A few years ago I took a speech class that was required for my course of study. One of our assignments was to get up and teach the class how to do something from start to finish. I demonstrated how to make chocolate chip cookies. I even brought some finished cookies for my classmates to sample. I got an A.
For the first time ever I am about to reveal my Not Quite World Famous Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. I hope my children don't mind me sharing this with the world. I think they had visions of me on my death bed like a character from The Godfather summoning one of them over and whispering "Come here my child. I will now share the secret cookie recipe with you. Do not write it down. It must be kept only in the family." and then I'd fall back on my pillow, cough a few times and die.
So I'm going to show you how I make these things and give you a few tips along the way. Pay attention closely because these cookies can win friends and influence people. You might even be able to get out of speeding tickets with them. I don't know…it's worth a try right? My friend at work actually doesn't like chocolate so I am going to split the dough and make half with white chocolate and dried cranberries. (I know, she's a weirdo right?)
Gather your ingredients. Don't let the butter get too soft. Make sure it's just barely room temperature. If it gets too soft stick it back in the fridge for a few minutes. I always use real butter. I think it's what makes these cookies so delicious. Margarine just doesn't taste as good. I know Paula Deen gets a lot of flack for her love of butter but sometimes there are no substitutes. In these cookies butter is just not negotiable.
Cream your butter for a few minutes until it's nice and creamy. Add the sugars and mix well. Stop a few times and scrape down the sides. Add the egg and mix well. I always break the egg in to a small bowl to be sure I don't get any shell in my batter.
In a medium bowl mix the flour, salt and baking soda. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the creamed mixture. Go easy here. If the mixer is going too fast you are going to get blow back. I know this from experience. Stop a few times to scrape down the sides.
This is a good time to preheat your oven to 375 degrees . Line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. You don't have to use parchment but I never bake cookies without it. Makes clean up easy and keeps the bottom of the cookies from getting too dark.
This is where I separated the dough. I mixed chocolate chips in one half and white chips and cranberries in the other. These are semi sweet chips but I prefer milk chocolate. Mmmm chocolate. At this point you will be very tempted to eat the dough raw. You shouldn't eat too much because of the raw egg but seriously, when has that ever stopped me from eating cookie dough?
Scoop on to a cookie sheet leaving plenty of room between them. I don't like it when cookies run together so I don't crowd them on the cookie sheet. Using a cookie scoop will give you about 3 dozen good size cookies. If you want them smaller use a teaspoon.
Bake for 9-11 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on the pan for 2-3 minutes and then move to a cooling rack. Let the pan cool a bit before scooping out your next batch. These cookies come out crispy on the outside but chewy and soft in the middle. Pair a few with a cold glass of milk and you're talking heaven on earth!
Here is the full recipe.
Felicia's Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies
3/4 C granulated sugar
3/4 C brown sugar
1 C butter at room temperature
2 1/4 C flour
1 tsp baking sod
a 1/2 tsp salt
12 oz chocolate chips
1 C chopped nuts (optional)
Preheat oven to 375. Mix butter, sugars and egg in a large bowl. Add dry ingredients. Mix well. Dough will be stiff. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by rounded teaspoonful about 2 inches apart. Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from cookie sheet and cool on wire rack.
This is my son Alex when he was a toddler. Look how cute he was. Everyone in the family unanimously agrees that he was the cutest baby in history until my grandson came along. Here is a picture of him now. I still think he’s adorable but I’m his mother so that shouldn't surprise anyone. His was not an easy childhood. Getting him raised was a challenge. When he was eight years old he was diagnosed with severe attention deficit disorder and thus began a ten year roller coaster ride trying to get him through school, through adolescence and ready for life in the real world. I used to pray that when we came out on the other side we would still be speaking. I really worried about that.
I used to keep a picture of us together on my dresser. He was about four or five years old. We were playing in my Mom’s pool. I was floating around on a tube and he was sitting on top of me. We looked happy. I kept it out as a reminder of a time when I knew he loved me and more importantly he liked me. I feel confident that during his growing up my son never stopped loving me as his mother but I’m fairly confident that there were plenty of times that we didn’t like each other too much. One of the ways he struggled was with impulse control and one day when I have his permission I will tell some of his stories. I can tell you though that his least favorite thing to do was write. I often used this to my advantage when he had to be punished. I still have his essays on “The Dangers of Smoking” and “Why going to McDonald’s on your bike without permission is a bad idea.” I think if I really looked I could find “Why children should not befriend homeless men” and “Yelling at your friend when he is hurt is not nice.” You get the picture.
It wasn't always rough. No one in my life has made me laugh harder than he has. He is a good sport. He often gets picked on for his somewhat lazy grooming or the silly things he does and he always takes it in stride. He is smart as a whip. He is the kid who would not do any homework all year and yet get a perfect score on his final exam. He passed advanced on almost all of his SOL's yet he was constantly on the verge of failing. He drove his teachers crazy. When I'm late coming home from work he calls me to find out where I am. He doesn't like leaving me home alone. He worries about me. If I ask him to do something for me he'll do it…if he remembers…which is not often.
This weekend I had a party at my house and a good friend of mine was there. She hadn’t seen him in a while. She commented to me that he is looking and acting more and more like his dad. An observation I had made many times myself. Imagine how hard it was to parent a child who is the mini me of a man you couldn’t stay married to. It’s been hard. I do see so much of his father in him. His dad is not a terrible guy. We just couldn't keep it together and unfortunately many of the things he did to drive a wedge between us I sometimes see in my son. I once expressed my frustration to my mother that sometimes it’s like I’ve had no influence on my son at all. All of my hours at this doctor and that, all the driving from one counselor to another trying to find someone to help this kid. All the conferences, child study meetings, principal’s hearings , court dates, helping with school work, bailing him out of one problem after another, all the late nights and tears and prayers and he turns out just like his dad. His dad who never went to a single conference or doctor’s appointment in ten years. It just didn’t seem fair. My wise mother advised patience. She reminded me that he only has half his father’s genes. I am in there somewhere waiting to come out. She reminded me that a mother’s influence is felt over a life time.
So Saturday evening we were talking and Alex told me that he is going to put his hair in to dreadlocks soon. He has been talking about doing this for a few years now but he hasn’t done it so I usually say “Yeah, yeah ok” and don’t take him quite seriously. This time was different. He laid out his plan. He has been researching it. He knows what he has to do to form them and maintain them. He made the comment “I am going to have to use this special shampoo for the rest of my life.” Uh excuse me…what did he just say? The rest of his life?!!? There is not enough punctuation on the keyboard to express my shock over this comment. He said “Yeah Mom, I’m making a commitment to them.” Ok, a commitment is good, but to your hair? So I then said “Well you know 15 years from now you’ll be going to parent teacher conferences like that” thinking this would maybe cause him to think twice. Well dang if he didn’t shut me down. He said “It’s just hair Mom. It’s just freaking hair, if someone wants to judge me for that that’s their problem.”
I am going to go call my mother and tell her she was right.
I am in there after all.
I come from a large family. I am not referring to how many of us there are even though there are a lot. I'm referring to our size. Someone once rudely said to my petite grandmother "your husband must have been a large man." They couldn't figure out how this tiny woman had produced such sturdy progeny. Which brings me back to my original point. We are a large family.
Because we are also large in number someone is always celebrating a birthday and we get together fairly regularly. Almost always we gather at my sisters house which is large enough to accommodate the group. However once a year I get a wild hair and decide that instead of making the hour plus drive to Maryland I will host at my house.
I love my house. It's cute and cozy and just enough room for the four of us who live here. So for a week we scrubbed, we cleaned, we cooked and we decorated. I was excited but nervous because we were going to be packed in here like sardines. In addition to the 19 family members who were coming we also had two girlfriends, one fiance and my best friend and her boyfriend. That's 24 bodies in case you're doing the math. Twenty four bodies packed in to my little two bedroom townhouse.
It is now 24 hours later and I am pleased to report that we survived, my house survived and as far as I know everyone is still talking to each other. Here is what I will remember most:
The weather was beautiful. We could not have possibly had a more perfect day.
The food was delicious and plentiful. Everyone could not get enough of my husbands home made BBQ sauce. (His smoked pork roast was pretty fantastic too)
The conversation was great
.No one stormed out. (Hey it's happened)
Everyone liked their presents.
Alex fell asleep on the floor in the middle of the chaos
The kids went to the playground and the house suddenly got several octaves quieter.
My family was willing to spend three hours in I-495 construction and traffic to get here. (It normally takes an hour.)
My grandson told my sister that maybe I should read his book to him because I knew the characters names.I love my sister but it kind of made me feel good.
My Dad had someone new (best friends boyfriend) to tell his stories to.
Everyone teased me about all of the Pinterest projects around my house.
My brother brought 11 2 liter bottles of soda. That's about 1/2 a bottle of soda per person. That's a lot of liquid.
My bathrooms got a workout. (See previous list item.)
Laughter rang from every room.
The house felt full but it didn't feel stuffed.
Overall it was a fantastic day. There is nothing in this world that pleases me more than having every single person I love most in the world all gathered under one roof, even if it is a tiny little roof. I wish I could slow down the clock and make it last longer. Looking back on the day I realize not once did I feel like we were tripping over each other or that the place was just too small. I would have been miserable packed in somewhere like that with strangers or even some folks I know. It's simply because we love each other that we didn't mind. We love each other and because of it we'll drive three hours or sit shoulder to shoulder or listen to the same stories for the hundredth time. For your family it's just what you do. It's what WE do anyway and yesterday I realized we do it very well.
Everyone says "time flies" but I'm not sure I agree with that. Flying is obvious. I think time creeps. It crawls along unnoticed until one day you wake up, look in the mirror and ask yourself "Where did the last thirty years go?" I never had a particular fear of growing older, I just didn't want my life to go by too quickly. I like my life. I'm enjoying it. I'm in no hurry to reach its end. I remember when I turned thirty someone said "you're going to love your thirties" and he was right, I did. But how come no one said that when I turned 40? I remember when my oldest turned 9, I was very aware that his childhood was half over. I thought to myself "Have I taught him at least half of everything he needs to know?"
When I was 18 I thought I knew everything. Let me tell you now I knew nothing. This girl didn't want to go away to college and leave her boyfriend. She cared more about the boy than her future. She was going to marry her high school sweetheart, have a bunch of babies and live happily ever after. HA! The bunch of babies part is right. Life since then has not been easy (I'll save those stories for later) but I would not go back and change a thing about those post high school years because of them babies. Sometimes when I look in the mirror I still see this girl.
Yeah if I look real hard I can still see her, but most days I see this lady. She's fatter, she's older, she's got gray in that hair. But if I'm being honest I think I like this chick better. Sure, I'd take the old me's body back in a heartbeat but on personality and wisdom this lady is winner hands down. In my teens it was all about boys and friends and having a good time. In my twenties I was raising babies and surviving. My thirties were about change and struggle. I guess it's too soon to say what my forties will be about. Can you say while you're still in the middle of them? If I had to guess I would say my forties will be about self discovery and growth but mostly I hope I can say my forties were about contentment. Being happy is not easy sometimes and for some people it's a real struggle. Thanks to a great therapist and some real work inside my head I have come to the realization that happiness is a choice. You can choose to be miserable and negative or you can choose to be positive and happy. I'll take the later please. It's a no brainer. Who would choose brussel sprouts over chocolate chip cookies? DUH. Nobody likes getting old but it's a part life…Lion King…Circle of Life and all that. It's a hard concept to grasp but it's true…you are as happy as you make your mind up to be.
So if you're in a funk about getting older put your big girl panties on and deal with it. Growing old is a privilege not given to all. Life is too short to spend it being a sour puss cranky pants. If you can't figure out how to be happy, get some help with that. (I'm serious.) Look at me – I'm old, fat, poor and getting gray, but I try every single day to wake up being grateful for my life and the people and things that are in it. Be happy people…at any age….we have much to be thankful for.