Friday, August 21, 2009

Friday Recipes: Chocolate Chip Cookies

You don't have to say chocolate chip cookies to me twice, I am there! I love chocolate chip cookies, and all the variations that go along with them. You go to the grocery store and there are baking chips of every flavor; dark chocolate, white chocolate, mint, butterscotch, peanut butter, cinnamon, and more. 

You can, of course, find the famous Toll House cookie recipe in the back of a bag of Nestle chocolate chips, but I've put together quite a few variations for you to try below. Several from Old Fashioned Living, and a sampling of tried and true recipes from the blogging world. 

Fun Historical Fact: The phrase "Toll House" comes from the restaurant that the creator of the Toll House chocolate chip cookie recipe owned and operated. Her name was Ruth Graves Wakefield and she and her husband ran the Toll House Restaurant in Whitman, MA. The building itself was built in 1709 and was used as a toll house where passengers ate while the horses were changed on the way from Boston to New Bedford. There's a few tid bits of information on Wikipedia for your reading enjoyment, but if you really want to read about The Toll House and glean a bunch of recipes from Ruth Graves Wakefield herself, then check out the book Toll House Tried and True Recipes.

Ruth died in 1977, and the Toll House Inn burned down from a fire that started in the kitchen on New Year's Eve 1984, but her cookie still lives on. The inn was never rebuilt and the site is now honored with a historical marker. There are a number of manufacturers of chocolate chips today, however the agreement to publish the recipe of Ruth Graves Wakefield on the back of each package of Nestlé Toll House chocolate chip cookies is still honored as of 2009.

White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter, room temperature
4 ounces cream cheese, softened (1/2 package)
1 tablespoon milk, half and half or cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. orange extract (optional)
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped pecans, or macadamia nut (optional)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter, cream cheese and milk in medium bowl at medium speed until well blended. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Mix in the flour. Stir in nuts and chocolate chips. Drop level measuring tablespoonfuls of dough 2 inches apart onto ungreased baking sheet, covered with parchment paper. Bake at 375 for 10 minutes. Remove to cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen cookies. These were very soft when first done, so I left them on the pan for ten minutes or so, then transferred to finished cooling. I also did not use the nuts-my son doesn't like them, and these were his request for the classroom party! They turned out great.

Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheets or spray lightly with cooking spray. Sift the flour and salt into a small bowl. Beat butter, sugar, cream cheese, egg, and vanilla extract in a bowl until creamy. Gradually beat in flour mixture. Stir in mini chips. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto prepared baking sheets. Using your fingers or the back of a spoon, slightly shape and flatten the dough. I found the cookie looked much nicer when I did this. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on baking sheets for 5 minutes; remove to wire racks to finish cooling.

Oatmeal Butterscotch Cookies With A Twist
Makes approximately 44

2-1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup butter (2 sticks)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 Tbsp. + 3 tsp. Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur
1-1/2 cups butterscotch chips
3/4 cup oatmeal
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt and blend well.
In a large mixing bowl on medium speed, beat butter and sugars until creamy.

Beat in eggs and Frangelico or Amaretto liqueur. Reduce speed to low and mix in flour until blended. Stir in butterscotch chips, oatmeal and nuts. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake 10–12 minutes or until golden around the edges.

Let cookies firm up on the cookie sheet for approx. 3-4 minutes then place them on a wire rack to cool.

These cookies will save for up to 1 week in an air tight container 2 months in the freezer.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/2 cups canned solid pack pumpkin
2 tbsp. milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup vegetable oil
4 cups flour
2 tsp. baking soda
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
6 oz. chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Mix all dry ingredients together and add to the remaining ingredients and mix well. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto cookie sheet. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.

Outrageous Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup margarine or butter
1 cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup peanut butter - I used half crunchy and half smooth
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups flour
1 cup quick-cooking or old-fashioned oats - I used old-fashioned and used and additional 1/4 cup.
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt - I didn't use
1 (12 oz.) package of semi-sweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 350F. Beat margarine, sugars, peanut butter, vanilla and eggs vigorously in large bowl until creamy and well blended. Stir in flour, oats, baking soda, and salt. Stir in chocolate chips.

Drop by rounded tablespoonfuls about 2 inches apart onto an ungreased cookie sheet - I used parchment paper.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes (I baked for 10 minutes) or until golden brown. Cool one minute and then move to wire rack.

Cookie Decorating, Storing and Shipping Tips

Some Great Blog Posts:

Maple Walnut White Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup (not flavoured pancake syrup)
1 large egg
1 tsp. vanilla or maple extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup each white chocolate chips/chunks and chopped walnuts

To get the instructions click here

DoughMessTic Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. Bread Flour
1 cup plus 1 Tbsp. All Purpose Flour
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
1/3 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground coffee
1 1/2 sticks half melted butter (12 Tbsp)
1/2 cup Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Light Brown Sugar
1/2 cup Vanilla Sugar
1 Large Egg and 1 EggYolk
2 tsp. Vanilla
1/2 cup SemiSweet Chunks
1/2 cup Milk Chocolate Chips (regular sized)
1/3 cup Bittersweet Chips
1/3 cup White Chocolate Chips
1/3 cup Chopped chocolate bar with Nuts (I used one with hazelnuts)
Sea Salt (to top)

To get the instructions click here

Choco Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cup all purpose flour - sifted
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp kosher salt
2 sticks real unsalted butter - softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1.5 tsp PURE vanilla extract - I use Madagascar pure vanilla extract, it’s a little pricey but worth it
2 large eggs - room temperature
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chip morsels - I like ghiardelli

To get the instructions click here

Captain Morgan Chocolate Chip Cookies

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate Morsels
3 tbsp Captain Morgan Original Spiced Rum; retain some extra for “basting”

To get the instructions click here

Outrageous Chocolate Cookies

8 oz. semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped (or use semisweet chips and you won’t have to chop the chocolate)
4 tbsp butter
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 tsp vanilla
1 12-oz package semisweet chocolate chunks

To get the instructions click here

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable oil
1 egg, beaten
1 c. pureed pumpkin
1 tsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 c. flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 c. chocolate chips

To get the instructions click here

Washington YWCA Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 c. (1 stick) butter
1/2 c. vegetable shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 c. brown sugar, packed
2 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
2 2/3 c. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 c. chopped walnuts (optional)
1/2 c. flaked coconut
2 c. (one 12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips (I use semi-sweet)

To get the instructions click here

Award-Winning Soft Chocolate Chip Cookies
With undying gratitude to Debbi on

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
2 (3.4-ounce) packages instant vanilla pudding mix (you could also use chocolate pudding for chocolate-y cookies ... but vanilla's my favorite)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups chopped walnuts (optional, I never use 'em)

To get the instructions click here

Amazing Hard Boiled Egg Chocolate Chip Cookies

12.4 oz all purpose bleached flour (2 ¾ cups spooned and swept)
8 ounces cold unsalted butter, cut into small chunks (16 tablespoons or 2 sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 hard boiled egg, cut into big chunks (Update: it's now been tested using only hard boiled egg (2) and is even better!)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 package or 2 cups semi-sweet or milk (or a combo, which is what I do) chocolate chips

To get the instructions click here

The Ultimate Chewy and Soft Chocolate Chunk Cookies

1 cup unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup tightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
3 cups plus 2 tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
16 oz. flavorful bitter or semi-sweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

To get the instructions click here

Thursday, August 20, 2009

How to Start a Book Club Tea Group

Editor's Note: Tamara has provided us with another wonderful Tea Time idea! Click on the Name of the books mentioned for more information on the title or series.

What is a book club? A group of people who want to read the same book over a given period of time and then come together to discuss it.

Where does the tea part come in? Some groups like to meet at coffee or tea houses, churches, or even restaurants. Some groups prefer a setting a bit more casual, and choose to meet in someone's home. This can be the same individual's home each meeting time, or it can rotate amongst the group members. The host gets to choose the refreshments, so if your group loves coffee, perhaps you each host a coffee in your home; if your group prefers tea, then afternoon tea is served.

This is how the book club I attend, the Augustus Snodgrass Book Club, usually goes about our book club meetings. One person from the group decides to host the tea. They then get to choose the book and the date (around six weeks from the last one). They send out the invitations to all of us. We all read the book and show up for tea at the hostess's house on the appointed day. We have tea and discuss the book. Our group really loves to read and is GREAT about getting onto a lot of interesting, interpretive questions and discussions. So far we have read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe and The Great Divorce both by C.S. Lewis, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Silas Marner by George Eliot, The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Watership Down by Richard Adams, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom and right now we are reading Cry the Beloved Country by Alan Paton. Our group tends to be fairly literary in our choices (thus our name, The Augustus Snodgrass Book Club), but other book clubs often read best sellers, or new releases. You can even have a book club that chooses to read books within a specific genre, such as mysteries, biographies, science fiction, fantasy or theology. It just depends on the members and what they want to read.

The Tea Table

As for the tea table, that varies according to each member's personality. Sometimes tea times are very proper and other times they are quite informal. It really doesn't matter as long as the atmosphere lends itself to fun, fellowship and conversation. You might even want to add some whimsy to your tea time and bring in some themes from your book:

Silas Marner - linen table cloths and napkins; sprinkle chocolate gold coins around the table; display flowers in a brown jug. Send linen bags of chocolate coins home as favors.

Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe - you must serve Turkish delight, welsh rarebit and English tea. What about displaying or sitting things around in an antique amoire?

The Brothers Karamazov - Russian tea with lemon, served from a Samovar would be just stunning! Russian tea cakes would be a must.

Cry the Beloved Country - Cover the tables in African cloths. Serve African tea (I prefer Kenyan tea, but the novel is set in South Africa.) Set wooden animals around. If you are crafty, find or paint a ceramic tea pot with zebra stripes or giraffe or leopard spots. If you could find inexpensive tea cups, that would be fun too! Serve tea in your garden.

Tea Favors

Tea favors are optional. You might have one or two larger ones to give away as door prizes; one drawing for just coming, and one drawing for everyone who finished the book. Here are some ideas for book and tea favors, but you might consider some that go better with your theme:

  • Tea cup candles - these are easy to make and can be quite inexpensive if you find you tea cups at garage sales or the good will.

  • Tea cup pincushions - these would be fun to give away with a book like Little Women.

  • Tea cup or tea pot flower arrangements - individual tea pots are quite small and make delightful little flower arrangements. We have found them at discount stores for as little as $1 each!

  • Old Book Centerpieces - garage sales and the good will again. Find some nice looking old books and decorate them with a little gold paint, or gilding. Then, cover with ribbons, flowers, lace, and doo-dads. A little creativity goes a long way!

  • Bath teas and truffle soaps - these are fairly easy to make with a few herbs, essential oils and some sealable tea bags. The truffle soaps take a little more skill.

  • Tea cup or Tea pot chocolates or cookies - Brown Bag cookie molds have some cute tea pots that can be used to mold chocolate for gifts, not just for cookies. Wrap them in a cellophane bag and tie a ribbon and some flowers around it.

  • Book markers - these can be made from almost anything and can cost very little!

Finishing Touches

At the end of the tea, the next host announces the next book title and the next tea time. That way we can all rush out and get a copy of the book on our way home! For order's sake, you may want to have one person in charge, so that the members can approach him or her about hosting the next tea. If your group is rather amiable, as is mine, we sometimes just wait until the next book club to decide who wants to host and choose a book.

Periodic movie nights, to watch film versions of the books can be really fun as well! It is always interesting to see how the film version never lives up to the book, but still allows you to gain some great insight into the story.

Book clubs are a great deal of fun and a wonderful way to encourage yourself and the rest of your family to turn off the T.V. and read! Even the slight amount of accountability of knowing that there will be a discussion is enough to spur on even a reluctant reader to finish a book. It also brings a great deal of enjoyment to share not only your own favorite books, but to experience books and authors your friends have enjoyed as well. Reading is an incredible pastime and should be enjoyed by all of us, so talk to your friends and get a book club won't be sorry!

More of Tamera's Tea series:
Tea History
High and Low Teas
Napkin Etiquette
Starting a Tea Club

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Reader's Questions: Nasturtiums and More

Though I do not believe that a plant will spring up where no seed has been, I have great faith in a seed. Convince me that you have a seed there, and I am prepared to expect wonders. ~Henry David Thoreau

Today I have three more garden questions and answers!

How I love rose geraniums! Years ago I found a recipe for rose geranium cake in The Herb Companion magazine. I have since lost it. Geraniums grow like weeds here in California so they are wonderful and easy to grow. I do not know where I could buy seeds for red clover though. Do you have any sources? ~Jacqui

I'm not sure it's the same cake recipe but I found one on the Herb Companion website that sounded yummy:

As far as the red clover seeds, you can usually find them in any seed catalog that has herb seeds or in the spring check the seed racks in larger garden centers and you should find it.

My Grandson had to do a growing project for junior school, so he came to me with a packet of seeds, Nasturtium, we had a great time sowing, then watching them grow, planting them out and now the full colour in August, My question:- The seed pods that are now forming all over the plants, can they be used as new seed for next year, as this (if it worked) would show Jack the full cycle If it could work could you tell me what to do with the seed pods, as I am sure there is more to it than just planting. ~Ron H. & Jack

You sure can! I've collected nasturtium seeds many times. Leave them on the plant and they should turn brown. They'll need to dry, so you can put them in a small basket or anything that won't trap in the moisture. When they look dry like the seeds you planted then you can keep them in an envelope until next season and plant them as you did before. This is such a cool idea!

We grew a bunch of eggplants and when we go to fry them they are very very bitter. Does anyone know how to get rid of that bitter taste and any good recipes for fixing eggplant? ~Selma

Eggplant should be picked early, while its smaller and the skin is still glossy. The seeds are what can cause bitterness if they're are too many. If you aren't sure how old it is, then try choosing eggplant that feels lighter-the heavier it is, the more seeds could be inside. The skin shouldn't be dull or spongy.

You can try cutting up or slicing the eggplant, sprinkling it with salt and allowing it to drain for an hour or so. After this you'll need to press the eggplant with paper towel to remove any water. Then use it as you planned. The link below has some good recipes to try with eggplant.

On OFL we have tips on growing and using chamomile:


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Back to School Ideas

in just a few short weeks, sooner for others, our kids will be heading back to school. While I love my kids and usually hanging out with them is great, August is the month where boredom enters the picture and they start whining, nagging, and arguing. So back to school is not a sad event around here, it's a happy event, and not just for the adults. The kids look forward to school starting, seeing friends they didn't see over the summer, and getting fresh, new school supplies. This year, with the economy in the toilet, many people, myself included, are really having to pinch their pennies and watch how their back to school funds are divvied up.

I've included some tips here for saving on back to school shopping, at the end you will find some links to more information. Good luck with your back to school adventures!

Make a List
Be sure to have you child's school supply list with you when you head off to purchase supplies. Many, if not most schools have their own website now, and often times you can download the list right from their website. If not, call the school, they usually open back up around the first week of August, and they can get a list for you. Don't shop blind, it can be very costly!

Check What You Have on Hand
Whether it's back packs, school supplies, or clothing, be sure to go through what you have on hand before heading off to the store. Throughout the year, whenever standard supplies go on sale (three holed paper, spiral notebooks, No. 2 pencils, crayons, etc) I always grab a few as extras. I don't think I've ever experienced a school year (my oldest is 17 now) where the supplies you buy at the beginning of  the school year are all you will ever need. It's common to need more loose leaf paper, pencils (Oh the pencils!), erasers, and glue throughout the year for homework and projects. So be sure to take inventory of your stash before heading out.

Check Store Fliers
Stores know that they have competition, so they are famous for drawing you in and placing half the items you need at the best price, then pricing the rest at a little more than the competition. If you take some time and go through the fliers, you can find what you need and shop different stores to get the best prices. Obviously this is not cost effective if you spend more gas traveling to far away stores. 

Trade, Hand Me Downs, Yard Sales and Craigslist
A few ways to really save on clothes, shoes and backpacks is to trade with neighbors and relatives, hand down clothes to younger siblings, and check garage sales. Another option is craigslist. Craigslist is an online classified site, just follow their precautionary guidelines if you have never used their site before. 

See more great ideas on Conquering Back to School Spending

other articles you may like:
10 Ways to Save on School Gear
Back to School Gear For Less

Monday, August 17, 2009

August Garden Chores: Composting

Giving is a joy if we do it in the right spirit. It all depends on whether we think of it as "What can I spare? " or as "What can I share? "~Esther Baldwin York

Fall is around the corner, and it's time to start thinking about our yard and garden chores. Today I wanted to go over some composting tips. I know that most of us can't afford fancy tumblers and just want to compost in the simplest manner possible. Late summer is the perfect time to start a compost pile. It can be a loose pile, or you can use cheap fencing or scrap wood and make a 3 sided simple structure with the front open.

During the late summer and fall you will have an abundance of compost materials including leaves, grass clippings, straw, hay, vegetables, annuals and perennials that you've cut back. The key to using all of these materials is keeping the size small and using healthy clippings, nothing diseased. You should also avoid black walnut leaves, eucalyptus, poison oak, poison ivy and sumac.

You don't need an expensive chopper or shredder--use your lawn mower to go over the materials. Spread them on the ground and mow a few times til they are smaller. Do this with leaves and pine needles, plant clippings etc. Grass clippings may get rather ugly if they are placed in deep piles, so spread them out on a sunny day to dry out.

You also want to prepare your household refuse for the compost pile. It's not a big deal once you get used to doing it! Crush the egg shells, and cut up anything big like watermelon rinds into smaller pieces. Throw them in a bucket and add to the compost pile every few days. You can also add shredded or cut-up newspaper (no shiny ads) and cardboard. You don't want to add TOO much of either, but a couple buckets is fine. This also applies to wood ashes from your fire pit or fireplace.

Gardeners who work with their compost a lot will see results MUCH faster-- digging the pile-- making sure it has the correct amounts of materials etc. But, when you have kids, busy schedules, and too much going on it's not so easy. You can STILL have compost, it just takes longer! Start your pile-- get it ready on a nice cool weekend. Prepare everything as mentioned and even if you don't get to mix it up until spring it will eventually become compost!

On OFL we tips on a few fall garden chores you may want to think about: