Warm up your home by baking some chocolate chip cookies
Food for the Neighborhood
Tuesday, February 05, 2013 5:31 AM
Although I have acquired several new things recently, that doesn't mean I have immediately used them. Before I feel comfortable using new gadgets I need time to read directions, experiment and accept change in my life.
I don't like thinking I am cemented in doing things the way I have always done them. I like learning something new. Anyone who has written for a newspaper is constantly learning new things. But new in terms of something mechanical means giving up something old and familiar.
In the case of my new laptop, a gift from my husband for my birthday last summer, it was just easier to keep using my old desktop computer. But it has gotten slow and requires migrating to my basement, far away from the radio shows I like listening to. It means giving up my comfortable desk chair where everything is set to fit me.
As I type on my laptop, I am not as comfortable with the keyboard, but it works. The chair by the kitchen counter is not padded, but at least it has a back. I can write and have the radio playing in the background. My husband thoughtfully spent lots of time loading my new Lenovo with the programs he thought I'd need. Although I just started using it in my kitchen recently, I'm finding it is rather convenient. I think having a portable computer will be useful when we are up north and I might even write my column up there. A nice thought, too. Checking my emails is no longer a project - I can quickly check while cookies bake in the oven. I won't need to print a recipe; I can just turn the laptop and use a recipe from the screen.
Accepting change can mean one's options expand.
During my vacation last summer in Montana, with my children and their families, my old camera actually fell apart. And then, in spite of taping it back together, it simply quit. For a few months as I considered buying a new camera, I did not have one. I used a camera from my work place when I needed to cover a story. I went to family events and took no photos - there were no photos to add interest to my columns. (I did manage to make coverage of our vacation and the photos taken there last for a while.)
During the time when my husband started shopping for new appliances, we also looked for a new camera. He is a very thoughtful and careful shopper. I have an existing set of criteria before I ever get to the store, so as soon as I find a product that fits and the price seems reasonable, I buy.
Actually, with the case of the appliances, I shopped with him a couple times, and then I waited while he negotiated the purchase. As far as the camera was concerned, once I found "the one" I waited until it was on sale before Christmas, then I purchased it. But I didn't start using it immediately because I needed time to read the directions and feel comfortable operating it first.
I had loved my Fuji-film camera, but I realized it was missing a new feature in digital cameras - the low light feature. With my new Nikon I can now sit in a chair a fair distance from performers and get nice light shots, even without a flash. This still amazes me!
My new camera has the same feel and size as my old one. Although one reason I picked my new camera was it had a viewfinder, a feature most cameras lack nowadays. I find I rarely use it.
Although the timing of the arrival of my new kitchen appliances left me feeling less than welcoming for all the newness in the midst of holiday chaos, as time has passed, I like them more and more.
Take my new stove; it has a convection oven. When my husband asked if I wanted one, I said no, why would I? But when my daughter-in-law Molly and I were shopping on Black Friday, walking along a row of stoves at Sears, she explained a convection oven to me.
It has a fan in it that circulates and distributes the heat, she said. A convection oven is equipped with an extra rack. When I thought about it, suddenly convection oven become one of my criteria. Why not? Food cooking more evenly and imagine how much one could cook at once for company.
However, if you recall, my old oven did not heat as hot as it should have and it took much longer to bake things than recipes specified. Imagine my learning curve after suddenly having a highly efficient oven!
Yes, things cook much more quickly, and I have wondered if a recipe's temperature was actually too high. When considering what recipe I might share for my next column, I thought of something one can especially appreciate during cold winter eating.
Was I thinking of soup?
No, but it is a comfort food - good old chocolate chip cookies - the kind my mom once baked, batch after batch. Grandkids could always depend on finding cookies in her cookie jar. I don't have one at my house. I have a "treat drawer" instead.
When grandkids come to my house, they look for frozen treats from the freezer located in the garage. Or they pull the treat drawer open and dig their way through packaged cookies, breakfast bars, crackers 'and cheese, a bag of red licorice or mini packages of formed fruit treats.
A coworker once told me she would need to start baking cookies when she became a grandmother. I assured her there were alternatives that would keep her grandkids equally happy.
Readers already know I am 60. Along with getting older there are little health issues that cause one to alter behaviors. I walk to control arthritic back pain and an accompanying leg pain issue. (The recent cold has hampered this activity.) Although I want to quit worrying about my weight, I fully realize that extra weight compounds health problems. So I keep reminding myself to eat more fruits and vegetables, less fat, more fiber and smaller portions. I weigh myself every morning.
Because my sister is a colon cancer survivor, I comply with having a colonoscopy once every five years. Wow, how quickly five years pass - once one has endured that procedure, you just don't forget. What I had forgotten was my diagnosis five years ago.
No polyps, no cancer, but I do have diverticulitis. So what? I am not plagued with any sort of pain or discomfort, so I would never have known without the invasive procedure.
I was given an info sheet to read, which I found some time after I returned home. (Truthfully, I don't remember much from the rest of the day after my husband drove me home following the procedure.) It talked about the importance of eating fruits and vegetables and including more fiber in my diet.
OK, well I thought, I know that. But am I really doing what I know? I love chocolate - little bits of it throughout the day help me think better. Well, that seems like the truth.
Recently, I got out my time-tested chocolate chip cookie recipe - it was the one my mom had always used. I had long ago deleted the "optional: 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts" from the recipe. But with trying out my new oven, I put them back in and replaced a third of the white flour with whole wheat flour. It is basically a batch and a half of mom's recipe, but using a whole 12-ounce package of chocolate chips - which means you get a couple more chips in each cookie and who can complain about that?
One thing I forgot from my prolific days of baking chocolate chip cookies was taking the baking trays from the oven when the cookies weren't quite done to create a softer cookie. Instead my cookies were more like my mom's, well browned and a bit crunchy. But they were OK, mind you, according to the coworkers I shared them with. I might have used a bit less whole wheat as I since have read (on the info sheet) that when replacing white flour with whole wheat use a fourth less whole wheat. For example, one cup of white flour equals 3/4 cup whole wheat flour.
Chocolate Chip Cookies
Cream together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer:
1 1/2 cups softened butter or margarine (3 sticks)
1 1/2 cups firmly packed brown sugar
3/4 cups white sugar
Add and beat well:
Measure into a sifter, then sift into the batter, and mix only until flour disappears:
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (Optional: Replace a third with whole wheat flour.)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
By hand, using a large spoon stir in:
1 12-ounce bag real chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Bake in a 325 to 350 degree oven. Spoon dough onto ungreased aluminum baking sheets by rounded table teaspoonfuls. Bake approximately 10 minutes - less if you'd like a softer cookie. Take out and allow to sit on hot baking sheet for a minute, lift with a metal turner to a cooling rack. Or bake until uniformly light brown, removing from oven while still puffy, lift onto cooling racks.