When Life Gives You Crap … Make Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I’ve been having a tough time lately. I will spare you the sad, poor-me, pity party, and just say that sometimes life kinda sucks. But, I try to always find the silver lining, and if I can’t find that well, then I start looking for chocolate!  Or if it super sucks, I start looking for chocolate chip cookie dough.

And I don’t know about you but I don’t want to make an entire batch of cookies and be a slave to the kitchen for hours on end.  I want to be in and out.  I also don’t want 3-4 dozen cookies just hanging around my house for the next week or so tempting me to eat them.

The Boy LOVES – I mean, like obsessively LOVES chocolate chip cookies,and has since he was old enough to eat them.  I just hate store bought baked goods.  They taste gross & heaven knows what’s in them.  So I try to make most of the goodies myself … or with The Boy!  He did about 75% of the work on these.

MamaLovesHalfBatchCCWCookiesI scoured the internet looking for ideas, looked at my own full batch recipe and tried to do the math, but ultimately just gave up and kind of improvised.  I love my cookies buttery, soft, fluffy, with lots of chocolate chips and lots of walnuts.  So if you do too, here you go!

PS – I am an advocate of eating raw cookie dough no matter what the warnings say.  Obviously those people just don’t want to have fun in life.  I chowed down at least 2 cookies worth of cookie dough while making these & I’m alive to tell you about it!

Mama Loves Half-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yields about a dozen or so (depending on how much cookie dough you eat while making them!)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup (one stick) butter, softened
1 egg
6 tablespoons brown sugar
6 table spoons granulated white sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 heaping cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup chopped walnuts

Method:
TIP: Use your hand mixer for better results – I tried doing it the old fashioned way by hand & quickly plugged my hand mixer in to make quicker work of things.  

Preheat Oven to 375*

Cream the butter and sugars at a low-medium speed.  Add the egg, mix some more.  Add the flour gradually, mixing together.  Add the salt & the baking powder.  Mix it at a low-medium speed until the dry ingredients are totally mixed in with the wet ingredients.  Turn the mixer off & hand stir in the chocolate chips & walnuts.

Use a small kitchen spoon (or a super cute cookie dough scooper) to drop tablespoon sized balls of dough onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (makes for easy clean up!)

cookie dough 1

Bake at 375 for about 10 minutes.  Remove from oven right as the edges of the cookies are turning golden brown.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 2 minutes, then gently transfer to a wire rack to cool for another few minutes.

YUM Inside of the cookieEAT ME, YOU’LL FEEL BETTER 🙂

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Easter Egg-citement … and a Life Lesson on the side

Oh that title is sooooo cheesy, but it’s late & you get what you get at this point. And by the by – this post has not been “proofed.” I still have to make a basket, hide eggs tonight, and gnaw out chunks of a carrot that The Boy left for the bunny.

On Thursday, The Boy & I made Chickadee Cupcakes!

chickadee_cupcakes_platter

 

I was inspired by this post.  Mine are nowhere near as perfect & pretty as hers, but then again, I’m just a “fairly good mother,” so what do you expect?

Let me see if I can impress you with this little tidbit of info:  I did all of this WHILE working from home, juggling calls, making deals & doing laundry, AFTER running errands in the morning.  Impressed?  *huffs on knuckles & brushes off the shoulder dust*  Yeah, I’m a badass mama sometimes.

We took the easy route – got a box yellow cake instead of making from scratch, BUT I did make whipped cream frosting (my own concoction using heavy cream & powdered sugar & vanilla – don’t measure, just add to taste,) and then added yellow gel.  I bought pre-made eyes & used some orange icing that was leftover from Halloween.  It was Wilton’s – the kind in the air canister & it had a mind of it’s own, very difficult to deal with! I piped on some frosting to the sides for their wings.  Note: You need to refrigerate these because of the cream frosting.  Just let them stand at room temp for 15 minutes or so before you scarf one down.

The Boy had fun making some of the chickadees into “silly chickadees” with one eye or three, and since I didn’t want 2 dozen chickadees, so we used the rest of the batter to make a mama chick.  We used chocolate chips for her eyes & The Boy, my little choc-o-holic, ate enough chips to make 5 more chicks!

mama_chickadee_cakeWe took some of the cupcakes to the neighbor kids & then went to karate.

On Friday, we tackled the eggs!  And let’s be honest here, it was a less than perfect undertaking.

Take one rambunctious 4 year old, add 6 flimsy PAAS cups filled with colored water & of course your chances for a disaster are like 97% … Add to that the fact that I had dressed him in a new outfit that was partially white & the chances increased to 99.9999%.

No worries, I’m a chilled out mama regardless of my self-diagnosed mild OCD.  I had prepared for this event: laid out paper towels & put an apron on him.  But two seconds after this picture was taken …. the green egg disaster commenced.

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ...

Green will be all over the kitchen in 5-4-3-2 ..

The Boy accidentally tipped over the flimsy PAAS cup (we were using the whisk to hold the egg since that’s an easier way for kids to maneuver the eggs.)

The Boy immediately freaked out & hopped off his stool to retreat in the far end of the kitchen.  Before I even went to clean it, I consoled him.  My little sensitive guy was obviously pretty upset that he had spilled the green all over the counter, cabinets & himself.

“Guess what?”  I told him … “Accidents happen & I’m not mad.  I know I told you to be careful, but it’s no big deal – do I look mad?  No.  I’m not mad at all & it’s ok!  Let’s take off your apron & get you a new one.”  But he was still pretty shaken by the whole thing & ran off to his playroom.  This was a great teaching moment (yes, those are actual real things for the fairly good mothers of the world.) I went to get him & we had a nice little talk about how important it is to forgive ourselves when we’re not perfect.

He came back to do a couple more eggs, but I could see that he was a little timid & still pretty mad at himself, and it broke my heart into about a thousand pieces when I asked him why he was still upset & he said “I’m mad at myself for making an accident & I don’t want to color eggs anymore because I’m afraid I’ll do it again.”

I choked back my tears.  Give me a break, friends, I’m PMDD’d & I love this kid.   I got right down next to him & told him “hey it’s totally ok if you do it again … I might even do it this time!  I’m not perfect, no one is.  If we make a mess, we’ll clean it up!  No big deal.  Right?   And listen to me … You know when a friend does something that makes you sad & they apologize to you & you say ‘I forgive you?’ well, it’s important to forgive yourself when you do something that makes you sad or frustrated.”  He got that.  And we finished the eggs.

Tie_DyeEasterEggs

We used the PAAS Tie-Dye Easter Egg Kit, which I have used in past years, and had so-so results, but apparently my fairly good brain forgot that we tried this before & I bought the kit again.  This time they had included this gloss to polish the eggs, which seemingly made some difference.  And I guess I perfected my technique … or maybe it was just luck 🙂

 

I think I like this one the best: Pink_TieDyeEgg

Or maybe it was the super bright pink egg that I did just for The Boy since it’s his favorite color & I knew it would make him happy.

And we read this book before bed – one of MY childhood faves: The Country Bunny & the Little Gold Shoes.

the country bunnyIt’s about a Country Bunny who becomes one of the 5 Easter Bunnies.  Was written in 1939 & still holds up seventy-five years later!

I hope you have a great Easter, and I hope you can remember the wonderment you felt as you woke up on Easter morning to discover a basket filled with goodies & eggs hidden around the house.

Childhood is a magical time where reality is kind of suspended … at least if you have fairly good parents who will do that for you.

I hope The Boy looks back on his childhood and forgets the accidents & the struggles, and only remembers the magic, the wonderment, the joy of his life.

P.S. Tell me that the addition of the text to my pictures was worth it! Thanks Picmonkey.

xo 🙂

 

 

Zucchini Bread

I’m looking around to make sure we’re alone & my mom isn’t anywhere within earshot … Somehow or another that woman always knows what I’m up to.  She used to claim she had eyes in the back of her head.  Ok, I think we’re alone … You’re not wearing a wire, are you? Cuz I’m going to do something that she has forbid me to do:  I’m going to share one of her recipes & DO NOT TELL HER I TOLD YOU.

I promise, I will deny it, I will say I don’t know you & that I heard you used to reside in Danvers State Insane Asylum after you were caught walking naked down the highway claiming you were Emeril Lagasse’s lover …  and I’m a pretty decent liar.

My mom is very protective of her recipes & I get that, but I’m also a pretty good judge of things, and I know which ones I absolutely CANNOT share, (like her famous potato casserole & the addictive cheese ball – both of which always ensure I am invited to lots of parties & pot-lucks,) but this one – well, this one is kinda standard, and I suppose you could find a similar one on the web somewhere, (though I’ve never bothered to look.)  Plus, I’m still feeling in the holiday spirit of giving.

A Family Favorite (see my photo note at the bottom of this post!)

Zucchini Bread: A Family Favorite (see my photo disclaimer at the bottom of this post!)

Zucchini Bread.  The beloved bread of Christmastime – the one little loaf that will make you want to be my friend forevermore.  Now, I suppose it makes sense that if YOU could make the zucchini bread yourself, you wouldn’t have much use for me, but did you know that I’m a ton of fun & I pour really healthy glasses of wine when you come over to my house, and I’m the world’s best secret keeper?  Well, besides this bread secret, I am.

Why now, you ask?  After all of these years of me coveting this precious recipe all to myself, why am I finally unlocking the recipe box and laying it out there for the entire world wide web to find?  Well, more than one friend of mine has made the comment that mine is the best.  And, I hate to brag, but yeah, it is.  I’ve tasted other breads and they’re dry and flavorless.  That makes people grumpy.  And I can’t have people going around all grumpy during the holidays because their zucchini bread doesn’t taste as good as mine, so here you go.  And you’re welcome 🙂

Zucchini Bread
(makes 6 small loaves)

Ingredients:
3 eggs
1 cup oil (canola or vegetable)
2 cups granulated sugar
3 cups grated zucchini (do not peel)
3 cups of flour (unbleached)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup walnuts (chopped)

Method:
In a big mixing bowl (I use my badass standing mixer for this) combine eggs, oil, sugar & zucchini.  In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, cinnamon, salt, baking powder & baking soda & gradually add it to the zucchini mixture.  Mix thoroughly & then add the vanilla & the nuts.  Bake in greased 3×6 loaf pans at 350 degrees for about 35-45 minutes (I check after 35 & then always end up baking them 5-10 mins longer.)  If you use the larger loaf pans, bake for an hour (but check after 45 minutes if you’re neurotic like me.)  And I have also made zucchini muffins in the large muffin pan (makes a dozen) and those take about 25-30 minutes.

These make great gifts for neighbors & friends! But The Husband & The Boy like to eat slices fresh from the oven with a little butter or cream cheese … YUM!  And I mean, they are healthy – they have zucchini in them, so how can they be anything BUT healthy?

Now, for my photography disclaimer: I take all most of the pictures myself, and as you can clearly tell, I’m no pro.  I’m a multi-tasking mom with a mixer & a hungry family.  Most of my food photos are taken with my iPhone, right before I sit down to devour my meal.  This one happened to be taken with my Cannon Rebel because it was sitting out waiting for Christmas to arrive.  My food photos are inferior,  just look at my bestie’s gorgeous website, The Kitchen Snob & you will see why I feel like the ugly step-sister.  She spends countless hours with in her semi-professional studio, gently massaging crumbs off of cookies & perfectly placing them so that your mouth will water when you browse her site.  Ok, enough whining — I”m going to go heat up a slice of zucchini bread & have my coffee now.

Two Birds, One Pie Plate of Cinnamon Rolls

This past week, I killed two birds with one stone!  Not only did I complete one of my “creative pay-it-forward” items, (see below,) but I can now check off “cinnamon rolls” from my Bake-It List.  Hooray!  And may I say, they were pretty delicious even if they were a lot of work.

The Creative Pay-It-Forward was something that went viral on facebook, (not sure where it originated, and I normally don’t partake in viral facebook stuff, but this seemed right up my alley.)  Here it is:  “2013 Creative Pay-It-Forward: The first five people to comment on my status will receive from me, sometime in the next calendar year, a homemade gift – a small surprise of some sort (baked goods, a card, piece of art…whatever I think would suit you)! There won’t be a warning and it will happen without notice and whenever the mood strikes me. The catch? Those five people must make the same offer in their Facebook status. Keep paying it forward and spread the happy. Oh, and “likes” don’t count. You must comment!”

homemade happiness | The Fairly Good Mother

The first friend of mine to comment happens to live 3 minutes away, so I thought, why not make the cinnamon rolls & if they turn out ok, I’ll run them up to her as a sweet surprise.  I wanted to make the cinnamon rolls as close to the holidays as possible because I know we’re all on a healthy-eating kick.  Fortunately for me, I am always ready with an excuse to indulge in sweets & my friend doesn’t believe in dieting 🙂

So, the other day afternoon, I began making the dough for my cinnamon rolls. I started with Pioneer Woman’s recipe, but halved it.  NOTE: Unless you want to wake up at like 5am & have 2 child-free, interruption-free hours, you will need to make the dough the night before, which is what I did.

Here’s the recipe with the measurements I used:

Adapted from PIONEER WOMAN’S CINNAMON ROLLS
(makes 4 pans of rolls / 5 rolls per pan)

Ingredients:
2 C whole milk
1/2 C vegetable oil
1/2 C sugar
1 tbsp active dry yeast
4 C flour
1/2 C flour
1/2 heaping tsp baking powder
1/2 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 tbsp salt

Filling:
1 C melted butter
3/4 C sugar
1/2 C cinnamon (or more depending on preference)

Frosting:
1/2 bag powdered sugar
1/4 C milk
1 tsp maple flavoring (you can use vanilla instead for a different flavor or if you cannot find maple extract)
2 tbsp melted butter
splash of coffee (use only if you use the maple flavoring)
pinch of salt

METHOD:
Mix whole milk, vegetable oil and sugar in a pan. Scald to 150 degrees. Let cool until lukewarm (about 45 mins or so.) Sprinkle in yeast and let sit for a few minutes. Then add 4 C flour, stir mixture together. Cover and let sit for one hour.  Add 1/2 C flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir mixture together.

*If you don’t want to make these right away, you can cover the dough in an air-tight container & keep in the fridge for a day or two.**

Sprinkle surface generously with flour and form into a rectangle, roll the dough thin, maintaining a rectangular shape. Drizzle melted butter over dough. Sprinkle with sugar and cinnamon. Roll the dough toward you, (note: this is MESSY, I don’t have any advice for how to try and keep in the buttery cinnamonny sugar … it will ooze out & I guess that’s just ok.) Pinch the seam to seal it, (note: I didn’t do a great job at this & it didn’t really end up being a big deal.) Swirl melted butter in the bottom of foil pie pans. Cut rolls 3/4 to 1 inch thick and lay in pans. Let rolls sit for 30 minutes to rise.

Bake at 400 for 15 to 18 minutes.

Combine all frosting ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly. Generously drizzle frosting over warm rolls after they come out of the oven.

Finished Product!

Finished Product … YUM!

Much to my excitement, the cinnamon rolls turned out quite delicious!  Both The Boy & The Husband gobbled them up quickly.  Luckily, my friend was home, so that was one pie plate & I had two extra pie plates that I didn’t want lying around the kitchen tempting me, so I packed up The Boy & loaded the rolls into my car, and took them down to our neighborhood fire station.  The firefighters were pleasantly surprised & The Boy got to hang out in the fire truck for a bit.  Win, win, win!

2013 Bake-It List

Yes, I did, I wrote Bake-It List instead of Bucket List.  And in posting this, I am hereby committing to doing this!  What is a Bake-It List you ask?  Very much like a Bucket List, but instead of things like sky-diving or learning French, my Bake-It List will include things I want to bake, but have been too timid (or lazy) to attempt.

I was talking to The Husband the other day, right around New Years, and telling him that I have been wanting to make cinnamon rolls from scratch for a year now, ever since I received my gorgeous standing Kitchen-Aid Mixer from him last Christmas.  “Why haven’t you?” He asked me.  Well, the truth is, I’m a little intimidated.  The recipes that intrigue me are lengthy & look extraordinarily time consuming.  I wanted to make them for Christmas this year, and even got up super early to do so, but then chickened out.  I will need to have a couple of test runs to perfect the recipe, (just like when I made toffee for the first time this holiday season.  No, it didn’t turn out right either time, but most people didn’t seem to notice or care.)

good cooks | The Fairly Good Mother

Truth be told, I am an excellent cook, (if I do say so myself,) but baking is sort of my nemesis.  It has always been something that I’ve had to really work at.  However, the things I do bake every year for the holidays are awesome, but have taken YEARS to perfect & they are now easy staples to me.  A while back, I sat and reflected about why I’m a better cook than a baker … Well, here’s the easy answer, I love improvising & I suck at math.  When you cook, you can substitute things, add more of something, subtract an ingredient, eyeball a measurement.  But when you bake, oh no, you must be PRECISE!  Everything needs to be measured out perfectly and timed.

Cooking relaxes me, (which is why I cook every night,) but baking stresses me out, (well, except for the things I have mastered: pumpkin bread, zucchini bread, lemon cake, rum cake, chocolate chip cookies, oatmeal walnut cookies, peanut butter balls, fudge, strawberry cake, cheesecake, apple pie …)  But I think back to the first time that I made chocolate cake from scratch.  I was eleven & it was my  mother’s birthday.  I threw out the first two attempts & finally settled on the third try simply because I was running out of time.  It was terrible, but she would NEVER have told me that.  Even to this day, she maintains it was delicious.  I knew it was awful.  Even my seven year old chocoholic brother was gagging.

It took me 10 years to belly up to the chopping block & give it another whirl.  Again, my poor mother was the subject of my culinary affections.  Again, two cakes down the drain, third one had to be the “one” because it was 3am & I was exhausted.  I don’t know what my obsession with chocolate cake is, that’s not even her favorite kind of cake!   I wrote her a poem as a back-up present in case the cake was awful.  Good thing, because “awful’ isn’t even the best description of this epic failure.  This cake sucked the moisture right out of your mouth!  I apparently used way too much cocoa & not the right kind of flour!  It easily weighed 5 pounds!  My mom (again) praised my efforts, but told me later that I shouldn’t have gone to so much trouble for her, that using a box cake is just as good as homemade and so much easier.  That was her polite way of saying, “please, daughter, never do this again.”

My step-dad and my brother will never let me forget that cake.  Never.  Every time I bring over a homemade baked good, I’m met with, “is there cocoa in here?”  I have to laugh.  It’s a funny family joke.  But guess what?  Joke’s on them, her birthday is later this month & I am D E T E R M I N E D to bake her the perfect chocolate cake … from scratch.  Ok, maybe not chocolate.  I think we have worn out our welcome with the cocoa, but there are other cakes & cupcakes I want to make from scratch.

Strawberry Cake!  (FYI, I'm no food photog, this much I know, but it was DeeeLISH!)

Strawberry Cake! (FYI, I’m no food photog, this much I know, but it was DeeeLISH!)

So here’s my Bake-It List for 2013 (I’ll add to it as I think of more things I want to bake:)

  1. Cinnamon Rolls
  2. Tiramisu
  3. Cupcakes from scratch, like a lot of them  (Valentine’s cupcakes to start with, Mint Chocolate Chip cupcakes for St. Patty’s day, Surprise Cupcakes with the cream cheese middle & many more . No link, I have a 360 page book called 500 Cupcakes that should keep me busy.)
  4. Red Velvet Cake
  5. Vanilla Bean Cake
  6. Apple Fritters
  7. Dare I say … Chocolate Cake?  Heehee.
  8. Carrot Cake

What’s on your Bake-It List?