• Mixed Berry Crumb Bars

    Sunday night, and I’m still in recovery mood from this weekend’s food coma. My Uncle Jimmy was on the Cape for his annual dinner where he wows us with his latest culinary skills, and has us all testing the physical … Continue reading

  • Browned Butter Salted Rice Krispie Treats

    I’ve been holding out on you. Taunting you with pictures of this on instagram but not actually getting it up on the blog for almost a month. I’ve probably made it about six or seven times in the past month … Continue reading

  • Brown Butter Cinnamon Rolls

    Sunday morning, brown butter and cinnamon buns. Now that is a combo I could get onboard with every weekend. Not to mention this weekend was filled with sunshine + good friends + good food. Another winning combo to kickoff summer. … Continue reading

  • Cape Cod Cranberry Orange Muffins

    I had every intention of writing this blog post much earlier in the day. But Mother Nature graced us with some sunshine and warm weather today. And then crazy eddie was in full pyro-mode next door tonight, so I got … Continue reading

  • Browned Butter Vanilla Bean Blondies

    That’s it. I’ve had it. I’m moving to Florida. Anyone who says they live in New England because they “love the seasons” is absolutely bananas. You can say you love summer and fall, but no one in their right mind … Continue reading

  • Brown Butter Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies

    You know that part in Amazing Graze where it says “I once was lost, but now am am found, was blind, but now I see” – that is how I feel today. About brown butter. I have tasted brown butter … Continue reading

Cadbury Mini Egg Bark

Wondering what to do with all of your leftover Cadbury Mini Eggs? Of course you’re not! Because any sensible person knows that no one actually ever has any mini eggs leftover after Easter candy binges. So let me rephrase that … Wondering what to do when you raid Target and CVS of their reduced-price stock of Cadbury Mini Eggs? Well look no further than this simple recipe that is likely more addicting than a batch of Heisenberg’s blue stuff. I’m already convinced mini eggs are laced with something because I swear I can put away en entire bag of those without even blinking. Which is why I usually stick to buying the individually sized bags (which are always BOGO at CVS) because self control and mini eggs are two things that just don’t go together.

Now that I am both old (hellooo 30s), and on the road all the time, I’ve really started to focus on quick and easy recipes that are jam packed with delicious flavor. I barely have enough time to run all my errands when I pitstop back in Boston every weekend, so right now I can’t be chilling dough in the fridge overnight or poking some rising dough every 15 minutes for 6 hours straight. (For the record, I am currently drafting this post right now 24,000 feet somewhere above Connecticut (hi Mom) en route home for a 36 hour pit-stop in Boston.) Anyways, if you follow my instagram (@thesaltedcookie) you’ll quickly pick up on my fly-home airport dinner of choice is almost always Pinkberry. And my favorite topping is the Almond Roca. I like to keep it simple and delicious. So a few weeks back on one of my flights home, I started thinking about how I needed to get that chocolate toffee flavor into one of my recipes soon.

I remembered having seen a few recipes with crackers covered in butter and sugar (hell to the yes please) topped in chocolate and sprinkled with toffee bits. And in my very grown up business consultant professional opinion, all I could think was “gimme dat now.” So I got to thinking that maybe a good use for “leftover” mini eggs would be on top of this bark. Because what could be better than a hand-held treat made entirely of crackers, butter, sugar and chocolate. I first made this a few weeks back and left it for my cleaning guy to taste test. And then remade it last week to bring home as my contribution to the Easter dessert table. The most time consuming part is probably chopping up the mini eggs without chopping your fingers off and then waiting for it to cool in the fridge to be able to break up for taste testing. But it’s worth the very short wait. And who knew Saltines could serve a purpose beyond curing a hangover or the flu?

Ingredients

  • 40 saltines
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 cups (12 ounces) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 package Cadbury Mini Eggs (10 oz), chopped

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or spray generously with nonstick spray.

Step 2: Line the cookie sheet with a single layer of Saltine crackers. IMG_2259

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Step 3: Chop up the Cadbury Mini eggs and set aside. IMG_2257

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Step 4: In a medium saucepan combine the sugar and the butter. (You can substitute light brown sugar if you want). Bring to a boil and boil for 3 minutes. Immediately pour over the saltines and spread to cover the crackers completely. IMG_2261

Step 5: Bake at 400 degrees F for 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven and sprinkle the chocolate chips over the top. I used a few extra to make it more chocolately. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Spread the melted chocolate evenly. IMG_2263

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Step 6: Sprinkle the chopped mini eggs evenly on top of the melted chocolate. Cool completely.IMG_2267

Step 7: Once this is completely cooled (I stick it in the fridge or freezer to expedite the cooling process) break into rough chunks. Serve and enjoy! IMG_2270

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This is some addictive stuff. Just like Mini Eggs, which I usually manage to eat an entire bag of … but by eating 3 mini eggs at a time. This is the kind of treat you have a giant bowl of … and you take a little bit every time you walk by until you’re deep into a sugar rush. There are definitely a bunch of variations you can make to top this with like toasted coconut, peanuts, crasins, toffee bits, peanut butter chips …. the possibilities are endless. The butter sugar mixture seeps through the holes in the Saltine crackers and so it is on the bottom and top of the crackers and helps keep it all together.

IMG_2272 I mean look at that little chunk of chocolate perfection. IMG_2274So now that I think I’ve finally come down from my sugar high from last week … let’s recap the events of the past week. It was a big one.

I was of course back in the PHL last week. I ended my 20s with a nice dinner in Chinatown with my coworker Havy and had my first Pho experience. It was a hot and delicious Monday night dinner after getting up at 4am to fly out. Delish.

IMG_8930Tuesday was the big 3-0. And I’m happy to report, that at midnight I did not turn into a spinster with 15 cats showing up at my door. All that happened was I went to bed 29, and I woke up 30, and life didn’t end. So that was a pleasant surprise. While I was not thrilled to be celebrating away from home, it ended up being a nice day after all. This is my third on-the-road business consulting birthday that I celebrated while living in a Sheraton. I turned 23 at the Raleigh Sheraton (an epic evening which is still talked about). Turned 24 at the Valley Forge Sheraton where I ate alone at the Outback Steakhouse (true story). And now I turned 30 at the Philadelphia Sheraton. And with a cake in the windowless conference room that 20 of us occupy on a daily basis. But the fire hazard was worth the much needed afternoon sugar rush. Even if I gave my coworkers a really hard time refusing to come back to the closet we work in for an impromptu meeting because I knew something was going on. But of course I wouldn’t let go of my laptop for even 30 seconds to blow out the candles. IMG_8946And my new favorite place in Philly is Reading Terminal, so we went out for a birthday lunch there and I grabbed this cookie from the Famous 4th Street Cookie Company for the walk back to work. I love a good macadamia nut cookie. And there are no calories on your birthday. I need to make a list of all of the places to eat at in Reading Terminal and use my lunch breaks to make my way through the list while I’m in Philly. IMG_8943So then I flew home Wednesday night last week, because I needed to drive to Connecticut for the Birthday and Easter weekend festivities. After recently watching The Princess Bride for the first time ever (I know, I know) I was REALLY psyched to find all of these Inigo Montoya birthday presents for Skips 60th, which is just 5 days after my 30th. I was too excited to wait until his actual birthday which was on Easter Sunday this year, so I gave them to him two nights early. That’s a very happy Skip with his new gear. The card says “My name is Inigo Montoya. You’re getting older. Prepare to die.” So of course Saturday night we had to rewatch the Princess Bride together as a family, which was fun because now the second time around I actually picked up on a lot of the sayings that people reference. Inconceivable.

IMG_8967Saturday was a big day. We had about 25 friends and family over for a combined Easter, 30th + 60th birthday celebration and the gender reveal of my brother and sister-in-law’s due-this-summer baby. I am not a cake person at all. Cookies are my jam. But my mom made a Funfetti cake for me and a chocolate cake for Skip, and they were both delicious. And you can see a photobomb in the upper right by this Cadbury bark.

IMG_8969Skip and I have been sharing a birthday week for the past 30 years. So we’re used to getting serenaded at the same time by our family with their beautiful voices. Grandpa definitely does the best rendition of Happy Birthday. Skip and I are just happy and ready to eat our cakes. My parents (the soon to be grandparents) then cut the baby gender cake. Let the shopping begin! Birthdays as a grown up are fun because the gifts are fun and classy. My parents got me some really gorgeous David Yurman earrings which are sparkly and amazing and special and I love them. Those parents sure have some good taste. In the photo below Skip and I are probably talking about leveraging synergies or some Purple Cow attempt to not boil the ocean. Only we can understand consultant speak. IMG_8979Such a fun-filled day with lots of friends and family. This is my friend Jess who married our family friend’s son, and now that we’ve found eachother we are convinced we were separated at birth. IMG_8975And then it was Easter Sunday. These two little bunnies (Harry and Frankie) did not seem thrilled with their bunny headware, but they posed for us anyway.
IMG_8984And the real Easter Bunny came on Sunday morning! He knows my travel woes well apparently, because he gave me Mini Eggs, Reese’s Pieces, a book on blogging and Tito’s Vodka nips. Nicely done Peter Cottontail. One time my dad uploaded all of our old home videos onto this iMemories site where we can access them easier since none of us have a VHS player anymore. And one of my favorite clips is from Easter 1989 when I run downstairs in my one-piece footie jammies and my brother is with me. And we go ” THE CARROTS! WHERE ARE THEY!” and my brother goes “AND THE DIET COKE IS OPENED!” — that Connecticut Easter Bunny sure does love his caffeine free Diet Coke since the mid-80s. And then I proceed to have an anxiety attack at age 4 trying to find the hidden Easter eggs while my brother sprints around finding them faster. Not much has changed 26 years later. IMG_8978

And that’s about it. I had to drive back to Boston early on Sunday to get ready for another travel week. I was in Philly Monday until Wednesday night this week and just flew home this evening so I can fit in a few appointments at home tomorrow before Friday I leave for …. PUNTA CANA! Woo Hoooo! Beaches, sunshine, warm weather, lounging, no laptops and good times with my friends Katie and Caitlin. I cannot wait. This will be one flight-check-in email I am actually looking forward to. The one benefit of all of my constant work travel is that I get to keep all of the loyalty points I earn, which makes these fun girl’s trips super easy to plan.

So likely no cookie recipes for another week or so, but you can follow my margarita drinking adventures down on an island in the sun starting Friday. Hasta luego!

 

 

 

Birthday Cake Chocolate Chip Cookies

Well this is it kiddos. The last blog post of my 20s. Tomorrow morning I officially turn the big 3-0. Actually, when the clock strikes midnight in just a few hours. I would say I’ve managed to be overly dramatic about dreading ending my 20s the past few months in true Becca fashion. Lots of references to becoming a cat lady coupon hoarder. But after an amazing weekend doing some early birthday celebrations with my friends in Boston, I was happily reminded about all of the great people I’ve met in my 20s, so I say bring on 30. Or at least the 29th anniversary of my first birthday. I was rocking the bangs back then. And I still get that excited when I see cake in front of me. 13410_10101234830716157_6309331247650870408_n

I absolutely love birthdays. Always have, hopefully always will. But especially with being away from home so much lately with work travel, spending my entire weekend with so many of my favorite people home in Boston was just great. And the celebrations will continue this weekend for Easter weekend to celebrate my birthday and Skips 30th anniversary of turning 30. I was actually due to be born on Skip’s birthday, but decided to be a good daughter and pop out a few days early back on Palm Sunday in 1985 so that he could have a birthday month all to himself. You’re welcome Dad. And then next week I head to Punta Cana with two of my favorite friends for more celebrations. I’m rubbing this all in because I’m writing this blog post from my hotel room in Philadelphia trying to make the best of being on the road for the big day. But anyways, I digress. Let’s get to the good stuff – the cookies.

Birthday cookies. And obvious choice for this week’s recipe. It felt appropriate when I came across this recipe on one of my favorite blogs Cookies and Cups to bake these up this week. Also, I may have been in Stop and Shop yesterday afternoon with my sunglasses on eating french fries from Tasty Burger and drinking a Gingerale in the cookie aisle looking for inspiration. (Almost-30-year-old-post-birthday-celebration-hangovers are painful my friends. Worth it, but painful). So I saw these Birthday Cake Oreo Cookies. Never saw them before, but obviously it was like the little baby Jesus guiding me right to these. Two of my favorite things in one: Birthdays and Oreos.

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IMG_2278They are vanilla wafer Oreos with basically funfetti tasting icing in the middle. Addicting. And delicious. So Cookies and Cups had the right idea when she decided to put these cookies IN a cookie. Genius. Also, while recovering from Saturday night, I needed an easy cookie recipe that just involved me throwing a lot of things in the mixer and hoping for the best. These cookies are easy to throw together, and so delicious. Some of the best tasting cookie dough. Chilling the dough is an important step, so just make sure you give yourself enough time to chill the dough for at least two hours before popping these in the oven.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1½ cups cake mix (I use Funfetti)
  • 1½ cups flour
  • ½ cup sprinkles
  • 2 cups chocolate chips
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped Birthday Cake Golden Oreos

Step 1: In your mixer, cream together butter and sugar for a minute until it gets fluffy. I normally just stick to light brown sugar, but I did use dark brown in this recipe. Add in the eggs and vanilla extract and beat until smooth. Scrape the side of the bowl down before adding in the dry ingredients.

Step 2: Slowly add in the baking soda, salt, flour, and cake mix. Beat on a low speed just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.IMG_2279

Step 3: With the mixer still on a low speed, add in the sprinkles, chocolate chips and chopped Oreos.

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IMG_2283I only had chocolate chunks in my magic baking drawer this week so I used those. Do what makes you happy. And with whatever you have on hand.

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Step 4: Chill the dough for at least two hours, or overnight.

Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, use a medium cookie scoop to place large balls of dough at least two inches apart.
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Step 6: Bake at 350 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes or until the edges are slightly golden. Let them cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.
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Happy Birthday cookies to me! Honestly, Funfetti, Oreos, birthdays and cookies. All my favorite things in a bite-size delicious form. I undercooked mine a little bit so they were extra soft and chewy. With each bite you get a little bit of a different flavor combo in the cookie. Either Oreo, or Funfetti or Chocolate or any combo of the three. Definitely a good cookie to end my 20s with.IMG_2290
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IMG_2292I ran out of big plastic bags this weekend, so ended up putting these cookies in 6 mini zip-loc bags and transporting them to Philly for my coworkers, which felt a little silly packing my carry-on this morning, but I think my coworkers were happy. My most loyal cookie fan indulged in 4 within the first hour of me arriving at work. Made the 4:15am wakeup call almost seem worth it. Almost.

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So let’s recap the past week, but mostly the super fun weekend.

My coworker Charlotte and I are allegedly running the Brooklyn half marathon in May. I’m not a hundred percent convinced this is going to be a reality given it’s only been the past week that the sidewalks are not snow-covered and it’s kind of warm enough to run outside without freezing to death. But as running buddies, we went for a run last Tuesday after work down around Philly. Of course halfway into our 5 mile run, it started pouring like a mother. So on our way running back to the hotel, we made a pitstop at the Rocky Stairs for motivation. That’s most rain on my shirt, not insane sweat. IMG_8878

So of course the only logical thing to do after getting in some solid exercise was to go and eat Steak and Cake. Dinner of champions. We started the birthday celebrations early with this insanely delicious chocolate cake from from Butcher and Singer. I was so full at the end of the night I felt like that fat kid from the movie Matilda who is forced to eat an entire chocolate cake. So good though. IMG_8880Thursday I had my first Philly Cheesesteak at Reading Terminal, which is like Quincy Market on steroids. Definitely going to be somewhere I need to make some more lunch trips to explore in the near future. I left it up to my trusty sidekick Nathan to order for me because the guy taking orders at the Cheesesteak place was intense. And who wants Cheese Wiz on their meat? People in Philly apparently consider that a delicacy. Anyways, the cheesesteak was good, but I needed a nap right after.IMG_8889 But it was fly home Thursday! So no time for napping. Except it was a typical fly-home-PHL Thursday which means delays delays delays. I saw a grown man go absolutely batshit bananas at the gate next to mine when they wouldn’t let him board so he threw his sport coat on the ground and was screaming like a crazy person. Luckily his psychotic episode (which I can relate to, but I choose Pinkberry over outward emotion in public) led to me making friends with two of the consultants sitting next to me, who also do the BOS > PHL weekly grind. The three of us were all in first class this week (yeahhhh Upgrade! the good life!) so the guy in front of me told me some good advice not to waste my time with the free wine, but go for the vodka because it was Tito’s, which in airline world is high quality. His advice came in handy because after being delayed for 2 hours before boarding, we rush on the plane to meet our wheels up time, and 5 minutes later the pilot says there’s a ground stop in Boston and next update would be in an hour. Womp Womp. But instead of throwing my sportcoat on the ground in a public tantrum (and because I am a lady so I don’t have a sportcoat handy) I took my new friend’s advice, got myself some Tito’s vodka sodas and free Milano cookies and rocked out to my new favorite Spotify playlist “Have a Great Day!” Next thing you know, we landed in Boston around 9:15 and I had listened to Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard on repeat for 45 minutes. True story. Hey, it’s a great jam. Like my Grandpa always says, you can’t fight city hall. IMG_8895So then Friday, the weekend! I had plans at night with my tennis friends, who are just the best. First I got a manicure with my friend Heather, and then our other tennis friends Caitlan and Jacqui met us out at The Paramount for a delicious dinner and good times over some bottles of wine. And of course, dessert!

IMG_8904Saturday morning my coworker Maya flew in from Philly and we had a nice day in Newton/Chestnut Hill shopping, Cheesecake Factory-ing and hitting up the spa. We then had a delicious birthday dinner at one of my new favorite restaurants in Boston, Nebo Cucina near South Station. There were 10 of us at dinner, and we filled ourselves on delicious zucchini lasagna and lots of pizza and wine! They also have great gluten-free options that taste great too, if that’s your style. I can’t wait to take my mom there next time she’s in town. Old and new coworkers, friends from home, and tennis! IMG_8909And then we went to Lucky’s. My favorite Saturday night spot in Boston. I tried to think of somewhere classier to go for my birthday this year, but why fight what’s right. I always have the best time at Luckys. And so many of my favorite people showed up, and we drank and danced and sang, and earned our hangovers on Sunday. This is just a sampling of the fine crew that showed up on Saturday night.
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Yesterday was a much needed lazy Sunday with my friend Maya. We finally did surface from the couch mid-afternoon for some fresh air, Tasty Burger fries and decided that we’d take advantage of not flying on a Sunday (Maya endures weekly red-eye flights) to cook ourselves a nice dinner of Butternut Squash Risotto with sage. FullSizeRender

So all in all, I’ve got a good feeling about my 30s. My sister-in-law recently reminded me of the scene from the movie 13 going on 30, where the girl wishes to be Thirty, Flirty and Thriving. And I think that’s a pretty good thing to wish for. Even with only 2 hours left of my 20s, I hope to be 30, flirty and thriving. With great friends, lots of travel adventures, and many more cookie recipes to come.

 

 

Coffee Cake Cookies

Admittedly, I’ve never seen The Sound of Music. I know, I know. Travesty. But I’ve seen the well-known clip from that movie where Julie Andrews is spinning around in a field, arms wide open singing happily. You know what? That’s EXACTLY how I have been feeling ever since the friggin snow has been melting. So while I’m about a week overdue for a blog post I’ll tell you where I’ve been on the weekends. EVERYWHERE. I finally moved my car. First thing I did, drove straight to Bed, Bath ad Beyond. I didn’t even need anything, but I was finally free! Last weekend I was literally SKIPPING in the parking lot at Target, which I normally only do when I am afraid I’m going to get mugged and trying to get to my car faster. Sweet sweet freedom. And man does it feel good. Now, let me be clear here. There are still piles of snow everywhere in Boston and I am pretty certain that after we recently hit the record for most snowfall in the history of the universe in Boston this winter that my backyard legitimately will have snow until the middle of May. But the parking spot space savers are GONE. The negative temperatures are no more. You can walk three-people across on the sidewalks. You can see pavement. Praise Jesus, Hallelujah! The only thing I can really think to help you understand what I look like leaving the house in Boston now is my favorite scene from the movie 500 days of Summer — watch this.

So I am sure you can understand that it was hard to find the time to sit down and write about cookies when I was out high fiving random strangers in the streets of Boston. Also I think in the past two weeks I was in Connecticut, New York, Philadelphia, Utah and Boston, so my weekends have been spent trying to catch up on sleep. But do not fear. While I may be late on blogging, I have kept up with my baking. I made these Coffee Cake Cookies last weekend and brought them down to Philly for my team on Monday morning. And they devoured them. Like when you throw a loaf of bread out your car window in the beach parking lot and the seagulls go insane. That’s how my team reacts when I show up with cookies Monday morning.

I came across the recipe for these cookies when a random train of thought got derailed. I had bought sour cream to use for a dinner recipe, and then I got to thinking how much I love my Mom’s Sour Cream Coffee Cake recipe. And then I thought maybe I would make that, but man that would be a pain to try to transport on the plane to Philly. Then, Eureka. What if I could make coffee cake into cookie form. INCONCEIVABLE! (More on that reference later). So I did it. I found this recipe on the blog Cookies and Cups. I really wasn’t sure how to tackle this recipe on my own, so I decided to follow the recipe on her blog pretty close to how she did it. And I am glad I did. I was not a believer until I took a bite, just how good these taste and how much they taste like you’re biting into a piece of fresh coffee cake. Which I guess means these are a totally acceptable breakfast food, right??

Yield: Makes 20 large cookies

Ingredients:
Crumb Topping
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • ⅓ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1⅔ cup flour
Cookies
  • 10 Tbsp butter
  • ⅓ cup shortening
  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3⅓ cup flour
  • optional ~ ½ cup powdered sugar for dusting (I skipped this part)

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. To make the crumb topping, mix the softened butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, salt and flour together in a medium bowl. Cut together with pastry cutter or a fork until evenly mixed. Chill in the refrigerator while you make the cookie dough.IMG_2223

Step 2: In your mixer, cream together butter, shortening, light brown sugar and granulated sugar on a medium speed for about 2 minutes until smooth. You do need to use shortening for this recipe, so try not to substitute for it. It will help with the texture of the cookie.

Step 3: Sift together the baking soda, salt and flour, and slowly add into the wet batter mixing on a low speed until combined. IMG_2220

Step 4: On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, use an ice cream scoop to place large cookies at least an inch apart from eachother. I baked 8 cookies per sheet to make sure they had plenty of room to spread out.

Step 5: Using a spoon, make an indentation in the center of the cookie dough.IMG_2222

Step 6: Scoop at least 1 tablespoon of the crumb topping into the center of the dough, pressing lightly with your fingertips to make sure it sticks. IMG_2225

Step 7: Bake at 350 degrees for about 9-10 minutes, or until the edges turn golden. Mine took a few extra minutes. When you remove from the oven, let them sit on the cookie sheet to set until transferring them to a cooling rack to finish cooling. An optional step is to dust with powdered sugar. I skipped this because I figured it would get messy in transport to work, but if I was serving these day of I would definitely include the powdered sugar.IMG_2226

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I think this is going to be the cookie that starts the revolution of eating cookies for breakfast. The cinnamon flavor and all the browned sugar topping just makes for such a sweet and rich goodness with every bite. And the shortening helps the cookies stay together and maintain their softness, which is just perfect. I mean really, this is perfection in cookie form.

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Absolute perfection. The center of the cookies are so soft and chewy, just like if you took a bite of regular coffee cake.

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So I have almost two weeks to catch you up on. Not like I really did anything THAT exciting (minus the dancing in the streets now that you can actually see the streets) so I’ll try to remember what I did the past 10 days and recap them for you.

So my last post I actually wrote on the long flight to Utah two weeks ago. I was flying from Philly to Salt Lake City to attend the Adobe Summit. Because that’s what technology consultants do. Too bad we didn’t actually go outside a half mile radius of the convention center, because the little I did get to see of Utah was pretty beautiful.

This was the sunrise right outside my hotel room over the mountains. It looked like the sky was on fire.FullSizeRender

So the second night of the conference they had this event where Imagine Dragons performed, but for the two hours before the concert there were all these food stands which was right up my alley because I’m much more of a tapas/appetizer try a lot of things kind of girl rather than eat one big meal. This is not a good picture of it, but this was called a Walking Taco. In a Doritos bag cut in half, there were crushed up Doritos at the bottom and then all the insides of a taco thrown on top and you ate it with a fork. Not clean eats, but delicious.IMG_8733

So then we got to see this amazing Imagine Dragons concert. No I was not that close to the stage, this was just a picture of the Jumbotron, but we still had great seats. And they are just amazing performers. I would definitely go back and see them live in concert if they came to Boston.IMG_8770Since I am used to mostly East Coast flights under 2 hours, any of these flights I take that cross more than just the central time zone feel incredibly long to me. So I downloaded Birdman and Up in the Air to watch on the flight back since I had almost 5 hours to kill. I have watched Up in the Air way too many times for my own good, but Anna Kendrick in the scene below – I just relate to on way too many levels. I am also pretty sure that’s the expression I have at work after a few flights or a long day in the closet. (Yes, we work in a windowless room). Just watch the movie. You’ll get me. And if you don’t want to pay the $3.99 to rent the movie, just watch this scene. That’s where I usually am come Thursday morning. And then this is the rest of the scene if you really have some time to get your YouTube on today. Now you get me? We’re also 9 days until the big 3-0 so I may be a little overly sensitive right now.IMG_8781Okay so … moving on. Once I got home from Utah, I slept a lot. It was really raining last weekend (thank GAWD it wasn’t snow) but I used that as my excuse to catch up on my DVR and sleep. Sunday morning was the St. Patrick’s Day parade in Southie, which Mother Nature nicely held off with her little snow fit until the afternoon so the morning 5k and parade still went on. In my younger days, Southie was the place to be for the parade. Day drinking starting at 10am, house hopping. Now, I run the 5k and then nap on the couch all afternoon. And I wouldn’t change a thing. This year my friend Ashley and I ran it together – with NO headphones. We actually talked the whole way. Well, Ashley talked while I dry heaved up the hills, but we finished in 34 minutes with no training, which was pretty good considering there were 4 pretty steep hills. No matter what time of year it is, you can always count on Ashley and I to meet up for a walk or run dressed head to toe like ninjas. IMG_8795I spent Sunday afternoon watching The Princess Bride which my parents were so appalled a few weeks ago when they were discussing House of Cards and my dad said Robin Wright from The Princess Bride and I said I never saw that movie. So then it magically (via Amazon and my parents) arrived in my mailbox last week so I watched it. And now every time I call home my Dad answers the phone saying “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die.” Every. Single. Time. If you haven’t seen the movie here is the clip. and YES that is Saul from HOMELAND. I will never be able to look at him the same again. Yes. Really. It’s him.

So I decided to ride that 5k high this week and just crush my workouts this week in Philly. I joined Fitmob which is a great way to try all of the boutique gyms around Philly – and the first month is only $1. Two of the other girls that I work with also joined, so it’s been a fun way to try new classes with friends. And it’s helped to get into a better routine while I’m down in PHL. Tuesday morning I took a kettlebell class at 6am with my very energetic friend Maya who requires very little sleep and flies to the east coast from LA every week. The best part was the walk back “home” right around sunrise through Love Park. IMG_8802Other highlights from Philly this week include a delicious dinner at Parc in Rittenhouse Square, which I finally started exploring more now that it’s actually light out when I leave the office. In honor of my Mom who loves Creme Brulee because it’s one of the few naturally gluten-free desserts that actually tastes delicious, I decided to splurge on a Wednesday night and enjoy a few bites (well… a lot of bites) of this perfect creme brulee. IMG_8809

Thursday I caught the 5:15pm flight home which was amazing because it took off ON TIME (unheard of in PHL) and I landed in BOSTON BEFORE THE SUN SET. Yes. That is the first time I think ever since I started this project in early November that has happened. Which meant I was able to make dinner with my friend Caitlan at our favorite Southie Spot Local 149. That was a nice treat for a Thursday night.

This weekend I decided I needed to get out of the house and enjoy the freedom that is the start of spring. Saturday morning I woke up to run errands before my tennis match and thought I was seeing things. SNOW. FOUR LETTER WORD. ITS SPRING. STAHHPPPPPPPPP. But I refuse to drink hot coffee anymore. It’s iced coffee season. And this picture was actually taken after I put my coffee on top of my car because I needed to climb the giant snow bank to get out. So I was eye level with the roof of my car. IMG_8840Then we crushed our tennis match despite not having played for a long time together. But the Young Gunz always dominate. One of our opponent’s names was JoJo so the entire match I had this song stuck in my head. So I tried to channel the inner sass of JoJo (the singer) to dominate. And then last night I went out with my friend Molly and Ania for a friend’s birthday at Highball Lounge in Boston, which was great because they have all of these board games to keep you entertained. And there is nothing better than sipping pinot playing a round of Jenga or Hungry Hungry Hippos. Molly had some pretty good Jenga skillz.IMG_8847This morning I took an early yoga class at South Boston yoga, which was such a great way to start the day, even if I was a little pinot-unbalanced. Then I went to Chestnut Hill and grabbed lunch at the Cheesecake Factory with my sister who was in town for a Swing Dancing event. The Cheesecake Factory has been one of our favorite spots ever since we were both at Boston College, and we do well as sisters because we both prefer appetizers over entrees. Yum Yum. IMG_8852

And that’s it. Which was basically me complaining about flying, and showing you what I ate, and then what I did to burn it off. But at least you have enough YouTube clips to get you through the first hour of your Monday morning. So you’re welcome for that.

Next week is my birthday. 30. It’s here. And by the time it gets here, I’ll be ready to embrace it with open arms. Hopefully. I have a lot of really fun things to look forward to over the next few weeks though, so I have nothing to complain about. Saturday night is when I tear up the nonexistent dance floor at one of my favorite bars with all of my favorite people. Then Easter Weekend Skip turns 60, so we’re celebrating both of our birthdays together. And then the following weekend I fly to PUNTA CANA with two of my favorite friends Caitlin and Katie for 5 nights of fun in the sun. I could not be more excited.

HAPPY SPRING!

 

Softbatch Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies

This blog post is coming at you from 30,000 feet somewhere over one of those states in the middle of the country that I never get right when I try to fill out those “name all the states on this map” quizzes. Geography is not my strong suit. But I’m on a cross-country flight right now from Philadelphia en route to Salt Lake City. My first adventure in Utah. I’m really starting to feel like Anna Kendrick a la “Up in the Air” — which means my hotel lobby breakdown in front of George Clooney about how I should be married with a dog and a Jeep Grand Cherokee by now is imminent. For those of you who haven’t seen the movie I highly recommend it if you want to understand what my life is like on a weekly basis. Though the ending is wicked depressing, and there are no trips to Pinkberry involved. But read the third quote set from IMDB from the movie on this link and that is exactly my life right now. So apologies if this post gets a bit punchy .. it’s been a long day.

But enough about my impending turning 30 in 3 weeks from tomorrow and the closest thing I have to a boyfriend is my Tumi suitcase that goes everywhere with me. Let’s talk cookies. Because in the past 5 days I have spent over 12 hours on a train and 6 hours on a plane, I did not get any baking done this weekend. Luckily, I predicted this and did some proactive baking a few weekends ago when I had time and was snowed in back in the arctic tundra formerly known as Boston. Growing up I used to love these Chips Ahoy soft batch homestyle cookies. Put them in the microwave after school for 15 seconds and it was absolute heaven. Warm gooey soft chewy chocolate chip cookies that tasted fresh out of the oven. So the other day I really wanted to start experimenting with some soft batch cookie recipes. I had some cream cheese in the fridge that I wanted to use too, so I went to the interweb and started browsing all different kind of soft batch and cream cheese cookie recipes. So when I found this recipe for Softbatch Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookies on one of my recent blog finds – Averie Cookies – which is becoming a favorite of mine, I knew I had to try them. So I baked them up and brought half to my friend Amanda’s place when she hosted brunch for her and her boyfriend and his brother to taste test, and left the other half for my cleaning guy a few weeks back. And my trusty taste testers agreed, these are delicious. I didn’t adapt this recipe at all because I wanted to see how it came out following her recipe exactly … but based on how yummy these are I think I’ll definitely be experimenting with it in the near future.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/4 cup cream cheese, softened (use full-fat cream cheese, not any of the lighter versions)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional and to taste
  • 2 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Step 1: Cream together the butter, cream cheese, and sugars on a high speed. Add in the egg and vanilla and beat on a medium-high speed until well creamed, light and fluffy. Scrape down the side of the bowl before adding in the dry ingredients.IMG_2186

Step 2: Sift together the flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet batter and mix on a low speed until just combined.IMG_2187 Step 3: Add in the chocolate chips and beat just for a moment until they are evenly distributed.

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Step 4: Using a medium cookie scoop, place heaping mounds of cookies on a tray and flatten them. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours (1 hour is fine if you’re in a hurry) or overnight. If you bake with warm dough they will thin out too much. So be patient young grasshopper.IMG_2190

Step 5: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, place the mounds of cookie dough at least two inches apart. These are bigger cookies, so give them a little space to breathe. Bake for 8 to 9 minutes at 350 degrees or until the edges have set and the tops are just beginning to set. Don’t bake longer than 10 minutes since the cookies will continue to firm up as they cool.IMG_2191

Remember if you put a few chocolate chips on top of the dough before you bake them your cookies will come out a little more photogenic. Say cheese!IMG_2192

Let the cookies cool on the sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.IMG_2195I found there were multiple delicious ways to enjoy these. Fresh off the tray burning hot with a fork (classy and impatient). Chilled. Microwaved for 12-15 seconds. OR most delicious, stick it in a coffee mug broken up a bit, microwave it for 15 seconds, then top with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream. Booyah. I’m thinking of  making a variation of these with toffee chips or browned butter in the near future. So so good. Soft and chewy and just perfect.

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Alright, let’s see what I need to fill you in on from last week. It’s sad that in my near very old age, I have to go back to my Instagram to try to remember what I did last week. I can barely remember what I did yesterday or what city or state I was even in. So I was in Philly again last week. No real highlights from there except I ate a really delicious steak on Wednesday night from Butcher and Singer, which I’m still dreaming about a bit. I mean look at that giant hunk o meat. I can’t believe I didn’t eat red meat until last year. WHAT WAS I THINKING?! IMG_8671 The snow this winter I feel like is singing that song to me -“I will follow you, follow you wherever you may go. There isn’t an ocean to deep, a mountain so high it can keep me away.” So with that in mind, Boston was finally spared a snowstorm last Thursday … but Philly (where I was) was hit with the worst of it. Which meant more cancelled flights, and trying to scramble to find a way to get home on Thursday. 3 of us who are Boston-based ended up taking a 6-hour Amtrak back to Boston all day Thursday during the snow. The trains after ours were apparently nightmares, where my friend Robin got stuck in CT with no power on her train for 3 hours at night, so I really can’t complain about being on a train for 6 hours .. except I will. IMG_8675

I got my hair cut this weekend (or as my Grandpa says … get them all cut!). I had a mild panick attack in the hairdresser chair because we went for bangs … which I’ve gotten many times before and always regret. So I don’t know why I do this to myself. But I think actually she did a nice job and it was time I got a new do since the end of my twenties is rapidly approaching. At first I thought I looked like a Ringo Star and Farrah Faucette had a love child. .. but once she styled the bangs they ended up looking more like a normal person, which was a relief. Saturday afternoon I got back on the Amtrak and headed down to Connecticut to make it to my friend Suzanne’s baby shower on Sunday. So it was nice because I got to have a good dinner in Fairfield with my parents on Saturday night and then hang with the two fluffballs back at home.

Sunday I drove down to Eastchester, New York for my long-time friend Suzanne’s baby shower. I wish I had access to some embarassing photos from our childhood easily accessible right now to include in this post, but I will spare both of us the embarrassment. Suzanne and I met when we were just wee little nuggets back in our dancing days when we were ballerina, tap dancing, jazz hand, pointe dancing ballerinas at KICKS Dance Studio in Shelton, Connecticut. I would not say we were the stars of the show … but we bonded over eating cheeseburgers during long rehearsals, befriending a sassy girl in our group named Chinetta who once got kicked out of high school for stabbing someone (we were smart to befriend her), and we spent a lot of dance numbers standing on some staircase in the back holding up electric candles. You have to have been there to really understand the picture. Anyway! Suzanne is incubating a tiny human right now, so we all showered here with little baby gifts and ate cake! suzanne

And finally I wrapped up my weekend spending some quality time with Grandpa at the Outback Steakhouse. He wore a battery operated light-up shamrock necklace and on about 3 occasions randomly belted out very loudly a full rendition of “Happy Birthday Month to You” – probably because he just really enjoys seeing me get beat red. grandpaThen this morning my Skuber driver dropped me off at the train station at 6:30am in New Haven so I could start this lovely multi-city journey today via planes, trains and automobiles from New Haven to Philly to Salt Lake City. For the record, Skuber is my dad (Skip) + Uber (my favorite on demand car service). My mom loves when I send her the tracking link when I’m in an Uber. And with the bad weather lately, my dad has been driving my mom around a bit more. So we call him our personal Skuber and crack ourselves up. I can’t figure out how to download the pic on this crappy plane wifi, but here it is on instagram.

So that’s it. I need to wrap this up because FINALLY we are landing in about 45 minutes, so I need to QA this and post this to the interweb before they shut the internet down on the plane. Or I pee my pants since I haven’t stood up in over 5 hours. Whatever comes first.

SPRING IS COMING. I’ll try to make something St Patrick’s inspired this weekend … since despite being buried under 8 feet of historically devastating snow … Southie has decided to still host this weekend’s parade … because that seems like a great idea. But with my brain being old lately, if you have any cookie ideas you want me to try or even just some flavor combos you want me to experiment with, let me know! I’m always looking for new suggestions.

Happy Monday.

Baked Cinnamon Bun Donuts

You know how there is an entire section of birthday cards for belated birthday wishes? I feel like I need some similar sentiments to share for all these belated blog posts. I’ll blame the combination of the month of February and American Airlines. Maybe there would a new card Hallmark can create called “Sorry this blog post is late but there’s not enough Xanax in the world to fly American Airlines twice a week between BOS and PHL during the winter of 2015.” That might be too wordy for a card, but you get the idea.

Last weekend I did some baking in advance, so that I would have a few recipes in my back pocket which in theory should help me get back to a more regularly weekly blog post. I have some delicious soft baked chocolate chip cookies on the back burner for another week. They were taste tested by my cleaning guy who posted this funny pic to Twitter. Without my cookie Monday list anymore, I need all the reliable taste testers I can get! Last Sunday morning my friend Amanda was hosting brunch at her place for the two of us (and her boyfriend and his brother who didn’t sit at the table with us but did enjoy the fruits of our labor). So since I wasn’t in charge of the main event for brunch last weekend, I decided to experiment with a new baked donut recipe. The thing that is so great about baked donuts is start to finish almost all of the recipes that I have tried take less than a half hour to make, and almost always using basic ingredients I already have on hand. I perused the interweb in search of a new recipe and came across this recipe for Baked Cinnamon Donuts with a Cream Cheese Glaze from Averie Cooks.  Within her first paragraph, she had me at Cinnabon. I mean a Cinnabon in donut form in less than 30 minutes? No brainer.

Donut Ingredients

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, optional
  • 6 tablespoons buttermilk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Vanilla Cream Cheese Glaze

  • 1/2 cup+  confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon+ cinnamon
  • Splash of milk or half + half

Step 1: To make the donuts, first preheat the oven to 325 degrees and lightly grease a 6-cavity donut pan with nonstick spray. If you don’t have a donut pan (which you should by now) you can also bake these in a muffin tin.

Step 2: In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the Vietnamese Cinnamon from King Arthur Flour will change your life … just trust me on this. IMG_2196

Step 3: Add in the buttermilk, egg, vanilla and melted butter and whisk to combine. IMG_2197

Step 4: Using a Ziploc bag with a corner cut off (or a pastry bag if you’re fancier than I am) pipe the batter into a 6-donut pan.

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Step 5: Bake at 325 degrees for 8 to 11 minutes, or until the donuts are springy when you touch them. Let them cool for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. IMG_2202

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Step 6: To make the cream cheese glaze, combine the powdered sugar, cream cheese, vanilla extract, cinnamon and a small splash of milk. Whisk to combine, adding the milk as needed until you achieve the desired consistency. Dip the donuts into the glaze and enjoy!

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Deadly. This reminds me of when I discovered how to make a single-serve brownie in a mug. It’s deadly to know that in less than 25 minutes you can have freshly baked Cinnabon tasting donuts. They are really delicious and cake like and the cinnamon flavor is just amazing. And probably more socially acceptable to eat at 8am than a mall-Cinnabon. (which is best paired with a large fountain Diet Coke and extra frosting.)IMG_2209

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Amanda made this amazingly healthy brunch with a proscuitto and scallion egg bake, a kale salad, and gluten free banana peanut butter muffins. So we had zero guilt indulging in these bad boys last Sunday morning. Washed down with some mimosas while wearing sweatpants … forgetaboutit. Perfect Sunday morning10998089_10101216425899557_7013930408213924448_n

Inspired by how relaxing these stay at home Sunday brunches have been I decided to host a bigger one this Sunday, but I’ll save those photos for the end of the post. I have to cover the whole past week first that I’ve neglected to fill you in on with blog posts. I have lots of pics, so I’ll try to make it semi quick … but we know I say that every week and always end up writing a novel.

We’ve been dealing with the 100+ inches of snow and trying to get as much of it removed as possible in the past two weeks which has been … an adventure. “Vinny from Quincy” is the snow shoveler we had to hire to shovel the snow off the roof and then our alley after he did a good job clearing my car out, so that our roof doesn’t cave in and hopefully when it starts melting the basement doesn’t flood. Well Vinny likes to march to the tune of his own drum. Meaning, he likes to not show up on the days you fly home early to stay home from work .. but then shows up at 6:45am the next morning unannounced, and so on and so forth … for the past week. And you end up having to take an uber at 10pm to find him on a random sidewalk in Southie to give him cash for the job .. while repeatedly reassuring your cabbie this is not a drug deal, despite how giving a random guy in a hoodie $100 cash in the middle of a dark street at 10pm might look sketchy. And then there is of course Crazy Eddie who keeps standing on his patio trying to talk up Vinny so I have to keep going out there and shoo’ing him away like a squirrel. Vinny said that Crazy Eddie reminds him of himself .. but “when he wasn’t sobah”. In case that gives you a better idea of what we’re dealing with here …  Anyways, the snow has been semi managed and the leak and the wall seems to have subsided, so moving on.

South Boston or “Southie” for those of you who aren’t familiar with the area … is an absolute warzone right now. Normally the winters here are challenging because of the limited parking and the space saver tradition that is technically allowed for 48 hours after the snow emergencies. But with the back to back storms and 100+ inches of snow this winter, it’s gotten to be insane. The people who have shoveled out their cars, have kept their space savers there permanently since January 25th. And they had to make all the streets one way (without putting any signs up to actually direct people). Just to give you an idea .. this kind of wacked out stuff is ALL over Southie right now. I guarantee you no one is going to try to take that spot.

IMG_8585My new coworkers have been asking for cookies for a few weeks now. I brought them cookies once .. but the whole giving up my space in my carryon bag to bring cookies to these people I share a closet with for 12 hours a day but really don’t know … ehh I haven’t really made a huge effort to bring them cookies. But last Sunday night I whipped up these Nieman Marcus $250 cookies that were a big hit with the coworkers, and will be coming to a blog near you the next time I bake these.
IMG_8601Another week in Philly last week. Nothing too eventful. Went bowling. Worked worked and worked some more. But was super thrilled to get on the early flight home Thursday night which got me home JUST in time to make it to dinner with my friends Heather, Jacqui, Liza and Liza’s mom who was in town. We had the most INSANELY delicious dinner at Nebo Cucina + Endoteca where 4 of us all had the zucchini lasagna that was so good I can’t even explain it … you need to go there for yourself. And I’ll happily go with anyone who wants to because I can’t wait to go back. Liza had also knitted us these super comfy warm chunky ear warmers that I will definitely be putting to good use this month. She started an Etsy shop in case you want to check it out and look as fabulous as I will be rocking my new ear warmers around town.
IMG_8639What else … Friday night after work I met my friend Allie out at Tico downtown for dinner and drinks. And by drinks, I mean we drank ALL of the Sangria at Tico. We started with just a pitcher and some small plates, including these delicious shrimp tacos. And then continued with lots more Sangria. AND Allie asked me to be a BRIDESMAID in her wedding, which involved lots of hugging and screaming. And then more drinks (to celebrate of course). Our friend Josh met us out and continued to encourage our bad Sangria behavior. Such a fun night. Such a painful reminder of how old I am and how much Sangria hurts the morning after. So worth it though. No regrets. IMG_8642Saturday I recovered slowly but in time for a girl’s night out with my friend Alex for a delish dinner at Lincoln Tavern and then hit up Lucky’s for Colleen’s birthday celebrations. And then this morning was our epicly awesome girl’s brunch that I hosted at my place. We wear sweatpants, drink mimosas and relax in sweatpants for a few hours. This is a breakfast club that you want to be part of, trust me. We talk about all different kinds of important things … from work to relationships to movies to snow to Teen Mom 2. Today’s group was Ashley, Allie, Sara, Gabby, Colleen, Alex, Andrea, and Molly. And they were all good sports at waiting to dig in until I got all my photos in. IMG_2213

I got up early this morning to make GimmeSomeOven’s fresh baked cinnamon rolls. Yum.

IMG_2216We had fresh fruit, baked bacon, candied bacon, frittata made with chicken sausage, potato, mushroom and spinach, donuts, breakfast potatoes, baked banana donuts, and Nutella-Stuffed Cinnamon Sugar muffins. This looks like a well-balanced breakfast to me.
IMG_8655Another shot of this beautiful brunch, which I am still pretty full from. 
IMG_2214So that’s it. I’m apparently becoming very popular among my friends mom’s, which is a pretty big honor in my book. My friend Caroline’s mom has been one of my dedicated instagram and early blog followers who I am excited to drink matinis with at Mooncussers this summer (Hi Jody), and apparently I’m becoming a frequent topic of conversation with my friend Molly’s mom  who follows me on Instagram now(Hi Susan). And of course, my mom who’s been my numero uno fan since 1985. Speaking of 1985 … the month is here. My birthday month. The end of my twenties. It has arrived, and I need to embrace it. I still haven’t figured out exactly how to celebrate at the end of the month, but I need to get on that because it’s going to be here before you know it. Hopefully all the snow will be melted by then. I think in the next two weeks I’m home for 2 days and that’s it. I’m heading to Philly tomorrow, pending this cruddy snow that came tonight, then Boston for 2 days, a brief appearance in Connecticut and NY for a baby shower, then Philly for 8 hours, and then Salt Lake City for a few days for work. So let’s just hope that Mother Nature and American Airlines/US Airways decides to all get their shit together for the next two weeks, because I’ve got places to go, people to see and blog posts to write! And let’s hope March comes in like a lion … in the way that Simba sang and danced his way with meerkat and a monkey, and not a blizzard dropping lion. (Also for the record .. that opening line in The Circle of Life from the Lion King is actually “Nants ingonyama bagithi Baba Sithi uhm ingonyama” which means Here comes a lion, Father, Oh yes it’s a lion … and not actually PENNSSSYLVANIIAAAA IMGONNAEAT YOU A LIVEEEEEEE. Which is what I usually sing when trying to belt out that tune.

And I’m still single because…. ?

Happy March everybody. On a 7:30 am flight tomorrow morning to  … PENNNSSYLVANIIAAAAAA.

 

 

Soft Batch Biscoff Cookies

It’s been a while since my last recipe post. I feel like I’m in confession … forgive me followers, my last recipe post was over two weeks ago. But let me explain. In the past two weeks I have been on 7 flights, in 5 airports, on 4 trains, and dealing with 96 inches of snow that just won’t stop. I had proactively baked two extra recipes over Superbowl weekend thinking that even though I’d be all over the place, I could still post some recipes while I was on the road. But 96 inches of snow.

On the bright side, I did make it down South last week for a quick vacation with my family, and despite the hassle of getting there and getting home, I am happy to report that the sun does still actually exist, and it was so nice to feel warmth and sunshine again.  I’ll include some vacay pictures at the end of this post. And because of a leak in the wall due to the 96 inches of snow (and ice), I had to fly home a day early last night, but I’m going to sleep in my own bed for 6 nights in a row – which I am pretty excited about. So I’m trying to channel the recent memory of sunshine and my reunion with my own bed to write a cookie post that is not just writing eff snow over and over.

I discovered cookie butter two years ago, and it turned my world upside down. It’s totally lives up to the hype. If you’ve never had it before, I recommend speeding over to Trader Joe’s and picking up a jar and bring a spoon so you can dig into it in the car, no shame. The only downside of cookie butter is that there is no Trader Joe’s close by to me and I can’t venture far in 96 inches of snow, so I went in search of an alternative – and found Biscoff Spread which I found at Stop and Shop. Also best eaten with a spoon, the crushed up cookie spread tastes gingery with a caramel flavor and just delicious. I’ve only baked with cookie butter before when I made chocolate chip cookies stuffed with cookie butter, so I took to the interweb to browse some recipes that use cookie butter/biscoff spread as a main ingredient. And I came across this recipe from Averie Bakes and decided to give it a try Superbowl weekend since I had some taste testers around. I stuck to this recipe for the most part and just adapted a bit around the final prep. IMG_2162

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup creamy Biscoff Spread (or Cookie Butter)
  • 3/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Pinch of salt

Step 1: Cream together the egg, Biscoff spread, brown sugar and vanilla on a medium-high speed for a few minutes until light and fluffy. IMG_2161

Step 2: Scraping down the sides of the bowl first, then add in the flour, cornstarch, cinnamon, baking soda and salt and mix on a low speed until incorporated. The dough should be soft and a little oily.

Step 3: Using a medium cookie scoop, place even-size balls of dough on a large plate and flatten slightly and cover with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours before baking. Chilling the dough is mandatory, otherwise the cookies will spread out too much. IMG_2163

Step 4: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. On a sil-pat or parchment-lined baking sheet, place the cookie mounds at least two inches apart. Bake for 8 minutes at 350 degrees until the edges of the cookies are set. Take the cookies out of the oven and let them sit on the tray for a few minutes to firm up before transferring them to a cooling rack. IMG_2164

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So in full disclosure, I did not form the cookies into mounds before chilling the dough, and it was a pain to try to hack away at a giant ball of very chilled dough to make the individual cookies, so mine were a little more crumbly than expected, but man oh man did they taste good. Remember people, looks are not everything. It’s what’s on the inside that counts. And there’s Biscoff on the inside of these cookies, and it’s delicious. They kind of taste like a gingersnap and a chocolate chip cookie had a delicious cookie baby. IMG_2175

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I’ve seen this book all about baking with Biscoff on Instagram a few times, and think it might be time for me to buy it and do some more Biscoff baking. IMG_2178

Alright, so let’s do a little recap of the past few weeks – mostly in photos because that’s easier and I’m tired. For all of you who want to know what 96 inches of snow looks like in the city, this is the view on the sidewalk on my street right now. If you want to get anywhere, you have a skinny 18 inch pathway with 7+ foot snowbanks on either side of you. Not to mention the lovely melting icicles of death that are crashing down around you. Our alley way is currently a giant icy watery mess which is now causing leaks into my condo which is super fun to deal with while being on the road. But on the bright side, this crappy winter mess has reminded me how nice it is to have such great friends. It takes a village to deal with this mess. My friend Jacqui and her husband came over Sunday after the latest blizzard to check on my place since my Boston flight was cancelled coming home from vacation and she even shoveled out my path, which was so nice! My upstairs neighbors and I have been teaming up on trying to deal with all the snow, and they checked on my place this week while I was in Philly and found the leak in the wall. So it’s a been a brutal winter, and I can’t wait until summer, but it’s been made easier with the help of my friends. Also, I’ve put the search for a boyfriend/husband on hold because now I have a Handyman, a Plumber, an Electrician, a Cleaning Guy, and most recently we’ve added Vinny the Snow Shoveler to the mix – who has been shoveling out my car and shoveling off our roof. So I think I’ve got everything I need with my mafia of handymen! IMG_8568

 

I intentionally started with the snow picture, so that I can end this post on a sunny note. Thankfully, before we even knew this was going to be the end-of-the world death winter, my dad booked a little family vacation for last week on a Disney Cruise in the Caribbean – with my parents and my sister. So even though there was the whole blizzard and forgotten passport debacle (as documented in my last post) we successfully made it to Miami last Tuesday, and got this beautiful sunset on our way out of the arctic tundra. It’s the first time in a while I did not mind getting on a plane.
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We hopped on the Disney Wonder cruise ship in the port of Miami for a 4-night cruise to Disney’s private island in the bahamas, Nassau, Bahama and Key West, Florida. If you’ve never done a Disney Cruise, I HIGHLY recommend them. This was my 8th time on a Disney ship. I love everything Disney. First stop – Castaway Cay, Disney’s private island in the bahamas. This is the view from Serenity Bay, the adult-only beach on the far side of the island. We drank mimosas and soaked up the sunshine all day.
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On vacation, I’m more of a one-really-delicious-heavy-drink a day instead of pounding beers or multiple other drinks. And the Miami Vice  – which is half Pina Colada and half Strawberry Dacquiri – is one of my favorite vacation indulgences. Especially with a caribbean sunset in the background.
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Friday we were in Nassau, Bahama – which we’ve been to so many times before that we decided to stay on the boat and just relax instead of walking around Nassau. The first day of the cruise, we won $150 in the spa so my sister and I got massages in the morning. Friday night was Pirate Night, arghhhh matey, on the ship, which ended with a pirate party and fireworks at night. Disney really knows how to do a party right in the middle of the ocean. IMG_8526

Saturday we stopped in Key West, Florida – where it was chilly for the people of Florida, but still felt so nice and warm to us frigid northerners. IMG_8538

This is the southernmost point in the United States. Only 90 miles to Cuba. IMG_8532

And what better way to spend Valentines Day than having a sunset dinner on the boat with your parents? Disney has a great restaurant on the ship called Palo which is a fancier restaurant that you can make reservations at and have a more upscale dinner than the regular group dining. The best part is the made-to-order chocolate souffle for dessert, which I would show you a picture of, but I pretty much attacked it as soon as they put it in front of me.IMG_8544

With our third blizzard in 3 weeks in Boston, my flight was cancelled back to Boston on Sunday, so I flew into NYC with my family, and took a long Amtrak from Stamford back to Boston to get my shoveling on and deal with the mess up here. I had to be in Philly for a big meeting Tuesday morning, so I flew out Monday night to make sure I could get in a good night sleep and not deal with Tuesday morning travel delays. Well the Sheraton fire alarm went off from 12-2am that night, and we had to evacuate our rooms and sit in the hotel lobby until we were allowed back in our rooms at 2am. And then it snowed a few inches in Philly Tuesday so all of the clients worked from home. Oh well. The meeting still happened. And then I had to switch my flight to come home Wednesday night to deal with the leaky wall in my apartment. But I can’t complain about the extra few nights this week in my bed.

And as a way to survive the remainder of winter, I booked a trip with two of my favorite friends to Punta Cana in early April. With the big 3-0 rapidly approaching, and cabin-fever snow induced insanity from the almost 100 inches of snow in Boston, I needed something to look forward to so that I am motivated to get up each day. Last year Caitlin and I booked our April Cancun trip around this time because of the snow. So I did some research a few weeks ago and we settled on going to the Westin in Punta Cana. And this year our friend Katie is coming too, so we’re going to take Punta Cana Shelton-style. Less than 50 days to sunshine and more pina coladas on the beach. Thank tha lawd.

 

 

 

Note to Self: Slow Down

I think I need a permanent post-it reminder on my forehead to remind myself to slow down. I have mentioned it multiple times in my posts before but patience is a virtue I do not possess. At all. I am always “on” – likely a byproduct of my profession as a business consultant and the fact in 2015 people are always accessible … regardless of whether or not you want to be. In my first post of the new year about “Guiding Principles for 2015″ two of my key focus areas were on Being Present and Letting go of what’s outside your control. I wrote these in replacement of my traditional “more of this” and “less of that” resolutions. I wrote that post on Saturday January 3rd. I lived those principals until about 9am Monday January 5th about 10,000 feet over the Philadelphia airport. On first biz flight of the year, my (should only be an hour but is always 90 minute) flight in 40+mph winds over Philly basically removed all the namaste straight out of my body and shot me up with my normal (or even higher) levels of stressed out adrenaline. Since then the 60+ inches of snow in Boston, 4 cancelled work flights, and 12+ hours on the phone trying to reschedule travel plans have me in a constant state of thinking days and weeks out, and certainly doing everything except living in the present. But yesterday was a good reminder of why it’s important to slow down.

Disclaimer: This is a non cookie post. So I recommend opening up a tube of cookie dough and sticking it in the oven before you read this, otherwise you’re going to be disappointed at the end when there is no recipe. Though there is a happy surprise about something in the oven at the end of the post … so keep reading. (No I’m not pregnant, calm down, keep reading).

So the past few weeks have involved many rescheduled trains, planes, and probably 1000 hits myself alone on weather.com and Boston.com trying to stay ahead of the latest forecasts. 12 hours of travel to get to Denver on Wednesday for about 36 hours of a business trip before turning around to go back to snowy Boston, and meanwhile from the airport pleading with my doctor’s office to send an Rx to my pharmacy for the sinus infection that was murdering my head at 36,000 feet. We’ve had this family vacation planned for this week for a few months – a short cruise out of Miami to get in some much needed Vitamin D this February, with my parents and sister. So of course this weekend when the forecast changed to almost double the Boston forecast for snow upwards of a foot and a half, the chance that I’d make it out of Boston to Miami on Tuesday to meet my family for the trip was feeling too risky. So in an attempt to reduce stress, I switched my flight to fly out of NYC with the rest of my family, and booked a train to CT early Sunday afternoon – way ahead of the winter weather. I had my US Weekly Magazine, a window-seat on the train and a cold Diet Coke in hand. I even got in my “bye bye” winter snapchat as the train peaced out of snowy Boston. And then about 15 minutes into my train ride, my dad sent me a text “Just checking. Passport?”

Well, I think I lost about 15 years off my life in that moment. I remembered my luggage tags and cruise docs for the cruise ship (which I forgot two years ago), medicine, sunscreen, and everything else. I travel every single week, sometimes multiple cities a week, so I am a professional packer. But my passport was sitting pretty back in my bedroom in Boston. This is the PG version of my reaction back to his text. IMG_8447

After 20 minutes of trying to figure out what to do and frantic texting and phone calls, I got off the train in Providence. Booked a commuter rail ticket back to Boston. Simultaneously tried to get a seat on one of the few remaining non-sold out trains left leaving Boston later that day. And tried to coordinate someone getting into my condo to retrieve my passport and get it to me at the train station so that I could catch a train quickly back to CT. Mission Impossible: Retrieve Passport and Maintain Sanity. I had so many friends offering to help – even my friend Jacqui offering to drive all the way to Providence if I needed. Even my cleaning guy who has a spare key was willing to help. My upstairs neighbors who have one of my two spare keys, helped with step 1 of the operation to retrieve the passport from my place and put it in my mailbox. My friend Amanda then picked up the goods from my mailbox and met me at South Station where I have never been happier to see her smiling face and my passport. You know I’m not a hugger, but I laid a big fat hug on Amanda as soon as I saw her. Even managed to get on the earlier train back to CT and was back home by 9pm and hit the couch with a HUGE sigh of relief.

As a sidebar, I first met Amanda back in 2008 when I made a last minute plan to join my parents, sister and Amanda (who roomed with my sister at BC) on a 7-day spring break Disney Cruise in March 2008. Serendipitous that Amanda is the one who came to my rescue to help get me on this week’s cruise. #dutyfreefrenchfries
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Okay, so this blog post is not just about how I’m losing my mind. There is a point to it all. Aside from experiencing first hand the amazingness of my friends who were willing to go really out of their way to help me out yesterday, I had a really interesting experience on my ride from Providence back to Boston. I was sitting on the commuter rail on the phone with my parents teary-eyed and stressed out trying to coordinate the passport retrieval operation and getting on a train home, and sitting across from me was this lady in her late 50s/early 60s. When I hung up the phone she commented that it sounds like I’ve had “quite a day.” Oh you don’t even know the half of it lady. Now, work travel has made me pretty unfriendly on public transportation. I’ve got my headphones in on the plane before I even sit down. Don’t usually engage in conversation. Because I’m usually not in a great mood when I’m flying or training it somewhere.

I wish I had gotten this lady’s name, but anyways, we got to talking. There I am all stressed about a passport for vacation, and losing a few hours of my day and about $200 in additional train tickets. And you know where this lady was headed? To Dana Farber for her cancer treatments. She told me how a year ago almost to the day she got the life-changing diagnosis that she had stage 3 breast cancer. After weeks of not feeling right, and having doctors tell her it wasn’t anything, it was this week that she got the news that it was cancer, and it wasn’t good. She used to eat organic, workout all the time – overall had a healthy lifestyle. She told me how hard it was to initially pump her body with the chemo chemicals when she was used to eating so healthy. How it sucks your energy out of you. How she lost her hair and now has this thick bright curly hair that’s grown back. But she also told me that this has taught her the need to slow down.

We talked about our jobs (she’s in real estate) and how she was always living days and weeks in the future (like me) and not really living in the present day. She told me about her kids who have had some challenging relationships but are really working hard to do well in life. She even showed me a picture of her (very attractive) 33-year old son (not single, dang). And we talked about one of my amazingly young strong friends who is currently going through the beginnings of her chemo treatment for breast cancer, and how even the most relaxed, healthy, low-stress people can have this happen to them. I mentioned I was turning 30 at the end of next month, and not excited about it since I was going to be 30 and single. And even after only 20 minutes of conversation she looked at me and said, but look how much you’ve done already? She’s right. I’m not good at taking the time to appreciate what I’ve accomplished so far in life – I’m always working towards the next goal. I graduated from a great college. Started at one of the best consulting firms right out of college. Have made a great network of new friends in the past 12 years of living in Boston. Travel all of the time – even my work travels have given me the opportunity to see new places. I bought my first house at 27 years old. Had my heart badly broken, only to become a stronger, better person because of it. So what if I’m not engaged, married, or popping out a kid by 30. But this isn’t meant to be a giant pat on the back for me, so don’t take it like that. It just is meant to remind me that I really need to live in the present. I can’t control the weather. I can’t schedule meeting a great guy into my Outlook calendar, with key milestones for marriage and babies on some life project plan in Excel.

This lady was going through something really tough, that I can’t even imagine. Her journey isn’t over. She told me she’s on this trial drug, that doesn’t make her feel great a lot of the time, and sometimes she doesn’t want to take it anymore, but she keeps doing it. She told me about these workout classes she takes with other cancer patients in Boston, which is her way of still trying to keep her old habits of working out even though her body has changed so much with the cancer. When we talked about her being a Realtor and how she helps people through the journey of finding their new home, we got to talking about how everything happens for a reason. Even if you can’t understand it at the time – like bidding on and losing houses trying to find your perfect house – at the end of the day, you end up where you’re supposed to. I believe that.

Maybe I wasn’t originally scheduled to be on that train from Providence yesterday, but much to my surprise, I was really glad I was. The unexpected conversation was inspiring and impactful. And all on a train ride I wasn’t “supposed to” be on anyway. I even struck up a good conversation on the Amtrak to CT with my seatmate, and got his business card. You never know who you’re going to meet. (Like the time my dad sat next to Don Mattingly on a plane and started a baseball bat company with him … but that’s a story for another day).

My friend Liza has this daily mantra on the bottom of her emails and her yoga blog – “live light, because everything is already okay.” I love it because it’s so simple and true. And easy to remember. It’s something I am going to work on trying to remind myself on a regular basis and try to live by. Especially when things don’t go as planned.

And so with that, I’d like to end this post with some very happy, long-awaited exciting news for my family. And for someone who is not patient, this was a tough secret to keep for a few weeks. But with that … I give you the VERY joyful news that in August I’ll have a new title of “Aunt” – as my brother and sister-in-law announced today that they are expecting their first baby later this Summer. As expected, our family has been quick to get our spreadsheets out to plan for the arrival of the little one, but I think for today we should all take a moment to appreciate the present, and the very exciting news that Baby Shaw is finally on it’s way as the first grandbaby of the family.

My sister-in-law and brother – and the first onesie for my new niece/nephew who is born into a Yankees family. 10987004_10153065317304589_4957619720118064791_n

So that’s it. I’ll pick up with my regular cookie posts in a week or so when I’m back from vacation. In the meantime I’m going to try to remember to live in the moment and try to just go with the flow a bit more. Everything happens for a reason. Like the giant margarita I’m going to dive into on Wednesday. That’s meant to be.

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