March 2015 archive

mini coconut quick breads with fresh whipped cream

Coconut is a very divisive ingredient.  Some people love it and some people hate it.

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I love coconut.  Will does not like coconut.  On the other hand, I can’t stand even the smell of bananas, much less the taste, but Will loves them.  I do, however, love banana bread.  Are you catching on?

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I feel like coconut is a great segway into warmer weather.  It is pretty as the white fluff that it is, or perfectly brown and toasted.  It lends to sweet flavors in the spring or tropical flavors in the summer.  It goes well with chocolate and with fruit.

Look at you, coconut, being so versatile.

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I also love foods that can’t decide if they are breakfast or dessert, snack bread or cake.  Those are my favorite kind, appropriate for all times of the day with no judgement allowed.

The toppings seal the deal for me with this one.  And I know I have brought this up before, but aren’t miniature versions of foods the best?  I tend to go with yes.

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With a subtle coconut flavor, this is a great breakfast bread when toasted and smeared with melted butter, or a delicious cake when topped with a cloud of whipped cream and golden, sweet, toasted coconut flakes.  It is good cold, it is good warm.  You can’t go wrong.

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Make this a breakfast treat, a not-too-sweet snack or the perfect little dessert.  And since it’s mini, you can have more slices, right?  Go with it.

Mini Coconut Quick Breads with Fresh Whipped Cream

Coconut Quick Bread
2 eggs
1 ½ cups coconut milk (unsweetened)
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 ½ cups flour
¼ salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup sugar
1 ½ sweetened shredded coconut*
6 tablespoons butter, melted

*depending on how much texture you like, you can shred it further in a food processor. I pulsed until the coconut was finely grated, almost flour like, so as to disguise the texture from those who don’t appreciate the ingredient as much as I do.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a small bowl, whisk together eggs, coconut milk and vanilla. Set aside

In a medium bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking powder. Add sugar and coconut and stir to mix. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the coconut milk mixture. Stir wet and dry ingredients together until just combined. Add melted butter and stir into batter until smooth, being careful not to overmix.

Spray three 5.75 by 3 inch mini loaf pans with nonstick spray. Split batter evenly between the three pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. The breads will be domed and golden on top. Cool in pans for five minutes then shake them out and let the breads cool completely on a wire rack.

Fresh Whipped Cream
½ cup whipping cream
1 tablespoon powdered sugar or to taste
½ teaspoon vanilla

Using the whisk attachment on an electric mixer, whip the cream on medium-high. Once the cream has formed soft peaks, add the sugar and the vanilla and continue to whip until all ingredients are mixed together and medium-stiff peaks form. Be careful not to overmix!

To serve top a thick slice of coconut bread with a generous dollop of whipped cream and toasted coconut flakes and enjoy your little coconut cloud!

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Read that as if it were Buddy the Elf when he see’s Santa in the mall.

It is Friday and I am excited about it, in case you didn’t get that from the first line of this post.  It has been a long, busy week and I welcome the weekend and all of the free time it brings with wide-open arms.  Now only if the weather would cooperate…

Here are a few links from the week (and from last week-sorry!):

We went for about two weeks with only daffodils to provide any color to the yards around here.  Then, all of a sudden, something snapped this week and blooms emerged from all of the trees!  Well, almost all of the trees.  I’m still holding my breath for that overwhelming fishy smell of the Bradford Pear trees.  Dogwoods tend to bloom later than other trees in our area, but their white and pink blossoms are well worth the wait.  This North Carolina writer understands that.  Virginia, you’re cool and all, but taking it as your state flower and your state tree?  Where’s your creativity?

Just in time for Easter, isn’t this bunny baking pan adorable?!

As I come to the tail end of a busy work week in an job that seems to get busier each week, this article resonates well.  It is acceptable, and healthy even, to step away from the emails.  The world will not end if we are out of the office.  Let’s remind ourselves of that every now and then.

Speaking of the workplace, for my fellow bright-eyed, bushy tailed, hard-working, recently employed friends, and those who are soon to join us, a new job can sometimes make you feel out of place, young and inferior.  On the spectrum of confidence, I don’t rank highly.  But I’m working on it.  This article is a great place to start for tips on how to develop confidence in the workplace.

On the topic of confidence (oh, the segways!), this woman took the “year without makeup” challenge.  Most of us use makeup as a confidence boost, but it she learned a different kind of confidence without it.

This one is a little late, but still cool!  The great people at polled Americans on their favorite flavor of a popular dessert pastry and made an infographic about it.  Behold, favorite pies of America.  Ultimately it tells us that Montana needs to get their sweet on, Idaho must have a sea of lemon groves amidst their potato fields and if I were to choose a place to live based on pie preferences, I would be moving to New Mexico.

And for your viewing pleasure: every angle of this Austin townhome is fun, bright and Pinterest worthy.  Feast your eyes.

Happy Friday!  Enjoy the beautiful new blooms!

this weekend at unc dance marathon

As you probably know from my previous post and my instagram feed, this weekend was UNC Dance Marathon 2015.


Lots of my good friends and fellow Executive Board alumni came to town to help out and to see the event.  We went to kick-off on Friday night and watched as the Chair of the UNC Department of Pediatrics and the chancellor of UNC encouraged dancers, as this year’s Executive Board introduced themselves and as all of the students simultaneously stood up to commence their 24-hour stand.  It was a proud moment to see all of the work this year’s leaders and committees and to remember the feelings we had at this point last year.

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On Saturday, we brunched.  We talked, we caught up, we ate delicious food and we loved all of it.  We might be scattered around the state and the country, but we fall right back into conversations we left off with the last time we all got together.

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We spent the rest of the day at the event, watching the dancers, helping when we could.  I could go on and on about how this organization changed my college experience and changed my life, but as I listened to the families and mothers of pediatric patients – one who gave birth to twin babies 3 months early, one who lost a child, one who has a 2-year-old with Down’s Syndrome and leukemia – I was reminded that my life isn’t the one that needs to be changed.  I’m not the important one here.  This organization helps and changes the lives of all of these patients and their families.  That is why we stand.  That is why we dance.

The last speaker of the night was the mother of William, the 2-year-old with Down’s Syndrome AND leukemia.  She is awesome.  I just want to be her friend.  She explained to us that, with William’s conditions, people often asked her if he was going to die.  Umm, excuse me?  That doesn’t seem like the question you ask a mother in that situation.  She has a different outlook though.

“We’re all going to die,” she said, “it’s what you do before you die that matters.”

She also explained that, as the mother of a special needs child, she understands that her son, and her life, will never be “normal.”  But she looks at that differently too.

“Why would you want to be normal, when you can be EXTRAORDINARY?!,” she asked. “William is extraordinary.  YOU ARE EXTRAORDINARY!”

She went on to explain that what Dance Marathon participants do is incredible.  These college students stand up to support kids who need it most and for families who need more strength than they can muster and more help than they have.

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This year the organization raised $570,561.48 for the patients and families served by UNC Children’s Hospital.  These are college students.  Doesn’t it make you rethink what you are doing?

DM 3I’m so proud of this organization and the wonderful goals it is accomplishing.  For the kids, always and always.




double chocolate espresso cookies

This weekend was UNC Dance Marathon, a 24-hour event where students stand, dance and raise money in support of the patients and families at UNC Children’s Hospital.  As you can imagine, standing and dancing for 24 hours is tiring.  That’s where these chocolate espresso cookies come in.

Chocolate Espresso Whoppers 6

These cookies are based off of cookies at one of my favorite local establishments, Foster’s Market.  They are rich, gooey, almost brownie-like cookies filled with walnuts and chocolate chips.  Espresso and coffee mixed with two kinds of melted chocolate enhance the intense flavor.

Chocolate Espresso Whoppers 2

The coffee and chocolate are perfect for those in need of a little caffeine jolt and the walnuts add protein, right?  We can pretend.

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I’m all about texture, and between the nuts, chocolate chips and doughy batter these cookies have so many great textural elements.  Delicious.

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Scoop, bake and eat.  Or eat a little, scoop and bake the rest, that’s how I roll.

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Double Chocolate Espresso Cookies
Yields 20-24 cookies

6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips
2 oz unsweetened chocolate, chopped into large chunks
6 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
2 tablespoons instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons strongly brewed coffee
¾ cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups coarsely chopped walnuts
6 oz (1 cup) semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a double broiler, melt 6 ounces (1 cup) of semisweet chocolate chips, unsweetened chocolate chunks and butter over low heat until just melted and combined. Stir the mixture occasionally to help the melting process. As soon as the chocolate has melted, remove the pot from the heat and set aside (you don’t want to burn the precious chocolate).

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together the eggs, espresso powder, vanilla and brewed coffee. Add the sugars until combined and creamy.

Stir together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Add the melted chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and mix until well combined. Add the flour mixture and stir just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Fold in the chopped walnuts and the remaining 6 ounces (1 cup) of chocolate chips. The batter will look and feel more like cake batter than cookie dough.

Scoop the batter with a heaping tablespoon (or two) and drop onto the prepared baking sheets, about 3 inches apart. The dough needs to be baked right away so the chocolate does not have time to cool and harden.

Bake 10-12 minutes, turning the baking sheet halfway through the baking time. The cookies will look gooey when they come out. This is perfect! Overcooked cookies will be dry and crunchy, which is not what we want from this recipe.

Cool the cookies about 10 minutes on the cookie sheets before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely.


This weekend some of my great friends from college are coming to town.


These wonderful people are those I shared many sleepless nights and emotions with last year as we planned and executed the 16th annual 24-hour UNC Dance Marathon.  We are reuniting this weekend to see the 17th annual Dance Marathon and celebrate the awesome work this year’s leaders have accomplished.  At this point in our post-graduation lives, there are a few topics that inevitably come up each time there is a reunion.


We talk about our jobs or graduate school programs and how much we like or dislike our roles in these areas.  The topic of who will be the next to get married along with predictions on when they will get engaged comes up (we’re looking at you, Kelsey).  There will be some reminiscing of our college days and the roles we had at this point last year, with so many memories of Dance Marathon.  Mixed into the conversation will be spatterings of how our lives now are so different from our college routines, and maybe how none of our experiences in college could have prepared us for where we are now.  We have had these conversations before, but we still enjoy them and care about each other, so we continue to have them.

In college, no one really prepares you for adulthood and the real world.  You may have an internship that teaches you important skills for the field of work that interests you, and the most common question in your senior year will be, “so, what are you doing next year?”  But no one prepares you for the diffusion of all of your friends, the change from living within walking distance to everything to having to drive to and from work in rush hour traffic, or going from a fluid schedule with spurts of free time to long days in an office with no spring break.  Routines change quickly and days suddenly seem short.

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Almost a year after graduating, we have figured out new routines to fit our working schedules, learned an appreciation for our parents who balanced work and family, picked up hobbies and found that not everything can be done in a day.  We try hard to cook our own meals every night and every now and then we will even cook a delicious, elaborate meal.  We never thought we would be so excited to clean the bathroom sink and it is an accomplishment when the laundry moves from the washing machine to the dryer within a day, forget about folding, that can wait for tomorrow….or next week.  We pack our lunches like the good first grader…I mean, first-year employee…that we are and try to stick to a budget for our expenses and for generosity.  True, there is no homework, per se, but there are some longer days and definitely no nap-times.  We earn money for our work, which is awesome and empowering and surely helps with that aforementioned budget. Some days I still feel like I was shoved off a cliff into adulthood, sometimes I feel like I am the responsible graduate I was prepared to be.  But this is it, we have arrived in the post graduate world whether we were ready or not.

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I am excited to see my friends this weekend and to catch up and celebrate Dance Marathon.  In college, we all had the common bond of working so hard together for this one cause and one purpose.  Now that we have graduated, our group is spread across the state and across the country doing everything under the sun, but, in the midst of our busy adult lives, we still want, and try hard, to keep up with each other.  So this weekend, we will relish in the company of our friends, in the lives we touched while in college, and in the brunches, the stories and the conversations we will share with each other.  So cheers, to friends, to Dance Marathon and to adulthood.


Photos by Ying-Ao Zhang and Graham Terhune Photography

homemade pop tarts (aka hand pies) for pi day!

To me, pop tarts are nostalgic.  Different flavors bring back specific memories of my childhood.

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Brown sugar cinnamon remind me of my mom in my elementary school days when she would grab one as she was running out of the house to get to work early so she could be there for us in the afternoons.  No one else ate those brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts, they were on a high shelf in the pantry, out of our reach.  Brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts are mom’s pop tarts.

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The pop tarts my siblings and I ate resided at our grandparents house.  And not the regular 8 pack or 12 pack box, no, we had the packs you only get at BJ’s or other superstores.  Pop tarts were a treat and, in true cousin collaboration, we chose wisely.  Each time there were inevitably some version of a chocolate flavor, be that s’mores, chocolate fudge or chocolate chip cookie dough.  Every now and then a box of blueberry or strawberry would slide in the mix, but those were more of a summer vacation food.

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When Pi day came around, I was set on the idea of making a type of hand pie, an individual treat you could grab and enjoy on your own time.  Then I remembered a text one of my good friends sent meduring the snow a few weeks ago of a pop tart from Ted’s Bulletin in DC.  I was instantly inspired to try my own hand at the breakfast pastry.


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It’s Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday.  This picture is from last week’s game, in honor of the ACC tournament and the games tonight.  Love over rivalry?  Love and rivalry.  May the best teams (preferably Duke and UNC) win.


And, of course, some great links from the week!

This girl is spot on about being married at 22.  Preach it.  Sure, it might be too young for some people, but not us!

Watch Downton Abbey?  This guide to Lady Mary etiquette is hilarious.

This little boy was missing an arm-so Robert Downey Jr. gave him a functional Iron Man prosthetic arm!  Talk about the coolest prosthetic ever!

English is notorious for being a difficult language with many exceptions to grammar and pronunciation rules.  But people still understand Yoda.  Why so strangely Yoda speaks?

Speaking of movies, Disney said that they aren’t going to “let it go”.  To the dismay of parents everywhere, they announced that they will be making Frozen 2.  You won’t see me complaining.

Today may be Friday the 13th, but tomorrow is Pi(e) day!  (Nerd alert: Tomorrow is 3.14.15 and if you look at the clock at 9:26:53 it will be the most correct Pi day it can be in our lifetimes.)  So get excited, watch some basketball and gobble up some pie goodness (maybe this one)!  Happy Friday!



Life moves so quickly.  In the fast-paced technology-filled environment in which we live, it is important to take time to remember the things in our lives that we are grateful for.  Here are just a few things I am grateful for today:

-loving, supportive family

-being nearby said family

-wonderful, caring friends


-spring and warmer weather

-the beautiful flowers budding and blooming


-hot tea

-ooey gooey warm and melty oatmeal chocolate chip cookies


-fun memories


-the ability to travel

 And lots lots more!  We have so much to be grateful for and, while some days it is hard to see past the bad stuff and the negatives, it is so great to think about how much we do have and how blessed we are.  What’s on your list?

sunday sweets: banana cake with cinnamon brown sugar filling and salted chocolate frosting

Oh, daylight savings time, I don’t know how to feel about you.

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On one hand, I love the extra sunlight that comes when we “spring forward” for daylight savings, on the other hand, I struggle to know what time it is for about a week.  I don’t trust my clocks and I question the time on all electronic devices.  It is like having jet lag for an entire week.

It also means that we have one less hour today to eat this cake, and that is a real tragedy because this cake is delicious.

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I made this cake for Will’s birthday and we have been snacking on it ever since.  As someone who does not like bananas I was a little wary of making a banana cake but this cake has the perfect amount of banana flavor, not too strong but definitely enough to know there were bananas harmed in the making.

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The cinnamon brown sugar frosting between each layer of cake complements the banana flavor while also standing out in it’s wonderful sweetness.  If that wasn’t enough, the chocolate with a hint of salt takes the cake to the next level and makes it much richer.  With each bite, the combination of flavors melts in your mouth.

Will bday cake 5 Also, it is a miniature cake!  How cute is that?!  It is the perfect size for the two of us.

Will bday cake 11Fill up a big glass of milk and enjoy every last morsel.

Banana Cake with Cinnamon Brown Sugar Filling and Salted Chocolate Frosting

Banana Cake Ingredients
1 1/3 cups flour
1¼ teaspoons baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1 egg
¾ cup brown sugar, packed
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 large ripe bananas, mashed (about 1 ¼ cups)
¼ cup sour cream or Greek yogurt
½ cup butter, melted
1/3 cup milk

Cinnamon Brown Sugar Frosting Ingredients
1 cup butter, softened (2 sticks)
2 cups powdered sugar
½ cup brown sugar, packed
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon vanilla
1 tablespoon of milk, if needed

Salted Chocolate Frosting Ingredients
¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup plus 1½ teaspoons warm water
¾ cup butter, softened (1½ sticks)
1 teaspoon salt
12 oz semisweet chocolate (you can switch out some of the semisweet for bittersweet for an even richer frosting)
½ cup powdered sugar

*This recipe makes a mini cake. For a regular cake, you can probably double the recipe and bake the batter in 8-inch round pans.

To make the banana cake:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray a jelly roll pan or a cookie sheet with nonstick spray and line with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk egg and add brown sugar, mixing until smooth. Stir in vanilla. Add sour cream (or greek yogurt, whichever you are using) and melted butter and mix again. Stir in dry ingredients then add mashed bananas and milk. Mix until the dry ingredients are completely moist and the batter comes together. The batter will be slightly thick.

Pour the batter onto your prepared pan and spread it out evenly. Bake for 15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

Once completely cool, wrap the pan in plastic wrap, making sure the plastic is completely touching all exposed surfaces of the cake. Freeze for a few hours, or until firm. Once firm, remove the tray from the freezer and use an empty 28 ounce can or a cereal bowl to cut circles out of the sheet cake. I used a cereal bowl and pressed down in the cake until there was a clear line where the bowl had been. I then used a sharp knife to cut around that outline. Remove the circles and layer with frostings.

To make the cinnamon brown sugar frosting:
Beat butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until completely smooth and creamy. With the mixer on low speed, add in powdered sugar slowly. Gradually increase the speed of the mixer and add brown sugar and vanilla. Beat for 2-3 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl, as needed. If the frosting is too thick, add milk, 1 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. If it is too thin, gradually add additional powdered sugar until it thickens.

To make the salted chocolate frosting:
Whisk together cocoa and warm water in a small bowl until cocoa dissolves and forms a thick paste.

With an electric mixer on medium speed, beat butter, powdered sugar and salt until pale and fluffy, about 3-5 minutes. Gradually beat in melted chocolate and then cocoa mixture until all ingredients are well combined. Like in the cinnamon brown sugar frosting, if this is too thin, gradually add more powdered sugar until you reach a spreadable consistency.

To assemble:
Layer the cake circles with cinnamon brown sugar frosting, adding chocolate frosting on some layers as well. Cover the entire cake with chocolate frosting.



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Blackberry-Jam-Custard-Donuts-4image via The Sugar Hit

It’s Friday.  And don’t those blackberry jam and custard donuts (doughnuts?) just make your day?  Yum.

Or maybe these vanilla cream-filled doughnuts do it for you.

If you are looking for another awesome doughnut that you don’t have to make yourself, Krispy Kreme has a limited time Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Doughnut out right now!  Say what!?

On the subject of food, the tournament for cookbooks –  The Piglet – where the 16 most notable cookbooks of the year face off over three weeks in some intense voting sessions, is in the semi-final round!  Recipe nerds rejoice!

On books, this book on purging, tidying up and organizing has received great reviews.  A professional tidying consultant, the Japaneses author, Marie Kondo, is basically the fairy godmother of socks.  I can’t decide if I want to read this or if it will stress me out too much.  To get a snippet of her method, here is the best way to clean out your closet.

Call me old fashioned, but I think these flat cards personalized with your illustrated portrait are awesome.

This week has been a roller-coaster of feelings.  This post on stress is great.  Keep calm and carry on, my friends.

I hope the time change this weekend will entice the spring weather to come along quickly!  Happy Friday and happy weekending, everyone!

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