How to Bake Chocolate Chip Cookies

My very first blog post on Encouraging Treats was about baking chocolate chip cookies and being unemployed. Eight years later (on April 24, to be exact), I baked cookies using the same recipe from Nestle… and guess what? I am currently unemployed! Haha.

I have been praying about this transition in my life for a few years now and the time has finally come for me to close this chapter. Baking the cookies was a simple celebration for me as I remembered God’s faithfulness in both my 7+ years of work in the corporate world and 8 years of blogging. I can share more about these two things in my future posts. But for now, here’s a guide on how to bake chocolate chip cookies.

This recipe is very friendly to first-time bakers and is also a handy one for those who have been baking for a long time. I tweaked Nestle’s recipe a bit to make the cookie more chewy (Sugar Ratio: 1 cup brown + 1/2 cup white). But you can also stick to the original recipe, if you want. :)

Warning! As you can see in the recipe and the video below, aside from the generous amount of sugar, this contains 1 cup of butter too! Haha. But, I guess every now and then, we can sneak in some sweetness and delicious fat in our lives. This treat is best served with a cold glass of milk or with hot / iced coffee! Enjoy! :)

 

Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (by Nestle Toll House)

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I used 1/2 tsp. only)
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3/4 cup white sugar (I used 1/2 cup)
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar (I used 1 cup)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I used 1/2 tsp. only)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (I used dark and semi-sweet)
  • 1 cup chopped unsalted nuts

Steps:

  1. Preheat oven to 375° F
  2. Sift and stir flour, baking soda and fine salt in small bowl.
  3. Beat butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in large mixer bowl until creamy.
  4. Add eggs to the sugar and butter mixture, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
  5. Gradually beat in flour mixture.
  6. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts.
  7. Drop onto a baking sheet/pan lined with baking paper or baking mat.
  8. Bake for 5 minutes or until lightly golden brown. Cool on baking sheets for 2 minutes; remove and place on wire racks to cool completely.

*Photo above was taken from www.personalwriting72.wordpress.com

My Cherry Tomatoes Stopped Ripening on the Vine

The cherry tomatoes I grew this summer looked very promising. During the plants’ second month, I remember counting 45 buds and 120 tomato flowers, which would eventually become ripe tomatoes! Compared to the previous batches I have had in the past summers, this batch yielded the most number of fruits and I could not be more ecstatic! However, it was only the beginning of what I call my “Humbling Harvest”.

Before I planted the cherry tomato seeds last February, I thought that I would not have something new to share on the blog about growing these plants. Why? Because I already posted steps and photos a few years ago, as seen HERE. However, God used this batch to humble me and help me realize the ff.:

  1. I have so much to learn about gardening wisely.
  2. Our gracious God is more than able to turn seemingly impossible and discouraging situations around.
  3. Tomato plants only thrive in certain temperatures and I should be prepared for this.

It started when most of the flowers already turned into full-grown green, unripe tomatoes. I was so excited to see them turn into yellow green, orange, red orange, and red within the next few days. Based on my past experiences with growing tomatoes, the changes in their colors happen in less than a week. I even remember panicking before because the tomatoes ripened so fast that I had to give most of them away.

I expected the same result in this batch. But, when the unripe, green tomatoes stayed exactly the same after more than two weeks on the vine, I started to get worried. What was happening?! The fruits were not ripening on the vine; the remaining flowers were not turning into fruits; and the leaves were curling up and looking dehydrated.

I consistently and generously watered the plants twice a day and I monitored the leaves to make sure there were no pests sticking under them. I even added organic fertilizer to the plants, hoping that it would help them ripen. But, none of these things worked. It only left me with one choice: To kill the plant if the fruits still do not ripen after a week and accept the fact that I will be harvesting more than two hundred unripe green cherry tomatoes.

That week, I expressed my disappointment towards myself and the situation to God. I asked Him why He still allowed me to go through the experience of seeing them grow and bear fruit ONLY to end up witnessing their growth “freeze” in the heat of summer. My heart got more discouraged after I read articles online about the possible reasons why tomatoes do not ripen on the vine.

The only common answer I read that was applicable to my situation was the extremely hot weather. Apparently, tomato plants thrive between 18 to 29 degrees Celsius. Anything less or more than that would not be advisable for their growth. This explains why my plants stopped developing its fruits! While the green tomatoes were growing on the vine, we were experiencing very hot weather in the city! We had an average of 33 to 35 degrees Celsius.

It was during this time that God helped me realize how I should be wise in gardening. Even if I wanted to grow certain vegetables, I should do my own research on the ideal temperature, water levels, composition of fertilizer, soil condition, and the weather in our city. If I do not do so, I will be wasting resources and I would not be able to maximize the plants’ potential. Some time ago, I did experience this when I tried to grow broccoli in the hot Manila weather. Instead of producing the usual broccoli, the plant got so stressed because of the heat that it caused its buds and florets to be unusually huge.

Unfortunately, I still did not learn my lesson in planning first before planting. So, I told God that in a way, this heartbreaking yet humbling harvest of green, unripe cherry tomatoes really taught me a lesson. I also said that if it was NOT His will for me to see, harvest, and taste red ones this time, then it would be okay with me. I was choosing to be grateful, but honestly, I also struggled with watering the plants because I thought “Why bother when they will not ripen on the vine anyway?” My heartbroken self intentionally did not water them for three days.

During those days, the sky surprisingly became gloomy. Would you believe it? After weeks of extreme heat, we were being showered with soft rains. Just a few days before the weekend (when I was supposed to kill the plants), I saw my first light orange cherry tomato. I thought, “Is this for real? I have an orange tomato?!”

Despite me giving up on them, God was graciously watering and taking care of the plants for me. I ended up not killing the plants because of the hope that I suddenly had in my heart. The weather was becoming cooler and more green tomatoes were changing its colors. In less than week, by God’s grace, I was able to harvest a batch of bright red, smooth, and juicy organic cherry tomatoes from our veranda. Some of my friends could not believe how they looked! Their blemish-free skin made them seem like fake or toy tomatoes.

Before I planted the seeds, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to share something new about growing cherry tomatoes. But, I am able to share with you the best batch of cherry tomatoes I’ve grown since I started gardening a decade ago! This is only by the grace of God. I realized that He was helping me learn the value of not giving up on myself and others even when I do not see any progress or good results yet. God does not and will not give up on us. If I had given up on the plants and killed them right away, then I would have missed out on the privilege of sharing the fruits to my family, old and new friends, my colleagues, a VIP business partner at work, and many more.

Moreover, I just found out this month from a chef friend that when it comes to buying cherry tomatoes in the market, the ones still attached to the vine are far more expensive than those detached from it. There’s a higher value on it because of the variety’s uniqueness and appearance, especially since it makes a beautiful garnish as it adds sweetness to the dish. What an awesome trivia! It reminds me that, in the same way, we are nothing without God and we are only able to grow and bear fruit in this life when we are connected to the Vine (Jesus).

It says in John 15:4-5 “Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in Me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

Summer is ending soon, which means that the cherry tomato season for me will end soon too. I only have a few left ripening on the plants, but I do look forward to learning more about growing tomatoes next Summer! Hopefully, I’ll get to successfully grow beefsteak tomatoes by then! Haha.

Happy gardening and learning, everyone!


For more gardening updates and tips, feel free to visit the ff. pages of ANYONE CAN GARDEN. :)

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It’s All About Me, Right?

“You can find the taco shells… at the… uhh… frozen section.”

Clearly, the staff member at the grocery store didn’t know where the taco shells were. Hahaha. I am able to laugh about this now, but last night, when it happened, I honestly couldn’t contain my irritation.

TACO, TOMATO, & CORN

It all started when I was buying ingredients for tacos and shrimp kebabs for yesterday’s dinner. The staff member was arranging the spices on the rack when I asked him where the taco shells were. I already had an idea but because the supermarket had around 40 aisles, I didn’t want to waste time going through a lot of them.

“Frozen section? But sir, they’re taco shells. Similar to chips?” I said. I even showed a picture of the taco shell which was on the packaging of the taco mix I was holding.

He slightly panicked, mustered enough strength, and said “Yes, ma’am. At the… uhh… frozen section.”

“Umm. I don’t think so. But, I’ll just find it somewhere.” I replied as I gave him an awkward and confused stare.

While I was pushing the cart away from him, my mind started to heat up. “What in the world?? Who keeps taco shells or chips at the frozen section?? Was he trying to look confident? If he didn’t know where it was, he could have said so or endorsed me to another staff instead! Ugghh.” I then saw another staff member and asked him where the taco shells were. He gladly assisted me and showed me the correct aisle.

A few minutes later, I went to the vegetable section to get tomatoes and raw corn. Again, I had another encounter with a staff member. After putting my tomatoes in a plastic bag, I asked a staff member who was arranging potatoes in front of me if he could weigh the bag for me. Without even looking at me, he said “Pumunta ka sa kabila.” In English, “Go to the other side.” He was referring to the staff lady who was two meters behind him. (Just two meters!!!)

I didn’t expect that to happen because every time I ask the staff members at the fruits, vegetable, meat, or even fish sections, they usually get the plastic bag and weigh them. If they weren’t in charge of weighing, they would give the bags to the one who is, so that we (customers) wouldn’t have to go around or walk towards the weighing machine. But, unfortunately, the staff member wasn’t in a good or polite mood.

I then walked towards the corn area. As I was selecting the peeled raw ears of corn, I noticed the date printed on the price tag. The packed date was May 7, 2017. It was only May 6. At that moment, I was already starting to have trust issues with this supermarket. If I would go to the store today, I would believe that they only peeled and packed them today (7th). BUT!!! They were packed a day before!

I got a few pieces anyway, paid for the items, and left the supermarket. As I was driving home, I thought about what happened in the grocery store and my encounters with the taco shells, tomatoes, and corn. “What a failure. Wow. They were soooo HAPPY to serve! Right.”

 

JOY IN SERVING

As soon as I sarcastically commented on their service today, I recalled what I read and learned from Matthew 25:31-46 an hour before I went to the supermarket. I remember being reminded by God to put others before myself. To love and serve others and not remain in my selfishness. I even wrote down the acronym shared by our senior pastor at church many years ago: JOY. Jesus first. Others next. Then, You (myself).

I realized how ugly my heart was when I was feeling entitled and selfish the whole time at the grocery store. I wanted people to serve me. I wanted them to make things convenient for me. It was all about ME. But, in reality, everything about me and everything that I have is only by God’s grace.

Maybe the staff member who didn’t know where the taco shells were was new at his job. Maybe the staff member who shrugged me off at the tomato section had deadlines to meet (sacks of potatoes he needed to finish arranging by last night? I don’t know.). And maybe, the computer used to print the price tags of the corn just accidentally had the wrong date — that they didn’t mean to deceive the customers.

Immediately, I apologized to God for my selfish attitude and for how I allowed my anger and annoyance to brew even for just 30 minutes that night. As I surrendered it to God, I remembered the good points that I did see that night too. First, I still got to find the taco shells (at the chips and salsa section) thanks to another staff member. Second, the store sold headless shrimps, which was the kind of shrimp that I needed for kebabs. Third, the cashier lady double checked with me if I wanted to check my balance first before swiping my debit card.

After remembering these things, I thanked God for preparing my heart even before going to the grocery store and for allowing me to instantly experience first-hand what it means to serve others joyfully. Putting others before myself helps change my perspective and behavior. I may not be able to change how people behave or react. But, I can always choose to humbly serve and honor God and others in any situation.

Before I went to the grocery store, after reading Matthew 25, I even asked myself “How can you be a blessing to others? How can you genuinely serve?”

Last night, my older sister (Michelle), younger brother (Gabo), and I were supposed to eat out. But, we decided to spend time together at home instead. Ate Michelle graciously offered to pay for the grocery items and I helped by buying the ingredients and cooking dinner for the three of us. After dinner, Gabo secretly followed me to the kitchen where I was washing the dishes and he whispered “Thanks for cooking dinner!”. When he left, I smiled and thanked God for His grace.

We are all called to serve each other, even through the simplest ways. How can you serve others today? :)

Make Room for Growth

This morning, I harvested my second batch of pechay leaves, which are also known as Bok choy or Chinese cabbage in other countries. The leaves I got from this batch were much bigger than the first ones I had last August. The ironic thing about it? I didn’t even know that I had one pechay seed growing in the pot until I saw a seedling in it three months ago. Today, by God’s grace, I snipped off a lovely bundle of big pechay leaves here at home.

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I happily showed my family members the stalks of pechay in my hand while they were having brunch earlier today. I then shared the background of the story and emphasized how interesting the experience was. Even though I exerted so much effort in the first batch by regularly watering, adding organic fertilizer, and taking care of the plants, they weren’t able to reach their maximum size. Why? Because there wasn’t any room for growth.

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One major mistake that I made while I was growing the first batch was planting too many seeds in a small area. Because the seedlings were overcrowded, their roots could not expand and fully develop under the soil. This resulted to smaller leaves and thinner stalks.

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For the second batch of pechay leaves, however, since it was only one seedling growing in the pot, it had adequate space for its roots to expand.  Even though I wasn’t able to add fertilizer to it as often as I did to the first batch, it still grew and reached its maximum potential. There weren’t other pechay plants absorbing the nutrients in the soil.

I learned two things today as I took photos of the larger pechay leaves at home.

 

FIRST: Hindrances to growth may also be the good things in life.

It is very easy to put the blame on the weeds and difficult moments in life whenever we experience delays in our growth. However, I am learning that even the good and seemingly harmless things may also hinder us from experiencing the best and becoming the best version that we can be. Of course, this still depends on how we respond. In gardening, I realized that fruit-bearing or leafy greens shouldn’t be overcrowded in a pot if we want them to grow and reach their full potential.

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In the same way, personally, I am reminded to be more wise and intentional in the way I manage my time, resources, and activities. For example, I’ve noticed how casually surfing the internet or social media applications take up a lot of hours in a day. Even though these aren’t bad tools, if I am not careful with how I use them, I may end up “overcrowding my soil” and not leaving enough space for more important things that can help me grow.

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Another example is being idle or enjoying too much rest or sleep. Yes, I do believe that rest is important. But, I also know that if I just sleep all day and not plan ahead on the activities that I can productively do in a day, then it would be a waste of time and resources.

What are the activities (both good and bad) that hinder me from reaching my full potential? In what areas do I need to improve on? (e.g. Physical fitness, communication skills, homemaking skills, preparation for exams or work, etc.)

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SECOND: God makes things grow.

This is my favorite part in this blog entry – the part where we talk about God’s grace. There’s something about the grace of God that strikes our hearts, humbles us, and inspires us to press on. In my case of growing pechay leaves, clearly, it was God who caused the growth of the second batch. Originally, I did not want to grow pechay during the months of September to December because I knew that we would be having rainy days in this tropical country. But, God allowed one pechay seed to be left behind and He helped it grow even without me attending to it daily. AMAZING.

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This experience encouraged me to depend on the Lord and not on my own strength and wisdom. He makes things grow. He can allow us to experience growth and reach our full potential in the different areas of our lives. We just have to trust in Him, do our part, and see Him work wonders in and through us. When I saw the lone pechay sprout in the pot, I had the choice to pluck it out. But somehow, even if it was just one seedling growing in the pot, I saw its potential and started to take care of it. I didn’t know that after three months, it would become a beautiful harvest, by God’s grace.

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Maybe there are areas in our lives right now that seem hopeless or seem to have no progress at all, just like the lone seedling in the pot. Maybe it’s a financial struggle or a heartbreak that we can’t seem to let go. Maybe it’s seeing little development from all of the hard work we’ve been doing or a blurry vision of our dreams and goals in life. Whatever it is, I hope that you will also be encouraged to surrender it to God, do your part, and trust that in His perfect timing, He will allow it and you to improve and grow.

“It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow.” – 1 Corinthians 3:7

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About Me

My name is Nicole Obligacion and I started this blog because I was inspired by Hebrews 10:24 and Hebrews 3:13. I love to eat, cook, bake, read the Bible, and encourage. :)

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