Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookies

I have a mental list of cooking requirements for myself, and a perfect chocolate chip cookie is definitely a top item. And though the Toll House cookie is a good one, I wanted something a little different. I think my search is over! I found this recipe a couple months ago and got the chance to make them last week. They were gooey, which is a must, and the size of a child's face, which is a great bonus!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have a kitchen scale, I highly recommend using it here. This recipe is written in both volume and weight, but I chose to use the latter, so that I wouldn’t have to mess with measuring cups. It was unbelievably quick: just put a bowl on top of the scale, tare it to zero, and go.

2 cups minus 2 Tbsp. (8 ½ oz.) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 ½ oz.) bread flour
-or- 17oz all purpose flour - that's what I used
1 ¼ tsp. baking soda
1 ½ tsp. baking powder
1 ½ tsp. coarse salt, such as kosher
2 ½ sticks (1 ¼ cups; 10 oz.) unsalted butter, softened
1 ¼ cups (10 oz.) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. (8 oz.) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 ¼ pounds chocolate chips or chunks (The original recipe called for bittersweet chocolate, but I chose to use semi-sweet instead)
Sea salt, such as Maldon, optional

Combine flour(s), baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Whisk well; then set aside.

Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars until very light and fluffy, about 3 to 5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Mix in the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low; then add dry ingredients, and mix until just combined. (Unless you have a plastic guard that sits around the rim of the bowl, this will make a big mess at first, with flour flying everywhere. I found that carefully holding a dish towel around the top of the bowl helped a lot.) Add the chocolate chips, and mix briefly to incorporate. Press plastic wrap against the dough, and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. The dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

When you’re ready to bake, preheat oven to 350°F. Remove the bowl of dough from the refrigerator, and allow it to soften slightly. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.

Using a standard-size ice cream scoop – one that holds about 3 fluid ounces, or about 1/3 cup – scoop six mounds of dough onto the baking sheet, making sure to space them evenly. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt (I skipped the additional salt for Greg's sake), and bake until golden brown but still soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer the entire baking sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then transfer the cookies onto the rack to cool a bit more. (Because there is so much brown sugar in the cookies, if you try to take them off the cookie sheet before the sugar can cool you will end up with a mess!)

Repeat with remaining dough.

Yield: About 24 (5-inch) cookies.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Fripp Island

September has been the month of weekend getaways for us! It has been a lot of fun, but now that we are going to be home for the foreseeable future I'll try to get some pictures up here.

Two weekends ago we headed down to Fripp Island for Greg's company getaway. His company generously provided for all the employees and their families to stay at the resort island for the weekend as a kind of "bonding" experience. The timing was perfect, too, as the whole office had been in high gear for the previous several weeks as they worked on a new release of the software they sell.

Fripp Island is in South Carolina very close to Beaufort and Parris Island (a Marine base). It's actually a wildlife preserve and there were wild deer roaming the streets! As we drove in at night and saw numerous sets of reflective eyes, we thought of a few friends that would love to vacation there with a bow and arrow or two . . .

We had a relaxing couple of days, lounging around (our little house had a very nice tv and we put in some good hours watching Discovery Channel, HGTV and the Food Network) and also exploring the island and the marshes just over the bridge. We ate most meals w/ co-workers (I also worked at the same office for 2 years, so it was fun to see a few old friends) and then had a fantastic company dinner on Saturday . . . including an oyster bar. We're hoping this becomes a company tradition!

A shrimping boat as we cross the bridge off the island

Just off Fripp Island

We walked through this marsh on the boardwalk one afternoon

One of our neighbor deer . . . Greg said a picture of a male deer would be more interesting, but they were scarce in the daylight

Monday, September 22, 2008

Firstborns . . .

I am the guinea pig of my family. Born the oldest of 3 girls, I was the "practice child" in many ways. Now, honestly, I'm not complaining about that at all. I'm alive and I turned out ok. And I'm not alone . . . Every family has a guinea pig. The adjustment to parenting is a huge one (so I've been told) and it's only to be expected that parents will learn from their mistakes and treat later children differently. (And just b/c I am a first born doesn't mean that I have any expectations of raising my first born perfectly.) Whenever I felt like I was being held to different standard (to be fair, this was sometimes just my own incorrect perception of the situation), Dad was usually the one I would plead with . . . he's an oldest child, too.

All that being said, I always feel very vindicated when I read those articles on birth order analysis. They usually have the the oldest child pinned; from our ability (and often desire) to entertain ourselves to our strong tendency to be perfectionists, I can usually check off every point and laugh at how stereotypical I am.

Last week, Focus on the Family did a short series with author Kevin Leman that you can listen to here and here. It was great to hear the topic of birth order from a biblical perspective and how God uses those natural tendancies in spouses to strengthen a marriage. It is also helpful, speaking as an oldest here, for parents who AREN'T oldest childen to hear as they raise their first borns. The strongest characteristics of a oldest (driven to suceed, very detail oriented and organized) can also be the biggest pitfalls (perfectionist attitude and critical of others, just for starters) if left unaddressed. They are just under 30 min each and very fun to listen to as the author is a youngest child and quite the class clown =)

Monday, September 15, 2008

2nd Annual Ross-Hawkins Family Vacation

Such a long title for a weekend getaway, but even 2 days away with our best friends deserves such an illustrious name. Because our closest friends live out of town, weekends like this are much anticipated and hard to let end.

Friday evening Greg and I headed up to Lake Norman to spend the weekend with Evan and Leah at her dad's condo. When we arrived we headed straight to the lake for an evening boat ride and got to see a beautiful sunset over the water.

The view from our bedroom

The next day we spent completely on the water. I think Greg and I picked out about 5 different dream houses as we cruised around. We have decided that a helipad is a must =) Also a must are large amount of sunscreen which we apparently did not use. I look very much like a lobster and Greg looks like a lobster with tan. We are a cute pair.

Greg entertaining us (sorry about the loud wind noises in the background)
Saturday evening the boys grilled for us and then we did our best to stay awake for SNL (had to catch Michael Phelps . . . ) . Staying up until 1 was much easier a couple years ago. We are getting old . . .

Taboo after dinner . . . the girls won

It was hard to leave Sunday afternoon, but we look forward to our next mini-cation!


Late last week we went over to Steve and Carol's (Greg's parental unit) for dinner and to check out their latest toy, a Wii. We had a wonderful time relaxing on the porch for dinner and we had my favorite dessert, angel food cake with whipped cream and berries.

We had so much fun playing with Wii, I rock at bowling and not much else, but I can live with that. I beat Greg by about 50 points on that one.

Greg and Steve playing a round of golf

Pretty sure this had nothing to do with the game . . .

Greg whooping up on his mama in a boxing match. . . You can see by their intensity level that Greg wasn't feeling 100% comfortable punching his avitar mom in the face. But he did anyway . . .

Saturday, September 6, 2008

We are the Champions . . .

Last night we had our friends JB and Chuck over for dinner and games. Now, I'm not sure about the rest of you couples, but Greg and I would much rather play on opposing teams then be partners. We are both really competitive and it's just more fun that way! So JB and I took on Greg and Chuck in a game of Sequence. As we dealt the first hand we wondered aloud if the teams were actually fair, because both Greg and Chuck have the ability to turn any game into a game of high strategy. It wasn't looking too good for JB and I. But then we won 7 games in a row. Yes, 7.

After playing for 2 hours, Greg and Chuck finally won their first game and instead of playing best of 15, we called it a night and they considered themselves fortunate for besting us just once. That's what a great team JB and I make =) And Taylor (JB's brother and sometimes referee when Greg and I get too competitive) will be happy to know that no fights broke out.

Old stuff

I finally took the pictures off my camera from the past couple of months. My to-do list is much happier now! I honestly had forgotten how long it's been - - the oldest pictures on there were from our weekend at the beach in June. Yikes! I won't go back that far for posting purposes, but here are a couple fun things we've been up to more recently:
For my birthday, Greg took to me to this really fun drive-in in Belmont. It was our first time to go to a drive-in theatre and we had a blast! The gates opened around 6:30 but the movies (it was a double feature) didn't start until 8:30, so we spread out our picnic blanket and played cards until it was dark. We're already making plans to go back.

Later that week we went to our favorite sushi place, Rusan's, for dinner. This was an attempt at a self portrait of the both of us, but obviously didn't work as planned. The food was delicious and Greg got to practice his chopstick skills.

The last Saturday in August we took a day trip up to Montreat with my parents to see Allie play in her preseason tournament. There are only 3 returning players from last year (1 jr and 2 sophmores) so it's a very young team plus they have a new coach this year. They played well in their games that day, but never won a full set. We're looking forward to heading back up to watch her play sometime soon.

On Labor Day we went hiking at South Mountain State park with my parents and Spartacus. It was a beautiful day for being outdoors! We had a great hike, a wonderful lunch by the waterfall (food always tastes better outside!) and even found a peach stand on the way home. It was a good day!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Pomodoro E Basilico

I have a bunch of pictures that I need to put up here, but time is alluding me right now. So, instead, here's a recipe that I made last night. It's from the mom of a high school friend of mine and she taught me how to make it years ago. Faced with a bumper crop of Roma tomatoes and basil, I remembered having it tucked away yesterday. It really is super simple and fantastic with fresh tomatoes, though canned ones will work as well. Enjoy!

Pomodoro E Basilico (Tomato and Basil)

1/4 C. extra-virgin olive oil
3 Tbs. thinly sliced garlic
2 lbs fresh ripe plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded and thinly sliced lengthwise or 3 cups canned whole, peeled tomatoes, with their juice, coarsely chopped.
1/4 C. fresh basil leaves, torn by hand in 1/2 in pieces
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 lb. pasta of your choice, cooked to package directions (for best results, time the pasta to finish cooking AFTER the sauce is finished)
  • Put all but 1 Tbs. of the olive oil and all the garlic in a large skillet over medium-high heat and cook until the garlic begins to sizzle.
  • Add the tomatoes as soon as the garlic begins to change color. If using fresh tomatoes, you'll notice they give off a fair amount of liquid. When the liquid begins to reduce, season with salt. If using canned tomatoes, season with salt at the beginning. Continue cooking over a medium-high heat until the tomatoes have reduced and separated from the oil, about 10-20 minutes depending on the size of the skillet.
  • When the sauce has reduced, add the torn basil leaves and the optional pinch of red pepper flakes. Cook for 1-2 minutes, then remove from the heat and set aside.
  • Add the pasta and remaining olive oil and toss to coat. Taste for salt and serve at once.