whole wheat chocolate chip cookies {day 169}

My mind feels about as soft as the cookie dough I’ve been obsessed with the last two days. It is a swirl of activity, and some days focusing feels so out of reach.

January 25th, this Wednesday, marks 14 years since my father died. 1998—what an intense year it turned out to be. I hadn’t even thought of my real dreams until that fateful year. Nothing like your dad dying rather suddenly at the age of 49 to rock your core.

He was a Michael too, and all these years later the image of him taking his very last breath is still engraved in my memory.

I was 24 back then, and couldn’t have imagined the domino effect his death would have on my life. It was the push I needed to follow my dreams, but that’s a story is for another time and place. After he died, I decided some personal housekeeping was in order. Mikey and I had been together three years at that point. It had been a roller coaster ride, in many ways because he was 35 when we started dating—I was only 21, still in college, in fact.

We broke up a few months after my dad’s death, but stayed very close friends. I knew I loved him from our first date, but I was still very skeptical about the benefits of love. Growing up, I only saw the detrimental, sometimes harmful effects love can have on a person and a relationship. So, I walked away.

I was supposed to go to Italy that year, having been wooed by a friend’s George Clooney doppelganger cousin to go visit him in Turin. The temptation continued with a trip to Sardinia. I spent that summer on the phone, trying to remember if Italy was six hours ahead, or six hours behind.

All the while, Michael and I remained in constant contact, He knew I loved him, I knew he loved me. But after three years of battling about our differences in just about everything, the puzzle pieces felt like we were forcing them to fit.

He was a punk rocker, I grew up with 80s music.

He read contemporary fiction, I’m more a Tolstoy and Chekhov gal.

He loved Indian food—I’m not a fan of curry.

On paper we didn’t make sense, so I booked my plane ticket to Italy. All the while we continued to talk and see each other. We were supposed to go to Napa Valley for a wedding the same time of my trip, and in the eleventh hour, Mikey called me to ask if we I would consider cancelling Italy. He couldn’t imagine his life without me.

It took three years, a death and a break up, but he finally realized all those differences were nothing compared to what we had in common. This would be the first of many hurdles our love would have to soar past, yet it was a monumental baby step.

Hell, it was a leap. A leap of faith that love didn’t have to be the same kind my parents shared. It didn’t have to hurt all the time. It would never be perfect, but it would be real, genuine.

That summer feels so long ago, and yet like yesterday. Time can be kind when you’re counting the years pass together, then swift-handed and cruel when you’re watching the days float away since you last held each other.

The picture above is from a walk I took over the Brooklyn Bridge a month or so after Mikey died. I’d been admiring the bright moon, full in the deep blue night. As I neared the Brooklyn side of the bridge, I looked up, and there it was, life summed up perfectly in just 19 characters “Uneven Surface Ahead”.

It was uneven then, it’s uneven now, and it’s sure to be uneven again, even after this year of firsts is far behind me. And yet, I remind myself every day it has to get better. I remind myself I want to be happy, and even if I’m not today, I will be again someday.

Until then, I’ll settle for what I do know—how to make cookies. I was at one of my best friend’s houses this weekend, and walked in to find her making a batch of my favorite—chocolate chip. Can you believe it’s been months since I made a batch myself? The last time is when Penny arrived in New York, back in September.

I watched Erin mix the dough with her wooden spoon, and the thought of warm chocolate chip cookies was akin to curling up in a comfy blanket and fuzzy slippers. It only felt natural to make them myself when I came home yesterday feeling blue. All the Perillo Girls were blue, having experienced the first snow fall without Mikey.

And how our moods all changed as I took out the chocolate chips. Virginia squealed, Isabella jumped up and down, and my heart fluttered a bit, feeling like it was alive, not just beating because it had no choice.

All that emotion from a humble cookie.

Tomorrow I’m visiting Mikey’s old office for one last time, before BET packs up and moves to the Times Square area. I went to say hello a couple of months ago, but couldn’t bear to pack his office then. Now it’s the eleventh hour, again, and while his boss has offered numerous times to pack his things and send them to me, this is something I need to do. It’s slowly closing one more chapter to the amazing life he lived.

Tomorrow will be a chocolate chip cookie kind of day, no doubt.

Jennie's chocolate chip cookies

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookies

makes 48 three-inch cookies

I like to throw a generous amount of chopped nuts into my chocolate chip cookies, so feel free to toss a cup or two of toasted nuts into the batter with the chocolate chips. On this last batch, I decided to add walnuts and pecans. I was worried for a moment that this might be too much, but me and my little taste testers agreed that the combination was just right.

This is a riff on my original chocolate chip cookies, which has quite a devoted following in the twitterverse. I usually “dry-age” my cookie dough, you can read about the why and when in the original post, but desperate times call for cookies stat! I also swapped out all the white flour for whole wheat pastry flour and love the extra nutty-note it adds to the flavor. I’m even going to convince myself they’re healthier so I can indulge in one or two extra.

4 cups (490 grams) whole wheat pastry flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon fleur de sel

2 cups (400 grams) granulated natural cane sugar

2 sticks (8 ounces) unsalted butter, softened

2 tablespoons (30 ml) molasses

3 large eggs, at room temperature

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

12 ounces chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350º. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and fleur de sel.

In a separate, clean bowl, beat the butter, sugar and molasses until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla extract. Beat until well mixed. Add the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Scoop or gently form dough into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls and place 2 to 3 inches apart on prepared baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes on the center rack of the oven. Remove from the oven and let cool on the pan for exactly 2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a rack to cool completely, or at least until cool enough to eat without burning your the roof of your mouth or tongue.

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  • Jeanie

    I don’t know of one person in the whole world who could describe a cookie so well. Whew! You write good food!

  • Heidi

    Thanks for sharing this part of your life with us as you take baby steps to finding the joy in your life again. Chocolate chip cookies definitely do the trick for me and I hope you find comfort in them as you say one last goodbye to Mikey’s office. Thinking and praying of you tomorrow.

  • Tracey

    Jennie! O.K. Girlie! We are wishing you the very best, our prayers and love. You will be sad, but go with it and smile some during the day. Put a cookie in your purse for good luck! You are doing GREAT!
    XXX Tracey

  • Becky

    I was 19 when my father passed away suddenly from a heart attack at the age of 44. It too, changed my world in ways I am still, at the age of 42, just now realizing.
    I have a ‘family’ cookbook, that includes my father’s spaghetti sauce recipe, one he got from a talk show on tv. My daughter is fascinated by this recipe – for starters, it’s heavy on the meat, something I don’t cook much, or care for actually. I made it for her birthday dinner last week, and she made a big fuss about it. I realize it’s a link to a grandfather she will never know and so I will continue to cook it everytime she asks.

  • SamCyn

    Although anytime is a good time for chocolate chip cookies…I’m feeling your pain and pray for you and your daughters. By the way, when it comes to nuts and chocolate, you can never have too much of either one 😉 I’ll be making these for sure!

  • Nicholle Montalvo

    Jennie, I’m thinking of you today as you are possibly in Mikey’s office at this very moment… My heart goes out to you. I pray that somewhere in all of this you may find a sliver of peace. Hugs from across the country… <3

  • Beersincannes.wordpress.com

    Interesting to find out that Mikey worked at BET! I would’ve never thought…
    I’ve been following you since there was the widespread recipe in your husband’s name and relish every post even though they are sporadic. Wishing you healing.

  • irene

    thinking of you today. chocolate chip cookies have super powers. i may have to make a batch of these very soon. xo

  • Katia

    nothing better than a cookie to get the spirits up!!
    Good luck today, and the best for you and your kiddos. Hugs,

  • Jacquelyn

    I can’t remember where I found your blog, but I’ve been reading for awhile. And while I love your recipes, I love your honesty and perseverance even more. I lost my father when I was 21, and I can only hope to find the kind of love that you and Mikey shared someday. Thank you.

  • naomi

    I made chocolate chip cookies with whole wheat several years ago and they were great, but I hadn’t been able to replicate them. They looked a lot like those in your picture, so I’m gonna try this recipe.
    It’s another year, I check by your blog periodically, and always, along with sharing such good recipes, you share your heart. Thanks for your gifts.

  • Carrie

    Thank you so much for sharing your life and your beautiful recipes with us. I too bake as my therapy and it’s good to know there are others out there who do the same. You’re unbelievably strong and I wish you the best with the tough times you have coming as you continue to survive your year of firsts.

  • Kamaile

    I made chocolate chip cookies last night too. There’s nothing like a warm chocolate chip cookie. I lost my father who was 48 when I was 28. I’m 41 now and really hope we do see our loved ones again on the other side.

  • Kim in MD

    Beautiful post, Jennie. And yes…warm, home-made chocolate chip cookies do make everything seem a little better some how.

  • Sandie

    It’s a few days after you went to Mikey’s office. I can only imagine. It was hard going to my husbands office after he died. It’s been 5 1/2 yrs since he’s been gone and I was trying to figure out when I was going to feel like I used to. Then I had to tell myself that half of me died when he died. I will never be the same. It’s something that’s hard to deal with but something that must be dealt with. Keep going forward. You are covered in love, light and prayers from so many people. And warm chocolate chip cookies are the BEST! Sounding like the old hippie I used to be- Peace & Love Jennie.

  • LZ

    I don’t think the commenters are giving enough credit to the grace of your writing in this post. “…but I was still very skeptical about the benefits of love. Growing up, I only saw the detrimental, sometimes harmful effects love can have on a person and a relationship. So, I walked away.” That is such a graceful and respectful way to express emotions that can only be imagined as painful and frustrating at the time. I know because I feel it strongly now, but I couldn’t simplify it into a sentence until I read your post, particularly the excerpt above.
    I think this post goes the deepest in describing the breakthroughs you and Mikey have had and all you have overcome in the past in order to achieve the deep love that you described in your previous posts. That is beautiful. I think more people should see it and acknowledge it, in addition to posting simple, almost superficial comments. There’s a lot of deep value in the posts that you write. Your cooking is gorgeous, but it’s your deep thoughtfulness that make your anecdotes, whether recipe-related or not, worthwhile.

  • Amanda

    These cookies are good. And this recipe must be even better. I’m not a great baker but the cookies I made are brag worthy. I had the urge for chocolate chip cookies (probably something to do with your descriptive writing) so I went out and bought some chocolate chips, because I had everything else in the house. I think my oven runs a little hot so the first batch was just slightly over done…but wow. Yummy!! I love that they’re whole wheat, too.
    You’ll continue to be in my thoughts. xo

  • Vanessa

    I just wanted to say that I hope the office visit went alright. I’m vegan so I think I’ll try these cookies but using a “chia egg” instead.

  • chris

    Jennie – you have been on my mind today…hoping and praying all is well! Your writing is so captivating as are your recipes.
    Xoxo Chris

  • pamela

    hi jennie, today i followed your recipe and made a whole bunch of chocolatecookies. used whole spelt flour. my boys of 15 and 16 kept eating them. ‘me gusta cookies’, as the youngest said.