I was always really good at remembering childhood memories. My sister is often amazed at how I can remember even the littlest detail in some of my recollections. I enjoy, no, relish in looking back and reminiscing my childhood. I guess I'm quite sentimental that way. They always replay in my mind with a warm hazy glow, kind of like the way movies reel out an old scene.
Three weekends ago, I visited my old town in New Jersey. It was an exciting trip, with my most favourite people in the world – Andrew, my sister Jenn, her husband Kevin, and my dear little niece, Chloe. We set out to adventure out to NYC, a first for Kevin and Chloe! We had a fabulous time in the big city, weather being absolutely flawless and all of our spirits lifted up.
But I think my favourite part was going back to New Jersey. We stayed at my uncle's house, who lives right where I grew up. As we passed by the same streets where I once passed, I was thrilled to relive it once again.
One of my favourite spots in the little town of East Brunswick, New Jersey is Magnifico's. Their soft-serve ice cream and a variety of iced treats make Magnifico's a famous place in this part New Jersey. But it's not just the velvety smooth ice cream or the abundance of sprinkles and toppings that made this place a favourite. It was my family's little retreat of indulgence. We didn't have everything in the world, but when our dad drove into the small shop on Route 18, it meant the world to us! My sister and I would sing "We scream for ice cream!" and my dad would often fool us saying "No scream no ice cream!", but we always seem to come back home with little mouths and fingers covered in vanilla and sprinkles.
Another memorable place in my life is a small bakery on Cranbury Road. It's really not any place remarkable – just a modest neighbourhood bakery. But this is indeed the birthplace of my delight for baked goods! My mom would take us there often, just as a treat or for special occasions. She would let us gaze at the beautiful cakes, mountain-piled cookies and the cupcakes decorated with flowers or fun animals. And each time, she would allow us to pick just one treat for the trip. Now this was a very challenging task. All those cupcakes, all those cookies, how could you possibly pick just one!
But it was a decision that had to be made. After a long deliberation, my sister and I would finally pick the treat that was our all-time favourite: the Florentine cookie. These cookies were perfectly crispy with just enough "give" and "chew". The milk chocolate centres were exquisitely sandwiched between two oatmeal crisps which gave such a unique texture and flavour to each bite. It was cookie heaven in our hands.
Sadly, these cookies didn't last very long. We moved away from our little town in Jersey and moved to Korea, then onto California and finally to Canada and they were long-forgotten. But no good thing is lost forever! On a very special birthday, I received a timely gift of a set of cookbooks. It was perfect because I just started to be interested in baking. And lo and behold – the recipe for Florentine Cookies! To be honest, each time my sister and I went to a bakery, we'd secretly search for the same cookie we once enjoyed, but only to be disappointed with failed imitations.
But this cookie was it. Or at least very close to what we remembered it to be. Reunited at last, we finally basked in Florentine-cookie goodness and was able to share it with the people around us. Not surprisingly, it was a favourite among our friends as well, receiving the impressive title of "best cookie ever" for some.
So here I share it with you, my blog friends! A piece of my childhood, a special little part of me. And as children do, I hope we can all enjoy the little things in life. It really is amazing how it's the small, seemingly insignificant things that can make a child happy. Sure we've got heckuva lot of "life" to deal with as adults, but maybe it's good to stand back for a second and really appreciate everything we have, large or small. Life is so much better when we can find value in it. Let's enjoy it!
Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies
recipe from Nestle Classic Recipes
Makes about 3 1/2 dozen sandwich cookies
2/3 cup butter
2 cups quick oats
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup light or dark corn syrup
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups Milk Chocolate morsels/chips
1. Preheat oven to 375F. Line baking sheets with foil or parchment paper.
2. Melt butter in medium saucepan; remove from heat. Stir in oats, sugar, flour, corn syrup, milk, vanilla extract and salt; mix well. Drop by level teaspoon, about 3 inches apart, onto prepared baking sheets. Spread thinly with rubber spatula.
3. Bake for 6 to 8 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely on baking sheets on wire racks. Remove cookies from foil/parchment paper.
4. Microwave morsels/chips in medium, microwave-safe bowl on MEDIUM - HIGH power for 1 minute; stir. Microwave at additional 10- to 20- second intervals, stirring until smooth. Spread thin layer of melted chocolate onto flat side of half the cookies. Top with remaining cookies.
I also love making new memories...