Thursday, May 17, 2012

Recipe | BIG, FAT Chocolate Chip Cookies





Oh dear, first it was my realization that maybe my meatballs weren't the only game in town and now it is my chocolate chip cookies.  For twenty three years I've been under the impression that I made the best chocolate chip cookies.  My black stone-washed jeans might have attracted Jimmy, but it was surely my chocolate chip cookies that made him fall in love.  I made them before all his big baseball games and for every birthday, and when we visited each other in college.  Andrew and friend, Payton, have sold them for $2.00 a piece on numerous garage sale days (and they sell out in less than 15 minutes) and people gladly paid when they would haggle me for .25 cents on books and t shirts.  I've had numerous requests for the recipe {first blogged it here}.  Ok, enough horn tooting, you get the idea. They are good.  And then I tried Kate's chocolate chip cookies at the end of year preschool party. Same Kate whose sugar cookie recipe I blogged here.  Dang it, they weren't just good, they were better than mine.   It sent me in search of a new recipe.  I wanted bigger, fluffier, more substantial cookies.
I've requested her recipe {Kate, if you are reading, please expedite the recipe delivery, please!!) But me and my impatient self couldn't wait, so I went in search of a new recipe to try.  I found one from Vanilla Sugar Blog that was supposedly a dead ringer for the chocolate chip cookies from Levain Bakery in NYC.  I've never been there but they lay claim to being the "best in the world".  So I made them....


And stared at them.  In all their big, fat, chocolaty, slightly crispy on the edges, soft and delicious inside, chocolate chip cookie, glory. And???  AND???




They were better than my regular recipe. Yes, I'm a big girl, I can admit it.    A 23 year tradition has officially been broken. And a new one made {at least until I get my hands on Kate's recipe!}.  I have a chocolate chip cookie reputation to uphold after all.   Now go bake. And share with your friends...


   BIG Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 sticks unsalted butter, COLD 
3/4 cup granulated sugar 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar 
2 large eggs 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
3 cups all purpose flour  
1 teaspoon Kosher salt 
1 teaspoon baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda  
12 ounces (2 cups) good quality           semisweet chocolate chips 
(1 cup chopped nuts, optional) 

If using dough right away, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. (It’s best to chill, though) In a mixing bowl, using an electric mixer, beat butter and both sugars just until creamy. Don’t overbeat. Add the egg and vanilla and beat just until incorporated. Stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. When thoroughly mixed, add to batter and stir just until blended. Stir in chocolate chips. Using ice cream scoop, place over sized dough balls on parchment lined baking sheets.  Chill dough balls for at least 30 min before baking.  Bake times: Put the cookies in a 375 degree oven and set timer for 8 minutes. When timer rings, without opening oven or removing cookies, reduce heat to 325 degrees and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until cookies appear set. Otherwise, you can bake at 350 for 18-22 minutes or until done. I used convection oven and my oven adjusted temps accordingly {350 for 8 min., then 300 for 9 min} Makes 12 (mine made 16) 



Tuesday, May 15, 2012

May 16th | Fourteen Years Ago..

I know many have wondered about the title of my blog.  Ok, maybe not many, but I've had a few ask.  I blogged about it a couple years ago {here} when I had 3 readers.  9 and 16 are my "lucky" numbers.  The three most important boys in my life have birthdays that occur on one of these days, as does my wedding anniversary to one of them.

May 16th, 1998
{more posts here and here}

We were 24. I wouldn't change a thing about that day.  I loved every minute of it and still remember so much of it in great detail, though we did not have it video taped. It was one of those days where the real thing far exceeded expectations.  I wish more days together were so vividly etched in my memories.


We were married in a beautiful big stone church, with the late afternoon sun streaming in the magnificent stained glass windows, by a really wonderful priest.  I remember being nervous the day we told him we had been living together before we were married. I kept thinking this isn't going to go over well, he'll tell us to separate prior to the wedding.  He didn't.  He was understanding and kind.  I don't remember what his exact words were but he certainly didn't criticize or make us feel guilty.  There were also two pieces of advice he gave us in our "pre-marital counseling" that I do remember almost word for word... One, "always put each other first, even before your children.  Because when your relationship comes first, your children will benefit for the rest of their lives by the example they see and by the security they feel. You will have the biggest influence on their beliefs about love and relationships."  Let me be the first to say that this advice is true and very, very hard to follow.  It isn't always the case with us and it's something we struggle with but we make an effort and occasionally get it right.  The second piece of advice was "don't keep score".  When we were 23 this didn't really resonate.  But at 38, two children later, when Jimmy's been out of town for a week and I've tended to every nightmare, tummy ache, homework assignment, temper tantrum, meal and bedtime, I WANT to keep score.  And then I hear that advice echo in my head. "There are going to be times when one of you is pulling a heavier load.  Throughout your life though it will balance out. Remember you are on the same team." So true, and for a man that was never married, I always marvel at his insight on this one.  Jimmy has had his share of pulling the heavier load too.


A few weeks ago I read this advice on pinterest...

"Marry the right person.  This one decision will determine 90% of your happiness or misery"

Hmmm. This is certainly debatable.  I don't know how true this is for everyone, but for me, I'd say it is pretty spot on.  For my happiness is, in most ways, linked to Jimmy.  For being on my side, for the way he makes me feel about myself, for his support and admiration of me as a mother, for his friendship, for his unconditional love, for still flirting with me, for simply "getting me" better than anyone else, for listening to music and singing while he does the dishes, and for making our sons laugh so hard no sound comes out.  Yes, those things, and many more, bring me great happiness indeed.

Happy 14th, my love!
xoxoxo

Thursday, May 10, 2012

End-of-the-Year Teacher Gifts | A Very "Berry" Thank You


Tomorrow is Charlie's last day of preschool for the year.  Can you believe it?  He truly had the most precious group of children in his class this year.  I wish they would all be together again next year.  I can't imagine he'll ever have a class quite like this again, they were all such kind and good kids.  I volunteered to put together the group gift from the Moms to say thank you to their two very sweet + patient teachers.  I decided to make them each a gift basket to kick off their summers.  It includes something indulgent, something relaxing, something personal, and something for them to treat themselves to later.  My first job ever was working at a Crabtree and Evelyn when I was sixteen. It was at Christmas time and somehow I was tasked with making all the gift baskets.  Back in those days the store made hundreds and hundreds of baskets complete with shrink wrap and a perfect bow.  I always think back to that December whenever I assemble a basket, or tie a bow for that matter, now.  Thankfully no shrink wrap anymore!    I like giving gifts that I would like to receive myself and this is one of them.  I could have pooled all the money into bigger gift cards but this feels a little more personal and unique. Hopefully the teachers {and other moms} agree! :)





Here are the details, just in case you are curious:
baskets  +
shredded paper filling {Michaels}
dish towel and pie dish {Williams and Sonoma}
pie dish filled with a warm blackberry cobbler {Recipe
monogrammed mug {Anthropologie}
lemons {my fridge!}
tea {Fresh market}
gift card {Barnes and Noble}





















A note about the cobbler...
I 've made this recipe three times in the last few weeks ~ REALLY good + minimal effort  {I'm talking 5 min prep here.} + fun to share.  I test made one in the small dish today to get the quantity of ingredients right, but I will make two fresh ones tomorrow morning,  because, honestly, what is better than warm berries in butter and a sugary topping?! :)

{a couple additions I've made to the recipe: add 1/4 tsp vanilla to batter and sprinkle top with coarse sugar before baking. Also, when making in full size pie dish I've had to bake mine longer.  About 40-42 min. Probably my oven, but it's done when the middle no longer jiggles!}

Monday, May 7, 2012

Recipe | Spicy Turkey Meatballs | Ina Does it Again


Here I am, once again, worshipping at the alter that is Ina Garten.  Did you know she has a new book coming out next fall?  Do you have any idea how excited that makes me? Very.  Too bad it's not in time for Mother's Day.  I just hope a book tour accompanies the launch and that she has a signing within a 100 mile radius. If so, I'm there.  This recipe is from her most recent book, How Easy Is That, and she featured it on her TV program.  For the last 15 years I've made the same meatball recipe.  It was one of the first "dinners" I felt I mastered.  I remember making homemade meatballs and spaghetti for the first time in our tiny Boston kitchen and feeling rather impressed with my bad self. Over the years I tweaked the recipe ever so slightly to accommodate our growing family's preferences.    So when I saw this recipe I was hesitant to mess with a good thing, but then it's Ina, and she has never let me down yet {ok maybe once, but the track record is pretty remarkable}, so I gave it a try did.  Oh my goodness, I'm not sure if it is the combination of meats {sausage, turkey and prosciutto} or  the asiago instead of Parmesan, whatever it is, I think I might have replaced my old stand by.  And there were no complaints from my taste testers either.


Use good quality bread for the bread crumbs, no Wonder Bread you hear?


My Cusinart Mini Prep is one of my favorite kitchen tools.
Perfect for grinding cheese and breadcrumbs, or any small scale prep.


Use good quality sweet Italian sausage. I like Trader Joe's. 
I find Fresh Market's and Whole Foods' have too strong of an anise flavor.


I use my hands to combine the ingredients and just use a fork at the very end.




I used a store bought sauce to save time. But making your own is easy and better.
I have about three different tomato sauce recipes I use.  One day I'll share those too.
This one is really good, I use two jars per one pound of pasta.
I let it simmer on low for a long time {about 45 min}



Hellllllooooo, lover.
Pasta is a close second behind chocolate in my favorite foods line up.
Just looking at this is making me soooo hungry.










RECIPE SOURCE


Ingredients

  • 3 cups (1-inch diced) bread cubes from a round rustic bread, crusts removed
  • 2/3 cup whole milk
  • 2 pounds ground turkey (85-percent to 92-percent lean)
  • 1/2 pound sweet Italian pork sausage, casings removed
  • 4 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, finely chopped
  • 1 cup freshly grated aged Asiago cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons good olive oil, plus extra for brushing the meatballs
  • 2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 3 (24-ounce) jars good marinara sauce, such as Rao's
  • 2 pounds dried spaghetti, such as De Cecco
  • Freshly grated Parmesan (or Asiago) cheese, for serving

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.
Place the bread in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Process until the bread is in medium crumbs. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and add the milk. Set aside for 5 minutes.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the turkey, sausage, prosciutto, bread mixture, Asiago, parsley, oregano, red pepper flakes, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper. Lightly combine the ingredients with your hands. Add the 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the eggs, and stir lightly with a fork to combine.
With your hands, lightly roll the mixture into 2-inch-round meatballs and place them on the prepared sheet pans. Brush the meatballs with olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the tops are browned and the centers are completely cooked.
Pour the marinara sauce in a large, low pot, add the meatballs, and bring to a simmer.
Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pot of boiling salted water according to the directions on the package. Drain and place the spaghetti in individual bowls, and top with 3 meatballs and lots of sauce. Serve with Parmesan cheese on the side.
* my recipe notes*
I cut this recipe in HALF and still had enough for left overs the next day
I've made them with and without prosciutto {when I've forgotten to buy it} and they are equally delish.  
Click Here For Printable Recipe

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Blog Anniversary | Pic-A-Day


On Saturday, this blog turned 2! This marks my 362nd post! What?!?! I look back at some of my original posts and cringe a bit.  This blog, like me, continues to evolve over time.  I'm still finding my voice, figuring out just what I want this space to be and how I want to share the things I enjoy and document our life as a family.  I thank you for joining me on the journey! {I feel like I'm on the Bachelor whenever I use that word. "journey"}


I'd be remiss not to say, that of late, blogging has lost a bit of its luster for me.  When I first discovered blogs I fell hard and fast.  I was utterly infatuated with the abundance of creative, witty and inspiring women and their seemingly endless supply of pretty homes, lifestyles, clothing, children, etc. But with time, that infatuation has worn off. Some. Part of the reason is my life has changed.


I no longer have a baby that naps most of the day, I'm reading more books, exercising regularly, and experimenting in the kitchen more than I was a couple years ago, all of which contribute a significant dent in my "blog time".  And then there's the iphone and pinterest, a much faster way to load up on my daily pretty/inspiration quotient.


So. What exactly am I trying to say?  I suppose I don't know.  I love blogging for what it has given {gives} me, great friendships + a creative outlet, but its priority in my life has shifted.  I'm not trying to be Debbie Downer on my blog anniversary, I just find it interesting how blogging fills a very different need now than it used to.  Let me be clear, I have NO intention to stop blogging. I still very much look forward to posting and reading, it's just different lately and that's ok.  


So... onward I go!!!  In January I decided to challenge myself to a picture-a-day on my phone. Capturing everyday, un-styled, ordinary life.  January was great! In February I was still guns-a-blazing.  Then whoops, there went March and um, April, where on earth did April go??? Anyone?  Now here we are on May 2nd and I've completely fallen off the wagon.  Still snapping pics on my phone, not quite everyday.  And you know what? I'm perfectly ok with that too.  :) If I've learned anything from two years of blogging it's this, for me, blogging is best when taken light heartedly, when I'm not comparing myself to another blog or holding myself to some sort of self imposed standard.  This is my journal.  There are no pretenses here, no agendas, no one I'm trying to impress {but grateful you sometimes are b/c we can all use a little validation now and then.:)}  Just an everyday glimpse into whatever seems to strike my fancy.  {The phone snap-shots in this post are from March and April.} As always, thank you so very much for reading and being so supportive! Here's to another 362 posts.
xo, 
Tessa