Monday, September 27, 2010

Train Tracks and Chocolate Chip Cookies

a photo taken from my train ride to Montreal this weekend
-- using my new iPhone 4 --
this photo reminds me that life moves forward,
and it may not be perfect, but there's beauty in it

I got some bad news this week.
I have to repeat my surgery since they didn't get all the thyroid tissue the first time.
For some as yet unknown reason, all the thyroid tissue wasn't removed.
There is still a large enough portion that they need to remove
before proceeding with the radiation treatment.
The good news is I can drive again and eat whatever I want.

After telling my girls about this next step, we all went out to balance on the train tracks.
My oldest said on the way that she's not usually unsure about things, but she was about this
...trespassing on active tracks and all...
but we had lots of laughs.
We did races,
choo choo trains,
tried to see how long we could balance.
It's a good memory.

So are all the warm wishes and inspiring quotes from friends
on Twitter and Facebook.
Thank you.

"The rose is fairest when it is budding new, and hope is brightest when it dawns from fears."
- Walter Scott @hornedfroggy

"Yesterday is History. Tomorrow is Mystery. Today is a Gift. That's why we call it the Present." @AMWATERS

"Life is tenacious; it is endowed with the power to heal. The decision to undertake this battle arises from within."
- Ikeda @michaelsdolce

"What would life be if we had no courage to attempt anything?"
- Vincent van Gogh @cailinash

"Healing takes courage, and we all have courage, even if we have to dig a little to find it."
- Tori Amos @DragonsKitchen

"Not everything happens for a reason, but there is a reason for everything."

"One must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star."
- Nietzsche (Lynda on iPhone)

"Fear can keep us up all night long, but faith makes one fine pillow."
- Teresa on Facebook

"Keep on going, and the chances are that you will stumble on something, perhaps when you are least expecting it. I never heard of anyone ever stumbling on something sitting down."
- Charles F. Kettering (Kelly from Facebook)

"If you're going through hell, keep going."
- Winston Churchill (Sandy and Melanie on Facebook)

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forward."
- Soren Kierkegaard (an email from someone last week)

The sterotypical comfort food has always been cookies and milk; cookies fresh from the oven milk straight from the fridge. So goes the myth: you arrive home from school, heavy with the burden of strict teachers and challenging school situations and there is Mom, waiting for you with cookies and milk, and as you eat the cookies, you spill out the problems of the day, and the world begins to look brighter.
Apparently there was a time Before Chocolate Chip Cookies (BCCC), though it’s hard to imagine it.

That BCCC time was prior to 1933, which was the year Ruth Graves Wakefield, who owned the Toll House Inn in Whitman, Massachusettes, was making chocolate cookies when she realized she had run out of regular baker’s chocolate. Not wanting to leave her customers wanting, she substituted broken pieces of semi-sweet chocolate from Nestlé, thinking that this chocolate would simply melt and mix into the batter as the baker’s chocolate had. However, to her surprise, the chocolate did not melt and what came out of the oven were the world’s first ever chocolate chip cookies. Her customers were delighted and asked for more. The love affair with CCC had begun. Wakefield sold the recipe to Nestlé in exchange for a lifetime supply of chocolate chips.

The cookies gained popularity during World War II when GIs from Massachusettes, who were stationed overseas, received care packages from home which included CC cookies. They shared these cookies with other GIs from various places around the country and before long Wakefield was inundated with letters from around the world asking for her recipe.

Today, 25% of all cookies baked in the United States are chocolate chip cookies. And out of all the CCC recipes I’ve tried, this one is definitely our favorite.

Recipe for Best Ever Chocolate Chip Cookies (aka Neiman Marcus Chocolate Chip Cookies)

Makes 112 cookies (This recipe can be halved.)

2 cups butter
2 cups sugar
2 cups brown sugar
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
5 cups blended oatmeal (measure oatmeal and blend in a blender to a fine powder)
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
24 ounces chocolate chips
1 8 ounce Hershey bar, grated
3 cups chopped nuts (optional)

Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla. Mix in flour, oatmeal, salt, baking powder and soda. Add chocolate chips, Hershey bar, and nuts. Bake on a greased baking sheet for 8 minutes at 375°F.

Can be frozen in plastic wrap, if desired, and then thawed and cut into rounds. Bake on a greased baking sheet for 8 minutes.

Tasting Notes
The proof of the pudding (or in this case, the cookies) is in the tasting. This is what two-thirds of my daughters have to say (Anna, my 11 year old, declined to comment since she doesn't like chocolate chip cookies!):

“I like chocolate chip cookies because
when mom takes them out of the oven
the chocolate chips are melted
and the cookie is soft and moist.
Also because they're sweet with chocolate
and well, they're cookies!” ~ Sarah (12 years old)

i like the choclity part
and its fun to eat them to
there really really REALLY good! ~ Jennifer (8 years old)
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    Monday, September 20, 2010

    Fingerpainting and Strawberry Muffins

    When was the last time you did fingerpainting?
    On a glass table?
    I did that this summer
    With a friend
    We got messy
    First one finger
    Then another color on another finger
    Until finally our hands were covered in fingerpaint
    Drawing with our fingers
    Making textures with the paint
    Talking about life

    This weekend
    I poured fingerpaint on my table
    And watched my girls paint the table
    Getting messy immediately
    Not taking their time
    All the colors smooshed together
    In a moment
    And overheard them saying
    "I can't wait to tell my friends we painted the table!"
    "This is a once in a lifetime event."
    No it's not
    We'll definitely do it again

    Life can be messy but fun
    I'm currently following a strict no-iodine diet as part of the follow-up to my thyroid cancer. In about 10 days, I'll get to take radioactive iodine that should kill off any remaining thyroid cells in my body, and in preparation for that I'm not allowed to eat certain foods that contain iodine. This includes iodized salt (but kosher salt is fine), cheese, egg yolks, and any pre-packaged foods, among other things.

    A friend of my mother's sent me a recipe for banana muffins that she used when her daughter underwent this treatment, and I've modified it slightly. They were so good that I had to fight for the last one with one of my daughters. {I promised to make her another batch.}
    Recipe for Strawberry Muffins
    Makes 1 dozen
    ½ cup unsalted butter
    1 teaspoon vanilla
    ¾ cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup maple sugar and 1/2 cup raw cane sugar)
    3 egg whites
    2 cups flour
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    1 cup puréed strawberries
    coarse maple sugar (optional)
    Combine butter, vanilla and sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites and mix until blended.
    In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking soda and kosher salt. Add this to the butter mixture. Stir in the puréed strawberries. After filling the baking cups, sprinkle with coarse maple sugar.
    Bake at 350˚F for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

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    Monday, September 13, 2010

    Monopoly and Spaghetti

    How many hours of Monopoly did you play as a kid?
    I played it so much I knew all the rents by heart.
    My goal: buy everything, mortgage as necessary, win.
    I can be very competitive. {But I was the shoe in the game pictured!}
    There's something so fun about playing games, and I'm all about fun right now.

    This week I came across a poem found by @GKPhotography that I find very inspiring
    and have to share it with everyone.

    dream big
    want more from life
    do something fun
    apply your creativity
    take risks
    live your life
    play Monopoly
    follow your dreams

    How many people, when thinking of spaghetti, think of that charming scene in the movie “Lady and the Tramp” where Lady and Tramp are both slurping up the same long spaghetti noodle, ending when their lips meet in a slurpy kiss?

    Who says spaghetti can’t be fun?

    For most families, spaghetti is a kid pleaser and nothing could be simpler to make for dinner. Once you have spaghetti sauce in the freezer, it’s simply a matter of boiling the spaghetti and heating the sauce. And voilà! Dinner is served!

    The pasta we call spaghetti originally came from China where it was made from either rice flour or hard wheat flour with water and salt added.

    Tomatoes, on the other hand, are known to have their origins in the Americas so the first tomato sauce would have been made by the Aztecs. However, when we talk about spaghetti sauce today we are thinking about it as an Italian recipe. In fact, the earliest recipe for spaghetti sauce has been found in a cookbook printed in 1692 by Antonio Latini. Hmmm – that’s 318 years ago! Any food that survives that long has got to have something going for it!

    My go-to Spaghetti Sauce recipe has evolved through the years and I release it to you as a favourite from my family to yours.


    1 can of tomato paste
    2 fresh tomatoes
    1 large can of diced tomatoes
    1 jar of pasta sauce (my favorite is Original Ragu)
    2 tablespoons oregano
    ¼ cup chopped, fresh basil
    ½ cup onions
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    Salt to taste
    Fresh black pepper to taste
    5 small cans kidney beans (optional)
    ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated

    Brown onions and garlic. Add all other ingredients except the kidney beans and Parmesan cheese. Bring to a boil. Transfer to a crock pot or slow cooker. Simmer for two hours. Add the kidney beans (if desired) and simmer for one more hour.

    Do not skimp on the simmering time.

    The Secret’s in the Simmering
    After the cooking is complete, cook spaghetti as per the directions on the package and top with this succulent sauce. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. It’s also fun to serve cottage cheese with this meal, which gives the spaghetti a lazy Lasagna feel.

    This sauce freezes well and is handy to pull out for a quick and easy dinner. It’s also a favourite for camping. In small containers, the frozen sauce acts as ice blocks in the cooler – ready to be pulled out and added to a pot of spaghetti cooked over a campfire.

    And speaking of campfires, how about a song to go with the dinner? This song, sung to the tune of “On Top of Old Smokey” was popularized in 1963 by Tom Glazer and the Do Re Me Children’s Choir.

    On Top of Spaghetti

    On top of spaghetti,
    All covered with cheese,
    I lost my poor meatball,
    When somebody sneezed.

    It rolled off the table,
    And on to the floor,
    And then my poor meatball,
    Rolled out of the door.

    It rolled in the garden,
    And under a bush,
    And then my poor meatball,
    Was nothing but mush.

    The mush was as tasty
    As tasty could be,
    And then the next summer,
    It grew into a tree.

    The tree was all covered,
    All covered with moss,
    And on it grew meatballs,
    And tomato sauce.

    So if you eat spaghetti,
    All covered with cheese,
    Hold on to your meatball,
    Whenever you sneeze.
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    Thursday, September 9, 2010

    Cheese, Planes and a Giveaway

    Wisconsin Cheese has offered to giveaway 10 cheese planes (knives) to 10 of my readers.

    Monday, September 6, 2010

    Bubble Wrap, Cat's Cradle and Vinaigrette + Giveaway

    And the winner is...
    Hope from Hope in the Kitchen!

    I came home one day after work last week to a parcel from Oliviers & Co. filled with a bottle of Basil Olive Oil, Ketchup, Balsamic vinegar and bubble wrap. The first thing we did was put the bubble wrap on the floor and stomp. There's something so joyful about jumping and so pleasurable about popping bubbles all at the same time. We do this at New Year's every year, but it was fun to do at the end of summer break.

    That same night, we found the Cat's Cradle string and taught each other how to pull the x's to make new and magical shapes with a simple line of string.

    bubbles pop
    hop and giggle
    i'm alive
    i feel
    i laugh
    i'm airborne

    A homemade vinaigrette is so simple to make. There's really no reason why you should ever buy a bottle of store-bought. The ratio for vinaigrette is 2-3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. You can add flavorings such as mustard, salt, and pepper. Always whisk the vinegar and flavorings first, and then whisk in the oil. {Although just popping everything into a tupperware container and shaking works too.}

    And always use the best olive oil and the best vinegar. In this case, I was lucky to have a small jug of Basil Olive Oil from Oliviers & Co. that was lightly aromatic and fresh.

    Recipe for Vinaigrette
    ¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar (or half red wine vinegar and half cooking sherry)
    ⅛ teaspoon salt
    freshly ground black pepper
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or Basil Olive Oil from Oliviers & Co.

    Recipe for My Salad*
    Romaine lettuce, torn into bite-sized pieces
    carrots, chopped
    celery, chopped
    broccoli, in florets
    cauliflower, in florets
    cilantro, chopped
    old cheddar, cubed
    hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced
    papaya, cubed

    * Inspired by a friend who is eating a whole-foods-only diet: no preservatives, no sugar (except for the odd temptation of a Theo chocolate bar), and lots of raw food.

    Oliviers & Co. sent an extra 2010 Catalogue filled with beautiful photos and recipes. This 70-page soft-cover booklet is charming, and I'd like to send someone my extra copy.

    Giveaway starts Monday, September 6, 2010 at 12:01:00 a.m. Eastern Time ("ET") and ends on September 11, 2010 at 11:59:59 p.m. ET. One winner will be chosen using

    Include your email in your comment so that I can reach you. If your name is selected, and your email isn't included, I'll draw another name.

    How to Enter:

    1. Follow me on Twitter, then Tweet this giveaway. Make sure you come back here and comment to let me know you now follow (or already do) and that you tweeted. That counts as ONE, not one each. Just one.

    2. Sign up on the Google Friend Connect (see the widget in the left sidebar at the top of my home page). Then leave ANOTHER comment on this post.

    3. Subscribe to my RSS feed. Then leave ANOTHER comment.

    4. Post about this giveaway on your own site with a link to this post. Return. Comment. Rinse, repeat. You get the picture.


    Virtual Bubble Wrap
    "I ♥ Bubble Wrap"® apparel
    How To Do Cat's Cradle
    HI + LOW: J-U-M-P
    Oliviers & Co.

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