Friday, February 24, 2012

Small-Batch Chocolate Chip Cookies

I LOVE fresh-out-of-the-oven cookies. But with three little munchkins swarming me every time I near the kitchen (they can sense it, or maybe they hear the squeak of the baby gate?), I rarely have time to bake them from scratch. And since Josh is gone much of the time now and I limit Cai's sweets intake, having dozens of cookies sitting around is not helping me lose the last few pounds of baby weight. Those handy refrigerated break-apart cookies are a decent substitute when you just want a few, but they're not in the budget right now. So what does a girl do when she's craving cookies but doesn't have the time to mix up a full-sized batch of several dozen?

Enter the small-batch recipe. Thanks to my dear friend Google, I stumbled upon Cake on the Brain's blog and this recipe for a small batch of chocolate chip cookies.

[adapted from Small Batch Baking for Chocolate Lovers by Debbie Maugans]
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons granulated white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon beaten egg [reserve the rest for later]
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (I did not line my sheet).
  2. Combine the flour, soda and salt in a small bowl.  Mix well.
  3. Cream the butter and sugars in a small bowl with a wooden spoon. (I used a bamboo spoon, but I suspect a metal one would work just as well.)
  4. Add 1 tablespoon beaten egg and the vanilla.  Mix well.
  5. Add the flour mixture and continue beating until thoroughly combined and you don’t see any traces of flour.
  6. Toss in the chocolate chips and distribute well. Divide the cookie batter into 8 portions. Form balls and space evenly on the cookie sheet.
  7. Bake for 10-13 minutes. (I baked them for 11 minutes on my Pampered Chef baking stone, and let them sit on the pan for a couple minutes to "finish" baking after I took them out. I think that's a baking stone thing. You could leave them in a bit longer if you like a crunchier cookie - I like mine soft and chewy.)

The verdict? This recipe is so quick to mix up, and I love that it doesn't kill my arm. Sounds silly, but since I don't own a mixer I dread the actual mixing part of baking cookies. Anyway, this recipe makes 8 large, chewy, gooey, classic chocolate-chip cookies, the perfect amount for Cai and I to share over a couple days, before they go stale (that is, 6 for me, 2 for Cai, of course). I probably only spent 5 minutes mixing them up, in between rescuing Avyn from Cai (twice), feeding Riah, removing kids from underfoot, getting Cai off the furniture, and various other delays. But if I was uninterrupted I probably would've been eating a hot, melty cookie in about 17 minutes start to finish!

Let me know if you try this recipe for yourself! I've heard it's quite yummy with a little oatmeal and peanut butter too, and I think I'll try tossing in some chopped walnuts next time.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Contentment and Creativity

I've dabbled with many creative pursuits in my lifetime: Scrapbooking. Jewelry-making. Calligraphy. Writing poetry. Crochet. Digital scrapbooking. Journaling. Cross-stitch. Blogging. Sewing. Drawing. Writing.
Some of those I haven't even thought about in years. Some were very short-lived, others I stuck with longer. I actually studied writing in college, and consider that my "career" (or it will be, after I get through this raising-young-children phase in life!). I've been thinking lately about why I stick with some things, and give up on others. Skill certainly plays a role. I gave up on sewing because I can't stitch a straight line to save my life. Replace "stitch" with "draw" and you have the reason I gave up on drawing. I'm totally fine with these decisions. I don't lie awake at night thinking about a sewing project.
However, some things I don't do haunt me. I do lie awake at night dreaming up potential blog posts, mentally writing journal entries, and occasionally composing a poem. I feel guilty when I don't get those ideas out of my head and into reality. I'm involved in a Bible study right now about contentment, and I'm realizing that these stagnant creative ideas are a major roadblock to contentment in my life. It's not just something I want to do - these are passions and ideas and words that I believe God has gifted me with, and to do nothing is to believe that I know better than God what to do with my time and my gifts. How do I know when certain ideas/promptings/thoughts are from the Holy Spirit, and not the devil trying to distract me and waste my time? I'm running everything through the filter God provided: "Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things," Philippians 4:8.
All this to say, I believe God's telling me to blog. Not for others, not because I have something particularly special or exciting to say, but just to share my life and whatever He puts on my mind. I think that part of the reason I'm struggling with feelings of discontent, guilt over how I spend my time, and general malaise is that I'm ignoring these promptings. I frequently use the excuse of "no time," yet I manage to find time to cultivate a thriving castle in Castleville. I'm learning to use spare minutes here and there to get cleaning done, and I'm sure with practice I can blog in 2-minute intervals, too! God gifted me with a talent for writing, and a desire to share my stories.
Has the Holy Spirit been prompting you lately? Do your thoughts keep returning to a particular idea, but you aren't sure why? God cares about every aspect of our lives, even our creative pursuits. Next time an idea keeps "popping up" in your thoughts, and it lines up with Philippians 4:8, do it instead of making excuses!

P.S. All this creative thinking today finally shoved me past the scrapbooking block I've been moping around in lately and I finished a page!