Sunday, August 9, 2015

From Superstitious to Sentimental - Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

I freely admit that I am sentimental to the point of occasional stupidity.  Which is why I have So Much Stuff that I can't bear to get rid of, like the pink pan in this photo.  It was my grandmother's and always sat on her stovetop for boiling water. (I hope that someday Cory feels the same about the white and blue Corning Ware kettle sitting there.)   I'm sure I could get a guest shot on "Hoarders", but I would end up having to call my friend Donna to represent me on charges of assault, battery, and maybe worse, if anybody from the show tried to discard My Stuff.

That's how The Rabbi ended up on the wall, even though this painting was never part of My Stuff, and I don't particularly care for it.  Sentimentality is a slippery slope, my friends.  All it took was a piece of paper with Robert's name written on it in a slightly shaky, unfamiliar hand, taped to the back of the painting, and the sentimentality gene kicked in. So there he is, and there he'll stay.

Grandma Morris

With James' irreplaceable help, we got a whole lot more of our pictures hung up.  First, we hung The Grandmas.  The fact that I'm still shlepping them around and hanging them with reverence is just more of that sentimentality jazz.

Grandma Albert

I come by the sentimentality thing (and the superstitious thing) honestly. I was raised by my grandparents, both of whom were, in their own ways, deeply spiritual people, and this belief in Something Else Out There was the source of a lot of their funny ways.  Both were firmly convinced that red was a lucky color, and a red ribbon would ward off evil spirits. A bittersweet story - Pop had been fighting colon and abdominal cancer for 16 months when he had to be admitted to the hospital yet again.  He was there for a week, and then he passed away in his blessedly drug-induced sleep. When I went to pack up his belongings, I found the outfit he had worn to go to the hospital.  Everything, with the exception of his underclothes, was some shade of red. Now it was certainly true that the red clothes did not ward off the evil spirit, so that he could survive the cancer, but it did keep the kinehora at arm's length long enough for me to get down to Florida to see him and say goodbye.

Mom was the same way; she loved mystic stuff, tarot card readings, and was convinced she had some sort of paranormal abilities.  She believed in the power of the color red, was nuts about keeping hats off of beds, and was sentimental to a fault.  Between the two of them they were a mess, to tell you the truth, but they did manage to pull themselves together, sentimentally speaking, and commissioned the two portraits of their mothers, to be done from very old, very precious photos.  Their sentimentality brought them together when so many other things pulled them apart, and those portraits hung side by side in their home until Pop was gone, Mom had to be moved to assisted living, and their condo had to be dismantled for good.  Since then, I am the Keeper of the Grandmas, and have hung them faithfully in each of my homes.  Sentimental slob that I am, I always feel better when they are both glaring down at me.  I'm not sure anyone else shares my attachment, and I am pretty sure that when I'm gone, the portraits are going with me ... wherever.

In addition to the Rabbi and the Grandmas, James hung up a whole bunch of stuff for us, and I have to admit it's beginning to look a lot like home. And office. More office than home, at least this trip.

There was more, but you get the idea.  That's still my front door, and I like walking in through it.  Thank you James, as always, great job.

Serious stuff: Yesterday, a jury in Colorado sentenced the Aurora Theatre killer to life without possibility of parole.  I know that a number of people, including victims' family members, are disappointed, but, for what it is worth, in my opinion, it is the correct sentence.  Somewhere along the line, while I was revising my personal opinion on abortion, my opinion regarding capital punishment changed as well. Not because I don't have a big streak of bloodthirsty in my make-up, but because I truly believe that we (we, the People, we, the innocent, we, the victims) are better than that.  (I also have a huge concern regarding improper convictions of innocent parties, but that doesn't apply here). We do not have to kill to punish. We (should) value Life above all else.  Besides, taking a killer's sorry ass life can NEVER be sufficient repayment for what that killer has taken from the victims and their families.  Life in prison without parole is a pretty stiff sentence.  Perhaps it is not enough, but it is the strongest we can impose. And that's my opinion.

The past two days, I've given you recipes for cookies, including The Very Best Butter Cookie.  Let me say, for the record, that if I could bake - and eat - only one cookie for the rest of my life, it would be this butter cookie. But if I was granted the boon of baking the same two cookie recipes for the next 30 or so years, until God calls me home to Brooklyn - you didn't think I was going to Heaven, did you? - my second choice would be this Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookie.

Sidebar - Rob is watching "Sharknado III" and all hell has broken out at Universal Studios Orlando. Since I pass Universal every time I drive to my therapist's office, this is bound to give me nightmares once a week, every week.  This movie is so bad it's good in a really sick way.  In the meantime, I'm dancing around in my kitchen while listening to Jefferson Starship.  Should be giving my neighbor an eyeful.  Enjoy it, honey, usually you're watching me throw up.

Back to the cookies - they are so good, your tongue will slap your brains out (I've been living down south much too long).  I ate two right out of the oven - anorexia, my ass.  These came out so good, I surprised myself.  For some reason I made them by hand.  Oh hell, I was just too lazy to dig out the stand mixer or wash the beaters from the hand mixer.  So I did the whole thing by hand, wooden spoon, and rubber spatula.  Three batches, fast and easy thanks to the aluminum foil trick I learned from Maida Heatter 40 years ago.  You know how I am about aluminum.

I can't take credit for the recipe, and don't scream when you see the list of ingredients which is mercifully short.  All you need to know is that it works like a dream.

Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 stick butter, softened to room temperature
1-8 oz. bar Philadelphia cream cheese, softened to room temperature 
1 extra large egg
1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract
1-18 oz. package yellow cake mix
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup milk chocolate chips

Cream together the butter and cream cheese until smooth and lump-free.  Blend in the egg and vanilla. Add the dry cake mix, one-third at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Mix in the chocolate chips. Cover the dough and chill for at least 30 minutes.

You will need 3 pieces of aluminum foil large enough to cover your cookie sheet.  With a medium sized scoop, portion out 12 to 14 cookies for the first sheet of foil and slide the cookie sheet underneath it. Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 11 to 12 minutes.  While the first cookies are baking, portion out the remaining dough on the other 2 pieces of aluminum foil.

Remove the baked cookies from the oven and cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheet, no more.  Check the bottom of one cookie; it should be light/medium brown.  Remove the finished cookies to a cooling rack, and allow the cookie sheet for a few minutes before sliding it under the second piece of foil. Repeat the procedure until all 3 sheets have been baked.  With the medium scoop, I got 41 cookies.

Utter cookie perfection.  Thank you Betty Crocker.

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