Thursday Ten: Stage Makeup and Panicked Mothers edition

1. The Princess arrived home from school yesterday, plastered with makeup from her school musical dress rehearsal. I’m not unfamiliar with the practice of slathering your face with makeup for stage stuff – just…wasn’t prepared for my kid to look SO OLD. And she did. I was relieved when she scrubbed the makeup off and looked her age again. She’s beautiful without all that stuff. I know it’s cliche but, she doesn’t need it.

2. Her musical is this evening, and her first gymnastics meet is this weekend and whoa it’s kind of ALL ABOUT HER the next few days. That’s okay, it’s all fun stuff. She’s been working hard – can’t wait to see her work in action.

3. Sometimes when I’m watching HGTV, I want to grab the realtors by the shoulders and shake them and say, “YOU’RE WORKING TOO HARD TO SELL IT. YOU’RE LOOKIN’ DESPERATE.” (And then I think less than eloquent things like “you can’t polish a turd” – a saying I hate, but it’s what comes to mind when the realtor is all “Oooh look at these arched doorways” and the potential buyers are like “Duuuuuude, the kitchen is LIME GREEN, though.”

4. The wheels of planning are turning for the annual Cookie Party. I wish I could remember what year I started it – but I do love it. It’s one of my favorite holiday traditions. Hundreds of cookies. Tons of sugary frosting goo. Sprinkles galore. And the kiddos and their friends.
100 | 365

5. I cannot believe Thanksgiving is next week already. I’m so ready to eat turkey and stuffing, though. It’s definitely one of my favorite meals on the planet. Also? I don’t have to cook. I just get to show up and eat great food. So full (of win).

6. It’s taken me over a week with this book I’ve been reading – and I’m still not done. I can’t tell if the book is that bad or if I haven’t been reading enough (both).

7. I’ve modified my work schedule to allow for four shorter days versus three normal ones — mostly out of necessity. I’m not sure how I feel about it – but we do the things we gotta do, right? And who knows, the shorter days might be good. I have been so busy in the office that it might be a nice change of pace to leave a bit earlier and spread the work out to a fourth day. We’ll see. There’s certainly less traffic when you leave work at an off peak time, which is nice.

8. Cooking Light had a ton of crock pot recipes in this month’s issue and all I’ve been thinking since is, “YUMMMMM Cuban pork and black beans and rice.” My shorter work day means I have time to cook dinner – but I love to use the crock pot. Especially in winter months. Coming home to the smell of a delicious food cooking is heavenly.

9. I lost my eyeliner so I look very tired.

10. We haven’t even had the first real snow fall and already I’m craving the end of winter or a trip to a warmer climate. Not sure how I’m gonna make it through this winter! Every time autumn comes to an end and the days start getting shorter and COLDER, I wish I lived somewhere I could wear jeans and tee shirts and hoodies all year – no snow boots, no jackets, no hats, no gloves. But nope. Here I am. Freezing my ass off. Again.

Double Double Chocolate Chocolate Biscotti Biscotti

I love a biscotti. I love dunking them in my coffee or eating them solo. I love that it wipes out a cookie craving and I never get the urge to eat the whole pan in one sitting (okay, hardly ever). And because they aren’t filled with oil and butter and all that gobbledy-gook, they’re not horrendous for the waistline. BONUS.

If you’re like many people, you might think that biscotti is just a fancy Italian way of saying “overpriced crunchy cookie from Starbucks” – but what biscotti really means is twice baked cookie. And literally, that’s what it is. You shape your dough into a loaf, bake. Then slice and turn and bake again. These look complicated, and you can make them look super fancy (dunking them into melted white chocolate or adding a nice drizzle to the top of the biscotti), but you can make these for a fraction of what you pay at the coffee places. They’re not that hard and it makes you look fancy.

This recipe is from Cooking Light – and if you aren’t reading it, you should. I love seeing some of my favorites slimmed down so they aren’t as rich or destructive to my health. And these? DELICIOUS. I love this recipe as is, but wouldn’t mind jazzing things up with some toasted almonds, maybe? Walnuts. PEANUT BUTTER CHIPS. The sky is the limit.

1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips (regular or mini)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract (THE REAL STUFF, remember? None of that imitation nonsense)
2 large eggs
1 large egg white
Cooking spray

1. Preheat the oven to 350°.

2. Combine dry ingredients into a medium bowl, whisking together. In a large bowl, mix the wet ingredients together. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, stirring until well blended.

3. Divide dough in half. Turn dough out on cookie sheet covered in cooking spray (OR use parchment paper, like I did). With floured hands, shape each half into a 12″ long roll patting to ½” thickness.

4. Bake for 22 minutes. Remove from baking sheet to cool for ten minutes. Cut each roll into 18 slices (ish). Stand slices upright on baking sheet and bake an additional 15 minutes until firm.

Biscotti will be slightly soft upon removing from oven, but will harden as it cools.

Now pour yourself an awesome cup of coffee, grab a biscotti, and dunk. Ahhhhh.

Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie

Last week, I talked to y’all about cookies, and my Fairy GodSista Jules sent me a message and said, “Hey Sarah – Have you ever tried these?” And I was like, “Um. No. But OH-MY-GOODNESS. I need to.” {And big ups to Jules to know that when you have a recipe like this under your hat, you SHARE it}

And so I spent days scheming the perfect combination of cookies.

And then I made them wrong.

Word to the wise, never shut down your computer thinking that the picture you took of the list of ingredients with your iPhone is enough to get you through.


Even though I didn’t beat the cookies for the requisite TEN MINUTES (ohh yeah, you read that right), they were still delish if only just a little bitty bit flat, so… no harm no foul. AND, I have an excuse to try again. Once I go to the store and get more brown sugar because I was completely out last night and had to mooch from my neighbor – and she didn’t have enough – and yeah, then I was so distracted I didn’t blend the dough long enough, blah blah blah.

The Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookie is basically a chocolate chip cookie to which you add a bunch of stuff to it – not just ANY stuff. DARN NEAR ANYTHING.

The first batch? Rollos, chopped almonds and broken pretzel pieces.

Om nom nom nom. I won’t tell you how much cookie dough I ate (but it was A LOT).

I split the dough in half and added some teddy grahams, marshmallows, chocolate chips for a S’mores inspired cookie. I also added chopped peanuts and rice crispies.

The end result (even though I DID NOT FOLLOW DIRECTIONS)? Supah tasty.

Plus, I get to make them again. Y’know… the right way.

For the love of cookies

I love cookies. I kind of love cookies a lot.

Baking was one of the first things I ever found I was good at – and once I learned to bake, my mother stopped. I remember my mother making this phenomenal brownie pie when I was younger. Once I could reach the knobs on the oven and read a cookbook? Those days were gone.

There are cooks and there are bakers, and often a person is one or the other but rarely both.

I am a baker.

And just as much as I love to bake cookies, I sure do love to eat them.

Baking is a therapeutic activity for me – sometimes, I bake just for the end result: I crave cookies, want cookies, need cookies. There’s a bake sale. There’s a birthday. There’s a {insert activity that requires a baked good here}. Those are the times when I like to get my kids involved in the process.

Sometimes, I don’t necessarily want or need something sweet – rather, I need the process of baking: I need to measure, mix, scoop. I need the scent of vanilla and the crack of fresh eggs into a mixture of creamed butter and sugar. I need the task of scooping dough onto parchment and the scent of those ingredients becoming cookies in a 350 degree oven. I need a cooling rack filled with treats and that first bite of a cookie fresh from the oven, chocolate still oozing.

My sister is a cook. She doesn’t enjoy baking. The precision is not her thing – she hates to measure. Baking is dependent on precision to a degree.

I think the fact that I love it so much is one of the key ingredients in everything I bake.

But for those of you who are not inclined to bake, here are some of my favorite tips on making good cookies:

  • Use real butter. There’s a time and a place for the fakey stuff. I understand, you’re watching your cholesterol which is generally a good idea – but fake butter has no place in cookies. The consistency will be off – and your cookies will probably end up looking more like tortillas.
  • Speaking of the real thing: Imitation vanilla is for chumps. I know it’s cheaper, but it doesn’t taste as good as the real stuff. It doesn’t even SMELL as good.
  • Know the difference between baking powder and baking soda. There’s a difference. They are not interchangeable.
  • Parchment paper rules the world. See that picture up there? My cookie dough balls are on parchment paper. This makes cookies easier to get off the pan when they’re done. Also, I break and burn fewer cookies using parchment paper.
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise somewhat. One of the best cookies I’ve had recently was a chocolate chip cookie sprinkled with sea salt – and I am KICKING myself I didn’t think of it first. Yum. Recently I made a cookie with peanuts, pretzels, M&Ms and chocolate chips. It was the Queen Bee of PMS cookies. Think of flavors you like and try them together – the worst thing that could happen is you throw away a batch of cookies.
  • Share. Everyone asks how I can fit through my door way – I’m always baking cookies, so I should be like ten feet wide, right? Wrong. I eat one or two and give the rest away. It’s just enough to kick a craving, but not too much. Also, it makes people happy when I share. And that’s awesome.

As time goes by, I’ll share some cookie recipes with you. Maybe. If you’re nice.

Do you have a favorite kind of cookie? Mine’s peanut butter. Or is that chocolate chip? Or oatmeal? Or gingerbread cookies? Or….

Thursday Ten: Hey Bronchitis GO AWAY edition

1. Wrapped up a round of antibiotics on Sunday for this stupid bronchitis and within two days, all the wheezing and coughing came back.  And it feels worse. This is the third day of Round Two of antibiotics and I don’t feel any better. I’m kind of a big whiny baby when I’m sick.

2. I’m wearing a WHOLE LOTTA GREEN today because the ROOM 704 March edition is LIVE. Go check it out – lots of amazing (and laugh so hard you pee a little) posts from the girls of 704. Including me. I even posted a recipe even though you guys know I really don’t cook much. It’s okay, it’s an easy recipe – it only involves opening cans and jars. Just my style. Anyway, I haven’t even read all the posts yet because I’m savoring the awesomeness, but you – when you’re done reading this list GO OVER THERE.

3. Sunday night, John Mayer was in town and we went. A lot of people either love or hate John Mayer (the word that comes up frequently is “douchebag”, I know). But musically, I was not a fan of the dude until I saw him live the first time, and I just can’t help myself: I LIKE HIM. Michael Franti & Spearhead were the amazing opening act, and they rocked it as well. Happy happy.

Michael Franti & Spearhead - if you don't know them, LOOK THEM UP.

Michael Franti & Spearhead - if you don't know them, LOOK THEM UP.

4. Yesterday, I hosted a bake sale to raise money for the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer. I spent all day Tuesday preparing massive amounts of baked goods (from chocolate chip cookies to lemon squares to brownies to cheesecake) and in about three and a half hours raised over $300 for the cause. Yes, I’m insanely happy about that. The power of cookies is surreal.

5. Melissa challenged me last week to introduce my kids to the FLUFFERNUTTER SANDWICH – marshmallow cream and peanut butter. Well, challenge accepted. Pumpkin loved it. The Princess apparently forgot to add the peanut butter to hers. The next challenge is to try this grilled, like a grilled cheese… perhaps with a  lil bit of chocolate involved.

6. Last week, I had a ear for older music – for some reason, I was humming Fleetwood Mac’s “Seven Wonders” for a few days before I decided to gave and buy it and reintroduce that part of the 80s to my music library. Lately, I haven’t purchased anything that was recorded in the past decade though. What am I missing?

7. American Idol – who is watching it? I don’t think I’ve missed a season yet, but admittedly, this is the part I hate: the part in between the rotten auditions and when you start actually caring if certain people stay or go. At this point, I’m mostly just annoyed. And yet… somehow I keep watching.

8. As I type this, Pumpkin is giving me big kisses on my face. That’s definitely better than a stick in the eye.

9. Saturday is NATIONAL OREOS DAY. Will you celebrate? And do you eat your cookies whole or do you break ’em apart and eat the middle first?

10. In guitar lesson today, I started working on Ingrid Michaelson’s “The Chain”. The song features piano but it translates pretty easily to guitar – also, it’s a pretty easy learn. I love this song – it’s quirky and the melody is one of my favorites.

Gingerbread SmackDown!

I love gingerbread. I know people who don’t, and to that I say: More for me. One of my favorite aspects of winter, though, is that gingerbread flavors are everywhere. Panera has an awesome gingerbread bagel. Starbucks has the gingersnap latte (which is not as good as last year – and I finally figured out today what it was missing: NUTMEG). I even saw an ad for Coldstone Creamery that showed a gingerbread cake with gingerbread ice cream inside and even though it’s far too cold for ice cream, I’m more than a little tempted.

I always make gingerbread cookies at this time of year, but admittedly – I’ve typically made them from a mix. This year, I figured I would do it right. I would actually make them from scratch. I dug through my binders of recipes (seriously: HUGE binders filled with recipes) and found two gingerbread cookie recipes. One was from Cooking Light magazine. The other was a Paula Deen recipe.

I made the CL version on Friday night, the Paula version on Sunday. The CL version had less butter, more molasses and used white sugar instead of brown. The Paula version had twice as many calories and more than twice as much fat (but I still have to say, nutritionally, gingerbread cookies? Not that bad for you. Thank god – because I have eaten A LOT of them in the past few days). The CL version was easier to roll and work with and though both versions tasted good, the CL cookies were actually better.

Once I finish eating all the gingerbread cookies that are sitting on my counter and finish the Paula gingerbread dough in my fridge, I will be using only the Cooking Light recipe for the rest of the season.

Oh the trouble I go through for my cookies.