Wednesday, March 18, 2015

WDW - Refrigerator Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Warning:  this post contains information that you may wish you had never heard.   It makes eating fresh hot cookies dangerously easy.  If you continue to read, please realize you do so at your own risk.  You have been warned.

Hey!  You're not still here, are you?  Uh-oh...


Have you ever just craved a warm chocolate chip cookie but didn't want to take the time/effort to make them?

Or, have you ever wished you could have fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies when you have guests over? 

Or, could you be one of "those people" who happen to like finding a bowl of cookie dough in the fridge???  (of course, I'm not.)

Well, the answer is this recipe!  You can make the dough for these cookies up to 2 weeks in advance.  All you do is scoop dough directly out of the fridge and bake for 9-11 minutes.   VOILA!  Fresh, hot cookies.  And not to mention perfect, ooey-gooey ones, too.  I was amazed at how good these turned out.  You can make one, two, or ten! Who knew you could do this?

The funny thing is, this is just the basic Toll House recipe, with an extra 1/4 cup flour added in. 

Recently, we had a family over for dinner.  After dinner, I took 2 minutes to scoop out some cookie dough.  In about 10 short minutes the house smelled amazing and I was serving fresh from the oven cookies.  They were a hit!

I'm planning to make these for a dessert bar at a baby shower next week.  Imagine the yummy aroma when my guests arrive! And wait until they see that the cookies are still warm.

And by the way, if you don't use a cookie scoop to make cookies, you are really missing out!  Uniform cookies, lickety split!  One of my favorite kitchen tools.  

Now if you'll excuse me, I think we are out of cookie dough...

Refrigerator Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 375° F.

Combine flour, baking soda and salt in small bowl. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. (REFRIGERATE AND REST A DAY.) Drop by rounded tablespoon (or use a 1 tablespoon cookie scoop)onto ungreased baking sheets.

Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove to wire racks to cool. 

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Friday, March 13, 2015

Showers! Showers!

It's shower season!  
We kicked it off with a sweet baby shower for Emma, which was held at our home on a rainy Saturday in February.  Emma and Nick have chosen the sweetest name for their baby girl: Darsy Claire.


Emma with all her hostesses... minus one.  Stephanie's mom, Luci was also one of the sweet ladies on board, but had to leave before we could get photos.   L to R, my sweet daughter in law Stephanie, my dear sis Suzanne, the momma to be Emma, my darling niece Amy holding her son Micah, and Rich's lovely sister, Kristen.  These hostesses sure showered my girl with lots of love!
As you can see, we had quite a downpour, but thankfully we were all cozy inside.


My sis and Luci provided the unbelievable food.


My sister can seriously figure out how to 
do/make anything on the planet.
She made one of our favorite candies, honeycomb, dipped in dark chocolate.  It was SO good!  And yes, she made those adorable cake pops too.  They tasted as good as they looked.
She never ceases to amaze me!

Oh, did I mention she can make Nutella turnovers, too? 


There was a delicious fruit salsa and cinnamon crisps.
And everyone was sad that there were no chicken salad cream puffs leftover!


Luci made one of Emma's favorites:  orzo pasta salad with rosemary, pine nuts, and feta.
It was so cute how they served it in little containers.  
Suzanne also made mini peach trifles in recycled baby food jars!  
So clever!  The little wooden spoons were even stamped with Darsy's initials - so sweet.


It was so special to share the day with treasured friends.  Here is my friend Anna who I am always inspired by.

I'm so happy I got this shot of our dear friend Meredith with Emma.  Meredith is also expecting her 1st and we will be showering her soon, too!

Here's a special photo --Delphine, Wendy, Emma and I.  Emma was named after Delphine's mother, Emma Lee.  Wendy and I are lifelong friends and continually mistaken for each other!  
{We were sad to miss Wendy's daughter Whitney and her sister Brooke.}

What a blessing to have two grandmas and one great-grandma present! (and we would have had TWO great-grandmas but one was sick).  Also, there were several excited aunties-to-be there too!

One of my favorite guests was my great nephew, 9 month old Micah Raye.  I get to babysit him a couple afternoons a month and he's definitely my baby boy crush.  I love that little face!


Amy had such sweet things planned -- diapers you could write a fun message to Emma on, an ABC book for Darsy we could all contribute to, and adorable sugar scrub favors.  Kristen and Stephanie did the amazing flowers and decorations.  I wish I had gotten more pictures of that!


Emma was also showered a second time -- this time by the three friends she nannies for, Melinda, Vanessa, and Carly.
It was a small, intimate gathering at Bottega Louie in downtown L.A.   There were 8 of us and it was just so delightful! 

First of all, if you've never been to this restaurant... GO!
It's truly spectacular.  It's housed in an old building that I believe used to be a bank.  It has high, ornate ceilings, is painted a stark white, and is accented elegantly by white Carrara marble everywhere.  It just oozes stately charm. And the bakery and food are UNBELIEVABLE.  If you have a minute, click on the link above and take a virtual tour on their website. 

Here's what you are greeted with when you walk in the door.  

Bottega Louie is famous for their macarons.  
And their beignets are not too shabby either (top shelf).


Whoever designed this place and did the B.L. branding was a sheer genius.   The place is pure eye candy.


Emma with her hostesses which are so dear to her.  
And you can see they all adore her, too.

The group:  l to r: Stephanie, Carly, Vanessa, Melinda, Kaylin, Emma, me, Suzanne


Some girly gifts were waiting to be opened.


The uber-talented Melinda made us all darling 
personalized bags as favors.
Mine was extra special :-)
{actually I almost cried when I saw it}


The table setting was gorgeous thanks to Carly's lovely flower arrangements (which we all got to take home and enjoy).


There were also precious little Bottega boxes filled with macarons at each seat.



There was also a special bag for Darsy....


With a cute little diaper holder inside... beyond cute!


And even my bag contained a pouch with diapers & wipes for when I'm traveling with Darsy!


Bottega has the BEST coffee on earth.  Seriously. 
And when they plunk down a tray of fresh, warm beignets and raspberry coulis to go with it, the world around you just fades away.


My brunch was beautiful and scrumptious.


Emma had their amazing quiche.  Can't you just see the deliciousness in this photo?


And then some time later, Melinda decided we all needed 
to share a pizza!!
It was one of the best pizzas I've ever tasted, too.
Bottega has a huge brick pizza oven.


And then a special little dessert came out for the momma to be, and we all passed it around and had a bite or two.
I don't know what it was but it was sure decadent & chocolatey!


Me and my sweet "girls" - we are just so excited about this baby!


Emma opened her gifts and it couldn't have been more girly fun...
First, a beautiful blanket hand crocheted by my sister!!
(I told you she can figure ANYTHING out.  This was her very first blanket and it's gorgeous.)


baby pink moccasins!

And Darsy's first Salt Water gold! I die.


I cannot fully express my gratitude for these three ladies' examples and godly influence in my daughter's life.  Though Emma was originally "hired" to help them with their families, they became dear friends and over the years became like family, really.  Each one has lavished her with love and has invested uniquely in her life.  Emma loves them and their children to the moon and back.  I know she is going to miss spending time with them but is very ready for her own momma adventure to begin. 

Lord willing, we will meet this sweet baby girl in a month!

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015

WDW - creamy goddess salad dressing


My favorite dressing when I was a kid was "green goddess."  I'm not sure where the name came from (or what was in it), but I loved the creamy consistency.   Creamy dressings are just so wonderful... but they usually contain yukky mayonnaise.   So we stick to mostly vinaigrettes.  When I came across this dressing recipe using tahini, I thought it was a brilliant yet healthy way to add some creaminess to a salad.  I have made it a couple times now, and I just love it!

Tonight I made a salad using our fantastic fresh garden greens and beets (which I oven-roasted), some avocado, leftover steak, and this lovely dressing.   With daylight savings time in action, and the warm weather, this felt like the perfect summer dinner.

 Lemon Tahini goddess dressing

  1. Toss all ingredients into a Vitamix, small food processor, or standard kitchen blender.
  2. Blend until well combined and smooth.
Store in a glass jar in the refrigerator. Use within 1 week.

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Wednesday, January 28, 2015

WDW: Probiotic Power Punch!

It's sickie season, and though I usually escape illness fairly well, this season I've gotten a couple of mild colds and a nasty infection.  

So, I'm trying to be proactive about eating lots of greens, fresh veggie juices, vitamin and antioxidant rich fruits, and probiotic foods, such as yogurt, kefir, and the like. Probiotics are especially helpful to boost all that good bacteria in your gut (where most of your immune system operates).   Today's recipe is a favorite new breakfast that I tweaked from this yummy chia seed pudding recipe  (except I sub in maple syrup for the sweetener in the above).   

I'm a HUGE fan of raw dairy products, and we are fortunate to have Organic Pastures dairy here in California (and we are fortunate that raw dairy is LEGAL!).   My local Sprouts market sells their products, including their raw kefir.   Kefir has more probiotics than yogurt, so I buy it often and mix it into smoothies or pour it over some fruit.   I decided to blend my love for the chia pudding with my desire to eat more probiotics.  The result was smashing!  Try it soon!

Kefir Chia Pudding
Serves 1 

1 cup raw kefir (or at least use organic, unsweetened if you can't get raw)
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
fresh berries of choice
real maple syrup
toasted coconut, (or granola, nuts, etc.)

In a serving bowl, stir the kefir and chia seeds together.   Chill at least 45 minutes.
Top with a drizzle of maple syrup and toasted coconut. 

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Thursday, January 15, 2015

Chai Tea

So, Rich and I have suddenly become addicted to Chai Tea.   

Now, I don't mean a cloyingly sweet Chai Tea latte, or even a Tazo Chai tea bag, but a true cup of traditional Chai Tea.  Our love for it just came out of nowhere, but we are really enjoying this new ritual.  It's sweet and spicy and very comforting in cold weather.

But, since I'm a decaf girl, and since for some reason decaf Chai tea does not exist on this planet (at a reasonable price anyways), and since I'm sort of a do-it-yourself-er at heart, of course I set out to make my own Chai Tea Blend.

I began researching.  There are different approaches.  Many use a variety of whole spices, crushed and added to whole tea leaves.  I was about to order all my spices and do it, when thankfully, I stumbled upon this blog, which contained a trusted family recipe that seemed easier.  The approach was different.  You take all the spices in ground form and add them together, making a Chai Masala spice blend.   When you want a cup of Chai, you simply add some of the masala to whole leaf black tea, and steep it traditionally over the stove with water, milk, and honey.   I liked this idea because 1) I already had all the spices on hand in ground form, and 2) It seemed like you would get a more consistent taste doing it this way.  It seemed to me if you mixed the whole crushed spices with the tea in a big jar, the spices might settle and you might not get the true blend of taste you're looking for when you take out a portion.  

So I tried it.  Using my trusty digital kitchen scale, I made 1/4 of the Masala recipe to begin with, because I wasn't sure if I'd like it.  It made a good amount, almost 1 cup of spice.  In a small saucepan, I put a 1/4 tsp. of the Masala Chai blend, 1 1/2 tsp. organic loose leaf English Breakfast tea, 1 Tbsp. raw honey, 1/2 cup whole milk, and 1/2 cup water.  I heated it over med-high and stirred as it came to a gentle boil.  I then lowered the heat and simmered it 5 minutes.   We purchased plain empty tea bags so I just put the tea in there and didn't have to strain it (but you can also use a tea ball or just throw the loose tea in, and strain it out).   

When I tasted the Chai, I got really excited.  It was AMAZING!!  It's really flavorful, warm and spicy.  In fact, it was a little too spicy so I added a little more of everything except the pepper to tame it a little. The ease of making a traditional cup of Chai is now a snap!   Below is my modified recipe (after I reduced the pepper by about 20%). Feel free to taste it and then tweak it as I did to your own personal liking.

Chai Masala blend

125 g. black pepper, finely ground, (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

125 g. ground ginger (3/4 cup + 1 Tbsp)

50 g. ground cinnamon (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

50 g. ground cardamom (1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp)

5 g. ground cloves (2 tsp)

5 g. ground nutmeg (2 tsp)

Mix all spices together and store in an airtight jar.

Chai Tea Recipe

1/8-1/4 tsp. Chai Masala blend
1 1/2 tsp. loose leaf black tea (or any black tea bag)
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk (do NOT use skim, you need the fat to bring out the Masala taste)
1 Tbsp. raw honey (or more if you like)

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Place over medium heat. Allow to heat until small bubbles appear around the perimeter of the milk.  Stir the Chai, scraping the bottom to avoid scalding the milk.  When the milk comes to a boil, turn off the heat and stir well.   Allow to steep for 5 minutes.  Strain carefully into a cup, and serve.

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Monday, January 12, 2015

Winter getaway

Rich doesn't generally get to take time off from work during the holidays.  But, he does often take off the first week of January-- which is kind of fun!  Just when I'm feeling a little sad that all the holiday festivities are over, I get my husband for a week.  Works for me!  He had a little honey-do list to work through for some of the time, but we also got away for a few days to the Palm desert area. It's been so cold here; it was sure nice to get a little time to soak in the sun. 

We started out Saturday morning with a stop at a new place in Pasadena I've been wanting to try, Lavender & Honey Espresso Bar.   Rich enjoyed his chai tea while I had their honeybee latte... yum.   Since it was breakfast time, we also had something from their "toast" bar.    I had the L & H toast which was toasted walnut bread spread with goat cheese, drizzled generously with honey, and topped with lavender flowers.  It was delicious and I've been making it at home ever since with Berolina's whole wheat walnut bread.  Rich had the Lemon & Sugar toast which was toasted  french bread buttered and then topped with a lovely lemon marmalade with powdered sugar.  Cute and cozy little place, I'll definitely be back.



We stayed at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells for two glorious nights.    
It's secluded, quiet, and far from the Palm Springs scene. 
We like that there's a Starbucks in the lobby so you don't have to rush out to breakfast.  :-)  
Drinking coffee in bed just screams VACATION to me.
We also had a great time playing tennis, relaxing by the pool, and trying out some new food finds.
Above is the lovely view from our room.  You can't tell, but there was snow on the San Jacinto mountains.  It wasn't so warm in the mornings, but in the afternoons, we enjoyed mid-70's poolside.


We are definitely "sit and read by the pool" people (and sit on the beach and read people for that matter.  :-)  We can do this for hours, and never get bored.
Rich was engrossed in one of Michael Pollan's books on food.
I enjoyed starting a new Francine Rivers book, Voice in the Wind.


Notice there is no one in sight.  It's not quite the high season yet out there, and we kind of liked that.


Early January in California can't be beat!


Food eaten poolside is just EXTRA lovely, isn't it??


Ahi sesame poke nachos at Cork & Fork
(to die for)


Sun-dried tomato & feta frittata AND blueberry vanilla french toast
at Wilma & Frieda


Quite possibly the most perfect eggs Benedict ever.
also from 
Wilma & Frieda


It's ALWAYS a good day when you get to share some Tiramisu with the one you love. It was ALMOST as good as Sisley.  :-)
We LOVED  Bucatini Trattoria in La Quinta.
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