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When I ask people what their favorite dessert is, nine times out of ten they choose chocolate chip cookies.  I’m not sure why…  😉

Is it the sweet to salt ratio?  The crunchy exterior with a gooey center? Or maybe the comforting childhood memory of a special treat after school?  Basically… WHO CARES!!! PUT IT IN MA FACE!!!!  

I’ve always said that you can judge a bakery by their chocolate chip cookie.  I gave up pretty quickly on that theory, however, because great chocolate chip cookies are actually hard to find!  What I’ve also learned as a baker is that everyone wants the cookie of their childhood.  I had a friend give me their version of their ‘favorite chocolate chip cookie’ and it was hard to stomach. Thick, small, white and round, flavorless with a ton of flour… Blech!

So stop, collaborate and listen:  If you’re the kind of person that tends to say ‘These are too rich…”  MOVE IT ALONG!!!  UNFOLLOW!!! UNFRIEND!!!  Umm… These cookies aren’t for you.  😉

My idea of an amazing chocolate chip cookie is super buttery, crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle.  AND… a cookie that is always good the next day.  Oh!  And if it’s not all over your fingers?  Fah-get about it!

Always wanting to make desserts that are ‘the best thing I’ve ever tasted,’ I have tried countless times over my almost-40 years to come up with a chocolate chip cookie that, in my mind, is THE BEST chocolate chip cookie.  It is with great humility, honor and service that I say… I believe I have finally found it!!!

Using browned butter, a mix of flours, high quality chocolate, a light sprinkle of sea salt and you have ooey, gooey perfection. They should be put in a museum for millions to ogle… as long as that museum is IN MY MOUTH. 

One of the keys to these cookies is browning the butter.  If you’ve never browned butter before it’s very easy. But it’s also important to pay attention. Over browning your butter makes for a drier cookie, in my experience.  Here’s a tutorial from Mindy Segal, owner of Hot Chocolate in Chicago, a restaurant and dessert bar I’ve been to and adore.  *swoon*  

Another important key is really high quality bittersweet chocolate with 60-70% cacao.  Did you know that chocolate chips were designed to maintain their shape?  The chocolate you’ll want to use for an ooey gooey cookie is a ‘melting chocolate.’ I typically use Scharffen Berger bars and cut them into chunks and shavings, or Guittard wafers.  And if price just isn’t an issue for you, Gwyneth, Valhrona Chocolate Feves are incredible. This time I found a chunk of a Guittard ten pound bar at a local grocery store. They had big chunks of the bar weighed and wrapped in plastic.

You can absolutely use chocolate chips for every day cookies (I recommend Ghirardelli), but if you want that ooey, gooey look for a special occasion?  Use the good stuff.  Same goes for a flaky sea salt! I recommend Maldon Sea Salt Flakes.  And unlike the chocolate, a box of sea salt flakes lasts a very long time.

Finally, for that ooey, gooey look, save 1/3 of your chocolate until you’re about to bake them. Press them into the top of your dough.  That will give them that pretty bakery feel.  

This is a sexy, delicious dream of a cookie, folks.  

For the love of all that is good and holy… TRY THESE!!! And when you do, be sure to share your warm, delicious baked cookies with NOBODY.  ARE YOU KIDDING ME?! WHY WOULD YOU DO THAT?!  LICK THEM ALL SO NO ONE WILL EAT THEM, FOR CRYING OUT LOUD!  THEY’RE YOURS!! 

Instead, a very noble and selfless thing to do would be to share the recipe!  On Facebook, Instagram, Match.com, whatevs.  AND!  Be sure to tag me on Instagram: @mandicrocker and @mandicrockersweets so I can repost and retweet all your fabulous cookies as you make them.  And subscribing to this blog wouldn’t be a bad thing either!  😉

Anyway… buckle down ‘Lost In Space’ style and PREPARE YOSELF.  This recipe makes a lot. There’s going to be lots of NOM, NOM, NOM ahead… 🙂

The Best Ooey, Gooey, Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Ever!
An ooey, gooey chocolate chip cookie... Rich and buttery... Crunchy on the outside, chewy in the middle... A delicious marriage of sweet and salty perfection!
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INGREDIENTS
  1. 2 c. browned butter, cooled
  2. 2 1/4 c. brown sugar
  3. 1 c. sugar
  4. 2 T. molasses
  5. 1 T. vanilla
  6. 4 eggs
  7. 2 c. all purpose flour
  8. 2 c. whole white wheat flour (I use King Arthur's)
  9. 1 c. oats, ground into flour OR 2/3 c. oat flour
  10. 4 T. ground flaxseed meal (optional)
  11. 2 tsp. baking soda
  12. 1 tsp. kosher salt
  13. 18-20 oz. high quality bittersweet chocolate, 60-70% cacao, cut into chunks and shavings. (I use Scharffen Berger or Guittard)
  14. sea salt for sprinkling (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flours, flaxseed meal, baking soda and salt. Set aside.
  3. In a mixer, beat the browned butter, sugars and molasses until fluffy and combined. Add vanilla.
  4. Beat in eggs one at a time.
  5. Slowly add dry ingredients one cup at a time until combined.
  6. Mix in 2/3's of the chocolate until just mixed. (The rest will be used to top before baking).
  7. Plastic wrap and leave in the fridge overnight.
  8. The next day cut dough into 2 1/2 oz. chunks. Top scooped cookies with remaining pieces of chocolate.
  9. Bake at 325 for 12-15 minutes. Leave on the pan for 10 minutes.**
Notes
  1. **If after leaving on the pan for ten minutes, the cookie is still too gooey to pick up, pop back into the oven for two minutes. And again, if needed. Do not overbake.
MandiCrocker https://mandicrocker.com/

Like every family that has been created, our birth story is very personal.  Whether you’re a couple, a single mom or adoptive parents, if you have children, we all have lived through a story of chaos and beauty in creating our families.  Despite how much our experience felt like a nightmare, I also know we’re very lucky.  It felt overwhelming and difficult but not everyone has had it so easy.  I’m also grateful we brought my camera.  The experience sits in such a brain fog, I remember everything and nothing. I wasn’t sure if we’d even get around to using it but I put it on ‘auto’ and hoped for the best.  

Here’s our story… 

I was exactly two weeks overdue with Ruby and while my water broke (thanks to a crazy castor oil cocktail), labor just didn’t want to start.  When I got to the hospital on Saturday, we discovered– despite being overdue, I wasn’t dilated at all, not even a smidge. That was pretty shocking. Not to mention, a bit of a blow. 

My mom had been in town the past week waiting, waiting, waiting past my due date like any good Grandma.  In my head, I had always imagined my mom being there for the birth, so I was incredibly grateful that she flew out. Also, being two weeks overdue, I was extremely bored.  We watched a LOT of ‘Call The Midwife,’ which proved to be strangely comforting. 

I happened to get pregnant at my heaviest weight.  (I don’t recommend that route).  The last time I had been weighed was at 38 weeks (below).  At the time, I had gained about 45 pounds.  

When I look at these photos of me in the hospital, I don’t even recognize myself.  The final month my guess is that I gained an additional ten pounds at least, maybe more? To me, I look really, really bloated and unwell.  While uploading photos, I asked my husband if I had actually gained that much weight or if the fluids they had me on caused me to swell.  He said the photos did look like me and that the last two weeks overdue, I got really big.  Jiminy Christmas… 

While in the hospital, they told me my blood pressure was ‘a little high’ so they were going to put me on a magnesium drip. I began an endless bunch of drugs to assist with dilation and after two full days of various medications and painful internal exams, I had finally dilated to 2 cm.  Unfortunately, every time I had a contraction Ruby’s heart rate would dip, and because at this point I had been in the hospital for two days after my water breaking, they thought a c-section was necessary so as not to get an infection or distress the baby. 

Looking back, while the waiting game was annoying, I am super thankful for that.  Soooo many women have had to push painfully and endlessly before having to have an emergency c-section.  This was not the case for me and I’m beyond grateful.

Up until this point I had been working with a wonderful midwife in Loma Linda and we had plans to give birth in their beautiful tub of my dreams.  *swoon* Despite this birth plan, at 39, I was always open to a c-section if complications arose.  Having a healthy baby was all that mattered, as they say.  When we got to the hospital, though, it got really emotional.  Even typing this today, I get nauseous and my heart starts racing.  PTSD is real, homies!

For starters, we had major issues with the blood pressure machine. Each time it started, it would squeeze my arm so hard, it would cause sharp pinching pain so severe I would wince and it would literally take my breath away.  Of course, this made my heart race even faster. Another time, it made my arm swell so much around my hospital wristband, it cut off the circulation in my hand.  My hand grew pink and swollen and my husband had to rip off the cuff.  Another time, it got so tight it just popped off of my arm completely. In these instances, my heart would race from pain and the readings would be off the chart– like 180 and 220. 

While I wasn’t denying I had high blood pressure, some of these readings couldn’t possibly be correct. For whatever reason, the hospital staff wouldn’t listen when we told them what happened during those high readings, like this obese person just couldn’t come to terms with her high blood pressure. No one would take my blood pressure manually even though I asked.  And once, I was told by a nurse that the reason the cuff hurt is because I have high blood pressure.  Ummm… no. 

My poor mom also had nowhere to sleep.  When I was on another round of meds to be dilated, Lliam drove her back home. I think all of us knew it was for the best.  She was able to feed the animals and ‘Mima’ even learned how to work Netflix on her own!  🙂

The nurses were doing all of these really invasive things and I finally asked to speak to the attending doctor. When she arrived and mentioned the reason for the invasiveness was because ‘preeclampsia is pretty dangerous,’ we were blown away. We never knew they had diagnosed me with preeclampsia or that they found protein in my urine. To me, that is a huge deal to not tell a patient because preeclampsia IS dangerous.  I told her if we had known I had preeclampsia, we would have been more grateful for the invasiveness.

She seemed a bit surprised we didn’t know but did her best to downplay it because we were pretty shocked and angry.  And when she was describing my high blood pressure, she–again!!– mentioned the few super high and faulty readings like they were law, partly being taken into account for the diagnosis. Ack!!

This photo was before the epidural.  I toooootally look like my brother.  Ha!

Everyone kept saying how sorry they were that I wasn’t having the birth I wanted like we were upset about not being with my midwife. I’m sure they didn’t mean it this way, but it felt condescending because that wasn’t the case. We were upset because faulty information was used in decision making, and things weren’t being communicated properly. And I don’t know about you, but when I feel I’m not being listened to and I’m not a part of major decisions or conversations involving myself, my body or my baby, my anxiety– and blood pressure– reeeeeally goes through the roof.  It feels like a crazy nightmare, like you’re in an episode of Black Mirror wringing your hands, screaming as loud as you can, and no one will listen.    

Did I have high blood pressure before I gave birth? Yes and no.  At the very start of my pregnancy it was in the low 140’s but when I quit a stressful job, it went down thirty points in two weeks and hovered at 110 for months.  So I know stress and anxiety is a huge factor for me.  When my husband and I moved back to California, I had readings in the 120’s with my midwife toward the end of my pregnancy but at the time we also had no place to live, no jobs, no money, etc.  It was very stressful so we both took that into account.  Another symptom of preeclampsia is protein in the urine and having tested that every week, I was totally fine.  Also, surprisingly, I barely had any swelling in my legs and feet throughout my entire pregnancy so I wasn’t concerned.  Unfortunately, preeclampsia can come on and be diagnosed at any time.  Previous to that, it’s not to say that I didn’t have high blood pressure at some point during my life, I just wasn’t aware of it.  

After two very long days and no sleep, the resident doctor told us we needed to have a c-section.  A very cerebral guy, he spoke like a robot half asleep, showed no emotion and kept giving us information like it was being downloaded.  My husband and I, a little worse for wear, asked him to leave so we could discuss.  We knew it was our only option at this point but needed a few moments together to feel all the feelings.  When he comes back, my husband had changed into a BMW t-shirt.  All of the sudden the doctor’s eyes lit up, he points at my husband’s shirt and says, “That’s a 2002 BMW!”  

He enthusiastically proceeds to talk to my husband about how much he loves working on BMW’s and how it’s probably the reason he became a doctor.  Because… “I figured if I could fix cars, I could fix people.  Except, come to find out, that 24.2% of people react differently to treatment.”  

WHAAAAAAAAT???????????  

For a metaphysical, partially crunchy and super spiritual gal, my jaw dropped to the floor.  Comparing fixing humans to fixing cars, this doctor was literally my worst nightmare.  At that point, I was like “Okay universe, CLEARLY I’m not allowed to have ANY control here.  And that’s cool, I throw my hands up, Jesus done take the wheel already, I surrender!  

“Um… I would, however, like to ask that these people don’t kill me.”  

I wasn’t sure my prayers were being answered as I was drugged, strapped down to my bed and wheeled into the surgery room.  I know this is all routine and standard procedure  but I remember thinking this is probably how alien abductees feel, completely helpless, as a ginormous bright light blinds you from above. I was nauseous and told its okay to throw up if I needed.  But how?  I was strapped down.  Was I just supposed to let chunks drizzle down my face?  

“God, please don’t let me choke on my own vomit and die during my c-section.”

I was so drugged and tired, I fell asleep through the surgery. Lliam had to wake me when they removed Ruby from my guts.  Even looking like ‘Carrie,’ I love her sooooo much. 

They laid her on my neck wrapped up.  All I remember was being entirely uncomfortable and out of it.  I looked up to the plastic separating me from the doctors just in time to see one of them roughly compressing my stomach with their folded hands like they were trying to resuscitate my uterus, or jamming an overstuffed suitcase closed. I could feel it but not feel it. It was insaaaaane. I remember feeling entirely outside of my body and thinking this was the most surreal experience of my life. 

This didn’t feel like a magical moment.  That is why I am so grateful we brought the camera.  Looking back, I’m able to see the beauty in these moments, though they didn’t feel beautiful at the time…. which is pretty much everything I know and love about photography.

Ruby Clementine Donohue was brought into the world on February 12, 2018.  My sister Jodianne’s birthday.  She is an Aquarius with a Gemini ascendant and a Capricorn moon.  🙂

Being overdue, I was for sure she was going to be 146 pounds with a pumpkin head.  I’m grateful she came out at the size she did.  🙂

After the surgery, we were wheeled into a ‘recovery room.’  On a kind note, my midwife told me they moved heaven and earth to allow me to do skin to skin with her and breastfeed after the c-section.  So I greatly appreciated that!!

I do remember how amazing it was to see Lliam with her, a ‘Papa’ for the first time.  He adores her so much.  

All of the nurses and the doctors (and anyone that has met her thus far) kept mentioning her ‘alertness.’  From day one, she’s always looked about intently, taking in her surroundings.  (Or maybe contemplating why the H she chose us as parents!)

We spent two more days in the hospital.  We really just needed sleep– desperately.  We had some really nice nurses but regardless of the situation, I just don’t understand how anyone expects you to recover while being poked and prodded every twenty minutes. Or less!  We were at a teaching hospital so it could be one nurse, groups of people, the cleaning lady,  people I wasn’t even sure of conducting a survey, etc.  We got NOOOOO sleep. I became depressed, teary and angry. Not to mention, we also had to take care of our newborn.  None of this helped my blood pressure.  I felt jittery like I was on 24 cups of coffee but drugged like a sloth.  Thankfully, we had her…

Ruby was jaundice and had to be under lights for six hours.  (When I imported these photos into Lightroom they were insanely blue.  I’m not sure why because they didn’t look that way in camera.  Regardless, I converted them to black and white and thankfully I like them this way quite a bit!).

I know it’s a pretty common thing but damn, it was hard to see her in there.  

I CANNOT FATHOM how parents must feel with their babies in the NICU.  They are my heroes. I am soooo grateful we’ve had no serious concerns with her, I can’t even tell you. 

Baby feet and hands come out soooo gray and wrinkled!  Like they’ve been waterlogged for weeks.  

I was so grateful when the blue lights were over.  I just wanted to snuggle her and tell her that one day we’d be out of this hospital and she would no longer be poked and prodded… You know, except vaccinations. I didn’t mention that part.  😉

She struggled with breastfeeding which was also stressful.  The overworked lactation specialist spewed information at such rapid fire, we didn’t stand a chance.  We were so tired, it might as well have been in another language. Typically, after a cesarean, recovery in the hospital is 2-4 days after birth.  We were so insanely exhausted that by the second day, with Ruby at 100%, we were desperate to go home. 

The doctors, however, weren’t feeling as optimistic.  My blood pressure was inching back up at 138 and they wanted me to stay and be monitored the extra 2 days. When the doctors kept pushing back, however, my panic set in and I got emotional.  Every time they took my blood pressure, it just got higher and higher. We couldn’t take another day.  I felt so shaky and delirious with fatigue, frustrated and helpless, that I felt like if we didn’t leave then, I might never leave.  It felt like they would always find something else wrong, and I knew I would never feel better without sleep.  Against their wishes, we headed home.  

As soon as we drove up the mountain and walked through the door, I felt SUCH a sense of relief.  It was amazing to be in our own space and in our own bed.  My mom was there to help out and I immediately felt like I could breathe.  It was the best decision we could have made for us. 

The high blood pressure did, indeed, come home with me.  That part of my recovery has been the hardest and scariest part by far, and I’ll be sure to share that part of our journey in my next blog. But in the meantime, I’d love to hear from moms and dads about your own birth story.  Do you remember it?  What was the experience like? Was it what you expected?  How was your recovery?  Being a mom is such a wild and incredible experience… how unbelievable that we come into the world this way. 

 

This is a really gorgeous picture of me, right?  Now I know you’re not going to believe this… but YES!  I DO wake-up this way! Now before you hit the ‘envy’ button on your Instagram (because I know how icky one can feel comparing yourself to other mom’s feeds), don’t worry!  Today I’m going to share with you ALL of my tips and tricks so that YOU, awesome reader, can not only look as feed-worthy BUT!  You can also watch your Instagram follower numbers go through the roof.  THIS is how I increased my followers from 504 to 515 in just one year!  And guess what?  You can, too!  

So, let’s get started!  My top ten ways to look THIS good in the morning:

  1.  Keep Your Make-Up On From the Night Before

What??? I know!  With a newborn, I always want to look as fresh as possible for my husband or the public if I have errands to run that day, and the best way for me to do this and still not miss a beat is to keep my make-up on.  This way, when I wake up, I’m all ready looking beautiful and ready to go.  And hello!  TIME SAVER.  Smiley face!

     2.  Wear Flannel

Now I’m not talking about the cute fitted flannel that is hanging in your closet that you can’t fit into anymore.  (Be kind to yourself, Momma!  Wear what’s comfortable!)  I’m talking about the flannel your dad sent you when you first started living in the mountains and you were 86 pounds lighter.  At the time those flannel shirts were fifty sizes too big and you looked like a truck driver, but ever since you got pregnant at your heaviest weight and gained an extra 45 pounds, they look magical!!  You will be warm and comfortable, and the best part?  They’re long enough to cover your yoga-pants-wearing, still-look-pregnant ass!  Now if anyone has yet to see this trend on Instagram, just tell them ‘Large Marge Sent Ya!’  and only the hippest on-trend moms will get the reference. #WearFlannelPeeWee

       3.  Wash Your Hair and Shower Only Periodically

By now everyone knows that a little oil is amazing for your hair!  But I’ve got the no-shower time frame sweet spot:  three and a half weeks!  By the end of three and a half weeks, not only will your hair curl naturally but the scent of your hair will begin to cover up the sweaty musk of the rest of you.  A total win-win!  And newborns= high expenses, so saving daily on shampoo and deodorant?  BOOM. See? You’re already crushing it!  Yay-sies!  

       4.  Continue to Wear Your Maternity Pants

Many women are under the misconception that after giving birth, you should try to fit into the clothes you wore before you were pregnant.  I’m here to tell you,  take your time!  By wearing extremely large maternity sweatpants, you wake up every morning feeling like you’ve lost a ton of weight!  “And when you feel good, you look good!” So true.  #YoureATen

        5.  Drool!

Now that I’ve given up my maternity pillow (lovingly dubbed ‘The Marshmallow Man’), I’ve been snuggling with my husband again.  (Gotta keep the embers burning!)  This has been awesome as I’ve been able to use him as my drool mat.  Unfortunately, my honey just nabbed an awesome, new full-time job so he has to get up every morning by 4:45am.  This has cut drastically into my drool time.  So what to you do? Drool on YOU!  Scientists working with baby pandas in China have discovered that drooling on one’s own skin can not only moisturize but crust the surface of your skin.  

We all know what moisturizing can do, but crusting’s benefits are by far superior to its moisturizing predecessor!  When drool crusts the skin, it keeps all toxins, dirt and oils on the OUTSIDE of the skin as a protective barrier. I’ve begun to use my drool on the daily in place of cover up and you wouldn’t believe how many heads I’ve turned!  Not to mention fast, affordable and convenient.  Truth!

        6.  Chapped Lips Mean You’re a Good Mom

You may have seen gorgeous moms with full, lush lips on Insta and thought maybe you need to catch up on those make-up tutorials.  I’m going to nip those thoughts in the bud!  Imagine this… you’re running around all day– feeding, changing your baby, pumping, on diaper duty– not to mention, all of the household chores.  You’re bound to get a little dehydrated, am I right?  Well, what’s a little dehydration when you know you’re putting your perfect, adorable munchkin first?  When you have chapped lips, this shows you’ve made no time for yourself and other moms will be in awe at how devoted you are to your baby.  Awww…

         7.  Let Your Breasts Leak

Girl Power! That’s right.  When you accidentally sleep through pumping sessions and you wake up to a wet, milk covered t-shirt, don’t hide it.  We live in a patriarchal society that is geared toward the desires of men.  Anything that women have to deal with– periods, leaky boobs, postpartum emotions are ‘icky things’ to men in power. By letting your breasts leak free and naturally, you’re showing your male counterparts that you’re not afraid of being a woman and deserve to be seen.  (Also, as we learned in college, there’s nothing sexier than a wet t-shirt! Am I right?)  #SexyHotFeminism

          8.  Don’t Bother With Manicures

A gorgeous color on nails looks great, I’m not gonna lie.  But when our nails are covered, we can’t see what’s under them. By unearthing what the crud is under our nails, we get to relive what we’ve experienced the past week.  You might be forgetting about the chicken tikka masala you made the night before while you’re little was sleeping, or the dirty diaper you just changed. Like a paleontologist discovering a new set of dinosaur bones, don’t lose your history! Our babies grow up so fast, that every moment counts.  

          9.  Don’t Sleep

This one’s pretty obvious.  The less sleep you get the more time you have to spend with your baby.  And when you spend time with your baby, you have that natural glow that women envy!  And if you’re worried about the bags under your eyes?  No worries. Revisit rule #1!  

        10.  Be Original

And finally… Be YOU!  When you scroll through those #InstaMoms with perfect feeds and all-white branding, how do you plan to stand out?  If you look at the photo above, you’ll notice I took this picture in the bathroom of a house we’re renting.  The lighting is harsh and bathroom is covered in busy wildlife wallpaper and old elixir advertisements. How often do you see THIS on Insta?  Exactly.   AND!  In the photos below you’ll notice how my flannel shirt is plaid like the bathroom wallpaper is plaid.  Coordinating with your background always makes a photo stand out!  Something you don’t see very often.  While you may not get every sponsor or endorsement like the other moms, you’ll get the ones that count and THAT will make all the difference to your pocketbook! 

 

That’s it!  See how easy?  And just to show that you can use these tips in ANY situation, here are some other shots:

 

Pleased With Ourselves Look

Sexy Look!

Excited Look!

 

Thanks so much for reading, you guys!  And if you liked this post at all be sure to subscribe to MandiCrocker and share with all of your friends! Kisses!  *Mwah!*