Gone But Still Here: Coffee Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sunday, April 19, 2015

-"There's milk in the fridge.-

(Originally posted in 2011)

Brian has been rather busy lately and as such I barely see him it seems.

I don't think I've actually ever explained what he does. He's in the army reserves (the threat of deployment always hovering) as a staff sergeant and CPR/First Aid instructor. He also goes to school for his EMT license, which is insane as he's a seasoned combat medic with the army, but somehow the fact that he can patch up a collapsed lung under gunfire the civilian world says he still isn't qualified to be a basic nurse. During all this he just picked up work doing security. It's not a job he is thrilled with, but he likes his coworkers, it works around his school schedule, and pays him rather well.

The serious downside to his job is that as he's the new guy he gets the crap schedule. This means late night and swing shifts on random days. It means when I get home from my 8-5, he's already left for his 5-1.

It means we can go days without seeing each other.

And it sucks.

-The coffee in this recipe turns the dough a mocha color. It's rather fun as people first assume these are chocolate cookies.-

Admittedly, I can be rather mercurial about the whole situation and each night on my own is different from the last. Some nights I cannot stand to be by myself. I find the tireless, unending quiet deafening and the only self-generated human noise to be tedious and unfulfilling. I mean, how many times can you sing your favorite songs from High School to yourself in your living room before the magic begins to wane? (One would hope, wistfully, never.)

Other nights I relish the ability to sit in solitude. A cat purring on either side and doting dog at my feet. I can relax with a beer and plenty of bread egregiously smeared with Bucherondin (my most favorite table cheese). I read e-mails or flip through cookbooks while Downton Abbey plays in the background and I try to hone my facetiousness in the fires of Maggie Smith's ripping one-liners.  Even as I write this I'm buried under a living afghan of dozy fur while Jack the Corgi works his rawhide in the corner and repeats of Young Justice blare on Hulu.

Part of what I love about my life is I'm 29 and watching superhero cartoons as I blog with an Irish coffee at hand. It's a feeling best enjoyed alone.

Still, at the end of it I do miss him the nights he's not here. At times we'll go three or four nights passing each other by. I understand the phrase about those ships in the night. You're aware of each other, barely, almost imperceptible, but no time to take any real notice. We're together in our sleep for a few hours and I guess, or perhaps hope, that that proximity and sub/unconscious recognition that the other is there is enough to sustain yourself on for a few days.

You see, it's not like when one of us leaves for work or a business trip. We can prepare ourselves and recognize that we won't see each other. This situation is a tease. We miss each other by mere hours for rather agonizing stretches.

There are phone calls, text messages, notes, and meals left in the fridge tacked with sticky notes with scribbled hugs and kisses. It's not enough. But it is. It's not an actual embrace, but it's these little things that say, "I'm not there with you, but I am. And I love you. See you soon."

And we've been doing a lot of that; the love through food thing. There are nights I will stay up until midnight so that when Brian walks through the door I can take his coat, peck him on the cheek, and guide him to the kitchen where a plate of chicken and tarragon stewed in cream and vermouth awaits. Others when I've ensured a simple sandwich sits wrapped in wax paper penned with a smiley face in sharpie for when he staggers in at a not unheard of 4 A.M.

-Some nights it is cold pizza. Hey, I'm only human...-

I love being so damn domestic. I really, really do.

Then there are the days when I come home late to the smell of chilies and garlic searing in the wok and he's made plenty Gong Bao Pork with scallions for me to take to work tomorrow, too.

Of course, maybe one of the best I love you foods in the world is the cookie. Well, cookies. Plural. There is no fun in just one cookie. It's like the fun size of a mini candy bar. What's fun about less candy? Cookies, plural with an "S" and a heaping cup or two of chocolate chips, is how it should be. That's love.

So, I make cookies every now and then and leave them for Brian. The most recent were some ground coffee bean chocolate chip cookies. Buzzing with caffeine and sugar it's definitely a wake-you-up treat that will entice the heart and perk the senses. Brian appreciates coffee. He also loves chocolate. I think he's got a softside for me, too, so all together we (the cookies and I) do just fine in making him happy.

Now this recipe comes from the effervescent Aida Mollencamp. Perhaps you've seen her on the television on Ask Aida or FoodCrafters? I met her at a conference some years back and we hit it off rather smashingly. She's bright, perky, smart, and can tell a good dirty joke that'll cause the members of any Boys' Club to blush.

She also knows food and has made this perfectly clear in her new book, Keys to the Kitchen. Think of it as the new Joy of Cooking. More pictures, less every single recipe in the world, and more of the recipes and techniques you need to know to be a successful home cook.

This book isn't so much about giving you a recipe that will produce a single dish, but rather each recipe is designed to imbue and teach you a specific skill or educate you about a method, ingredient, or cooking style. The recipe puts you into practice - a culinary practical of sorts - and by the dish's end you have a fundamental piece of core kitchen knowledge that you know how to apply to a wider variety of foods and recipes that may or may not come from Keys.

In Keys the focus is learning and the good food that comes from it. To the new home cook it is a godsend, a book I plan to gift time and again to younger people leaving for college or brides/grooms to be who don't know how to set a meal. For those with experience the book is a wonderful resource when you need to brush up on a certain technique or if you never got around to learning how to properly break down a chicken.

It's also a wonderful book filled with recipes that show that one person you seems to miss by just that damn half hour. Those thirty minutes. That yes, you are gone, but you are still here and you love them.

Coffee Bean Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes about 32 cookies

2 1/4 cups AP flour
1/3 cup finely ground coffee beans
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 cups chocolate chips

1. Preheat the oven to 350F and line your cookie sheets with parchment paper. Combine the flour, coffee, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and whisk to aerate; set aside.

2. Place the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat the tar out of it for about 3 minutes, making sure to scrape the bottom and sides of the bowl halfway through. Add the eggs and vanilla and beat for another minute.

3. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture and mix until it just comes together. Stir in the chocolate chips and drop 2 tablespoon-sized mounds of dough on the trays, 2 inches apart.

4. Bake for 12-15 minutes. Cool on racks. Eat and serve to loves ones or just caffeinate yourself crazy hard like the addict you know you are. 


  1. Lovely entry! I'm sorry the beginning of your marriage is this way, but it sounds like you both are having fun nevertheless. My fiance is a Staff Sargent in the Air National Guard reserves (after 6 years in the Marines) and is in Mississippi until February for training, so I feel your pain. Last week I made your buckwheat chocolate chip cookies for him and overnighted them to him. Nothing says love like cookies! Good luck with everything; I don't comment all the time but I haven't missed an entry for about two years now.

    1. Thanks for the support, Christie. I understand the military leave and training trips all too well. And you're right, care packages are therapy for us, too.

    2. I think it's a good thing. You learn to be strong in and of yourself while learning to be a smoothly functioning home. Later, when things shift and you are spending more time together, there will be different skills to learn, different discussions and compromises, and this knowledge of yourself and ability to create successful contingency plans will come in very handy. Please consider, if you haven't already, nursing school for Brian. There's really not many jobs harder to beat for time, money, scheduling flexibility, ability to travel - or not - and get good benefits. Glad to hear you guys are enjoying each other and being sweethearts. Well wishes from Phoenix Az.

  2. Hi Garrett, thanks for another beautiful glimpse into life, love and the universe! This post had me laughing and crying all at the same time. I can relate to the fuzzy blanket, often falling asleep under its influence (I think it's the purring).

    And thanks for reminding me that there's always something to love, whether it's the cats or a cookbook or simply some quiet time on the sofa.

    Oh, and the recipe? A definite I'm-going-to-make-these-this-weekend. I DO love coffee!!


    1. Do make it, Karen. Worth it. Just don't eat six in a sitting. I don't handle caffeine well and it had me shaking a bit. ;)

    2. Hi Garrett I came across your recipe searching for things to serve at my coffee and jazz mixer. See I'm celebrating one year in business and I think these cookies will be a hit thanks. :-) I noticed that you said the coffee makes you shake a bit. I would like to offer you some free samples of my Organo Gold to see if it will help you enjoy the cookies better. Here's my email if your interested bluecupcafe01@gmail.com. Thanks again for the wonderful post.

  3. Aw, sorry to hear y'all don't get as much time together as you like. These are the good days: some day you'll be married for 40 years and want some space haha. At least that's what I keep telling myself, too. :)

  4. Oh, how I know your pain on this one. For the first few months after my husband finally got his green card after marriage, he worked nights at Wal-Mart, and I was at work and grad school all day. We would literally just get to eat breakfact together, and that would be it for the day. He then worked overnights at CVS, and once again, we hardly saw each other. But it was worth it, and it did change eventually. You just have to get through the sucky part :)

    1. Indeed. Plus, the first night you finally do get to see each other is just so awesome. ;)

  5. I can understand your feeling Garrett, when we got married, I was staying and working in West Virginia, hubby is in Utah. It was long distance life for us for almost 6 month. I left my job and joined him. Now I am not working, stay at home mom enjoying life. So these are only temporary. You guys are going to get into normal routine in near future.

    By the way I liked the coffee bean cookies I tried once. Not this recipe. But love it.

    1. Sounds harsh, S. And personally, I want to try these cookies with spiced ehtiopian tea. =D

  6. What a beautiful piece, Garrett! I'm absolutely thrilled to hear that my cookies have helped you provide love through food. I mean, that's why we all cook in the first place, right? To cook for and with those we love!

    1. It's a pretty damn cool book, Aida. Not just saying that. I only promote books that I dig. =)

  7. These look delicious!! I hope your ships meet at the same harbor much more often, but you did write about this beautifully.

  8. Hang in there new Army spouse :) your post reminded me of a comic http://www.nataliedee.com/index.php?date=100912

  9. Oh, how I can relate! I am a teacher and my husband works 2nd shift, 10 hours each. Thus our 'together' time during the week is from 3:30am-5:30am, when we're both asleep in bed! You are spot on with the "little things that say, "I'm not there with you, but I am. And I love you. See you soon." That's what gets us to the weekend. Great post! :)

  10. Love this post! I can totally relate with not being able to stand being my myself some nights when my husband is traveling, even though my daughters are here. . the bed is empty and it sucks. but yes, I also enjoy the "me" time some trips. anyway, loved this! and love this recipe! :) I already have the cookbook and also love it!

  11. I can also relate. I work the night shift. Which is why I am up right now. I got off work at 7 yesterday morning. I usually try only to sleep 4 hours,or so, after my last night so I can get to bed that night. Well I overslept by 3 hours and now I am paying for it. It is 3 am and I am sitting in a lazy boy with my laptop by only the light of it and the Halloween lights in my living room window. My husband and 2.5 year are sleeping soundly in the next room. Thanks for your thoughts.

  12. It certainly is tough to have mismatched schedules with your loved one--I've been there before! It just means that the time you have together is really, really awesome.

  13. Coffee and chocolate in a cookie?! These are a few of my favorite things. Going to make these after work for my loves tonight. Thanks!!


  14. Oh Garrett! This is the good-life stuff, and I know because we are living it too. It is hard right now, but some day we will look back at this busy, busy time fondly. Hopefully, while sipping irish whiskeys after the kids are in bed.

    I love that food can be the caring bridge in between the time we actually get to see our husbands. And cookies too!

  15. When I was at the store getting last minute necessities for Hurricane Sandy, I was buying flour and I passed the chocolate chips and these cookies came straight to mind. I just finished these out of the oven and they are, omg, divine! I'm going to share these with my neighbors as a little pick me up. Not only did these cookies keep my mind busy during the numbness of being inside for 3 days straight but they put a smile on my face! THANK YOU!

  16. It's sad that you are not able to see each other as much as you want to. Though it is sweet that you take the time to bake these coffee bean chocolate chip cookies that he likes.

  17. Garrett... you know I adore you and I totally feel your pain on this one. My husband and I just celebrated our 20th anniversary. Three years ago we started having the same schedule. Yes, that's what I said.. 17 years of working different schedules. We had children and a mortgage and cars and liked to eat occasionally. And the jobs that we got (often the deciding factor was they were the ones that paid the most) were often at night. So one of us would work the day shift and one the swing or graveyard. Even though we now are on similar schedules (I am attending college *yay me cause I'm 50!* and he driving a city bus)I still get up at 3:30am to see my husband off to work. I love the extra bit of quiet time with him and it's just such an old habit to squeeze any second of contact out we can. Plus I feel bad... all cuddled up in bed asleep while he leaves in the dark cold morning. I have to be up by 6 anyway so I use the time after he leaves to do my homework. The point of my long rambling story is that it sucks, but you can do it if you really love each other and take the time to really connect when you can be in the same place. You are soul mates and a team so you just make it work. And late at night when you're home alone and all bored... try Pinterest. You'll never be bored again :)

    1. Thanks for sharing your story, Cindy. Props to you both for making it work (and for going to school, yay!). I'm not sure I could do either as at 3 AM I hate everyone.

      As for the pinterest? No... I am afraid I will kill far too much time on there if I start.

  18. I just found your blog yesterday and might be a teeny bit obsessed now. :P Anyway, I used this recipe as inspiration for a salted caramel cocoa/coffee cookie. I am officially in cookie heaven! Now I need to actually make the recipe as you posted it heehee!

    P.S. Your Christmas Target story reminded me of why I am so glad I don't work retail anymore. And why I don't shop during Christmas.

  19. This recipe is phenomenal. I just ate several from a half batch. Halved everything but the coffee, I love coffee. Left out the chocolate chips and opt for cocoa. Usually I am inept at baking but, these turned out perfect!

  20. It has become much easier to buy coffee beans from the reliable online stores, as they assure high quality supply and fast delivery of your order.

  21. This is why I feel like you and I are one in the same. I love my silent, alone time. I relish it. But I need time with my partner way more than I'll admit.
    But coffee cookies make everything better :)

  22. Ahh, I feel you! My fiance and I hardl see each other as we're in medical schools in two states and residency will be even worse (esp with him going into surgery and me going into internal medicine).

    I always show food through love and love ntoes (although he has gained about 15 lbs over the 4+ years we've been together...oops!)

  23. Hi Garrett,

    Thanks so much for this recipe. These cookies were so effective I've been banned from bringing them to work ever. again. I also wanted to say that the name of your site, which confused me at first, is brilliant. I was trying to find this recipe again and couldn't, but I remembered that the name had confused me with its contradictory flavors and I was able to remember the name! Props!



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