Birthday Free Association

This vintage photo brings together two of my favorite things: elephants and cake. Actually, cake isn’t one of my favorite things, unless it’s cheesecake. Which is awesome. Unless it’s from the Cheesecake Factory, which, from my experience in the two times I’ve had it, makes me sick. Not because it doesn’t taste good — because it tastes really, really good — but because the piece is so big. And who is going to stop after eating a third of the slice, or even three-quarters, or — and I’m getting confused on my fractions here — nine-tenths of the cheesecake? Nobody, that’s who. Unless you’re the kind of person who has enormous self-control but then you probably wouldn’t be getting cheesecake anyway, even on your birthday. You’re probably the kind of person who never justifies eating something that will send processed sugar coursing through your body deciding which cells to turn cancerous. But the rest of use birthdays — or Christmas, or weddings, or funerals, or Sundays, or 11-o’clock-after-the-kids-are-finally-asleep to justify eating a piece of cake or one chocolate chip cookie or a dozen.

So what do you do on your birthday? I always have big plans — I’m going to lose a thousand pounds, redo my bedroom, fly over to Syria and help the rebels — unless they are religious extremists — and these plans, no matter how feasible, always come to nothing by the time the day itself rolls around. My birthday is a personal New Year, a chance to start again. This year will be different! I tell myself, which is the same thing I’ve been telling myself since I was in Junior High. But every year I indulge my birthday New Year resolutions — I treat myself delicately, like an elderly woman suffering with dementia — patting myself on the head as I enthusiastically list My Life Goals for This Year.

1. Learn a Language! (Something useful like Chinese)

2. Go the YMCA every day, twice on Saturdays

3. Never eat sugar again. Ever.

4. Write a Book. Write 2 or 3! (Why not?)

5. Get a bicycle with a basket on the front and ride around in a skirt like someone from the 1940s or from Amsterdam. Try not to look like an idiot. Or an aging hipster. Which is the same as an idiot.

6. Learn to sew for the 4th time! And this time DO NOT forget how to thread the sewing machine. Write it down!

7. Be a great wife, mother, daughter and sibling! Send cards to everyone on their birthdays and start buying gifts for my nieces and nephews!

8. Get out of debt AND travel someplace amazing!



I’ve left the last two slots blank because my interest in this project has trailed off…distracted by the thought of watching House Hunters but not before I make Nutella-Stuffed Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies With Sea Salt. I only plan to have one, or maybe a dozen, since it is my birthday…

photo: the bitesized baker

Nutella-Stuffed Browned Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt recipe by Ambitious Kitchen:

2¼ cup all-purpose flour

1¼ teaspoons baking soda

¼ teaspoon of salt

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter

1¼ cup packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup granulated sugar

1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk

1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

1 tablespoon plain greek yogurt

¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

½ cup milk chocolate chips

½ cup dark chocolate chips

1 jar of Nutella, chilled in refrigerator

Coarse sea salt for sprinkling

  1. Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. The butter will begin to foam. Make sure you whisk consistently during this process. After a couple of minutes, the butter will begin to brown on the bottom of the saucepan; continue to whisk and remove from heat as soon as the butter begins to brown and give off a nutty aroma. Immediately transfer the butter to a bowl to prevent burning. Set aside to cool for a few minutes.
  2. With an electric mixer, mix the butter and sugars until thoroughly blended. Beat in the egg, yolk, vanilla, and yogurt until combined. Add the dry ingredients slowly and beat on low-speed just until combined. Gently fold in all of the chocolate chips.
  3. Chill your dough for 2 hours in the refrigerator, or place in freezer for 30 minutes if you are super eager, although I cannot promise the same results if you do this.
  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Once dough is chilled measure about 1½ tablespoons of dough and roll into a ball. Flatten the dough ball very thinly into the palm of your hand. Place 1 teaspoon of chilled nutella in the middle and fold dough around it; gently roll into a ball — it doesn’t have to be perfectly rolled! Make sure that the nutella is not seeping out of the dough. Add more dough if necessary. Place dough balls on cookie sheet, 2 inches apart and flatten with your hand VERY gently. (Really only the tops need to be flattened a bit!)
  5. Bake the cookies 9-11 minutes or until the edges of the cookies begin to turn golden brown. They will look a bit underdone in the middle, but will continue to cook once out of the oven. Cool the cookies on the sheets at least 2 minutes. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Remove the cooled cookies from the baking sheets after a few minutes and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough.

5 thoughts on “Birthday Free Association

  1. Sarah, I take umbrance to #5 on your list. That is a description of me in Florida………..all but the idiot part, of course. I don’t mean I resent that description, I’m saying I resemble that remark!! lol

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