Tag Archives: chocolate chips

Salty Oatmeal Cookie Chocolate Bars–and On Being A Wallflower/flour

“Because you saw me when I was invisible.”

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I was thinking about this post last week and Googled that quote, expecting to be smothered by a deluge of cliche love saying sites and poems written by angsty teens with next-to-nil metrical know-how. Instead, I was thrown into a Flashback Friday moment when images like this and this popped up one after another, reminding me of why I liked The Princess Diaries so much in the first place: because who doesn’t feel like they’re an invisible little nobody some days?

I know some people who thrive on being invisible. They would Avada Kedavra the holy hippogriffs out of somebody to own an Invisibility Cloak. (Excuse me, I have Harry Potter on the mind lately–clearly.)

Then there’s me–I need attention and notice like Robin needs Batman, a.k.a. a lot. It would not be inaccurate to say that I am a human dog except much less adorable. (Debatable: I know.)

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I’m not talking about wanting negative attention or experiencing desperate withdrawals in my room’s darkest corner, but there’s no doubt that my parents raised a bouncing baby extrovert. I’m the only one in my family who feeds off human energy the way the monsters in Sailor Moon do: fervidly and unceasingly (seriously, do they never give up?).

What even my closest friends may not know is that I can also be super self-conscious about my hyper-enthusiasm. I’ll laugh if you tell me with a straight face that I am way too excited (because yeah, I am), but if you tell me that in an aw-look-how-cute-it-is-that-she’s-excited or deadpan way chances are I’d like nothing better than to punch you in the face.

Just kidding–I don’t like to get my knuckles dirty. But you’d probably see me skulking around a dark alleyway later that night, all brooding and Edward Cullen-like.

Okay, I wouldn’t. But you get the point.

Ala = super self-conscious ball of physics-defying energy who likes attention.

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Do any of you out there feel the same way? I’ve always just assumed that the road to food bloggerdom is paved with extroverts, because who else would spend half their waking hours publicly documenting the other half of their life, but that’s probably not true. Even as an extrovert, I loved writing because it didn’t require me to be “on” all the time or think of unparalleled witticisms on the spot (by the way, I suck at instant witticisms so if we ever meet in person, you’ll probably want to start the conversation on a particularly slooooow note). I don’t think I’m an awe-inspiring writer or anything, but I most certainly wouldn’t consider myself a natural A-game talker, either.

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I am dreadful at mingling at parties or among large confident groups of people–hence the “wallflower girl” nomenclature–and even when it seems like I am totally in my element, I am probably gauging every facial tick and restless eye twitch for disinterest from my listener. I actually do think of my interactions in terms of the Relationship Meter from the Sims game, which may not be an accurate representation of how relationships work in real life.

And when I’m the only one who’s not holding a drink or laughing along like hurr-hurr-hurr at some dumb humor joke that everyone has managed to find funny, I’d like nothing better than to melt into the wallpaper behind me like that creepy Clay Aiken creature who invisibly watches you in your room and serenades you with the suggestion that he could be your perfect man.

Yeah, I never understood that song either.

Whenever I start to feel particularly Clay Aiken-y, though, I have to remind myself that the total number of people in the room who probably notice my awkwardness is one: me.

Judgy folks will still judge, but being awkward is sort of like being a fart–yes, people notice, but most of the time nobody will say anything and everybody will forget about it, unless you’re a particularly big silent smelly fart, in which case people won’t forget but then again you should’ve known better than to go back for seconds on the refried beans anyway.

If we ever meet in person, these are the types of terrible, not particularly reassuring metaphors toward which you can look forward. Enjoy.

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But let’s go back to where I started when I first wrote this rambling post: invisibility. As far as I know (and feel free to correct me if I’m wrong), there are two types of social invisibles in this world: those who like being invisible, and those who think they are invisible.

One of the reasons I took up baking in the first place was because I wanted the friends and acquaintances in my life to feel noticed. Trust me: it can be difficult, creepy, not to mention imposing to walk up to a lonely wallflower and tell them that they aren’t as invisible as they may think. Do I walk up to the person who just farted and start small talk while pretending to ignore the doomsday fumes enveloping their three-foot bubble?

That’s probably the last thing a farter needs at that mortifyingly awkward moment: company. But if you plop a little bag of home-baked cookie bars with a nice note on their desk for them to find the next day,  it’s a gesture that they’d probably appreciate. That bag of bars says, Hey so this has nothing to do with you farting at the party last night not that I noticed or anything but I just wanted to say that we should be friends, so yay, let’s be friends through cookies.

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A few weeks ago, I was browsing through Facebook and found some posts by a good friend whom I haven’t seen in a long time but who is also one of the kindest, most genuine people I know. From what I read, it sounded like she was having a tough time at her new job–it was one of those nonchalant-but-really-not-nonchalant status updates that wants to be noticed, but is afraid to ask.

“We accept the love we think we deserve,” that wonderful novel-turned-film The Perks of Being a Wallflower reminds us. Apart from my family (and even then, sometimes), I am terrible at accepting love, but I do believe that everyone deserves it, especially when we think that nobody notices how badly we need it. Some people like being invisible, but nobody likes feeling invisible. That night after we chatted, I made these wonderful salted oatmeal cookie bars, packed them up, and shipped them up north the next day.

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Then of course I forgot all about them, until I opened up my Facebook a few days later and found this awesome, surprising message:

What a super surprise! Thank you!!! You, you, you Big Sweetie!”

And then this Facebook status she posted:

“Wow! I came home yesterday, tired and low, when I discovered a package of salty chocolate granola bars made by the amazing Ala, child lit scholar/master chef!! What a wonderful surprise! (You can check out her web page at wallflourgirl.com)

If awkwardness is like farting, then giving is like giving your kid a five-dollar bill at the carnival prize booth–they run off with a greenback and come back with their arms so laden with STUFF (they still give out those giant inflatable hammer toys?!) that you can hardly believe all that came out of a measly slip of paper currency. I read my friend’s message with a huge grin and danced around the room for a few minutes, because giving rocks. And the funny thing about giving to others is that you’re not just letting them know you notice them: chances are, they’ll notice you a little bit more in return, too.

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So that’s the story behind these salty oat bars, which were my first experiment with using coarse sea salt (by the way, I am a total convert now–it’s so cheap! Bought a huge box at the dollar store). My friend loves chocolate so I threw in a few handfuls for good measure, then whipped up a batch of good ol’ chewy chunky oat bars and sprinkled it with a liberal dose of sea salt for good measure.

These bars are the perfect way to show a friend that he or she’s not invisible! They’re a wonderful, addicting mix of salty and slightly sweet, with a perfect balance of chocolate heartiness for care packages. What do you think–is there anyone you can think of who needs a little noticing today?

Ala

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Filed under Bars

Salty and Sweet Compost Cookies–And Defining My Self-Worth

How do you define your self-worth?

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This post has been waiting to be written and published for nearly three years now.

A few weeks ago, I grabbed lunch with a friend at one of my favorite vegan restaurants. We had a great talk, as usual–about our lives, about our romances, about our attitudes toward life more broadly. About halfway through our lunch, though, my friend said something that stopped my breath short and almost made me drop my fork straight into a bed of dressing-drenched iceberg lettuce.

“When I look in the mirror these days,” she said, with a radiant smile, “I see a friend. And I say to that friend, ‘Hey girl, do you want to grab dinner? How about going to watch a movie?”

Then she added: “I’m the happiest I’ve ever been in my life.”

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As far as I can remember, I have never said anything like that to myself. Back in the blissful days of high school, when I was utterly content with my life and self-image, and pulling out on top in most aspects of my life, I had no reason to tell myself that I loved me, and wanted to take me out for some awesome treats. I simply did it. Feel like having 3 Haagen Daas bars before dinner? Go for it! Play Final Fantasy for 14 hours today? Sure, why not? You earned it, girl. And even if you haven’t, you do it because you’re your own human being.

The first time I remember being aware of a different feeling was in my junior year of college. That year, I did two things: a) stopped taking great care of myself, body and well-being, and b) became a much harsher critic of my own value as an individual. Though I was never crazy critical of my own body, I was definitely suffering from extreme stress (in my living situation, in my extracurriculars, in my coursework), and a part of me turned instinctively to regulating the only things I felt I could still control: food, and sleep. In short, it was everything about my health and my physical body on which I felt I needed to clamp down.

To be clear: I wasn’t anorexic, I was never underweight, but I was clearly bent on depriving myself of necessities because I hadn’t “earned” them or worked to my full potential yet. Sometimes I would wake up at 6 and wouldn’t let myself leave my room until 4 in the afternoon because, damn it, I wasn’t going anywhere until I had finished writing my entire piece-de-resistance. That year, I wrote a play for a creative writing class that was later performed by students in the theater department for our class. It featured two characters: a boy journalist who was lurking in the girls’ bathroom trying to get a story about eating disorders, and the girl in the stall next door, who used bulimia as a source of maintaining some semblance of control over her life. Looking back at the story several years later, I began to realize the unconscious identification that went into writing that play, even though I didn’t see it at the time. Control was the name of the game; self-destructiveness was, sadly, incidental.

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Think back to the first time you learned that generosity isn’t always reciprocated by those who receive; that perhaps kind people do get the short end of the stick sometimes, because the most deserving person you know in life was suddenly taken away from you; that fairness isn’t a rule for living, it’s a guideline and a hope. You can’t undo the experiences that have opened your eyes, and during that year I grew harshly critical of myself in every way imaginable. I hated feeling like a victim who stayed out all the time because I didn’t want to go home, nothing I did seemed good enough or grand enough to warrant praise, and I certainly did not want to eat or leave to use the bathroom or do anything but throw myself down on my bed and cry during the times when I felt compelled to keep myself locked up in my room because I didn’t want to face my roommate situation.

Life sucked. It was sucky. It all sucked, and I felt completely alone drowning in that suckiness.

I had never defined my self-worth according to my physical image because to be honest, I had always been comfortable with my athletic, petite build. Body types were incidental, not definitive. But when I started slimming down during these months of avoiding the kitchen (because then I’d have to go home) or grabbing dessert instead of real meals to last me the 0whole day because my body craved sugars, I noticed that my build shrank and started resembling something that looked (according to the fashion magazines) kind of appealing. It was at this point that I started thinking, “Huh, maybe if you pull harder on the rein, you’ll actually be able to take control over something for once!” It sounds scary now, but it felt like the only reaction to have at the time.

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The same went for sleep: I began sleeping less and less, which made my body even more fatigued than it already was. I became a work-o-holic with a drive to prove that I could accomplish things. Outcomes I couldn’t control, but sleep I could. It was like somebody had pulled me aside and said to me, “See? You can make yourself do these things, no problem. You’re the head honcho here. You don’t need to do normal people things like sleep.”   What had started as a desperate attempt to regain authority over my own life turned into both a physical and psychological battle. Probably the hardest part was explaining my constant exhaustion and unhappiness to the people in my life who noticed, especially my family and certainly those involved in my living situation. I wanted to scream to the latter, “It’s your fault I’m this way! If you would just stop pigeon-holing me into this spiral of helplessness, maybe I wouldn’t endure this gnawing feeling in my stomach and actually step out of my room into the kitchen again and eat something!”

But one thing I’ve always been known to do is brew. It’s a terrible, and terribly self-destructive, mindset. Sure, I was unhappy as heck. But I would rather have others notice how unhappy I was and maybe do something about it than concede and have people think I was maybe more okay with things than I really was. If you step out of your room and go to the kitchen, my depressed brain told me, you’ve lost. They’ll think you’re fine with it again. Well, maybe if you stay in your room for fourteen hours without coming out once, they’ll notice something’s wrong! Maybe they’ll actually begin to feel BAD. It was not an easy time, and it was not a happy place to be.

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As it turns out, the situation didn’t begin to reverse itself until I moved out two years later and away to grad school. To say that things have healed would be an overstatement–they’ve been bandaged up very well, though, and I’m still working every day to make it work better. But remember what I said about not being able to un-know something? Since that time, the nagging perceptions about my body and my self-worth began snaking their way into my consciousness. Suddenly, I became aware that I had a figure, and it didn’t match ‘pretty.’ It didn’t say, “I’m in control of me.”Even now, as I’ve been able to embrace myself more and more, I have had to fight tooth and nail to do it. I have a lot more trouble sleeping nowadays under stressful periods (no matter how minor) than I used to have.

If I am a person who brews, though, I am also a ferocious fighter. And this past year in particular, after the end of my grueling qualifying exams and what seems like the naissance of a very happy period in my life, I have been fighting like a momma bear defending her cubs, because I only get one life, and my health and well-being are worth that. These were all of the thoughts that raced through my head when my friend said that simple phrase: “When I look in the mirror, I see a friend.” Today, as I write this post, I realize that this is the phrase I have been missing from my life for quite some time now. In addition to my Wall of Smiles, I’m making an effort to tell myself every single day, “Girlfriend, how’s it going? Let’s go sit down and have a meal!”

Though I know some people cope in different ways, I haven’t stood in front of the mirror to tell myself that I’m beautiful as many do as they begin to heal. That’s because deep down, I don’t think my friend–that is, myself–needs to be told that, just like I don’t need my friends in general to tell me what they think of my physical looks in order to have a blast or just relax. Like any friendship, I simply want to take me as I am, move on, and do something fun because I know I deserve it. I want to be concerned for my own health and for my well-being, which both suffered incredibly during those years and are paying the price even now (though hopefully less so), in sicknesses, in anxiety, in a weakened body, in inadvertently damaged relationships.

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But it’s worth noting that today, I really am at one of the happiest and most confident points in my life that I remember being, period. Maybe as great as (or even better than) my happy high school days, which I was lucky enough to experience so positively. I try very hard not to inflict physiological damage on myself by depriving myself of things in favor of being the “best”–I’ll catch those hours of sleep and wake up to keep working again. Sure, I am still prone to lots of anxiety I didn’t feel before my drastic experience, but I think the body image part of the equation has improved significantly since I started thinking of it as an incidental part of my existing lifestyle (as I had in and before college), not a ruling force of self-worth and self-control.

One thing I did notice was that after I bought my own web domain for Wallflour Girl and really began taking over it as my own project, whose every aspect I could tweak and tinker with–and as I began bouncing back from the post-exam haul with more energy than I remember having in a long time–I began feeling liberated. I started getting in touch with a group of beautiful, amazing bloggers from around the world. I began reaching out to companies and earning their recognition–and trust–in return. In spite of the stress and in spite of the uncertainty, I felt great.

I felt, in the words of a spider named Charlotte who wrote about a humble pig: Radiant.

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And that’s where I’m at right now, ironically penning this post into the wee hours of the night (but this time because I wanted to, not because I’m trying to prove a point to myself). I am eternally grateful to my friend for our conversation, which got me thinking in a way I never thought I’d express in my blogging until now. This post only scrapes the very tip of an entire life story and history that (trust me) has many more details and less angelic commentary on my part, but I’m glad to have written it.I’m posting it in the hopes that anyone else reading who feels like their life is out of their hands or lonely or too much to handle can hear what I should have heard a long time ago, and what I’m so happy I’ve learned now: When you look in the mirror, look for a friend.

Thank you, friends and family, for all your support–and thank you, dear readers, for all of your thoughts: please know that I’m doing a silly little thing like beaming at my computer screen as I push the Publish button right now, thinking of you all. <3 Things really have come a long way since then.

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I’m leaving you today with these Salty and Sweet Compost Cookies–filled with the usual sweet things like chocolate chips and Oreos, but some pleasant surprises like potato chips and pretzels–because that’s what life is about; a mix of things the most hodge-podge things that might not seem to belong together. But often you have to take the salty with the sweet, and most of the time, it will turn out beautifully. For all those other times, know that you still have one heck of a batch of cookies waiting in the wings for you, cheering you on one bite at a time.

Love,

Ala

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PS I contemplated cutting my face out of this gif because I was wearing my grubby, have-not-showered-all-day hair and clothes, but decided it would be against the spirit of this post to do so. So here I am, grubbily shown and all :) I promise I wasn’t trying to look grumpy, I was just concentrating really hard on not getting my lens smattered with bits of flying food.

PPS I ultimately learned the hard way that throwing greasy potato chips at the lens of your expensive camera is not a very bright idea…

Salty and Sweet Compost Cookies

You'll love that moment when your friends sink their teeth in and their eyes go wide--this is not your average chocolate chip cookie! With a perfect balance of salty and sweet, this is my favorite cookie to date, and uses my favorite CCC as a base. Perfect for those who need to change up their cookie repertoire!

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup butter or margarine
  • 1 cup brown sugar (I used dark--light will also work)
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed hard pretzels
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed potato chips (original flavor)
  • 1/2 cup lightly crushed Oreos (optional)

Instructions

  1. In a microwave-safe bowl, heat your butter on HIGH until it is halfway melted. What this means: half of your butter should be pooled into a buttery liquid, while the other half of your butter should be incredibly soft but not quite melted down. (If you accidentally melt your butter all the way, don't worry! This will also work, but in this case you'll want to make sure to chill your dough extra well.)
  2. Transfer butter into a large mixing bowl. Add both sugars and beat in until combined.
  3. Mix in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla.
  4. Add flour, cornstarch, baking soda, cinnamon (optional), and salt. Stir into wet ingredients until just incorporated.
  5. Gently fold in chocolate chips, pretzels, chips, and Oreos.
  6. Chill your dough in the refrigerator for at least 3 hours before baking. Note: I am the world's most impatient person and have made these cookies after chilling the dough in the freezer for 90 minutes. Whenever possible, though, give your dough a chance to chill until completely firm.
  7. After your dough has chilled: Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a cookie sheet.
  8. Scoop out generous rounds of cookie dough (approximately 3-4 tablespoons). Mound them high rather than wide on your cookie sheet so that when they spread, they will remain nice and thick.
  9. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes, until outside has just set (light golden brown) but centers appear slightly gooey and underbaked.
  10. Remove from oven and allow cookies to cool on cookie sheet, on the stovetop. They will finish baking up, so make sure you don't skip this step!
  11. Sink your teeth into these a la Dracula. Enjoy with a cup of milk if you wish.
http://www.wallflourgirl.com/2014/06/08/salty-sweet-compost-cookies/

As an exercise after writing this post, I wanted to try reflecting on my own principles about self-worth so I can work on diversifying and really recognizing what matters to me about myself, and I wanted to be completely honest doing it. So here is my honest breakdown, as of June 2014:

My Current Standards for Defining My Self-Worth:

Academic success: 25%

Professional/career-oriented success: 20%

Social and/or extracurricular affirmation: 15%

Writing/Blogging: 15%

Body image: 15%

Relationship status: 5%

Other: 5%

How do you define your self-worth? I’d love to hear your thoughts and your stories in the comments!

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Filed under Cookies

Guest Post from Gotta Get Baked: Brown Sugar Turtles Cookies

I’m so excited to introduce today’s fantabulously fierce guest blogger today, Nancy from Gotta Get Baked!

Have you guys met Nancy? I can’t believe it’s been a scant 2 months since I first found her amazing, witty, stitch-in-my-side-hilarious blog, but after we had dinner in Vancouver two months ago we both became quickly convinced of our past-life status as clones. With me as the slightly less brilliant and profound clone.

You’ll see what I mean when you read the following guest post–I relished every word of her crisp, clear writing voice, and she’s humorous to boot. So without further ado, folks: here she is!

Update: In her main post, Nancy mentions the Isla Vista shootings and violence–against women, in particular–that relate in some ways to the post below, though she wrote it well before the tragic events on Friday. I’d like to send my prayers to those whose lives have been changed by the tragedy, and plead with you all to remain vigilant, compassionate, and above all, safe. 

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Hi everyone, I’m Nancy of gotta get baked. Ala ‘n I have been having a little lady love affair lately, singing each other’s praises and appearing (probably far too often) on each other’s blogs. What can I say? I’m a ridiculously easy person to love.

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Blogging has made me braver and bolder. I’m a naturally suspicious person, believing that everyone is dastardly and evil until they prove me wrong. I was always “that girl” at the club (back in my clubbing days when I was young and beautiful). My friends would be dancing and having a good time and I’d be the one with my arms crossed, glaring at the men who would dare to start grinding against us in the hopes they’d get lucky because seriously dude, a) don’t fucking touch me cause I don’t know you from Adam and b) don’t even think about going near any of our drinks, you roofie-toting-scumbag! I ride transit with my bag clutched to my chest because everyone is a pickpocket. I don’t want to sell my shit on craigslist because with my luck, I’ll be murdered, dismembered and I STILL wouldn’t have gotten rid of whatever crap I’m trying to sell.

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I’ve gone straight up crazy. When I first started blogging, I didn’t use my real name anywhere. Any photos I’d post of me would have my face hidden behind giant sunglasses, a glass of wine or those computer generated swirls. Fast forward a year and I’ve created a Google+ account using my real name. MY REAL NAME, people! I got business cards printed with my real name on it. I talk about where I live and my profession, meaning it’s damn easy to hunt me down. Continue reading

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Filed under Cookies

Best Chewy Biscoff (Cookie Butter) Chocolate Chip Blondies

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(Did you know: this is the 100th blog post to appear on Wallflourgirl–thanks to all my readers for helping make this possible!)

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With love from,

Ala

Do you have a particularly special photograph that tells a story about a person, place, or event? Please share!

(Psst! Have you seen and liked my blog’s brand new Facebook page yet? Juuust checking.)

Marvelous Mondays Link Party with Features

Inside BruCrew Life

What's Cooking Love?
CCC-3 PicMonkey Collage copy
Tuesday Talent Show Link Party at Chef in Training! It is held weekly and has some amazing link ups!
Will Cook For Smiles
Have you seen my Biscoff Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe? It uses a similar dough and is the perfect cookie version of this recipe.
Best Chewy Biscoff (Cookie Butter) Chocolate Chip Blondies
Ingredients:
  • 3/4 cup butter, softened
  • 1 heaping cup cookie butter (What is cookie butter?)
  • 1 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a 9×13-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, cream together softened butter and cookie butter spread. Add sugar and continue creaming until light & fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. Beat in egg, egg yolk, and vanilla extract.
  4. Add flour, baking soda, cinnamon (optional), and salt. Mix until just incorporated. Gently fold in chocolate chips.
  5. Spread batter evenly into prepared baking pan.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven’s temperature. You will want to remove them from the oven while they still look soft and slightly underbaked–place baking pan on top of oven and allow blondies to cool. They will continue baking in the pan for that great, perfect chewy factor.
 

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Cookies

o.m.f.g. (Oreos made for gods) bars & producti-baking

o.m.f.g.–stick around, I’ll explain. Trust me, you won’t want to miss this post OR recipe.

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We’ll get to the o.m.f.g. factor in these bars in just a second.

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For those of you who are just joining in here (welcome!) and for those of you returning folks (welcome back!), you should know that I am an avid literary gal. My appetite for books and brownies is voracious. If it ever boiled down to choosing between (Lewis) Carroll and chocolate chip cookies, we would have a dilemma on our hands, and we’re not talking the insignificant moment of panic you experienced in high school when you saw that huge zit pop up on your nose five hours before senior ball.

No, we’re talking tearing-my-heartstrings-and-running-them-through-the-paper-shredder dilemma.

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I love books.

I also love to bake and cook.

In fact, Bake + cOOK = book. True story.

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The problem is that sometimes, reading for my program (I’m a second-year grad student, en longgg route to an English Literature Ph.D) can sometimes be a drag. Trying to sludge through hundreds or even thousands of pages a week, in addition to grading Mt. Everest stacks of student papers, evokes horrors unrivaled by even the most chilling Gothic novels.

The solution is, of course, procrastibaking. It’s just what it sounds like–procrastinating through baking.

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This coming Fall quarter, I will be taking my qualifying exam to receive my Master’s and (hopefully) move onto writing a dissertation prospectus. Big, big stuff. As incentive to get me through reading lists of over 140 literary and scholarly works before November, I’ve come up with what will hopefully be an effective counter to the problem of procrastibaking.

I call it PRODUCTIBAKING.

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(On my kitchen table: Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen. British Romanticism List Book #1)

So here’s the idea:

I have approximately 140 works of literature to wade through between now and November. Rather than using my baking as a way to procrastinate from working, I’m reappropriating it as an incentive for productivity.

For every book, volume of stories, or other text I finish this year for my qualifying exams, I will bake something and do a photoshoot that includes the book in some way.

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The idea behind this is threefold:

1) I’ll be more effective with my work if I operate on a reward rather than guilt-based system.

2) I’ll have you guys to keep me accountable as I work towards this monumental goal!

3) I hope I’m bringing my love of books and baking together in a way that is as fun for you as it is for me.

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As I plow through my reading lists, I’ll update a visual photobook of items I’ve checked off and the ones still to come, so you can keep up with me and my progress. Check out the “Producti-baking” page on my blog (coming soon!). I’d love to hear what you guys think about this, so be sure to leave any feedback or other brilliant suggestions for improving this system.

Okay, but enough of that. Let’s get on to some real o.m.f.g.

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o.m.f.g. bars, otherwise known as Oreos made for gods bars. 

Did you see the Slutty Cheesecake Bars that I posted and were a smash success two weeks ago?

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  These chewy, flavor-packed bars operate on the same principle of souping up an Oreo, but this time we’ve got a chewy mocha chocolate chip blondie base topped with a perfectly spiced cinnamony snickerdoodle, both of which sandwich whole, unadulterated creamy Oreos.

And yeah, I’m taking full credit for this one.

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So what are you waiting for? Grab a book, snatch up an o.m.f.g. bar, bask in the summer sun, and get ready to turn over the leaf to a new chapter in our lives.

Summer productibaking, here we come!

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Tuesday Talent Show Link Party at Chef in Training! It is held weekly and has some amazing link ups!

Ala

o.m.f.g. (Oreos made for gods) bars 
Yield: 1 9×9-inch baking pan
Ingredients:
For mocha chocolate chip blondie base (adapted from Smitten Kitchen)
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons instant coffee granules
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips or chunks
  • 16 whole Oreos

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease 9×9-inch baking pan and set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together softened butter and sugar until fluffy. Beat in egg. Dissolve coffee granules in vanilla and stir into wet mixture. Add flour and salt; mix in until just incorporated.. Gently fold in chocolate chips. Place 16 whole Oreos on top of blondie crust and press them gently in until they stick to the dough.
  3. Spread dough evenly in prepared pan. Bake for about 7 minutes in oven–it should not be fully cooked through. Remove pan from oven and allow to cool briefly while you prepare snickerdoodle layer.

For snickerdoodle layer:

Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction: (I’ve used this recipe before for standalone snickerdoodle blondies, to great

Ingredients:

  • 6 tablespoons butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar + 1 tablespoon white sugar, divided
  • 6 tablespoons brown sugar + 1 tablespoon brown sugar, divided
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 egg yolk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup and 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 5/8 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon

Directions:

  1. Cream together butter, 1/2 cup white sugar, and 6 tablespoons brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and 1/2 egg yolk (reserve the over half for part of a breakfast omelette!). Add vanilla, then mix in flour, baking powder, and salt until just incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips.
  2. Pour batter over prepared mocha blondies + Oreos (recipe above).
  3. In a separate bowl, mix together 1 tbsp white sugar, 1 tbsp brown sugar, and 1 tbsp cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly over snickerdoodle batter, then gently swirl through batter with the tip of a knife. Place entire pan into preheated oven (still 350 degrees F) and bake for 25-35 minutes, until snickerdoodle layer has set and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  4. Remove from oven and cool completely before cutting into 16 squares. Then…omfg, enjoy.

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Brownies & Chocolates

Choco-Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies

NOTE: I was writing the following blog post when I learned the news about the Boston Marathon explosion. To those of you in Boston or with loved ones in Boston, you’re all in our hearts, thoughts, and sympathies. If you’d like to share your thoughts and condolences, please feel free to do so here. Boston, take care.

Instead of writing an alternate entry to commemorate the victims and their families, I have decided to go ahead and post my original entry. On a day of tragedy, there is that small hope of reminder that tells us to cling tightly to those we love–to live and laugh with them. My hope is that this post will bring a smile to your faces in the midst of all the conflicting, image-laden media accounts and that you can cherish Boston by sharing your smiles with those you love during these difficult times.

In a way, it’s appropriate that this post features ying yang, or two-sided cookies. Everything in life has two sides to it–you just have to figure out how to make the best of both. With terrible tragedy, also comes the stunning realization that there are heroes out there from every stripe of life waiting to help, and that the heroes we can appreciate most are often standing right beside us. Appreciate the heroes in your life today–tell them how much they mean to you.

****

There are some people in this world who are good at lots of things. We all have that friend who was high school ASB president, child actor/actress, swim team captain, math-lete extraordinaire, five-time winner of the MTV Best Smile Award, and a kick-ass poker tournament champion to boot. I often roar in their general direction from my underachieving, lazy day couch.

Some days I function just enough that I can overboil myself a bowl of instant ramen (yes, this is actually possible) before flopping with all the grace of an elephant seal into bed. This week, for instance, I’ve been a slobby mess scrambling to figure out my summer plans and still trying to stay on top of my own work, along with all of my students’ work. I sit here in my tattered Pooh pajamas thinking to myself, “Geez, you’re hopeless!”

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It’s on the mopiest, Eeyore-iest of afternoons that I force myself to think of some things I’m actually pretty good at.

One thing I love is storytelling. I wrote some–okay, a lot of–erm, fanfiction in my day, and had a modest following that I’ve always been pretty proud of. Cue embarrassing romantic escapades in which Usagi (that’s Serena from the dubbed version of the anime, Sailor Moon) stares deeply into Mamoru’s (that’s Darien’s) piercing blue eyes and runs a trembling hand through his soft ebony hair before he sweeps her up into her arms and leans down to kiss her.

Yeah. Hai there, fanfic alter-ego. Let me wipe my hard drive and go skulk in a dank cobwebbed corner now before anybody recognizes me.

I’m never telling any of you my pen name. Ever. So don’t ask.

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I’ve always considered myself more of a storyteller than a baker or a cook or a foodie. Do any of you writers out there feel the same way? I do, 25 hours, every single day.

Writing always came pretty naturally to me. I never really had problems drumming up an audience for my stories, online or otherwise. I once wrote a 250,000 word story for a fanfic/original story Valentine’s Day contest in 2 weeks and ended up winning a nice shiny virtual badge. To this day, it’s the highlight of my online writing career–and imagine how proud my parents and friends were that I had eked out all of one other contestant for the shiny virtual gold.

Oh, yeah. Did I not mention that only one other person entered? Derp.

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To be completely fair, she’s about the biggest name in the fandom. Like, a really, really big name. And now she’s a published author and I’m an underpaid graduate student with a shiny virtual badge. I should probably put this on my CV…along with all of my other great voluntary and unpaid escapades.

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One thing I am not–naturally, at least–is a good chef. Cheese curdles at the mere mention of my name, and the milk in my fridge trembles so badly it turns into one big milkshake.

Milkshakes. Yum.

Ask my friends. Anyone who knew me before or even during college can attest to the fact that I was not born with a spatula for a hand. When asked whether I had cumin in my pantry, I once answered, “Bless you. Did you sneeze? Here’s a tissue.”

It wasn’t until junior year of college that I even learned how to boil vegetables. For some reason, I always thought you dumped the chopped vegetables into the water first and then turned the heat off right before it started boiling. My dad was a total saint on this score. Case in point: after I strutted around like a rooster and served him the totally raw vegetables over a plate of oversteamed rice, he simply said, “Well, more nutrients.”

Raw vegetables = nutrients. Bless him.

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As you can see, I’ve come quite a ways since then. These days, I’m baking at the speed of light and having a fantastic time sharing all of my oven adventures, but I still have WAY more baking failures than anyone ever believes. One of these days, I’m going to compile a collage of all the epic failures I’ve had in the kitchen (not just cracked cheesecakes, but charcoal-burnt pans over unattended stovetops and an oil fire that I nearly tried putting out with water which you should never do!!).

These ying-yang, perfectly chewy chocolaty and peanut butter-packed cookies from Sally’s Baking Addiction are a godsend that you will not mess up. Trust me on this one. My oven has the temper of a hormonal teenager and this is one of the few batches of cookies that came out chewy, fluffy, and packed with chocolate-and-PB goodness.

I HIGHLY recommend these for those of you who love chocolate and PB, and want a fancy-looking addition to your cookie tray that won’t throw you into fits of agony about whether they will “turn out.” All you need is to give yourself some extra time for dough chilling while you chill as well and make these scrumptious, simple, sassy cookies!

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And now, excuse me while I go off to determine whether Draco and Hermione are canon.

Er. I mean, while I go nab another one of these scrumptious cookies. (Because no lie, I will do it.)

Ala

Don’t wait–print this!

Choco-Peanut Butter Ying Yang Cookies
Yield: 2 dozen cookies
Original recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction
 
For the chocolate cookies
Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 large egg (carefully separate it in half and reserve other half for the PB cookie recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 5 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet (or dark or milk)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Add to wet ingredients and stir in until just combined. Carefully mix in the milk, then fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (See baking instructions below.)

For the peanut butter chocolate chip cookies:

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened
  • 2 tablespoons white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 6 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
  • 1/2 large egg (reserved from chocolate cookie recipe)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips, semi-sweet (or dark or milk)

Directions:

  1. In a medium bowl, cream together butter and both sugars until light and fluffy. Mix in peanut butter, then add egg and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add flour, baking soda, and salt to wet ingredients and stir in until just combined. Fold in chocolate chips. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or overnight. (See baking instructions below.)

Baking instructions for choco-peanut butter ying yang cookies:

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease a baking sheet and set aside.
  2. Removing chilled dough from fridge, roll a medium-sized ball (about 3/4th the size of a golf ball) of chocolate dough, then roll a ball of the same size of peanut butter dough. Carefully smoosh the two together side by side, then roll that into a perfect round ball. Set on baking sheet and continue rolling ying-yang dough balls until you’ve finished with all the dough. (If you used too much of one and not enough of the other, you can always bake the cookies in just one flavor!)
  3. Bake in preheated oven for approximately 10-12 minutes, and no more than 12-13 minutes. The cookies will seem slightly underdone when you remove them from the oven, but they’ll firm up if you leave them on the sheet on top of the oven for about another 10-15 minutes. Don’t overbake–otherwise your cookies won’t be chewy and fluffy!

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cookies

Magic Cookie Butter Bars

When’s the last time you felt so happy or inspired by something that you squealed, or wanted to really, really badly?

This week has been full of those moments. This week has also been a total vortex of busybody heckishness, resulting in a sleep-deprived mental state and horribly dry left eye. It’s funny how often these two go hand in hand, isn’t it? Emotional schizophrenia can be so tiring! I’d really rather just wrestle a grizzly bear or something.

I’m sure that would be much easier than grading a bunch of papers on Call of the Wild or Winnie-the-Pooh.

 Fortunately, right when I reach the point where I’m ready to throw in the towel and stalk the forests in order to satisfy my primordial instincts of bloodlust, something good usually happens.

To give you an example: early this morning I arrived at the office to find one of the other TA’s looking completely faint. Her first ever guest lecture was in a half hour’s time, and she had spent weeks exhausting herself over preparing for it. We talked about it and agreed that it was just a matter of getting it over with, and that she’d do just fine.

She even told me how she’d been thinking about how I lead discussions, and don’t get overly worked up over whether I know every little bit of info ever written about Lewis Carroll, because I love turning those gaps into a dialogue between my students and myself.

Flour Power: “When you wake up in the morning, Pooh,” said Piglet at last, “what’s the first thing you say to yourself?”“What’s for breakfast?” said Pooh. “What do you say, Piglet?””I say, I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” said Piglet.Pooh nodded thoughtfully. “It’s the same thing,” he said.” –Winnie the Pooh, A.A. Milne

That was squeal potential moment #1. Bear hugs superseded any residual thoughts of bear wrestling that might’ve been running through my mind a moment before.

Well, kindness begets kindness. An hour later, she came back into the office with a huge grin and plenty of compliments under her belt about how well she had done.

That was squeal moment #2. Don’t you love it when you can squeal for somebody else’s happiness, despite the spiraling hole of despair underneath your own feet?

I just had squeal moment #3 as I was typing just now–my adviser told the class that he’s bringing an original replica of the teddy bears on which Winnie-the-Pooh, i.e. Edward Bear was based to class on Thursday.

If you see a tiny girl heading for the hills with a giant stuffed bear in her arms, you’ll know what happened. The 100 Acre Woods is kind of like the Hogwarts I never got into. I’m still waiting for my owl post, by the way.

Absolute magic.

Funflour Fact #8: Did you know that Winnie-the-Pooh wasn’t always the red-shirted tubby bear the world knows and loves? His original name was Edward Bear, and he made his first appearance in 1922 in a popular satirical periodical called Punch Magazine! It wasn’t until 1924 that he was officially dubbed Winnie-the-Pooh in his self-titled book by A.A. Milne.  

Kind of like these magic cookie bars.

Try these!

Magic Cookie Butter Bars
Yield: 1 9×13-inch baking pan
Ingredients:
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted
  • 1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/3 cup white sugar
  • 1 (14 oz.) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup white chocolate chips (or any other kind)
  • 1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (any variety)
  • 3/4 cup cookie butter (store-bought or homemade)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, combine melted butter or margarine, graham cracker crumbs, ground cinnamon, and white sugar. Press evenly into a well-greased 9×13-inch baking pan.
  2. Pour half a can of sweetened condensed milk over crust. Sprinkle with both types of chocolate chips, as well as half of the coconut flakes and nuts. Pour remaining half of sweetened condensed milk evenly over the other toppings, then top with remaining coconut flakes and nuts.
  3. Drop cookie butter in small dollops over other ingredients. 
  4. Bake in preheated oven for 22-25 minutes, until top is golden brown. Allow to cool before cutting into squares. 

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars