Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

The perfect chocolate chip cookie consists of three things: Taste, Texture, and Ratio of chocolate chips to cookie. When you think about it, cookie baking is a complete science a baker needs to identify to achieve the best cookie possible.

I haven’t made cookies for a while and decided to pull out my Hershey’s Easy Baking cookbook to try out their famous chocolate chip recipe.

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This chewy cookies host a heck-load of chocolate chips per cookie.

Cookies and family bonding go hand-in-hand like movies and popcorn. I remember in my youth, perched upon the kitchen stool helping my mother prepare cookie dough by hand. Flour covered the kitchen counter like a light dusting of  freshly fallen snow. I remember these details as I bite down into the freshly baked cookie, savoring each flavor, and wishing I had a glass of milk to wash it all down.

Right now I am in the middle of my first semester at a University College. Although everything is new, I am enjoying my classes, and the new classmates I meet daily. I spend hours in the library —usually lounged on a couch engulfed in a book. My time management skills are improving drastically, and I can tell my writing is slowly becoming more fluid in motion. I will post some of my short stories once my class has ended. (Be warned, my work isn’t all about cookies and cakes.)

I am enjoying my newfound knowledge of food blogging. I am learning new marketing techniques, photography editing, and new skills which make blogging easier. I never really understood how many skills were needed to produce a beautiful blog, and I feel enriched with my newfound knowledge. I am still trying to find my “voice” in writing these posts. I do not want to come off as “too-formal” but I do want to sound informed on the information.

 

Think what a better world it would be if we all, the whole world, had cookies and milk about three o’clock every afternoon and then lay down on our blankets for a nap. – Barbara Jordan
(Can you imagine?! What a beautiful life that would be.)

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 5 Dozen
  • Difficulty: Easy
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Ingredients

  • 2-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups (12-oz. pkg.)HERSHEY’S Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions

1. Heat oven to 375°F.

2. Stir together flour, baking soda and salt. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla in large bowl with mixer until creamy. Add eggs; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture, beating well. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts, if desired. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Makes about 5 dozen cookies.

 

Recipe inspired by “Hershey’s Easy Baking” 

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Chicken Piccata

I know, I know, it’s been  a while! I am taking two accelerated classes right now, one being Humanistic Traditions, and the other, Theory of Creative Writing. I am loving my writing class, and my professor is amazing. I’ve written more creative stories in these past weeks than I have in high school. I find myself writing about topics deeper than I had ever imagined. Characters dealing with conflicts which are both intriguing, and outside of my comfort zone.

That being said, I made this for dinner a while ago—and I mean weeks ago— I am finally going to post the recipe and photo.
I found this book in a thrift store a few years ago, and I am sad to say I have never dove into the book until today. “I’m Just Here For The Food” was one of Alton Brown’s first cookbooks. Written over twelve years ago, Alton explores the cuisine with illustrations, scientific analogies, and of course, his likable humor.

Believe it or not, Chicken Piccata is actually a braised dish. Originating in Italy, Piccata means “sharp” , referring to the sharp and tangy caper sauce which accompanies the chicken. The chicken is pan-fried to create a crisp exterior, then finished by simmering in a sauce. When I was younger, my grandfather used to make this dish all the time for me.

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Chicken Piccata

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: Easy
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2 boneless chicken breasts, cut in half 
Kosher salt 
Freshly ground black pepper 
Flour for dredging plus 1 teaspoon 
2 tablespoons canola oil 
3 tablespoons butter 
1/2 yellow onion, chopped 
3 cloves garlic, minced 
6 scallions, chopped 
1/3 to 1/2 cup sweet vermouth, sherry or white wine 
Juice of 1 large lemon 
1 tablespoon capers, rinsed and lightly crushed 
2 tablespoons chopped parsley 
1 lemon, sliced thinly 

Place the chicken breasts, one at a time, on a sheet of plastic wrap; fold the wrap over to cover. Using the mallet, pound each breast to uniform thickness of 1/4-inch. Season the chicken liberally with the salt and pepper, dredge in the flour, shaking off any excess. 

In a heavy skillet just big enough to hold all the chicken, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. When the oil and butter stop sizzling, add the chicken and cook, turning once, until just brown on both sides. Remove the chicken to a plate. Pour off any grease from the pan and add the remaining tablespoon of butter. 

Add the onion to the skillet and saute until translucent. Add the garlic and the scallions and saute 1 more minute. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon of the flour over the vegetables and toss to combine. 

Deglaze the pan with the vermouth and lemon juice. Add the capers and toss to combine. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and reduce heat to low, simmering until chicken is cooked through, about 4 minutes. The sauce should cling to the meat.

Correct the seasoning with salt and pepper if necessary, and serve on warm platter garnished with the parsley and lemon slices.

 

Recipe inspired by “I’m Just Here For The Food”

“Then maybe I’ll be able to snatch a pebble from Julia Child’s hand” – Alton Brown

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Mushroom Cheese Puffs

Our next-door neighbors invited us over to celebrate a birthday, and I couldn’t show up empty-handed. I looked through our fridge and found some button mushrooms. Keeping up with my Cookbook Challenge, I skimmed through my Cooking with Bon Appétit :Appetizers book and found a fast appetizer, perfect for nibbling while talking with friend and sipping on wine. This recipe is a parmesan Gougère topped with a savory mushroom and cream cheese filling. This is essentially a pâte à choux dough with cheese.

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As a dough, pate a choux is simple to make, and fun to pipe onto the sheet pan. The name, pâte à choux means “cabbage” in french, as the pastry resembles little cabbages when pipped. They are light as feathers and heavenly to eat.

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Mushroom Cheese Puffs

  • Servings: 36 mini puffs
  • Difficulty: Moderately easy
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Ingredients

For the Pâte à choux:

  • 1 Cup all purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • Dash of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1/2 Grated Parmesan Cheese

For the Mushroom filling:

  • 1 lb Mushrooms, cleaned
  • 6 Tablespoons Butter
  • 1/2 Cup minced shallot or green onion
  • 1/8 teaspoon Grated Nutmeg
  • 1 pound Cream Cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat Oven to 425 degrees F. Grease baking sheets and set aside.
  2. Combine flour, pepper, and nutmeg in a small bowl. Mix water, butter, and salt in heavy medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook until butter is fully melted. Reduce heat
  3. Add flour mixture to saucepan and stir vigorously until mixture is smooth and pulls away from sides of the pan. Remove from heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  4. Using an electric mixer ( or a really strong arm) beat in eggs one at a time. Mix until shiny and smooth. Stir in cheese.
  5. Fit pastry bag with 1/2 inch round tip (or snip the edge off a ziploc bag) and fill with dough. Squeeze onto baking sheet in 1-inch mounds. Bake until puffed and golden, about 20 minutes.
  6. Turn off oven. Remove from oven and cut a slit in each puff. Return baking sheet back to oven and leave the door ajar to let puffs dry for ten minutes. Remove puffs and let cool.

For the Mushroom Filling

  1. Chop mushrooms finely. You can also achieve this in a food processor.
  2. Melt butter in skillet over medium-high heat.
  3. Add shallots/green onions and mushrooms and cook until browned.Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg. Drain water from mushrooms. and let cool.
  4. Mix together cream cheese and mushrooms

To Serve

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  2. Slice tops off of puffs and divide filling between puffs. Replace tops.
  3. Bake 5 minutes and serve hot.

Recipe inspired by “Cooking with Bon Appétit: Appetizers” 

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 Mangez bien, riez souvent, aimez beaucoup

Eat well, laugh often, love abundantly”

Exploring the Florida Keys

This past week my family, my friend, my two dogs,my 18 year old cat, and I visited the beautiful Florida Keys. School had just ended for both my sister and I, and our family decided to take a small vacay before our summer classes started.

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Ready for an adventure! Buddy, Holly, and Kitty Whiskers

Our journey started in what seemed to be a clown car; suitcases bursting out of the trunk, minute leg room, and of course, the smell of the litter box. My cat, Kitty Whiskers, is beautiful. Tuffs of fur graze her neck as she sits comfortably in the nest of pillows in the back seat. She is a world traveler, and has seen many states and sites. As an eighteen year cat, Kitty Whiskers requires special attention of her diet and her daily patterns. It just seemed easier to bring her along, rather than drive a house-sitter crazy with her night howling. ( She gets a bit confused and meows in the middle of the night. Sometimes while she is lying on your stomach. Talk about a wake-up call!)

Our journey took us to Miami on the first night, admiring the culture of Little Havana, and the lights of South Beach. I wished I could have visited South Beach in it’s heyday– The 80’s. I expected flashing lights, flamboyant bars, and eccentric fashion. I guess I was really expecting to walk onto the movie set of “The Bird Cage” starring Robin Williams. Now that would have been fun.

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Street Painting in Little Havana

The next day we enjoyed our ride to Key West, with a pit stop at Key Largo for lunch. There, we got our first taste of Key Lime Pie. It was tart and creamy, with a crumbly graham cracker crust. It was the perfect piece of pie.

Since I discovered and learned a lot in Key West, (Way too much to describe in this post) I’ll share a list of 10 of my favorite memories from Key West

 

 

Places You Must See!

  1. Ernest Hemingway House
  2. Truman White House
  3. Sunset Water sports
  4. Key West Aquarium
  5. Duffy’s
  6. Higg’s Beach
  7. Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center
  8. Dante’s Key West Pool Bar & Restaurant
  9. Mallory Square Sunset
  10. Tennessee William’s Exhibit

My list contains some of the main sightseeing sites, but I added some of my own personal favorites, and the best part is — Most of them are free or dirt cheap!

Ernest Hemingway House

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Hemingway’s Writing Desk

My absolute favorite part of the trip was visiting Hemingway’s home. I had just finished “The Paris Wife” a few weeks ago, and had a sense of the man he was. It was eyeopening to see how this amazing author lived.What fascinated me most was the six-toed cats. My sister, friend, and I searched the entire grounds to find cats, and we ended up counting about 38 of them. One even climbed up in my lap and curled up with me during a portion of the tour. After walking around in his house, we decided to step farther into Hemingway’s shoes by visiting a few of his favorite bars. It was a spectacular day. The ticket to see the house and receive a tour was quite reasonable, and was even cheaper when we packaged the tickets with the aquarium. It came out to be around $25 for both tickets combined.

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Polydactyl (six-toed) cat

Truman White House

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Truman’s Presidential Home in Key West

True Key West architecture takes center stage while one walks through the Truman Annex to the White House. Located near the downtown area, The Truman White House, is a historical house is which housed President Truman during his working holidays. We learned about his presidency in a free exhibit, but priced tours are brought into the house, which is filled with Truman’s original furniture.

Sunset Watersports

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Enjoying the water slide

On my sister’s birthday, we decided to book an excursion with Sunset Watersports. The best deal?…The birthday girl got her ticket for free, a $169 value. Unfortunetly the day we took the tour, the wind speed was high and we were unable to parasail or participate in a variety of activities which were included in our package. My sister, friend, and I decided to kayak, and the current decided to take us further into the sea. I was humiliated when a rescue boat had to take us back. It’s a really great trip…just check the weather beforehand.

Key West Aquarium

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They bite!

This open-air aquarium is quaint and easy to navigate. Plus it’s dog friendly. Touch tanks are plentiful, as are feeding demonstrations.

 Duffy’s Restaurant

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Cream of Mushroom Soup

This was our favorite restaurant during the trip. It’s reasonable and hosts a variety of fresh seafood and steaks. Large portions — large enough to share. I had a meal of Cream of Mushroom Soup and shared a Prime Rib Entree with my mom. We gobbled it up, along with their warm bread.

Higg’s Beach

Key West is not known for their beaches. Something to do with their location and how the Gulf meets the Atlantic Ocean. This beach, however was our favorite for snorkeling. A wooden dock leads swimmers to a deserted broken dock filled with tropical fish and coral. We spent at least an hour in the water marveling at the fish. I really adore snorkeling and felt so at peace in the water. All you hear is the sound of your own breath. It’s simply fascinating. Oh, and free parking is a plus too.

Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center

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The “Kids”

This free museum housed information regarding the reef, the environment, and how scientists study the diverse ecosystem of the Florida Keys. A short informational video repeatedly plays, informing guests about the mangroves and the reefs which make the Florida Keys so spectacular.

Dante’s Key West Pool Bar & Restaurant

This hidden gem is a great spot for lunch and to cool off. Just by ordering a drink or lunch, guests have full use of the pool to splash around and cool themselves off. A hidden mirage near downtown Key West.

Mallory Square Sunset

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Juggling fire, sword, and a machete…while on a unicycle

Key West is known for its beautiful sunset, and its “Green Flash”. Every night, street performers dazzle audience members with their skill as tourists flock to this sunset celebration. It was fun to watch the amazing talents some of these men possessed, but the real show was the sunset. Hues of pink and orange circle the sky as the sun sets for the day.

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Key West Sunset

Tennessee Williams’ Exhibit

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Tennessee Williams’ works

Hemingway wasn’t the only famous writer on the island. Williams’, author of “A Streetcar Named Desire” resided in Key West until his death. The free exhibit honors William’s work.

I enjoyed my trip with my family and enjoyed making all of the memories…ones I will cherish for a lifetime.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another” – Hemingway