Friday, April 19, 2013

friday favorites

Happy Friday everyone. I hope that you all had a good week. It's been a difficult week for our country to say the least. Monday's tragedy in Boston was absolutely horrific, but there were so many heroic acts performed by the runners, volunteers, and bystanders that demonstrated the strength and resilience of the human spirit. I'm still processing the senseless catastrophe, so I don't have too many thoughts to share, but this week's favorites feature many internet finds that relate to Monday's event.

Favorite image: We Heart Boston. I told you on Sunday that I couldn't get in a long run because my knee was bothering me, but after hearing about the Boston Marathon, I told myself that if they could get through Monday's event then I could get through a run on the treadmill. I ran a little over 8 miles while watching coverage and it really was the easiest run of my life. 

Favorite indulgence: Salt & Vinegar Topped Chocolate Cake. Sweet and salty isn't a novel idea, but this certainly is. Oh, this looks so good.

Favorite DIY: Dresser Makeover. You should really click on this link to see how the dresser looked before. The blogosphere has introduced me to so many talented and creative people.

Favorite meal: Smothered Sweet Potato Fries. Yep, yep, yep. This is definitely happening in my kitchen soon. Taco meat and sweet potato fries is a brilliant idea.

Favorite video: Stephen Colbert Salutes Boston. Love this man.

Favorite look: 28 Toys From Your Childhood That Are Now Worth Bank. Fashion Plates. How could I forget about my beloved fashion plates is beyond me. These were my life.  As was that Little Tykes Cozy Coupe. Really this whole list is an aggregate of my childhood. Thanks Mom for showering me with these gems.

Favorite pup: Baby & Bulldogs. My heart has melted.

Favorite bite Roasted Rataouille Toast. This is a very good idea. I've never seen ratatouille presented in such a delicious manner before, but I would love to order this as an appetizer. 

Favorite concept: Luchbox Icepacks. Saturate a sponge in water, lay flat in freezer, and throw in your lunchbox. As sponge melts, it absorbs the water, so you can throw it back in the freezer once you're home. Cheap and simple, people. 

Favorite sweet: Grilled Banana Bread Peanut Butter S'mores. I know. I have an addiction problem within my addiction to sweets and that is to s'mores inspired dessert. Just look. I can't even handle how badly I want this.

Favorite read: A Senate in the Gun Lobby's Grip by Gabby Giffords. Along with many, I hope that the Senate is ashamed of themselves. Despite your political views, this is an issue we must come together on.  Here is an article written by a true hero that is a cogent and excellent piece.

Favorite quote: There Are Always People Helping

Have a great weekend everyone!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

peanut butter banana chocolate chip oatmeal bars

Peanut butter banana chocolate chip oatmeal bars. Whew, that's a mouthful. A mouthful of goodness, though. And healthy goodness at that.

Yes, this is a my first healthy dessert recipe that I'm sharing here on the blog. I've made them a few times since first testing the recipe because they're really a great treat. These bars taste rich and indulgent, but they use absolutely no butter. 

The ripe banana and peanut butter work together to yield a soft and chewy texture that is exactly what I'm looking for in a dessert bar. In addition, they both provide a delicious flavor that pairs so well with the chocolate chips. 

The banana acts as a natural sweetener, so not only are these bars sans butter, but they use considerably less sugar than traditional dessert bars.

Aside from being a treat that you can feel good about eating, I love how easy they are to make. You don't need any fancy equipment. Just a bowl, a spoon, and some muscle. Speaking of muscle, these are a great post-workout snack. Oats, banana, and peanut butter- I'm certain any nutritionist would advise that these as a good option for fuel for the body. Bake these up my friends! 

Peanut Butter Banana Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars

2.5 cups old fashioned oats
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup milk (I used skim)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 large ripe bananas, mashed
1/3 cup creamy peanut butter
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chip

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Prepare 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray or parchment paper
Whisk together dry ingredients in medium sized bowl; set aside
Mix peanut butter and bananas together in large bowl
Add milk, vanilla, and egg to banana mixture and mix until combined
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet and mix until well combined
Stir in chocolate chips
Evenly spread mixture into prepared pan and bake for 20 minutes
Let cool completely before cutting into bars


Source Sally's Baking Addiction
Linked up at Tuesday Talent ShowTime to SparkleWhat's Cookin' Wednesday

Sunday, April 14, 2013

weekend review

We enjoyed a wonderful visit with my mom this weekend, so sit tight while I take you through the visit if you're interested.

I made a last minute venue change to our Friday dinner plans, and I'm so happy that I did. We ate at a restaurant called the Thames Street Oyster House. It's a cute small eatery located in Fells Point. I called during lunch to see if they were still accepting reservations, but I was notified that they book up two weeks in advance. I wasn't deterred and figured that if we went early enough then we could be seated. Apparently we were only seated due to a cancellation. All these signs indicated that we were in for a successful dining experience, and that it was. Here are some pictures from the meal:

Customized appetizer from the raw bar: jumbo shrimp and oysters

My mom and I ordered the scallops over a walnut goat cheese risotto- happiness on a plate

Kent ordered the monkfish over homemade gnocchi in a lobster bacon reduction sauce

My dessert was a chocolate ganache cake that was disappointing in size and "wow" factor. I should have gone with the cinnamon crumb cake with coffee ice cream

Kent ordered the caramel bread pudding. Don't let the appearance fool you- this dessert was incredible

A cute doggie bag, right?

You had to have known this was coming. I needed a second dessert because the first didn't satisfy me quite right. We live across from a Dunkin Donuts, so I got a vanilla creme donut to round out the night

Luckily, we woke up to blue skies on Saturday because Friday was a wash in terms of the weather. I struggled my way through a workout on the elliptical. I attribute my weakness to the over indulgence that took place the night before. Some cookies may or may not have followed the donut. Anyway, after lunch, we embarked on a self-guided walking tour around the harbor. Here are some snapshots:

If there is ever a day that Kent asks me to take a picture of him, my heart may stop

I spy a pirate ship

Just a mother and her favorite!

Our trek thoroughly tired us, so we plopped ourselves on the couch until dinner. Well, I baked cookies, but it was done out of leisure. For dinner, I decided on a nearby restaurant called Nick's Fish House that has waterfront dining and a great seafood selection. It's a casual place with indoor and outdoor seating.  We were really happy with our dining experience, and we'll definitely frequent again during the summer. Here are some pictures from the meal:

Good lord I need a haircut

Kent started with the Maryland crab soup

My mom ordered a crab cake and sweet potato fries

I had the Seafood Cobb Salad- egg, cucumber, bacon, avocado, & tomatoes topped with jumbo lump crab and shrimp

Kent's entree was the Crab Grilled Cheese Sandwich

The night quickly grew chilly, so we hurried home as soon as we were done eating. I didn't even order dessert; that's how cold I was. The remainder of the night was spent watching HGTV. Not exciting, but perfectly acceptable to me. 

This morning my mom and I enjoyed a trip to the grocery store. Kent has been going with me lately to help with the number of bags I have to walk home, so it was nice to have a shopping buddy who wasn't so irked by my constant changes in direction. Our afternoon consisted of a walk at a nearby park and typical Sunday chores. We drove my mom to the airport late afternoon, then I headed to the gym for a good run that wasn't. I think all of the walking aggravated my knee because I couldn't run for more than two minutes without a sharp pain. I had been looking forward to this run all weekend (and I really needed a hard workout after my weekend gluttony), so I was disappointed that I had to move over to the elliptical for less impact. Meh, it happens. I can adapt. I'm hoping a run will be possible tomorrow, so we'll see.

As far as tonight goes, I'm looking forward to Mad Men. The season opener was good, so I hope that this season delivers. I love how they're still making January Jones fat Betty. Lots of good story lines taking place, so I'm excited to see how they play out. 

I have a healthy treat to share this week, so stay turned. I hope everyone has a good week!

Friday, April 12, 2013

friday favorites

Friday! I'm so happy it's finally here. The weather was beautiful and warm all week long, but of course storms rolled in over night and brought cooler temperatures to the area for the weekend. Sixty degrees will feel mighty chilly in comparison to the summer weather we experienced just yesterday. I never put my boots away, so not a huge deal. My mom arrived last night to visit us for a long weekend. We have plans to eat well and walk around the city. I'm looking forward to dining tonight at a nice restaurant that we lived by during our days in corporate housing. My workouts suffered during the week as a result of transitioning back to work mode, so I'm also excited to get my sweat on.

Here are some of my favorite finds from this week (click on gray link for source):

Favorite indulgence: Mounds Layer Cake. If you saw my almond joy cookies the other week, you know that I have a weakness for chocolate and coconut. Well, not unlike chocolate and peanut butter and all sweet combinations, but I really enjoy this flavor pairing. This cake looks and sounds phenomenal. Dark chocolate cake, coconut filling that resembles the filling of a mounds candy bar, coconut buttercream, and a dark chocolate ganache coating. Want. Badly.

Favorite DIY: Ever Changing Wall Art. I think this is self-explanatory, but what a simple and creative idea. Just buy a frame, twine, and some clips. 

Favorite meal: Cobb Grilled Cheese. Did you know that today is National Grilled Cheese Day? If I celebrated this event, then I think I would choose this to eat.

Favorite look: Spring Layers. While I rarely find myself in layers, I love when I see girls layering pieces that can be used to create several different outfits. The colors, textures, and patterns used here create a cohesive and fresh spring look.

Favorite funny: Columbia College References Mad Men. You don't see too much humor coming out of the Ivy League, so I appreciated this comedic effort. I wish my experience reading Dante's Inferno was on a beach.

Favorite bite Thai Steak Lettuce Wraps. I have been pinning so many recipes lately that infuse Thai flavors. These sound like an easy and delicious way to attempt my first Thai dish.

Favorite concept: Dog Crate Bumper Pads. Dog crates look so uncomfortable and cold for your loving family member. Here's a stylish and inviting home for your pup. 

Favorite sweet: Snickers Cake. Ok, I couldn't decide on my favorite dessert selection this week, so I had to create a new category to share this decadent cake. Here we have chocolate cake with peanut nougat filling and salted butter cream frosting topped with a milk chocolate ganache and garnished with chopped peanuts. Amazing.

Favorite read: Is Eating Too Much Protein a Waste?. I thought that this was an interesting article written by Dr. Mike Roussell who is a health contributor for Shape Magazine. Protein is such an important part of diet and fitness, so I think it's useful to understand how it functions in the body. I've heard from several sources that you shouldn't eat more than 30g of protein per meal, indicating that eating too much protein is bad for you, but it actually can provide your body with benefits. It's a quick read, so take a look if you're interested. 

Favorite quote: You Can Do This. I think this attitude can apply to anyone's morning. Whether you're waking up to work out or go to work, we all have those mornings where we're completely lacking motivation, but just remind yourself of this.  

Have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, April 11, 2013

cake batter chocolate chip cookies

We received a preview of summer this week. The temperature hit 88 degrees yesterday, and it felt like a scorcher. For a rare sight, my car dashboard read that my tire pressure was too high. I can't win with this jeep I tell you. We're considering downsizing to one car because we rarely use our cars now that we're city dwellers. The idea of only have one car makes me slightly uneasy as the reality of it might not be as great as the theory, but we'll see. 

These cookies on the other hand are great. They're delicious! I was so pleased with the cake flavor. It's not overpowering, yet very much present in every bite. I was unsure if the overall taste would be too sweet with the chocolate chips, but it is the perfect balance of sweetness. 

I decided to try something new for this post. A behind the scenes look at the step by step process of making these treats.

Pay close attention to how tall these dough balls are. You want them to be taller than they are wide.

These cookies are soft, chewy, and packed with flavor. The ratio of flour to butter is higher than normal, so they don't keep chewy for too long. Not a problem in my house as cookies disappear within 48 hours (even this is stretching it), but I just wanted to warn you that their shelf life isn't as long as most cookies, so eat up or share them!

Cake Batter Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 1/4 cup yellow boxed cake mix
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup butter, softened 
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
In bowl of standing mixer, cream butter and sugars together until light and fluffy
In medium bowl, whisk together flour, cake mix, and baking soda
Add egg and vanilla extract to sugar mixture and beat until combined
Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture and mix until just combined
Stir in chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles, do not overmix
Refrigerate dough for at least thirty minutes
Scoop tablespoon size balls onto cookie trays; shape balls to be taller than they are wide
Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until edges become lightly browned
Allow to cool on cookie trays for several minutes before moving to wired rack to cool completely