Friday, December 27, 2013

Cookie Showdown

Nestle Toll House Recipe vs Crisco Recipe

This holiday season I pitted America's most popular chocolate chip cookie recipes against one another: the coveted Nestle Toll House and Crisco recipes. I've never met a cookie I didn't like so this was a daunting task... read on to see what I've determined in this sweet showdown. 

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Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Recipe:

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) NESTLÉ® TOLL HOUSE® Semi-Sweet Chocolate
1 cup chopped nuts

Crisco Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe:

3/4 stick Crisco® Baking Sticks Butter Flavor All-Vegetable Shortening
1 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 3/4 cups Pillsbury BEST® All Purpose Flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 (6 oz.) package semi-sweet chocolate chips (1 cup)
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans (optional)

The End Result

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Is there such a thing as a bad chocolate chip cookie? I think not... But in the context of really looking at which of these classic recipes trumps the other, there are a few things that must be taken into consideration. 

First, the winning recipe is based on personal preference. There are two different types of cookies here; the Nestle recipe produces a cakey, fluffy cookie, where as the Crisco cookie is more dense and crispy. This preference is precisely where a winning recipe is determined.

 For me, I have to say the Crisco recipe is a bit better. Why? Well, I'm big on presentation and the Crisco dough is much firmer, therefore, it warrants a perfectly uniform cookie when using a scoop to arrange the dough on a sheet. 

But more so than the perfect appearance, I find the taste of the Crisco dough to be a bit more buttery than the Nestle recipe. The raw Crisco dough tastes better than the Nestle too... That is important! If you don't eat the dough, you're definitely doing it wrong. 

Where the Nestle almost wins though, is in the category of left overs; this recipe stays super soft and chewy for a few days which is fantastic. The Crisco cookies get crisp upon cooling. Once again, it is all a matter of preference! My Mom and I had a great time whipping these two recipes up back to back and taste testing. In the end, Crisco is a winner in my book.

Who takes the gold in your book?

Monday, December 16, 2013

The Bright Side of Breakups

Maybe you’ll find that all you want
is two new men that you can flaunt.

Ben and Jerry, the perfect pair!
No other man can compare.

These two guys, no judgment passed
As they stick right to your ass.

Get out your stretch pants, now is the time!
Being sloppy is no longer a crime.

Throw out those razors, hair is in!
Don’t even bother giving it a trim.

Ben and Jerry, they don’t care
Even if you look like a grizzly bear.

All day, everyday, twenty four seven,
These two men will make you feel like heaven.

Don’t you worry about getting any fatter,
Get yourself some sweet Cake Batter!

No more late-night nookie?
Dig into Mint Chocolate Cookie!

Or when you’re simply not in the mood,
Sink into a pint of playful Phish Food!

If you’re in need of a pick-me-up,
Get yourself a bowl of Peanut Butter Cup!

Or when you can’t see the good in goodbye,
Indulge yourself in some Boston Cream Pie!

Still feel like you have an issue?
Don’t you reach for that measly tissue!

             That won’t help you like these two can.                                     
Pick up a pint of Butter Pecan!

Ben and Jerry, the perfect pair!
Did I mention they’re billionaires?

So remember, my friend, don’t you cry;
You are with the best of guys.

-Karen Wathen 

Friday, December 13, 2013

Best Oyster Dishes in Leonardtown, Maryland!

I have started to write for the Leonardtown Life Magazine and thought I would share my work with those of who do not live in the area. Check out this piece about the best oyster dishes in my town! 

St. Mary's County's love affair with the oyster began when Captain John Smith declared the species "Chesapeake Gold" back in 1634. As a staple to not only our local economy, but more importantly, to our local diet, Leonardtown celebrates our favorite mollusk each year at the St. Mary's County Fairgrounds. The Oyster Festival is home to the National Oyster Shucking Contest and Cook-Off; held at the end of October, this weekend is always packed with unique eats, live music and bushels of family fun. Mark your calendars; next year's festival will be held October 18-19. For more information, visit

Dishing Up Leonardtown

                “He was a bold man who ate the first oyster.” –Jonathan Swift

The muddy mollusk may not be the most pleasing to our eye but where it lacks in appearance, the hankered oyster makes up in its uniquely earthy flavors. Since the docking of the Ark and Dove, this briny bi-valve has remained a staple in the diet of Southern Marylanders. The options seem endless in the preparation of the oyster: a splash of hot sauce, scalded to briny perfection, battered and deep fried, smoked, raw with just a drop of vinegar, baked, sprinkled with the bite of raw onion, floating in a creamy stew, or delicately served on the half shell garnished with bits of salty bacon. Thanks to our large community of hardworking watermen, often times we can consume oysters for dinner which have been caught and shucked in the early hours of that very same morning. Leonardtown restaurants feature this coveted mollusk year round; from sandwiches and stews to perfectly posed half shells and mountainous dinner platters, take a look at the variety that our town offers with this local staple.

Café des Artistes, in the heart of Leonardtown Square, offers its patrons an authentic French dining experience with a charming local flare. The Café provides the ideal atmosphere for sharing a glass of wine with a friend or enjoying a quiet family meal. The oyster makes an appearance as an appetizer on their menu in the Oysters Café or “Les Huitres Café des Artistes.” Served delicately on the half shell, this dish featured a plump oyster topped with fresh Maryland crab meat, sautéed spinach and shallots covered in provolone cheese. The delicate taste of the crab meat works as an excellent balance to the savory oyster; the spinach, shallot and bubbling, crispy provolone topping serve as a rich blanket to the fresh seafood. Café des Artistes gives this local favorite a look and taste of pure elegance.

Fitzies Marina Restaurant and Pub, nestled at the end of Joe Hazel Road, is one of Leonardtown’s many hidden treasures; with sweeping views of Breton Bay, this spot is a must for indulging in the coveted oyster. Fitizies seasonally features oysters three ways: on the half shell, Rockefeller style and of course, fried. The Rockefeller features oysters presented in the half shell, smothered in a creamy spinach and green onion topping complete with a healthy covering of cheddar jack cheese. The sweetness of the spinach mixture acts as a perfect complement to the briny oyster and salty cheddar jack. Their fried version of our local favorite certainly cannot be beat. I downed a half dozen in the blink of an eye; the fried oysters were generously coated in a mild breadcrumb mixture and fried to a crispy, golden brown. The freshness of Fitzies oyster dishes: insurmountable. For an oyster feast with a breathtaking view, Fitizies Marina Restaurant and Pub has you covered.

The Leonardtown Grille, just blocks from the Square, presents its patrons with an inviting family atmosphere. Their convenient location makes the Grille a great stop for a quick oyster satiation. The oyster finds its spotlight on the dinner platter menu; served alongside either a crab cake or small rack of ribs. I found the barbeque and oyster combination to be quite intriguing; I do love both of these foods, but together? The smoky barbeque paired with the crispy oyster turned out to be quite the palette pleaser. The ribs were tender, falling right off the bone, as I alternated bites between the oyster and the barbeque. The dinner is served with two sides; I went for the coleslaw and garden salad. The crisp cabbage and fresh salad served as a fantastic counterpart of the saucy ribs and fried oyster. The Leonardtown Grille provides its patrons with a plethora of options when designing their ultimate oyster dinners.

Reader Recipe:

This month’s recipe is an original from local artist, Carol Wathen. As a resident of Rosebank, a waterfront community in Leonardtown, Carol creatively named this original oyster dish in honor of her long time neighborhood.

Oysters a la Rosebank

Originator: Carol Wathen of Leonardtown

1 pint of oysters with its juice
1 tbsp all-purpose flour to thicken
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of soy sauce
1 tsbp of minced onion
4-5 shakes of hot sauce
2 tbsp of brown sugar
Touch of black pepper
Season salt to taste
Paprika for color


In a skillet over medium heat, combine all wet ingredients, including the juice within the pint of oysters (add only half for a less briny sauce). Stir well and allow the sauce to begin to bubble; once bubbles begin to form, add in the brown sugar, flour and dry spices. Simmer for approximately 5-7 minutes. Add in oysters, wait for them to begin to curl up; once they begin to curl and reach appropriate doneness, transfer the saucy oyster mixture into a serving dish. This recipe can be served as a standalone appetizer or over rice for a more substantial meal.