Chocolate Chip Cookies

Tis the season for lots of recipe posts! (Also, I lost my battery charger and my camera is about to die, so I can’t go on any major photo shoots.) I shouldn’t be baking so much, but at least I have plenty of people to take the results off my hands. (But not before I sample too many, of course.)

I got this recipe from a friend years ago. (His name was Steve, but now I don’t even remember his last name!) He said it was the best chocolate chip cookie recipe ever, and he was right. I’ve made it several times and passed it on to many people because it makes cookies exactly as I want them: soft, thick and dense. Not hard, flat, gooey or crispy.

The full recipe is pretty large so I tend to just do half at a time, but sometimes I’ll make all of it and use different types of baking chips in portions of the dough. One of my favorite candies to use is butterscotch baking chips. I also like M&Ms. This time I used the chocolate chunks because I thought it would seem homey.


1 lb. butter
2 c. dark brown sugar
1 1/2 c. white sugar
2 T vanilla
3 eggs
6 c. flour
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 t. baking soda
2-4 c. semi sweet chocolate chips (or whatever chips you want)


Preheat oven to 375º. Mix butter, sugars and vanilla. Add eggs and mix well. Mix in flour, salt and soda. Finally, add baking chips to your liking. (As much as I like chocolate, I think the dough is so good on its own that it doesn’t need an overwhelming amount of chocolate chips.)

The resulting mixture will be a bit dry and pretty firm. (Once I broke my parents’ expensive mixer on it!) Scoop spoonfuls onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, depending on size of cookies. I find that it’s best to take them out when they’re barely getting golden brown on the edges and let them sit on the cookie sheet outside of the oven for a few minutes to cook/set. This keeps them moist for longer.

I know many people prefer their cookies warm from the oven, but I find these are best when they’ve cooled completely. You can eat them however you want, though, since I’m not a cop.

Okay, who wants more cookie photos? Can’t just let them go to waste.


I’ve been in a bakey mood lately, so I ended up making a bunch of these to share with friends (they have to be given away quickly). My mom gave me the recipe a couple of years ago, and she probably got it from my grandma or someone. I don’t know where it’s originally from.


3/4 c soft shortening
1/2 c golden brown sugar, firmly packed (I was out of brown sugar this time and used this substitution, which actually simplifies the recipe and I tasted no difference)
1/2 c sugar
1 egg
1/4 c molasses
2 1/4 c sifted flour
1/2 t salt
2 1/2 t baking soda
1 t ginger


Preaheat oven to 350. Combine shortening, sugar(s) and egg in mixing bowl; beat until fluffy. Add molasses and beat well. Add dry ingredients; mix well. Chill dough thoroughly (not required); shape into 1″ balls and roll in granulated sugar. Place 2″ apart on greased baking sheets. (Optional: you can take a fork and make a stripey or crosshatch print in these to flatten them a bit.) Bake 12 to 15 minutes (I personally prefer to bake them for about 11 minutes and then let them sit out so they remain softer). Makes 4 dozen.

(I couldn’t decide on a photo again.)

Grandma’s things

My mom and aunt have been helping my grandma organize and pare down her belongings. My mom set aside a few things for me and sent them the other day.

This was set aside for me since I like hummingbirds (who doesn’t?). I love it–the colors, the gold accents and the pretty pictures. And it’s meant to be used! You know what I don’t love, though? The fact that I didn’t line up the two pictures. Is anyone else annoyed at the unevenness?

My grandma likes turtles, so of course people have been giving them to her for years. Here’s a cute necklace that looks like it’s swimming in the sea (nope, just a pillowcase! Tricked you good!). It happens that my friend’s mom (who just passed away) loved and collected turtles as well, so this necklace makes me think of both her and my grandma.

Finally, my grandma has a collection of tea cups and saucers. I’m not much on dainty figurines and things that serve no particular purpose, but I do think this is pretty and I like having it. I especially like that my mom chose one set (from dozens) for each of my sisters and me that she thought we’d appreciate, so it’s more personalized.

Isn’t it so cute that it has flowers inside?

Have a great weekend!


[Random photo to make this post slightly more interesting.]

In February, I’ll be leading a small photography workshop at a women’s conference for the second year in a row. I’m excited about this and want to fine tune and freshen up last year’s presentation.

Something that would help me a lot is if I got some feedback about what people want to know. The workshop will cover basics and is meant for the average person who wants to improve their everyday photos. It’s not heavy on the technical aspects of photography, though I am thinking of adding more to that side of things this year. What do you think? I only have an hour, so I have to choose my topics wisely.

If you can think of any questions you’ve had about photography, please comment (or email) and let me know. Just toss out some ideas of topics that you think people would be curious about, please!

I may discuss some tips here one day, but I don’t actually know how many of my millions of readers are interested in that sort of topic, and I don’t necessarily feel all that qualified anyway. I just know how much I have learned from other blogs, so I’d be honored to be helpful to someone in this area. If you ever wonder about the settings or even the editing on a photo I post here, please feel free to ask.

Crème Brûlée

How is the weekend almost over? I really have a lot more laying around to do, so if we could maybe change our clocks back a day (or ten), that would be very helpful.

This weekend I made my first batch of crème brûlée. Or apparently it can also be spelled like crème brulée. Or just creme brulee. Good, I’m glad we got that settled.

For my birthday, I received a cooking torch (sorry, a culinary torch) and have been wanting to try it out. This is the obvious dish to use it for. I’ve never made crème brûlée and have only eaten it a few times, but it’s really pretty easy.

I made 1/4-batch of this recipe, which yielded two small (4 oz) ramekins worth of the custard:


8 egg yolks (I didn’t read this correctly and used the whole eggs)
1/3 cup granulated white sugar (I think a little extra sugar wouldn’t hurt. Also, I used vanilla sugar for fun)
2 cups heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup granulated white sugar (for the caramelized tops)


Preheat oven to 300ºF. In a large bowl, whisk together egg yolks and sugar until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is thick and pale yellow. Add cream and vanilla, and continue to whisk until well blended. Strain into a large bowl, skimming off any foam or bubbles. (I just poured it through a hand strainer and that seemed to keep the major bubbles out.)

Divide mixture among 6 ramekins or custard cups. Place ramekins in a water bath (large pan filled with 1 or 2 inches of hot water) and bake until set around the edges, but still loose in the center, about 50 to 60 minutes. (I was surprised that it took the full 60 minutes even for my small ramekins.) Remove from oven and leave in the water bath until cooled.

Remove cups from water bath and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 2 days. When ready to serve, sprinkle about 2 teaspoons of sugar over each custard. For best results, use a small, hand-held torch to melt sugar. If you don’t have a torch, place under the broiler until sugar melts. Re-chill custards for a few minutes before serving.

I took a few photos for those who might not know what to expect (as I didn’t):

The left photo is what they looked like going into the oven, the center photo is after they have been baked. So there’s not really any major appearance change (the coloring difference is more lighting than actual difference), which kind of surprised me. The third is to show how much sugar I put on top, but I’m not sure if I used enough. I am thinking it’s maybe supposed to be a more solid sheet than the crystally top that I ended up with. Those of you are crème brûlée masters can give me insight, if you want.

UPDATE: My friend helped me fill the torch and we tried again–here he is, torching it up real nice.

The final [updated] result:

Frog Furniture

Some coworkers let me know that there were various mushrooms growing at work, and I finally remembered to hunt them down for photos today when I had my own camera (which works better than my work camera for something like this). It was cold, but sunny, and perfect timing for a little detour on the way back to my office (from another photo shoot). Sometimes when I take pictures, I just feel okay about it. Other times I am fulfilled, excited and appreciative of God’s many creations, and this was one of those times.

That one is more like a toad papasan chair.

But the one next to it was very flat, so it could be either a stool or a nice table.

This is my favorite photo of this post, I think.

I was surprised to see so many different kinds of mushrooms!

I call this one a vanilla mushroom. Taste it–you’ll see!

Of course I didn’t stop with the mushrooms. There were some other cool things–I thought this looked very Japanese gardenish.


What? More ferns, you say?

The leaves are exiting the trees pretty quickly. It’s a little sad to see that the peak of color has passed already.

The colors in this make me think of plaid PJ pants or Christmas wrap for guys. I like them. I mean, I like all of them–the colors, PJ pants, Christmas wrap and guys. 😉

I couldn’t decide which of these rock puddle photos to choose, so I posted both.


Hey, so I am creating a mailing list to email whenever I update my blog. Let me know if you’d like to be on it and I’ll add you. Just give me your email if I don’t already have it. Thanks!

Have a great weekend!

Real Random

I like how Real Simple treats me as if I have done something wrong by not renewing my subscription. Like it’s such a huge hassle for them to have to keep reminding me, and I’m this “problem child” who won’t renew the first time, so they have to show me tough love with these ultimatums.

Um, do I care if it’s my fourth renewal notice? (Obviously I took that photo awhile back.)

At Christmas there was a special where I could get a year of Real Simple for $5. It’s always seemed like a cool magazine, and my friend D seems to like it. When I was a teenager I used to subscribe to at least four magazines (Seventeen, Teen, YM and Sassy) and read them cover to cover when I got home from school to find they had arrived.

(Those were the days before the Internet.)

Now my nostalgic side wants to enjoy magazines, so I subscribe to something once in awhile and this is what happens:

I think I’ve probably looked through maybe two of those magazines. I have kept them, thinking I’d go through them someday, but in the meantime they are just testing the strength of the lower shelf on my Ikea coffee table. I think it’s now bowing in the middle.

In other reading news, I got an Amazon package today with some items I ordered with a birthday gift certificate.

More-with-Less is a cookbook I had heard about from a stranger commenting on someone else’s blog, and it looked like one I might enjoy. I get most of my recipes from online and then print them off to use in the kitchen, so I thought it might be nice to do things the old-fashioned way and have an actual book. I hope to give you a review on it eventually.

Then the other two are books on prayer that I chose based on Amazon reviews (so hopefully they are reliable!). I have been wanting to learn more about prayer and make it more of an emphasis in my life.

And finally, though it doesn’t relate, here’s my dinner tonight. I just thought it was so pretty and yummy that it deserved a photo!

Pasta with clam sauce and roasted broccoli.

If I don’t talk to you before, have a great weekend! Don’t forget to change your clocks.

Fog and fall

Happy birthday, T!

Today it stayed foggy fairly late into the day, so I took the camera with me on an errand at work. This concludes my amazing intro.

Plenty of path photos, of course!

I saw this spider web with the fog drops on it, so I took a thousand photos trying to get something sharp enough. Here are a few so-so ones, but this was one of the times I really wished for a macro lens (donations welcome :P).

BONUS: Path behind the web!

Loooove the little strings of droplets.

Thanks for looking!

Checkboxes and Fall Photos

Happy November. It’s not my favorite month, but it could be worse (like January).

You may have noticed that I changed the check boxes on the bottom of my entries. I just realized they were editable, and since I’ve had requests for boxes such as “yummy,” I chose a couple of additional words. They’re all positive since I decided I don’t want to see negative comments in an anonymous check box. If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it. 😉 Or say it to me non-anonymously, at least!

Anyway, the whole point of the check boxes is less about compliment fishing and more about comment fishing. It’s so you can comment quickly and easily if you are crunched for time or energy. It just lets me know people are looking, and that makes me a happy Jessica!

Now, onto some fall photos.

These first ones are at a park down town. I had to go to the library anyway, so I made a brief stop (in church clothes!).

Get ready for lots of leaf photos!

This looks kind of cartoony.

I like this because it looks like watercolors. If only I could paint like this.

This is back in the forest outside my home.

I’d love to take some landscape photos of the nice colors before they’re gone, but the weather is not cooperating. I guess we’ll see what next weekend is like. Anyone want to come on a fall drive with me?