Our Favorite Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies

One weekend. Three recipes. Four dozen chocolate chip cookies. At least one sugar coma that I can speak of.  The mission: test a few untried recipes to see if any of them are better than my current soft and chewy chocolate chip and chunk cookie recipe (link in averie’s soft & chewy chocolate chunk).  It’s been one wild weekend. So long as you define “wild” as in making and eat copious amounts of chocolate chip cookies.  I do. You do, too? Cool.  We’re on the same page.


Enter the players (links here): America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie, America’s Test Kitchen Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie and Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip cookies.  The recipes vary in their ingredient ratios, using light versus dark brown sugar, browning the butter, mixing the butter with cream cheese, whole eggs versus using one egg yolk only and whether or not to chill the dough.


I baked all the cookies on the same pans with Silpat liners to eliminate that variable. Because of my lengthy experience with chocolate chip cookies, I also opted to chill a portion of the dough from the recipes that did not specifically call for chilling the dough.  You can see the finished products and my tasting notes below as well as some input from the peanut gallery and my final ranking of recipes.

America’s Test Kitchen Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie


Unchilled: these cookies were sweeter than the other two recipes with and lacked a little of the depth of the other two.  More straightforward sweetness with a soft and crumbly texture.  When eaten fresh (the day of baking), these were the favorites of both my husband and my brother-in-law.


Chilled: chilling this dough helps achieve crispier edges while retaining the overall chewy, crumbly texture of the cookie. Because the edges brown more, the flavor is a little deeper and I could picture myself eating approximately 16 of these in one sitting.  Yes, they are as big as a eat saucers.


America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie


Unchilled: this recipe called for browning most of the butter in the dough and that flavor note hits you right off the bat.  For me (and some other tasters), it was a little too forward and didn’t positively add to the flavor of the cookies.  The texture is smoother than the ATK Thick & Chewy cookie but still retains a nice chewiness near the center with a  slight crunch on the edges.


Chilled: the chilling seems to balance some of that big browned butter kick and I like the layer of caramelized flavor you get that helps to play up the salt factor in these cookies.  The chilled version of these cookies puffed up a little higher than the unchilled version and spread less.  The texture remained smooth and chewy. Less crumbly than the ATK Thick & Chewy Cookie.


Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip cookies


Chilled: The recipe on this called for chilling the dough and I made it first.  Otherwise, I may have tried to experiment to see if chilling impacted the flavor or texture here.  Overall, in the previous two recipes, chilling seems to have had a positive impact so I don’t feel too bad.  These cookies were much heavier and denser than the other two cookies.  The cream cheese didn’t seem to add too much to the flavor other than to cut the sweetness of the dough slightly.  The texture on these was definitely soft but cakier versus chewy.  This recipe also called for the most chocolate chips.  I love me some chocolate chips but I do like a good bite of naked dough interspersed in there which these didn’t offer.  Some of the other tasters did like these the best when tasting fresh out of the oven as the chocolate was nice and gooey and that’s the predominant flavor that you got.

I had a ton of fun trying out all the different recipes and have probably found my new favorite in ATK’s Thick & Chewy chocolate chip cookie.  I like that it doesn’t call for any weird flours like some other recipes that call for bread flour.  It also doesn’t use any corn starch.  I’m not staunchly opposed to adding the corn starch to the recipe but less ingredients means I’m more likely to have them all on hand in case I need to whip up an emergency batch.

My overall ranking is below:

  1. America’s Test Kitchen Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Chilled
  2. America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Chilled
  3. Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip Cookie
  4. America’s Test Kitchen Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie Unchilled
  5. America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie Unchilled

Some Final Thoughts: Two of the recipes are from America’s Test Kitchen which I have found to be a reliable, entertaining and educational source of recipes, kitchen tips and product recommendations. You may have to sign up for a free trial in order to gain access to the content. It’s worth getting free access for two weeks to an abundance of recipes, all sorts of random kitchen product knowledge and a great source of inspiration. No, I’m not getting paid for this. I just believe strongly in ATK. If you’re interested in getting some of the product knowledge and educational tidbits for free, you can tune into their radio show/podcast.

The America’s Test Kitchen Thick & Chewy Chocolate Chip cookie is going to be my go-to chocolate chip cookie recipe going forward. I think that all these cookies deserve to be made again with slight tweaks based on personal preference. I used high-quality Guittard “Cookie” chips for all cookies that were roughly the size of 2-3 normal chocolate chips. I think I would try again with smaller chips, likely Ghirardelli semisweet. I would also try the Cream Cheese Chocolate Chip cookies with fewer chocolate chips to see if we could get more of that tangy cream cheese flavor and also if it would make the cookies softer and more tender. For the America’s Test Kitchen Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookie I’d like to play around with the ratio of brown butter to regular butter to see if we can get to a flavor intensity level that is pleasing to the masses (read: me and my husband).

Moral of the story: Everyone loves chocolate chip cookies – even the “less than best” ones.

Thanks for stopping by!


Let’s Talk About Buttermilk

Buttermilk. Why do they seem to only sell buttermilk is the largest containers possible? And by that, I mean quarts. When I generally need one cup or less. Good marketing ploy, buttermilk producers.

Act 1: Force all the people to buy the quarts of buttermilk for recipes that require one quarter of the container. Plague them with guilt every time they open the refrigerator and see that three-quarters full container staring back at them, expiration date looming. Or is that just me? No, okay good.

Act 2: Google allllllll the buttermilk recipes, favoring ones that require the most buttermilk. Decide on banana bundt cake, frosted buttermilk brownies and pancake batter. Enter the secondary grocery trip for the additional ingredients that you decide you NEED to use up the buttermilk. Buy said ingredients. Bring them home. Bake delicious treats. Serve them to colleagues of family members and anyone who walks in the door of the house. And now that I’ve made it through, it seems as though this is a happy ending for everyone. I suppose I should thank the buttermilk producers for this happy set of circumstances.

FYI: these recipes used up almost 5 cups of buttermilk total. Not that anyone’s counting. That’s a lie. I did count.

And now for the gratuitous visual evidence.

IMG_5754 All the yellow ingredients destined for what promised to be a super moist banana pound cake. You can find the recipe here: One Very Moist Banana Cake. One note: I added additional milk to the cream cheese glaze to make it more pourable. It was still slightly thicker than I liked. Just add the milk slowly. If you do any baking or cooking, you probably know (or should know) the adage – “You can always add more, but you can’t take it out once you’ve put it in.” Learn it. Live it. Love it.

It never ceases to mystify me that such simple ingredients can come together and produce this: Banana Pound Cake with Cream Cheese

This cake was incredibly moist, as promised in the title. Not too sweet and the cream cheese frosting/glaze added a nice tang. I will be making this again.

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Who knew that buttermilk could be such a delightful addition to brownies? The tang cuts the richness slightly and made me want to eat these guys by the handful. I failed to get a picture of the frosted version but the frosting comes together very quickly in a small saucepan and may just be the best part of this rich and tangy dessert. Of course, mom went for the crunchy edges while the rest of us sane folks vied for the gooey center squares.

Find the recipe in all it’s fudgy glory here: Frosted Buttermilk Brownies

And finally, the buttermilkiest recipe of them all. Yeah, I just made that up. You get my drift. PANCAKE BATTER!! I searched on my trust friend, the Google to see if you could freeze pancake batter. There were a few sites that said yes, so I decided to experiment since the leftover buttermilk would go to waste if I didn’t anyway.


Will report back once we make these, which will likely be this weekend as we will almost definitely be snowed in under 2-3 ft of snow. Bring it on, Mother Nature. Bring. It. On.

Happy 2016!

Hey friends. Now that we are a few days in, let me wholeheartedly welcome you to 2016! I’m certain that it’s going to be a year to remember.  Lots of big (fun) changes on the horizon and I’m trying to take time each day to be present in the current moment, right where I am and to realize how blessed and lucky I am. I know it’s a bit “woo-woo” but 2015 packed one heck of a wallop and I am pretty glad to have weathered that storm and come out in a much better place.

A brief recap of 2015: Philip turns 30! Beans turns 1! Weddings in Tennesse and Virginia.  5 year anniversary! New job for me. Lots of summer visitors to the NJ lakehouse. Arkansas trip to visit the wonderful friends we made in our time there. Frank turned 7! Bucket list trip to Italy (which you may have read a little about here). Guys, I ran a MARATHON! We became Virginia residents again, with new drivers licenses in hand as of today. Found a house that we are in love with and hope to close on in late January. Traded in the Jeep for another blue truck. Spent the holidays visiting and spending time with all of our friends and family and enjoyed being back in the Leesburg area. Rang in the New Year with our best friends at the family lakehouse.

As we head into 2016, I am so excited about the opportunities and possibilities ahead. I didn’t make any real resolutions this year but I plan on working hard, playing hard and striving for balance.

“Some days you eat salad and go to the gym. Some days you eat cupcakes and refuse to put on pants. It’s called balance.”

Quote Catalog

My vision for 2016 includes: dog snuggles, running, reading, baking, blogging, teaching boot camp!!!, moving, family, friends, and celebrating all the little moments.

Thanks for checking in! I can’t wait to share with you all that life brings my way this year.

Italy Part 2: Pisa and Lucca

Hello again!  After a bedtime of approximately 8:15 last night, I finally feel somewhat rested and back to normal.  Still working on shaking the post-vacation depression. Searching through cake recipes to find the perfect birthday cakes is definitely helping. Cakes, you say? Yep, cakes.  One for this weekend and one for next. I really like birthdays. But that’s a different post. Let’s go back to Italy.

Day 2 was spent in Pisa and Lucca. Since we had a car, it was an brief 45 minute drive to get to Pisa and we found a free tour bus parking lot that made getting in and out really easy. After a quick 15 minute walk from the parking lot and a short jaunt through a busy open-air market, we arrived to these sights:

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It was absolutely breah-taking. I think we’ve all seen plenty of pictures of the Leaning Tower.  Seeing it in person is just a completely different experience.  Especially alongside the Baptistery and the green expanse around the beautiful buildings known as the “Field of Miracles”.  You can see from the pictures that we also saw an incredible amount of people.  I can’t tell you how many people I saw with their hand perfectly positioned to hold up the tower.  It was quite the spectacle.

After taking in all the sights, we walked through the city of Pisa, a mix cute little shops – both national chains and local boutiques.  There were plenty of little cafes to grab lunch and no less than five places to grab gelato.  Which we did, naturally.  I’ll shout out to Rick Steves here for all of the advice.  He provided a lot of recommendations that we used to find good places to eat and, in this case, find the best gelato at La Bottega Del Gelato in Piazza Garibaldi.  Pistachio for me and Strawberry for P. The pistachio was creamy, cool and just sweet enough to satisfy my dessert craving. I love the gelato portions in Italy. Satisfying but enough to keep you wanting more day after day!

It was a beautiful and scenic walk with enough ornate architecture and details on the buildings to keep you looking around the entire time. Side note: I think I could make an entire book of pictures of the doors in Italy.  They are so grand and imposing and theatrical.  I had to stop myself from taking pictures of all of them or I would have come home with thousands. And people probably would have thought I was creepy taking pictures of their front doors. Sigh.

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After we hit the Piazza Garibaldi and got a glimpse of the Arno, we turned around to grab lunch and head back to the car to continue on to our next destination.

We took Rick Steves’ advice again and headed to Pizzeria al Bagno di Nerone which is conveniently located close to the sights of Pisa. I got Cecina (a very thin garbanzo bean cake) and mozzarella on focaccia and Philip, of course, ordered pizza.  Lunch was quick and delicious.  I have already looked up recipes to try and create both Cecina and the thin focaccia bread that it was served on.  Totally simple perfection.

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This was the interior of the pizzeria. If you look closely, you can see forks and spoons and various kitchen implements hanging from the light fixture.


During our walk back to the car, we may have gotten slightly lost and seen a little more of Pisa than we anticipated.  Happy consequence!  Saw this bad boy and had to take a picture for my dad. Not 100% sure what it is but I assume that it’s an Italian military aircraft of some sort. You just never know what you’re going to see walking through the streets of Italy!


Then, we were on our way to Lucca, a 15 minute drive back towards our hotel.


IMG_5222Fun fact about Lucca: despite not being in an actual war since 1430, it is Italy’s most fortified city.  The big draw for Lucca is walking around the ramparts that surround the city.  The views did not disappoint.

IMG_5224 IMG_5225 IMG_5226 IMG_5227 IMG_5230We walked around for a bit and saw quite a few runners, bikers and walkers.  Made me wish I had a place like this around me. So perfect for marathon training!

On the way back to the car, we happened up this pretty little canal chock full of ducks!IMG_5241IMG_5245

Overall, a wonderful day getting a feel for the different cities and taking in some of the most iconic buildings in the world. Tune in next time for details on our trip to the Cinque Terre! Until then, here is one more picture of that Leaning Tower.



Italy Part 1. All the Parmigiano Reggiano.

Buon giorno! Ciao! Welcome back, friends.

I come to you today a little bleary-eyed from a long day of travel yesterday but still riding a high from a simply fabulous Italian vacanza. We spent about a week exploring a number of (mostly Tuscan) cities and towns, eating all the pasta and gelato, drinking copious amounts of wine and walking enough miles to mostly burn all of that off.  Here, I’ll give you a glimpse of the highlights of our vacation in pieces loosely following our actual itinerary.

We took off at 10pm Eastern time. Eight hours of flying time between NY and Milan. Mostly sleep for me.  A few movies and a few attempts at sleep for Philip. Approximately eight hours after we departed the US, we arrived in Milan.  Customs was a breeze going into Italy and, with a little help from Google Translator, we finally managed to find the Car Rental counter where our journey really began. I wish I had taken a picture of our little baby Corsa. Cars in Italy are so small and are all stick shift. Let’s all just take a moment and be thankful for dads who actually do know best when they make their daughters learn how to drive on a stick shift car (Thanks, dad!).

I managed to get us safely to our first destination, a Parmigiano Reggiano cheese dairy farm. We only got lost once and thus met a very cute Italian dog and some very nice Italian folks that spoke no English.  We managed to get directions to where we needed to go by way of a great deal of pointing and gesturing. I was a little nervous driving through the Italian countryside as the roads got smaller and then turned to gravel but we kept on.  A tour and tasting of Parmigiano Reggiano was one of the only things that we actually scheduled in advance of arriving in Italy and I was determined to get us there.

Finally, we arrived at Agricola Guareschi and met our fabulous tour guide, Mario.

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IMG_5153As it was a fully functioning farm with plenty of cows, the first step was to put on these trendy protective shoe covers. Teal. High fashion.


After proper safety precautions were taken, Mario took us out to see the cows.

IMG_5155These curious ladies are the milk producers.  Once they give birth, they are then milked for no more than 160 days so as to keep the cows healthy and content.  Mario detailed how they keep the pens clean, the cows well fed and well watered.  To me, this all sounded a lot like “Happy cows, happy cheese.”  I guess the slogan is international.IMG_5157Once the cows have finished their milk production run, they are literally put to pasture to relax and enjoy life for awhile before having more little baby cows. IMG_5158Just another lazy day on the Parm farm.IMG_5161And here are the mama cows, kept separate from the other cows in a clean, sheltered area where there is plenty of food and space to laze about.IMG_5160One of the big factors in ensuring the quality of the Parmigiana cheese is a highly controlled food source.  All the hay is made from a mix of grass and alfalfa grown and dried in the area.  We learned that elsewhere, the hay does not get fully dried but is fermented in the process which impacts the flavor of the milk.  This picture does not even do justice to the amount of hay that we saw being stored for the cows.IMG_5164Here are the massive vats where the cheese is mixed and the curds and whey are separated.IMG_5167Technology meets Little Miss Muffet.IMG_5166

IMG_5162Mixing tools or torture devices? Up for debate.IMG_5168 IMG_5169Once the cheese is separated, it gets put into the molds that imprint the rinds.IMG_5165And from there, it sits for a long period of time in a salted water solution that pulls the moisture out of the cheese and gives it that grittier, firmer texture that we all know and love.IMG_5170 IMG_5173 IMG_5175 IMG_5176 IMG_5174From there, it is stacked to age.  This row of cheese was maybe one fifth of the amount that was in the room that we saw and the entire amount in the room was only three months worth of production. This farm produces A LOT of cheese. Stacks on stacks on stacks, if you will.IMG_5171 IMG_5172After aging for a year, a quality control inspector comes to ensure the quality of the cheese. Poking, prodding, knocking and a sample or two determine whether the cheese is worthy of the Parmigiano Reggiano stamp or will be sold as simply “Italian cheese”. The cheese is stamped at one year but is not generally sold until after 2 years (24 mesi).IMG_5181After our brief lesson on Parmigiana production, it was time to taste!IMG_5182Just a few more torture tools to provide ambiance. IMG_5180But really the room was decked out in baskets of all shapes and sizes.  Very rustic and homey feeling.  Check out that sweet wine rack by the lamp!IMG_5183We got to taste cheese that had been aged for one, two and three years.  The difference is remarkable in both taste and texture.  The longer the cheese ages, the grittier, sharper and more pungent it becomes. We may have had to try each type a few times to really get a good point of reference.

What a first experience in Italy! And it came with a bonus – we were able to purchase a block of Parmigiano Reggiano made right there on that farm.  For 14 euros.  Mind blown.

A good start to the trip and a very memorable experience. I would definitely recommend it to anyone going to the area.  You can check out the dairy farm that we visited: http://www.agricolaguareschi.it/ or look at all your options here Parmigiano Reggiano Tours

Stay tuned from more highlights in the near future!

Life Priorities and a Baking Slump

Hello all.  First, let me apologize for the amount of time that has passed since my last post. I will explain more as we go. Second, HELLO!! Glad you’re still here, hanging in there with me. This post should help explain the lapse in posting and give you a glimpse into what I have been up to for the last month.

Since my last post, we have travelled to Virginia twice (home, sweet, home!!), flown to Arkansas for a long weekend visit with some of our best buddies, trained into the city for a solo NY day trip to jaunt about, had two weekends of visitors (one of those weekends being my dad’s big birthday celebration where we hosted eight guests in our petite, quirky, old house) and I have had two work trips to Pennsylvania and one to Connecticut. Add to that marathon training, studying my Personal Training textbook, trying to make sure the house is in tip-top shape to attract new renters and enjoying the last vestiges of summer on the lake. Phew.  It’s a wonder that my head is still attached to my body. In all honesty, blogging has taken a backseat to life in general and I haven’t baked anything lately that really has knocked my socks off.

So, instead of wowing you with mouth-watering goodies, I will overwhelm you with pictures and snippets of my life as of late.  I have some ideas in the works for baked goods.  As soon as one is blog-worthy, I will blog about it post haste!

So here it is, highlights of the last month of my life.  It’s a bit hodge podge and probably way more information than you were counting on.  You’re welcome!

Weekend 1: Visits from NYC friends.  Only necessities: boat dock, snacks for lunch and ice cream sandwiches.

The ice cream sandwiches below are homemade.  They were pretty good but I wasn’t over the moon about them. I made the mint ice cream from fresh mint (from my garden no less!) and, honestly, I think I’m more of a mint extract ice cream fan.  You live, you learn…you still eat the ice cream sandwiches.

Ice Cream Sanwich

During lake weekends, all we really need for lunch are snacks.  Jalapeno Pepper Jack and Everything Pretzel chips is a winning combination.  Also a winning combination – Bud Light and San Pellegrino Limonata.  Homemade shandy. Super refreshing and customizable to your tastebuds. Done and done. Boat Lunch


Week 2: Harrisburg, PA Work Trip and Pit Stop in Virginia

After a lovely and relaxing weekend, our whirlwind of travel started.  I had to take a quick overnight trip to Harrisburg, PA for a day-long meeting.  The best part of the trip was watching the sun rise as I was running across and along the Susquehanna river. Driving through Pennsylvania, I tend to encounter gray and gloomy weather. It was nice to see a departure from that with this morning run.

Hburg Bridge 2 Hburg BridgeOh, and this is part of how I stay sane while traveling. Piyo requires little equipment.  I like having a yoga mat so I actually stay in place.  It’s also great for working out the kinks from sitting in the car for a long time, sleeping in hotel beds and sitting in long meetings.


One night at home to pack and clean the house and then back to VA and home, as I know it.

One of the absolute best things about home: walks with mom.  The miles speed by and before we know it, we’ve walked for over an hour.  A mix of random back roads and 4 miles worth of venting and I think I can speak for us both when I say that we feel A LOT better afterward.

Path Walk

While we were home for this visit, Philip and I really made the rounds on all the places we used to frequent when Leesburg was home.  First stop for night one was Doner Bistro for delicious beers and a hot, soft pretzel.  A shady outdoor seating section meant that we were able to sip and people watch at the same time.  Can’t wait to get back to town and bring the pups to hang out while we get to eat Doner boxes, currywurst and french fries!


Stop 2 for Night 1: The Wine Kitchen – Leesburg.  In preparation for our grand Italy vacation (just over 2 weeks away!), we ordered Sangiovese to go with our meals. Delicious and I loved the spunky little info cards that came with the wine.

Wine Kitchen

The Wine Kitchen does a 3 for $5 appetizer special and it’s totally worth it.  We got curry popcorn, assorted spiced olives and Cajun Chicarones.  So much flavor in such little bites!Snacks WK

Day 2 started off with happy hour at 1757 Golf Club.  While Philip swung away, I got to enjoy live music, James Patterson on the Kindle and a cold beer. Win-win situation.1757 Golf

Stop 2 on Night 2 was Uncle Julio’s – One Loudoun.  Uncle Julio’s has long been a favorite of Philip’s and he used to get it every time he came into town for work back when his office was in Sterling.  Now his office sits in the same shopping center as a new Uncle Julio’s and I can only imagine how many times the man will eat there once we move back and it’s within walking distance for lunch.  I hear so much about it because Philip’s job brings him back to VA much more than I get to come back and I was really craving it during this visit.  Grapefruit Margaritas and guacamole and I was set.  Of course, we still ordered the Steak Fajitas for two for dinner and I had to have Philip roll me back to our hotel.   Marg and Guac

Day 3: 13 miles were on the marathon training calendar.  Luckily, there is a fabulous trail through much of Northern VA, the W&OD Trail.  During my run, I encountered this little guy. He was about as big around as my hand (which I should have used for scale, duh!) and I was terrified that some bike was going to come zooming past and….well you get it.  I scooped him up and put him a little farther off the path and relished in the run break that I got in the process. Bitty Baby Turtle

After a day of bouncing around, dinner at mom and dad’s with the family and a beautiful, scenic sunset was an awesome way to cap off the hometown visit. VA Sunset


Weekend 2: Off to Arkansas!

Philip and I planned a trip to Arkansas to visit all the friends that we made during our year there for my job.  What a weekend it was!  Gourmet meals, float trips down the Buffalo River, lots of eating and drinking and laughing with friends.

The start of the trip was interesting to say the least.  Our flight was scheduled for 5:20am which necessitated a 3:00am wake up call.  Oof!Alarm

When we arrived at Dulles, we found out that our flight was overbooked.  We offered to be moved since our travel plans were fairly flexible. US Air ended up shuttling us from Dulles to Reagan, giving us vouchers for breakfast and lunch, putting us on a direct flight from Dulles to Kansas City (vs. our previous flight where we had to connect through Charlotte), upgrading us to the only seats left on that flight which happened to be first class, and giving us travel vouchers for $425 each.  Despite several hours in the airport, a later arrival and lots of netflix, candy and Kindle reading, I think it was worth it!Airport

First round of complimentary drinks.  Mimosa for me and bottomless Jack & Coke for the Phil.FC Drinks

First full day in Arkansas was to be spent floating on the Buffalo river.  We had to get the beer below and sport one of our favorite I’m with Miller koozies while drinking it. Canoe Paddler

This sweet baby in Philip’s lap is Nash Phil Dugger (see what they did there?!), our friends’ 4 month old boxer pup.  What a cutie and so good in the car!Phil & Nash

Our fantastic floating foursome…and Mr. Nash!
Group Canoe

Nash was a trooper through a 6 hour float ride.  Swimming and playing and finally sleeping in the bottom of the canoe.  Nash

Day two was a Monday and I had to work.  While the boys went to golf, Nash and I hung out on the couch patiently waiting for them to return.Nash Watch

And then naps were necessary.Phil Nash 2

But this guy even smiles in his sleep.  #cutestNash Smile

Day 3 and lunch with an old co-worker at Pressroom Coffee started off with a brown sugar latte.  I’m normally not a super-sweet coffee drink person but it was rainy and kind of chilly and this was so smooth and creamy and had the deep sweet taste you can only get from brown sugar. Brown Sugar Latte


We had a blast visiting friends in Arkansas and it was so hard to leave again after just getting back in the routine of having such great friends around.  Until next time!

Weekend 3: A Solo NYC Day Trip

Rose Vinho Verde Mix and shark slippers.  That about sums up the day.

Okay, not really.  We had some delicious Mexican foods at Rosie’s.  Both of us were in heaven because her current boyfriend is a pescetarian and Philip basically will not eat any vegetables or beans etc.  So we got to try all the things that we normally don’t get to order off menus and it was delicious.  Right down to the churros at the end that we definitely had to have after stuffing our faces with tamales, tacos, guacamole and the like.

Shark Slippers and Vinho Verde

Week 4: Work Trip and Dad’s Epic Birthday Bash Weekend

After another lovely weekend, life chaos ramped back up again with an overnight to my company headquarters in CT.  Not much to talk about there other than the delicious lunches I got to have both days from Liquid Lunch. Chicken Paprikash Soup one day and Roasted carrot and leek the next.  Also, this completely necessary oatmeal cranberry cookie to get me through a four hour training session.  On point.

Cranberry OatmealUpon arriving home, it was time to speed clean the house to prep for the arrival of eight of our closest friends/relatives.  And to run 15 miles. Around the lake. Up and down mountains.  Builds character, right?

The weekend was wonderful.  Having all of our family up to enjoy the lake and the boat and delicious food and drinks.  What more could you ask for?

Caravan to Angry Erik Brewery.

Group ShotDad found his happy place fishing on the dock.  Adirondack chairs make fairly good makeshift dog gates.Fishing Dad


Mom also found her happy place on the white chair.  Frank was happy to cuddle up and keep her warm!Frank & mom

The pups were exhausted after a big weekend of swimming, jumping and having a ton of people to follow around and slobber on. F&B sleep

Week 5: And finally, another trip back to VA!

Staying in hotels with dogs requires A LOT of walks outside.F&B Walk

New obsession: Kombucha.  This Gingerberry is my favorite and I like the Gingerade flavor as well.  Pretty sharp hit of ginger but I dig it. I actually think this could make one pretty rad Moscow Mule. (MosKombucha Mule?  Too far?  Ah, well.)Kombucha

Wegman’s is definitely my favorite grocery store on the planet.  I can sit and work and people watch and eat delicious Asian food for lunch.  Kung Pao Tofu? Yes, please.  Wegmans

With the help of Philip’s brother, we were able to leave the dogs at the hotel for the night and take in a Washington Nationals Game.  I came for the food, naturally.  Hot Dog



For our last day in town, I took myself on a tour of downtown Leesburg. Leesburg Courthouse

Walking the streets, I just feel home.  It’s familiar and new at the same time with all the growth the area has seen in the last few years. Downtown LeesburgSolo breakfast date at Shoes Cup and Cork.  What a vibe!  A very cute little coffee shop, cafe type restaurant with delicious, local breakfast options, coffee out of real mugs and a Secret Garden in the back where you can lounge in cabanas or play bocce.  I imagine that I will become a regular when we are back in the area full-time.Shoes Cup & Cork


This is where I’ve been and what I have been doing. Thanks for sticking around.  Can’t wait to come back and bring y’all an actual baking post.  Soon, my friends!

Until next time,


Musings of a Newbie Marathon Trainee

Hello there friends.  Spoiler alert: this post is not going to be filled with delicious treats.  I promise that there will be more of those to come including ice cream sandwiches and a foray into vegan baking (eek!).  With travel, visitors, marathon training (as mentioned in the title) and a crazy work schedule, my time in the kitchen has been severely limited.

My time on the running trails, however, has increased dramatically since last year and even since last month.  Let’s not get ahead of ourselves now and let me explain how I got myself into this whole marathon craziness.

It was a long and cold winter in New Jersey.  We’re talking frozen tundra, snow every other day (or so it felt like) and lots of time cooped up indoors.  Finally, February came around and mentally, I started preparing for Spring.  Mother Nature had other ideas and continued the cold, wet weather.  I decided that I needed something to get excited about, to plan for and to ensure that I took advantage of the good weather…whenever it arrived.  I saw an advertisement for the Marine Corps Marathon, probably on Facebook, and I just went for it.  For those of you that don’t know, you have to enter a lottery to get a spot in the MCM.  I put my name in and decided to leave it up to fate as to whether this year I’d be able to cross “Run a Marathon” off of my bucket list.  As fate would have it, it looks like 2015 going to be my marathon year!

MCM Congrats

I got the congratulatory email March 25th and I was off and running.  Yeah. Right.

After the initial moment of panic and “Oh, S**t, what did I sign myself up for?”, I started planning.  I love planning and making lists.  I’ll admit, this planning was a little more daunting than my daily to-do list. At that point, I had absolutely no running base whatsoever.  All the miles that I had logged back in the summer/fall were useless after so many months cooped up during the winter.  While I had been working out fairly regularly, running in freezing weather did not make the list of workouts I even considered.

Long story short, one mile short runs have become 4-5 mile short runs and 2 mile longs runs have now entered the double digits and I have run 10 and 11 miles the last two weekends. I’m really proud of myself for sticking with this running thing through vacation, job changes, work travel and all sorts of life stuff.

I won’t proclaim to be an expert at running but here are a few things that I have found on my journey over the last four months that have made it a little easier to put one foot in front of the other during all those miles.

1. Glacier Cherry Gatorade.  Yes, specifically, Glacier Cherry.  I’ve tried other flavors and all I taste is color.  And they give me heartburn. Go figure.

Glacier Cherry Gatorad

2. Cherry Lime Gu Roctane.  Tried this for the first time during my 11 miler last weekend and it made me feel like I had wheels.  Maybe it was mental. Maybe not.  It worked for me.  I’ll keep slurping it. Is slurp like the word moist?  It might be.  It sounded bad in my head when I wrote it.  I’m leaving it.  You’re welcome.

Cherry Lime Gu

3. Brooks Ghosts.   I’m now on my fourth pair ever and my first pair for this marathon training.  I’ll probably get at least one more in the next month or so in order to break them in for the marathon. I’m eyeing these colorful ones from amazon.com!

Brooks Ghosts4. The Runner’s Guide to the Meaning of Life by Amby Burfoot and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall.  I love to read and these books are a great combination of motivation, history, and a celebration of the joy of running.

My favorite quote from Burfoot’s book comes from a chapter about Traditions. ” In a world that perpetually moves faster, never slower, we need all the anchoring points we can find. Chaos erupts spontaneously in our spinning lives.  It’s the center of the the wheel that we need to focus on more often.” Amen, brother.


Running BooksI don’t know if I’ll ever do another marathon or if I’ll even make it through this one alive.  I do know that I have come to simultaneously dread and love my long runs.  Unlike Burfoot, I love the flow of music through my headphones, finding new favorite lyrics every run and making connections between the music and my life with every footfall. Now that I’m going for almost two hours straight, I spend a lot of time in my own head and I’ve grown to really appreciate my own company.

Hopefully, in approximately three months, I’ll be doing a marathon recap post. Until then, I’ll keep putting one foot in front of the other and creating delicious treats to fuel me along the way.

Until next time!


I’m back. For real this time.

Hey friends.  Are you all still out there?  If so, THANK YOU for coming back here after my not so brief hiatus.  My last post was 16 months ago and it’s been a whirlwind of a time. Between the two of us, life has consisted of two states, two jobs (one new), two new cars, one new boat, one promotion, one new puppy and that’s just the highlight reel.

Long story short, Philip and I left the land-locked (and friend-packed) state of Arkansas to get back to the East Coast, closer to our family and jobs, and have called New Jersey our home for the last 8 months.  We survived (just barely) the winter, the Lake Mohawk frozen tundra and the chilly personalities of the Northeast and are enjoying these summer months while they last.  I’m not sure where the next few months will find us but I’ll be here to give you updates.  It’ll likely be a hodge podge for awhile with some baking, (a lot of) puppies, working out, enjoying life and the like.  Hopefully, I’ll keep you interested, make you laugh and maybe make you drool a little as I get back to sharing this crazy little life of mine with all of you.

For now, here is a very small snippet of what I’ve been up to for the last few weeks.

Looking forward to seeing more of you (and me) around here!


Baking for the local Animal Rescue Bake Sale. Puppies + cupcakes = winner!



Making water taste like mixed drinks.  Yep, did it.Fruit Water



Marathon training. Read: running my legs off.Running

Baking the flakiest little biscuits you’ve ever seen.  Perfect for sausage gravy, butter & jelly or just rapidly stuffing into your face. Flaky Biscuit

Chocolate Chip Cookies. My first foray into Paleo Baking.

Hello friends. A surprise random post for you guys! I made a batch of paleo chocolate chip cookies yesterday and I wanted to share with you the cookies, my experiences baking paleo and my overall insights one week into paleo eating. So, let’s back up a minute and give you a little background on this post. Why am I eating paleo? Good question.  A couple of answers.

1. LENT. It’s the lenten season. I am Catholic. Traditionally, Catholics give up something during Lent. I won’t go into the whole custom but the general thought is to choose something that you know will be challenging.  In the past, I have given up sweets which is probably the most challenging thing I could have thought. That was before this year. Philip (a non-Catholic, mind you) decided it’d be a great idea to go paleo for lent. This boils down to giving up most dairy, all grains (rice, bread, cereal), legumes (peanuts and beans), sugar and alcohol. If you’ve never heard of it, you can read more about it here: http://thepaleodiet.com.

2. CROSSFIT. I like to workout and lately, my workout of choice has been Crossfit.  We have found a wonderful box here in Northwest Arkansas with great people and challenging workouts. A lot of “professional” crossfit athletes eat a paleo diet for a myriad of reasons that are somewhat explained in the link above. Layman’s terms: higher (animal) protein provide muscles more of what they need to recover and grow.

So, there’s the history.  Now for the cookies!  Despite the many things that you do not eat on paleo, there are plenty of substitutes if you are willing to research and buy some different ingredients.  Chocolate chip cookies seemed like a good place to start my experimenting.


Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

slightly adapted from http://paleotable.com/2014/02/chewy-paleo-chocolate-chip-cookies/

  • Prep Time: 45 minutes
  • Cook time: 10-15 minutes (10-12 minutes from a refrigerated state, 15 from frozen)
  • Yield: 24 cookies


  • Dark chocolate chips – 1 1/2 cups


  • Almond flour – 3 1/4 cups
  • sea salt – 1 tsp
  • baking soda – 1 tsp


  • pastured eggs – 2 large, room temperature
  • pure vanilla extract – 1 tsp
  • raw honey – 1/4 cup
  • maple syrup – 1/4 cup
  • coconut oil – 1/2 cup, melted and cooled slightly


  1. Whisk together dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Set aside while you mix wet ingredients.
  2. Whisk wet ingredients together in a medium bowl.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients and stir until all ingredients are combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  4. Refrigerate dough.  You can make the call here.  You can try to refrigerate for as little as 30 minutes.  I let mine go for a few hours.
  5. Scoop onto parchment paper about 1 inch apart and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Watch carefully so that the bottoms don’t burn.
  6. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool until they reach room temperature, then place cookies in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator.

*Note* You can also freeze the cookie dough and bake the cookies straight from the freezer.  Just increase cook time to about 15 minutes.

My thoughts:

  • I did not cook them enough the first time.  While delicious, the consistency was off.  Mostly my fault.
  • Cooking them from frozen was very successful! Much better consistency.  I cooked them until I almost thought I had burned them, golden brown for sure.
  • The recipe called for unblanched flour initially.  I used regular old almond flour.  There is definitely more noticeable texture from using almond flour than All Purpose.  I just need to research whether there is almond flour that is more finely milled and if that makes a difference in taste.
  • These are best the day that they are made as they soften up the longer they sit. Make em, share em and spread the paleo love!
  • Overall, I would make these cookies again.  They had a similar taste to normal chocolate chip cookies without as much of the sweetness you normally associate with baked goods.


Overall top three things learned in my first week of paleo:

  1. Planning is essential.  It’s much easier to follow a paleo diet if you spend an afternoon planning your meals, shopping and prepping.  It’s far less easy to grab something quickly as a reading of the label is most always required.  Really makes you think about what you are eating.
  2. Creativity is key.  You can really easily get into a rut of eating the same things because you know they are paleo friendly.  Believe me, I’m only a week in and I already know. Mix things up.  Buy some new spices. Get weird.  Sometime the strangest combinations are the most delicious.  Chicken, sweet potato, avocado, salsa, caramelized onions.  Don’t believe me? Try it yourself.
  3. I honestly don’t miss any foods all that much.  Just the ease of grabbing snacks or going out to eat and I think that’ll get easier in time.

Well, this was a list-heavy post. But, if nothing else, I’m a list maker.  Thanks for reading.  Now, go have a cookie!

Life, love and loss. Sweet Mattie girl

The past few weeks have been full of highs and lows.  Two weeks ago, we got March snow and ice storm which kept us inside all of Sunday.  With the mood in the house dangerously low, we turned to our good friend alcohol to save the day. A couple of pickle back shots, some good beers, The Goonies and Smitten Kitchen’s Dijon and Cognac Beef Stew and the day was saved.  Need a good comfort food while Old Man Winter sticks around for the duration? Make that beef stew.  It’s one of the best things I’ve EVER eaten.  For those of you out there who have not had the pleasure of a pickle back, let me educate you. Shot of whiskey. Shot of pickle juice to chase.  Sounds weird. I know. I’ve been there too. Try it. You’ll love it. Thank me later.

Later that week, I headed up to New Jersey to corporate headquarters for a week filled with meeting allllll of the people that I email with on a daily basis.  Nice to put faces to names, y’know?  After a dizzying week of trying to remember everyone’s names and navigating the maze of an enormous corporate office (with no sense of direction), I hopped on the train to NY and headed into the city for an impromptu college roommate reunion weekend.  A lovely weekend filled will all of the wonderful foodstuffs, manicures, mild and springlike weather, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum and good one-on-one friend time.  Quality friend time was so badly needed and I got my fill of seafood, bagels, cupcakes and delicious drinks to boot.  Thanks, NYC. I love you more and more each time I go back.

New York

Word of warning.  Those were the major highs.  I’ve sadly reached the point where I talk about one of the lowest lows I’ve ever experienced in my life.  Feel free to stop reading now and spare yourself the sad story.

On Monday, we lost our sweet Mattie girl.  She seemed to be feeling a little weird when I went to work, like she had something in her throat and was trying to cough it up.  I sat with her for a bit trying to see if she was going to get it out but it seemed to pass and she was her normal, sweet, curious self, bopping around the house and following me around as I got ready for the day. Around lunch time, I started to get texts from Philip saying that she was behaving oddly and then, that she had stopped breathing. I came home and we went to the vet where they confirmed what we had feared. Our sweet girl had left this world far too soon. Her heart simply stopped beating. After speaking with the vet, we learned that this, unfortunately, is common in boxers.

Couch Snuggles


I think both of us were a little shocked and couldn’t wrap our heads around our little Mattie-Pattie gone just like that. We find comfort in knowing that, for the last two months, we loved that sweet girl as much as we could. We tried to show her that a dog’s life is about being spoiled. Fleecy blankets, dog bed, sock toys, sunshine, walks, treats, head pats, belly rubs and massive family couch snuggles. My last memory of my Mattie girl was walking up the staircase. She was sitting in the middle of the stairs, looking out the window at the street below. I stopped, rubbed her ears, gave her a kiss on the head and told her I loved her. Now, I’m so very glad that I stopped to do that. Two seconds that will now last forever in my memory.


We miss her so much, each and every day. She was so full of life and curiousity and energy. The two and a half months we got with her were so joyful and we learned so much about her and ourselves. There were lots of trying days where we were all trying to feel each other out but I hope that she knows that, in the end, she was a member of our family, so very loved and that we are sad that we didn’t get to spoil her for a much longer time. So, for me, give your fur babies a pat or a snuggle or a hug.  No matter how long they are in our lives, it is for too short a time. Pups are unconditional love at its finest. Never take that for granted.

Thanks for bearing with me. I needed to tell the story of my sweet Mattie and the lessons that I learned from my short time with her. Life is about love, in all its varied forms. Hold the ones you love close and cherish every day that you get with them.

Hugs and love from me to you.