August 5, 2019
Friends always ask me exactly how I make my chocolate chip cookies so I'll do my best to lay out the ingredients and techniques, because even a little change makes a big difference.
Brown Sugar- I use dark brown exclusively and prefer the Target or Safeway brand
White Sugar- C & H (I get the 10 lb bags at Costco- they perfectly fill my canister as shown above)
Butter- I exclusively use regular salted butter from Costco except when I can get Land o' Lakes or Challenge inexpensively over the holiday baking season
Vanilla- I always buy Costco's pure vanilla extract. I love the flavor and they finally added a pour spout (I never measure and always dump in extra). This stuff is expensive and delicious. I always mean to make my own but haven't gotten to it yet. My friend gave me a bottle of homemade vanilla for Christmas a while back and I just store it in my pantry and admire it whenever I see it. I love good vanilla. This bottle costs $29.99 at my Costco right now which is a significant improvement from when it reached $38 last year but still a lot more than when I paid $17 a bottle a few years ago. It's expensive but I don't know of a decent substitute. Please leave a comment if you have a source or suggestion. I live in Arizona but Mexican vanilla isn't really my jam due to it's inconsistency, although some varieties are great.
Salt- I use Diamond Kosher Salt for everything at my house except making homemade playdoh (I break out the Morton from the back of the pantry for that!). It's really inexpensive at my local Kroger store.
Kosher and sea salts have a different shaped crystal and softer taste than iodized salt so recipes usually call for varied amounts. For me it works fine to interchange kosher or sea salt but not regular iodized salt. I use 2 teaspoons of kosher salt in this recipe but if you use regular salt you'd want to reduce to probably 1.5, according to taste. I used to use several kinds of salt in my cabinet but space is at a premium and Diamond Kosher tastes great and works well. So I use that for almost everything now. I do have a jar of Maldon I sometimes sprinkle baked goods with. Again, if it's good enough for Ina Garten it's good enough for me.
Baking soda- I buy Arm and Hammer and keep it in this functional and attractive air tight container I found on clearance at the grocery store years ago. When I dropped mine on the tile a few years ago and broke it, I replaced it full price on Amazon right away.
Flour- I use Gold Medal all purpose flour. I like to use freshly ground whole wheat flour for pancakes, waffles, rolls, etc, but for cookies I stick to the classic. I'm not pretending it's healthy magical white flour. Makes a good cookie though. I keep several bags in my spare fridge so I never run out. I buy the standard 5 pound bag and it fits in the same canister I use for my sugar (as seen above). I like using the smaller bags and storing them airtight so my flour is always fresh.
Chocolate chips- I like to use semisweet chocolate for at least half of the add ins. Sometimes I'll add some mint chips, M&Ms (I get the big canister of plain ones at Costco and store it hidden away in the corner of my pantry with the baking stuff), toffee chips, milk chocolate chips (my kids favorite), etc. My personal favorite combo lately is semisweet chocolate chips and M&Ms. That's probably the most common cookie in my Instagram feed. I prefer Ghirardelli, Guittard, Trader Joe's, or Costco (Kirkland) brand chocolate chips (only available in fall/winter at my Costco so I stock up) and don't generally buy Nestle. Everyone has a favorite and it will effect the taste of your final product. My favorite is Kirkland, or TJ's when it's off season.
All that to say- there's a million ways to make a chocolate chip cookie. They're generally delicious regardless of how you make them. This is my (current) method and it will probably continue to evolve. Leave a comment if you have a special tip or favorite kind of chocolate I should try.
One last thing about method- a lot of recipes call for chilling the dough and I appreciate that. However, I usually have lots of kids clamoring for cookies so I generally skip that step.
Anne's (Current Favorite) Chocolate Chip Cookies
by Anne Strawberry
1.5 cups packed dark brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
3 sticks barely softened butter (1.5 cups)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3.5-4 cups flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 cups of chocolate chips or M&Ms
Preheat the oven to 350.
Cream sugars and butter until light and fluffy (takes 1-2 minutes in my stand mixer depending on the temperature of the butter). Mix in eggs and vanilla for another minute. Scrape down sides of bowl to make sure everything is evenly incorporated.
Add in the flour (reserving a half cup or so), baking soda, and salt. Pulse mixer slowly until combined. Add the rest of the flour if the dough seems too tender. I usually use all 4 cups but your measuring style, temperature, etc will impact the amount needed. The dough should be pretty strong and able to hold its own, otherwise the cookies will be too fragile and a little greasy. Mix in chocolate chips gently, just enough to incorporate.
Scoop cookies on to Silpat lined baking sheet and bake for 9-10 minutes, until they look just about done and are starting to barely golden on the edges. Enjoy. Cookies freeze beautifully in airtight packages. I think they also taste best on the second day.
A note about scooping cookies- it's quite easy and worth it for the uniformity alone. I usually put 12 cookies on a regular tray but if I'm in a hurry (or trying to minimize oven on time) and the cookies aren't too "spready" I'll put 15 on a tray (3 by 5 pattern instead of the usual 3 by 4). I always use my Pampered Chef Medium Scoop to portion out the cookie dough into "regular" size cookies. I got this scoop in 2003 and have made approximately three million cookies with it and it's still going strong. Big advocate for the real deal here, if you know someone. I do have several other sizes of scoops I've bought in person, on Amazon, etc. Some hold up well and some don't. My nearly 20 year old Pampered Chef scoop is still trucking. Little cookies are fun for kids or for parties when people want to try lots of things or not look like they're eating big dessert (looking at you, bridal and baby showers). Big cookies feel extra special for big day- I just bought the large Pampered Chef scoop to replace mine from the local big box store.
If I have any leftover cookie dough I scoop it with my small scoop and freeze the balls on a plate or in a flat plastic food container. Once they set I transfer them to baggies and store them in the tiny nonsensical shelf on the top of my side by side freezer. My 4 year old calls these "ball cookies" and prefers them to the finished product. I regularly see my hungry 12 year old walking by to snitch them. He doesn't think I know. I know. I also know he's happier when he's not hungry and I don't mind him sneaking a little cookie dough occasionally.
Thanks for sticking with me on this ridiculously long cookie treatise. Leave a comment with your big feelings about chocolate chip cookies. We all have them.
Affiliate links used and theoretically support my expensive vanilla habit, although you should definitely post more than once every two years if you're looking to successfully monetize a blog. Now that I think about it I don't think the affiliate links even pay the hosting bills around here. So let's say "used affiliate links kind of keep this neglected food blog running."
November 29, 2017
I might not make time to blog anymore but I find myself in the kitchen more than ever, with four growing children and a hungry husband. This year we moved to a new home a few minutes down the road. We're closer to family, closer to work, and have a beautiful new kitchen. There's a big bar for the kids to sit and eat at (this alone has simplified my life). I have lovely solid surface counter tops that make rolling out pie crust an absolute joy. We also have a little more counter space to spread cookie sheets out on. My oldest daughter is eight now and has become my perfect sous-chef, stirring, spreading, and chopping along the way. It's wonderful to share the kitchen with someone eager to help. I remember that feeling of excitement as I learned to create something delicious and try hard to encourage her. Lately we've watched the Great British Bake Off together in the afternoons then we head into the kitchen to make a treat or work on dinner together, often incorporating their "theme" into our projects.
Cookies are a perennial favorite around here and this new recipe is moving straight into my cookbook of tried and true recipes. I've never been much of an oatmeal cookie fan- truthfully, I've only learned to appreciate oatmeal at all as an adult and very recently. But these cookies came highly recommended from a trusted source and had the words "salted caramel" leading the title. So I shrugged my shoulders and said as Ina does, "How bad can that be?" In shocking news, butter, sugar, and caramel are absolutely delicious. The edges are a little crisp, the center soft and chewy, and the unexpected burst of caramel and salt make for a perfect cookie.
I've made this recipe a couple of times now and expect it to stay on permanent rotation. Thank you to Kelly Gordon from my favorite podcast Sorta Awesome for the great recommendation. 2017 has also been the year of podcasts for me. I started listening a couple years ago but this year we prepped our old house to sell and moved into our new home- which meant a ton of time to listen as I packed, painted, unpacked, and reorganized our lives. Podcasts have brought me laughter, learning, and even a little companionship as I plow through another sink full of dishes or load of laundry. Are you a podcast fan? I'd love to hear what you're listening to!
I know my phone camera shot isn't up to 2017 food blogger standards, but this little corner of the internet is also my personal resource for saving and accessing my recipes. I also thought this delicious recipe needed to be shared asap with all the impending holiday baking and didn't want to hold out while I made another batch and took another photo. I hope you'll give it a try.
Caramel chips are available at my local grocery stores near the chocolate chips (usually on the bottom shelf). These tiny balls of caramel can be subbed into any cookie recipe just like chocolate chips. I've started to keep several bags in my pantry because they really up the ante with your basic cookie recipe. Try them in your favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe next time. You can buy them on Amazon as well.
I'm not around here too often anymore but can find me on Instagram. I'd love to see you there!
Salted Caramel Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from LoveWellBlog.com
Note: It's absolutely necessary to line your baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Wait to make these if you don't have those on hand.
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon good vanilla extract
1.5 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt, plus more for sprinkling
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 packaged (11 ounces) Kraft caramel bits
Preheat oven to 375. Cream together butter and sugar in mixer until light and fluffy.
Mix in vanilla, then eggs.
Gently mix in the dry ingredients (flour, salt, soda, oats) until just barely incorporated. Stir in caramel bits. (Optional- 1/2 cup of chocolate chips in addition is delicious as well!)
Scoop onto parchment or silicone lined cookie sheet and bake about 8-10 minutes, until they barely start to brown on the edges. They should look a little bit under done when you remove them from the oven. Sprinkle a tiny bit of kosher or sea salt on top of each cookie and enjoy.
Affiliate links included.
March 21, 2016
For me half the battle of good cooking is planning ahead. I often double my cookie recipe, scoop it all out with my trusty cookie scoop, and freeze half of the dough in a big baggie. Then I can grab and bake them whenever I need to without even messing up the kitchen (or sneak a bite of cookie dough out of the freezer during the witching hour when I'm trying to make dinner and keep wild babies happy and safe in between driving kids back and forth). There's not any dough in my freezer right now and that situation needs to be addressed.
Chocolate Peanut Butter Buckeye Cookies
from Anne Strawberry
Yields 3 dozen standard size cookies
1 3/4 cups Flour (Be sure to level off- you don't want too much)
1 1/4 cups Cocoa powder (Half regular cocoa powder, half Hershey's Special Dark if available)
2 teaspoons Baking Soda
3/4 teaspoon Kosher Salt
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
1 cup Sugar
1 cup Butter, softened
1 extra large Egg, at room temperature
2 teaspoons Pure Vanilla Extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare baking sheets (Grease or line with silicone baking sheet or parchment paper).
Sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Set dry ingredients aside.
Cream together the butter, brown sugar and white sugar until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes in the KitchenAid). Add egg and beat well. Add vanilla and mix until well combined.
With the mixer on low, slowly add in the dry mixture, stirring until just incorporated. Scoop onto the prepared cookie sheet and squish slightly if flatter cookies are desired (I think the cookies look prettier if they are squished about half way down before baking).
Bake for about 8 or 9 minutes. Allow cookies to cool on baking sheet for 5 minutes before removing to a wire rack to cool completely. Frost with peanut butter frosting and then chocolate. Serve with milk and store in an airtight container.
Peanut Butter Frosting
inspired by the lovely Ina Garten (aka Barefoot Contessa)
1 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups powdered sugar (as needed)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup heavy cream (as needed)
Cream the peanut butter and butter in a stand mixer. Mix in half the powdered sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and salt and mix until combined. Add in additional powdered sugar and cream as needed until desired consistency is reached. If it's difficult to spread the frosting on the cookies, thin it with a dash of cream.
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (I prefer Ghirardelli or Guittard- chopped chocolate bars are even better here)
4 tablespoons (1/4 cup) butter
Melt together over a double boiler or in glass bowl in a microwave on low power (I usually use 30% power and stir ever 30 seconds or so). Pull off heat when about 90% melted and stir by hand until totally smooth. Spread a tablespoon or so over the frosting on each cookie. Let set on the counter or place in the fridge for a few minutes until chocolate is set. Enjoy!
March 15, 2016
Happy Pi Day! Did you make or eat a pie to celebrate? Making a pie feels so therapeutic to me that I really appreciate the excuse. I love to roll out the crust, concoct a filling, and crimp the edges. The long baking time only adds to the anticipation. Yesterday my little blondies helped me make a pie in honor of Pi Day. I needed something the whole team could eat, and with the food allergies around here that means no dairy and no eggs (we have a few others to contend with but they aren't typical pie ingredients.)
So fruit pie won out and a dairy free crust (no egg wash of course!) Strawberries are on sale around here this week so I turned to my Pie Pinterest board and took inspiration from this gorgeous Strawberry Balsamic Pie. I used my beautiful Emile Henry pie pan I scored at TJ Maxx for a traditionally shaped pie. I followed my mom's all shortening pie crust recipe so I didn't offend the non-dairy team, made an imperfect lattice crust (my kids LOVED weaving it) and brushed it with almond milk. I sprinkled sanding sugar on top and baked it. It came out juicy and fragrant with red color that can't be beat.
Strawberries and balsamic vinegar make a delicious combo. I like the mix some sliced fresh strawberries with a shake of vinegar and some sugar to form a syrup- then I serve them with whipped cream (add a sprinkle of black pepper if you're adventurous). You can't pinpoint the vinegar flavor but it really enhances the strawberries. The same is true of this pie. I didn't use as much as the inspiration recipe called for because my bottle ran out, but it really enhanced the strawberries.
I usually prefer a fresh strawberry pie but this was a fun change and a good change to walk my kids through the whole pie making process. I don't want them to grow up afraid to experiment in the kitchen. I've certainly made my share of imperfect pies and desserts, but as Ina says, "flour, sugar, butter, how bad can that be?" Even messy pies are usually delicious- especially topped with a little vanilla ice cream. You can always use a crust from the store, too, and experiment with fillings. Pie making is a lot of fun and doesn't have to be stressful! Local friends- if you'd like to come over and make a pie and have a play date, let me know. I promise it's fun and the experiment is always delicious.
PS- I finally started a foodie instagram account as @anne.strawberry . I'd love to see you there!
Pie making can be pretty messy with the flour and everything so I always double my recipe to make four single crusts, shape the dough into disks, wrap in saran wrap, then in a labeled baggie (I had a helper do this last time, they look so happy in her kindergarten hand!) and into the freezer it goes. The next time I want to make pie I move them into the fridge the night before or set them on the counter for a little while and all I have to worry about is the filling. Plus, a pie of ready to go pie crusts in my freezer makes me feel all put together, and doesn't take any more time. Dorie says one month in the freezer but I've kept mine, properly wrapped, for a few months with no problem.
One last pie tip- Dorie suggests crushing up a graham cracker or two into the bottom of the crust before adding the filling to help absorb some of the extra liquid. Even with juicy strawberries my pie came out just right (and the graham crumbs totally disappear so you have no idea it was there!)
1 double pie crust (easy dairy free crust here, or butter crust recipe below. Use whatever crust you prefer!)
3 pounds fresh strawberries, quartered
1 apple, grated (I used a gala, any kind should work)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon Ultragel or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
dash of kosher salt
2 graham crackers
Preheat the oven to 425.
Combine filling ingredients in a large bowl. Line pie pan with one crust. Crumble up graham crackers and sprinkle into the pie crust. Pour in and smooth filling. Top with additional crust (whole or lattice, whatever you prefer. Either way make sure there's holes to vent the pie). Crimp the edges as desired. Brush with a beaten egg or milk and decorate as desired- with additional pie crust shapes cut with cookie cutters, sprinkled with sugar or sanding sugar, etc.
Bake for 10 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake for 45-60 more minutes. Watch the crust and add a foil tent if it starts to brown too much (usually about half way through). Let cool and serve with vanilla ice cream.
Good for Almost Everything Pie Dough
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
Ingredients3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks very cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
3/8 cup very cold (frozen is even better) Crisco (plain, not butter flavored), cut into 4 pieces
About 1/2 cup ice water
Put the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor fitted with a metal blade; pulse just to combine the ingredients. Drop in the butter and shortening and pulse only until the butter and shortening are cut into the flour. Don't overdo the mixing—what you're aiming for is to have pieces the size of fat green peas and others the size of barley.
Pulsing the machine on and off, add 3 tablespoons of the water—add a little water and pulse once; add some more water and pulse again; and keep going that way. Then use a few long pulses to get the water into the flour. If after a dozen or so pulses, the dough doesn't look evenly moistened or form soft curds, pulse in as much of the remaining water, or even a few drops more, to get a dough that will stick together when pinched. If you've got big pieces of butter, that's fine. The dough is ready and should be scraped out of the work bowl and on to a smooth work surface. (be careful not too add too much water- if the dough looks dry after adding most of the water, pinch it with your hands to check if it's coming together, and finish combining it by hand)
Shape the dough into a disk and wrap it. Refrigerate the dough at least 1 hour before rolling. The dough can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 5 days or frozen for up to 1 month.
November 20, 2015
Whenever someone asks for toy suggestions, Magna-tiles come to mind first. They are fun and easy to use, quick to clean up, and don't have any small parts for babies to choke on. My kids have made structures taller than them! Ours are stored in two clear plastic shoe boxes and only take a minute to clean up, while still building enormous and varied structures. We have the clear colored sets (they also come in opaque colors). These are a toy investment but it's easy to add on more sets if you want to start small. These would also be a great idea for the grandparent's that aren't sure what to get. I've watched kids from ages 2-12 build these for whole afternoons at a time. My kids are hoping for the clear set this year (my daughter wants them to build Elsa's castle).
I love Legos as much as the next mom but the first time you accidentally step on a Magna-tile, you'll see one of the reasons I prefer them to Legos most of the time. These are available on Amazon and at Target. There are a lot of knock off brands but I haven't tried them. I will say we've used our Magna-tiles almost daily for a few years, on hard tile, with push toys and books and kids all over, and none have chipped or broken.
It's actually not gross at all. After my baby had Pneumonia and RSV last winter, I buckled down and bought one. I wish I had had this with each of my babies! Easy to use, easy to clean, makes a big difference. It's so scary when baby is congested and sick and for me it always seems to happen in the middle of the night which makes it extra stressful. It's not as fun as a new outfit, but I'm sure the new mom in your life would get a lot of use out of this weird but useful thing.
Priddy Baby makes our favorite board books. The pictures are vibrant and clear. We keep the Treasure Hunt books in our car and every kid wants to look at them.
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Big Magic shows how creativity is within each of us. She encourages growth, learning, and living true to yourself- all mixed in with inspiring stories and beautiful words. Her podcast is a lot of fun, too.
Habitat by Lauren Liess
I got this for my mom's birthday and she actually squealed when she opened it. Lauren Liess has classy and distinctive style that is a pleasure to behold. I've only flipped through this book (because my mom is still hoarding it) but it's absolutely beautiful and inspiring.
Design Mom by Gabrielle Blair
Design Mom on her book tour and was blown away! I've read her blog for years but she was just so smart and authentic at her signing. Her book is lovely and features so many practical and beautiful suggestions for living with kids (her blog series is my favorite thing to read each week, too).
Secret Paris Coloring Book
this coloring book. The drawings are beautiful and varied (look at the reviews!) I love to sit and color or draw after the kids go to bed while we watch a show on Netflix (Psych lately, what are you watching?) Are you into coloring? My mom's been buying me geometric coloring books since I was in grade school and I love that it's getting to be such a thing now, with new beautiful books coming out every day.
Prismacolor Colored Pencils for myself and can't believe how smooth and nice they are. I love the color selection, the nice trays and tin, and the blendability. My kids know that these are "mommy's pencils" and use their crayolas. I used to think theirs were just fine but my eyes have been opened. So maybe you shouldn't buy these...
Stila Stay All Day Eyeliner
I felt so validated the other day when I saw that this is Sephora's top eyeliner. I've recommended it before and keep going back to it. The marker type applicator makes a good cat eye a breeze and works just as well for a subtle line with its tapered tip. It also comes in a lot of colors but I've only tried black (give me all the black eye makeup! And clothes! And furniture! It's a problem.)
The other product I am consistently asked about is my blush. I resisted trying this for years because I didn't think it could live up to the hype but it does. Strangers stop and ask me about my blush frequently.
CND Vinylux Nail Polish
I am inappropriately into nail polish. I've tried to give it up and not care but I love it. Doing my own nails takes most of the cost out of it so that's how I make my peace. I've tried a lot of things but recommend CND Vinylux to anyone. It's much easier than Shellac (I have this gel system and love it, but it takes a lot of time). Vinylux doesn't even need a base coat and the polish lasts a week on fingers- even with persistent dish washing that takes a toll on my hands.
You can also use the topcoat with any brand of polish. It keeps my girls' nail polish on so much longer than others I've tried, even among professional brands.
Hair- The Wet Brush & Biolage Shine Milk
My best friend does hair and got me hooked on both of these products. I keep recommending this brush because moms keep talking about hair brushing battles with their children. One of my darling blondies has sensory issues and cannot deal with having her hair brushed or washed. A few sprays of shine milk on the ends and she doesn't even mind having her hair brushed when its wet. If you have a sensitive child, I can't recommend the Wet Brush enough.
I also use it for myself (I prefer the paddle brush) because it works well and feels good. I keep a mini brush in my bag and in the bathroom as well because it's just the right size for little hands and fosters independence. They come in a lot of fun prints and colors and are also available at Target.
Note about knock-offs: I bought a few small off brands at Sally and while they feel good, they haven't held up nearly as well as my Wet Brushes. The bristles bent over and the handles got gummy.
Biolage Shine Milk is a great, lightweight detangler. It smooths and tames fly aways and dry hair and does a great job refreshing my girls bed head. My friend recommends it for all hair types and uses it on all of her clients after washing their hair. I may or may not have five bottles of this stuff hoarded in my cabinet.
Wool Dryer Balls
this reasonably priced set I found on ebay.
I can't make a list of our year without including the Lularoe Dot Dot Smile Twirl dress- the ultimate twirling dress for little girls (click on this link for a 5 second video of the twirling). I mentioned sensory issues above- this dress has single-handedly eliminated clothing battles with my daughter. She picks a dress, I pick a bow, she's dressed and darling. She wears Playground Pals shorts/bloomers under them so she even wears them to the park and PE. She also wears leggings underneath when it's cold and a cardigan or jacket on top when necessary (we live in Arizona so these are definitely suitable for about 11.5 months of the year here!)
We buy from Lularoe with Lauren but there are consultants all over the country, check out instagram and facebook. These dresses cost more than I normally spend on kids clothes but they are made in the USA and definitely support my new less is more, becoming minimalist policy. I could throw away 95% of the other stuff in their closets and they would never notice. They also broke my 2 year old's Princess Dresses Only Habit that got old after about five minutes. I do laundry so often that having just a few of these works fine- machine wash and hang to dry. Watch the rest of your kids clothes languish (is that good or bad?) I love the Cassie pencil skirts and happy patterned baseball tee's for myself.
This is a decidedly un-cooking list, but if you are looking for recommendations I have lots of posts for my favorite kitchen tools. What's on your list this year? I love reading people's recommendations!
*some affiliate links used. that means you pay the same price but a portion of the sale price comes back to me to help support this sorely neglected blog and my Trader Joe's habit.*