Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Tasty Tuesday–Chocolate Chip Cookies Tutorial (Also includes directions for a “Big Cookie”)

Tasty Tuesday

Welcome to Tasty Tuesday here at The Young'ns!
There’s a recipe index under the food tab above if you’re ever looking for a recipe I’ve already blogged.

We all have a recipe for chocolate chip cookies, right?? Well, I’ve had several people tell me that mine are fantastic, and I really have no idea why mine turn out better than some. So, I thought maybe a tutorial would help. My husband’s all-time favorite cookies are chocolate chip. Add kids to that, and I basically *have* to be good at making them! I timed myself once, and I can have a batch of dough ready in less than five minutes. If' I take longer to make the dough than it takes the oven to heat up, I’ve taken too long :-)

Anyway, Chocolate Chip Cookies in pictures:

{Ingredients}

IMG_4164

  • 1 cup butter (2 sticks), salted. The real deal. No substitutions.
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (that’s the regular white kind)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla. or so. I actually add a bit more than that,  but that’s a personal preference. Also, you’ll see in the picture that I attempted to make my own vanilla extract. It didn’t work all that well, but that’s a story for another day
  • 2 1/4 cup all purpose flour. I usually use Hungarian High Altitude, but I’m currently out, oops.
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 2 cups Nestle Chocolate Morsels. Do yourself a favor and don’t get the generic ones.

{Tools I Use}

{Directions}

  • Soften butter. I do this by unwrapping it into a bowl and microwaving it for 20 seconds. You can tell it’s done when you can dent the top with your finger, but there’s no melted butter in the bowl.                                       IMG_4165
  • Place both sugars and the softened butter in the mixer and turn on low. Mix until creamy, about one minute. It should look something like this when it’s done:IMG_4168
  • While that’s going, mix flour, baking soda, and salt in a separate bowl. I usually just give it a bit of a stir with the teaspoon measurer.IMG_4167
  • Add both eggs and the vanilla to the mixer bowl. IMG_4169
  • Mix until it looks something like this:IMG_4170 Beware of overmixing at this stage. You still have to mix in the dry ingredients and you don’t want your cookies to be tough. Just mix until it’s pretty well combined, but you don’t have to kill it!
  • Slowly add in the flour, a bit at a time, until all flour is combined. I basically cover the top of the dough with flour, and then let it mix just a bit before adding more. The reason you don’t want to add all of it is so that it doesn’t make a huge pouf of a mess AND so that you don’t overwhelm your mixer. Also, for this step, you’ll want to make sure that it’s really all mixed in! So if you need to stop the mixer and use a spatula to scrape down the bowl a bit, do it! I also find that sometimes the very very bottom middle doesn’t get mixed well, so I usually scrape  that too.IMG_4171IMG_4172IMG_4174Okay, your dough should look like this now.
  • Add the chocolate chips and mix just enough to combine. DO NOT OVERMIX!! This is important because you want those chips to stay whole and you really don’t want tough cookies. Really.IMG_4175
  • Now is where you’re going to love that cookie scoop and parchment paper. Lay out the parchment paper on two cookie sheets and scoop away! I have played with the configuration of the cookie balls a lot, and here’s what I have found to be the best: 8 cookies staggered like this will leave enough room between them so they don’t get stuck together, but doesn’t waste too much space either.IMG_4180
  • Bake for 9-10 minutes. They won’t look done yet. That’s okay, pull them out anyway. They should be just getting brown along the top and edges, but only a tiny bit.IMG_4182These are done!    IMG_4184These are a little bit overdone. See the one in the bottom right? Brown all over. Too done.
  • Let cool on a rack until all the way cool. Then you’ll see why you pulled them out “early”. They brown a bit and harden a bit after they’re cool. Whatever you do, DO NOT stack them before they’re all the way cool. You’ll end up with ball-o-cookie (not that I’ve ever done that before, right Mom?) IMG_4185                     Try not to burn yourself as you break one open and enjoy the ooey gooey chocolately goodnessIMG_4187

 

Okay, a note about “bar” cookies. There’s a restaurant (or two or three) that have those yummy big cookies a la mode, some of them being better than others. Want to make one at home? It’s way easier than you think! Use a 9” cake pan and this recipe for cookie doughIMG_4181

It takes half of a batch of dough to make a cookie this size, so you can either make two big cookies, or make one big cookie and about 16 regular cookies, your choice.

To bake the big cookie, pat it into the cake pan and bake in a 350 degree oven for 25 or so minutes. You want it to get a bit browner than the cookies so that the middle gets all the way done. I forgot to take a picture right after I pulled it out of the oven, so this looks a bit darker than when I actually pulled it outIMG_4192

Slice it like a pie and eat with a glass of milk or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, delicious!

 

I hope this helps in your chocolate chip cookie endeavors! Let me know how they turn out :-)

~S

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Wordless Wednesday–Volcanos

Ah, the magic of baking soda and vinegar…

2013-03-13 Tot School St Paddys Day (22)~S

Linking up at:

imageBetter in Bulkimage

Tots and Me

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Speak Up Saturday–Book Review–A Voice in the Wind by Francine Rivers

Speak Up Saturday

I told you to watch for a blast of reviews…

A Voice in the Wind: (Mark of the Lion #1)

From the Publisher:

This classic series has already inspired nearly 2 million readers, but both loyal fans and new readers will want this 20th anniversary edition of a Christian classic, which includes a foreword from the publisher, a letter from and Q & A with Francine Rivers, color map, an illustrated glossary, and discussion questions suitable for personal and group use.

The first book in the bestselling Mark of the Lion series, A Voice in the Wind brings readers back to the first century and introduces them to a character they will never forget—Hadassah. Torn by her love for a handsome aristocrat, this young slave girl clings to her faith in the living God for deliverance from the forces of decadent Rome.

I mentioned in my last review that The O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson was one of my favorite series of books. Well, this book, A Voice in the Wind, is the first book in my favorite of all times series! I can’t believe that it’s been 20 years since she wrote this first one, wow.

I think I first read this book about 10 years ago, and I’ve read it probably five more times since then. I figured I was about up for reading it again, so I was very happy to receive this 20th anniversary edition for my kindle.

What do I love about it? It’s so masterfully written. It’s well researched. It’s about a difficult, yet well documented, time in ancient history. The emotion that it pulls out of you is simply astounding. The characters are so deep, so developed, that it’s so easy to fall into this story. I don’t think my kids like it very much when I read this book because I get drawn so far into the story, I have a hard time paying attention to anything else!

To break it down as the synopsis has done misses so much of the story. It’s set in about 70 ad, just as Jerusalem is being sacked by the Romans. It’s about Roman culture, slavery, love, corruption, but most of all, true and tenacious faith in the one true God.

One warning: this is the FIRST book in a THREE book series. Don’t stop here…keep reading! This one ends with a gut punch, but reading the next one smooths it out. Francine Rivers uses that technique in the Marta's Legacy Series too, which is very effective, got me to read the second one in that series too!

Have I mentioned yet that I love this book?!? Go, get it, read it! If you want to borrow mine, let me know! I now have two different kindle versions plus the paper version, and I am happy about it :-)

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~S

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Some links are affiliate links, which I may receive a small compensation from in connection with their affiliate program.

Speak Up Saturday–Book Review–Full Disclosure by Dee Henderson

Speak Up Saturday

Full Disclosure

From the Publisher:

Ann Silver is a cop’s cop. As the Midwest Homicide Investigator, she is called in to help local law enforcement on the worst of cases, looking for answers to murder. Hers is one of the region’s most trusted investigative positions.

Paul Falcon is the FBI’s top murder cop in the Midwest. If the victim carried a federal badge or had a security clearance, odds are good Paul and his team see the case file or work the murder.

Their lives intersect when Ann arrives to pass a case off her desk and onto his. A car wreck and a suspicious death offer a lead on a hired shooter he is tracking. Paul isn’t expecting to meet someone, the kind that goes on the personal side of the ledger, but Ann Silver has his attention.

The better he gets to know her, the more Paul realizes her job barely scratches the surface of who she is. She knows spies and soldiers and U.S. Marshals, and has written books about them. She is friends with the former Vice President. People with good reason to be cautious about who they let into their lives deeply trust her. Paul wonders just what secrets Ann is keeping, until she shows him the John Doe Killer case file, and he starts to realize just who this lady he is falling in love with really is . . .

I realized that I have not written my review yet on this excellent book, slacker!! I received this as an Advanced Reader Copy back in August, I think, and finished it very shortly after I received it.

I loved it!!! One of my favorite series of books that I have read since becoming a Christian is the The O'Malley Series by Dee Henderson. I love the family dynamic, I love the suspense, the romance, the intertwining of the plots. Full Disclosure brings those characters back in glimpses while bringing in new characters that are equally interesting and a joy to get to know.

Dee Henderson is a master storyteller. She can teach you all about a person and their personality without making it laborious and while adding in other plot elements to sweeten the deal. The interactions between the characters are believable, true to life, yet pure and inspiring. The characters in her books, and Ann and Paul are no exceptions, show many characteristics that inspire me to be a better God-follower. Ms. Henderson brings their personal traits into focus, so you can see the good and the bad from their personalities and how they can really relate to me and my relationship with God.

Aside from all that, the story was fun! I truly enjoyed the plot, the characters, the visits from old friends from the O’Malleys, the new relationship between Ann and Paul. I will definitely read it again! Right after I get it back from the second friend that I loaned it to…

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~S

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Bethany House and Dee Henderson. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
Some links are affiliate links, which I may receive a small compensation from in connection with their affiliate program.

Speak Up Saturday– Book Review–Isle of Shadows by Tracy Higley

Speak Up Saturday 
 
From the Publisher:

Revised and updated from the original, Christy-award finalist Shadow of Colossus.
Enslaved in a World of Money and Power, Tessa Dares to be Free.
Raised as courtesan to wealthy and powerful men, Tessa of Delos serves at the whim of her current patron, the politician Glaucus. After ten years with him, Tessa has abandoned all desire for freedom or love, choosing instead to lock her heart away.
But when Glaucus meets a violent death in his own home, Tessa grasps at a fragile hope. Only she knows of his death. If she can keep it a secret long enough, she can escape.
Tessa throws herself on the mercy of the Greek god Helios, but finds instead unlikely allies in Nikos, a Greek slave, and Simeon, Glaucus’s Jewish head servant. As Simeon introduces her to a God unlike any she has ever known and Nikos begins to stir feelings she had thought long dead, Tessa fights to keep her heart protected.
As an assassination plot comes to light, Tessa must battle for her own freedom—and for those to whom she has begun to open her heart—as forces collide that shatter the island’s peace.

 
I just finished reading this book, and I haven’t decided exactly what I think of it. Overall, I guess I would say that I enjoyed it. I find that I enjoy historical fiction, especially well-written and well-researched historical fiction. So, let me tell you the things that I liked about it first before I tell you the things that I didn’t like.
 
I really liked the look into the society of ancient Greece. I find that part of history fascinatingly similar and different from our culture today, and Ms. Higley draws those things out nicely. I felt that it was a well researched book, and that was confirmed for me in the end pages of the book when she stated that she has been to Rhodes, where the story is set, twice in order to really get a feel for the place as she was writing the story. In fact, you can go to her website to see pictures from her adventures there.
 
I also thought the character development was decent and the interaction between characters was mostly well played. Those of the main characters was excellent, with the romance not being too pronounced but still being real and relevant. I do not enjoy reading romance books, but I do like it when a good book has a bit of romance thrown in, and this book had exactly that.
 
As for the things that I did not like, there were 2. The first was the length. It wasn’t too terribly wordy, but I feel that the story could have been told more succinctly with just as much effect. But, historical fiction tends toward lengthy descriptions due to explaining the culture and the location, so this wasn’t a huge deal.
 
What really did it for me, though, was the Christian element. I felt it was very forced. I understand that it would be difficult to squeeze it into a book that was written about “the dark times between the Old and New Testaments”, as she put it in the afterword, but if it was going to be that hard, why do it at all? Or why not develop the characters of Simeon and his family more and have them be more central? I didn’t like the way that Tessa came to faith in the One God in the span of a few short pages, but I am very glad that the story came back around to that. When we initially meet Simeon’s family and Tessa and Nikos spend time with them, it was very pleasant enjoyable, I just wish there had been more time spent on that.
 
Again, though, I enjoyed this book overall and think that anyone who enjoys reading historical fiction would enjoy it. I think that it tends to be more of a “girl” book, but if you’re a guy that likes historical Greece fiction, then you might enjoy it too!
 
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~S

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book in exchange for an honest review from Thomas Nelson Publishers as part of their BookSneeze.com book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Daily Photo–Playing in the snow

We were predicted to get a foot of snow…we got about 2”. My kids + friends = great day to play in the snow!

2013-03-09 Playing in the Snow (1)2013-03-09 Playing in the Snow (2)2013-03-09 Playing in the Snow (7)2013-03-09 Playing in the Snow (4)

~S

Friday, March 8, 2013

Speak Up Saturday–Book Review–The Biggest and Toughest

Speak Up Saturday
Prepare for a blast of book reviews! I’m still backed up and I don’t want to be anymore!
This was a fun book to review with my kids:
From the Publisher:
What would you do if you saw a GIANT scaring a whole army? Would you run away too? Or would you bravely take him on, if that’s what God wanted you to do?         David, a small shepherd boy, shows gigantic faith and courage when he battles the nine-foot-tall Goliath using only a slingshot and stone!
Magnificent Tales are rhyming Bible stories with clever art and clear lessons that the whole family will enjoy. The stories and illustrations are so engaging that you won’t grow tired of reading and re-reading a Magnificent Tale night after night!

Nate really liked it! There were several things he particularly liked about it: the pictures, the age appropriate wording, and the fact that it was on mommy’s kindle-computer :)
I liked the biblical accuracy, yet not too advanced for my 3-year-old. I felt like it was an excellent retelling of the story of David and Goliath. I also enjoyed the rhyming flow of the book. While it might seem cheesy sometimes, I’ve noticed that it really works to get the story stuck in their heads. Nate is just catching onto rhyming words, so this worked particularly well for him.
The only drawback of reading it on my kindle is the formatting. It is not super-smooth, like one might hope. The words end up on one page and the picture on another. I used this “feature” as an opportunity to discuss the pictures in more detail than I might otherwise, so it wasn’t all bad.
Can’t wait to check out some other titles in this series! (4 stars due to Kindle formatting, story was 5 stars!!)
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~S
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from NetGalley as part of their book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.

Weekly Wrap-Up–March 8–Unit Celebration 3

I have been focusing more on keeping us on schedule with our schoolwork, which has taken a lot of time and left not much for blogging. Add to that the quantity of books that I’m reading right now plus trying to be more intentional about being a better housekeeper, and that really doesn’t leave much for blogging!

Anyway…we have been doing great with keeping on track and having a good routine since January at the beginning of this “semester”. Also, I had been thinking a lot about schooling year round, and then I had a chat with my friend that I co-op with, and we both agreed that we’re going to do a modified year round schedule. That has really freed up my attitude about finishing everything that we’re “supposed” to do by the end of May, which in turn frees up my week to do other things, like skip school for a day at the park (or a day of heart training instead, which happens more often).

A few things that we decided to change at the beginning of the year:

* We started and breezed through All About Spelling Level 1. It was basic for her since she’s been reading for awhile and loves to write, but I wanted to start there to give her the spelling rules before we moved on. We’re now starting level 2 and will finish before starting 2nd grade. We also started All About Reading Level 2 and are really hoping that Level 3 will be available for next year!

* We have picked up our Artistic Pursuits book again. Now that I have us on a tighter schedule, we have time to do this, which we’re both happy about. She tells me she’s going to be an artist when she grows up, so I’m glad we have something to help her with that goal.

I also posted our current curriculum choices and what I’m thinking of for next year, which you can also get to under the “Tots and Homeschooling” tab at the top of the blog.

Okay, so what have we been up to?

A month ago, we celebrated finishing Tapestry of Grace Year 1 Unit 3 by having a mini Olympics and a Greek-inspired lunch. The kids got dressed up in their Chitons and away we went!

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (5)The horse race

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (6)The discus throw2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (7)The javelin throw

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (21)The foot race

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (24)Cheering on the last place finishers

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (79)2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (78)Tasty lunch of English muffin pizzas, olives, oranges, sesame bread, and grape juice.

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (55)2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (54)Can’t forget the littles!

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (46)Her display board from this unit’s projects. Not all-inclusive, for sure!

2013-02-06 Unit 3 Celebration (30)All crowned as winners with their laurel crowns (they were tired from running, and ready for lunch. Really, they had a great time!)

I have so many more pictures, but we’ll call that good. Now to not wait another 5 months before posting another weekly wrap-up!!

~S

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