Carpe Diem

Let’s see, it’s been a month since we celebrated Lilli’s birthday party, and I have just a few weeks before Passover starts. Apologies for those expecting a gluten-free recipe for the holiday, but I’ve wanted to share these whole-wheat chocolate chip cookies for years on the blog. It’s 6:51 am, and it’s the weekend. Carpe Diem, my friends.

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This year Lilli made it clear she did not want a cake, but rather these cookies by Kim Boyce that made the rounds, let’s see, oh, nine years ago. We baked dozens and froze them two weeks before the party, along with these spectacular and very simple blondies. We also made these halva tahini brownies that were so simple, and so so delicious, that really, the only thing you should be doing right now is melting some chocolate into olive oil.

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But yes, these cookies. They are a fan favorite. The whole wheat makes for a deeper, nuttier taste. The butter remains cold so you don’t have to plan in advance to made them as you do with most cookie recipes that call for softened butter. I promised my friend Ben a care package, and I do plan on mailing some to him. We got up early the day of Lilli’s party and made the smaller sized ones into ice cream sandwiches because, well, Carpe Diem, my friends.

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We had about 50 people in total to the house that day. A mix of current kindergarten friends, friends from PreK, friends from my Hebrew school class that Lilli comes to every Sunday with me, and a few pals from around town. Parents were invited to drop off or stay. Most stayed once they saw the spread in the kitchen.

This year I served: Michael Solomonov’s hummus (we used the Instapot for the first time to (intentionally) overcook the chickpeas; caramelized onion dip;  butternut squash and chickpea salad (which was kind of eh); Brussels sprouts with leeks, parmesan and chestnuts; Vietnamese tofu; peanut butter noodles; farro with dried apricots, mushrooms and hazelnuts; marinated roasted red peppers served with fresh mozzarella and crusty bread. You know, the usual fare for a six-year-old’s party

There was also the usual chips, dip, Pirate’s Booty, Lilli’s stuffed dates, pizza, and crudite for nibblers.

The kids clearly had a blast playing dress-up, doing art projects, and for some of the boys, playing tag inside the house. There may have been a lightsaber that needed confiscation.

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We sang happy birthday and enjoyed the aforementioned desserts, along with a Panda chocolate chip cookie cake by Papa, and some melon. It was a great party. And I still have about a dozen cookies in the downstairs freezer, despite Rich’s best efforts to finish them.

Kim Boyce’s Whole-Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

Dry Mix

3 cups whole wheat flour

1 ½ teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

Wet Mix

8 ounces (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

1 cup dark brown sugar

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

8 ounces chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Although you can butter the sheets instead, parchment is useful for these cookies because the large chunks of chocolate can stick to the pan.
  2. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl, pouring back into the bowl any bits of grain or other ingredients that may remain in the sifter.
  3. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. Add the flour mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl.
  4. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, then scrape the batter out onto a work surface, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients.
  5. Scoop mounds of dough about 3 tablespoons in size onto the baking sheet, leaving 3 inches between them, or about 6 to a sheet.
  6. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are evenly dark brown. Transfer the cookies, still on the parchment, to the counter to cool, and repeat with the remaining dough. These cookies are best eaten warm from the oven or later that same day. They’ll keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

 

Turning Two

Lilli turned two on Sunday. We celebrated with cupcakes and an ice cream sundae bar at the Inside Playground down the road. Thankfully, the party was sandwiched in between two snowstorms, ensuring that the guests and grandparents from outside of Boston were still able to make it.

It’s been a while since I planned a party and I’d wanted to share how it turned out, like my friend Molly always does with her own awards show viewing parties. Of course, I forgot to snap photos of the sundae bar. Sorry about that. We bought a case of small, wide-mouthed jars from the local hardware store for a few dollars which will obviously now be used for canning things. Then I filled the jars with candies like M&Ms, chocolate chips, jelly beans, crushed Oreo cookies, and mini York Peppermint Patties. Next to the jars I placed cut up strawberries and bananas, fresh homemade whipped cream, hot fudge, salted caramel sauce, marshmallow topping and a jar of cherries.

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Daddies were very appreciative of having a place for their toddlers to play.

After consulting with mommies at work, I decided to forgo a fancy bakery cake for Lilli and just buy some mini cupcakes from the grocery store. As it turned out, the bakery at the market couldn’t guarantee they would have enough, if any, in stock that Sunday morning, so Lilli and I donned our aprons and got to work in the kitchen. We have weekly baking projects, although most of her participation ends with me sweeping flour and sugar off the kitchen floor. Papa and Grammy got her a Kitchen Helper for Christmas which is nice because I was always a little nervous about her slipping off a dining room chair.

I was sent Hello Cupcake! years ago to review, but hadn’t found the right moment to dive into the recipes in it until I needed to bake these birthday cupcakes. If it had been a birthday party for me, I probably would have gone with the sweet potato cupcakes with cream cheese frosting or saffron cupcakes. And if nuts weren’t an issue, Lilli would have loved the Nutella cupcakes. We settled on the “Classic cupcakes” recipe, which had a nice lemony base and a cream cheese frosting.

cousins playing

The author is British and the recipe is measured in weights, so get out your kitchen scale. The recipe says it makes 12 regular-sized cupcakes, but it made 48 mini-cupcakes, more than enough for the party. The smaller cakes took about 13 minutes to bake. I think the frosting was a bit too sweet, but I think that’s because I had a little slip up with weighing out the sugar. Many of the guests thought it was divine, but that’s just my two cents.

Classic Cupcakes from Hello Cupcake! by Leila Lindholm

Ingredients

3 eggs

250 grams (9 oz) sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

100 g (3 ½ oz) butter

100 ml (3 ½ fl oz) milk

350 g (12 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 pinch salt

Grated peel and juice from 1 lemon

Cream Cheese Frosting

60 g (2 oz) softened butter

500 g (17 ½ oz) icing (confectioner’s) sugar

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

100 g (3 ½ oz) cream cheese

Sprinkles or flowers, for garnish

Directions

Preheat oven to 345F (175C)

Whisk the eggs, sugar and vanilla until white and really fluffy.

Melt the butter, add the milk and mix this into the eggs.

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt and carefully fold into the other ingredients until combined.

Mix in the grated peel and juice from one lemon.

Set out paper cups in a muffin tin and fill the cups until two-thirds full with the mixture.

Bake them in the middle of the oven for about 15 minutes. Once they cool a little, move them to a cooling rack to cool down.

Frosting

Mix the butter, icing sugar, vanilla, lemon juice and cream cheese until creamy.

Spread the frosting on the cakes and garnish with sprinkles or flowers.