Chocolate Chip Cookies and the Best Childhood Memories

Last week I pulled out this recipe because I really needed a good chocolate chip cookie. These are hands down the best chocolate cookies I have ever eaten.  I’m not sure if it’s the cookies themselves, or what they represent in my mind, but they are perfect.  It is funny how something like the taste of a cookie can bring up so many great memories, these do that for me.

This recipe came from a very important person in my life, my Auntie Margaret. Some of my best childhood memories are of the times we spent with Auntie Margaret and Uncle Frank.  When I was pretty young, they lived out in the country in Ortonville, Michigan.  

Every summer over the Civic Holiday weekend we would head to their place so my dad could play in a golf tournament with Uncle Frank.  As a young kid, the three hour car ride there seemed like the longest trip ever, and we had our regular traditions for the drive: stopping in the duty free shop and my dad buying us all sorts of chocolate, pretending to be asleep as we crossed the border to avoid any questions from the border guard, always stopping at the first McDonald’s on the US side for dinner (the Happy Meal toys in the States was always far superior), and playing games with the weird road signs as we were driving down the country roads “Pass with Care” and “Do Not Pass” (not really weird, but when you’re 8 and 5, weird).

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Peter and I with Auntie Margaret and Waldo

 

We would arrive at their house and be greeted by their dog Waldo. We’d run inside and Auntie Margaret would set the cuckoo clock so we could dance to the music, then we’d check out the variety pack of sugary cereals she always stocked up on for us.  When we were there, we’d rent all sorts of movies that we couldn’t get at home, The Jetsons Meet the Flinstones was always a favourite, and Uncle Frank would hook his two VHS players together and make us copies of our favourites to take home. Auntie Margaret would take us to all sorts of places, the farm next door to see the baby calves, the pet cemetery (which we LOVED going to) to see all the dog and cat statues, Toys ‘R Us for some spoiling, all the while driving “crazy” down the country roads while my brother and I rolled around the back of the van (this was the 80’s…there were no car seats).

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Peter and I dancing to the cuckoo clock

 

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Uncle Frank and I

 

Auntie Margaret always (and still to this day) had a batch of chocolate chip cookies in her cookies jar (and her freezer).  We’d eat cookies non-stop, and when we had eaten them all, she’d let me help her whip up a fresh batch.  

Me goofing around in Auntie Margaret's kitchen

I remember being so sad when Auntie Margaret and Uncle Frank sold their home in Michigan to retire in Florida, but we still got to see them when we went to Florida at Christmas, and the cookie jar was always full.  

As I made these cookies last week, all of these wonderful memories came flooding back to me.  I’m so lucky to have grown up with so many loving relatives that have given me so many great memories.  I hope that my own kids have these experiences in their lives that they can carry with them.

Give these cookies a try, you will not be disappointed, in fact, you might become addicted.

Ingredients:

Cream Together:

1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. butter

Add:

2 c. oatmeal flour*

2 c. flour

1 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. baking soda

½ tsp. Salt

1 ½ c. chocolate chips

Method:

Combine ingredients into a soft dough.  Drop spoonfuls of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet.  Bake at 375 degrees for 7-8 minutes.

* put 2 cups of rolled oats into the blender, blend until they are a powdered consistency

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Italian Meatball Soup

Over the course off this past school year, probably fueled mostly by health-issue related tiredness and a general feeling of unwell, I decided to revisit the Whole 30 way of eating. I had completed a Whole 30 on two different occasions after Hunter was born, but never really committed to it beyond the 30 days.  In October, I decided I was going to do another one, and I really made a point of working with recipes that made this way of eating less boring.  After the first few days of feeling terrible, you enter what they call in the Whole 30 community, call the “Tiger Blood” stage.  You just feel amazing.  I was sleeping better than I had in a long time, my energy levels were great, my skin looked amazing, and overall I just felt better.  

 

My colleague and friend took notice of this, and when November rolled around, she decided to join me in this lifestyle.  We both committed to 30 days in November, and I feel like having a partner through the journey helped me stay committed.  We commiserated about missing wine and chocolate, and we brought each other Whole 30 compliant snacks and powered through.  My friend was noticing the same positive health impacts as I did and we were both feeling pretty motivated.  Things fell a bit apart over Christmas, but I did notice how I felt when I ate certain foods that maybe weren’t the best for me.  We came back to school in January, ready to start another Whole 30.  

 

At this point, the Whole 30 cookbook came out.  It is full of amazing meals.  This soup is one that I’ve adapted from the cookbook, and it has become one of my go-to’s for lunches.  I often double the batch and freeze portions that are easy to pull out during the week for lunch.  My husband also really enjoys this one and was shocked to hear it was a Whole 30 recipe.

 

I tend to lean towards using fresh herbs in this recipe whenever I can, as I feel like it just gives it a better taste.  You can also sub out the kale for any greens that you prefer (the original recipe calls for Swiss chard).

 

Try this one out, and serve it with a nice crusty Italian bread if you are so inclined.  This one is filling and hearty, and can be served straight up for dinner.  Enjoy!

 

Meatballs

Ingredients:

2 pounds ground pork

⅓ cup minced fresh parsley

½ tbsp. Salt

½ tsp. black pepper

½ tsp. red pepper flakes

¼ c. warm water

1 tsp. cream of tartar

½ tsp. baking soda

 

Method:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine the pork, parsley, garlic, salt, black pepper and red pepper flakes.

In a small bowl, mix together the water, cream of tartar, and baking soda (the mixture will bubble). Add the water mixture to the meat mixture and combine. Shape the meat mixture into 1-inch balls.

Place the meatballs on the baking sheets and bake for about 20 minutes, until the meatballs are browned. Let cool.

Soup

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

1 medium sweet onion, diced

1 tablespoon tomato paste

3 cloves garlic, minced

½ tsp. dried oregano, crushed (fresh is even better if you have it)

½ tsp. dried basil, crushed (fresh is even better if you have it)

½ tsp. dried parsley

¼ tsp. salt

⅛ tsp. granulated garlic

⅛ tsp. onion powder

Pinch of red pepper flakes

2 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, undrained

4 cups chicken broth

1 bunch kale, stemmed and leaves cut into 1-inch strips

Handful of fresh basil leaves, minced

1 portion pork meatballs (from above recipe)

Method:

Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat for 2 minutes. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until soft and translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the tomato paste, minced garlic, oregano, dried basil, parsley, salt, granulated garlic, onion powder, and red pepper flakes to the pot. Cook until the tomato paste darkens, about 2 minutes. Add the fire-roasted tomatoes with their juices, broth, kale, and meatballs to the pot. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the soup is heated through and the kale is wilted and just tender, about 10 minutes.

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with fresh basil.

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Lemon Lavendar Cake

Our wonderful neighbours sold their home and downsized to a lovely condominium. This week, our new neighbours moved in and I wanted to welcome them to the neighbourhood with a little treat.  In briefly speaking to them, we learned that they moved to Ayr from the GTA to get away from the noise and have a more relaxed pace for life.  Whenever I think of relaxing, I think of lavendar; it’s scent just makes you want to unwind.  I’ve been playing around with some different tea cake ideas and was waffling between using Earl Grey and lavendar.  The summer weather we have been having made me want to use lemon, and I thought that lavendar and lemon would be a perfect pairing.  This dense cake is refreshing and goes well with tea on the patio.  It is a modified 1-2-3-4 cake and can be whipped up quickly.  I hope you enjoy it!

 Ingredients:

Cake

1 c. unsalted butter, softened

2 c. sugar

3 c. flour

4 eggs

1 c. buttermilk (I never have buttermilk and just use milk with a splash of vinegar)

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking soda

1 Tbs. lemon zest

juice of 1 large lemon

1 generous tsp dried lavender buds

Glaze

1 cup powdered sugar

1 Tbs cream

Juice of lemon

 

Method:

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time fully incorporating after each addition. Stop and scrape down the sides with a spatula and resume beating until the mixture looks like buttercream frosting.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking soda.

Combine the lemon zest, lemon juice and buttermilk together.

With the mixer on low, alternately mix in the flour and buttermilk, beginning and ending with the flour, in 3 additions. Do not over-mix, just allow the ingredients to come together.

Stir in the lavender.

Pour into 2 loaf pans that have been coated in cooking spray.

Bake at 325 F for approximately 50 mins.

After 5 minutes, remove from pans and cool on wire racks.

When cool, spread glaze overtop.

Sprinkle on some dried lavendar while glaze is still soft.

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My Pulmonary Embolism Story

March is Blood Clot Awareness month.  Prior to a year ago, I didn’t even know that there was a month dedicated to blood clot awareness.  But last year on March 1, I was diagnosed with a pulmonary embolism, a blood clot in my lung.  I was lucky, mine was caught in time, but 10 to 30% of people will die within one month of diagnosis and sudden death is the first symptom in 25% of people who have a pulmonary embolism.  When I think about those statistics, it makes me feel panicky.  I was 34, active, didn’t smoke, barely drank alcohol, ate relatively healthy, I had none of the factors that predisposed me to having a blood clot, but it happened to me.

 

I had been feeling a bit run down, but it was February which is often the time of year at work that things just feel kind of blah.  My kids had also had a fairly rough winter for illnesses, in fact Hunter was on antibiotics at the time for pneumonia, so my symptoms of exhaustion, slight shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, and nausea did not really alarm me at all.  I was actually slightly annoyed that I was sick, as I really did not have the time to go to the doctor, just one more thing that I couldn’t figure out how I could fit into my busy days.  Thankfully it was the weekend, so I was hoping with some extra rest, I could kick whatever bug I had and get back to normal.

 

I first noticed that something was really off when I was reading my kids a story before bed and was really struggling to get the words out.  I felt like I just couldn’t get enough air.  I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought, again likening it to my potential pneumonia.  The next morning when I got out of bed I felt pretty dizzy, and once again sort of pushed it out of my mind.  As the day went on, I noticed that walking up the stairs was really difficult, I’d be very short of breath and start getting tunnel vision at the top.  Sunday afternoon we took the kids for a little walk around the block and as we walked I felt my heart racing and started feeling dizzy enough that I had to stop and rest a few times.  

 

Monday morning I woke up, and having a shower to get ready for work left me exhausted.  I laid back down on the bed and Darren told me to phone in sick.  The thought of having to get a day plan together to send into school just felt so exhausting and I had used up so many of my sick days because Hunter had been so sick that year, so I got myself dressed and went off to work.  By the time I got to work, I felt like the world was spinning.  The walk from my car to my classroom (maybe 100 metres) left me gasping for air.  As I got into my room, my friend in the next classroom asked how my weekend was, and I dissolved into tears.  I explained it off as stress and just not feeling good. I lamented to her about how it was such a pain to get a doctor’s appointment, I’d have to call at 8:30 when the office opened, the line would probably be busy, by the time I got through all the appointments would be taken, and on and on.  As I was prepping my classroom for the day, I just started feeling worse and worse, so at 8:45 I called my doctor’s office and was shocked that the line was free and they could get me in for an appointment at 2 that afternoon.  I’m lucky that the the administrators at my school are super supportive my vice-principal lined up a supply teacher for me for the afternoon, and I spent the rest of the morning feeling good about my decision to get checked out.

 

By the time 2:00 rolled around, my shortness of breath and overall symptoms of unwell were quite a bit worse.  As I described my symptoms to my doctor, he seemed a bit puzzled, and quickly ruled out pneumonia because my chest sounded clear.  He could obviously tell that breathing was a struggle however, and told me that he was going to send me for a lung scan the next morning to rule out a pulmonary embolism.  It was the first time I had really heard before in reference to something I should care about, as opposed to just hearing it in passing; I didn’t really know what it was.  He assured me about two or three times that he was sure that wasn’t what was going on with me, but he needed to rule it out.  So I left the office with instructions for my lung scan at the hospital the next morning.  I popped into school on my way home to let them know I would be off the next day as well, assuring everyone I would see them Wednesday, because I definitely didn’t have a blood clot, there was no way, right?

 

I spent that evening feeling terrible, googling (never a good idea), and joking with Darren about how much time off of work a Pulmonary Embolism would get me (it had been a stressful year). I wouldn’t let Darren come with me to the hospital, why would he take a day off of work for no reason?  It seemed stupid to me.  My mom however, insisted on coming with me.  She wanted to drop me off at the front door of the hospital and park the car, I refused to let her do that because “I was fine!”  So I huffed and puffed my way into the hospital from the car and got checked in to the place where they would do my lung scan.  I must have been the first appointment, as they took me back right away and explained the procedure.  I had to breath in some radioactive stuff and then lay in a machine that rotated slowly around my body for about 45 minutes taking pictures every 5 degrees.  After that they injected me with a radioactive dye and then took the same pictures, they’d then compare the pictures to see blood flow, versus air flow.  From where I was laying, I could see the screen, it was kind of neat to watch.  I did notice a weird blacked out area on the scans, but again was so convinced there was nothing wrong, I didn’t think too much of it.  They sent me out to the waiting room to wait for a doctor to review the scans.  Someone came to get me about 10 minutes later for a chest x-ray.  I just assumed that this was standard and they forgot to tell me I was having one.

 

My mom and I sat and chatted in the waiting room, trying to decide where we were going to go for lunch, since I had this unexpected day off.  We had just settled on somewhere in St. Jacobs when a doctor looking person came out and called my name.  I stood up and he walked over and told me that I needed to head down to the ER and that he would meet me there.  Instantly I my eyes filled with tears, knowing that I was experiencing the worst case scenario.

 

We went to the ER and bypassed the waiting room, only to be taken back to a waiting room in the treatment area of the ER.  Over the course of a few hours, I was poked, prodded, had blood taken, and waited.  So much waiting.  Eventually the doctor from upstairs took me into an exam room and fired off a bunch of questions at me, told me I had a pulmonary embolism in the left bottom quadrant of my lungs, gave me some blood thinners on the spot, and gave me a prescription for blood thinner and sent me on my way.  I left in a bit of a daze, feeling even worse than I had been feeling the last few days.

 

This past year has gone by in a bit of a blur.  I was off of work from March until September.  Things weren’t getting better quickly as I had hoped.  There were some complications with my heart, and lots of waiting for tests, and then even more waiting for test results.  It’s been a year and all of the complications have settled down, but I’m left with a lingering shortness of breath, some regular chest pain, and anxiety and the inability to cope with things the way that I used to be able to.  I feel like my reaction to things escalates quickly, leaving me with a rapid heartbeat and a tightening in my chest that I have never experienced before.  It is scary, but it is also my new normal.  I’m hoping that over time it slowly goes away.

 

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.  This didn’t kill me.  I’m not entirely sure how much stronger I feel, but I’ve definitely changed my perspective on a lot of things in my life.  Life is short, and there is no sense being unhappy with situations we find ourselves in.  I’m finding that I am much more selfish when it comes to my needs.  It’s easier to say no when I don’t want to do something, and it also gave me perspective on the people that are most important to me.  When something so major happens, you really learn who your people are.  Relationships I had with many people were either strengthened, or shattered; I needed to be a taker (as much as it was incredibly difficult for me), and I didn’t have a whole lot to give to people. It gave me some clear perspective on the people that I need and want in my life.  I think that that alone was a silver lining on a dark cloud.

 

I’ve also started taking better care of myself.  I urge everyone to do this more.  Sometimes as a working mother, I spent so much time being “perfect” at home and at work, that I did not notice the toll it was taking and that the exhaustion and stress I was feeling was not as necessary as I thought it was.  I’m actually a healthier and happier person when I put my own needs first sometimes, and that makes me so much better for my family and in my job.
So, in March, Blood Clot Awareness month, I share my story with hope that someone else goes to the doctor at the beginning of their symptoms and not try to be a hero.  If I would have kept my hero facade going for any longer, I may not have been here to write this.

 

Ravioli Lasagna

This recipe takes a bit of work to put together, but it is a fun twist on classic lasagna.  It’s definitely worth the extra effort.  What I love about cooking, as opposed to baking, is that it lends itself to experimentation.  I don’t have an “exact” recipe for this, more of a method, but you can’t really screw it up.  This is a good recipe to batch cook as you can freeze it before baking, pull it out of the freezer when you need it, and have a nice home cooked meal fairly quicky.  Pair with a salad and a nice loaf of crusty bread.

Method:

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and grease the bottom and sides of a 9×9 baking dish (I have a nice deep one that I use so I can add an extra layer).

Start by browning your ground beef, breaking it up to crumbles as it browns.  I use a regular sized package of use lean or extra lean beef.

Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce of your choice (if I don’t have homemade, I usually choose Classico Sauce in Sweet Basil or Spicy Red Pepper, depending on who will be eating the meal) on the bottom of your baking dish.

Put a layer of ravioli on top of the sauce, as close together as you can get them (a 9×9 dish holds 9 raviolis perfectly).  I like to buy the fresh packaged ravioli you can get at the grocery store, but frozen would work too.

Finish browning your meat and drain off excess fat.

Add the remaining tomato sauce to the meat.

To the meat and sauce mixture, add a 500g container of ricotta cheese.

Stir to combine.

Spread a thin layer of meat/sauce/ricotta mixture over top of the ravioli layer.

Top with shredded mozzarella cheese.

Put down another layer of ravioli on top of the cheese.  To change things up, I bought different types of ravioli and made each layer different (i.e., regular cheese ravioli, spinach and ricotta ravioli).

Keep layering (ravioli, meat/sauce/cheese mixture, shredded cheese) until you get close to the top of your pan.  On your last ravioli layer, top with straight tomato sauce.

And then more shredded cheese (there is no such thing as too much cheese!).

Bake in the over at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes (longer if cooking from frozen) until the cheese on top starts to brown.

Slice and serve!  The first piece will come out sloppy…this is the second piece!

Look at all those tasty layers!

Seriously easy, and it looks like you slaved away all day!  Enjoy this new family favourite with a salad and a nice loaf of crusty Italian bread!

 

 

Grocery List:

1 package lean (or extra lean) ground beef

2 jars tomato sauce (you probably won’t use all of both jars)

2 or 3 packages of fresh ravioli (in any flavor you like)

1 500g container of Ricotta cheese

Mozzarella for shredding

 

 

The Best Peanut Butter Cookies

There is absolutely nothing more delicious than fresh baked peanut butter cookies.  I like them moist and chewy and it has taken me a long time to perfect a recipe that has this perfect combination.  These cookies are especially tasty dunked in a glass of cold milk.  You life might be forever changed by these cookie, I know the cookie monsters in my house can’t get enough of them!  Enjoy!

Start by putting your softened butter into the bowl.

Add peanut butter to the butter.

Add your sugars and egg.

Cream all ingredients together until smooth.

Add in flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt (in theory you should mix the dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and then slowly add that mixture to your wet mixture.  I never do this, and I don’t find that it makes too much of a difference).

Beat mixture together until uniform.

Using a spoon, portion out your dough into rounds.

Roll each dough ball into granulated sugar.

Place rolled cookies onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes.  Remove promptly from over.  You don’t want to over bake these.  They may look slightly under cooked in the middle, but will firm up as they cool.

Transfer cookies to wire cooling racks.  Let cool (my family snaps them up warm and they are amazing either way) and store in an airtight container.

They’re delicious served with a cold glass of milk!


Yummy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. baking soda
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter (you could use crunchy if you wanted)
  • ¾ cup sugar + more for rolling cookies
  • ½ cup firmly packed brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp. milk
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla

Method:

Preheat oven to 350. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (the parchment paper is key for the perfect chewy cookie).

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the butter and peanut butter together, with a mixer, until smooth and fluffy. Add the sugars until combined, then incorporate the egg, followed by the milk and vanilla. Gradually add in the flour mixture and beat until thoroughly combined.

In a small bowl, put a few tablespoons of sugar for rolling your cookies. Using a spoon, portion out your dough and roll each ball into the sugar until coated on all sides. Place on baking sheet, allowing room for the cookies to spread out while baking.

Bake for 10-12 minutes, being careful not to overbake. The cookies will look slightly underdone in the center, that means they will be perfect as they harden up as they set.
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

Monster Cookies! 

So, it’s been awhile again…but for good reason!  Over the last few months, we bought a new home, and so we sold and packed up our first home, and moved into what we hope will be our forever home.  Our new home has an amazingly big, beautiful kitchen, in fact, the kitchen won awards for the builder!  I’m so excited to continue experimenting in my new kitchen.

These monster cookies are pretty easy, quick and delicious.  You will make them a lot.  You can also shrink down the recipe to make a quick batch for 2!  So if the mood hits on a Saturday night, you can whip a few up, and the kids won’t even know come morning (I’ll include these measurements as well).

Try these out and let me know what you think!

Cream your softened butter.

Mix in peanut butter until smooth.

Mix in both sugars.

Mix in egg yolks.

Beat until fluffy.

Mix in dry ingredients.

Mix in oats, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips.

Drop by spoonful onto parchment lined cookie sheet.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes until edges start to brown up.

Cool on cookie sheet for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.

Enjoy with a nice cold glass of milk!

Ingredients:
½ cup butter, softened
½ cup peanut butter
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
4 egg yolks
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 cup flour
½ cup quick oats
½ cup chocolate chips
½ cup peanut butter chips

Method:
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
2. Cream together your butter, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar until well mixed.
3. Add in your egg yolk and vanilla and mix well.
4. Add in your dry ingredients, baking soda, salt and flour and stir everything to combine.
5. Mix in your oats, chocolate chips and peanut butter chips until fully incorporated.
6. Bake for about 10 minutes until cookies are set and lightly golden.
7. Allow cookie to rest for about 10 minutes on baking pan before moving to a cooling rack.

Ingredients for cookies for 2:
2 tbsp. butter, softened
2 tbsp. peanut butter
2 tbsp. sugar
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 egg yolk
¼ tsp. vanilla
¼ tsp. baking soda
¼ tsp. salt
¼ cup flour
2 tbsp. quick oats
2 tbsp. chocolate chips
2 tbsp. peanut butter chips