A milestone of sorts… how my daughter is different than a dog…

I often think how my daughter acts like a dog or at least how I treat her like one.  She eats food off the floor, puts sticks in her mouth, and plays fetch really, really well.  She begs me for food with her mouth wide open.  She gets underfoot in the kitchen and everywhere I am.  When she’s in the pool, she laps up the water with her tongue.  The other day we took a shower together, and she did the one dog-like thing you might hope she wouldn’t do.  Yes, squat and poo.  Right there in the shower with the both of us… Ew…

I’m so excited to share this new developmental hump that we’ve crossed!  It’s been slowly showing itself.  She’s been playing fetch for a while now, but we’ve just crossed over into some real language understanding.  It’s so exciting.  Sophia will bring me something, or I’ll ask her to hand me something or to go get me something, and most of the time I can coerce her into doing it for me.  But, she often doesn’t seem to really understand what it is I’m asking of her.  Well, the other day I was sitting lazily in the recliner with an empty granola bar wrapper, and I asked Sophia to go put it in the trash can for me.  She looked at me, so excited like “Really, Mom?  Really?  I can go and put something IN the sacred DO NOT TOUCH trashcan?!” She grabbed the wrapper and took off to the kitchen, plopped the wrapper in the trashcan and headed back toward me.  It occurred to me that I should cheer wildly.  So I did, and she was SO proud!  Since then, I have tried having her throw away other things for me and asking her to go get me things!  It keeps working!  I’m SO EXCITED!  The possibilities!  This pregnancy with a toddler thing might work out after all… 😉

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My Little Toddler

I’ve been wanting to give an update on my little growing toddler.  She’s doing so much fun stuff, and I know there’s a few of you that only check this blog for her… 😉  I tried to take some pictures and video, but they’re really not very good.  She was acting a little snobby when I took these.  That little stinker.  It really shows her grown up face, though.

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Can you see her in action on the shot on the right?  This is what she does all the time when we’re upstairs.  She’ll take the most random things, pile them in a laundry basket, and push them from room to room.  She’ll put so much in them that they’re too heavy to move, then she’ll scream when she can’t push it over the hard floor to carpet seam!  Ah, enough to drive Mommy insane!  But, she loves this game.  Her favorite item to pile in the basket?  Daddy’s shoes.  Yup.  And, usually in pairs.  She loves Daddy’s shoes.  She’ll go find them from the closet, get a match, and haul them out to her basket.  Then, she’ll go back for another pair.  Once she’s satisfied with what’s in her basket, she’ll push it out into the hallway and into her bedroom… and back out to the hallway and into the extra bedroom… and back out to the hallway and into the bathroom… Oh, I left out all the screams in between when she goes over a seam!  Here’s a video of the busy girl.  Watch out for screams of frustration.  I had just closed the gate at the top of the stairs because she just learned how much fun it is to toss things down the stairs… and, I didn’t want this video to show her falling down the stairs with the basket. 😉  Oh, and pardon the dirty clothes in the floor. 😉

Her other favorite thing to do is carry her purse around the house on her arm.  If she doesn’t have her purse, any object that she can put her arm through will do.  We’ve got her with one of Daddy’s flip-flops on each arm and with wii remotes on each arm wearing them until they leave a red mark on her arm.  Oh, the things that give her delight!

Sophia is so much fun lately!  She’s really learning to play and explore.  She’s so much fun to watch and listen to.  She interacts so well with us and is learning to pretend.  Just earlier while I was fixing lunch, I gave her a little piece of cheese to snack on while she was standing on the floor below me holding her Pooh bear.  When I gave her the cheese, she first put it up to her bear’s mouth so he could have a bite, then she ate it!  Isn’t that sweet?  She loves feeding her dolls.  When the new baby comes, we’re going to have to strictly teach her that the new baby is only fed by mommy and only drinks Mommy’s milk!  But for now, this is sweet.

This last week we’ve seen her grow so much!  She’s finally learned to go downstairs by herself, and though cautious, is doing it very well.  I’d say that she learned that just in time because I don’t know how long I can keep carrying her down!  Sophia’s teeth have been popping in like crazy.  She has about 9 now.  She got a new bottom front one, and two top molars are poking through the skin.  It’s a good thing she’s getting all these teeth because she doesn’t like eating mushy stuff!  She’s been learning some new words lately, surprising us every time she says something.  The other day when I was getting grapes out, she said, “Gapes.”  Now, she always says “gapes” when I get them out.  We’ve been trying to teach her to say “I love you.”  She’s working on it.  Sometimes, she’ll point at her eyes when she tries to say it…  Last night, we were singing “Old McDonald” with her, and when we were done a few minutes later, she pointed at the book and sang, “E-I-E-I-Oh!”  Can’t wait til we get THAT on video!  Oh my goodness was it precious!

Sophia in her rocking chair with her baby doll in one hand and Yoda in the other

Chocolate Chip Cookie Attempt 2

For attempt #2, I used a really yummy recipe.  I’m going to post it here because it’s really worth trying.  This recipe is borrowed from a fellow wordpress blog, The “Christopher Kimball Blog from America’s Test Kitchen.” I’ll leave the recipe at the bottom for those of you that want to peruse it.

The difference on this recipe compared to the last is “browning” the butter, dark brown sugar, and a meticulous mixing method; i.e. stir, pause, stir, pause, etc.

So, you actually brown the butter in a pan.  You don’t just melt the butter, you brown it for a few minutes so that the deeper butter flavors come out.  This was actually an incredibly sensual process.  Sure, I’ve melted butter and it smells amazing, but not like this!  Stirring constantly you first melt butter, then let it boil and literally turn brown.  While it’s turning brown, a sweet caramel-like aroma comes out.  After that, you remove from heat and add more butter.  This causes the whole thing to boil up like crazy creating the most intense smell of buttery, caramel-ly goodness that you may pass out!  After you add the rest of the ingredients as he suggests, the batter ends up shiny and fully incorporated.  It’s a dark, shiny ball–beautiful really.

You’ll find that even in the uncooked batter, the tastes are much more complex and deep than a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe.  My husband loved the richness, but I might prefer to try a lighter brown sugar next time.  These were quite rich.  These would make a perfect afternoon cookie with a cup of coffee.  The texture came out perfect–crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside with an extraordinary taste!  Here is my only little problem: By day 3, they were no longer WONDERFUL.  They dried out and became chewy and crumbly instead of crunchy.  Storage problem?

As with Chocolate Chip Cookie Attempt 1, I refrigerated the dough before baking it.  I found that the longer batch (about 27 hours) came out the best.  I also let the dough rest on the counter for about an hour so that scooping them out would be easier.  My next attempt will include individually freezing balls of dough.

Enjoy the pictures.  Hope you try this recipe!  You WILL NOT BE DISAPPOINTED!

Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie

Makes 16 cookies.
Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.
INGREDIENTS
1 3/4
cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2
teaspoon baking soda
14
tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2
cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4
cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1
teaspoon table salt
2
teaspoons vanilla extract
1
large egg
1
large egg yolk
1 1/4
cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4
cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)
INSTRUCTIONS
. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.
. 2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.
. 3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.
. 4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)
. 5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Makes 16 cookies.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

INGREDIENTS

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

14 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)

1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)

3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces)

1 teaspoon table salt

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks

3/4 cup chopped pecan or walnuts, toasted (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

. 1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

. 2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

. 3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

. 4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

. 5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Chocolate Chip Cookie Attempt 1

I got started on learning to make great chocolate chip cookies this weekend.  And, woah, the difference a recipe makes!  I decided to try this recipe for simple reasons: 1) recipe makes a smaller batch; so, I didn’t have to do any halving and 2)the blogger’s picture and enthusiasm inspired me.  This recipe is a definite keeper!!!  Though, I may need to perfect my technique.

I followed the recipe pretty well, only I used room temperature butter instead of cold butter.  I’ve read that the butter will dissolve sugar better if it is not cold.  I also refrigerated the dough longer than one hour.  Otherwise, I followed it.  I even went out and bought a cookie dropper for this recipe attempt.  How did they work out?

I can’t say that I really knew how to use the cookie scooper.  The tiny amount that went inside seemed like a really small cookie.  For the first batch, 4 hours after preparing the dough, we tried 6 cookies.  The dough was stacked too high and the amount of dough per cookie was inconsistent.  I came out with 3 done cookies and 3 not done cookies.  They were all wonderful cookies, but the less done ones had a bit of an aftertaste which Taste Tester #2 called “butter.”

Batch #2 I saved for the following afternoon.  I read here that letting the dough rest in the refrigerator for 36 hours will help the dry ingredients soak up the wet ingredients creating a drier, firmer dough which will lend best for the desired outcome.  Well, 36 hours is a lot of patience.  And, since pregnant I probably shouldn’t eat a lot of raw cookie dough, regardless of how good it is, Batch #2 was baked at approximately 24 hours.  These were significantly better.  I used smaller drops of dough and squished them down a tiny bit.  They were all the perfect crispiness, though a few could have been more doughy inside.  I baked this batch for 10 minutes and put a few back in for one minute.

My size and form consistency from cookie to cookie was still not great.  Any tips for consistency on size and form?  Would it be silly to use the cookie dropper for size only?  Then squash and form each?  My guess is that they didn’t spread out like crazy because the dough was so cold and hard.

So, we actually broke up this recipe into 3 separate batches.  The third tiny batch we enjoyed last night–still very good, though a bit small and crispy.  I liked breaking the dough into batches so that I could do experiments but also because I have little self-control in not finishing a warm batch of cookies!  We’ll blame it on the baby.  😉   I’m also thinking of learning how the dough can be kept for a time:  fridge or frozen, how stored and how long?

Thanks for your comments.  Keep ’em coming.  I appreciate them!  Until next time and next batch…

Learning to Eat by Herself