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Friday, January 12, 2018

The BEST chocolate chip cookie on Earth

Week 1
Attempted Pin: Copycat NYC Levian Bakery Chocoalte Chip Cookie Recipe
Score: 7  NAILED it! (After some tweaks)

I love chocolate. Wait. I love DARK chocolate. I'm not tempted by anything with white or milk chocolate, which probably saves me thousands of calories....but when good quality dark chocolate crosses my path, I can't resist. I love the deep, luscious, bitter sweet taste as it melts in my mouth. When I first discovered Ghiradelli makes extra large bittersweet dark chocolate chips, I swore off Nestle, store brand, and Hershey's. There is no competition. Guittard is okay, but Ghiradelli is the BOMB. Not only is the flavor exponentially more delicious, but their enormous size makes baked goods look beautiful and the gooey factor is sublime. And for  the most part only about .50 more per bag, so totally worth it! When they go on sale, I am known to purchase 10 or 12 bags...there's always room in the pantry for my dark chocolate fix! Our grocery store had them priced to sell after Christmas...$1.33 a bag, so I may have bought 21 bags. ( Don’t judge until you taste! )

I love to bake. And I have a major sweet tooth. But I do not care for store made or prepackaged baked goods. They just don't taste flavorful. So, I bake some sort of sweet about once a week, if I'm being honest. It's usually something chocolatey. My love for chocolate has spurred a decade long search for THE perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe. I think this is purely based on personal preference...some people may prefer flat or crunchy cookies...or cookies that have a meager amount of chocolate chips. I have no idea why. Blech. My perfect cookie is one that can hold its shape- not cakey- but dense and moist (borderline gooey) and preferably with AT LEAST one dark chocolate chip per bite. And I know that shortening is effective in obtaining a thick, dense cookie, but I just can't bring myself to cook or bake with it. I've been through Pinterest and google testing any recipe that claims to be the best of these qualities and without Crisco...and have only found one that I consider worthy of giving as a gift or serving to guests.  Levian, a bakery in New York City, is known for their cookies.  You can order and have them shipped world wide. So when I stumbled across a recipe that claims to be a Levain knock off, I was thrilled! 

There are a ton of Levian "copycat" recipes on Pinterest.[]=levian%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=chocolate%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=chip%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=cookie%7Ctyped&term_meta[]=recipe%7Ctyped

I tried about 10 different versions and then perfected it to my taste buds. 
The recipe calls for cold butter and the directions warn not to mix longer than just to blend the ingredients. This keeps the ingredients cold and the flour from getting too overworked. I use egg product because egg yolks gross me out (and I feel a little less guilty when I snack on the dough) and I always vigorously shake the egg container before pouring to whip them up a bit. The dough takes minutes to make.

my cookie scooper,  1/4 C
4 oz cookies

The cookies are enormous, and I have found that adding cornstarch ensures a thick, dense texture (without having to resort to Crisco). It's also recommended that you refrigerate or freeze the cookie dough balls for at least two hours before baking to prevent any spreading during baking.  I usually make one cookie for anyone in the house interested, and then freeze the rest as dough balls so that we can just bake them as needed (or snack on the frozen dough balls when my children are not looking.)  As you can tell from the recipe below, two sticks of butter only yields 14 of these monster cookies. Yes they are fat pills. But they are worth it!

Yes it's a pain to adjust the temperature during the baking process. But baking at a higher temp initially helps "plump" the cookies and brown the edges. Trust me, you will be rewarded for the effort! 

If you are not a chocolate fanatic (seriously, what's wrong with you??!), you can reduce the chocolate chips to 1 cup (they are so big and full of flavor that the cookies still manage to taste delicious.  Enjoy!

Levian Copycat Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 14 enormous cookies or 40 2-inch cookies

2 sticks cold butter, cut into small cubes                         1  tsp baking powder

3/4 c brown sugar                                                             1/2  tsp baking soda
3/4 c granulated sugar                                                      2 T corn starch
2 tsp vanilla                                                                       3 c flour
2 eggs                                                                               3/4 t sea salt (fine grain)
2 c Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate chips

Using an stand or hand held mixer, beat butter and sugars until just creams. Add egg and vanilla and mix just until incorporated. Stir in dry ingredients until batter is uniform (do not over stir) and then stir in 1 1/4 cup chocolate chips. Divide dough into 14 dough balls (4 oz each), adding chocolate chips to the top of each. You can also sprinkle a tiny bit of fine grain sea salt on top to bring out the sweetness of the bittersweet chocolate. 

Chill at least 2 hours. Preheat oven to 375 and bake for 8 minutes, then reduce the temp to 325 and bake another 4-5 minutes just until cookies appear set. If you make them smaller (1 oversized tablespoon), you can get more than three dozen cookies easily (if you are not "tasting" the dough). If you make smaller 4 oz cookies, reduce baking time from 8 minutes to 6 minutes at 375 and then bake 4-5 minutes at 325.

Remove from the oven and allow to sit on the baking sheet for another 8-10 minutes (you must resist stuffing them into your mouth, they have to finish baking.) They will taste delicious but fall apart if you try to eat them before they have fully cooled. The cooled result will still have amazing melty chocolate chips, and the texture will be thick, dense, and not overly sweet. 

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

2018 Pinterest Challenge

I am severely addicted to Pinterest. I pop on to look for “the perfect gift” or best cookie recipe or DIY  home improvement...and can’t stop. I like to think that I’m creative and crafty, but most of the time I need inspiration. Like maybe even “step by step” inspiration. And that is why Pinterest has sucked me in and cannot resist it calling to me every time I see an adorable baby outfit or have a craving for something sweet from my oven. 

I’ve organized my boards into holidays and kid stuff and beauty and cleaning tips...but if I’m honest, I have a 10 to 1 ration of food boards to any other topic. Aaaaaand if I’m really showing my cards, the majority of my boards are dessert recipes. Surely it’s possible to find the world’s most delicious chocolate chip cookie recipe, the deepest darkest richest flourless chocolate cake recipe, the healthiest tastiest easiest recipe for a sweet that I can pass off for a breakfast dish. And so I “pin” away. Some may have boards designated for poultry, and seafood, and dairy. I have several boards just on cakes. So I was feeling a little foolish about my somewhat skewed lineup of Pinterest interests, I thought 2018 would be a good year to test out one of my pinned ideas once a week. I will do my best to alternate between topics and not focus only on my desserts...but I’m not making any promises. I figure 2018 will be a year for testing new ideas...and as I test to see if I have a Pinterest “win” or a Pinterest “fail” (you know you’ve scrolled through pictures before of crafts and wedding cakes gone wrong) maybe it will save others from attempting the impossible or inedible. 😉

So, tomorrow I will post my first.

Monday, August 14, 2017

It's been a few years and a few kids since my last post...but I've decided to resume by blogging since my memory is crap and these posts will be something I will cherish one day when my kids are out of the nest and I can't remember one detail about the little years. I laughed when looking at the picture of my oldest daughter wearing a very generous helping of mascara and eyeliner...just this week my youngest daughter decided to dabble in the art of makeup application. This scenario was doubly delicious as the makeup she raided was my eldest daughters'! Ha!! Payback!

Unfortunately, she chose to adorn herself in "all day" wear blond red lipstick, so at first sight of her, I thought we were headed to the ER. Then once I realized it wasn't blood I discovered it was akin to the pink ink stain on the dress in the Cat in the Hat...when I picked her up to carry her to the tub, my hands were also stained....then the floor, the wall, the bathtub...and no amount of rubbing with soap was effective, it just continued spreading. Now somehow Inwas covered in oily sticky red stain 😫. Amd of course all of this happens 10 minutes before school pick up. The first week of school. And I have a kindergartener. Arg. By God 's grace we have a random loofah hanging on the shower in the kids' bathroom that has never been used and, with the help of 1/2 a bottle of baby shampoo, it miraculously sends the  murderous stains down the drain. Whew. Of course this all happened within 5 minutes of her having a bath. Of course it took her less than 30 seconds. I was foolishly enjoying a rare stint of quiet and non-physical contact and getting dressed for the day. "How sweet she is to be entertaining herself in her room," I thought. Nope. Of course I took pictures. Of course I was laughing. But she did not enjoy one second of the exfoliation. I do think it will be a picture for her baby book!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Outsmarting the picture frames

I have decided to get serious with organized parenting. (Ok, waiting 8 years may not have been the smartest way to get started...) I think I actually did have a handle on the situation until our last move and our third child came along...or was it the move before that? Sheesh. Clearly, this moving every three years and having babies every two years has kept me busy doing things other than organizing. But my eldest is borderline OCD and he has recently inspired me (along with an episode of "Wife Swap") to get my booty in gear.

I know. "Wife Swap" is probably not the best source for parenting advice or organizational strategy. But with four kids in three sports, two musical lessons, two in scouts, plus school clubs and our family activities...we have alot going on each week. Suri is not cutting it. Relying on my iphone calendar reminders and my wall calendar and my email account and my husband has resulted in missed birthday parties, lost school supply lists, last minute scrambling and yelling to get to an event, and a stressed out mom.

I went to the dollar store and bought several dry erase charts. One was dedicated for "weekly activities," one was for a shopping list that the kids could add to, and one was for a "star chart." Then I bought three packs of shiny stars and let each child pick one color that would be their stars. We've been using the charts for three weeks, and I have to say, I'm impressed! Though my 4 year old doesn't really care one way or the other, my older two are on the BALL! I haven't had to remind them to do things AND my son is practicing piano in the mornings before school (on his own accord) to earn extra stars. Yeeeea me!!!!  So, this chart thing is a little more work that I thought, but worth it. Now, for phase two....refining the system.

 I foolishly thought that these fancy (haha) dollar store dry erase boards would easily release the star stickers. Nope. Plus, (as you can imagine), the these charts were not the most appealing things to see taped to the side of the fridge. Bright primary colors, random cartoon frogs and get the picture. It did not bode well with my OCD.

I decided to commit to something a little more permanent. (Plus I had a kitchen wall that needed some eye candy.) So, I found some adorable frames at Michaels that were on clearance and went to work finding some cute scrapbook paper that would match my newly painted kitchen. This took way longer than it should have...but that's because I'm a second guesser. ("Should I buy it? Yes, I can return it. But I must remember to keep the receipt handy. And put the item in the car.......or else I could just save it for another project???" Daaaaah.)

I then used word to type out the text that was on the cheap-0 charts. I did add some personalized chores and decided to have a "menu" of how the kids could redeem their stars. (Getting to choose the music in the car, a piece of gum, a confiscated toy, a date with mom or dad, a play date or sleep over, a trip to Chuck E. Cheese, etc.) Yes! It all matched! I chose to leave two of the frames without text so I could write notes, use it as a weekly menu board, etc. Flexibility! My plan was to hang these and then use the dry erase marker directly on the glass. Of course, I had to hang them high enough where the kids couldn't reach and give themselves extra stars (ok, so I opted for initials...I am not peeling 50 stars off the glass every Sunday!)

Now, I love the look of collages on the wall, but we did that project on our staircase and it was a total PIA. How the heck do people do that without an acrobat or some kind of snazzy ladder? Ours turned out ok, but I had to do the splits with one leg on the banister and one on the ladder. NE who, it was the measuring out the distances between the frames and then between the holes and then leveling them and centering them on the wall that was the biggest downer. So, I had a stroke of genus tonight.

1. I designed the layout by laying the frames on our floor (the wood planks helped me align the frames without a ruler.)
2. I flipped the frames face down and then broke out some leftover painter's tape and made a square, with the tape bordering the frames (sticky side down, so that it sticks to the frame.) I also made sure to cross over where the hangers where on the frames (you can add extra pieces of tape that go all the way across if you have more than 4 frames.)
3. With a pen, I marked (and poked a hole) in the tape on top of the spot where the hangers were.
4. Then I peeled the tape off the frames and placed it on the wall, using a level to make sure the horizontal and vertical lines were straight. I used my handy J hook hanger things where the holes were, peeled the tape off the walls, and hung the pictures. I was sooooo exited! Our staircase has about 3 dozen extra holes where we mismeasured or didn't like how it looked once it was on the wall. But this took me about 10 minutes (I suck at using a level) and no extra holes in the wall! Here are some pictures.
 Hope it helps some one else, too!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Arrrrr Matey! Pirate makeup made easy.

Arrrrr Matey! It's Pirrrrate Day!

I love the theme dress up days at school. I loved them when I was a kid, too. But I'm armed with Pinterest! I may even be slightly overwhelmed with all the amazing ideas. And maybe a little worried that my "costume on the fly" won't come close to all those other kids with fellow Pinning mommies. This is where I happily play my, "I have four kids" card. Plus, after three house on Pinterest getting all those good ideas, it's too dang late in the evening to whip up a costume fit for Broadway. So I wing it.

Last year, I lucked out and found an actual pirate costume in our dress up bin. Score! One costume down, one to go. What the frick do pirates wear??! Stripes. Yes, stripes. I stumble across my daughter's Fourth of July and white stripes are piratey, yes???! Score! I find a bandana and a scarf at the bottom of the Halloween bin (mental note, get rid of all the slutty costumes I thought were cute on me before kid #3 and #4.)  Oooo, and dress up beads. Perfect!

Now for makeup. The pirate trademarks include
1)a parrot (I did not have any kind of bird other than a Beanie Baby, and I couldn't figure out how to perch that on their shoulder for the school day)
2) a peg leg  (not gonna happen)
3) a hook (Yes!!! This was part of a Captain Hook costume several years back...woo hoo!)
4) an eye patch

I like the idea of an eye patch. It's an easy prop, you can stick it in their pocket or maybe they can wear it as a headband when they get sick of being a cyclopse...but my daughter is very particular about how things "feel" (which translates to a total pain about what she wears.) I knew the elastic band would drive her bonkers. She is also irresponsible with her stuff and I figured I didn't want to give her the one we had because I knew she would lose it.

So I came up with using my grocery store liquid eye liner. I've McGeyver'd all kinds of painted faces at the zoo with this magical little tool. I used it for my son's eye brows, too...I gave him sort of an angry jack-0-lantern look. It totally went with the scruffy beard!  And then I gave my daughter a goatee with it, too! All in about 5 minutes. The bonus, she got lots of ooos and aaaahs at school (she loves the attention) and didn't have any l about it. Woo hoo!

Airplane Tag Blanket

So last week we had a friend's baby shower and I got a boost of creativity around 10pm the night before the shower. I already had the rest of the gift wrapped, but I absolutely LOVE cute home made baby stuff and a brilliant idea popped into my head. Our Marine hubbies both fly C-130's and my poor boys already have their rooms decked out with airplane stuff...but this was fresh blood! I could make them some sort of cargo airplane looking craft. Something useful, but not as quick lived as burp cloths....a taggie blanket! I surfed Pinterest for ideas and decided it was easy enough. Then I surfed Google for KC-130 airplanes (so I could be anatomically correct...very important to my husband.) Yes yes yes! Simple lines, a few windows, I can totally pull this off in a few hours!

So...down to the craft room I went, scavenging for coordinating fabric and ribbons. Yes! Finally, my ridiculously large assortment of impulse Michael's and JoAnne's purchases was going to save me a trip to the store (Walmart, specifically because it is the only craft store open past ten and avoiding that store at that time of evening made it worth EVERY penny.)

I love the pink and brown and blue and brown combo, so when I saw several coordinating fabrics and ribbons at the craft store a year or two ago, I bought the whole shebang. I also had some minky fabric and some super soft polished felt. Since I recently made my daughter's tooth fairy pillow, I also had some of that pillow stuffing material- yes!  Now I just had to make a template. All the DIY taggies I found on Pinterest recommended a 1/4 inch allowance for I broke in to my daughter's Hello Kitty jumbo size coloring book (9x14) and used a sheet to draw my template. I freehanded in pencil and got the ok from my husband ("This looks like a C-130, right honey??!") Then I added 1/4 inch dotted line and cut it out. I doubled the fabric (one layer of white minky, one layer of the brown and blue print, since she is having a boy) and put it right to right facing.

I cut it with my handy fabric rotary tool. Then I cut out 5 different coordinating ribbons- some satin, some grosgrain, one felt...each 5 inches. Then I took the felt and cut out little windows and the nose of the plane. I used the "no sew" fabric stuff and just ironed this on, I didn't want there to be stitch marks.

My husband had pointed out that my airplane didn't have any engines, so I used some blue stitched ribbon and sewed it on to the wings like a double bow...they are SUPPOSED to be engines. Use your imagination!

Then I stuffed it and sewed. It came out pretty darn cute. Not quite as cute as I pictured, but good enough to give as a gift. It will only take me five more to perfect it.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

New Years' Resolutions for 2014?

Well, so much for wiping the slate clean. Getting a fresh start. Starting off on the right foot. Being on top of my game. It is two weeks - 14 days- into 2013 and already my resolution is a bust.

My biggest struggle (which I maintain is an inherited trait) is that I cannot arrive anywhere on time. Anywhere. Wait! I take that fourth child was born on his actual due date. Does that count, or does he get the credit for that???! Did you see the date of my last post? This one is nearly two years late!!!!

 I am physically unable to be punctual (and "early" is only mentioned in our house when we talk about what time the children wake.)

As I said, I blame this on a long family line of grandmother and my mother are infamous for arriving after events (like weddings, parties, and holidays) have ended. Yes, ended!  And I am carrying the torch.  I wish I could say that it is because I have four children who dilly dally or fight or have tantrums or lock themselves in the bathroom. Nope.  I was rarely prompt even before having to take children to the potty, put on their socks (six times), find the hidden keys, pack sippy cups and snacks and find blankies or DS chargers or change blow out diapers or clean off barf or slobber from myself.

 I could shower the day before, set out my clothes, tell myself the event begins hours before...nothing works. Just ask my poor (overly prompt ) Marine husband. Or my neighbors, who see me running the 80-pound double jogger every morning up our hill and slip the older two through the school doors just as the bell is ringing.

So last year, I had mentally planned and prepared for this to be my new daily resolution: arrive 10 minutes early to everything (even having dinner ready!!!!) My friends would surely appreciate not having to always wait on me. It could set a better example for my children. Cut out 1/2 the stress in my life. And keep my husband from going completely grey before 45.

My plan was simple. Just set a reminder alarm on my phone for event...every event- kids school, lunch time, nap time, library time, zumba class...all of it. I don't know what happened. Every member of our family got some form of a cold over Christmas and my plan crumbled. I was over tired and unprepared. 2013 has come and I haven't had ONE successful day. Uggg!

I am blaming Siri. Isn't she supposed to be my personal assistant? She is toast.

Can we please have a do over???

And if anyone out there has any secrets to being early - who am I kidding- prompt to all means, do share!

Gotta run. I'm late!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

A few of my favorite things.....PIZZA!

Our Sunday night tradition is home made pizza and a movie night with the whole family. Yesterday we were on family vacation with the whole extended family- all 21- so I felt inspired to step up my same old easy prep pizza crust recipe. The one I have used for years because it is easy, quick (15 minutes rise time) and comes out pretty darn tasty. But after living a few years in New York and eating the fabulous pizza in the city (my culinary weaknesses are dark chocolate and fresh baked breads), I thought this the perfect opportunity to test out a new recipe that promised all the crunch and chewiness of New York City pizza crusts on my unsuspecting family.

After a quick search online (I say quick, but the lake house has dial up so it was actually agonizingly slow), I found a recipe that had been saved by nearly 8,000 people. After reading the reviews, I was sold. I made enough for 5 large pizzas and just as it promised, the crunch and the chewy doughy texture were delivered! I stuck with my favorite recipes: cheese for the kiddos, supreme, caramelized onion with goat cheese and roasted peppers, and spinach, garlic and feta. The pizzas were a hit! (My kids actually prefer the spinach feta so I usually skip the plain cheese altogether.) The recipes follow.

NY Pizza Dough (makes one 16 inch, two 12 inch, or 6 individual pizza crusts)
2 1/2 c warm water
2 t salt (I use sea salt)
4 1/2 c bread flour
2 t active dry yeast
1 c bread flour, as needed

Directions: Pour warm water in to a bowl and sprinkle the flour and salt so it sits on top of the water. Make a hole with a knife and add the yeast. Let sit 20 min. Knead with dough hook 10 min on your food processor (can also use a hand mixer with 1 beater.) Add additional 1/2 to 1 cup flour and knead additional 5-10 min until dough is elastic and soft. Dough will be extremely wet and sticky, so hand kneading is not recommended. Form into round shape. Grease 1 T of a large bowl with the EVOO, wiping the entire bowl to coat. Place the dough ball in the bowl and place in the fridge for 4 hrs to overnight. When ready to use, preheat oven to 500 degrees and allow dough to come to room temp. Roll out and poke with a fork on the surface. Bake for 3 minutes, remove from the oven and add sauce and desired toppings/ cheese. Bake an additional 5-8 minutes, depending on size of pizza.

Caramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Pizza: Toast 1/4 cup pine nuts in small saute pan until browned. Remove and add 1/2 cup thinly sliced yellow onions. Cook on low heat in a well greased pan until soft and tender. Prepare roasted red peppers by thinly slicing. Crumble 1/2 cup goat cheese and set aside. To assemble pizza: Bake crust with thin layer of mozzarella cheese (no sauce). When fully cooked, add slices of red pepper (so they radiate from the center), pine nuts, onions, and goat cheese. Serve.

Spinach Feta Pizza: Saute 3/4 cup chopped spinach (fresh or frozen), 1/3 cup thinly sliced yellow onion, and 2 cloves pressed garlic until fragrant and tender. Season with salt and pepper. Dice a Roma tomato into small 1/2 inch cubes and sprinkle with fresh chopped basil and oregano. To assemble pizza: Prepare crust and top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese. When fully cooked, top with the spinach mixture, tomatoes, and sprinkle with crumbled feta.


Saturday, October 2, 2010

Twirly skirts and tutus...twenty-four seven

Caroline is in a new phase. She insists on wearing fancy skirts and dresses every day. Normally I set her clothes out the night before, and I'll give her an option of shorts or pants? Leggings or dress? Etc. Now I try to find creative ways she can put a tutu or skirt on under a dress or over her leggings...after all, a girl needs to be wearing play clothes when she's planning on digging in the dirt after moles or hanging upside down on the monkey bars at school. Luckily, she has a healthy supply of dress up tutus (why any one girl needs 5 tutus I don't know....but I'm SURE I had a perfectly reasonable justification for each purchase!)

I am now wondering how long this obsession will continue...days? Months? Years????

In the meantime, I guess I will just have to settle with buying out all the adorable dresses I can find. It's therapy, really.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

While we were sleeping

So Caroline has gotten exceptionally sneaky's been mostly just swiping food from the pantry like dry cereal or juice boxes or dry pasta. I'm not quite sure if it's a ploy for attention or for the thrill of the hunt...or just to see how far she can go, but tonight Caroline explored new territory: my makeup drawer.

She was supposed to be upstairs sleeping. We went upstairs to check on the kids and found Caroline in her bathroom looking like a sorority girl the morning after a really great party. No, actually it looks much much worse.

Do I really have to explain how this happened? I did take a picture of the crime scene:

I am somewhat speechless.