Pumpkin Muffins

Sweetlips & the Bean devoured 18 of these muffins in less than two days. Not exactly a testament to my parenting when you consider the insane amount of sugar that is in them, but it definitely gives an indication of just how delicious they are.

Recipe courtesy of @smittenkitchen

Makes 18 muffins

Ingredients:

1 15-ounce can (1 3/4 cups) pumpkin puree

1/2 cup (120 ml) vegetable or another neutral cooking oil or melted butter (115 grams)

3 large eggs

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1 2/3 (330 grams) cups granulated sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

3/4 teaspoon fine sea or table salt

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heaped 1/4 teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

Heaped 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

Two pinches of ground cloves

2 1/4 cups (295 grams) all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon (12 grams) granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter muffin pans or coat it with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, oil, eggs and sugar until smooth. Sprinkle baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinanmon, nutmeg, ginger and cloves over batter and whisk until well-combined. Add flour and stir with a spoon, just until mixed. Scrape into prepared pan and smooth the top. In a small dish, or empty measuring cup, stir sugar and cinnamon together. Sprinkle over top of batter.

Bake 20-25 minutes.

Chocolate Chip Walnut Cookies - "Levain-esque"

Levain-esque Chocolate Chip Walnut Chunk Cookies

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Many have tried, but I think it's fair to say, you can only get a chunky, walnutty, chocolatey chip Levain Bakery cookie at Levain Bakery. But, these come close -- and, if nothing else, they are delicious anyway!! Perfect for a snowy day. Hot chocolate not included. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

INGREDIENTS:

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  • 1 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
  • ¾ cup lightly packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cake meal
  • 1¾ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts
  • 2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips

 

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter and both sugars. Cream until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. 

3. Add eggs. Mix until incorporated.

4. Add in cake meal, flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Mix on the lowest speed until all the flour is just incorporated. Do not over-mix.

5. Add in walnuts and chocolate chips and mix on lowest speed until just incorporated.

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6. Separate into two-inch clumps. Place no less than 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. I can fit a max of 8 cookies on mine. Do not roll into balls. Leave in loosely shape round clumps. 

7. Bake one sheet at a time in the middle row of the oven -- about 12-13 minutes. The tops should be golden and the cookies should appear cooked, but not set. Let cookies cool at least 15 minutes on a wire rack.

Enjoy!

XOXO

Brown Butter Nutella Sea Salt Chocolate Chip Cookies

BROWN BUTTER NUTELLA SEA SALT CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES 

(Continuously adapted from I don't know what because I have been making them for that long)

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Ingredients:

2 1/2 Cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter

1 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt

1/2 cup chocolate chips (semi-sweet or milk chocolate)

1/2 cup chocolate chunks 

Nutella

Sea Salt

 

1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt and set aside. 

2. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat whisking somewhat continuously until the butter begins to brown.  Once the butter has begun to brown and gives off a nutty aroma, remove from heat.

3. With an electric standing mixer or a hand mixer, blend butter and both sugars. Add the egg, vanilla and yogurt and mix until combined. Add the flour mixture and mix until just incorporated. Fold in chocolate chips and chunks.

4. Chill the dough in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

5. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll into approximately 1.5 inch balls. Place two inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

6. Gently make a thumb print in the center of each cookie dough ball. Scoop a small teaspoon of Nutella into each and then fold the dough from the sides back over the Nutella. (If you need to grab a little dough off the bottom to completely cover the Nutella, that's OK too.) Roll back into a ball if need be. Flatten the tops just a tad.

7. Bake for about 12-14 or just until the edges begin to turn golden. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with sea salt. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

Enjoy! xoxo

Browned butter, chocolate and toasted pecan blondies

Browned Butter, Chocolate Chunk & Toasted Pecan Blondies

 

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

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These are the most buttery, sugary and sweetest blondies I have ever tasted. If you do not have a major sweet tooth, they are not for you. In fact, if you are not a fan of eating straight butter, which I personally am, I think it would be OK to cut the butter a tad. They may be less moist, but should do just fine. You can also feel free to switch the chocolate and pecans to any other kind of mix-ins that you fancy. Place them in an air-tight tupperware and they are even better the next day. Or the day after that. I know this for a personal fact. Also delicious for breakfast. Just saying.

 

 

Ingredients:

16 tablespoons (2 stick, 4 ounces or 113 grams) butter, melted and browned
1 1/2 cup dark brown sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon baking powder                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 cup (4 3/8 ounces or 125 grams) all-purpose flour                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1/2 cup toasted pecans                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1/4 teaspoon flakey sea salt

 

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Directions:

Butter a 9×9 pan

Melt butter in a saucepan until butter is browned but not burnt. 

Beat melted butter and sugar in a standing mixer until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla.

Add kosher salt salt and baking powder. Stir in flour. 

Mix in chocolate and pecans. 

Pour into prepared pan. Bake at 350°F for 25 minutes or until set in the middle.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with sea salt.

Cool on wire rack.

Enjoy! xoxo

Slutty Brownies

As many of you can probably see from Instagram, I bake these so-called "Slutty Brownies" often - and many of you have asked for the recipe. Composed of a layer of cookie dough, a layer of Oreos and a layer of fudge brownies, these bars came into my life via the genius of What's Gaby Cooking.

Tomorrow is my mom's birthday and Sweetlips & The Bean wanted to cook their grandma a treat. So, this felt like the appropriate time to post that "Slutty Brownie" recipe for you - while baking them with two five-year-olds...for their grandma. I do at least call them "Oreo Cookie Brownies" when working with my underage sous chefs. 

As the name suggests, the sweet flavor overload is unbelievably decadent. I recently brought them to a friend, who happily ate them straight up until there were none left.  I like to cut mine with a scoop of vanilla ice cream because balance is very important to me. You understand. 

 

Here's the baking playlist from tonight's insta-stories:

Playlist

"I Ran" - Flock of Seagulls

"Big Pimpin'" - Jay-Z

"In Da Club" i.e."Go Shorty, It's Your Birthday - 50 Cent (*Did not recall the lyrics being so inappropriate for children. #Momfail)

"When I'm Sixty-Four" - The Beatles 

"Reach Out I'll Be There" - Four Tops

 

Wishing everyone a very happy July 4th weekend filled with tons of Fireworks (wink, wink - see "Slutty Brownies"), food that is so good it deserves to be shared (thank you What's Gaby Cooking!) and a very happy birthday to "Dama Doan," a grandma who inspires a little humor and mischief.

Here's that wild recipe, along with Gaby's "Very Important FAQ's"...Enjoy! xoxo

 

SLUTTY BROWNIES

Recipe courtesy of What's Gaby Cooking

VERY IMPORTANT FAQ’s:

  • This is the pan I bake these in – it’s a 9×9 square pan from Amazon and it’s the best. It’s a non-stick square pan – which is what you need. A glass pan or a pan of another size won’t yield the same results as the photos here. (*Up Chic's Creek Note - It's true. I have this pan and it's perfection.)
  • Cool the brownies once they come out of the oven for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving if you want perfect square pieces.
  • You can use any kind of Oreos you want – double stuffed, regular, flavored, birthday cake, red velvet etc
  • IF you use a box mix for the brownie layer, you won’t want to use the entire batter as it yields more than my homemade brownie recipe. You just want to have enough brownie recipe to cover the oreos on the top layer. 

INGREDIENTS

For the Brownie layer:

  • 10 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour

For the Oreo layer:

  • 1 package of Oreo (regular stuffed or double stuffed)

For the Cookie Dough layer:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter (at room temp)
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

INSTRUCTIONS

For the Brownie Layer:

1. In a medium sauce pan, melt the butter over medium high heat. Add the sugar and cocoa powder once the butter is melted. Whisk to combine and remove from heat. Add the salt, vanilla and eggs and continuously whisk until the eggs are combined. Add the flour and continue to mix. Set batter aside. 

For the Cookie Dough Layer:

 2. Cream together the butter and sugars in a mixer. Add the eggs and vanilla, making sure to      scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl. Add the flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder and mix on low until everything is incorporated. Fold in the chocolate chips. Set dough aside. 

Assembly:

3. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

4. Line the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan with tin foil and then spray the tin foil with a layer of baking spray.

5. Layer the cookie dough on the bottom of a 9x9 baking pan, pressing down to form the bottom of the slutty brownies.

6. Layer as many oreos that will fit on top of the cookie dough. No need to overlap. One single layer will do.

7. Pour the brownie batter on top of the oreo layer and make sure it's evenly layers on top. 

8. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Test with a knife to see if the center is done. If the knife comes out clean, let the brownies rest for at least 2 hours before serving. If the knife comes out with batter still on it, allow the brownies to bake about 5 minutes more. Slice and serve.

Salted Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats

This week is Sweetlips & The Bean’s Reading and Writing Picnic at school, where they get to show off all that they have learned in kindergarten. I am so grateful for these two little boys who are profoundly proud of their accomplishments and are excited to share them with us. But Momma’s also an emotional wreck. 

My babies are growing up and I’m having difficulty accepting the bittersweet reality. I’ve been looking back on all of the milestones, flipping through old pictures and tearing up at “family famous” videos, wondering where the time went. We just brought these 5 pound 4 ounce brothers home from the hospital. Graduating kindergarten is almost unfathomable. I used to read to my infants with our nightly book propped against my knees so I could hold both of my boys close. I didn’t realize then how soon they would be reading to me. It feels like someone hit the fast forward button and all I want to do is press pause.

Someone recently pointed out that I am a sentimental and nostalgic person. There is no denying that — my company is named after my grandparents and I write personal essays. I deeply appreciate the special people, places and occasions of my life. But simply treasuring moments and memories while moving forward, I can now see, must eclipse the pull of living in the past. The latter is not good for any of us. So, I’m working really hard to live in the present, embrace change and cherish the journey. But all of this reflection is for me to grapple with so those boys may feel free to thrive. The idea of the teeny weeny man cups they now wear for lacrosse does, for example, amuse me (and them) immensely. So, that’s a start. 

Childrens' achievements deserve to be celebrated and the kiddos know that my starting point is often in the kitchen. In full disclosure, I used to tell them that kissing their momma was the final ingredient of every recipe we made together because, “We bake with love.” You only have a small window for these things. The boys have been begging me for weeks to make them Rice Krispie Treats, but as they are also one of my favorite indulgences, I have been avoiding it for self preservation. Crosby, understanding his mother all too well, has already guessed what I’ll be surprising them with for their picnic snack. Dessert might be a weakness, but there is no denying that so are my boys. 

_________

Many of you may already know this recipe from Smitten Kitchen, as it has gained a cult following. But for those of you that don’t, it’s the best Rice Krispie Treat recipe out there. It includes sea salt, making its dominance a fact. The brown butter ups the ante of this classic crowd pleaser for a Father’s Day soiree, a summer BBQ or simply celebrating life…so I’m passing it on. Enjoy! xoxo

 

Salted Brown Butter Crispy Treats 

via Smitten Kitchen

 

 Makes 16 2-inch squares or 32 1- x 2-inch small bars

Ingredients:

4 ounces (113 grams) unsalted butter, plus extra for the pan

1 10-ounce (285-gram) bag marshmallows

Heaping 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt

6 cups (160 grams) crispy rice cereal (about half a 12-ounce box)

 

Butter (or coat with non-stick spray) an 8-inch square cake pan with 2-inch sides.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-low heat. It will melt, then foam, then turn clear golden and finally start to turn brown and smell nutty. Stir frequently, scraping up any bits from the bottom as you do. Don’t take your eyes off the pot as while you may be impatient for it to start browning, the period between the time the butter begins to take on color and the point where it burns is often less than a minute.As soon as the butter takes on a nutty color, turn the heat off and stir in the marshmallows. The residual heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt them, but if it is not, turn it back on low until the marshmallows are smooth.

Remove the pot from the stove and stir in the salt and cereal together. Quickly spread into prepared pan. I liked to use a piece of waxed or parchment paper that I’ve sprayed with oil to press it firmly and evenly into the edges and corners (**note from Up Chic’s Creek: This works like a charm!), though a silicon spatula works almost as well.

Let cool, cut into squares.

spring Cookbook Roundup

Among my many collections - heart-shaped rocks, vintage table linens, scraps of bubblewrap (they can be reused, people!) and flower vases in the shape of heads — my accumulation of cookbooks may reign supreme. Curling up with a morning coffee and a scrumptious food tome of recipes and fare can be deeply satisfying, especially when the dishes are accompanied by the stories or anecdotes that inspired them. When I read a cookbook, to me it is no different than a novel. I start from the beginning and become absorbed within the story of someone’s kitchen, never missing a chef’s note or an ingredient. It’s a ritual that is part curiosity and part comfort that can only be found through the nurturing solace of food. 

I prefer to cook unfussy dishes that are more soul soothing than snap worthy, but when it comes to my cookbook obsession, how often I will put the pages to use when I am at the stove is of no matter, as I do not treasure them for their utility alone. Some books in my collection have added only a single recipe to my repertoire and others are dotted with dozens of sticky flags, the pages splashed with syrupy evidence from the preparations of countless celebrations. I cherish cookbooks mostly for the joyous opportunities that they represent — homemade gestures of love, sharing a table, coming together, celebrating life.  

While planning the menu for a large family dinner at my home, I recently came across an old cookbook that my grandmother had given to me shortly after I graduated college. Covered in the same pink and violet floral wallpaper that decorated her kitchen, as all of “Loni’s” cookbooks were, her 1965 second printing of “The Blessings of Food and Flowers,” had originally been compiled as a synagogue fundraiser, the mid-century heirloom describing itself as, “The most prized recipes of members of the Sisterhood.” 

The plastic spiral binding disintegrated long ago, but it is still easy to get lost within the volume’s pages, the dishes and entertaining tips a window into a bygone era. The options are neither fancy nor complex, like beef stroganov and “Tanta Betty’s Chicken in the Pot.” Offerings like cottage cheese jello salad are no longer de rigueur and others, like deviled tongue, should probably be left to the archives. When it came to grocery lists, sherry was clearly essential to a well-stocked pantry. Proper recipe format was abandoned for what presumably appeared on the handwritten recipe cards of inherited tradition or were dictated like familiar instructions recited from friend to friend over a rotary phone.  “Have fish dealer roll sole around salmon,” begins Mrs. Bases’ recipe titled “Sole and Salmon Rolls.”  Some of the notes are cinematic in the Mad Men era images they now evoke. Mrs. Louis A. Jaskow’s recipe for “College Punch” consists of three types of fruit juice, four cups of sugar and eight bottles of wine. It serves 100. I would like to have been invited to one of Mrs. Jaskow’s parties.

The potato puffs that I baked in homage were ultimately less inspiring than the evening I spent immersed in the kitchens of women I will never know, but I went to bed that night with an unusual sense of calm, imagining that our current volatile world was momentarily replaced for a simpler time, at least within my home. Both cooking and the written word can have that effect. 

________________

 

The fantasy renovation plans for the Barn House (more on that another time) include a kitchen library, complete with floor to ceiling shelves dedicated to the food alters that are currently stacked around my home, an antique ladder to add some culinary drama and a cozy reading nook to soothe my soul. Below are my most recent additions to those shelves — one made me laugh, two made me cry, all gave me a sweet escape. Try them. You’ll like them. 

Jack's Wife Freda: Cooking from New York's West Village

A couple of years ago, inspired by one of those last warm New York nights of summer, Mike and I decided to take the boys for scooter rides and a family dinner date downtown. We were in the area of Jack’s Wife Freda, a West Village restaurant whose accolades we were eager to affirm, but figured a last minute seating request on a Friday night with two toddlers in tow was unlikely to be met with the same enthusiasm. But, as I now know is customary, we were warmly greeted amongst a patient gathering of patrons, our server quick with crayons for the kids and a glass of wine for their momma. Having lived on both coasts in cities that can sometimes be more scene than substance, this is just a warm and happy place. Mike and I still reminisce about that magical New York night with our boys, which was highlighted by our time at their neighborhood table. The food is, as it’s regulars testify, delicious, but their welcoming approach truly elevates the experience.

Owners Maya and Dean Jankelowitz’ new Jacks Wife Freda cookbook begins with an introduction that is as much biography as it is culinary, offering a glimpse into the flavors of their childhoods in Israel and South Africa through the homemade dishes of their families, including Dean’s grandparents for whom the restaurant is named. It probably says a lot about someone’s emotional capacity if a cookbook can move them to tears, but I too have a business that is named after my beloved grandparents whose love inspired me, and so I found myself getting choked up at the preparation of Dean's family's Friday night feasts. I am an untethered happy crier, but I presume that most readers will have the fortitude to indulge in chef Julia Jaksic’s trademark grain bowls and zucchini chips without drama. Although, the savory croque madame could make any sane person emotional. I waited patiently to inaugurate the grill this season with chicken kebabs and Peri Peri sauce, while I anticipate the Bloody Marys and mint lemonade becoming hallmarks of our summer. And just as the recipe for smoked paprika egg salad is my lunch dream come true, the prospect of warmer nights promises we’ll also be scooting back for dinner real soon. 

 

Cooking for Jeffrey: A Barefoot Contessa Cookbook

From that special night at Jack's Wife Freda (@garlandcollection)

From that special night at Jack's Wife Freda (@garlandcollection)

Like many home cooks, when in doubt, I turn to Ina. From “my” signature mac n’ cheese to “my” trademark brussel sprouts, the foundation of many of the dishes in my rotation are found within the pages of her Barefoot Contessa Cookbooks. Even last night’s craving for a sweet butternut squash sans sugar was scrumptiously resolved with a dash of olive oil, salt, pepper and maple syrup via a frequent culinary Google search, “Ina Garten recipe for (fill in the blank).” Sometimes I follow the direction to the 1/2 tsp of salt and other times it is a method of preparation or squeeze of lemon that I borrow to inspire when my own creation is just missing something. 

In her latest book Cooking for Jeffrey, Garten fills her devotees in on the relationship that has fortified her recipes and career. A culinary valentine, Garten writes about her husband Jeffrey’s early belief in her and his encouragement to follow her passion. Knowing firsthand what it feels like to be buoyed by a husband’s unwavering confidence and support, her words reminded me to count my blessings…and also to keep cooking for him. In full disclosure, I once again cried from a cookbook without even a chopped onion to blame, but true love is a trigger point for me.

The book’s skillet-roasted lemon chicken and tsimmes have both made their way to our table and the pumpkin flan will no doubt have a Thanksgiving debut.

With considerably less success, seeing that I almost poisoned Mike on my first attempt, I too began cooking as a young college graduate wishing to care for the person I loved, and I can count Ina Garten’s many books as guidance on my road to competence in the kitchen. Her recipes are usually simple in approach, but also flavorful and foolproof. But as I plan to attempt the chocolate creme brulee shared in her latest pages, operating a kitchen blow torch does give me pause. I hope that if he is running for the fire extinguisher, Mike once again remembers that it was made with love. 

 

Food Swings: 125 + Recipes to Enjoy Your Life of Virtue & Vice

In order to curb my compulsion for carbs and brisket, I try to avoid meat and pasta during the week so that on weekends I can blissfully eat like I’m on death row. If health was not an issue, I’d enjoy a steak dinner every night with an appetizer of bolognese and I’d only scoop out a bagel if I could stuff it with pasta. But that sort of gluttony is apparently frowned upon. 

Food Swings, Jessica Seinfeld’s latest cookbook is separated into “Virtues” and “Vice,” offering meal choices ranging from healthful to downright indulgent, depending on your mood or, in my case, day of the week. I wonder what it is says about someone when a cookbook makes them feel understood. 

Nightly family dinners with our two boys feature wholesome ingredients and a variety of flavors and dishes, so cookbooks that include hearty vegetarian options, like Food Swings’ eggplant cauliflower meatballs and “Deceptively Delicious Tacos,”  keep my whole family feeling satisfied with a single dish. Plus, those “almost vegan” tacos call for sour cream, which albeit accidentally, I once literally drank through a straw. I typically switch it out for greek yogurt, which tastes less like sadness than you’d expect, but if Jessica Seinfeld proposes the real deal in a virtuous recipe, I am obligated to follow direction.

As for vices, I spent the better part of an evening planning my Saturday morning cookoff, flipping back and forth between the cinnamon buns and the strawberry shortcake. The sweet and sticky ribs were obviously a given. Chocolate-popcorn-almond-clusters were a hit with the boys during a family movie night screening of “The Money Pit” (I want them to be cultured foodies) and strawberry buckle muffins are now officially in the repetoire. 

The bottom line…As many of you know, I am constantly encouraging people to just cook if you want to cook! Don’t say you can’t because it’s not your thing. It’s not that deep! You don’t have to be a professional cook, the best cook or even a good cook. Just start somewhere. Follow solid recipes for those staple dishes that make people happy and you’ll learn. Have fun. Enjoy the process.  

While there are plenty of recipes in Food Swings for those who already wow guests with their culinary creations (see key lime pie), this is also the perfect cookbook for easing yourself into the enjoyment of finding your happy place in the kitchen, no matter if you are hoping to nurture a family or nourish yourself. Seinfeld’s friend to friend style will give you a comfortable start. Basically, she keeps it real. Plus, she writes about her granny and you can imagine how I feel about that. Many of the recipes, like chicken parmesan and meatballs marinara, are personal takes on traditional dishes that may not be groundbreaking in menu, but are savory signatures for adding to your new epicurean resume. Then you can make me the pasta carbonara. Also the chocolate banana pudding. And the lasagna. But only if it’s the weekend.

Smart Cookie

(From the archives)

smart cookie

“You will have a successful year in business,” read one friend.

“Your magnetic personality will take you far,” read another.

Assuming that mine would be much of the same, I popped a piece of my fortune cookie in my mouth and nonchalantly prepared to recite my tiny prophecy, which I would discreetly stow in my wallet as tangible validation if it positively applied in even the most arbitrary way to anything that was questionable in my life.

Anticipating a manufactured cliché, but hoping for one that I could at least inject with implied significance to project onto Mike during the car ride home, I pulled out the ubiquitous rectangular paper and found this weighty fortune:

“WORK ON IMPROVING YOUR EXERCISE ROUTINE”

Fortune cookies are supposed to reveal factory-packaged slivers of hope or at least the punch line to a dirty joke. But while my friends received words of encouragement and gratuitous praise, I literally unraveled judgment. And did the person that prepared this bold-typed condemnation even recognize the irony that it was baked inside of a cookie?

If I wasn’t five months pregnant with twins and hadn’t arrived at the restaurant to see my dinner companions in huddled whispers with the host, discussing what I later learned was their concern that I would not be able to fit in the booth, this would have seemed less comical. The well-meaning waiter had even asked if I would like something spicy to help induce labor, assuming that at this girth I had to be well past my due date.

At this point I could still get my knee-high boots over my calves and my trademark bangles were still firmly on my wrists. I did not yet know that within a month or two I would no longer be able to push the bracelets over the bear paws that soon passed for my hands or that even Birkenstocks would become a distant memory. I was literally barefoot and pregnant. By the end of my pregnancy, the small tattoo of a delicate, fluttering monarch butterfly that I had emblazoned on my right hip in high school to coyly peak out over my low-slung, vintage bell-bottoms took on the countenance of an angry pterodactyl.

But after many years of heartache in my inability to conceive, I was simply too overcome with bliss and gratitude to indulge vanity or signs. It’s true – love is blind. Plus, I could no longer see the tattoo anyway.

The boys spent the first week with me in the hospital covered in my salty tears. I thought my heart would burst with the love that I felt for them.

But as the months wore on and my love for Sweetlips and The Bean grew, so ultimately did my fear. It wasn’t until they were on the outside and I was on my own that I had any perception of the physical toll that both the years leading up to and the pregnancy itself had taken. Five months after I gave birth, a flight of stairs left me unreasonably winded and my stomach muscles were so weak that I could not sit up in bed without using my arms to pull myself. Not to mention the fact that I had amassed an enviable wardrobe over the years from keen collecting and editorial swag and if I continued to rely on maternity leggings, my sartorial classics would sadly soon be archived.

One afternoon, when the boys were six months, I laid down for a quick rest while they napped. And as my mind wandered, I began to think about all of their tiny accomplishments – the first time Bean smiled. The determination that Sweetlips exuded as he rocked back and forth until he willed himself to roll over. No matter how clichéd, no one can prepare you for the awe you feel in the miracles that are your children.

And then I thought about the milestones to come. The first time we would take them to the beach or teach them to ride bikes. Their first day of kindergarten and the painful, but proud day when we would drop them off at college. As I imagined my tiny little men one day getting married, I began to weep. I decided then and there that I needed to do whatever was in my power to be there.

The next day, I rejoined the gym, met a trainer who has truly given me strength and then literally began running for my life.

While only a time machine will bring my postpartum stomach and boobs back to their pre-baby state, a man recently shouted at me, “You are the hottest piece of meat on the street!”

I was in a dark and desolate alley, running to catch a train out of Penn Station in the hopes of making it home in time to put my now eighteen-month-old babes to sleep, and this kind man who had just been talking to a garbage can clearly did not have all of his faculties. For all I know he was so inebriated that he was mistaking me for actual sidewalk vendor street meat, but once you are insulted by a fortune cookie you feign ignorance for flattery. Exactly one year had passed since my pledge and I was so elated from the unsolicited, if not in fact delusional, catcall that I shouted, “Thank you!”…. Three times.

From the day that I became pregnant with Sweetlips and The Bean, regardless of life’s many challenges, I have woken up each morning feeling eternally grateful for my unexpected good fortune.

And those words of wisdom that I unwrapped during what seems like a lifetime ago? This week I was amused to find them sitting snuggly in my wallet right where they belonged.

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In the spirit of a healthy lifestyle (and because I don't know how to make fortune cookies), here is my all time favorite cookie recipe:

OATMEAL CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

(POSSIBLY STUFFED WITH NUTELLA & MAYBE SPRINKLED WITH SEA SALT)

*Note: I adapted this cookie recipe from haphazard instructions passed along in an old email chain more than a decade ago and I’ve been baking them ever since. I tried to put them into proper format for you here. They should be golden on the outside and soft and scrumptious on the inside. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2.5 Cups Oatmeal

1 Cup Butter

1 Cup Sugar

1 Cup Brown Sugar

3 Eggs

1 Teaspoon Vanilla

2 Cups Flour

2 Cups Flour

1/2 Teaspoon Salt

1 Teaspoon Baking Powder

1 Teaspoon Baking Soda

12 Ounces Chocolate Chips

*Nutella (optional)

*Sea Salt (optional)

 

Blend oatmeal in a blender or food processor to a fine powder. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. 

Cream the butter and both sugars. Add all of the ingredients except the chocolate chips to the bowl and mix using a standing or handheld mixer (or serious elbow grease). The “batter” will not appear wet, but somewhat grainy — it should still stick together when you roll it into a ball. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Roll into 1 inch balls and place 2 inches apart on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. (*Optional Nutella: Press a thumb into the center of each cookie ball. Fill thumbprint with a small teaspoon of Nutella. Press the cookie dough back over the nutella covering the nutella completely and reshape into balls if necessary.) Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

*Optional: Sprinkle with seas salt right when they come out of the oven.

Enjoy!