Wednesday, June 16, 2010

STuFF - Sara's Totally Fantastic Finds, Episode 16: Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

Throughout the last year I've been bitten by the cooking bug. I have finally come to enjoy trying new recipes and spending time in the kitchen. And there is no doubt that this cooking bug is genetic. My mom is an amazing chef & baker, and my grandmother was sensational. My brother realized his cooking genes long before me. And my dad, even my dad, the guy who used to work so late that by the time he arrived home from work, dinner was miraculously already made and on the table waiting for him. Even my dad has been cooking for years now.

As I find good recipes, I'm trying to get into the habit of sharing them. It's just so frustrating to spend so much time buying ingredients and making food to only find out that the dish isn't any good. If you're going to make the effort, it should definitely be delicious.

I posted a delicious vegetarian recipe I made on my Facebook page a while back. Lemony Broccoli and Chickpea Rigatoni. I can't say that I am a full vegetarian. I'm more of an omnivore with a focus on low-fat (sometimes low-gluten, sometimes low-dairy) dishes. Oh, and I am for sure a chocoholic. So, on Sunday, I looked around our kitchen for food and instead of making some delicious eggplant Parmesan, grilling some chicken and veggies on the grill or any other well-rounded meal that we could enjoy as leftovers throughout the rest of the week, I opted for Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies. Great idea, right!?

I've made quite a few chocolate chip cookies and I have to admit that oatmeal chocolate chip are my favorite, but this one created the most beautiful cookies I've ever made. They're thick and they are the perfect combination of chewy and crunchy. I will definitely make these again. (FYI, these are neither low-fat nor low-gluten.)

Here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Thick and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 1 1/2 dozen 3-inch cookies

2 1/8 cups bleached all-purpose flour (about 10 1/2 oz.'s)
1/2t table salt
1/2t baking soda
12T unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks, melted and cooled slightly)
1 cup brown sugar (7 oz.'s)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 oz.'s)
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
2t vanilla extract
1-2 cups chocolate chips or chunks (semi- or bittersweet)

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Adjust oven racks to upper- and lower-middle positions. Mix flour, salt and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Either by hand or with an electric mixer, mix butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Mix in egg, yolk, and vanilla. Add dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Stir in chips.

3. (This part is all about making the cookies look rough and uneven. I found it unnecessary but you could do it and let me know how it turns out.) Form scant 1/4 cup dough into balls. Holding dough ball using fingertips of both hands, pull into two equal halves. Rotate halves ninety degrees and, with jagged surfaces exposed, join halves together at their base, again forming a single cookie, being careful not to smooth dough's uneven surface. Place formed dough into one of two parchment paper-lined 20x14 lipless cookie sheets, about nine dough balls per sheet. Dough can be refrigerated up to 2 days or frozen up to a month - shaped or not.

4. Bake, reversing cookie sheets' positions halfway through the baking, until cookies are light golden brown and outer edges start to harden yet centers are still soft and puffy. 15-18 minutes (start checking at 13 minutes). (Frozen dough requires an extra 1 to 2 minutes baking time.)

Tips: You can substitute white, milk chocolate or peanut butter chips for the semi- or bittersweet chips. In addition to the chips, you can flavor the dough with one cup of nuts, raisins or shredded coconut.

Definitely let me know how it turns out by leaving a comment below. I'd love to hear the yummy results.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

SpokesMAMA Contest - First Day of School

Yay for the next SpokesMAMA Contest! We are so excited with the responses we've received from everyone for all our other contests and this time we are trying something a bit out of the box. This portrait package is a new one and to give it a jump start, we thought we'd introduce it with a SpokesMAMA contest.

The image of my first day of school is ingrained in my mind. My parents took a picture of me standing on our street waiting for the bus to pick me up. There I was at 5 years old, pigtails in my hair and a giant backpack on my back. I was nervous and scared but also excited and curious about this "school thing." Having that photo means so much to me and I am so grateful to have it. This is what gave me the idea to create a package that would capture that day. Everything from waking in the morning, eating a delicious breakfast, new clothes and shoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwich in the lunchbag, and the tears rolling down mom's cheek as she waves goodbye. Makes me teary just writing it...

This contest is for a documentary session on your child's first day of kindergarten or first grade. Your baby's first day of school is an emotional day. We know your anxiety, your excitement, your disbelief that this day has come. Just a short time ago, you were holding a tiny newborn in your arms. The time has flown and now it's time for him/her to go off to school. We also understand how exciting and intimidating the first day of school can be for a child. The anticipation of being away from home in a new place with kids and adults you don't know, and the fun of riding a big yellow bus and making new friends.

We want to capture all that emotion through photographs that you and your child will cherish forever. It's moments like this that help shape who we are and are rich with memories, if we take the time to capture them.

The winning SpokesMama will receive a free ABC Storytelling Portrait Session package which includes a Planning Meeting, a 2-hour session at your home (also on the way to school and in front of the school), a Design Appointment and a $250 product credit for anything purchased at the Design Appointment.

The SpokesMAMA will also receive a 25% discount on her second session during her year-long 'tenure' or a $125 discount off her choice of an Annual Portrait Package.

In exchange, each SpokesMAMA will tell her friends and family about SSP. She'll take every opportunity to share the photos that were taken during her session and talk about her experience. She'll use social media, printed fliers, email, etc. to refer other like-minded families to us. (Printed pieces will be provided by SSP.)

Deadline for applications is July 16th.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Vacation Photos - California

My sister-in-law graduated from the Academy of Art University with a Bachelor's in Fine Arts for Motion Pictures and Television Acting in San Francisco. Nick and I, and my in-laws flew out to go to graduation and then to vacation around California for a week. The weather was beautiful and we had a great time visiting Alcatraz Prison, Yosemite National Park, Monterrey and everywhere inbetween. The California coastline is so majestic and hiking Yosemite was stunning. And getting away from the hot humidity of Atlanta was great too.

View the rest of the pictures in my album on Facebook. And leave comments! I love comments!

Here are some of my favorite pictures from our adventure. Congratulations, Sam!

Sam's in the middle with her friends, Leah and Sloan.
Remember these faces - they'll be famous one day.

Walking out during the recessional - I love the excitement of this moment.

Standing outside after graduating. Doesn't she look like she could be
in the movie, The Graduate, with Dustin Hoffman?
Her dress and shoes are so retro-cool.

A view of downtown San Francisco from Alcatraz.

San Francisco, circa 1968.
Just kidding...

San Francisco - Golden Gate Bridge

Alcatraz kitchen. Don't the sketches of the knives look scary to be in a prison?

Alcatraz kitchen - NO SOUP FOR YOU!

Alcatraz kitchen - the beauty of texture on the floor.

Yosemite National Park
my ode to Ansel Adams (if only I were so good)

Mom and Dad Edelstein

Yosemite National Park - near Yosemite Falls
quintessential park picture

Yosemite National Park - Bridalveil Falls

Yosemite National Park - Bridalveil Falls
Didn't you always wonder what it looked like?

Yosemite National Park - Bridalveil Falls

Yosemite National Park - Nick and I

Yosemite National Park - Half Dome

Yosemite National Park - sunset on Half Dome from Glacier Point

Yosemite National Park - fly like an eagle

Yosemite National Park - interesting texture from a fallen tree trunk

Sunset from the road
(I shot this from our moving car. How cool that the windmill
is in just the right spot. That's why I get paid the big bucks. HA!)

Monterrey, CA - sunbathing seal

Californa countryside - another shot from our moving car.

This was the centerpiece on our table at lunch in Big Sur.
Reminds me of the plant from The Little Shop of Horrors.

View more pictures in my album on Facebook.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

SpokesMAMA News

In case you didn't hear, the SpokesMAMA Contest for children ages 2-3 ends tomorrow at 11:55pm. Don't miss your chance to win a FREE ABC Storytelling Portrait package which includes a Planning Meeting, a 2-hour portrait session, a Design Appointment and $250 in product credit.

Apply now to be our next SpokesMAMA!

In related news, Lisa came to the studio yesterday to pick up her gift bag. She is our SpokesMAMA (4-5) and it was wonderful to meet her. Check out her SpokesMAMA t-shirt! If you see her around town wearing the shirt, be sure to say hi and ask to see her pictures!

Lisa tells me that her 4-year old daughter Bella loves to play dress-up and I can't wait to see her all dolled up in a dress, high heel shoes and bracelets up to her elbows. It's going to be so cute!

Could you be the next SpokesMAMA?