My Happy Place

Nick Winston CJ Zach

Nick, Winston, CJ, Zach

Look at these handsome guys!

Could I be any happier than to have the opportunity to have them over and cook for them?

Does that make me a little strange?… unusual?…. old-fashioned….?

I was really looking forward to – and totally enjoyed – the opportunity to cook and bake for my youngest son, Nick (far left in the photo above) and a group of his old college buddies (Winston, Zach, and CJ – two of whom are married already!), who decided to get together for a Saturday afternoon of basketball and an evening of pool and poker, with a short break in between to be nourished by Momma ME!

In talking with my friend, Tracy, on our Sunday morning walk yesterday, I remarked upon reflection that it is good to be 52 and not so worried about what is the right or wrong way to be a woman today.

For a while, I tried to be a “modern” business woman – one who enjoys working as much as the rest of “the guys” and has no time for such silliness as cooking and baking….

But I can’t help it….

It is my happy place.

It is in my DNA.

When I was a young girl, if asked what I wanted to be when I grow up, I most often would say, “A Mom.”

Being a mom is a job that should be as equally admired as those that serve as doctors and lawyers and teachers and executives.

It really is a tough job.  Little training is provided.  Little recognition is provided.  The monetary rewards are quite minimal.  The days are long.  Then nights are short.  The worries are many.

But the rewards…..

especially when looking back and knowing you raised your kids to become amazing adults….

well – there really is nothing greater.

So the chance to cherish moments with my “kids” (who aren’t really kids anymore)…

is pretty darn great.

I am most happy when I am cooking or baking or having guests in my home.

I TRULY love my work too.  Don’t get me wrong.

I am extremely fortunate to have a work-life balance that allows me to work as passionately at my job in corporate communications for home health and hospice and enjoy it as much as I do my “life in between” activities.

I also truly and equally admire women who don’t choose to be mothers, but dedicate their lives to noble careers because that is their passion.

But put me behind the kitchen counter with pots steaming and cookies cooling and bread kneading…..

kitchen

with Charlie by my side napping as the Autumn sunshine streams in the window…

charlie sleeping in the sun

and life is perfect.

I baked some classic chocolate chips cookies,

chocolate chip cookie

and made Zach’s favorite – good old-fashioned peasant food – Haluski.

halushki cabbage

I made some yummy rosemary roasted butternut squash that they all surprisingly LOVED, some freshly baked rustic crusty bread, and some dry rubbed pork tenderloin (recipe in tomorrow’s blog!), as well as some mini pumpkin pies….

mini pumpkin pies

served up with a side of dreamy, creamy whipped cream.

single mini pumpkin pie bite

In the midst of it all, with dishes piled high in the sink…

flour all over the counter….

dough in my hair…

Nick asked,

“Do you REALLY ENJOY doing this?”

“Oh YES!,” I didn’t even hesitate when I replied…

“This is my happy place.”

Thanks, guys, for the wine!
Thanks, girls, for the surprise visit!
Thanks, Merv, for being the grill master and my “partner in crime” through it all.
Thanks for allowing me to nourish your bellies as much as you nourish my heart! ❤

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Milk Chocolate Caramel-Filled Chip Cookies

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies Stacked

If you give a mouse a cookie….

He’s going to ask for a glass of milk.

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies and Milk 2

And then he’ll probably want a straw.

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies

As I was looking at these shots of my latest twist on chocolate chip cookies, I couldn’t help but be reminded of that fun children’s book.

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies Stacked 2

Especially after this stack – I kept thinking… more – More – MORE!

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies and Milk

I bake chocolate chip cookies A  LOT.

I’m kinda known for it.

Especially with our sons’ friends.

And I love the joy it brings – the smiles they create – the happy tummies – the grateful hugs.

But I get bored with the same old thing, so I am always looking for a way to change them up a bit – as you may have noticed if you’ve been hanging out here at LifeinBetween.me for any length of time…  (Fresh Raspberry Chocolate Chips, Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies, Peanut Butter White Chocolate Chip…)

This latest version was a BIG HIT!

Instead of semi-sweet morsels, I used the new Nestle Toll House Delightfulls Caramel Filled Morsels.

Could you just die?!!?

Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chips in a cookie!!

I used my tried and true chocolate chip cookie recipe – subbing these DELIGHTFULL morsels for the regular chocolate chips.

Easy Peasy – and guaranteed to be a Big Hit with whoever you decide to share these with!

And PS – I had forgotten how amazing a chocolate chip cookie tastes dunked in milk!     I have not done that in ages, but sampled a bite after this “photo shoot.”

Grab a glass of cold milk – even if it is Skim – and DUNK!

Pure delight!

Kicked Up Milk Chocolate & Caramel Chip Cookies

Ingredients:Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Chip Cookies Stacked 2

4 sticks butter, softened
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups white granulated sugar
2 tsp vanilla
4 eggs
2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp salt
5 cups all purpose flour
2 9-oz bags Nestle Toll House Delightfulls Milk Chocolate Caramel Filled Morsels

Directions:

With electric mixer, beat butter and sugar together until completely incorporated. Add vanilla and eggs, and beat until light and fluffy. Add baking soda and salt, and mix another minute. Gradually add flour and beat until well incorporated, but do not overbeat.

Fold in chocolate caramel morsels. Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 375 degrees F. With your hands, form a cookie dough ball about 1-1/2 inches in diameter.  Place on baking stone. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. Allow to cool on baking stone for 2-3 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cheers & Chocolatey Caramely Hugs,

Jodi

Chocolate Chunk & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

chocolate chunk and peanut butter chip cookies

Some days just call for baking cookies…  Like when you wake up and it is 13 degrees BELOW ZERO F!…  What a great way to warm up the house – right?

chocolate chunk and peanut butter chip cookies 3

And besides, my son, Nick, has been whining for requesting some chocolate chip cookies for a couple of weeks now.  I’m kind of “famous” for my chocolate chip cookies, but I hate doing the same old thing.  I’m a change junkie.  So instead of the usual chocolate chip cookies, I kicked it up a notch by mixing chocolate chunks and peanut butter chips in my classic recipe.

chocolate chunk and peanut butter chip cookies 4

They taste pretty awesome…  with a glass of milk…. coffee… hot chocolate… red wine (LOL!  Everything goes with red wine – right?).

chocolate chunk and peanut butter chip cookies 2

Chocolate Chunk & Peanut Butter Chip Cookies

  • Servings: 5 dozen large cookies
  • Print

Ingredients:

1 lb (4 sticks) butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
4 3/4 cups flour
2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 bag Nestle’s Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chunks
1 bag Reese’s Peanut Butter Chips

Mix softened butter and sugars with mixer until well blended. Add vanilla and eggs and mix until creamy. Add dry ingredients (flour, salt, baking soda) until well incorporated. Fold in chocolate and peanut butter chips.

Refrigerate dough for several hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough into 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp balls and flatten slightly. Bake on baking stone for 8-9 minutes. Let cool on stone for approximately 5 minutes, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely.

Cookies freeze well in Ziploc bags.

Enjoy!

Cheers & Hugs,
Jodi

Got Milk?

chocolate chip cookies

Could hardly go to a Gable family picnic yesterday without taking some of my “Jodi’s Almost Famous Chocolate Chip Cookies.”

For this batch I mixed semi-sweet chocolate chunks, white chocolate chips and milk chocolate chips.

If you would like the recipe, it is the same as I used for the White Reese Peanut Butter Cup Cookies here.

A couple tips:

Refrigerate the dough before baking at least an hour and up to a few days if sealed well.   (The dough also freezes well in a Ziploc bag – you can even make balls and freeze them for easy fresh pop-in-the oven warm cookies on the spot when needed.)

I always bake on baking stones.  I use a large tablespoonful scoop of cough and roll it into a ball and then slightly flatten before backing.

Electric ovens (mine is also convection) provide the most even heating.

Underbake slightly and then let cool for 10 mins. on the baking stone before removing to wire rack.  (I usually bake for 8-9 mins).

Once completely cooled, I like to throw them in gallon size Ziploc Freezer bags in the freezer – even if just for a few hours or overnight.  They keep fresher and thaw very quickly – 10 mins.

My family even likes to eat them right out of the freezer.

 

It was so nice to spend time at Jake and Colleen’s, and see the rest of the gang too. The weather was perfect, and Jake made some AMAZING ribs on the grill and his delish potato salad (with bacon crumbled in it – what isn’t a bit better with bacon added?!).

They have been working hard on their yard, and it is really looking nice. Freshly edged and mulched with cute little touches everywhere. Their sweet little home has so much rich history from the couple who built it, raised their family in it, and lived their entire married life in before them, so there are little treasures everywhere – inside and out. I especially love the stone stairway in the back yard leading up to their vegetable garden and bonfire pit.

memorial day 2104 colleen flowers

Hope you are enjoying the beautiful holiday weekend with those you love most and in honor of those who served to give us the freedom and good lives we have.  (Thank you Pap – we miss you!)

Cheers and hugs,

Jodi