A Scarf for Ryan – Update #1

I am actually pretty surprised with just how quickly this scarf is coming together.  Now that the muscle memory is really kicking in, row after row is coming together quite quickly.

The scarf so far:

And since the pattern isn’t too complicated it really is a great pattern to begin with.  This is the first item that I’ve knit that hasn’t just been a series of garter stitches!

A scarf for Ryan

For Ryan, I decided that I would make a scarf from the book The Chicks With Sticks Guide to Knitting – the Boyfriend Basket Weave Scarf.

Basket Weave Stitch:

Rows 1-4 Knit 4, Purl 4 – repeat across the row

Rows 5-8 Purl 4, Knit 4 – repeat across the row

Then repeat rows 1-8

I thought that this was going to be a fairly simple scarf.  So, after a break from knitting, I dove back in last week.  I was sure surprised when I realized that I had completely forgotten how to purl!  Ah!  I watched several videos on YouTube to try to reteach myself but none of the videos made any sense to me.  Thankfully, Erin came to my rescue last night with a refresher course on purling and going from knit to purl in the same row.  So, I was actually able to get a lot done on this scarf.  Once the muscle memory started to kick back in, the knitting and purling actually started to get a lot faster.

The scarf so far:

The pattern actually doesn’t show up that well with the dark yarn but I think that it is going to be a nice subtle pattern.  When I first attempted to learn this pattern, I was using a light blue yarn so the stitch changes were actually pretty easy to see.  But, I do think that this is going to look really nice when complete.

Chocolate Chips and Muscovado Sugar

When I found this recipe, I thought that it sounded quite delicious and I was glad to see how many great reviews were posted for this one.  However, I had never used or even heard of muscavado sugar before.  After doing some research, I learned that it is actually spelled muscovado not muscavado.  Luckily, I was able to find both the light and the dark types of muscovado sugar at Whole Foods quite easily.  When I opened the package of sugar, I was struck by the molasses smell.  But it doesn’t smell quite like brown sugar.  There is something different about it that I can’t quite put my finger on.  Also, this sugar has a very different texture than regular granulated sugar or even brown sugar.  It was difficult to get it out of the package because it seems to be rock-hard and stuck in the brick shape until you are able to break some of the pieces off.

I made one major change from the recipe as it was written.  The recipe calls for 5 ounces of semisweet and 5 ounces of milk chocolate.  Each of the bars that I purchased were 4 ounces.  So, instead of just taking off one more ounce on two more bars, I decided to take two ounces from a bar that had already been opened so that I wouldn’t end up with odd amounts of different chocolates left when I had completed my chocolate chip cookie assignment.  So, this cookie is going to have 4 ounces of semisweet, 4 ounces of milk chocolate and 2 ounces of bittersweet.

The finished cookie is a great classic chocolate chip cookie.  They are sweet but not too sweet.  Perhaps that is due to the combination of chocolates used in the cookies.  They have a nice crispy edge and are still a little soft in the middle.  I don’t know that this is my favorite of the cookies thus far, but it is definitely a tasty cookie.

Every Birthday Should Have a Cake

I am one of the few people that I know who always has to have the same cake for her birthday every single year.  If I don’t have that cake, it doesn’t count as a birthday.  I sometimes thought that my mom was at times confused by my choice of cake.  I sometimes think that others are a bit confused as well.  My cake:  angel food cake with cherry pie filling and Cool Whip.  The angel food cake can come from the grocery store or can be baked.  The cherry pie filling should come from a can.  You make cherry pie?  You make your own pie filling?  That’s great!  But don’t put it on my cake.  And to top it all off, Cool Whip.  You like to make fresh whipped cream?  That’s great!  But don’t put that on my cake either.  My infatuation with this dessert began in grade school.  This combination was regularly offered as a dessert option for lunch.  So, I guess my love of store bought birthday dessert can be blamed on my grade school lunches.

I remember there being a great variety in cakes for my family.  Devil’s Food, Mississippi Mud, German Chocolate, Blueberry pie (I know.  Not a cake.).  There were also some incredibly amazing cakes made by my aunt.  I still recall the giant hamburger cake that she made with green gummy drops flattened out until they looked like lettuce.  And, of course, there was the “cat litter” sheet cake with Tootsie Rolls molded to look like…well….what do you expect to find in a box of cat litter?

So, while I am watching Food Network and enjoying yet another piece of my perfect birthday cake I am wondering what your birthday cake is.  Do you always have the same cake?  Is your cake not a cake?  Do you prefer a brownie?  A lemon bar?  Or do you skip the cake and have another piece of pizza?

Bag of Yumminess – or Cashing in the Groupon for Bleeding Heart Bakery

If you live in Chicago and are not yet familiar with Groupon, please go on the website and enter your email address to have the daily Groupon sent to your inbox.  (Groupon exists in other cities, too.  Just check their site to see if your city is there.)  It is a fantastic program.  Ryan and I have bought memberships to the Art Institute, coupons for our favorite sushi restaurant, and most recently Ryan bought a box of treats from Bleeding Heart Bakery for my birthday.  And since this weekend was my birthday, we got a bag of yumminess.  I was definitely excited about this.  Bleeding Heart has some of the best cupcakes in the city.  Our bag was filled with cupcakes, brownies, scones, cake balls……all in all it was definitely a good buy as you basically got a sample of everything in the bakery.  We had lots of family and friends over to help celebrate and that was definitely beneficial since there was so much in the bag.  However, we still have a ton left over.  I hope that Ryan and I will be able to finish everything off…..

Oh, and in case you were wondering….everything that we’ve eaten so far has been delicious, absolutely delicious.  And if you want to come by to help us finish eating, come on by.

Thomas Keller Has a Recipe for Chocolate Chip Cookies? Yes. Please.

For the next cookie in my assignment to find the best chocolate chip cookie, I used a recipe that I found on Serious Eats.  Not only did the pictures look delicious but it is a adapted from a recipe in Thomas Keller‘s cookbook Ad Hoc at Home.  How could that be bad?

This recipe called for two different chocolate percentages.  I had to improvise here.  The recipe calls for 55% chocolate and 70%-72% chocolate.  I was not able to find 55% chocolate during our baking supplies shopping trip.  So, I rounded up to 60% and had to hope that that would not change the recipe too much.  It’s only 5%.  5% can’t do too much, right?

I don’t know that I’ve ever used this much dark brown sugar before and let me tell you, you know instantly that you are using dark brown sugar.  The kitchen quickly smelled of molasses as soon as I opened the bag.  And that is not a bad smell at all.

There was a step that I definitely did not do.  The recipe requires you to remove any chocolate “dust” before adding the chip-size pieces.  I did not do that.  I’m guessing that this step makes a more uniform cookie in both taste and look, however, when it’s just me and Ryan eating the cookies I want to be sure that every little spec of the 5 ounces of each chocolate is in my cookies.  Don’t try to take away chocolate from me.  Even if it’s just chocolate dust.

As you may have guessed, I learned my lesson from the first batch of cookies.  I spaced these out because I knew that they would spread out like crazy and didn’t want to get stuck with another batch of chocolate chip cookie pizzas.

The finished cookie:  This is an absolutely delicious cookie, however, if you do not have a glass of milk ready to go do not start eating until that glass is prepped.  As soon as I took my first bite, I wanted a huge glass of milk.  That’s not a bad thing.  That’s a great thing.  I’m a little weirded out by the lack of vanilla and might try to add in some the next time that I make these.  My cookies did not turn out a puffy as the ones pictured on the site, but there were other comments posted on that page that lead me to believe that that has happened to other people who tried these.  But, yes, these are delicious.


So, when I see places on Travel Channel, Bravo, Food Network, Style Network, etc. in Chicago that I haven’t eaten at yet, I feel the unstoppable urge to eat there and eat there soon.  Several months ago The Depot American Diner was featured on Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives on Food Network.  This short segment got me hooked.  Donuts?  Turkey sandwiches that look like Thanksgiving dinner?  Yes.  Please.

Ryan and I attempted to go the weekend after this episode first aired.  Needless to say, that was not a good idea.  The line was out the door.  That didn’t worry me too much.  I have waited in long long long lines to get into certain restaurants in Chicago.  However, as we waited in line, all of us waiting were saddened as information was passed on to us.  They are out of pot roast.  They are out of turkey.  They are out of donuts?!?!?!?!?  Well, I guess we’ll be back another time.  Today was that time.

Ryan had the ribs.  I had the open-face turkey sandwich.  And then we shared a batch of donuts.  Or rather, Ryan ate one of them and I ate the rest.  Let me just say, the donuts are reason alone to go.  I’ve had “gourmet” donuts before.  I’ve had some really delicious “gourmet” donuts before.  But these, are perfect.  They taste kind of like a funnel cake….but as a donut.  Oh.  My.  Goodness.  So good.

So, it is kind of a long drive from where we live.  However, it is worth the drive.

I can’t wait to go back.

And I will be getting more of those donuts.

Milk-Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ryan and I made a shopping trip to Whole Foods last night to stock up on cookie baking supplies.  Our shopping cart drew some attention from other shoppers because it was basically full of different types of chocolate.  One woman asked if she could come over to our house and another wanted to know if we were doing anything with the chocolate.  Ryan told her that we were just going to sit around and eat it.  And, that does sound like a good idea….but I am a woman with a purpose.

The first cookie on the list was a milk-chocolate chocolate chip cookie. Almost every recipe that I found was made only with semi-sweet or dark chocolate.  I thought that this one would be a little different.  Plus, although it isn’t the best chocolate to bake with, I love milk chocolate.  I don’t really like dark chocolate to eat.  I like it in baking or cooking but if I just want to snack on some chocolate, I am going to reach for some milk chocolate.

The recipe that I used can be found here.  It’s from Food & Wine and I have yet to find a recipe there that doesn’t sound incredibly delicious.  And it’s from Tim Love.  I have yet to have the chance to eat at his restaurant but everything that he has cooked when I’ve seen him on Food Network or Bravo has looked great.  So, I figured that this would probably be a winning combination.

When you look at the recipe one of the first things that you will notice is how much sugar goes into these cookies.  There is a lot of sugar!  But that is not really a problem, I think.

Cups and cups of sugar (and butter)

The first problem that I had was when we were shopping for ingredients.  When Ryan and I went on our choco shopping trip, there wasn’t enough milk chocolate chip.  There was only one bag of milk chocolate chips left on the shelf.  So, I bought some milk chocolate bars and figured that I could improvise.

The next problem that I had came during the actual baking process.  When a recipe says that the cookies will expand quite a bit, please believe them.  And please expect that by “quite a bit” they mean more than you could ever imagine.  I ran into that little problem with mine.  Instead of cookies, I have two cookie pizzas.  Or two cookie flat breads.  I also noticed a bit difference in the color between the two batches.  I used two different colors of cookie sheets and you can definitely see how that altered the cookies.

The verdict for this recipe:  The cookies are really sweet.  Really really sweet.  If you don’t have a huge sweet tooth, these might not be the cookies for you.  You might want to try switching out some of the milk chocolate for a bittersweet or semisweet chocolate.  But, since I have a huge sweet tooth, I think that these are delicious.  The texture is great.  They are nice and chewy with a little bit of crisp on the edges.  Next time, I will definitely put only about six cookies at time on each cookie sheet to fix the spreading issue.

So – that’s chocolate chip cookie recipe #1.  Coming up, I’ve got recipes using bittersweet chocolate, semisweet chocolate, sea salt, nuts, and muscavado sugar.  You’re excited, right?

The search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie

So, I’ve given myself an assignment.  I am going to find the recipe for the perfect chocolate chip cookie.  I have a couple recipes already gathered up…but I’d like more to choose from.  Do you have a really great chocolate chip cookie recipe?  If you’d like to share, I’d love to bake.

The cookie baking begins next week.  And no worries, I’ll definitely be updating with the results as I bake.