Soothing the Soul

It was a hard week and our friends’ elderly mother passed away. We feel the loss of Edna Mae Reagan Devlin – a fine Irish cailín who never had a bad thing to say about anyone. She made you feel good about yourself and that’s something to be remembered for. Why not make some big, chewy cookies and share them with friends who need a little comfort?

Big and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies – You’ll Want to Bookmark this One!
From The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

You can substitute any kind of chocolate or peanut butter chips for the semisweet ones. I used both white chocolate and milk chocolate. The recipe calls for 2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks (the extra fat makes it chewy but not tough). The melted butter accounts for the chewy inside.

Hint: What to do with the leftover egg whites? I decided to beat them slightly with a tablespoon of water and a few drops of vanilla extract. Brush the cookie all over with the egg wash before baking and you will have a nice browned cookie; otherwise they are a little pale. (If you want to read about pale cookies, click here.)

America’s Test Kitchen is famous for testing their recipes to reach perfection. Follow their meticulous instructions and you can count on them to bring it on home!

INGREDIENTS

  • 3-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1-1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks (see my suggestion in the intro for what to do with the leftover egg whites)
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 (12-ounce bag) semisweet chocolate chips (2 cups)
  • 1/2 cup chopped nuts, optional

Adjust the oven racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 325 degrees. Whisk the flour, baking soda, and salt together in a large bowl and set aside.

Beat the butter and sugars in a large bowl using an electric mixer on medium speed until combined, one to two minutes. Beat in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla, until combined, about 30 second, scraping down the bowl and the beaters as needed.

Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly mix in the flour mixture until combined, about 30 seconds. Mix in the chocolate chips until incorporates.

Working with 1/4 cup of dough at a time, roll the dough into balls and lay on two parchment-lined baking sheets, spaced about 2-1/2 inches apart. (Hint: Here is where you can brush with the egg wash.)

Bake until the edges are golden but the centers are still soft and puffy, 17 to 20 minutes, rotating and switching the baking sheets halfway through baking.

Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes, then serve warm or transfer to a wire rack.

Burywood Boyz Second Annual Fantasy Football Draft (and it was Fan-Tasty!)

Stadium food, sort of...

It’s fall and it’s football season and a few of the boys in our neighborhood have a fantasy league. They hear about fantasy football everywhere, but these leagues can be a tad complicated and all-consuming for the little guys. Our league is composed of boys ages 12 to 15, plus three dads, and one mom (me!). We welcome girls too; we just haven’t found any yet.

Early in the morning, before anyone else is up, the commissioner is working on the Burywood Boyz Fantasy Football Draft.

The draft happens on Labor Day, two days after the final NFL team rosters are released, and three days before the first NFL game. It’s also the last day before school starts when we know the kids won’t have any homework. Our draft, paired with Labor Day, signifies the official last day of summer.

Thanks to the co-commissioners of the Burywood Boyz League (my husband Bill and our son Patrick), they keep the draft simple. Everyone drafts 11 offensive players and one team defense. The commissioners run the draft and keep it moving and organized with a white board. This year, each “coach” starts with the team he drafted last year. He then has the chance to release players and draft new ones. In the end, the boys felt they got their best picks. (For more explanation see Fantasy Football 101.)

The draft picks are displayed on a white board.

Each week during the regular football season, the teams submit to the commissioner their six-man roster which includes: one quarterback, one running back, two wide receivers (or tight end), one kicker, and one team defense. At the end of the football week (after Monday Night Football) the scores are tallied and whoever has the most points wins the week. At the end of the season, we have a playoff.

What’s in it for the Boys?

  • Fathers spending time with their sons on something they are both interested in.
  • Friendly competition.
  • Being a “coach” and researching players to draft.
  • Doing meaningful work by studying the stats each week in the sports section and deciding who plays the following week.
  • Learning how to manage an Excel spreadsheet.
  • Practicing math skills with scoring and stats.
  • Having fun!

What’s in it for Me?

I get to throw the party! Of course the food is secondary, but what would a football draft be without stadium food? And, since it is the last hoorah of summer, it could possibly be the last official picnic of the year. So the entire family attends the draft.

The Menu

  • Hot Maryland Cab Dip for appetizer
  • Spiced Burgers with Melted Colby Cheddar Cheese
  • Hot Dogs (I recommend Ballpark all-beef brand or Hebrew National, both taste-tested by me and both win!)
  • All the condiments: pickles, sliced sweet onions, tomatoes, lettuce, mustards, ketchup
  • Bagkelley’s Summer Veggies 
  • Chips
  • Desserts: food the kids can pick up and eat easily while they are drafting players. For today, Pale Summer Cookies. Live it up; it’s the last hurrah of summer.
  • Extras: Marion brought watermelon and Melanie brought a homemade peach-blueberry crisp with fresh whipped cream. “It’s healthy, it has oatmeal in the crisp part,” she says apologetically. (I say who cares, it’s delicious!)

The Table Settings

Keep it simple. It’s the day before school starts and you don’t need a lot of clean up. Use sturdy plastic and paper ware. Bring out all the football dishes you have. If you have time, get some team napkins. Decorate or not.

Everyone goes for the Hot Maryland Crab Dip

Main thing: the food should be good and everyone should have fun.

Footnote

I play because they needed an eighth team so the teams could be paired for an end-of season playoff game. The name of my team? “Reed’s Rowdy Gurlz” named for Washington Redskins Safety Reed Doughty —  the Kelley’s favorite player on our favorite team. Yes, Reed’s wife, Katie, knows about the name. She grinned (or grimaced, I couldn’t tell) when I told her.

Guess who won the Burywood Boyz Fantasy Football League playoffs last year? Who else? — Reed’s Rowdy Gurlz! Just because I’m throwing a party doesn’t mean I can’t draft a playoff contender team!

One of the Burywood Boyz and his sister, deliver their mother's Peach-Blueberry Crisp, still warm...

Recipes from the Burywood Boyz Second Annual Fantasy Football Draft

 Hot Maryland Crab Dip

Mix together:

  • 1 pound of cream cheese
  • ½ cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon of sherry
  • 1 tablespoon of confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard – use any kind, grainy or not, even spicy brown will work (whatever’s in the fridge)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic salt
  • ¼ cup sweet onion like Vidalia, minced fine, or use scallions, again, whatever you have
  • ½ pound of crabmeat – I prefer a local Baltimore brand, Phillips ™ (Maryland Blue Crab)
  • Mix well. Spray a pretty baking dish with oil, bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve hot with crackers. This also freezes nicely if you want to make it ahead.

Spiced Burgers

This time I used Williams-Sonoma burger seasoning mix with the ground beef, but you can easily season your own. (Use some garlic salt, Worcester sauce, pepper, cumin, whatever you like.)

TIP: The trick to a good burger is to use meat with a liberal amount of fat in it (like an 80-20 mix. Season it with some good spices and mince some onion in the meat (the kids will never know the onion is in there that way). The trick to grilling is to be patient. Don’t over-flip, in fact, flip only once when one side is done, and don’t flatten with the spatula and release the juices. Keep the grill lid open or the grease drippings could cause a fire.

Warm peach-blueberry crisp

Melanie’s Peach-Blueberry Crisp

Melanie says, “Personalize it, baby!”

  • 4 or 5 large peaches
  • 1- 2 cups blueberries
  • 2 tablespoon flour
  • 2 tablespoon sugar
  • ½ tsp. vanilla or almond extract

Topping:

  • ½ cup rolled oats
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ c. flour (Melanie uses whole wheat pastry flour)
  • ½ tsp. cinnamon
  • grated fresh nutmeg to taste
  • ¼ c. butter, cold

Preheat oven to 350. Peel and thinly slice peaches into a two-qt. baking dish. Add blueberries; mix gently.  Sprinkle 2. T. flour and 2 T. sugar over fruit and mix gently. Sprinkle vanilla or almond extract over the top.

Prepare topping: combine the oats, brown sugar, flour, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Cut in the butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs. You can either do this with two knives, or with a food processor. Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the fruit.

Bake at 350 for 40 to 45 minutes, until the topping is browned and crispy.  Let cool somewhat before serving.  Best served warm with vanilla ice cream or lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Of course, you could make this with all peaches, or use any other fruit such as nectarines, apples, other berries, etc.  Personalize it, baby!

My Pale Summer Cookies get around...this time on a football platter.