We are back home from our NY trip. It was so nice to see everyone and explore all the up and new in my old hometown. It’s also nice to be home.
Now that we are back home my three younger boys are back in school (a sigh of relief), my oldest son back to pounding away on his (first) screenplay (graduated film school May ’14), hubby back to work in solar energy and me sorting all the laundry, mail, homework, stocking fridge, cooking, dishwasher repair, you know? … I know you do.
But Mother’s day is almost here so I wanted to share some cool gift ideas and the best ever chocolate chip cookies recipe which need no reason.
I brought (frozen) cookie dough with me to bake in NY for our Passover Seder. I bake them larger or smaller … here’s the larger version with Maldon sea salt. If you like a salty/sweet combination then these are for you or go with the classic, shown above.
And smaller version from this trip.
Being back in my old hometown, NYC reminded me of all the flashing “expect delays” signs blinking everywhere.
Central Park has always been so surreal to me … how it sits so peacefully around vast buildings and tons of concrete. No matter what the season, it’s a beautiful site to see. See the white building with the dark roof over on the left (picture below)? That’s the Plaza Hotel.
Don’t they know by now that this is a “No Standing Zone”? Who cares when the sun is shining? It really was shining.
We didn’t get to go on the carriage ride because of a five people limit! Grrrr!
I would love when my parents took my brothers and me for carriage rides – it always felt like a holiday driving in from Queens (30 minutes away) for it. Sidenote: the spectacular tall building in the background (with the blue rooftop) is the Pierre Hotel, where we stayed (in the Presidental Suite!) on our wedding night before running off to the South of Spain for our honeymoon.
Then it got dark and rainy the remainder of our trip but we had fun anyway. Teenage son holding hands with Grandma photo is a must …. strolling through Flushing Meadow Park (with a vintage pair of binoculars he found in her closet. He’s a nosy grandkid).
That’s my oldest son and twin boys. Older twin (by 9 minutes) in green and younger in blue taking in the bright lights of Times Square. We haven’t been to this side of the (tourist) city since the twins were babies. “WOW” was the word of the day.
Then my teenage son and I were off to the Upper East Side to my cousin’s to begin prepping for the Seder (for 27!) the following night, while my hubby, boys, and Mom went back to Queens.
There we were around her dining table in our respective stations at 9PM. My cousin de-stemming herbs and peeling vegetables. My teenager squeezing about 20 pounds of lemons, and me charring eggplants over stove burners for the eggplant spread. We set up an efficient system while her baby boy slept in the next room and cousin’s hubby was out with friends. We may have been relatively loud, chatty and exhausted but had so much fun.
For our Mediterranean meal we had this leg of lamb and roasted vegetables, this chicken dish, a Persian style barberry “rice” made from cauliflower, charoset (my Aunt made), raisin noodle kugel (my Mom made), Mediterranean style chopped salad, a tzatziki sauce using coconut yogurt, eggplant spread, and of course gluten free matzoh and all the Seder connection foods.
That’s (very blurry) me putting the finishing touch of fresh dill onto the “Persian” style “rice” with my oldest son looking on.
The Seder connection (known as the Haggadah) is in full swing. It was really nice to see everyone again.
While catching up with family and in the moment, I thoughtlessly did not capture food pics. Nonetheless, I will be remaking those recipes at home to post soon.
The community room is in my cousin Melody, and her husband, Jonathan’s apartment building (miss them all already!) was spacious enough to cook in compared to cooking in my Mom’s 10 x 10 foot kitchen the year before (then for 30; my Mom and me did laugh a lot and had all her grandchildren help).
The lemon meringue bars were nearly lemon bars. Not so bad, but not so good either. I did bring lemon curd from home to save time cooking in NY but meringue frosting cannot be made in advance so I had to take my chances with my family’s baking equipment. Did I mention my family doesn’t really do any baking?
My Mom’s vintage hand mixer made me nervous. Nearly 10 minutes have passed, and nothing. That’s just too long. Lo, and behold, slowly (very f#$%* slowly) we had some fabulous meringue to pipe on the lemon bars.
The slow turtle, um mixer created a rushed decorative process – a sloppy meringue on the lemon bars, but none the wiser. And torching always helps cover up piping bag slips. Consider that a tip.
Video courtesy of my 14-year-old. I need to learn how to do this. It’s pretty cool.
After the full-on Seder nights, I had some alone time with my Mom to catch up with in person.
We also would have our ritual afternoon tea while going through old photos. This one from my aunt and uncle’s wedding (think I was 13). My Mom actually made that gold lamé dress she’s wearing.
And this pic is older than the last one. We’re talking about 40 years ago. It’s our first Chanukah in our new house in Queens. From left: me, my youngest brother, grandfather, youngest uncle and younger brother. Could we look any more serious?
So, about those chocolate chip cookies. Well, they usually remind me of the after school cookies she would bake from the big yellow plastic roll. You know, the Toll House chocolate chip cookies full of, well, I’m not sure, that sold in every supermarket on the planet. Baking was never her thing yet still banged them out delicious. Gosh, those were my weakness.
If you’re like me (you are right?) you need the best ever chocolate chip cookie recipe to get you through nostalgic memories or anything really … making more of these before we move out of our rental the end of June (double sigh).
Need cookies for that.
This chocolate chip cookie is the best. Ever.Yep, I did say that. Gluten free, soy free and vegan are the added bonus. So is the generous helping of Maldon sea salt on top for me (VERY generous for me, sprinkle as little or much as you like. You’re the boss.).
Or not, for the classic lover in you.
I know, I know, EVERYONE says their chocolate chip cookies are the BEST EVER but they are. The addition of powdered sugar really makes them different. It adds crisp to the edges yet center is so soft.
So, with Mom in mind, some freshly baked homemade chocolate chip cookies to gift (or keep) and a list of things on the web as gift ideas!
Some Gift Ideas:
1. Though I love to peruse cookbooks, my heart melted when I saw this book. A beautiful, honest book that travels into the heart and soul of mother’s around the globe. The stories will take your breath away. Every Mom should have this book. Seriously. I gifted one for myself and my Mom.
2. If Mom loves to cook then she will just love this cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi. I’ve added pomelo salad, Thai red lentil soup, and the pea and apricot, walnut, lavender cake to my shortlist (of course I bought myself one) … and by the way, this recipe is from the book
3. I haven’t met a Mom who doesn’t love a good breakfast in bed, with comfy pajamas of course. This super soft set would make a great gift and maybe a homemade breakfast with that. Maybe this recipe or this, or this?
4. And there’s chocolate … chocolate gift giving to Mom with Celiac, or other allergies has never been this easy. I haven’t tasted these yet but will say they sure do look pretty. All gluten, dairy, egg, and nut free. They do contain soy and corn.
5. Here are some more fun dairy free and gluten free chocolate gift ideas to check out from Alisa over at www.godairyfree.com
6. Came across this and thought how cool this would be to get from my Mom … a keepsake memory collector to cherish over time
7. Does Mom collect aprons? This one is so pretty, and it has pockets!
8. Three different scents for Mom made with organic ingredients – no irritants!
10. If Mom loves vintage china like mine does, then she will love this striking teacup and saucer set. The vendor also has other patterns and colors, just as beautiful
11. Do you live far from Mom (like me)? Here is a personalized gift to express your love (can be made to include four cities for siblings!)
12. Every Mom appreciates that first cup of coffee, what better way to start Mom’s day than with this cute mug, likely to bring a smile every time (and maybe a Starbucks card with that)
13. If Mom loves to garden, she will love these adorable vintage inspired herb garden markers she can use year after year (scroll down the page to see)
14. A little uncommon but what every Mom into astrology would love: her child’s cosmic digits
15. While I’m on the uncommon side of gift ideas: these bath products are as invigorating as they are soothing, without harsh chemicals and plenty of nourishing ingredients. A unique find for Mom’s who love healthy skin products
16. The sweetest little book ever. I think this would also be a sweet book to give to a child, grandparent, anyone!
17. This will make the Mom who loves running (ME) think about you every time she pampers her happy feet
18. Your tea-loving Mom will certainly feel the love when she receives this green herbal tea kit
19. When I think of tea I think of macarons. If your Mom is obsessed with french macarons like I am then this is the gift to give. They are from a well-known LA restaurant, come in a beautiful gift box. The only downside is that they are not both gluten and dairy free. If Mom is gluten free (or not) these would be perfect and they ship anywhere.
20. But if a box of 24 is too much to eat in one sitting (if Mom is like me, she won’t share and can get sugared out) or Mom is not very traditional in her macarons flavors these will WOW her … they offer a Macaron of the Club and Macaron making classes (in NYC). They ship everywhere. Wait until you see the selection of flavors … banana split and margarita anyone? Some of their flavors are both gluten and dairy free!
21. Everything Mom needs to know about wine is right here on these whimsical dish towels, these she will get a kick out of
22. A beautiful (and thoughtful) necklace for the Mom (btw all her necklaces are beautiful) whose year has been tough and can use a gift of faith and support
23. Here’s another inspirational necklace by the same designer that symbolizes change and growth
24. What do you get for the Mom who has everything? Well, chocolate soaps of course. These soaps will take her bath routine to a new level of luxury indulgence.
25. If Mom doesn’t think chocolate belongs in the bathtub, how about lavender?
26.For the Mom who has a great sense of humor and would enjoy a little relaxation
27. This personalized angel wing bracelet is just beautiful. A personal touch to add to her jewelry collection
28. Mom can have her very own smartphone photo printer to bring those phone photos to life. Okay, I want this. Now.
29. Yes, these gorgeous natural stone platters are a splurge but your entertaining Mom will swoon over these. Hors d’oeuvres have never been served better
30. I cannot even begin to tell you how many times my phone has gone down to 2% battery life while running errands. Not anymore. Mom will think of you every time as she pulls out this pretty little charger
31. This gift may not be tickets to a far away vacation but it will take her on a journey full of stories (and gorgeous photographs) through some of the most stunning hotels around the globe
32. If your Mom is more into an adventurous, interactive experience then you must check this website out. Fighter pilot for a day, wine/food tour, or glass blowing depending on the city … experiences like these all over the country (saw a hot air balloon ride on their Los Angeles page that looks like it would be an amazing experienced. Don’t know if I can deal with being so far off the ground but maybe you’re Mom can.
33. Last, but so not least, if Mom has been talking about canning and preserving this gift is a must. Everything she needs to know is right here in this cookbook. I had to but this book too.
Have a wonderful weekend!
- 125 grams (1 cup) brown rice flour (or sorghum flour)
- 97 grams (1/2 cup) white rice flour
- 25 grams (1/4 cup) tapioca starch
- 48 grams (1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons) powdered sugar (I use the Wholesome brand)
- ½ teaspoon aluminum free baking soda
- (1½ sticks) 6 oz non-dairy, soy-free butter, softened or palm shortening (Earth Balance or Spectrum Organics)
- ¼ cup cane sugar
- ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 3 tablespoons chunky applesauce
- 1 cup (8 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life)
- Maldon sea salt
- *if you prefer to use eggs: substitute applesauce for 2 eggs
- For Passover baking: My Sephardic family eats rice on Passover, whereas others don’t so I substituted my original recipe (above) for a combination of potato starch, tapioca, and almond flour (in equal amounts of 2⅔ ounces or 75.3 grams), even though we don’t normally eat potato, I have yet to find a better substitute. For the vanilla: use an alcohol-free vanilla. Powdered sugar by wholesome brand or Trader Joe's is made with tapioca starch instead of corn.
- Preheat oven temperature to 350 degrees F (190 C) with oven racks placed in the center.
- Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine flours, powdered sugar, and baking soda well. Set aside.
- Using a stand mixer set with a paddle attachment or hand mixer set on medium speed (start on low to prevent sugar from flying all over), cream butter with both sugars for about 2 minutes until it appears light in color and fluffy. Add vanilla, and applesauce (or eggs). Immediately after, add in flour blend and mix until just blended. Mix in chocolate chips with a rubber spatula or wooden spoon until blended. Using a small ice cream scooper, scoop cookie dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced 2 inches apart. Chilled cookie dough for 20 minutes before baking.
- Note: Don’t compress the dough into the scooper too much. I like to scoop and slide my ice cream scooper off the edge of the bowl to make it an even level. Bake 11-14 minutes on the center rack of the oven. Alternatively, use a large ice cream scooper to make 15 extra-large cookies, spaced at least 3 inches apart, baked for 15-18 minutes.
- Generously sprinkle Maldon sea salt (as little or as much as you like, I like a generous salty flavor as you can see) on hot cookies then let cool on baking sheets for 15-20 minutes before serving. Can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days or frozen for up to a month. Also, taste amazing right out of the freezer.
- Note: if doubling the recipe, simply turn over the used parchment paper for next batch.
- Note on cooling racks: I don’t always transfer cookies to cooling racks. It really depends on how soft the cookie center is. These don’t need to be transferred to cooling racks if using a mini ice cream scooper.
- For larger cookies: use a large ice cream scooper and space 4 inches apart. Bake 14-17 minutes. Let it cool (on baking sheets) for 20 minutes. Larger cookies DO need to be transferred to cooling racks.
- This cookie dough also makes a wonderful baked skillet cookie in an ungreased for glazed ceramic skillet pan (I use an 8-inch round ceramic skillet pan from Crate & Barrel) to bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the center comes out with just a slight crumb. Serve warm with your favorite ice cream, if desired.
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