I've been feeling quite Holiday-ready for awhile now.
And since the weather is finally matching with the time of year - goodbye, 70 degrees, see you in May - I feel right about letting myself go...
I'm ready to get Thanksgiving-y.
Here's what we've had going on...
We cooked up a big, ruby red pot of this amazing Cranberry Ginger Chutney at my mom's a couple of weeks ago.
Auntie Alli has had some free time in her crazy schedule to bestow upon the piglets.
She visited our house and was persuaded to drop it all on the spot to read the book-gluttons a few stories.
(Like mother, like babies.)
Lit candles and fresh bread from La Brea bakery via Costco.
Although it's not as domestic and warm as baking up my very own loaf - which I do from time to time -
it's much quicker and (dare I say?) just as delicious.
And, if dimly lit nights of book browsing, fresh bread and cranberries don't get you in the festive spirit, the sight of a fierce Indian and sweet Pilgrim should do the trick.
From this Star-Crossed girl to you and yours: Happy Thanksgiving!
Which, admittedly, my entire blog has been about lately. I like to eat. Get over it.
But it's okay, because this is sort of the season that one can obsess over food and not seem like an absolute nut case (no pun intended).
If I were a "good" blogger - the kind that inspires people to take their dining room table and marvelously turn it into a king-sized bed with tufted headboard with only $5 and a distressed paint job or decorate their entire house with strands of hand-glittered Fruit Loops for the holidays - I would take my favorite store-bought snacks and figure out a way to whip them up in my own kitchen...
The title of this post is "Fat and Happy."
And you don't get that way by having the get-up-and-go it takes to create a new bed, string cereal around your house and make all your favorite treats from organic scratch.
No sir. No ma'am.
I buy many of my snacks and eat them out of boxes.
And I like it that way.
(Although, as you know, I do like a good homemade something for balance. A little yin to my yang.)
So here, is a list of some of my favorite snacky items in honor of the Holidays.
(By no means is this a comprehensive list...I could go on for days. See post title.)
First, I must start with the King of all wintery treats.
(Sorry to all the grocery snobs...I shop here a lot with the comforting thought that TJ's is owned by the same company so it can't be all that bad.)
Priano brand Pizzelle.
Pizzelle is this super-thin Italian waffle type cookie (flavored in vanilla or anise) that is crispy and lovely and completely satisfying with a gooey layer of Nutella
slathered on top.
I'm a sweet-lover.
I come by it honestly; both of my grandmas can put away their fair share of Dairy Queen (or "DQ" as she has affectionately dubbed it) or cherry-topped cheesecake like no other.
But...a girl's gotta get her sodium in somewhere.
Look no further than Costco's Rice Crackers w/ Nuts.
So, so good.
And, lest you think I'm a disgusting, processed food consuming glutton, I will tell you that I have been devouring perfectly ripe pears in droves...or bushels...or whatever large quantities pears come in.
Although I makes jokes about being fat and happy...I really am not all that fat.
My pre-occupation with food is nicely balanced by the raging metabolism only a nursing mom (and adolescent boys) can boast.
So, I'm living it up while I've got the chance.
Thinking that it might not be all that terrible to forsake nursing school for a full-time occupation as a wet nurse.
Do people even use wet nurses anymore?
the transformation of my basement from ugly storage/laundry/playroom/total and utter disgrace to bright, cheery homeschool central. It's a slow process - as all Star-Crossed projects tend to be - but I will share the fruits of our labor via photos as soon as it is presentable.
the prospect of my birthday on the horizon.
Thanksgiving looming (in the way only a sweet holiday can). Late nights spent laughing and eating with far-away family, while the little ones are snug in their beds just up the staircase. I can't think of a joy more satisfying.
this homeschool room. Yeah, I'm totally taking notes. Although I have no hopes that my room will be as perfectly pulled off as this one.
the sound of all three children laughing at the same time. Like, side-splitting, tears running down their faces, belly laughing. It totally sounds like munchkinland when you hear them getting carried away in the next room. I half expect to walk in on them mingling with the Lollipop Guild and Glinda the Good Witch when they start in on the giggling. This has to be my number one happiness at this point in life; hearing the munchkinland laugh.
the feeling that this might just be my most favorite holiday season to date. I just have a good mojo going about Thanksgiving/Christmas 2010.
1 large can stewed tomatoes, chopped
1 can chickpeas (or any other bean)
any small pasta
1 green pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 cups frozen corn (or 1 can)
3 carrots, chopped
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 dash (or 2...or 3) red pepper flakes
oregano to taste
salt and pepper to taste
3 garlic cloves, minced
pesto and fresh grated parmesan for garnish (optional)
Put all ingredients (except pasta, pesto and cheese) into a 6 qt. slow-cooker and cook until warmed through. Add pasta to cook the last 20 minutes. Dish into bowls and top with a dallop of basil pesto and grated parmesan. Serve with crusty bread.
Soup like this is really, very forgiving. So whatever you feel like putting into the pot will probably taste like a little bit of heaven. As long as you keep true to the spirit of the soup. Think Italian vegetable soup and you should be okay with whatever you add. Its the perfect thing to make on a November day with whatever you have in your cupboards. My recipe above is just a suggestion.
If, by some stroke of chance, you find us outside of the kitchen this November, we are probably cozied up on the couch doing something like this...
This book, Circle of Seasons is one of our favorites. Read my review here.
To find more of my recipes I have posted, visit my 'Recipes' tab.
And, by all means, spend a little time in your kitchen this November.
Meaning I like to browse a good cookbook and then throw some of the most basic recipes together.
I like easy meals with lots of flavor.
If it gets too French (ie: words I can't pronounce) or if silly gadgets are involved I'm out.
Although, I do like to Barefoot Contessa it up every once in awhile. (So, so fun to use 'Barefoot Contessa' as a verb...you should try it...)
But, I despise a dinner from a box.
No fakey potatoes au gratin with powder "sauce" or cheesy broccoli rice with crusty bits of broccoli.
(That's not to say it never happens. I keep some of that junk on hand if I'm having a particularly desperate day.)
So, while I'm no Julia Child (I heard she disdained Italian cooking because it was too haphazard and not calculated enough! La di dah!) we do like to eat well at our house.
Anyway...where was I going with this?
I'm not a braggart in the kitchen.
I admit: I'm average.
But what is not average - what I have perfected throughout my (short) years in the kitchen - is my Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe.
I know, right? Everyone knows how to make a chocolate chip cookie. Even if you can't boil an egg, you can probably make a chocolate chip cookie.
Listen, if you try this recipe and think I'm completely out of line in saying these are the best Chocolate Chip Cookies you've ever made and that I'm a Genius Chocolate Chip Cookie maker, you can blame my dad.
Yep. Blame the Reverend.
He has been requesting and then proclaiming the perfection of my Chocolate Chip Cookies since I was 15.
He has inflated my head in a terrible way.
And, so, if they suck...it's all his fault.
(But they don't suck. I promise.)
This is a basic recipe.
No fancy, I-can't-believe-she-puts-that-in-there! ingredients.
Straightforward, Toll House style recipe, just tweaked and teased a bit to make it truly exceptional.
The magic is in the ingredients.
Do exactly what I tell you.
Because, as is true with all baking, the correct temperature, amounts and order of additions is vital when it comes to these cookies.
The texture will be all wrong if you don't do as I say.
(So what? I'm having a power trip. Let me.)
First up, a note about the chocolate, vanilla and butter:
Use good chocolate chips.
I prefer Ghirardelli semi-sweet chips.
Please do not use milk chocolate chips. Gross.
Use good vanilla extract.
Do not use the crap that says 'imitation vanilla.'
Stay away from that.
It's phony. And nasty. (And we are using more vanilla in this recipe than is traditionally called for, so make it the good stuff.)
Use salted butter.
S A L T E D.
I know, in baking you are supposed to use unsalted butter so you can monitor the amount of butter you are adding to your recipe.
This, I feel, is the key to making your chocolate chip cookies a cut above the rest.
The extra salt in there...coupled with the sweet of the good chocolate.
Another note about butter:
It is supposed to be room temperature.
That means you must leave it sitting out for a few hours so it gets truly soft and room temp all the way through. If it isn't soft enough, it wont blend with the other ingredients.
If you forget to set your butter out (which I've done many times) and just decide to nuke it you will have a different texture in your cookies.
Truly room temp. butter produces light, soft, fluffy cookies. Like the ones in my picture at the bottom.
Butter that has been put in the microwave and has been softened to that oozing point, or beyond, produces flat, chewy, brown cookies.
I prefer the fluffy cookies. But if you like the more dense ones, microwave your butter until it starts to ooze.
See? This is intense; this whole 'perfect cookie' thing.
Maybe I missed my calling as a pastry chef.
And now, without further ado, the recipe.
Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda 1 teaspoon salt 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened 3/4 cup granulated sugar 3/4 cup packed brown sugar 2 teaspoons vanilla extract 2 large eggs 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) good semi-sweet chocolate chips (like Ghirardelli)
Preheat your oven to 375.
Combine the 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. (Please do this step. The consistency is effected by whether you beat after each egg or not.) Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased baking sheets. Bake for 9 to 11 minutes.
Oh my heavens. The most perfect cookie.
If you're a nut-lover, you may put 1 cup of walnuts in your cookies when you add the chocolate chips. I love nuts but, for some reason, I like the purity of the cookie without nuts. Crunch distracts me from the goodness of the cookie.
And that's it!
Not the most impressive recipe in my folders, but probably the best.
If you make these, you have to tell me how they turned out.
If you loved them as much as my daddy does.