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We EAT: Beebs’s Best Ever (and super secret) Chocolate Chip Cookies! (Or are they cakes?)

Hey everyone,

Adulthood has been busy lately, so I haven’t had much time to blog. I got a new job, which has been a great learning experience and my fiance and I moved in together. Life is good!

Today I christened my new kitchen (we haven’t been in this apartment for too long) with one of my favorite recipes: Beebs’s Chocolate Chip Cookies.

Who doesn’t love chocolate chip cookies? I, in fact, love them so much that I have tried literally dozens of “best ever” chocolate chip cookie recipes, but no cookie has been better than the one my friend Elizabeth makes.

The best part is, her recipe is the same recipe that is on the back of every/any bag of chocolate chips — with one caveat: she adds lots and lots of extra flour.

It doesn’t seem so weird until you realize the method to the madness. First, you make the recipe on the bag as usual, but stop right before you add the chocolate chips.

Here’s where it gets crazy. Then, according to Elizabeth, you add lots and lots of flour.

For a home baker who prides herself on precision (sifting everything, measuring everything perfectly), this boggles my mind. “What do you mean add ‘lots and lots of flour’? How MUCH flour?” I would exclaim. “Eh,” Elizabeth would reply, “just add a lot until it seems like you don’t need to add any more.”

So one day, I watched her do it. She made the recipe as it stated on the bag (which already had more than two cups flour in it!),  mixed it all until smooth, and then began adding flour by the cup full and stirring. “The stirring is the hardest part,” she told me as she struggled to get the wooden spoon through the thick dough, “But it’s a good arm workout!”  This dough is so thick, that a Kitchen Aid mixer can’t even mix it — even with the hook attachment! (That’s really thick, you guys.) I’m not sure how much flour she added in the end, probably another two or three cups. Then she added the chocolate chips, popped extra large tablespoon full 6f dough on a cookie sheet, and baked until slightly brown. Then, she had the biggest, fluffiest, doughiest, softest cookies you could ever imagine. Chocolate chip cookies, reinvented.

So, I tried it on my own. The first time I made them I was too nervous to put too much extra flour. The second time I made them, I put a little more flour — but was still cautious.

Today, I just let loose with the flour and, boy oh boy, did I make the best cookies ever. Part cookie, part cake, part scone — Beebs invented something amazing. And by letting loose a little from a recipe, I felt like a real chef! It reminded me that experimenting and spontaneity in baking and cooking is okay, and sometimes, the results are even better than you could have anticipated!

Now, I give you the recipe (which, in this case is on the back of a Trader Joe’s semi-sweet chocolate chips bag+a little magic from Elizabeth.)

2 1/4  cups all purpose flour (Ha! That’s a joke!)

1 ts salt

1 ts baking soda

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 cup softened butter (Ok, so I used 1/2 cup butter only and it was still delicious!)

1 ts vanilla extract

2 eggs

1 package of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine flour, salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside. Combine brown sugar, sugar, softened butter, and vanilla and beat until creamy. Add eggs and beat. Add dry ingredients and mix well.

Now comes the crazy part: add a whole lot of flour. Add it slowly at first, maybe 1/2 cup at a time and mix. (You will have to hand mix this unless you have a really strong and big Kitchen Aid.) Keep adding more and more flour until the dough feels not sticky at all and actually seems a bit dry, but is still well incorporated. This could be close to three more cups of flour.

Add the chocolate chips and mix whilst giving yourself an arm workout. Spoon heaping tablespoons on to a cookie sheet. (Heaping is better for these cookies, as they really taste cakey and delicious when they are a bigger cookie.)

Bake for about 10 minutes or until golden brown on top. Let cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cookie rack.

Enjoy! Report back on these cookies! Did experimenting with flour pay off in the end? (Trust me, it will be an enthusiastic YES!)

Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Regret

Delicious photo by Kimberlykv via Flickr.

Beauty and Butter: A New Paradigm for Aging and the Wisdom of the Lamas

“…With an appropriated lesson from the lamas, we may be able to recast the relationship between our self-conscious concept of aging and the artificial enhancements tied to celebrity.”

During each Lantern Festival, the 15th day of the first month on the Chinese lunar calendar, Tibetan Buddhist lama artists create ornate and intricate sculptures made of yak butter. These butter sculptures typically take months to create, and due to the low melting point of butter, many monks choose to complete the sculpture in a very cold room. When completed, the lively and vivid butter statues are displayed under a sky of lanterns as part of the festivities. (According to Chinese tradition, at the very beginning of a new year, when there is a bright full moon hanging in the sky, there should be thousands of colorful lanterns hung out for people to appreciate. Imagine how beautiful that would be to see!) When the festival is over, the butter sculptures are melted down and the butter is discarded.

Aside from the striking artistry of these sculptures, these butter statues are meant to represent ‘impermanence.’ Impermanence is an important tenet of Buddhist philosophy, and the butter sculptures are a reminder of the ephemeral nature of life. Nurture your life, live it vibrantly, and then, when it is time, you let your life melt away.

This idea of impermanence is also useful for our own exploration of adulthood. As we all know, adulthood is inescapable. Inevitably, we will grow older. But, in our western culture which places a high cultural value on beauty, it is aging (and the inevitable conclusion to aging) that is one of the hardest aspects of being “an adult.”

Scantily clad celebrities infiltrate the covers of our magazines, our television shows, our movies, and our own collective consciousness. Thanks to Photoshop, celebrities in photographs are seen without a wrinkle, a blemish, or an ounce of fat. Thanks to plastic surgery, you too can opt to get any number of invasive and non-invasive procedures that will help you ward off the visible signs of aging! (…)
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Wordless Wednesday: Adulthood is Small Joys

My first ever Egg-in-a-Hole morning. Small joys, friends. Happy Wednesday!

Personal Best

Recently I started running.

I have never been really interested in “running” in my life. Previously I had only considered running valuable if I needed to run away from something or someone, or if I was playing in a soccer game. In those cases, there was either a utilitarian purpose to running or a recreational one.

A few months ago, I was talking to a good friend of mine about his journey as a runner. He told me the story of how he started running: he just started off by running five minutes, and every day he increased his time running by one minute. Eventually he was able to run a 5k, followed by a 10k, followed by a half marathon, and now he has run many marathons! He once told me, “It isn’t about how far you run, or how fast or how long. It is about achieving yourpersonal best.’”

The idea of ‘personal best’ struck me as a meaningful philosophy for not just running, but all of life.  So, I made it a goal to live every day to my personal best.

For me, achieving my ‘personal best’ manifests in all aspects of my life: in my professional life, my academic life, and my personal life. This doesn’t necessarily mean that I always succeed, or that every day I am operating as my best-and-brightest self (though I hope most days I am). What it does mean is that in every situation I try to do the best that I can for what I am capable of in the moment. [*]

[*] That doesn’t mean I don’t still make mistakes, the goal is to learn from them so I can be wiser the next time!

I have been doing it pretty well in my professional life, I think. I work hard, I support my colleagues, I stand up for things that I believe in, I keep a positive attitude, I learn from every professional development challenge I face. Every day that I wake up for work I am happy because I believe that, in my own small way, I am an advocate for kids who are facing some really daunting emotional and mental health challenges. This job — and the great team I work with — are a personal best for me.

In my academic life, I am going to be striving for my personal best to finish my exhausting thesis and my MA!  Once I finish that, even if I never go on to a Ph.D. program, I will still strive for continued personal bests – even if it is just learning a language or acing a math class.

In my personal life, it seems harder to be strive for ‘personal best.’ I have taken up running, and it is really nooooo easy feat to transition from “non-runner” to “runner.” This morning, with the encouragement of Marathon Friend (mentioned above), I ran 2 miles!  In the morning! And tomorrow we are going to run again, until I can enter a 5k, then a 10k, then a half marathon. (Marathon Friend is training for another marathon, of course.)

This brings me to my next point.

Personal best is about surrounding yourself with people who support or inspire or push you to be your personal best. For me this is a host of people. My mom, of course, who encourages and inspires me every day. My brothers who, without fail or complaint, always offer to carry my heavy loads. And my great friends — new and old — who support me and cheer me on despite my silly antics, my crazy schedule, and my hair-brained schemes (like my mission to eventually run a half-marathon). For me, personal best also means being compassionate and respectful to others, even if you feel they don’t always deserve it. It means showing love and gratitude to my friends and family, and telling them warmly and often just how much they mean to me.

I have also learned that I want my next relationship to be with someone who I can be my ‘personal best’ with — and someone who I can support to be their personal best too. This, I think, was missing with my last relationship (though my former beau did make me a better and kinder person in so many ways, for which I will always be grateful.) I know he and I are both moving on from our relationship to find that person who will be “our personal best.” It isn’t about how fast or slow you find the person, or how far you go, it’s about not stopping the run until you find your personal best.

My question to you, Adulthooders:

In what ways are you striving for “personal best” in your lives? When is it easiest (and hardest) to be at your best?

Ruminations on these questions, or any other thoughts, are welcomed in the comments!

*Photo via Hiddenloop on Flickr.

The Wisdom (Teeth) of Adulthood

I had just had ‘one of those weeks’ at work. There was nothing really bad about the work week (luckily it wasn’t one of THOSE weeks), but I was on the heels of large event that our agency was organizing and that resulted in many late nights in the office. Some nights I tiptoed into my house at midnight, using the light of my iPhone (so as not to wake my sleeping beau) to help me find pajamas in my dark bedroom. Yep, it was one of those weeks.

It was also a week that I had a toothache. It started as a dull ache, near the back of my bottom left jaw. It was that kind of nagging ache, rooted deep in my tooth, which could be minimized by throwing back a few Advil. My busy days in the office didn’t have time for the ache, and I didn’t think much of it after the Advil took hold. My ‘work adrenaline’ was on high, and my bandwith already too full to worry about a tooth ache.

The event came and went successfully, but as I drove home from the event that Friday night, I realized I had taken 12 Advil that day to manage this pain in my tooth, which had grown from an ache to a persistent and acute throbbing.

When I went to bed that night, the pain was so intense that I could not fall asleep. I took two Aleve this time, half of a valium that I had left over from my recent international trip, and willed myself into a numbed sleep.

When I woke up on Saturday my face was swollen. In fact, my left cheek was so swollen that I couldn’t open my mouth very wide. But what was extremely troubling on this day was my left neck gland was so swollen that I couldn’t turn my head. Slowly, I began to panic as a startling realization swept over me: I did not have insurance….
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Guest Blog: Trading Slip-and-Slides for Cheesecake and Other Festive Adulthood Delights

One of our sassiest guest bloggers, Danna Belski, is back with a short little ditty that is sure to make fireworks the SECOND best part of your Fourth of July holiday. I had the distinct pleasure of eating this creamy delight today and let me tell you, it was i-n-c-r-e-d-i-b-l-e. I would make it myself, but luckily I have my red-headed-Pittsburgher (Pittsburgher? Is that right?) who is a great chef and is also a great friend who shares.

And speaking of sharing, I have done a guest blog over at Nicole’s fabulous and highly entertaining The Fickle Nickle which involves 4th of July cupcakes and a bit of analysis about adulthood. Check it out!

But now, without further ado, I give you…

Trading Slip-and-Slides for Cheesecake and Other Festive Adulthood Delights

By Danna Belski

Remember those Fourth of July picnics you went to as a kid? When your objectives were to eat as many hot dogs and popsicles as possible, and stay awake till fireworks? Those were the days: you did not wear shoes, you did wear your bathing suit all day, the hose to the slip-and-slide never turned off, and your favorite aunt would bring over sparklers and then your mom would get mad. Well, we all still go to those picnics — only now that you’re all grown up your responsibilities have changed a bit: you are going to have to make something. Don’t panic. This recipe is easy, impressive, and is appropriately patriotic. Now go out there and remember what we have now that we didn’t have back then…beer! Happy 4th of July!

Ingredients:
• 6 graham crackers (2 1/2 by 5 inches each)
• 1/3 cup whole almonds
• 1 1/4 cups sugar
• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
• 2 bars (8 ounces each) reduced-fat cream cheese, room temperature
• 1/2 cup reduced-fat sour cream
• 1 large egg
• 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
• Pinch salt
• 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
• 1 carton of red fruit: strawberries or raspberries or both!
• 1 pint (2 cups) blueberries

Directions

1. Make crust: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, grind graham crackers, almonds, and 1/4 cup sugar until finely ground; add butter, and process until moistened. Transfer to a 9-inch removable-bottom tart pan. Using the base of a dry measuring cup, press mixture firmly into the bottom and up sides of pan. Freeze at least 15 minutes.

2. Make filling and bake: Switch to dough blade. Carefully wipe processor blade and bowl clean. Place cream cheese, sour cream, 1/2 cup sugar, egg, vanilla, and salt in food processor; blend just until smooth. Place tart pan on a rimmed baking sheet; fill with cheesecake mixture. Bake until filling is just set, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer tart pan to a wire rack to cool completely.

3. Meanwhile, make topping: In a medium saucepan, combine red fruit, 1/2 cup sugar, and lemon juice. Cook at a rapid simmer over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until mixture is jamlike and moves around pan in a single mass when stirred, 15 to 25 minutes. Reserve 1 tablespoon cooking liquid (no solids) for blueberries; cool remaining plum mixture.

4. Assemble tart: Leaving a 1-inch border, spread cooled red fruit mixture over tart. Reheat reserved red fruit liquid (on stove or in microwave) until liquefied. In a medium bowl, combine with blueberries, and scatter on top of red fruit mixture. Chill until ready to serve, at least 2 hours and up to 1 day. Remove from pan before serving.

Lavender Heart Scones with a Lemon-Vanilla Glaze

Well, I am off for a mini-vacation with the bf and my family. Until then, here is a great and super easy recipe for you to try out over the weekend.

‘Tis the season for lavender! You can find culinary lavender at your local farmer’s market (I bought about 5 tablespoons for $2.00) or at Whole Foods or another specialty grocery store.

These scones are moist and fragrant but with nuanced lavender taste so even my boyfriend (who often thinks my lavender concoctions “taste like soap”) loved these.

Did I mention they are easy? Trust me when I say they are the easiest scones you will ever make. Also, you can make them ahead and then freeze them. I like to whip them out (thaw first) whenever company comes over. The “oohs” and “aahs” I get when I bust out a plate of these little lovelies is priceless.

Oh, and if you don’t have heart shaped cookie-cutters you can use any shape. Or, just make it into a little lump. Hearts, lumps — it will be delicious no matter how you shape it!


Happy baking!

Lavender Heart Scones with a Lemon-Vanilla Glaze

Ingredients
3 1/2 c flour
2 tbs baking powder
1/2 c unsalted butter
1/2 c sugar
1 1/3 c half and half
2 tsp vanilla
1 tbs lemon zest
2 tbs food grade lavender buds

Directions
Mix the dry ingredients (including zest), except lavender, together. Cut in cold butter, or grate it (yes, with a cheese grater!) into the dry ingredients. Add lavender buds and stir to mix in evenly. Add vanilla and half and half, and mix until you have soft dough that holds together.

Roll out gently to about 3/4 inch thickness and cut out with a small heart shaped cookie-cutter. Place on baking sheet and allow to stand for 20 minutes (this helps the dough rest).

During this time preheat oven to 400F. Bake for 12 minutes or until done. Remove from oven.

While scones are still hot spoon on a glaze made from:
1/2 c melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
Juice from about half of a lemon, to taste
Enough confectioners sugar to make a thick glaze. Play with this. Add some sugar until it looks glaze-ish. If it doesn’t taste right, add some more!
Sprinkle scones with lavender buds to garnish.
Makes about 24.

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