January 2016 archive

bakery tour: raleigh edition

Our sweets post takes a different form this week. A few weeks ago I met my family in Raleigh for the afternoon and evening. During my childhood in the Triangle, downtown Raleigh had some restaurants, but not too many that were really wonderful. In the past few years though, the local restaurant, bakery and coffee shop scene has expanded tremendously and the new eateries are absolutely fantastic. We decided to test out the fare at a few of the newer local bakeries, to see which one was our favorite. After an afternoon bakery tour downtown, I’m not sure we have a conclusive answer – they were all so delicious but unique. I guess we will just have to keep testing ;)

Raleigh bakery tour - croissants, morning buns, hot chocolate, and more.

Our first stop was Boulted Bread. Boulted opened a few years ago by a trio of friends all originally from Raleigh. The team bonded over bread baking and the small bakery has its own stone mill, where they grind locally sourced grains into the flours used to bake their breads. The store has a large glass front that rolls up in the warmer weather to open the bakery to the downtown street.

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link love

Can you believe January is already almost over?  Eeek, where did the weeks go?!?  I feel like I say this at the end of every month.  January always starts out slow, peaceful and filled with purpose after the holidays, then picks up and life starts to get busy again towards the end.  That’s where we are right now, revving up our schedules for February and the months to follow.

Link love 1.29.2016

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But before things get too busy, let’s take a minute to relax with some great link love.

Life in plastic, it’s fantastic!  Maybe not always though.  After a few years of downturned sales, Mattel released a new line of Barbies yesterday – including curvy, tall, and petite Barbie.  We can all agree that Mattel is a bit behind with this release and Barbie has always been controversial.  As a Barbie graduate I have to say I was way more concerned with chopping off all of the doll’s hair, watching the mermaid tail change colors, and sticking wedding Barbie in the middle of the cake than anything else, but I do think this expansion might be a step in the right direction.  There are so many opinions on both sides of Project Dawn though, it’s hard to know how it will turn out for Mattel and for young children.

On the other end of the scale, I love these pieces of advice from wonderful funny women.  Who run the world? GIRLS.

Now how do we become as successful as all of those women?  By learning from the past?  This article details daily rituals for 25 of history’s most successful people.

As North Carolinians, born and bred, Will and I are excited about the Panthers going to the Super Bowl!  We will be watching it from the comfort of North Carolina, but those who are heading to San Francisco for the game will be shelling out lots and lots of money.  Everything is going to be crazy expensive.

Last, but not least, as we talk about relaxation and busy schedules, we should also remember to include some down time when we need it.  I am guilty of staying on my email when I am sick or not taking a full day off when I might need it.  This article is a great reminder that sometimes we do need to take it easy, especially when we are sick. 

Stay healthy and have a great, relaxing weekend!

life lately

It is meltingggggg. Winter Storm Jonas paid us a visit this weekend and left behind some snow and ice. After four days of sticking around, it finally started to really melt today.

Life lately on Pass the Cookies

Don’t get me wrong, there are still some very precarious patches of ice and snow is still piled along the side of the street, but with a whopping high of 55 today it won’t be here much longer. If I lived in DC or New York I think I would be more tired of the snow, but I loved being snowed (and iced) in this weekend. It was fun to be able to relax a little, work from home, bake a little, and be with Will and family more than a usual four-day stint would allow.

Before the wintery weather started, Will and I packed up a bag and headed to spend the snowy weekend with his family. We knew I would be working remotely and he would be studying no matter where we were, so we decided to get out of our apartment while the roads were still clear and be in a warm house with power and great people. Like most of the state, we went to bed on Thursday night with cold but dry skies and woke up to a winter wonderland and the pitter patter of freezing rain and snow. It was great to start the Friday early with a hot cup of tea, the view of white flakes falling through the window next to us, and the best desk partner :) Maybe it was the snow, maybe it was the company, but I realized how much I like working from home that day. I felt so productive and comfortable at the same time, and felt I was more creative than I usually am in my office. I can see how it would be hard for some people, but I loved it.

Life lately on Pass the Cookies

After my workday was over, Will took a break from studying and we trekked outside. It was still snowing and sleeting and the winds were incredible at times, but it was nice to explore the white scenery. As a typical North Carolinian, I wore two coats and two pairs of socks to make sure I stayed warm enough. We walked around the neighborhood and admired the frozen landscape. The sleet had left a sheet of ice on everything around, including individual pine needles. After a while the whipping winds started pelting sleet at our faces we decided we had been outside long enough. The whole experience reminded me of the illustrations in a book my mom used to read to my siblings and me when we were little called Brave Irene, about a girl carrying a dress through a huge snowstorm for her sick mother.

Life lately on Pass the Cookies

The rest of the weekend was filled with family, relaxation, warm blankets and leggings. I wish we had a little more of the snow to extend the slow-paced days, but I’m also accepting the melting of snow as a good step towards our regular routines. After two days of working from home with snowy surroundings, going back to the office in the ice was not as fun, and Tuesday felt like Thursday, which is never satisfying. Snow, would you please come back? Just for a little longer?

Life lately on Pass the Cookies

chocolate chip cookie bars

Sometimes you just need a little comfort food. Chocolate chip cookie bars seem like the perfect comforting food for all of this snow and cold weather.

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

And when you run out of groceries and don’t want to leave the house in the snow, you do what you can with what you have ;) These chocolate chip cookie bars are ooey, gooey, studded with chocolate chunks and healthier than regular chocolate chip cookies! They don’t contain any butter and no one will ever guess that they are made partially with whole wheat flour! Shh, I won’t tell you friends either.

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

They are so delicious when they are warm and the chocolate is melty, but are also great cool with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate. They have a deep flavor, due to the olive oil, dark chocolate and sea salt and can be chopped into little squares for snack, or big bars for dessert.

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

The best part about these chocolate chip cookie bars (besides the chocolate) is that you can throw them together super quickly and only need one bowl for the whole shebang! Fewer dishes to wash plus gooey cookie bars? Perfect! I love using chopped chocolate in my baked goods instead of chocolate chips because, without the waxy coating that chocolate chips have, it melts in pools and spread throughout the treats better. Trader Joe’s Pound Plus chocolate bars are my go-to for any type of chocolate dessert – you get a huge bar to chop up for a great price. The dark or bittersweet chocolate pair so well with the subtle sea salt and olive oil flavors, but you can use semisweet if that is more your taste too. As long as there is ample chocolate, no one will complain. :)

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

How have you been faring in winter storm Jonas? I hope yours was filled with snow and chocolate and no sight of the real world that is creeping back in.

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

These melty chocolate chip cookie bars are the ideal dessert for your snow days, or your non-snow days.

Whole Wheat Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

¾ cup all purpose flour
¾ cup whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons canola or other neutral flavored oil
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup sugar
1 egg
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ teaspoon sea salt
6 ounces (about 1 cup) dark chocolate, chopped (or chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line an 8×8-inch baking dish with parchment paper and set aside.

In a medium bowl, mix together the oils, sugars, egg and vanilla until fully combined. Stir in flours, baking soda and salt until the dry ingredients are almost fully incorporated but a few streaks of flour still visible. Fold in the chocolate.

Pour the batter into your prepared baking dish and press down gently to spread the dough evenly throughout the pan. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the pan comes out clean (except for some melted chocolate). Allow the bars to cool for 10 minutes before removing them from pan by pulling out the parchment paper and cutting into squares. These are sometimes easier to cut once they have fully cooled, but we all know that melty chocolate is the best :)

Warm chocolate chip cookie bars are the best and easiest comfort food!

link love

Happy snowmageddon to my East Coast friends!  It is more like an icemageddon here.  I hope you are all staying warm, wherever you are.

link love 1.22.2016 via Pinterest

I just love the internet.  It is usually such a wonderful place to be, full of ideas and inspiration.  I know it isn’t like that everywhere, but that is where I choose to spend my browsing time. :) Here are some of the ideas from this week:

We’ll start out with the perfect link for a snow day, and for this blog:  cookies of the world.  I love the idea of making cookies from different cultures and nations, and is there any better day than a snow day?  Which should we try first?

Adele, oh Adele.  Ever wanted to have an Adele sing-along in your carpool?  Well, here you have it.

Shifting gears completely, this link is our creative bit of the day.  The 12 best paper flower artists to follow are all amazing.  With all of that creative inspiration, you want to make your own now though.  I understand and I bring you the DIY paper heart leaf philodendron (yes, I used those big flower words for you, Mum).  If a philodendron isn’t your thing, or you just want to make a paper plant you can pronounce, try one of these large paper house plants, small plants, or cardboard cacti.  I think the fiddle leaf fig tree is my favorite.

“Did you add value to the lives of the people you interacted with? Did they walk away with more knowledge, energy, goodwill, help, a better understanding? You want to make sure you communicated clearly in a way that added value for them and met goals for you.”   This article on the best pieces of advice for entrepreneurs is a great read, and not solely applicable to entrepreneurs.  It is great for anyone who strives to be a leader in their workplace or their area. 

And I’ll leave you with this article about things you should do for yourself every day.  Laugh, straighten up after yourself, bring a sweater everywhere, and my favorite piece of advice, “remind yourself that your body is not something for you or others to judge – it’s a vessel that allows you to explore the world, communicate with others, try new things, and experience new feelings.”  Now, go forth and have a great snow day!!!

Valentine’s Day Gift Guide for Care Packages

Can you believe Valentine’s day is less than one month away?!  I have been so engulfed in the start of the new year starting that Valentine’s day seems to be sneaking up on us.  Luckily, we still have plenty of time to prep without stress.  Growing up, my brother, sister and I would come downstairs in the morning to find a small heart-shaped box of chocolates and sometimes a small gift at our seat at the table.  When I left for college, my mom still made a point to deliver a care package with cute Valentine’s goodies like chocolate, nail polish, socks and paper decorations that I could use to decorate my dorm room.  It was such a fun surprise to peak into those boxes.  I collected some items in this Valentine’s day gift guide that would be great in a Valentine’s care package or box for your friends and sisters (or girlfriends and wives, guys.  hint, hint.).


Valentine's day gift guide is full of great ideas for a care package for your girlfriends and sisters!

Zig zagging down from top left: 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8 / 9 / 10 / 11 / 12 / 13

Can we all take a moment to revel in the beauty of the pink and crystal earrings and the fun sparkle of the glitter earrings?  It makes me happy just to look at them :)  The gold bracelet seems plain and classic until you look closely at the engraved words on the inside that read “heart of gold.”  Fitting for Valentine’s day, I’d say.

I love me a bright lipstick and freshly painted nails.  MAC makes some of my favorite bright lipsticks.  I love Ruby Woo, Lady Danger (pictured above) in reds and Pink Nouveau (pictured above) and Please Me for pinks. When I’m not feeling as adventurous, I keep a Clinique Chubby Stick in my purse at all times for everyday wear.  Essie has beautiful blush colors that are so popular right now, and what makes painting your nails at home even better is this nail dryer!  It is like bringing the salon home with you and you can use it over and over again for a cheaper manicure!

I don’t think it is possible to have too many socks, and in this cold weather it feels great to keep my skin hydrated with fresh floral lotion and my feet warm with cute socks.

If you have a weekend trip planned for Valentine’s day, this 36 Hours in the USA and Canada book is the perfect planning guide.  The New York Times guide to 150 weekends in North America is a great way to narrow down your trip choices and help create a great trip itinerary for your weekend.  It also makes a great coffee table book and conversation starter when you aren’t using it.

With all of these small trinkets and gifts, a cute pouch or bag is a great way to carry or compile them into a wonderful gift package.  So do as the bag says and treat yourself or treat someone else this Valentine’s day with some small, cute gifts from this Valentine’s day gift guide :)

champagne cake with rose buttercream

It’s celebration time! I mentioned earlier this year that Pass the Cookies has been up and running for one year now, and what a better way to celebrate than with a naked champagne cake with rose buttercream and some beautiful flowers?  If dreams were photos, these would be them.

Celebration time with this beautiful champagne cake with rose buttercream!  www.passthecookies.com

Celebration time with this beautiful champagne cake with rose buttercream!

Sometimes I look back and realize how quickly time passes. I don’t always recognize it until time has flown past and I’m left wondering where the days, weeks and months have gone. Last year I struggled to get to bed by midnight, still holding onto college hours even though I am past my college years and fully in the working world with a non-negotiable early wake-up time. I always try to squeeze more and more into my days and cross every single thing off my to-do list.  I can function on little sleep better than some, but I know I shouldn’t.  When Will is up late studying, I rationalize postponing my bedtime because he is awake too. It doesn’t make sense and it isn’t a good solution. He truly has a reason to stay awake – to do well in school. My reason is to keep working on things that can usually wait until the next day. I fall into a habit of going to bed late, just to feel exhausted the next day. I tell myself that I should go to bed earlier, but then the clock ticks later and later and I feel like I need to get one more thing done, just one more item crossed off the list. And so the routine continues.

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link love

You know what is even better than a Friday?  A Friday before a long weekend.  Three cheers for three day weekends!!!

link love 1.15.2016

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There was a lot going on across the internets this week.  Here we go.

First, we have the Powerball.  There was lots and lots of money to be won out there this week – $1.5 BILLION.  But what could you buy with that much money? Apparently the nine most expensive houses in New York, but not BuzzFeed.  I love this article.

If you did win $1.5 billion, you wouldn’t have to worry about paying for that extra suitcase when you fly.  For the rest of us, let’s settle that great packing debate of folding or rolling.  I used to be a roller, but with such scientific results, I may convert.

We saw two deaths this week of exceptional people.  Bowie and Alan Rickman (better known as Professor Snape to some) passed this week, both at age 69.  You’ll be missed!

The Oscar nominations were released yesterday – have you started your ballot yet?!  I did pretty poorly this year in the movie scene and have only seen one of the nominations.  Over this long weekend I want to see at least one more of the Oscar nominated movies I have not yet watched.  Any recommendations?

The Oscar goes to the person who was the best at their job this year.  Don’t we all want to be the best at what we do?  Can we learn how?  At the very least, we can read about it.

date ideas on a budget

After 8+ years of dating, Will and I have some go-to dates, but we always love new adventures and ideas. With Will’s clinicals beginning soon, we have been thinking of dates ideas we can use for the short amount of free time he will have after the Step exam and before clinicals start.  I have rounded up a few of our favorite date ideas, as well as some we would like to try!

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  We love a good picnic (or indoor picnic)!

1.  Go on a picnic or have an indoor picnic.  This is one of our staple dates and one we have always loved.  We went on tons of picnics in high school and college, and have continued the tradition during our marriage.  In the spring, summer and fall we love finding a garden or field, but in the winter months, we are just as happy spreading out a blanket on the floor of our living room, placing a vase of flowers and some tasty bites on top and spending time chatting and eating.  It is a fun way to have a casual meal that is nearby and on a budget.

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  Coffee shop dates are the best kinds of dates.

2.  Have a coffee date at a local coffee shop.  I love small coffee shops.  I love the atmosphere, the delicious drinks and baked goods, and the buzz of quiet chit chat.  Now that I am working and don’t often have the breaks I did in college, it always feels like a treat to actually sit down and have a drink at a coffee shop.  This winter, Will and I started a new tradition of having one morning coffee date before work after the university had let out for winter break.  We were the only two people in the shop at 7am, and it was wonderful to be able to share some quiet coffee time before the day got going.

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  Taking a walk or hiking is one of our favorites.

3.  Go on a walk or hike.  Greenways, trails, parks, lakes, and pretty neighborhoods are all great places that are probably nearby.  Take advantage of them and go on a walk together.  We like to take in our surroundings, commenting on houses we like if we are in the neighborhoods, or magnificent nature sights on the trails and greenways.  We find that it is a great way to talk about anything and everything, trivial to daunting, while being active and enjoying our surroundings.

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  Hang out in a bookstore and plan a dream (or real) vacation with the travel books. Our trip to Scotland wouldn't have been complete without a hike up beautiful Arthur's Seat

4.  Go to a bookstore, pick out a few travel books and plan a dream (or real) vacation. In high school, Will and I usually made it to Barnes and Noble by the end of our dates.  Before we could drive (such babies), we would often have our parents drop us off at a local shopping center and go to a movie or to dinner.  Barnes and Noble stayed open until 11pm, later than all of the other stores, so in order to extend our dates, we inevitably ended up there.  We often grabbed a few travel books and sat in the coffee shop while we looked at the amazing photos together.  We both love traveling and would sometimes create dream trips based on the pictures and recommendations in the travel books.  It is always fun and hopefully someday we can take those trips!

5.  Practice your skills in the kitchen and cook a meal together. Will and I cook dinner together most nights, depending on our schedules. While we often try new recipes, we tend to make meals that are quick and/or easy. On special occasions or weekends when we have more time, it is sometimes fun to choose a more difficult, time-consuming recipe, turn on some music and work together to make a delicious dinner. It is cheaper than going out to eat all the time, we are usually impressed with the results and we have so much fun while making the meal.

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  Take a day trip for some new scenery and activities.

6.  Take a day trip. Hop in the car on a Saturday morning, head to a new town and explore!  We love doing this day-long date!  It is great to have time in the car for great conversations, then to explore and have fun in a new place when we arrive.  We have most of the day to spend in our town of choice, and can still spend the night in our own beds.

These brown butter blondie dark chocolate brownie candy swirled bars are rich, delicious and melty.  They are the perfect way to use up your leftover Halloween candy and welcome November!

7.  Make your own popcorn and snacks and watch your favorite tv series or a movie on your couch. I know you love Netflix as much as we do. We don’t watch tv very often so we end up starting a series after it has already been out for at least a season.  This works out great (or maybe not so great for productivity) because we can watch episode after episode after episode when we get hooked since they are already out (read: House of Cards binge).  Watching a movie or a tv series with delicious treats from the comfort of our own home is a great date, especially since we can stay in pajamas the whole time :)  Some great treats for a movie night in are brown butter blondies, pretzel crusted caramel cookie barsblondie-dark chocolate brownie swirl bars, brown butter chocolate chip sea salt cookies, double chocolate espresso cookies, and chocolate pound cake.

8.  Go on a behind-the-scenes tour.  Find a brewery, vineyard, restaurant, or other factory in your area that gives behind-the-scenes tours and learn something new together.  We have gone on a few of these and always have a great time!

9.  Have an at-home tasting.  Whether wine, beer, chocolate, cheese, cookies, pizza, whatever you like, grab a few types, bring them home and have fun comparing them together.  Pretend like you are critics and make notes about each one.  Do this a few times and you will eventually be able to find the best of each category, the ones each of you like the most.

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

10.  Be a tourist in your own town.  Sometimes we get caught up with our everyday routines and miss things that are going on all around us.  It can be fun to play tourist in your own town, or in the surrounding cities, for a day, trying new eateries, drink spots, shops and sites.  Google your town and see what tourists would see if they were to plan a visit to your area, check out your local community calendars to learn about local events, or just take a walk on the downtown streets to see what you’ve missed.  Don’t forget to take the camera or snap photos like a tourist on your phone (selfie sticks get extra points)!  (The photo above is from our local tourist moment at the Christmas parade!)

We are always looking for fun date ideas!  Bouncing around local coffee shops, breweries, bakeries and eateries are some of our favorite dates.

11.  Try out local bakeries, coffee shops, breweries and eateries in your area.  Try out the local places and find your favorite!  We love trying all of the local shops and creating a list of our favorites for when out-of-town friends and family come to visit.  It is nice to have local places we know we love and can go to on a whim.

Cooler temperatures call for warmer drinks.  This pumpkin spice latte  syrup is perfect for your homemade pumpkin spice latte!  www.passthecookies.com

12.  Practice your barista or bartender skills and make drinks for each other at home.  Making drinks at home is a fun way to get to know each other better and taste some delicious cocktails or coffee drinks for a cheaper bill than going out.  Choose a theme, gather inspiration from menus and online lists, and impress your date with your mixing skills and latte art.  Blanking on ideas? The pumpkin spice latte is a good place to start!

These are a few of our favorite date ideas, and some we can’t wait to try, but we’re always looking for more!  I’d love to hear your date ideas!

coconut chai latte

Winter finally arrived and I just want to curl up in a blanket on the couch and wrap my hands around a warm mug of this coconut chai latte.

Cold days call for coconut chai lattes! This cozy coconut chai latte tastes like a cup of spiced decadence, but won't break your new year's resolutions. www.passthecookies.com

I complained about the crazy warm weather we were having around Christmas.  I want it to be cold and feel like winter at Christmas time and it was not cold at all.  Earlier this week the temperatures shifted from the 60s and 70s to the 20s, 30s and 40s, and had me biting my tongue.  I did wish for colder weather, I just wasn’t prepared for how cold it would really feel.

Cold days call for coconut chai lattes! This cozy coconut chai latte tastes like a cup of spiced decadence, but won't break your new year's resolutions. www.passthecookies.com

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