Saturday, October 31, 2009

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Happy Halloween!

I can't believe it's Halloween already. The month of October is over! There are only 2 more months left of 2009. How crazy is that? To celebrate our first Halloween in the new house I decided to make some candy corn cupcakes. I had seen a lot of candy corn cupcakes floating around and I loved the idea. Your taking your basic cupcake recipe and jazzing it up with some food coloring. I used this cupcake and frosting recipe. It was a winner for me in the past and I figured I should stick with it. The cupcakes are delicious and they look adorable.

My advice is to be liberal with the food coloring. Make sure the batter is bright because the color tones down after baking. I thought the batter was too yellow and a perfect orange but after baking, the yellow was perfect and the orange was too light. I bought a ton of candy so I'm hoping a lot of little ones stop by the house. I'm dying to see little kids in costumes. This is something I missed when I lived in Boston. I also can't believe that this time next year I'll have a little one of my own to dress up :)

Friday, October 30, 2009

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Cracked Pepper Cheddar Muffins

I gave this recipe a try and it's not exactly a loser, but it's also not exactly a winner. I thought it would be a good recipe because you really can't go wrong when cheese is involved but I think that may have been part of the problem. The cheese just didn't stand out enough. Despite the amount of cheese, I found these muffins to be bland and dry. They kind of tasted like days old corn bread instead of a cheddar muffin. I'm sure that adding more cheese or even substituting the cheddar for a stronger, more pungent cheese would make this recipe a real keeper.

Cracked Pepper Cheddar Muffins
Source: Taste of Home
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 egg
1-1/4 cups milk
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded cheddar cheese

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder and pepper. In another bowl, whisk the egg, milk and oil. Stir into dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in cheese.

Fill muffins cups coated with cooking spray two-thirds full. Bake at 375° for 25-30 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan to a wire rack. Serve warm.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

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A Parenting(?) Question

At 6 months pregnant and with the due date fast approaching I find myself thinking a lot about what type of parent I will be and what kind of knowledge I want to impart on my daughter-to-be. My mind runs in all directions when I try to answer these questions. I know I will be the strict parent and I also know that I am going to love this child in immeasurable amounts. She's not even here yet and I find myself fiercely protective of her and everything having to do with her.

There are so many things I want to teach her. So many things I want her to know about the world. I've decided that the main thing I want to teach her (or give her?) is a strong and confident sense of self. I think it’s so important for you to feel comfortable in who you are because there are going to be so many situations in life that will test what you think of yourself. From shattered relationships to the media to interactions with random strangers, there are all kinds of situations that will make you look at yourself and how you are perceived by others. I am completely confident and happy in the person I have become. I know I may be perceived in many different ways but I am ok with that because I know who I am and I am ok with that person. I hope this is something that shows when the little one starts developing her sense of self and that this is something that will provide her with the tools necessary when she starts to question who she is and who she wants to be.

So now my question is...What's one thing you think is important to teach the little ones?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

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Seafood Lunch

A few weeks back Alex decided to treat me to a special lunch. I don't mean special in that it was expensive, I mean special in that it was so out of the norm for him. One of my biggest frustrations with Alex's eating habits is that he doesn't eat seafood. He doesn't like seafood because it tastes like the ocean. Ummm ok. He's had an occasional shrimp but that is the extent of his seafood eating. I don't make any seafood at home because (a) I just don't know how to prepare it and (b) I don't want to have to prepare a whole new meal for Alex just because I want seafood. As a result, I only eat seafood when I eat outside of the house. So when he mentioned going to Garcia's for lunch I nearly jumped out of myself. I have been wanting to go to Garcia's since before we even moved to Boston. I would have turned down the offer as I usually do (I get so guilt ridden thinking of him not having enough eating options at seafood restaurants), but I couldn't pass this one up. So we went, sat on the water, and ate seafood. Yes, we both ate seafood. Alex really did make this a special lunch :)

Never having been to Garcia's I didn't know what to expect of the restaurant. They have a reputation for having the freshest seafood around so I half expected it to be a fancy restaurant. Wrong. This is the type of restaurant that was made for locals and for people who enjoy hassle-free meals. There is nothing extravagant on the menu. There are no pretenses. It really is all about the food.

Look at that silly grin.
As soon as you sit down-we chose to sit by the water-they bring you water and a little cup full of some kind of fish dip. I was all over the dip. I ate my dip and Alex's dip. You would have thought I hadn't eaten anything in a week with how quickly I ate the dip. It was a perfect mash up of fish, lemon, and I'm guessing a mayo-cream cheese combination.
We both ordered the dolphin sandwiches and wow. The fish sandwiches were incredible and they had such a clean, unfiltered taste. They didn't taste fishy or like the ocean. All you tasted was the crispness of the white fish and the kick of the spices. The fish tasted like it was the child of a blackened and cajun union.
The sandwich came with a side of fries. The fries were your good ol' standard seasoned fries.
Garcia's is located at 398 NW North River Drive in Miami. They are open every day from 11am to 9pm and are definitely worth checking out.

The partial view of Downtown Miami is beautiful.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

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Daring Bakers: Macaroons

2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

The title of the post that contained this month's Daring Bakers challenge said "Practice Your French Kissing." I don't think any amount of practicing my French kissing would have helped me conquer the difficulty that is making macaroons. I went into making the dessert confident and came out feeling defeated. I expected defeat. This is after all a dessert that I had been terrified of making because of it's reputation. It's a deliciously fickle cookie. Everything has to be absolutely perfect, from the temperature of the eggs to the temperature of the oven. My cookies came out flat and chewy. I filled the cookies with a chocolate ganache and they honestly tasted more like chocolate chip cookies than anything else.
Make sure to check out the Daring Bakers blogroll. Not everyone had as much trouble as I did and, in fact, some bakers created the most gorgeous macaroons.


Confectioners’ (Icing) sugar: 2 ¼ cups (225 g, 8 oz.)
Almond flour: 2 cups (190 g, 6.7 oz.)
Granulated sugar: 2 tablespoons (25 g , .88 oz.)
Egg whites: 5 (Have at room temperature)


1. Preheat the oven to 200°F (93°C). Combine the confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a medium bowl. If grinding your own nuts, combine nuts and a cup of confectioners’ sugar in the bowl of a food processor and grind until nuts are very fine and powdery.
2. Beat the egg whites in the clean dry bowl of a stand mixer until they hold soft peaks. Slowly add the granulated sugar and beat until the mixture holds stiff peaks.
3. Sift a third of the almond flour mixture into the meringue and fold gently to combine. If you are planning on adding zest or other flavorings to the batter, now is the time. Sift in the remaining almond flour in two batches. Be gentle! Don’t overfold, but fully incorporate your ingredients.
4. Spoon the mixture into a pastry bag fitted with a plain half-inch tip (Ateco #806). You can also use a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off. It’s easiest to fill your bag if you stand it up in a tall glass and fold the top down before spooning in the batter.
5. Pipe one-inch-sized (2.5 cm) mounds of batter onto baking sheets lined with nonstick liners (or parchment paper).
6. Bake the macaroon for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and raise the temperature to 375°F (190°C). Once the oven is up to temperature, put the pans back in the oven and bake for an additional 7 to 8 minutes, or lightly colored.
7. Cool on a rack before filling.

Monday, October 26, 2009

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Chicken with a Red Wine Sauce

I always seem to get stuck with chicken. Seventy-five percent of the time I end up baking chicken because I have no clue what else to do with it. I do experiment with chicken recipes but sometimes the recipes suck so much that I go back to my baking ways. I found this recipe and it's actually a keeper. Alex said it was one of the best chicken dishes I've ever made. Those are strong words. The sauce is really what makes the dish good. I personally found the chicken to be a little dried out and lacking salt, but to Alex it was a perfect, unexpected dish.

Chicken with a Red Wine Sauce
Source: All Recipes (here)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
3 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1 tablespoon paprika
1 cup brown sugar (I used 2/3 cups instead)
1 cup red wine
salt and pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp flour

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Cook garlic in oil until tender. Place chicken in the skillet, and cook about 10 minutes on each side, until no longer pink and juices run clear. (I browned the chicken. Since you are simmering the chicken for another 20 minutes there's no point in cooking it all the way at this point. It will continue to cook as it simmers.)

Drain oil from skillet. Sprinkle chicken with paprika and 1 cup brown sugar. Pour red wine around chicken. Cover, and simmer about 15 to 20 minutes; lightly baste chicken with wine sauce while cooking. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Remove the chicken from the pan. Add the flour to the wine sauce and whisk until the sauce thickens. Serve on the chicken or on the side.

Friday, October 23, 2009

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What's The Best Way to Say Thank You?

This week I was able to reconnect with a good friend. He's the type of friend that's low key and low maintenance. You know that type of friend that doesn't require too much attention and that you go months without speaking to but once you do, you can easily spend 3 hours talking with them and you feel like no time has passed since the last time you spoke? It's such a comforting feeling and this is my favorite type of friendship. There is no judgment, no jumping to conclusions, no negativity; it's all about reconnecting, catching up, and truly enjoying the friendship. So in a week when bizarre things were happening left and right, his call was like a comforting hug. One that said "I won't judge you like I don't know you. I don't care what you have or what others say about you." It was a hug that said "I accept you for you because I know who you really are." Most importantly, it was like a hug that said "I love you, now can you pretty please bake me something?" And I did. I couldn't think of a better way to say "thank you for being a true friend" than baking something in honor of this friendship.

When Edgar came down for my wedding over 2 years ago he stayed at the DoubleTree Hotel. He raved on and on about their cookies and how great they were and how insane I was for not trying the cookies. In my defense, the last thing I wanted to eat the day before my wedding was a cookie. I'm sure a cookie would calm the nerves and excitement of getting married but I was afraid that if I opened my mouth to eat a cookie I'd throw it up and never eat another cookie again in my life. I couldn't bear the thought of a life without cookies so I passed on the DoubleTree cookie. So as a thank you to Edgar for being a great friend, I made these cookies with him in mind and am virtually sending them to him with a big hug.
Never having had the DoubleTree cookies I didn't know what to expect. I have no point of reference and no clue how these stack up against the ones given at the hotel. I will tell you this though (as I stuff my face with another cookie) these are some good cookies. I generally don't like any kind of nut in my cookie, but with this cookie, the walnuts work and give it such a great flavor and texture. Because of the discrepancy between the granulated and brown sugars this cookie doesn't have that same butterscotch-y flavor as other chocolate chip cookies. To me, the cookie had more of a vanilla flavor.

Doubletree Hotel Chocolate Chip Cookies

Source: Lick the Spatula (here)

1 1/2 C. butter — softened
1 1/2 C. granulated sugar
3/4 C. firmly packed brown sugar
4 eggs
2 1/2 tsp. Vanilla
1 tsp. lemon juice
3 C. all-purpose flour
3/4 C. old-fashioned oatmeal — uncooked
3/4 tsp. Baking Soda
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
3 C. Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips — Ghirardelli!
1 1/2 C. chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Place the butter in a large bowl and cream lightly with an electric mixer. Add the sugars and beat on medium speed for about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the vanilla and lemon juice and mix well. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, oatmeal, baking soda, salt and cinnamon. Add to the creamed butter mixture and stir well to blend. Add chocolate chips and walnuts and stir to combine.

Using a 1/4 cup measure or a 2-oz ice cream scoop, drop the batter on the parchment-lined pans, leaving 2 -3 inches between each cookie. Bake for 13 - 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Remove from parchment and cool on wire racks.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

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A Little Pink Makes the World a Better Place

Pink is my favorite color. Pink brightens up my mood and it always puts a smile on my face. I am that person that squeals every time she sees something in pink. I just love it that much. So I was super excited when my good friend Jen gave me pink M&Ms and asked me to make M&M cookies for her baby shower. I'm a bad baker and I can't tell you how the cookies tasted because I didn't get to taste them. Oops. I made sure to fill up a goodie bag at the shower for Alex and when he tasted the cookie he said they were really good. The recipe I used is simple to put together and I loved seeing how the pink M&Ms looked after they came out of the oven. These are a crispier cookie and you can eat a whole cookie in one bite. Actually, that last part might be my fault...I halved the recipe and was able to come out with close to 40 cookies. So if you make these cookies, make them a little bigger than teaspoon-sized.
M&M Cookies
Source: Beantown Baker (here)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/3 cups M&M’s, divided
1 cup chopped pecans (I omitted)

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Stir together flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. Beat butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar and vanilla in a large bowl until well blended. Add eggs; beat well.

Gradually add flour mixture, beating until well blended. Stir in 3/4 cup M&Ms and all the nuts.

Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. Press 5-6 of remaining M&Ms on each cookie before baking. Bake 9-11 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly; remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

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Cake Slice: Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake

Remember a while back how I mentioned getting back into a routine? Well, participating in The Cake Slice each month was part of getting back into my routine. It's been a while since I had participated and when I saw the cakes made by other Cake Slicers each month, I was reminded of how dumb it was of me to have not participated as well. Quite a bit has changed since I last baked along with this group. The biggest change is that they are baking from a new book, Southern Cakes. I was beyond thrilled when I saw this change because now we'll be making different kinds of cakes instead of just the layer cakes of Sky High.

To kick off a new book and a new type of cake, this month's selection was the Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake. This cake is the perfect morning cake and it is just oozing with cinnamon-brown sugar goodness. Putting the cake together is easy and enjoying the aroma of it baking is something that makes you want to bake this cake every day of the year. My favorite part of the cake was the pecans in the middle. You know the pecans are there, but it's still a nice surprise when you bite into one and its flavor mixes with the cinnamon and the cake.

Cinnamon Pecan Coffee Cake

Source: Southern Cakes by Nancie McDermott

Makes a 13 x 9 inch sheet cake

For the Cake

3 cups all purpose flour

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 cup milk

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

For the Cinnamon Raisin Filling

1½ cups light brown sugar

3 tbsp all purpose flour

3 tbsp cinnamon

1½ cups raisins (I omitted)

1½ cups coarsely chopped pecans

¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter, melted


Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour a 13 by 9 inch pan.

To make the filling, combine the light brown sugar, flour and cinnamon in a bowl and stir with a fork to mix everything well. Combine the raisins and pecans in another bowl and toss to mix them. Place the cinnamon mixture, nut mixture and melted butter by the baking pan to use later.

To make the cake batter, combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Stir the vanilla into the milk. In a large bowl combine the butter and sugar and beat with a mixer on high speed until pale yellow and evenly mixed, about 2 minutes. Scrape down the bowl to ensure a good mix. Add the eggs and beat for another 2 minutes, scraping down the bowl now and then, until the mixture is smooth and light.

Use a large spoon or spatula to add about a third of the flour mixture to the butter mixture and stir only until the flour disappears. Add a third of the milk and mix in. Repeat twice more until all the flour and milk mixtures have been incorporated. Stir just enough to keep the batter smooth.

Spread half the batter evenly into the prepared pan. Sprinkle half the cinnamon mixture over the batter followed by half the melted butter. Scatter half the raisins and nuts over the top. Spread the remaining batter carefully over the filling, using a spatula to smooth the batter all the way to the edges of the pan. Top with the leftover cinnamon, butter and nut mixture, covering the cake evenly.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the cake is golden brown, fragrant and beginning to pull away from the edges of the pan. Place the pan on a wire rack and allow to cool in the pan for 5 to 10 minutes before serving in squares right from the pan. The cake is delicious hot, warm or at room temperature.

Mmmm...cinnamon-sugar goodness

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

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TWD: Sweet Potato Biscuits

Sometimes I think I am a bland person. Or maybe I just really like traditional things. When I saw that Erin of Prudence Pennywise chose Dorie's Sweet Potato Biscuits for us to bake this week, I was a little skeptical. Would it taste as good as a regular biscuit? I know it's different, but how would this biscuit compare? Making half the recipe answered this question, and while it was good, I'll take a regular biscuit any day over this one. The Sweet Potato Biscuit is sweet and doesn't have the same consistency as a regular biscuit. I honestly had trouble with what to pair the biscuit with and no matter what I paired it with Alex didn't like it. It was too sweet for us to have as breakfast and too sweet for us to have with dinner. I think this biscuit is a great alternative to regular biscuits if you are open to not having regular biscuits.

Thanks to Erin for this week's pick. Make sure to head over to her blog for the recipe and to the TWD site to read about everyone else's reactions to the Sweet Potato Biscuits.

Monday, October 19, 2009

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Memories of Fall

The weather has taken a lovely turn into the 50s and 60s. There is something about the crisp coolness in the air that has revived and recharged me. I am absolutely prepared to face the rest of the year and the cooler temperatures have me looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. If only this cool weather would last...

I'm craving all things apples, from apple crisp... apple cider donuts.
I'm missing apple picking....
...and the changing colors.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

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How a Pregnant Woman Gets Drunk

One of the drawbacks to being pregnant is not being able to drink. Now I'm not one that drinks a lot but I do appreciate a good glass of wine with my dinner or a margarita on a Friday night. I haven't missed drinking that much, but there are days where I wish I could have a glass of something. There are also days where Alex has a cold beer and says "I wish you could taste this." That jerk! Instead of drinking liquor the normal way I've taken to adding it to things I eat. I figure the cooking/baking process zaps out all the bad stuff and leaves the flavoring behind. And if that's not the case, then that's what I tell myself so I don't feel guilty about consuming foods with alcohol in them.

I have seen a ton of recipes that include beer as one of the ingredients and I have always been curious about the taste. My biggest concern was whether there would be an overwhelming bitter taste. I decided on this recipe and decided to make cupcakes because the last time I made cupcakes was back in April (!!!!!!). I topped mine with a Kahlua topping. The recipe is for a ganache but if you whip it enough you'll get a thicker consistency. The end product was delicious! The cupcake is light and chocolaty and it has an interesting taste. Not interesting in a bad way, but interesting in the way that lets you know there is something special about the cake. And the topping?? Holy cow is it sinful. The Kahlua topping goes amazingly well with the cupcake.

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Source: South in Your Mouth (here)
This is the whole recipe, halving it will yield about 15 cupcakes.

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for pans
2 cups sugar
3/4 cups cocoa powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup vegetable oil (I used canola)
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup Guinness Beer

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a cupcake pan with paper liners.

Sift the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment and mix on low speed until combined.

In another bowl, combine the sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla, and beer.

With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry.

Pour the batter into the cupcake cavities between 2/3 to 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then cool to room temperature on a cooling rack.

Frost and enjoy!

For Kahlua topping recipe, go here.

And now, the lifespan of a cupcake in 4 words:


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

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TWD: Allspice Muffins

Are you in need of some food that's going to make you warm and happy? If so, you absolutely must try these muffins. To me, they are the essence of fall. The allspice makes these muffins smell fantastic and gives them such a subtle nutmeg-cloves taste. The muffins are soft and fluffy and have just enough sweet, crunch with the streusel topping. This is the kind of muffin that reminds you of how good it feels to stay bundled up inside when the temperatures start to drop and it makes you think of the leaves changing. Maybe I'm stretching here and maybe I am missing the true fall season, but these muffins remind me of everything I loved about fall.

A huge thank you to Kayte of Grandma's Kitchen Table for making this week's selection. Make sure to head over to her blog for the recipe and to head over to the TWD site to read about others experiences with this sweet treat.

Monday, October 12, 2009

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Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies

Do you ever get stuck when it comes to those over-ripe bananas? I feel like I always make banana bread when the bananas in the house have gone into that too squishy and too brown zone. I really wanted to make something different and I really wanted to make this banana creme brulee recipe I've had marked off for months, but I didn't have the necessary ingredients and I wasn't about to make a late night trip to Publix. So instead I decided to make these cookies I had seen on Annie's Eats. These cookies smell and look fantastic but they were hit or miss in my household. Some people liked them while others could do without them. I think the best way to describe them would be to say they are like mini bites of banana bread with chocolate chips. I guess there was more of a banana flavor to these cookies and that threw people off when I said they were a type of chocolate chip cookies. Who knows...

Banana Chocolate Chip Cookies
Source: Annie's Eats (here)
Makes approx. 30 cookies

½ cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 cup sugar

1 egg, at room temperature

1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas)

1 tsp. baking soda

2 cups flour

pinch of salt

½ tsp. cinnamon

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. ground cloves

1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350°. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and the sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until well incorporated.

In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which will in turn give the cookies their lift and rise.

Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture until just combined.

Fold chocolate chips into the batter. Drop into dollops on baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

These cookies were more puffy and fluffy than chewy or crispy.