Christmas treats, part 1

Speaking of Christmas treats… I made some.

When searching for brown sugar in my pantry last weekend to attempt the cinnamon rolls I came across two bags of white chocolate melts.

I do not like white chocolate.

Let me explain: I do not like white chocolate with the ONE EXCEPTION of peppermint bark.  I think I bought the white chocolate to make pretzel rod drumsticks to represent the movie Whiplash at the Oscar party last year.  (Which I am just now realizing I never posted about – which is a darn shame – one of my best years of Oscar themed foods.)  Moving on…I also had some milk chocolate in my s’mores basket (a constant accessory next to the fireplace in case guests stop by and want s’mores – it’s just the hostess thing to do) and I knew I had bought peppermint extract at some point…did I still have it… yes!

During my “funemployment” phase in 2011 I worked part time at Kakao Chocolate, a boutique chocolate shop owned by my dear friend Brian.  Brian didn’t hesitate to put me to work doing customer service and packaging in his shops during his very busy holiday season.  This meant breaking and packaging large sheets of chocolate into bark.  I really enjoyed this time.   Making simple chocolate bark is crazy easy.  It’s pouring melted chocolate onto a cookie sheet.  You can add whatever you want to the top before it sets and you can mix in an extract or oil for additional flavor in the chocolate.  I melted the white and milk chocolates, added a few drops of peppermint extract to them both and tried two variations of finishing the bark.


All you need.  


One half I tried just layering it.  It’s how the Ghiradelli peppermint bark squares do it.  A layer of white chocolate, layer of milk chocolate, sprinkles.  On the other side I went for the swirl.  


I think the swirl came out better.  


But they are both pretty.  

Neither one of them are quite the same as Kakao.  But I didn’t temper my chocolate and I used kind of crappy white chocolate, so that isn’t surprising.  But – they’re cute and fun.  And stashed away in the fridge for when people need treats!

The jig is up. Zucchini bread is just cake.

Zucchini has taken over the garden.  Now, this is probably my fault for ignoring all spacing guidelines.  Okay, it’s definitely my fault for ignoring all the spacing guidelines.  The poor green bean plants couldn’t compete for space or sunlight and they are a thing of the past.  The tomatoes are doing well and the zucchini is flourishing.

So. Much. Zucchini.

So. Much. Zucchini.

I gave a few away.  And what else does one do with So. Much. Zucchini except make some zucchini bread?

I found three different recipes and got to work.

Yogurt Zucchini Bread

A classic recipe

A classic recipe

Easy Zucchini Bread with chocolate chips

I never got a picture of this one.  It came out a little dark on the edges and I overfilled the pans a bit so it’s not as pretty.  The flavor is okay with some mini chocolate chips in the bread and a few sprinkled on top.

Caramel Frosted Zucchini Bread

Just cake.  Seriously.  Two cups of shredded zucchini in this bread and you wouldn’t even know it. Zucchini just melts away when it’s baked. I like that this one had raisins and walnuts in it.  Adding a caramel frosting certainly doesn’t up any nutrition factor.  This one came out too sweet for me, but it did photograph the best.





I now have a crap ton of zucchini bread.  And while they taste good, I don’t think I love zucchini bread.  So… I’ll freeze some and bring some to work and give some to the neighbors.  And figure out something else to do with the rest of the zucchini from the garden that won’t quit.


In other kitchen news, my friend Kristy did indeed come over and the kitchen lights did indeed get up!  Now… Kristy’s husband ended up joining her on her trip here so my dreams of girl power electric work didn’t happen.  We pretty much just let Jon take care of them.

Okay, so Jon and Kristy did most of the work while I ran up and down the steps to flip the circuit breaker occasionally.

Okay, so Jon and Kristy did most of the work while I ran up and down the steps to flip the circuit breaker occasionally.

Love them!

Love them!

The lights needed to be a flush mount since I don’t have very tall ceilings.  And since I’m trying to embrace some of the vintage charm of the house, I like the milk glass look of these.  I went to a vintage/flea market thing this morning and managed to only walk away with a milk glass bud vase to put on the counter.

Pinterest – nailed it!

I’m heading to my super adorable friend Becky’s annual S’mores party this evening.  Never wanting to show up empty handed, I thought I’d make some interesting cookies to bring as graham cracker substitutions for warm and gooey toasted marshmallows.

My first thought was to make a sweet potato cookie.  Hear me out… My favorite Thanksgiving dish is the mashed sweet potatoes with the broiled marshmallows on top.  Almost every other Thanksgiving side dish from my youth I’ve created a more upscale version of as I’ve gotten older, but I still kind of love the old school sweet potatoes.  So, I thought a sweet potato cookie with a warm and toasty marshmallow would be kind of amazing.  Except…the cookies are not delicious.  They kind of just taste like bland white flour.  I cooked the second sheet tray of them until they were a little crispier, so I’ll bring those along with me as kind of an experiment, but my sister reminded me my cookie reputation would be on the line so I should maybe do a take two.

Now, I pride myself on making a pretty amazing classic chocolate chip cookie.  I’ve made all kinds and they are always delicious.

For this event, I thought I could do it with a trip of chocolate chip varieties (milk, semi-sweet and dark chips) and I thought I’d look through all the recipes I’ve pinned on Pinterest and find a thinner cookie recipe.  Which I did

The Canal House cookie recipe

The Canal House cookie recipe

It seemed perfect!  The blog author described it as thin and chewy, crisp edges and a little salty – I thought that would be great for the marshmallow goodness.

Now, a few things could have happened here.

1. This is the first time I’ve tried really baking in my Columbus kitchen…with it’s electric oven.  It’s just different.

2. It could have been a butter issue.  I didn’t use super high quality butter (it was butter though, not margarine, not something generic…)

3. I felt it was light on flour in the recipe, but I’m used to thicker cookies.

Here’s what I just pulled out of the oven…

Cookie tragedy

Cookie tragedy





So…. I think I’m going to pick up a six pack of my new favorite beer, Kentucky Bourbon Ale, and let that be the thing I bring tonight.  There will surely be enough junk food there already.


Do you smell updog?

What’s updog?

Not much – what’s up with you?

Get it?

Moving on…

Here’s what’s up with me:

I accepted an Oscar today.


Yup.  Someone handed it to me, I accepted it.  That counts.

It’s all part of the Oscar Road Trip and I knew St. Louis was a stop for a few weeks.  I’ve been stalking Twitter to see where it would be showing up for weeks and last night learned it would be at the City Museum at 1pm.  Done and done!  Sadly my mom appears to have developed Parkinson’s and of the six pictures she snapped these are the only two where I’m not insanely blurry.  Oh well.  I accepted the Academy Award!


Speaking of Oscars, I saw Amour.  I don’t even know what to say.  I don’t know how this lead actress doesn’t beat Jennifer Lawrence.  I don’t think she will, but she certainly out acted her.  It was a miserable, sad, honest film to watch so if you like your movies to entertain you, don’t see this one.  I read one review where they called it claustrophobic.  It is.  It’s set almost entirely in an apartment that you can’t get out of with characters in a situation they can’t get out of.  It’s hard to watch.  It’s hard because it’s real life.  It could be any of us.  Doesn’t it stink that life is so tough at the end?  I suppose it’s not unique to the end.  Strokes, cancer, disease, death can all come early (sheesh – I’m so cheery!).  The title is the word love – yes, I imagine this is true love – taking care of someone at the end of their life like this couple did.  Anyway – certainly an emotional investment of a movie.  Be ready if you choose to see it.

I’m baking a new chocolate chip cookie recipe tonight.  I found it here at Ambitious Kitchen.  They have a lot of similarities to my favorite America’s Test Kitchen cookie: browned butter, an egg plus one egg yolk, resting dough.  She uses semi-sweet and milk chocolate chips.  Also, an ingredient I have never used in my cookies – a tablespoon of Greek yogurt.  I didn’t see that coming.  I haven’t baked any yet – I’ll be sure to do a full review.

I am a sucker for a good proposal, and the speech at the end of a recent Happy Endings episode had a great proposal speech.  Check out the episode The Marry Prankster for a good time, and a charming proposal.

When I’m sick…

I sleep a lot.  I think I’m taking more naps a day than the cats.

I’ve been under the weather since Monday, but Wednesday it hit the hardest.  So, of course, I decided that was the night to bake.  Don’t ask.  I got home, whipped up the dough for some Caramelita Cookies.  Once again, Iowa Girl Eats Friday Favorites led me to a chocolate chip cookie with caramel recipe.  You may remember that I tried to make some caramel chocolate chip cookies before Christmas.   They were only okay.  I gave up on the idea of a caramel chocolate chip cookie.  But then, I saw this new recipe.  Iowa Girl Eats pointed me to this recipe that included Rolos instead of the square caramels.  I thought it seemed worth another shot.

I whipped up the dough and since the Rolos needed to freeze and the dough needed to chill so all the caramel didn’t ooze out of them, I thought I’d rest and catch up on some shows on hulu.  And then I woke up three hours later.  I would say the dough was sufficiently chilled.

The base dough is essentially an oatmeal cookie dough.

The base dough is essentially an oatmeal cookie dough.

Rolos must be frozen.  Dough must be chilled.

Rolos must be frozen. Dough must be chilled.

Wrap chilled dough around frozen Rolo.

Wrap chilled dough around frozen Rolo.

Cookie ball!  Make sure the Rolo is not peeking through at all.

Cookie ball! Make sure the Rolo is not peeking through at all. Yes, I’m wearing gloves.  I knew I was going to give the cookies away – didn’t want anyone else to get sick.


Mmmmm.  Caramel center goodness.

Mmmmm. Caramel center goodness.


Definitely a better result than the last one I tried.  They are better warm.  Once they cool completely the Rolo is still a little too chewy for the center of the cookie.

Definitely a better result than the last one I tried. They are better warm. Once they cool completely the Rolo is still a little too chewy for the center of the cookie.


So that’s how I spent one evening with my cold.  I brought most of the cookies to the coffee shop guys while they were closing up downstairs.  This is how I keep the free coffee coming…  :)

I am in the middle of a four day weekend, and I’m completely bummed that I’ve spent most of Thursday and today in bed as well.  I have a huge list of things to get through and I’ve crossed exactly two off the list – get my car checked out and get my hair trimmed.

The good news?  I’m finally feeling better!  After taking a post hair trim nap I forced myself to get out of my house and get some fresh air.  I had a Groupon to a restaurant up the street that expires in a couple weeks so I thought I’d go get dinner.  I walked up to Mojo and sat at the bar for dinner and a beer.  I don’t even know the last real meal I had.  All the cold medicine has killed my appetite.  I know I had lunch with Claire on Wednesday… and I had half a container of yogurt today and a banana yesterday…that whole Old Wives tale about feeding a cold might have some truth.  I feel sooo much better.  Maybe it was the combination of fresh air, a short walk, actual food and a Guiness.  I have found the cure for the common cold.

Two official days left in my weekend to take out all of my recycling, do more homework, taking Quinn to the vet, clean up my office, clean out a closet and reset my dining room table.  Wish me luck.

And here’s your daily dose of me and Oliver.  Man, I really need to start evening the score in terms of photos of him to photos of Quinn.  I can’t help it – he’s always in my lap and SO CUTE!  The only upside to this cold is all the furry cuddling I’m getting around this joint.

Baby Oliver blogs with me!

Baby Oliver blogs with me!

Cookies and obsessive song disorder

Almond-y goodness.

Almond-y goodness.

There is only one recipe that could call for this particular set of ingredients – Cyndi’s Amaretto Chunk Cookies!  These cookies and my dear friend will forever be linked in my head and I don’t make them that often – so they are still really special when they happen.  I haven’t been in a particularly festive holiday mood this Christmas and I thought baking some cookies might help.  Eh.  I had fun baking.  I like to dance around a kitchen and eat raw cookie dough – so I got all of that accomplished.  I’m not sure gaining any additional Christmas spirit was accomplished.

Cyndi hates when I post this picture.  Sorry, Cyndi! It's tradition!

Cyndi hates when I post this picture. Sorry, Cyndi! It’s tradition!

The only place I have the recipe for these cookies is in the cookbook I made from the cookie exchange I hosted one Christmas in Louisiana.  This recipe is the only one I make from that cookbook.

Anything that starts with butter and sugar is good in my book.

Anything that starts with butter and sugar is good in my book.

Almonds, coconut and chocolate chips in addition to almond and vanilla extract.  There are so many flavors in these cookies!

Almonds, coconut and chocolate chips in addition to almond and vanilla extract. There are so many flavors in these cookies!

With how much dough I ate tonight I'm impressed I got any cookies baked at all.

With how much dough I ate tonight I’m impressed I got any cookies baked at all.  Look at all the texture they have!



While I’ve been doing this baking I’ve been listening to the same songs on repeat.  Do you do this?  I become obsessive about certain songs for periods of time and then I don’t ever need to hear them again.  I’m actually like that with more than just songs.  It’s my addictive personality.  I’m intensely into something for a while, and then I kick the habit.  I’m still listening to the Fort Atlantic song I downloaded after Monday’s HIMYM.  Around Thanksgiving it was this new Pink song featuring the lead singer from Fun.  I bet I listened to it for almost 90 minutes on a loop.  I was mesmerized and lost in waves of memories and nostalgia for Adam Science.  I think that’s why it was such an intoxicating song.  I have done a pretty good job of putting him out of my mind since the break up, but that song made me think of him.  Anyway, I’m past that.  And now I’m onto Let Your Heart Hold Fast – which is all about the future.  Appropriate for year end, yes?  This songs fuels my impatience.

I should really stop listening to it…

Make some cookies friends.  And then give me some new music to listen to so I’ll turn repeat off.

Amaretto Chunk Cookies

2.5 cups flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 1 tsp baking powder, .5 tsp salt – sift together and set aside

1 cup butter, 1 cup brown sugar, .5 cup sugar – cream together in mixer until fluffy

1 T amaretto, 2 tsp almond extract, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 2 eggs – add to butter/sugar mixture and beat until combined

Turn mixer to low, pour in flour mixture slowly

1 cup sliced almonds, 1 c sweetened coconut (I used unsweetened – tastes just fine to me), 2 cups chocolate chips – stir in to cookie dough

Bake at 375 for 10 – 12 minutes







3 for 1

I have three separate ideas floating around in my crazy noggin and I’m going to see if I can string them into one giant post.  I don’t know.  I may have to move the cookie making portion of the post.

Let’s get started.

I know I need to finish up the Universal Studios/Harry Potter recap post.  I fell into a bit of a slump this week.  I had such a great week the week before with a grad school weekend and then an amazing trip to Orlando with Meg and our magic golden pass (which won’t make sense until I actually finish that post.  I know.)   I got home from vacation on the 9th, even got great news from Claire about something at work that I didn’t want to happen, NOT happening!  And THEN they made the announcement that our office was going all casual all the time.  That’s right – I can wear jeans to work every. single. day.  I was on a roll!  And yet, the slump was starting to set in.  Life is a roller coaster not unlike the ones I had been riding just days ago…(I acknowledge that is a super cheesy metaphor.  Let’s get past it.)  What goes up…must come down.

So, I’m working through the post great week blues and little things keep irritating me.  Getting the grade back for a paper I was kind of terrified of and getting a really good score, but one that could have been .5 points better had I not made some silly editing mistakes.  Cranky that friends of mine are far away in Richmond, Cleveland, Memphis, Columbus, Boston and New York and I don’t see them more.  Grumpy that the travel budget I typically use to see these friends once or twice a year is being eaten up by monthly trips to glamorous Toledo, Ohio for school (which is so worth it, I know.  Man, the inner dialogue in my head is driving me nuts – can’t imagine how it must feel to read this.)

And then yesterday happens.  I won’t pretend that I can even imagine what those families are going through this morning.  It’s Christmas – those kids had presents under a tree already, you know?  Parents just thought it was another regular day.  There’s really nothing I can say that hasn’t been said or even adequately expresses how heartbreaking yesterday’s tragedy is.  We never know when the biggest days of our life are going to happen.

Which leads me to the running part of this post.  This morning was the one year anniversary run, if you will.  I ran the Reindeer 5K last year as the official beginning of my training program for the 1/2 marathon that I thought I’d be running February 2013.  It was hard to get up for it this morning.  I’ve run races by myself before, but this morning was different.  It was cold and windy and gloomy.  I had a heavy heart from yesterday.  But I got out of bed, synced up a new playlist called “31” and got dressed.  I only had to walk across the street to the park for this race.  There was no excuse not to be there.

Me last year getting ready for this race...

Me last year getting ready for this race…


Me this year! I wore the same shirt.

True story – I love to over tilt my head in photos.  Moving on…  Earlier this week I ran a 5K in right at 31 minutes.  Excellent.  I made that my goal for the race this morning thinking race adrenaline and excitement may even push me faster.

This happened a few days ago...Awesome!

This happened a few days ago…Awesome!

Not the case.  I got out there and struggled.  Still thought about going home and getting back into bed.  No one would ever know.  I didn’t go home.  I started running.  I do like running through Tower Grove Park so much.  And I was just running.  And I knew I wasn’t fast and I didn’t feel like I was running great.  That’s fine.  My overall goals are always just to finish and preferably not finish last.  I figured I’d settle into a rhythm soon.  And I was fine until just after mile 2 when my usual running mantra almost made me burst into tears.  During the half marathon training I would repeat to myself that I was running for those who can’t.  That took on a whole new thing this morning after yesterday’s shooting news.  Six year olds who just showed up to school are now the ones I was thinking of.  Running for those who should have been running around on a playground.

I kept it together.  I focused on some guy and told myself to stay with him.  I ended up passing him before we crossed the finish line.


This morning. Eh.

Not quite as fast as I would have liked.  But I finished.  It’s officially my best race 5K time.  I guess the Color Run was the last timed 5K I did and it was just under 34 minutes.  The Girl Scout Run I did I averaged a 10:37 min/mile and this was 10:19.  So, it’s improvement.  We get better.


But I’m still a little cranky about it. This is my grumpy face.

We’re done with the grumpy now, though.  Because life is just too short to be grumpy.  Because you just don’t know what the next day brings.  And last night, after a day of sad, tragic news – I got to spend the evening with this chick –


And her mom…


I watched that kid tuck into some fruit puree like nobody’s business.


And we drank delicious wine from Trader Joe’s.  Delicious and cheap!


But most importantly, we made cookies.  I taught Angela all these fun techniques I learned last year when I was working at the cooking school.  We made real royal icing with meringue powder and so much powdered sugar.  The funniest moment of the night was when Angela, 20 minutes after tasting the icing, blurts out, “I can still feel it on my teeth!”


She only referred to me as being really bossy about the way I decorate cookies a dozen times, so that’s not so bad.  There’s a really funny clip of Amy Sedaris on the Martha Stewart Show and Martha says to Amy: “I try to make things look like they should, and you just try to make it look like it does.”  I use this clip when I train the Disc Profile all the time as an example of S style behaviors.  Martha wigs out when Amy tries to add the salt – it’s pretty funny.  Anyway – apparently all of my S tendencies came out last night while making cookies.

Who decorated it best?

Who decorated it best?

I know it's not a competition, but I am really proud of my cookies.

I know it’s not a competition, but I am really proud of my cookies.

We also made Salted Caramel Chocolate Chip Cookies.  Ummmmm… I’m not sure about these.  I love the Friday Favorites post on the blog Iowa Girl Eats.  She always compiles a list of fun stuff from around the web that I would have never found on my own and I have been inspired to try more than one thing she’s put out there.  This time it was these cookies, which were really from a blog called Sally’s Baking Addiction.

Here is a link to the recipe…and below is the picture she posted of the finished product.

Photo from Sally's Baking Addiction

Photo from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Here is how Angela and I’s cookies came out…


Nailed it!

I do not know how she still has those legitimate caramel chunks in the cookies.  Ours melted into gooey (and delicious) little pools.  The cookies also spread out more than I would have liked.  I do not know the cause of this.  They taste good.  No amount of good camera work is going to make them look like the original photo, though.  Oh well.  I don’t know if I would try them again.  The caramel kind of sticks in your teeth as you eat them.  They’re tasty.  They’re a good idea.  They don’t exactly pan out.

Anyway – there you go – three posts in one.  A slumpy week that ends in sad perspective brought on by a tragedy, a year later run and cookie night in America.