sprouts farmers market

We’re doing something a little different today. We’re going on a tour of the newest grocery store in town!

Sprouts Farmers Market North Carolina | www.passthecookies.com

On Tuesday I had the opportunity to tour the new Sprouts Farmers Market in Raleigh before it’s grand opening on Wednesday morning. The grocery store is the first Sprouts Farmers Market in North Carolina and it couldn’t have gotten here soon enough! The variety of healthy options at affordable prices was unbelievable. Do you see that produce section below?! There is so much selection! They have a great array of organic options, but also conventional options if you aren’t at a place where you want to eat (or want to pay for) organic food. That being said, the prices of both conventional items and organic and natural items is amazing. The store is a slight trek from where I live, but it is so worth it! (more…)

cereal milk cake with lucky charms filling

Tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day – are you ready?! Pull out your green and whip up this fun cereal milk cake topped and filled with Lucky Charms marshmallows!

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling | www.passthecookies.com

There are a few foods that remind me of St. Patrick’s Day. Shepherd’s pie, Irish soda bread, and Lucky Charms immediately come to mind (though Bailey’s, Guinness, and milk dyed with green food coloring are close behind). Though we don’t do much for St. Patrick’s Day in our home, it was always an unexpectedly fun holiday in our house growing up. From making leprechaun houses to eating an entirely green meal, it was all very whimsical. This cereal milk cake decorated with Lucky Charms would fit right in with the theme and fun-spirited mood of the day.

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling | www.passthecookies.com

There are three key elements to making this cake. The first is soaking the milk with cereal (Frosted Flakes or other frosted cornflake cereals work well). The second is using imitation vanilla extract to get that nostalgic flavor from your childhood. And the third is crushing the marshmallows into the frosting between the cake layers. The marshmallows between the layers are optional, but adding them really makes the frosting reminiscent of eating a bowl of Lucky Charms. Crushed up marshmallows give you the taste of Lucky Charms cereal, without the squeaky feeling of full Lucky Charms marshmallows. You know what I’m talking about.

Cereal Milk Cake-4

The marshmallows decorating on the sides and top of the cake are totally optional, but don’t they look so fun?! If for no other reason, I’ll keep them for that. I pulled these marshmallows straight out of the cereal box, but you can also buy full bags of cereal marshmallows on Amazon! That would limit the confusion when unsuspecting family members pour a bowl of Lucky Charms and end up with only the cereal ;) Whoops.

Cereal Milk Cake with Lucky Charms Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Whichever variation you choose, I hope it brings you lots of luck and joy tomorrow!

Cereal Milk Cake
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 egg whites
1 tablespoon clear imitation vanilla
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 ½ cups flour
2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 cup cereal milk (recipe below)
Marshmallows from cereal (like Lucky Charms), for assembly

Cereal Milk
1 ½ cups milk
1 ½ cups frosted cornflake cereal

Vanilla Frosting
2 cups (or 4 sticks) butter, at room temperature
3 cups powdered sugar (or to taste)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon milk
¼ cup marshmallows from cereal, finely crushed, optional

To make cereal milk:
Pour the milk over the cereal and swirl it around vigorously. Let the milk and cereal soak for about 20 minutes. Strain the milk through a sieve into a small bowl. With the back of a spoon press the cereal into the sieve with the to squeeze the liquid out of the cornflakes, but not forcefully enough to push the cornflakes through the sieve. Discard the soggy cereal (we compost it, but you could also feed it to your pet ;)).

To make cereal milk cake:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray two 8-inch cake pans with non-stick cooking spray. Cut out 8-inch circles of parchment paper. Line the bottom of the pans and spray the parchment with non-stick cooking spray.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg whites, one at a time, mixing well after each one. Blend in the vanilla and the oil.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. With your mixer running on low speed, add the flour mixture to the butter mixture in three additions, alternating with the cereal milk. Start and end with the flour mixture.

Divide the batter evenly between the pans and bake for about 25-30 minutes, checking to make sure a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes comes out clean.

Let the cakes cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then remove them from the pans and transfer them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely. The cake layers should be completely cool before you frost them.

To make the frosting:
Beat together the butter and powdered sugar until the mixture is light and creamy. Add the vanilla and milk and beat to combine. You can add more powdered sugar for a sweeter variation, just add more milk 1 teaspoon at a time to keep the right consistency.

Optional: Separate the frosting into three equal parts. Fold the crushed cereal marshmallows into one part of the frosting. This will be used between the cake layers, while the other two parts will be used to frost the outside of the cake.

To assemble:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate or serving plate and top with the crushed cereal marshmallow frosting, if using. Top with the next cake layer and frost the entire cake with the remaining vanilla frosting. Decorate by placing cereal marshmallows along the sides and top of the cake in any arrangement you like. Only place the marshmallows on the cake if you are serving it soon, otherwise they will get soggy.

Happy (almost) St. Patrick’s Day!

Cake and frosting adapted from Molly Yeh’s funfetti cake

happy pi day!

Happy Pi Day, friends! I am celebrating with a round-up of some of pie recipes that have graced the blog in the past.

We will start with one of my very favorites, brown sugar cinnamon and raspberry almond hand pies (aka homemade poptarts!).

Happy Pi Day! Brown Sugar Cinnamon and Raspberry Almond Hand Pies | www.passthecookies.com

Next is my twist on the classic pecan pie – chocolate bourbon pecan pie. It is so delicious and always disappears at parties. This was also one of the first recipes I ever posted on the blog! Talk about a throwback!

Happy Pi Day! Chocolate Chip Bourbon Pecan Pie | www.passthecookies.com

For everyone stuck in snow today, these no-bake mini key lime pies with pretzel crusts might be able to transport you to a sunnier state of mind.

Happy Pi Day! key lime pie with pretzel crust | www.passthecookies.com

I couldn’t let a fall favorite go by without putting my spin on it. Pumpkin pie bars with chocolate chip gingerbread crust and cinnamon whipped cream is still one of my favorite fall recipes. It creates such an amazing combination of flavors that pair so wonderfully together.

Happy Pi Day! Pumpkin Pie Bars with Chocolate Chip Gingerbread Crust | www.passthecookies.com

If you are looking for a super easy, individually portioned pie, look no further than apple hand pies with bourbon sauce.

Happy Pi Day! Apple hand pies with bourbon sauce | www.passthecookies.com

Last, but definitely not least, these tips and tricks to making pie and designing pie crusts is a great place to start this Pi Day. This resource also includes many delicious pie recipes from all over the internet, so there is something for everyone!

What are some of your favorite pies? I love my mom’s chocolate chess pie and the coconut cream pie from our local cafe!

I hope this helps you celebrate Pi Day in style! :)

link love

Well friends, we’re headed into the weekend. As I just told you about 10 ways to increase happiness, I can’t help but be frustrated and saddened by tonight’s ACC tournament game outcome. To help my mood I am planning my weekend and making to-do lists. Isn’t that the normal way to cope?

link love 3.10.2017

 

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Before we dive into what is shaping up to be a cold weekend here (but gorgeous and warm in some parts of the country), let’s look at some link love from the week.

Let’s take a look at a happier, but maybe no less contentious, bracket – the Southern food tournament bracket. I voted, filled out my own bracket and am anxiously waiting for the round of 32 next week. Mac and cheese has my vote all the way to the championship, but it has to battle with pound cake for the title. What are your choices!?

Beauty and the Beast comes out next week and I have been eating up all of the behind the scenes features. If you haven’t seen it yet, the behind the scenes video will make you even more excited to see the movie.

Related, Emma Watson on her beauty routine and not covering her freckles in Beauty and the Beast.

This article on random acts of kindness goes well with this week’s post on how to increase happiness. We have all heard of the ol’ pay for the person behind you at the coffee shop, but some of these ideas are unique and lovely.

Last, but not least, I love this idea of a brown bag wine tasting party. It sounds like such a fun party and a great way to chat with friends while learning more about your (and your friends’) tastes in wine.

Have a lovely weekend! Spring forward is bringing longer days (yay!), but don’t forget to set your alarms!

10 ways to increase happiness

Recently, I have been trying to focus on happiness. The news is filled with negativity, and it can be easy to focus on what went wrong in a busy day rather than what went well. There are so many ways to increase happiness, or just focus on the happy things that are already going on in our lives. I hope some of these ideas help you when you are down and in a rut.

10 ways to increase happiness

Do something for someone else. Generosity and kindness are not only good for those on the receiving end, they are also good for those who are giving. Studies have shown that you feel happier when you help others, volunteer, donate, and act with kindness. There are so many ways to do this in our day to day life – compliment someone, bring a cup of coffee or a treat to a friend or coworker, volunteer at a local organization, bring dinner (or breakfast) to a busy friend or family, the list goes on and on.

Do something you truly enjoy. Treat yourself to a fancy cup of coffee, a manicure, a treat from a local bakery, a bouquet of flowers, time in the kitchen, a new workout, 20 minutes of reading, etc, and put it on the calendar. This can be difficult, but taking care of yourself is just as important as all of those meetings and social events. When you put it on the calendar you have something to spark happiness all day as you look forward to it, and as you enjoy it in the moment.

Listen to an uplifting song or playlist. Music can do wonders to affect your mood. Find a playlist you like and press play when you need a boost.

Get outside. Being in nature and soaking up some vitamin D can lift your spirits and stimulate happiness and positivity. I find that I am so much happier when I get outside during the day, especially after being stuck in the office or the apartment all day. Even something as little as sitting outside while I eat lunch can boost my mood and make me happier for the rest of the day.

Stretch. Every time I go through a good stretching routine I find that I feel better and am more relaxed and happier. Try doing a few stretches when you wake up or before you go to bed to loosen up and bring a little happiness to your day (and to your body).

Write out three things you are grateful for or that went well during the day and focus on those before you go to sleep. These things don’t have to be large. They could be as small as getting a compliment or completing a project, as long as you come up with three good things. This practice helps you focus on the positive and to notice and remember good things in your life. You can read this to learn more.

Start your day by focusing on one good thing. It could be that you are going to wear your favorite necklace, you have a morning yoga class, you have 10 minutes to read a book, you are looking forward to your morning cup of caffeine, etc. When things get frustrating during the day, come back to that one good thing you focused on at the beginning of the day.

Share one good thing every day for a certain number of days. #100happydays is popular, but choose the number of days that will challenge you. Take a picture every of one thing that makes you happy for the number of days you choose. You can keep it private and just save the photos on your phone to create a montage of happy photos at the end of the challenge, or share your photos on social media. If you share them, create your own hashtag to track your challenge and easily look back on what made you happy.

Spend time with someone you love. Sometimes you just need interaction with friends, family, or a significant other to make you feel happier. Set aside some time to enjoy being with loved ones.

Exercise. Boost those endorphins! There are many days when exercising is the last thing I want to do, but I know I often feel better after getting my heart rate up. Taking a brisk walk, doing yoga, going on a run or on a bike ride by yourself or with a friend can boost your mood and your energy.

march goals

February was a whirlwind. Looking back at my goals for the month I initially didn’t feel like I had accomplished that many of them. But, I feel like I made progress on the goals even if I didn’t accomplish all of them, and I realized that I was productive in many areas that weren’t listed as goals for the month. I’m hoping for more of the same progress in March, even if it is slow. Slow and steady, isn’t that what they say? ;)

2017 March Goals

Here is an update on my February goals before we head into March goals.

February Goals:
Make and send Valentine’s Day cards
Do toning exercises twice a week – some weeks, but definitely not all
Deep clean upstairs bathroomWill did this and I’m so thankful!
Clean up one room for at least 5 minutes a day (rotate rooms)didn’t quite do 5 minutes a day but I’m marking it off because we deep cleaned every room except our bedroom!
Start a list of recipes we make often and the ingredients we need to make them so meal planning takes less time in the future.
Read for at least 10 minutes a daystarted and finished Grace Not Perfection and started The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Purge my closet of things I no longer want or need – purged my t-shirts, so little by little I’m chipping away at this one
Make 2 pieces of art for bedroom
Go to 1-2 places on our Triangle bucket listwent to Cocoa Cinnamon

March Goals:
Read a book for at least 10 minutes a day
Do toning exercises twice a week
Start a list of recipes we make often and the ingredients we need to make them to make meal planning is easier in the future
Make 2 pieces of art for our bedroom
Hang art in our bedroom
Hang curtains in at least one room in the house (one day we will check this off the list)
Take a walk/run with Will at least once a week (this may be difficult with Will starting a new rotation, but I am hopeful!)
Test five cookie recipes for an upcoming project
Celebrate Will’s birthday
Spend meaningful time with friends

As a reminder, here are my guideposts for the year.

galette des rois

Well, better late than never, right?

Galette Des Rois | www.passthecookies.com

I don’t think many people would mind extending Mardi Gras one day for this galette des rois, or French king cake. The golden puff pastry dough rises around the cake and creates a beautiful facade. Filled with creamy almond paste and raspberry jam, the galette des rois is delicious without being too sweet, like their American counterparts.

Galette Des Rois | www.passthecookies.com

Galette Des Rois | www.passthecookies.com

And the best part? It is impressive but easy! I cheated and used store-bought puff pastry sheets so, besides assembly, all you need to do is make is the almond paste. If you are really short on time, you can even buy almond paste from the store. The goal here is impressive, delicious, and pretty, without too much work. (more…)

link love

The last few days have been gorgeously sunny and warm in North Carolina. At first I wasn’t sure how I felt about the warm weather in the middle of February, but as much as I fear for the melting planet, I do find joy in the sunshine unexpected warmer temperatures. I hope you have time to get outside and enjoy some fresh air this weekend, wherever you are.

link love 2.25.2017

via Pinterest

We are kicking off link love this week with one of my favorite childhood subjects: American Girl dolls. American Girl recently introduced a boy doll, Logan Everett. While this is a great step for the more contemporary dolls, the historic American Girl dolls will always have a place in my heart. Growing up, I read almost all of the historic American Girl doll stories and always loved learning how girls my age lived through different times in US history. Reading about American Girl (and now boy) dolls brings me back to such wonderful memories and I hope the company can keep expanding and improving.

As someone who is still early in their career, I always like hearing advice from older people with established careers. These six female executives give advice they wish they had gotten when they were starting their careers. I’m storing this information up for myself now, and constantly wondering what advice I will be able to give younger people later.

Why don’t avocados come with these stickers?! They would be so helpful!

Mardi Gras is this Tuesday and these three bread puddings are looking pretty perfect for the indulgent holiday. The chocolate version calls for dark chocolate and cocoa powder in place of butter. How can you go wrong with that? I may accidentally buy an extra loaf of bread tomorrow when I’m grocery shopping ;)

The beautiful weather this week combined with some long work hours makes these words speak to me even more than usual. Go outside and pay attention to what is around you. Get away from technology and enjoy your surroundings. That’s exactly what I want to do today.

Have a wonderful, relaxing weekend, friends. Make it beautiful.

dark chocolate pecan oatmeal cookies

I found the perfect chocolate chip cookie. Dark chocolate pecan oatmeal cookies. This is not a drill.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Out of all of the baked goods, cookies are my favorite to make (as you could probably guess from the name of this blog). They are quick to make, small enough to sample, and a great base for different combinations of ingredients and flavors. I can be creative and unique, put a modern spin on a traditional cookie, or stick with the classics. They lend themselves to so much creativity, while still following similar methods of mixing and ratios of ingredients. Creating new cookie recipes is a combination of science, math and art all coming together at the same time in one ball of warm, delicious goodness.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

The classic cookie my family made growing up, and the cookie dough that we still almost always have stocked in our freezer, is a classic oatmeal chocolate chip walnut cookie. We made the dough for any potluck, party, or gathering. It is the only cookie recipe I know by heart and I could do it with my eyes closed. Every now and then my dad and I would time ourselves to see how quickly we could make them while working together. Often we could make the dough, roll it all into balls and have the kitchen clean in 20 minutes, with the rest of the process only stalled by baking time.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

These dark chocolate pecan oatmeal cookies were inspired by those chocolate chip cookies I know by heart. The base is the perfect oatmeal cookie base and the combination of chocolate chips and chopped dark chocolate creates pockets of melted chocolate as well as chocolate swirled throughout. Toasting the pecans brings a buttery, deeper flavor to the cookies and is perfect in combination with the dark chocolate chunks.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Get ready for some compliments! These are the ultimate oatmeal chocolate chip cookies.

Dark Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
2 ½ cups rolled oats
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup chopped dark chocolate (I use Trader Joe’s pound plus bar) *
1 cup dark chocolate chips
1 ½ cups roughly chopped pecans

*you can use all chocolate chips, but I prefer using a mixture of chopped chocolate and chocolate chips. Chocolate chips don’t melt as much as the chopped chocolate, so using a combination gives you some full chocolate chips and some pockets of swirly melted chocolate from the chopped chocolate.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pecans out in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast for about 5 minutes, or until they are a few shades darker and start to smell nutty. Immediately pour the toasted nuts onto a plate so they do not continue to cook on the hot pan.

Line a few baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Pulse the oatmeal in a blender or food processor until it becomes a flour-like texture. It is okay if there are some oat flakes mixed in. Mix the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into the oatmeal and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, add the butter and the sugars and beat until the mixture sticks together. This may take a few minutes. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the egg and vanilla and mix until fully combined. Pour in the oat-flour mixture until the mixture is almost fully incorporated but you can still see streaks of flour, then fold in the chocolate chunks and pecans.

Scoop the cookie dough into 2-tablespoon sized balls and place on your prepared baking sheets. Bake the cookies for about 9-12 minutes. The cookies will firm up as they cool, so they will be done baking before they look done. If the edges and top are golden, they have cooked too long. Allow the baked cookies to cool for a few minutes on the trays before transferring them to wire racks to cool completely.

To make these ahead of time, do everything through the scooping step. After you scoop all of the dough into balls on the baking sheets, cover the sheet with plastic wrap. Freeze the dough balls on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes, or until they are firm. Place all of the dough balls into a gallon-sized plastic zip bag and store in the freezer until you are ready to use. You can cook these from frozen, though it may take a few extra minutes.

link love

After a productive week, I’m ready to head into a beautiful, warm, relaxing weekend. Life is so busy right now that I feel like I’m playing catch-up or get-ahead, rather than enjoying the moment. I know I’ll be doing some preparation this weekend, but here’s hoping it is fun and allows for some time to rest and recover from lots of long days.

link love 2.17.2017 via

Let’s start by curling up with some link love!

I’m pretending this is what I’m doing this week – finishing my work week on Thursday. In a way I did, but not because I followed the advice in this article, because I worked on Saturday and Sunday last week. Not exactly what this article says to do, but wouldn’t ending the work week on Thursday be wonderful?! Someday I will do that.

This illustration on growth.

There are a lot of marches and political actions going on in our country. If you want to get involved, but don’t know how, this is a great post on 10 ways to get involved with issues that matter to you.

I love these words about choosing love over hate. Speak from love, not fear, not anger and not hate. Love wins.

Earlier this week, photographer Lucy Cuneo released a new series of photographs in her shop and they are absolutely beautiful. I have visited the site at least 3 times a day to admire the gorgeous flowers and the crisp, bright shots. They just make me so happy! :)

Happy weekending! I hope yours is wonderful!

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