orange chocolate chunk cookies

orange choco chunk

For the first time since I moved to the San Francisco Bay Area, it feels like winter. This morning when our darling child woke us up at 5:30 in the morning it was a crisp 28 degrees outside. That is pretty uncommon for the Silicon Valley where the wardrobe consists of light terry Google hoodies and flip flops year round. The day after Thanksgiving, we went to chop down a Christmas tree up in the nearby mountains and expecting it to be chilly (since it was the last day of November), we bundled up in coats and scarves and went along our merry way. By the time we actually reached the tree farm we had stripped down to our last layer and were happy we had remembered deodorant. I was roasting, and felt like I should be taking a dip in the pool instead of kicking off the Christmas season. Thankfully, this week it really feels like Christmas is only two weeks away (yea, I’m not ready either!), so I’ve joyfully jumped into cookie baking mode, and this time, I won’t be dreaming of having an icy cocktail by the pool!

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Cookies are the perfect gift for someone who isn’t particularly on your Christmas list but you’d still like to let them know you appreciate them. I mean, who doesn’t love an assortment of home baked cookies around the holidays? The best part is they are easy to prep ahead of time, allowing you to focus on the things that really matter like keeping grandma from giving your son a swig of egg nog and your husband from knocking over that freshly poured glass of red wine with his new nerf gun. So, if you make the dough in advance, freeze it in pre-portioned sizes, all that’s left is some oven time and a little sprinkling of salt and voila! you have a fast and thoughtful gift for the carpet guy when he comes to get that red wine stain out of your dining room floor.

orange choco chunk-2

These cookies would be excellent with toasted pecans or walnuts. You could even sub the dark chocolate for good quality white chocolate and add cranberries, that would be delicious. (more…)

December 9, 2013. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy. 6 comments.

you are the chocolate to our mousse

Until tonight, I never quite grasped how important Julia Child was to American cooks. I have read her endearing memoir and flipped through her cookbooks, but until tonight, I had never cooked through a full recipe of hers (unless you count a basic vinaigrette). Last week, my husband gifted me a copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s a classic and one that I believe every home cook should have. Although I’ll likely never prepare an aspic or de-bone a duck, there are so many recipes within these pages that will be part of my permanent collection. Her recipes are straight forward, impeccably on point and explained perfectly. There was not one confusing thing about this chocolate dessert, which for a maiden mousse voyage, proved to be very helpful.

Tomorrow would have been Julia’s 100th birthday. People from all over the globe are celebrating the contribution she made to the culinary world through her extraordinary life. She effortlessly empowered men and women to become better cooks, to be fearless in the kitchen and to love what they do. One of her most famous quotes, “Never apologize!” seems unfit coming from such an accomplished chef, but her accomplishments did not come immediately. In her memoir, My Life in France, she recounts a meal she made for a friend that was nearly inedible, but instead of apologizing and offering something else, she just powered through it and moved on, without a word. Her husband Paul, quipped in some letters to his brother that Julia was not a great cook at first, but she was determined and she improved every single day until eventually she commanded the kitchen. What an inspiration! We all begin that way don’t we? No one starts something they know little about with the skill of an expert, we learn as we experience and as we do.

Although Julia got her start later in life, she made a monumental impact. I can’t imagine what she would have accomplished had she started in her 20’s. Who knows where we would be now, having had that much time with Julia. Her life, her love and her relentless dedication to the kitchen has shaped us, and for that we are better people and supremely grateful.

Julia, you are the chocolate to our mousse, and we thank you for the light of your life. Happy birthday darling.

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August 14, 2012. chocolate, dessert, gluten free, quick and easy, vegetarian. 12 comments.

double chocolate chip cookies

There is a good chance I’ll never be famous for anything. That ‘s not meant to be self-defeating, in fact, I don’t know that I’d like all the attention. I mean, who wants people to follow them around taking pictures of their cellulite, bad hair days and unfortunate run-ins with the law? I’ll stick to my quiet life in which my transgressions (cellulite related or otherwise) are kept mostly under wraps.

For some, fame isn’t a choice, it shows up on it’s own, often uninvited, knocking at your door whether you wanted it to or not. In the case of Diane Smith and her infamous chocolate chip cookies, the news was impossible to contain. After making these cookies for years, in massive amounts, satisfying many a sweet tooth, the probability of this secret staying in the recipe box was as likely as an orange tree producing apples. My guess is, “Can I have this recipe?” is the single most common query she receives. For young brides, mastering these cookies is a rite of passage into their matrimonial duties, and for the single men looking to impress a lady, successful execution could be the very thing that changes their relationship status forever.

Over the years, I have had the delectable pleasure of eating many more of these famous confections than one ever should, but had never made them myself, probably for good reason. Months ago, I baked through a batch with the legend herself, as she gave me tips along the way. On paper they look like any run of the mill chocolate chip cookie, but out of the oven they are nothing short of amazing. The cookies I share with you today are an adaptation of the original but still hold the elements that make this one of the best cookies I’ve ever had. I hope Diane doesn’t mind those photographers hiding in the bushes waiting to see her with chocolate on her face. I’m sure they are just hoping that she carries a dozen of her cookies in her purse at all times. (more…)

June 24, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, dessert, quick and easy, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. 23 comments.

chocolate walnut biscotti

This past weekend was full of unexpected excitement, the spontaneous and borderline irresponsible kind. On Friday, my honey made a well deserved dinner date for us at a local greek place we’ve wanted to visit for some time. He has a wonderful job that often calls for long hours (which he bears with a smile), so during the past four weeks we have seen little of one another. On our way up the 101, we drove past the Four Seasons Hotel, and thought for a moment how fun it would be to rent a room for a night and enjoy their well known luxury. How spontaneous! How utterly romantic!

Set for 9:15, our reservation was later than we are used to, but to our merriment, the sweet host graciously sat us early. As we poured over the menu, drooling over the dishes coming out of the kitchen intended for our neighbors, we spoke gently to one another, adoring each other over low candle light. We shared a bottle of zinfandel, nibbled on perfectly grilled octopus and feather light zucchini fritters, catching up on the moments we had missed together in the last month. It was exactly what we needed to reconnect.

When I got married, I had the expectation that I would never be lonely again as long as I had my husband by my side. It was an expectation likely created out of naïvety, not comprehending that life is dynamic and will take unexpected turns that may leave me to entertain myself for a while. I could not be more proud of how hard my husband works to invest in his career and in the future of our family. On nights when he comes to bed well into the night, I have to remind myself of that pride, and squeeze him a little to let him know I’m on his side. He needs the reassurance of my support, just as much as I need his spontaneous date nights, especially when they end at the Four Seasons Hotel. Yep. Best husband EVER. (more…)

April 18, 2012. baking, chocolate, cookie, quick and easy. 7 comments.

the cookie to end all cookies

I am a strong believer in the power of a cookie. It’s a different type of dessert than say, a cake or a pie. A cookie feels different. Not too fancy or showy, just down to earth, like a friend you can really be you with. You can hold it with one hand, dunk it in milk if you’d like and you can bake two dozen of them in 20 minutes, start to finish. For me, this is the holy grail of cookies, the creme de la creme. With a crunchy outside and a soft center, every few bites giving way to a warm, gooey chocolate surprise. Now add in peanut butter and it’s just about the last cookie I’ll ever need.

There have been many famous cookie recipes floating around for some time now. The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe is a good example. I have yet to try them, but they have become quite a cult classic. I’d like to take these two head to head and see who wins. I would put my money on the peanut butter all the way.  (more…)

February 22, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, chocolate, cookie, quick and easy, Whole Wheat. 8 comments.

chocolate sour cream bundt cake

Tartine is an incredible french bakery in the Mission District of San Francisco. They specialize in all things amazing, including, but not limited to, this mouth watering, coma inducing chocolate tea cake.

My sister moved here a few months back, and as part of a “get to know your city” tour, I fulfilled my sisterly duty by taking her around to all the places that would help her get through the stress and loneliness of moving to a new, strange place and since this place is on my essential “go here after a bad day” list, I decided it was a must. click here for the full post!

October 3, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , , . baking, cake, chocolate, dessert. 4 comments.