Tag Archives: ladies’ home journal

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies on Earth

28 Apr

I know that title is quite a claim but people, I’m about to give you a cookie recipe to end all cookie recipes. But first let me introduce you to the creator of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies on Earth, my favorite chef Tara Bench (instagram: @tarateaspoon). Here she is getting ready to serve some delicious treats to Al Roker on the Today Show.

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She may not be as famous as Ina Garten or Bobby Flay but she’s a celeb chef all right: Tara is the Food and Entertaining Director for Ladies’ Home Journal* and in the 7+ years I’ve worked with her, she’s never made a single thing that I didn’t like. Think about that for a second. Every recipe she produced–whether sweet or savory, difficult or a breeze–has been deeeeelish. And I think I’ve tasted them all! I’m also lucky to call her a friend. (She’s the awesome kind of buddy who answers all of my frantic weekend baking texts when I’m questioning my kitchen skills. Everyone needs a friend like that but no, I’m not giving you her number.)

Tara started her career at Martha Stewart and you can see it in her work; aesthetics are as important as taste. Some of her favorite LHJ recipes are Crispy Ice Cream Bars,  Frozen Blueberry Cheesecake, and Thai Chicken Patties.

But her heart belongs to chocolate chip cookies. They’re her favorite thing to make. And why not when she has perfected the recipe!?

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I’ve been on a quest to make the perfect chocolate cookie for a long time but they’ve never been quite right. They’re either too crunchy or spread too thin or not chocolatey enough. So, I finally decided to try Tara’s personal recipe and It. Is. Perfect. They’re sweet and chocolatey but not too much of either. They’re lightly golden around the edges, just enough to give them a little bit of crunchiness.  But the gooeyness–oh the gooeyness!–is the key to this recipe’s success. That soft texture remains days after they’re baked. ( But wait! There’s more! Tara even makes a gluten free version that pretty amazing, too!)

And here’s the best part: even though this recipe is so close to her heart, she gives it to friends and family all the time and she even kindly agreed to let me share it with you. Right here. Right now. (Told you she’s awesome!)

TARA’S CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIES

4 cups flour (fluff the flour before scooping) or substitute Gluten Free All Purpose Flour for Gluten Free version (see Gluten Free note below)

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

3 sticks unsalted butter, softened

1 1/2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 eggs

2 tsps or 1 tblsp vanilla extract (I go for the full tablespoon when I make them.)

1 package (11.5 oz bag) of milk chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli and you should to.)

1 package (11.5 oz bag) of semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Ghiradelli and reduce this amount to a little more than half of the bag.)

Preheat oven to 350. Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla.  Mix. Add the dry mixture, a little at a time, and mix. Stir in chocolate chips. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. (Eleven minutes works perfectly for my oven but be careful. Tara says “Don’t overcook”!)

Gluten Free note: If you prefer rice flour to Gluten Free all purpose flour, you can use that instead (Tara recommends this one) but be sure to add a scant tbsp xantham gum to hold the cookies together. (A “scant” tbsp means slightly less than full.)

A couple things to remember, the dough is thick! Crazy thick! It’ll look like this when you’re done mixing but don’t worry. That’s how it’s supposed to look.

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Then get ready to work your stiring muscles! No pain, no gain. Right?

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Looking good.

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Make sure your little cookie dough balls are spread out enough or else you’ll have a solid sheet of cookies. (I say that like it would be a bad thing. Ha!)

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When they come out, they look puffy and undercooked.

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But then they deflate a little bit while they’re cooling.

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And you end up with perfect cookie goodness.

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Before you get to baking, I want to urge to follow Tara on Instagram @tarateaspoon. That’s where you’ll get to see her working on her culinary delights…

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…hanging out with hottie chefs, like Curtis Stone…

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…having cookie throwdowns with her friends (I’ll give you one guess which recipe won!)…

cookie throwdown

…and rubbing elbows (or tummies!)  with all kinds of food industry celebs.

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And take note of her oft-used hashtag #wwllt which stands for What Work Looks Like Today. I had no idea what it meant but lots of food industry pros seem to like it so it’s a great hashtag to check out for foodie inspiration.

And don’t forget: Your gluten free friends don’t need to be left out! Just replace the flour with Gluten Free all purpose flour for a perfectly delicious cookie treat.

Happy Baking!

XO

Sue at Home

*With deep sadness I need to tell you that while I was writing this post, Ladies’ Home Journal closed its doors and with that, Tara and I (plus another 33 of my friends and coworkers)  lost our jobs.  I’m trying to stay hopeful that this will be a turning point in my career and that I will move on to bigger and better things. (In fact, maybe you’ll even get more Sue at Home!) But I fear that I will never have a job that I love as much as I loved being the Fashion Editor for LHJ. The kindness of the people that I worked with, the collaborative atmosphere, the quality of the work we produced, and the respect that I felt from everyone around me is a rare thing in business and I feel so lucky to have had that. But I’m hopeful for the future and excited to see what it brings.

I’ll keep you posted on the chapter. And please send positive thoughts my way!

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Sue At Home in Ladies’ Home Journal

1 Apr

As you may know by now, I am the Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal magazine. So when some of my fellow editors wanted to photograph a story for the April issue about bringing spring color into your home, they thought of my colorful abode and more specifically, my hot pink chair.

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My pink chair (you can read all about it here) has gotten a lot of love in the past. It’s one of my most read posts, most repinned pins, and it was featured on Emily A Clark’s blog, Centsational Girl’s Best of DIY site, and Apartment Therapy’s Room for Color. (Hey look! There it is again over in the sidebar! Click there for more living room pics.)

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But this time, it’s in a magazine. A huge national magazine. (OK. I know that I’m one of the editors so it’s kinda like nepotism but still, I’m happy to be included!)

SAH in LHJ thats my house

SAH in LHJ text

So on a chilly day in January, I was pleased to invite two of my fellow LHJ staffers and a small photo team into my home for the shoot (the zero-minute commute was kinda awesome too).

Right away photographer Jennifer Causey and her assistant got to work setting up lights and reflectors and getting my pink chair ready for its close-up. I usually prefer a neutral pillow on the chair but for the purposes of the story, editor Lauren Piro brought lots of bright spring-y options. The yellow one from Target was the clear winner.

pink chair in LHJ

Note: The chair has faded A LOT and is due for another dye job but I just couldn’t get it done before the shoot, So yes, she has had a Photoshop touch up for the LHJ final image you see below. When it gets a little warmer, I’ll be ok with dying on the deck again!

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But the chair wasn’t the only image shot in my house. We also put some artwork from Society6 on my bedroom dresser and styled it with some of my jewelry.

LHJ in bedroom

Do you know what it’s like to have a photo crew, including some of your coworkers, in your bedroom on a Thursday afternoon? It’s weird, people. It’s weird. Luckily, one of those fellow coworkers is my dear friend, our very talented photo director Clare Lissaman, who always knows how to put people at ease on a shoot.

The story also featured my painted kitchen cabinet. It’s one of my favorite DIY projects in my house (you can see it up top in my header collage) but I’ve had such a hard time getting a good shot of it for the blog so that’s why I’ve never written about it.

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The cabinet looks so pretty that I almost don’t notice the fugly countertops!

So how was she able to get that brighter shot in my windowless kitchen? What photo skills does Jennifer have that I don’t have? This big ass light, that’s what! (And I’m sure she has lots of other great photo skills too! But the light helps.)

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That beauty totally brightened up the space.

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I was totally thrilled to be included in the issue and I want to thank my co-workers for including my home and supporting Sue at Home. If you’d like to order a subscription to Ladies’ Home Journal, just click the affiliate link in my sidebar.

With the happy spring weather, I’ve decided to come out of my hibernation and I can’t wait to get some spring projects happening soon. Stayed tuned for our newly painted playroom, a new headboard, a hallway makeover and…drum roll…a complete bathroom renovation!

XO

Sue at Home

Halloween Crafts from Ladies’ Home Journal on The Better Show

28 Oct

Phew. That’s one long title. Allow me to explain.

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As you know, my day job keeps me busy over at Ladies’ Home Journal. I do lots of fashion stuff and not a lot of crafting stuff. But since I love me some glitter and spray paint, I was asked to present several of the Halloween crafts we featured in our October issue (all originally seen on some of our favorite blogs) on The Better Show, a nationally syndicated lifestyle program owned by Meredith, LHJ’s parent company. So, to put it in simpler words: I’m here to show the crafts that I made for The Better Show which were featured in Ladies’ Home Journal and originally produced by bloggers like me. Does that make more sense? No?

Well, then just set the DVR because I’ll be on Better tomorrow, Tuesday, October 29th. OK? Thanks.

Let’s check out a bunch of pumpkin crafts from Sequin Crush. First up is a Studded Pumpkin. All you need to do is buy a foam pumpkin (I got mine at Michael’s but most craft stores carry them), gold spray paint, and gold thumbtacks.

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Once you’ve got your fake pumpkin painted (remember – never spray paint real pumpkins because you don’t want this to happen), just space out the thumbtacks around the top first and then just press into the creases. I needed about 200 thumbtacks for this large pumpkin.

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All done! And bonus: Because it’s just foam, you can save it for next year!

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Next up is the Glitter “Dipped” Pumpkin. Again, start with a large foam pumpkin and spray paint it gold. Then use a spray adhesive around the base of the pumpkin and sprinkle on the glitter as you go. Spray a little, then glitter a little. Repeat until you’re all the way around.

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This baby has done quite a bit of shedding since I made it but I still think it’ll survive for a few more years.

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Next up was my favorite of all of the projects. It was insanely simple to do, it took about 2 minutes, and it came out great. I started with one medium sized real pumpkin, clear glue, glitter, and a round foam paintbrush.

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I put a little glue onto a paper plate and then dabbed the foam brush into the glue.

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Next, I put little circles of glue around the pumpkin with the paintbrush. (No measuring needed. Just eyeball it!)

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Next, I sprinkled on some gold glitter and it was done.

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Sadly, this one won’t last beyond the season so I’ll just have to make another one next year.

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Next are Baby Boos painted with Metallic Paint Pens from Paper & Stitch. I used oil based metallic Sharpies but you can use the water-based ones. (More on that in a minute.)

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First, I followed Paper & Stitch’s design and found that it only took a couple minutes.

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Then I went rogue and created a chevron with dots pattern.

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When the girls saw what I had done, they wanted in on it too. So I gave Sophia the oil-based pens and she made the one in the front while Lily made the one in the back with the water-based pens. (I just figured that Five Year Old + Oil Based Paint Pen would not be a good idea.) As you can see, the water-based is fine but not as bold of a statement.

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Here’s a more clear comparison:

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Next, I used pipe cleaners and yarn to make letters that were originally seen on the blog Cakies. This one didn’t come out as well as the others but–lucky you!–you can learn from my mistakes so you don’t make them too. Mistake #1 is pictured below. See how thick that orange yarn is? That’s how thick all of your yarn should be. I got sooo caught up with finding the right colors that I picked a bunch of way-too-thin yarns.

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Now listen closely because here comes mistake #2. I started by twisting the pipe cleaners together and then bending them to make the word Boo. Please note: Don’t do that. Don’t shape it into the word before you wrap the yarn. It’ll make the wrapping take forever. Just twist the pipe cleaners first but keep them in a straight line as you wrap the yarn.

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Ta da! Four hours later I had this. I know that sounds insane but as I told you, I screwed up. If you had thicker yarn and didn’t shape the word first, I’d guess that it wouldn’t take you more than an hour. I think the fun thing about this is that you could do any word with this method. “Ho Ho Ho” for Christmas? A kid’s name for a bedroom? “Eat” in the kitchen? Your last name on your mantel? The possibilities are endless.

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So, head on over to that DVR and figure out what time Better is on in your area tomorrow. You can click here and use that pull down menu on the top left that says Check Local Listings. Thanks for watching!

Oh…and since the October issue of LHJ is off newsstands by now, you can visit lhj.com/halloween to see all these Halloween crafts (and a lot more!). But if it’s the real deal magazine you’re looking for, check out the November issue on newsstands now. You won’t be disappointed. Especially since Sophia and Lily are in the issue! That’s right! Our editor-in-chief asked us for a picture of something that makes us happy and she chose a bunch to feature on the editor’s letter page. Here they are seeing it in Barnes and Noble for the first time. There’s nothing my narcissistic kids like more than looking at pictures of themselves!

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And a quick iPhone pic of the page.

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Always keep in mind that you can use that affiliate link in my sidebar (right where it says LHJ subscriptions) or you can click here to order a one year subscription of LHJ for only 10 bucks! (Disclosure: LHJ gives me a small percentage of the sale if you click over from my site. Thanks for shopping!)

Now, go and get your craft on! There are still a few more days til Halloween…

XO

Sue at Home

I’m a Published Writer!

7 Jan

OK, I know that my day job as Fashion Editor for Ladies’ Home Journal means I’m already a published writer but I still think of myself as more of an editor-of-clothes than an editor-of-words. There have only been a few times over the years when I’ve had an opportunity to write more than a sentence or two. So, when a short essay I wrote was selected for LHJ’s food feature The Story Behind the Recipe, I was thrilled. It felt like the boost of confidence that I really needed with my writing but more importantly, I was getting my mom’s famous fruitcake recipe printed in a national magazine with a huge readership. And the best part of all? I was able to tell the world about how awesome it was to learn to bake from my mom and how–contrary to popular fruitcake folklore–this stuff is actually delicious. As I wrote in the story, it doesn’t have any of those “plasticy red and green things”.

For the full Story Behind the Recipe of my mom’s delicious “spice cake”, click the link  below to see it on lhj.com (or run out and grab the December issue while it’s still on newsstands for another day or two): Just Don’t Call it A Fruitcake! The Best Spice Cake Recipe

To see where fruitcakes gets it’s bad reputation, check out this Shirley Jean one that I spotted in my local ShopRite just before Christmas. I mean, what is it with those melted red candles on the box? Is that where they get those red chunks they put in the cake? Yikes! (Note the weight. It’s 3 pounds!)

Interestingly enough, a quick Google search of Shirley Jean showed me that they used to sell the fruitcakes in pretty tins that are available all over ebay and Etsy. Maybe that’s why everyone bought them? (Click images for purchase info. Shirley Jean Fruitcakes not included. Thank god.)

Images from (1)Vintage Possessions and (2) FoxyRoxysAttic.

Here’s my mom’s updated fruitcake recipe. My promise to you: Candace Ann kicks Shirley Jean’s ass.

Don’t-Call-it-a-Fruitcake Spice Cake

Work: 15 min

Total: 2 hr

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups chopped dates

1 cup chopped raisins

1/2 cup chopped dried apricots

5 tbsp shortening

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground cloves

1 tsp baking soda

1 tsp salt

1 cup chopped walnuts

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Grease and flour two 9-by-5-inch loaf pans.
  2. In a 3-qt saucepan combine water, sugar, dates, raisins and apricots. Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered, 20 min. Remove fruit mixture from heat and stir in shortening; let cool, about 30 min.
  3. In a mixing bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon, cloves, baking soda and salt. Stir in cooled fruit mixture and walnuts.
  4. Divide batter between the prepared pans and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 1 1/2 hr. When cake is cool, cut into slices or wrap in foil for up to 1 week. Makes 2 loaves.

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If you’d like to submit a Story Behind the Recipe to LHJ, email it to recipestory@lhj.com and say Sue at Home sent you! If it’s selected, your recipe will have the honor of being in the pages of a national magazine that’s seen by more than 10 million people (yowza!) AND you’ll be paid $400! Wait a minute. I guess editors from other departments aren’t eligible for the pay out! But you are, so write that story now.

My girls love to bake with their “Mimi”. I don’t have any pictures of them making the fruitcake with her but I’ll leave you with some particularly adorable shots of these little peasant girls making a birthday cake for my dad last summer.

baking with mimi

XO

Sue at Home

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