February 2017 archive

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!

whiskey caramel popcorn

I hope you had a wonderful Valentine’s Day yesterday! With Valentine’s Day behind us, I’m moving on to the next exciting event – the Oscars! There are so many Oscar nominated movies that I want to see and just haven’t had a chance to yet. And what pairs with movies better than popcorn? And even better than movie popcorn? Whiskey caramel popcorn.

Whiskey Caramel Popcorn | www.passthecookies.com

Whiskey Caramel Popcorn | www.passthecookies.com

Last week when I posted the recipe for chocolate cake with whiskey caramel buttercream and chocolate ganache frosting I mentioned that you should save the extra whiskey caramel. This is why. We are taking that whiskey caramel and pouring it over popcorn. On the flip side, if you haven’t gotten around to making the full cake, you can make this caramel as a fun addition to your snack today and use the rest for a delicious cake in the future. So many options! (more…)

link love

Welcome to the weekend! Do you have fun plans? My weekend is packed to the gills with work and family. This is one of those go-go-go times when everything needs to be done and there is no time to do all of it. Things like grocery shopping fall to the wayside on these types of weekends, but we have gotten pretty good at scouring the fridge ;) Do what you gotta do and keep plugging! Here’s to a few moments of relaxation and some fun times mixed in this weekend!

link love 2.10.2017
via

For your weekend morning reading in bed on your tablet, phone, or laptop, here is some link love from the week.

We started the new year off by organizing and cleaning closets, and have been on such a kick that when spring cleaning comes around hopefully everything will be easier. I’m still stocking up on advice to make the cleaning process more efficient (don’t worry, I’m reading Mari Kondo soon), and love these tips on how to spring clean your apartment without losing your mind.

Hindsight is always 20-20. I always find myself looking back at things that made my stress levels skyrocket in college and high school, and even just a few years ago in my jobs, and wish I could go back and tell my younger self what is worth the stress and worry and what to do to get where I want to be. I love these “words of advice to my younger self” from so many great women.

On a slightly similar topic, I have found that my mood can be totally affected by one or two things that happen during the day. I have to remind myself of all of the good things that happened that outweigh those few frustrations in order to not slump into a bad mood. Can we change our mood set point? I am so interested to try this.

This make me laugh out loud. It is hilarious.

I have always loved Reese Witherspoon. I used to watch Legally Blonde and Sweet Home Alabama with friends growing up and I’m pretty sure I know all of the words to the Sweet Home Alabama soundtrack because we would listen to it on repeat. Not only does she now have an amazing new clothing and home line (I mean, look at this fun tee and this perfectly Carolina cake plate), she started a production company to turn books with strong, complex, powerful female protagonists into films (think Wild, Gone Girl, etc). You go girl!

a january snow day

A month ago temperatures were in the single digits and snow and ice covered the ground. Today it is a balmy and humid 72 degrees. Winter swooped in and showed itself right out.

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

Snow only comes to North Carolina about once a year, twice if we’re lucky, but usually not until late January or February, so it was a shock to see meteorologists talking about snow in the first week of the new year. I honestly didn’t put much weight into the meteorologists’ predictions for snow when they first started talking about it early on in that week. I couldn’t believe that we would get snow so early! As it got closer and closer to the weekend, they started increasing their predictions for how many inches of the fluffy stuff we would get. They started with 4 inches, then upped it to 6, then they started predicting 8 inches of snow for our area and 12 in nearby cities and towns! Grocery stores were completely out of eggs, milk and bread in a matter of hours the day before “the big snow” (we don’t know how to handle snow very well here).

Friday night came and precipitation began to fall. Sleet came first, then snow started late and continued to fall through Saturday afternoon, piling up little by little.

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

I have found that the older I get, the more snow is a source of nuisance rather than source of fun, but having already figured out backup plans for work events the next week, and having the snow come down on Friday night and Saturday made this snow day so exciting! Will and I took advantage of our location and the empty roads and walked to our downtown shops to see what was open, catching falling snowflakes along the way.

Since we live in such a walkable area with a quaint and quirky downtown and lots of neighborhoods nearby, some of the shop owners and other residents had the same idea. On a whim, we popped into a local coffee shop and stayed warm with a cup of coffee, a press pot of tea and a slice of delicious galette de roi from a local bakery (fitting for the first weekend of January :) ). This impromptu coffee shop visit was one of the best parts of the snow day – it was so unexpected, cozy and fun and we felt like true community members! We watched out the large front windows of the shop as the snow fell and winds twirled the snowflakes around people walking boot-clad dogs.

There are a lot of temporary residents in our town (including us), transplanted from all over the country and the world to attend college, graduate or other professional schools here. This made for great people watching on a snowy day, as we could easily pick out people who had previously lived in colder areas (hint: puffer coats that came past their knees, full snowsuits, snow boots and face masks to block the wind; extra points if their dog had a full snowsuit too).

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

January Snow Day | www.passthecookies.com

While these 70 degree days are beautiful, I’m not sure I’m ready for them to stay. I wasn’t expecting winter to leave so soon and it doesn’t feel like February without the cold weather. Maybe these pictures will bring us a few more weeks of cold? Just a few.

chocolate cake with whiskey caramel buttercream and dark chocolate ganache frosting

Whew, what a name. What started as a simple request for chocolate birthday cake turned into chocolate cake with whiskey caramel buttercream frosting and dark chocolate ganache frosting, one of the best cakes I have ever made.

Chocolate Cake with Whiskey Caramel Frosting and Dark Chocolate Ganache aka one of the best cakes I have ever made | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Cake with Whiskey Caramel Frosting and Dark Chocolate Ganache aka one of the best cakes I have ever made | www.passthecookies.com

I have said it before, but I’m not a huge cake fan. It is really the frostings that make me want to try the cake. I feel like most cakes are very similar, often lacking in flavor and the frostings really enhance them and make them stand out. I have tried a lot of chocolate cake recipes and they usually take more effort than they are worth. I used to make boxed chocolate cakes and top them with homemade frostings – no one knew they weren’t entirely homemade. Sure, they were airier than I would have liked and lacked a super chocolatey flavor, but they were a lot easier than busting out 5 separate bowls just to make the cake layers. (more…)

link love

Here we are. It is Friday again – the first one of February. It seems like as each week passes, more and more news comes out that we never saw coming. It seems silly not to bring it up, but I do think we need cheerful things to brighten the days that could otherwise slowly but surely drag us down. Let’s make it a good Friday today.

link love 2.3.2017

via

I joke with Will that the most valuable invention to me would be a machine that I can step in and it would give me a shower, wash my face, and brush my teeth all at the same time. I usually rave about this wondrous machine when I am exhausted after going in too many directions all day and don’t want to have to spend the time to do all of those things individually. We have this idea that we need to be involved, work hard in our jobs, stay in touch with friends, spend time with our families, exercise, make healthy home cooked meals, and on and on. How do we prioritize when everything seems important?! I have been reading the book Grace, Not Perfection, which does a great job of explaining that we don’t have to be perfect at everything we do. Like this book and this article both say, pick a few and manage them well- we don’t have to do it all!

North Carolina has not been in the national news for positive reasons recently, but this teacher changed that this week. He created individualized handshakes for each of his 5th grade students and the video went viral! It is really impressive and shows how impactful teachers can be in students lives, in the classroom and outside of it.

The big news in pop culture this week was Beyonce announcing her twin pregnancy in a very Beyonce photoshoot, including underwater photos and photos of the star surrounded by flowers in Garden of Eden-esque scenery.

I keep coming back to these cupcakes, which means I should probably make them. Cardamom + brown butter? Sounds irresistible.

Red state, blue city is all too true in North Carolina, and in so many other states. Compromising is difficult when people don’t understand how others live and think, but we have to get there somehow.

Happy happy Friday!!! I hope your weekend is wonderful!

february goals

I’m not sure how, but January felt like it both zoomed by and also lasted forever. While I didn’t cross off every goal on my January goals, I’m really proud of the goals I did accomplish in January. We accomplished a lot of tasks that weren’t even on the January to-do list (but I now wish I had included for the gratification of crossing them off the list). All of this made for an extremely productive and gratifying month. I am excited to enter February head-first with the momentum that we generated in January.

February Goals | www.passthecookies.com

January Goals:
Take down and find storage for Christmas decorations
Clean out and organize the hall closet
Clean out and organize 2nd bedroom closet
Deep clean upstairs bathroom
Get plant for living area
Hang framed art in our room
Go on a date and spend intentional time with Will before shelf/STEP studying kicks into high gear
Do toning exercises twice a week
Make Valentine’s cards! :)

February Goals:
Make and send Valentine’s Day cards
Do toning exercises twice a week
Deep clean upstairs bathroom
Clean up one room for at least 5 minutes a day (rotate rooms)
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 day
Purge my closet of things I no longer want or need
Make 2 pieces of art for bedroom
Go to 1-2 places on our Triangle bucket list

As a reminder,  my guiding goals and intentions for the year are in this post. How are your goals going?!