Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesdays With Dorie - Ridiculously Easy Cookies

Snot season is officially here! My poor little Z Man has the most wide open sinuses ever encountered. While he has never had an ear infection and rarely feels sick, his poor little nose runs as green as the Chicago River on St. Patty's Day from December until May. While it may be dammed for a day or two here and there, there really is no stopping the flow, save for a little relief in the form of Benedryl once in a while. The past few days, the poor man looks like he was in a real fistfight because he spent a week in the dry heat of my parents' house in NJ and was so busy playing that he just swiped at his nosey with his sleeve every few minutes. It is so raw and sore and uncomfortable that he won't let me near it to wipe it or to put some ointment on it. He just looks awful (but, thankfully feels fine). In order to give him some relief today, I stopped him up with the Bene and then tried to take him out to be social. Big mistake! You live, you learn, right?

At least there are cookies! Today's Dorie recipe was for "Cafe Volcano Cookies". For those of you who know me, you will find this ridiculous: I have never made meringues. Not shocking for most people, but for someone who loves meringues and eats them by the carton and who loves to bake as much as I do, it is just silly. Especially if they are really as easy as the ones that I made today.

Yes, today was a Tuesday with Dorie day, but it was also a long day with two snot nosed kiddos. So, I was tempted to skip my baking and just soak in a hot bath with a big glass of wine. However, I looked again at the recipe and realized that it was so easy that I could make the cookies and then have my mini vacay. These were the simplest cookies that I have ever made. The batter was not too tasty, but OH MY GOODNESS the cookies are good!

I burnt the bottom of one sheet of cookies because I didn't divide my oven in thirds and had the top rack too close to the top of the oven. However, after eating one of the ones from the good sheet and realizing that they taste exactly like toasted caramel nut cookies, I pulled a Miranda Hobbs. I took every one of those suckers out of the garbage and ate the unburnt tops off of them!

By the way, these do not taste of coffee from the espresso powder, only of sweet, nutty caramel, but some of my fellow TWD bloggers did some fun variations of these cookies - cinnamon, cocoa, maple sugar. I will be trying all of them because they are just so easy and delicious.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Operation Baking GALS

I don't remember where I came across it. Definitely on someone else's blog, but as soon as I heard about it, I knew that I wanted to take part: Operation Baking GALS. "Baking GALS (GALS stands for Give A Little Support) is a group of volunteer bakers from around the country who bake and ship homemade goodies to our heroic military men and women who are currently deployed in a war zone. Our goal is to show our support and send a little bit of home to remind them that we appreciate all that they do for our freedom."

As deserving as the men and women who work in the Emergency department with DrRuckus are of treats, the men and women in the military who are so far from home and who are dedicating their lives to protecting us are even more so because they can't go home at the end of the day. I am honored to be able to contribute just a little bit to making their jobs easier, if only for the minute that it takes to eat a cookie.

This was the first time that I baked with the GALS, and it was great to be able to make the holidays a little brighter. I joined a team that baked for Private First Class Rebecca and her troop stationed in Iraq. This is the letter that I sent to Rebecca along with some Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies:

Dear Rebecca,

Happy Holidays to you and the brave men and women serving with you. I truly appreciate the service you are doing for this country, for all of us and for peace on Earth. I know that some day my children will live in a better world, in large part because people like you have dedicated their lives to bringing it about.
This is my first time participating in Operation Baking GALS, and I am so glad that I was able to do it for the holiday season. I know that this must be a very difficult time to be away from loved ones. Though I understand that you are a peanut butter lover, I know some of the others are sending that and I am assuming that some people with whom you are serving also love good, old fashioned, chocolate chip cookies.
These cookies are the the famous Neiman Marcus cookies. Why? Because, first of all, I believe that if you are going to give or get a really great present, Neiman Marcus is the best place to start! Second, these cookies really are good. Third, they tend to keep well and travel well, so will hopefully still be tasty by the time you get them. Fourth, they have a really good (but completely untrue) story:

FWD: Free Neiman-Marcus Cookie Recipe
This is a true story... Please forward it to everyone that you can.... You will have to read it to believe it....
My daughter and I had just finished a salad at Neiman-Marcus Cafe in Dallas & decided to have a small dessert. Because both of us are such cookie lovers, we decided to try the "Neiman-Marcus Cookie". It was so excellent that I asked if they would give me the recipe and the waitress said with a small frown "I'm afraid not." Well" I said, "would you let me buy the recipe?"
With a cute smile, she said YES". I asked how much and she responded, "Only two fifty, it's a great deal!" I said with approval, "just add it to my tab".. Thirty days later, I received my VISA statement from Neiman-Marcus and it was $285.00. I looked again and remembered I had only spent $9.95 for two salads and about $20.00 for a scarf. As I glanced at the bottom of the statement, it said, "Cookie Recipe - $250.00". That's outrageous!!!
I called Neiman's Accounting Dept. and told them that the waitress said it was "two-fifty," which clearly does not mean "two hundred and fifty dollars" by any POSSIBLE interpretation of the phrase. Neiman-Marcus refused to budge.. They would not refund my money, because according to them, "What the waitress told you is not our problem. You have already seen the recipe - we absolutely will not refund your money at this point." I explained to her the criminal statutes which govern fraud in Texas. I threatened to refer them to the Better Business Bureau and the State's Attorney General for engaging in fraud. I was basically told, "Do what you want, we dont give a damn, and we're not refunding your money." I waited a moment, thinking of how I could get even,or even try to get any of my money back. I just said, "Okay, you folks got my $250.00, and now I'm going to have $250.00 worth of fun."
I told her that I was going to see to it that every cookie lover in the United States with an e-mail account has a $250.00 cookie recipe from Neiman-Marcus... for free..She replied, "I wish you wouldn't do this" I said, "Well you should have thought of that before you ripped me off", and slammed down the phone on her.. So, here it is!!! Please, please, please pass it on to everyone you can possibly think of. I paid $250.00 dollars for this... I don't want Neiman-Marcus to ever get another penny off of this recipe....

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1 cup light brown sugar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons instant espresso coffee powder
1-1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


1.Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cream the butter with the sugars using an electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy (approximately 30 seconds) 
2. Beat in the egg and the vanilla extract for another 30 seconds.
3.In a mixing bowl, sift together the dry ingredients and beat into the butter mixture at low speed for about 15 seconds. Stir in the espresso coffee powder and chocolate chips.
4. Using a 1 ounce scoop or a 2 tablespoon measure, drop cookie dough onto a greased cookie sheet about 3 inches apart. Gently press down on the dough with the back of a spoon to spread out into a 2 inch circle. Bake for about 20 minutes or until nicely browned around the edges. Bake a little longer for a crispier cookie.
Yield: 2 dozen cookies

I hope that you all enjoy these cookies. Baking is one of my passions. It is the way that I relax and the way that I express myself. And, chocolate is my favorite medium in which to work. Other than my weekly baked treats, I am actually a very health conscious person. I ensure that my family eats a mostly organic, well balanced diet, and I love to exercise, but homemade treats just make life sweeter.
Like you, I spent some time living in Hawaii. What a beautiful place it is, so magical and so different from the rest of this incredible country. Though my husband and I both grew up in New Jersey, we are raising our family outside of Houston, Texas. We have two children, a four year old, and a fifteen month old. I am lucky enough to be able to stay home to be with them. My husband is and Emergency Room physician. We love to travel and to be outside as much as possible. Houston is a great place for that as we have moderate weather most of the year. Life here is pretty great. I feel very fortunate and realize that I owe a debt of gratitude to the men and women in the armed forces for ensuring that I can lead the peaceful existence that I do.
I hope that you enjoy the cookies and get to come home soon. Thank you again, from the bottom of my heart, for all that you are doing.

I am thrilled to be a part of this group and encourage all who are interested in taking part to sign up for the next round.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whoa Tiger

For years I have loved Tiger Woods. What was not to love. He is the "Greatest Golfer of All Time." He has incredible ability, drive, concentration, willpower, success, and, let's face it, total hotness. And, when he got married and became a daddy, he became even more lovable to me because he seemed to do that with the same talent and passion with which he played golf. I have watched so many of his rounds, followed him around courses at tournaments, but my favorite Tiger moment was his US Open Win in 2008 when little Sam Alexis toddled onto the green and you could see how much he and his daughter adored each other. I rewound this part of the broadcast almost as many times as I once did the ending of Anne of Avonlea (when Gilbert proposes to Anne). It was that moving to me. (Yes, I just may be the cheesiest person of all time.) In short, Tiger was my hero. Like a mythological creature, he was beautiful, strong, brave and capable of superhuman feats. Except that he is human.

Do you know that when I first heard of his car "accident" the other night, the first thing that I thought was that he must have been going out to buy diapers or baby motrin? Meanwhile, as he ducked and avoided the media and authorities for the next few days, this became an unlikely explanation. I, like everyone else, knew that something had gone horribly awry for Tiger. However, when he "confessed" today, it was like a punch in the gut. I know that it is his personal life, that this is a private matter for his family to deal with. However, it hurt. He let me down. I know that he is human, but precisely the reason that I loved him is that he is better than most humans. He is supposed to have more discipline, self control, and uprightness than the rest of us. That is what makes him Tiger Woods.

But now I know, he is just like every other jackass celebrity who is all ego, who thinks he can have it all, can do it all, and is above it all. And that sucks. Have you heard this? Ugh!!!!!!!