooking, mix together black pepper, soy sauce, sugar and molasses.  Add to skillet with ginger garlic mixture.  Sauce will immediately begin to concentrate and thicken.  Add tofu to skillet; cook, stirring, until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Stir in scallions; serve over rice.

Sometimes persistence does pay off.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies: When the color of your childhood changes

For my friend JHP - it isn't good-bye.

I've actually been trying to write this post for over three weeks, but haven't had the words.  I've also not had the time, but I think if I had the words, I would have made the time.  But finally, tonight, I've given myself the time and space to try and put down in words some thoughts that have been rattling around in my head, with no words to describe them.

I'm not a good-enough word smith to put together eloquently the feelings that need to be represented, words to describe what it is like to experience the death of a childhood friend.  There is this profound emptiness that comes over the once full memories of childhood and a change in the color of those memories.  What were steady, consistent, innocent memories suddenly change and become different, more faded and less bright.  My friends and I lost a bit of our childhood in the death of our friend - not that the memories changed, but the innocent feelings about those memories are less so. 

A few of us have been sharing childhood pictures of us, some Halloween, some church retreats, and seeing her present in those photographs pinches my heart because even though she is still in the photographs and our memory, she isn't here on earth.  It's almost like the pictures lie to me - that she existed, but no longer so.  Wrestling with that, with her absence on this planet, is not something that I ever imagined doing.  She left, too quick, too soon, before I was ready.  I do have my reassurance that she is with our Heavenly Creator and Father and that finally her body is at peace.  We will meet again in heaven, and for that knowledge, I am grateful.

My friend loved cookies.  She loved chocolate chip cookies.  And I've made this particular permutation of cookie 11 times since her passing.  It was my own way to grieve I guess, a way for me to feel closer to someone who has gone, a way for me to feel better, to taste sweet innocence again, to share cookies with those whom I love.  Maybe it's my desire to master something of my childhood, to slip back into the past memories, but whatever the reason, I made them each time thinking of my friend.  They are rich, sweet, crumbly, the stuff of childhood.

JHP - When I get to heaven, make sure you pretend to like these cookies.
Childhood Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 4 dozen

2 ½ cups all purpose flour
½  teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½  teaspoon kosher salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) room temperature butter
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Position rack into center of oven.  Preheat oven to 375

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle, beat butter until fairly smooth.  Add both sugars and beat until well combined, then beat for a few minutes until mixture is light and creamy.  Scrape down sides of the bowl.  Add egg beating and scraping the bowl as necessary.  Add dry ingredients and mix on low speed to combine.  Mix in chocolate.

The dough or shaped cookies can be refrigerated, well wrapped, for up to 5 days or frozen for 2 weeks.  Freeze shaped cookies on the baking sheets until firm, then transfer to freezer containers.  (Defrost frozen cookies overnight in the refrigerator before baking.)

Using about 2 level tablespoons per cookie, shape dough into balls.  Arrange cookies on pan, and using the pal of your hand, slightly smoosh them down so they will spread.  Bake for 12 minutes or until tops are firm and the edges golden brown.

Serve warm.  Or cold.  Or with a cold glass of milk.

Printable recipe


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