Foodie Friday – Chocolate chip cookies #37

Chocolate chip cookies #37: Based on Framed Cooks’ Molasses Chocolate Chunk Cookies. Baked on 11/12/13.

Happy Black Friday everyone! I’m in San Francisco with my family and enjoying this beautiful city. I’ll post a picture tomorrow. But today is Foodie Friday so here’s your weekly recipe. Yep, it’s another chocolate chip cookies recipe! It’s been a while since I posted one, and this one is seasonally appropriate with the addition of a couple of tablespoons of molasses. A little bit like gingerbread. (There wasn’t actually any ginger in the recipe I tried, but I’ll bet adding a teaspoon would have been good.) The original recipe called for white sugar in the cookie dough, but I figured the molasses flavor would be much more pronounced if I used brown sugar instead. Just call me a chocolate chip cookie rebel! But I was right. The molasses flavor was definitely pronounced with this substitution. That’s probably why the original recipe used white sugar. Don’t get me wrong, I liked these cookies, but the molasses was just a tiny bit too strong for me. But if you are a big fan of molasses I highly recommend that you make these cookies!

Thanksgiving 2013

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Right now I’m sitting in the San Francisco airport waiting for my parent’s flight to arrive. I flew up from LA this morning, taking an early flight to save some money, so I have a few hours to kill. Two firsts for me today – first time flying Jet Blue and first time flying out of the Long Beach airport. Since I live in northern Orange County the LGB is much more convenient than LAX, and I had heard that it’s much less stressful to fly out of. It only took me about fifteen minutes to get from home to the airport this morning so I really appreciated that. Unfortunately it’s generally more expensive to fly from Long Beach since it’s fairly small (I didn’t realize just how small until today) and not many airlines have flights out of there. Jet Blue definitely has the most, and they had the cheapest flights from LA to San Francisco on Thanksgiving Day, so that’s what I chose. A lot of my co-workers loved flying Jet Blue to DC when we were going there once a month so I was excited to give them a try today. Not that you can learn much about an airline on a flight that’s only slightly more than an hour long, but I did enjoy it! The in-seat DirecTV was nice since I get bored easily on planes, and I got to watch part of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade since the NBC feed was from the East Coast. I still set my DVR to record the parade so I can watch it when I get back home on Sunday. I hate to admit it, but right now going back home, crawling in bed, and watching the parade sounds wonderful. When my alarm went off this morning, two hours before my 7 AM flight, I was so not ready to get up. Someone in Seal Beach threw a raucous party last night and I had a hard time sleeping as a result. But at 5 AM I had to get up, make myself pretty, throw the rest of my stuff into my suitcase, and head to the airport. Included in my “stuff” is four Tupperware containers full of cookies – pretty much the only thing I could make ahead of time and transport in my suitcase to contribute to Thanksgiving dinner. I’ll write a whole other post about my Thanksgiving baking, but for now I’ll just say that I tried four new chocolate chip cookie recipes this week! They are all really different, and one of them doesn’t actually have any chocolate chips in it, but I’m still wondering if I went a little overboard. Too late to second guess that now! For my dad who is eating low carb these days I made two batches of roasted nuts yesterday – Indian-spiced almonds (my apartment still smelled like curry this morning) and rosemary pecans. I only tried a few of them after they came out of the oven, but I thought they tasted pretty good. I know there will be much better things to eat at dinner tonight, but at least I contributed something.

Thanksgiving week is always a little strange with a holiday in the middle of the week, and this year was no exception. You know how I said I got so much done at work on Tuesday and how Wednesday was going to be even better? Well, I didn’t even make it in to work yesterday. I was so exhausted when I went to bed on Tuesday night that I forgot to set an alarm, so I seriously overslept. By the time I had roused myself I figured it wasn’t worth going to work since I was planning to leave early anyway. Hopefully I didn’t miss anything important! I wish I could say that I used my free time welly yesterday, but I’m afraid I was mostly just lazy. Besides packing my suitcase, roasting the almonds and pecans, and washing some dishes, I sent most of the day bumming around. I definitely haven’t been getting enough sleep recently and that’s been wearing me down. I fell asleep on the couch last night for a couple of hours, and by the time I woke up it was too late for me to go running. I feel like such a slug for not getting any real since Sunday, but I’ve been so tired. For all you ladies out there you’ll understand when I say I blame my hormones. Hopefully I’ll get back into the groove soon. I brought my running shoes with me to San Francisco and I’m planning to make use of the hotel fitness center as much as possible while I’m here. I always eat really well when I’m on vacation so I’ll definitely have to get some running in! This is the time of year that it’s the most difficult to stay in shape. Everyone is busy with holiday preparations which leaves much less time than usual for things like exercise and relaxation. It doesn’t help that I promised my co-workers a cake on Monday. That’s a story for another post, but I should use some of the time I’m just sitting here at the airport to look for a recipe to try. I love free airport wifi! But getting back to the holidays, I am fortunate to have finished almost all of my Christmas shopping already. I have one or two small items I still need to get, but I’ve got a little more than three weeks before I fly to Tallahassee for Christmas. That’s plenty of time to complete my holiday errands and still have time leftover for running. No more excuses!

OK, I think it’s about time for me to go find my suitcase (which has inevitable been taken off the baggage carousel and stashed somewhere for me to hunt for) and make my way to the terminal where my parent’s flight will arrive. Happy Turkey Day, everyone! I hope you all are having a lovely day, eating delicious food, and passing out on the couch afterwards to watch football or the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special or something like that. Since I’m spending the weekend with my family I don’t know how much time I’ll have to write in the next three days, but I’ll do my best to limit photo-only posts. No promises, though! (I guarantee I’ll have at least one picture of food to share. I’m a foodie at heart.) Happy Thanksgiving!

Free time fail

I am an expert at doing nothing. When I get home from work or errands or whatever at the end of the day I always tell myself that I’m going to be productive, but the truth is that I’m exhausted and I usually just do nothing. And as soon as my rear hits the couch (with the TV on and my computer on my lap) it takes a monumental effort to get me moving again. Today wasn’t too much of an exception. A few things in my favor, though – I did go in to work early so I could kick off a few things before my doctor’s appointment, I was able to get out of there again at 3:30 PM, and I did run a couple of errands before going home. Unfortunately that’s pretty much where the story ends. I didn’t wash my cookie-baking dishes from last night (yuck!), I didn’t do any laundry (which would be nice before I leave town, but not absolutely necessary), I didn’t go running (lazy!), and I didn’t write the long meaningful post that I intended to. It’s a good thing blogging isn’t my full time job because I don’t have the follow-through to make a living at it! I’m a much better engineer. Trust me. (And I was right about being super productive at work. I got so much done today, and tomorrow is going to be even better!) The good news is that I don’t have to work a full day tomorrow so if I get there early I can leave shortly after lunch. That should give me plenty of time to finish all of my Thanksgiving preparations as well as go running in the evening. I knew I was going to hate myself for skipping it tonight, but that didn’t motivate me to actually get out the door. I really need to work on that. And I need to work on getting more sleep! Once again it’s way past my bedtime and I’m still up writing a webpage post. I will apologize in advance because I’ve already planned for tomorrow to be a true Wordless Wednesday. But with any luck I’ll have a few hours to write something of substance while I’m traveling on Thanksgiving Day. Happy Turkey Day, everyone!

Busy Monday

I intended to write another weekend recap post today, but it’s been a busy day. I went to work early, came home at 3 PM, baked two batches of cookies for Thanksgiving (to go with the two batches I made yesterday – and I’m still not sure I have enough!), watched a little TV, and now it’s time for bed. Actually it’s past time for bed. I want to get to work early again tomorrow because I have a doctor’s appointment at 8:30 AM and I have some things I’d like to get started on beforehand. Since a lot of people took these three days before Thanksgiving off I’m taking advantage of the down time to make some progress on a few projects. I get a lot more work done when people aren’t bugging me all day. Not that I don’t love my co-workers (well, most of them), but they can be a big distraction sometimes! I also have a lot of things to do outside of work before Thanksgiving – like laundry and packing. My flight is at 7 AM on Thursday morning so at least I have a few more days to prepare. And since I just might be done with the Thanksgiving cookies I intend to take with me (four different kinds of chocolate chip cookies – I outdid myself this time!) I might actually be ahead of the game! That would be a first. But right now I really need to go to sleep. I am completely exhausted and I can’t keep my eyes open. I’d promise to write a more thorough update tomorrow, but we all know there’s a good chance that won’t happen. But I promise I’ll try!

Crazy Saturday

This is the first post published on my brand new laptop! I love it already!

Forgive me for the “Wordless Saturday” post yesterday. I figured I could justify it since I didn’t take advantage of “Wordless Wednesday” earlier this week, but it was still a cop-out. Weekends are when I should theoretically have more free time to write longer updates, but yesterday was a bit crazy. As you could probably tell from my previous post, yesterday I watched the Doctor Who 50th Anniversary Special at 11:50 AM when it was simulcast all over the world at the same time. I was curled up on my couch with my laptop so I could follow BBC America on Twitter while the show was airing. (And if you follow me on Twitter you saw my many, many tweets with the hashtag #DoctorWho50th. I was unapologetically enthusiastic!) I did tell you I was a nerd, right? So what did I think of “The Day of the Doctor” after all of the hype and anticipation? It was awesome! I actually watched it twice yesterday – once during the initial airing and a second time in the evening (after I went running) to catch all of the details I missed. The show actually improved upon repeat viewing and that made me love it even more. You’d think the 50th Anniversary Special would have satisfied my craving for new Doctor Who content, at least for a little while, but it actually just made me even more anxious for the Christmas special next month. Especially after the (very) brief appearance of the 12th Doctor, Peter Capaldi, near the end. I can’t wait. So Doctor Who took up a lot of my time yesterday, obviously. I wish I could say that I got a lot done before the show started, but I didn’t. I had a lazy breakfast of a Special K protein shake and a Coke (unhealthy, I know), folded the last of my clean laundry from the night before, and washed some dishes. Not bad, but not great. As a diehard Gator fan I have to admit that I didn’t watch the beginning of the Florida football game because Doctor Who interfered. However, I did fire up my ESPN app on my iPad so I could watch the end of the game when Doctor Who was over, but I wish I hadn’t. The Gators lost to Georgia Southern. This is a new low. Not only does Florida have seven losses this season, but yesterday marked six losses in a row. Their last win was against Arkansas back on 10/5 and that’s the game I attended! Holy cow! The Gator Nation is really sad these days, but I don’t want to dwell on that too much. Maybe I’ll write a whole post about this football season when it’s over (which will probably be next weekend since Florida won’t be bowl-eligible this year). But for now let’s move on to a happier subject! When the football game was over yesterday I drove over to Best Buy and picked up my new laptop! Yes, I am now the proud owner of a Lenovo Yoga 2 and I’m completely enamored with it. I have to admit that I haven’t used it too much yet (it was a crazy weekend) so I don’t have all of the settings personalized, but I imagine I’m just going to love it more and more as I use it. I will undoubtedly be writing more about that soon. Last night I was feeling lazy after skipping my run on Friday due to the rain and cold temperatures(a flimsy excuse at best), so I headed out to get some much-needed exercise before the sun went down. It was absolutely gorgeous in Seal Beach. I’ve never seen it so clear in Los Angeles. Not only could you see Catalina Island, but I could make out buildings in Two Harbors! It was amazing. Unfortunately my running wasn’t so amazing. I’d been doing really well with my 2-mile intervals, although I hadn’t been running as frequently as I should have in the last couple of weeks, but yesterday was really tough. I had to slow down just to finish the run, which was frustrating because my mile times had been decreasing since I started the two-mile intervals. But since I really only care about the distance and not the time, I’m trying not to focus on my pace too much. I have accepted that some runs are going to be more difficult than others and I’m not going to let that discourage me. This is one of those times when my stubbornness will pay off! After I got home and took a shower I was famished. I usually run so late in the evening that I either skip dinner or just have a protein shake before I go to bed. But yesterday I found my stomach growling at 7 PM so I drove over to Jersey Mike’s and got a delicious turkey sub. That’s what I munched on while watching “The Day of the Doctor” for the second time. Yeah, I really loved it. Did I already say that? But anyway, that pretty much wraps up my Saturday. I intended to make this post about my whole weekend, but it’s late and I’m really tired. These three workdays before Thanksgiving are going to be very busy and I have some other things I need to do outside of work as well. More details tomorrow. Good night!

Foodie Friday – Slow cooker marinara

I’ve tried to make a flavorful marinara sauce many times, but I never succeeded…until now! I think my biggest problem was that I didn’t let the sauce simmer long enough on the stove to boil off the excess liquid and let the flavors meld properly. So as it has so many times in the past, my Crockpot came to the rescue! I did a little prep, threw the ingredients in my slow cooker, and let it cook on low for eight hours. Pure genius. The resulting marinara sauce is thick, aromatic, and packed with flavor. Besides a whole heap of spices that make this marinara inherently Italian, I think the brown sugar and balsamic vinegar are the key ingredients. They make the sauce perfect. If you’re a carnivore you can add some cooked meat of any variety to this sauce for a yummy bolognese. But since there was a vegetarian at my dinner party last Wednesday I left it as is and absolutely loved it. I hope you’ll love it too. Note: The simplest preparation of this sauce is to just throw everything into the Crockpot, stir, and cook on low for about 8 hours. However, I added a few more steps for good measure. I’ll try it again sometime without the extra prep and see how it compares.

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 1/2 c diced sweet onion (about 1 large onion)
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (more or less if you want)
2 cans (28 oz each) crushed tomatoes
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves

Heat the olive oil in a large nonstick skillet, then add the diced onion and sautee for 4-5 minutes. Add the minced garlic and sautee for 1 minute more. Add the tomato paste, basil, oregano, parsley, Italian seasoning, thyme, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Toss the onion mixture into the bottom of your Crockpot (use a liner for easy clean up). Pour the crushed tomatoes over the top, add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and bay leaves and stir to combine. Put the lid on the Crockpot and cook on low for about 8 hours. Remove the bay leaves before serving over some pasta, chicken, or whatever. Enjoy!

Based on Budget Bytes’s Slow Cooker Marinara.

Disneyland at Christmas

Can you guess what I did after work today? Yeah, I went to Disneyland. I hadn’t been there since before Halloween because the crowds were so overwhelming then and I didn’t want a repeat of that experience. But I thought today would be a day of lighter attendance not just because it’s a weekday, but because of the rain. It only rains in Los Angeles in the winter so the storm last night definitely marked the beginning of the season. And a lot of people here stay home when it rains so I took advantage of that and went out instead. I had to be at work at 6 AM this morning for a test so I got to leave at 3 PM and head to Disneyland before the traffic picked up. That was definitely worth it since the park closes at 8 PM during the week now. I spent about three hours at Disney riding a few rides (Haunted Mansion Holiday, Small World Holiday, etc.), eating dinner (a so-so rice bowl from California Adventure, but then a scrumptious salted caramel hot chocolate for dessert), and doing some Christmas shopping at Downtown Disney (presents for my best friend!). It was a good evening. Since winter has finally arrived I wore a sweatshirt even though I thought I might be a little too warm, but I was actually chilly! I love winter in Southern California so I’m trying to enjoy it as much as possible. (Fortunately “winter” lasts until April or May so there’s a lot of it!) I drove home at 7 PM, watched a couple of TV shows on my DVR (Sleepy Hollow and Big Bang Theory), and now I’m sitting in bed writing my daily post way too late again! But it was a good day so I’ll go to sleep happy tonight.