Treat of the Month: Chocolate Chip Cookies

two of my husband’s favorite desserts are apple pie and chocolate chip cookies.  if i want to whip up something special for him, it is usually one of the two.  and i have more than one recipe for each stashed away.

problem is, whatever recipe i use, i get a “This is delicious.” super confusing, because i honestly don’t remember which recipe i used last.

my husband is funny, optimistic, plays Christmas music in November and wakes up smiling. me? i am more of a serious, pessimist, plays Christmas music two days before and wakes up grumpy kind of girl. so he totally deserves a cookie (ok, cookies) for putting up with me.

i decided to try this recipe by Joy the Baker, The Best Brown Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies.

“Wait. Those look nothing like Joy the Baker’s cookies!”

well, you are correct and let me write to you why.


img_1033-4   What I did and did not do.

Now I could have totally retyped her entire recipe, but seemed silly since I only slightly deviated from her recipe.

  • 1 cup light brown sugar, packed -> 50/50 light and dark brown sugar

I wanted to use up the dark I had already in the pantry before opening the bag of light brown sugar.

  • 2 1/4 cup all-purpose flour -> bread flour

I didn’t have any all-purpose flour.  Oops.

  • 1 cup bitter-sweet chocolate chips -> semi-sweet chocolate chunks

Leftover from another cookie recipe.

I found the sea salt still unopened amongst our spices, while looking for coarse sea salt.

One issue I noticed using the chocolate chunks was they seemed to be competing with the pecans for a place in the scoop.

I wonder how many cookies are missing chocolate.

And I missed a few important steps along the way, like “remove the butter from the burner and immediately pour it into a small bowl” to stop the butter from cooking and burning.  Mine, the bits were slightly more of a really dark brown vs amber color.

Also, the only difference I could find, via internet, in regards to using bread flour vs all-purpose flour is that bread flour has a slightly higher protein content.  Super good for us runners though, right?! 😉  And that the bread flour may give the cookie a chewier texture.


i sampled three, ok so maybe five, of these cookies.

no chewy texture noted, still crispy. and the cookies baked poofier. maybe due to the bread flour?

i also think i will ease up on the amount of sea salt i sprinkle on top next time or eliminate it all together.

i will let my husband be the judge.

cookie,

f.

oh, the yield!  totally depends on the scoop size you use.  my scoop yielded 31 cookies to be exact.

Me and My Bicycle


it has been an interesting year my friends.

i could discuss my troubles and woes with you all, but we all have troubles and woes.  and i have never really been good at the discussing part.

there has been sadness, frustration and very little patience.  became so bad that i became apathetic to bad news… bring it on world!  but there was a birth, a life being created and the sun came up everyday, the flowers bloomed, the hummingbirds migrated north… life continued.  tomorrow was another day (think Scarlett O’Hara, Gone With the Wind).


life is rough sometimes, but i like to think how we deal with it is how it defines us.  so i try to keep my chin up and try to remember to filter my thoughts before they escape my lips.  eek.

so this weekend my husband and i took a time out.

Wabash Cannonball Trail

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a trail built to serve as recreation and a utility corridor along an old abandoned railroad line, Wabash Railroad.  pretty smart idea wouldn’t ya say?

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so if times get tough runner friends just go for a run, a little bike ride or a walk. ditch the phone and take a look around you.  notice that oriole or that swallowtail flying around you… that bluebird peeking it’s head out of a birdhouse you happen to see along the way.

i think you will feel a little bit better in the end.

-f

 

 

 

 

Michigan, Northwest Coast

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my husband and i are off season vacationers. less crowds and easier to take time off work. plus, traveling north during the summer, holiday weekends especially, can be a nightmare.  everyone seems to head north.

so our first vacation of the year, mid May, we packed up the suv and headed north. i was a little skeptical, it being mid May.  temps up north can be all over the place, cool or warm and humid.

our first stop was Manistee, Michigan for our first kayak trip of the season, and third year kayaking the Pine River. then we headed north to Traverse City for a little shopping and relaxation.

the weather could not have been more perfect to be on the river.

thanks to the livery, Pine River Paddlesports, they cleared a portion of the river just in time for us to start our kayaking season. and it was a four hour trip with no “tippers.”  i like that.

the weather was warm and the sun peaked through the clouds.  enough sun i doused myself with sunscreen every so often to avoid the awkward tan lines.

and we were the only ones on the river. the only sound was a scream from me, when i almost hugged a rock despite my husband’s warning.  in my defense, all he did was point to something in the water and yell something i could not hear.

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so if you decide to visit this area, i included some tips.

as for kayaking the Pine River, there are a few tricky curves, so pay attention.

tip one:  take pics when you are on a slower portion of the river. not when there is a curve up ahead or when you are about to head through some rapids. eek.  drop the phone or camera into that waterproof bag and grab that paddle. 

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Leelanlau and Benzie counties have been designated as the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore.  the livery driver, on our way to the drop off point, gave us a few suggestions on where to hike in the area for a scenic lookout of Lake Michigan and the dunes.

so we decided to hit the dunes and a few hiking trails the next day.

we drove up M-22 and stopped at this along the way.

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Point Betsie Lighthouse – Frankfort, Michigan
tip two: lighthouses are a plenty in Michigan, if you are interested.  they are worth a stop.  some are open to the public and some are privately owned, but there is always a photo op available.

the dunes we hit were near Empire, Michigan and involved a short hike.

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which was totally worth it.

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wonder if there is a petosky stone somewhere down there.
tip three: there are several access points to the dunes.  you can walk or climb the dunes. but if you are unable to walk or climb them, there are points you can view them.  the internet is loaded with suggestions. i would definately to try to climb them, if you are able to, however. cross training!

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tip four:  for exploring the dunes i love these Keens. water shoes you can hike in and get wet. they dry super fast and make it easy to shake that sand out. recommend these type of shoes over flip flops or tennis shoes.

we also learned there is a portion of the NCT (North Country Trail) that runs through Manistee County. yeah, no clue here.

somewhere during my search for where to hit the NCT near us, i found an article on a wooden suspension bridge near the Hopendyl Dam. so of course we totally had to check it out.

the bridge was a little tricky to find.

tip five:  if you end up at the dam, you went to far.  turn around and turn left at the first dirt road you come to heading back.  it isn’t marked “suspension bridge this way.”

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the bridge was pretty sturdy.  it felt a little wobbly while walking across, but these guys helped hold it into place.

super safe.

and over the bridge the NCT trail continued on.

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i started to walk down that path.

and i wondered how far i would have walked until i decided to turn back…

idea for future (cross training) post:  backpacking the NCT in Michigan.

stay tuned.

-f.


Manistee, Michigan

  • Hotel:  Microtel Inn & Suites by Wyndhum – Inexpensive, clean. There is a microwave and refrigerator in the room. Plus, outside there is an outdoor faucet to rinse those water shoes off before entering the hotel.
  • Livery:  Pine River Paddlesports
  • Restaurants:  Ramsdell Inn and BlueFish
  • Shops: Snyder’s Shoes, Ideal Kitchen, Northern Vintage Decor
  • Movie Theatre: Vogue
  • Petosky Stones:  A rock containing fossilized coral. Sold everywhere in that part of the state, unless you are lucky enough to find one while wading near the lakeshores of Lake Michigan.

Petosky Stone 2007

🙂

my husband found one near Grand Traverse Lighthouse in 2007.

A Mother’s Day Brunch

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i love planning small, intimate brunches. my absolute favorite.

so i started a Mother’s Day Brunch tradition a few years ago, and since then i have held it at my house every year and at two different homes.

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a butter flower served on my mom’s china – an espresso cup saucer.

 

 

it’s my opportunity to make a meal all fancy (or Martha Stewart-y depending on who you talk to).

a place card just for mom using stamps and stickers from all those crafty years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the meal is pretty traditional. there is a frittata (lots of protein), baked cranberry/orange muffins (carbs), a berry fruit medley (carbs), earthy bread for toast (carbs) and good, strong coffee (for sanity) served.

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i use a pretty tablecloth, my best dishes and flowers.  the tablecloth varies, the flowers vary, but the dishes and menu stay the same.

 

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sometimes the butter shape varies also.  this year i decided to serve a butterfly flower.

big flowery hats are optional.

then with our belly full we head out to a greenhouse or two to buy flower and vegetable plants for our gardens for the season.


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A Mother’s Day Sausage and Vegetable Frittata

adapted from William Sonoma’s Summer Vegetable and Sausage Frittatas recipe

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 lb of cooked ground sage, pork/breakfast sausage*
  • 1 cup peeled, diced zucchini
  • 1⁄2 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1⁄2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 1/2 tbsp dried parsley
  • 1⁄4 cup plus 2 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
  • 1⁄3 cup crumbled goat cheese

Tip 1:  If you cannot find pork sausage with sage at the grocery store, buy pork sausage and mix in dried or fresh sage to taste.

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Tip 2:  If you are like me and prefer to prep as much as possible in advance, cook the sausage and dice the vegetables an hour or two before hand.  Cover each with plastic wrap and place in the frige until use. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Spray an everyday pan with a no-stick baking spray. (Makes one large frittata that can be cut into wedges.  I don’t own oval gratin dishes at the moment.)

In a large bowl whisk the eggs.  Whisk in the cream, salt and pepper.  Add the cooked sausage, zucchini, bell pepper, onion, parsley, 1/4 cup parmesan cheese and goat cheese. Mix until blended. Pour into the everyday pan.  Sprinkle top with 2 heaping tablespoons of parmesan cheese.

Bake 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Frittata should be puffed and golden brown.

Serve warm.


While the frittata cools slightly, toast your bread.

And “Mangia, mangia!” as my little Sicilian mamma and Nonna would say.

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my litle Sicilian mamma

Happy Mother’s Day!

-f.

Superhero 5K: Five Races Later

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it seems surreal that i have stuck with running this long. i lasted roughly three years last time, so there is hope i am going to stick with running for many years to come.

at least i hope so.

this year is my fifth Superhero 5K race.  and i decided to run the race and have fun, not placing any focus on my time. or at least for the first 2.8 miles i was not going to, then i would just try to out run everyone in my path.

don’t hate me.  that’s how i roll.


Superhero 5k

race morning starts off with coffee and Justin’s almond butter on a half bagel.

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love that stuff.

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this race is low key.  there is easy parking, no lines for the port a potty and packet pickup is the morning of, so no extra trip needed the day before.  love that.

and there is plenty of time to get in place for the start of the race.

the race begins in Loranger Square near the courthouse.

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and there is plenty of elbow room for me to run this race.  the race weaves in and out of historic downtown Monroe, Michigan.

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the last quarter mile i picked up my pace and finished strong.  crazy how your legs just go.  there is something to be said about that second wind.

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how did i do?  second place in my age group. not first, but i will take it.


runners, do you find your gps time is always better than the race posted time? i react always with a “Wha’?!” when i see the results.  but then i remember i just ran a race and that is what matters.

be proud runners.

f.

The Best Ever Brownies


a few years ago while i eating lunch in the closet (aka break room. it was super small.), i spotted a Bon Appetite magazine with a gorgeous photo of brownies on the cover, Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts.

the article claimed the brownies were the best ever, no turning back kind of brownies.  so i made a batch.

yup, they were super yummy.

 
plus they were super easy to make.

i usually have the ingredients on hand.  so i make this quite a bit, when we are craving something sweet.

so this month’s treat:  Cocoa Brownies with Browned Butter and Walnuts.


Cocoa Brownies 

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 3/4 cups natural unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 heaping tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp water
  • 2 large eggs, chilled
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 heaping cup of chopped walnuts

Tip One:  I measure the ingredients in advance before I start, except for the eggs.  The eggs need to remain chilled.

Browning butter is easy.  Once you see those yellow bits forming at the bottom of the pan, stir often until just golden brown, then remove the pan from heat.
i have tried various types of unsweetened cocoa, but in the end i stick to Hershey’s.  i tried a more expensive brand once, but something was just off in the taste, probably not enough sugar? and some noticed.  gasp.

anyway here is Bon Appetite’s recipe, tweaked just a smidgeon.

Preheat oven to 325 and move the rack to the bottom third of the oven.

Line an 8×8 inch metal pan with foil, pressing the foil against the sides leaving a bit of an overhang on two sides.  helps lift the brownies out of the pan.

Spray foil with a no stick baking spray.  Set pan aside.

In a pan over low heat melt butter.  Butter will begin to foam.  Using a wooden spoon, stir often until yellow bits form at the bottom of the pan.  When bits turn a golden brown remove pan from heat to avoid burning the bits.  The golden brown turns darker quickly at this point.

Immediately add sugar, cocoa, salt, water and vanilla (see tip below).  Mix until blended.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Add eggs 1 at a time, beating vigorously to blend after each addition.  Mixture will be thick and shiny.

Tip Two:  I mix the sugar, cocoa and salt in a small bowl and the water and vanilla in a shot glass before hand so I am ready at that immediately step. Too much pressure.

Add flour and stir until blended.  Beat batter by hand, 60 strokes.  Stir in nuts.

Transfer to prepared pan.  Tap on counter to smooth out batter, if needed.

Bake for about 25-30 minutes, until toothpick in center comes out almost clean (few crumbs attached, no batter).

Tip Three:  I set the time for the minimum amount and check every 3-5 minutes after until done to avoid burning or under baked brownies.

Cool pan on a wire rack.  Lift brownies from pan, cut into squares and store in an airtight container.

Can be made 2 days in advance.

This batch was a mixture of Ghiardelli and Hershey’s cocoa.

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I love walnuts in my brownies so I add a heaping cup.
not halved for two, because the recipe makes 16 – 2 inch brownies in an 8×8 pan.  why halve that?  looks like about 200 calories a brownie, eh, just run two miles per brownie and the calories are a wash.  😉

and they can be made two days ahead.  just store them in an airtight container.

i am all about making something ahead.


i think once you make a batch, you will never go back to the boxed version.

if you make a batch, let me know your thoughts! bleh, eh or woa.  i am taking a poll.

I vote woa.
f.

Owen’s Corning Half Marathon

a spring half marathon

trained and done.

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and it was an interesting ride.

the half training plan i follow lasts 12 weeks regardless of the race.  i started this round with a goal based on speed. but four days in, it started to feel a lot like my marathon training. i was tired and wished it was over, so i took it down a notch.

tip one:  if you are training and feel constantly tired, wishing every run would just end, you may need to reevaluate and take it down a notch. it’s ok.

winter is not the best running time for me. don’t get me wrong, i love the seasons. but winter is supposed to be my hibernation period, a break from race training.  signing up for a race in the spring kind of blew that for me.

and this year life happened and my running became a struggle. illnesses, stress at work, some sad stuff… life in general took a toll on me.  i was doing a lot of moaning and groaning on my way to the gym or out the door to get a run in.

tip two:  if life interferes, juggle your training schedule.  if it is motivation you need, change your route or music… try a new gel or chew.  just get your toosh out the door and run.  you will feel better in the end that you ran.  trust me.

and i missed five days of training this round.  five.

tip three: if you miss a run or two during training, be careful.  especially when it is a continuous cycle.  a day here or there is ok, but a full week or two is sketchy.  you do not want to end up with an injury. 


Owen’s Corning Half Marathon

i threw caution to the wind the night before and made lasagna. i ate two huge servings.  not smart i know.

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but i woke up tummy trouble free. i drank my coffee, guzzled some water and ate my half bagel with Justin’s butter.  this time the chocolate hazelnut version, because that was all i could find in a single serving packet at the grocery store… and it was good. 

and this was my first race running with marathoners.  we started at the same time with a split over 8 miles in.  watching those runners run through the 26.2 archway, as i made my way over to the 13.1, was a huge motivation.  i thought, “you have about 5 miles to go, they have 18.”

18.

that was enough to keep me going.

the route weaved in and out and up and down a few hilly streets (eek).  but it was a beautiful route.  we ran through neighborhoods with tree lined streets and spotted only one or two disgruntled drivers which was super nice.

and i finished.

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i had to use my smartphone to help me get back to my parking spot.  yes, i was that person holding their phone and moving in the direction of the arrow.

tip four:  the more races you do, the more comfortable you will become going solo.  even though you do not have a running buddy or significant other with you, the crowds cheering you on and the volunteers will keep you motivated.  they are amazing.

and of course i stopped at Five Guys to get my burger and fries after! that’s the important part anyway, right?! 😉  and i even ran into a few fellow race runners while i was there.


now off to grab an ice cream sandwich.

 

yup, still hungry.

f.