January 2018 archive

red wine brownies

When Monday and Tuesday feel like they could be a full week in and of themselves, fudgy red wine brownies are a much deserved treat. Because, yes, red wine and brownies, all in one.

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade brownies are one of my favorite desserts. Until I was about halfway through high school I had only ever had boxed brownies. We always made the Ghirardelli boxed brownies, which, don’t get me wrong, are the best boxed brownies you can find, but they don’t hold a candle to homemade brownies. I distinctly remember trying brownies that Will’s mom, now my mother-in-law, made for a family dinner when we were dating. I had never had a brownie so delicious. When I found out that she was using the recipe written by a local chef in a cookbook my family owned, I never looked back. From then on, it was homemade brownies or no brownies. The spin is sometimes different (these red wine brownies are a bit more risqué than the traditional dark chocolate walnut version), but the texture and flavors are just as amazing.

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

With February right around the corner, these super fudgy brownies with a hint of red wine flavor are perfect for your Valentine’s Day or galentine’s day celebration, for watching Olympic ice skating competitions or the Bachelor, or, if your week is like mine, for your Monday and Tuesday. ;)

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Joking aside, these brownies are the best of both worlds – intense fudgy chocolate with subtle red wine peeking through in each decadent bite. They are easy to throw together, and make a unique treat to serve to friends, dare I say, paired with a cup of red wine? Let’s make it over-the-top!

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

You can find this recipe over on Lexi’s blog, ready for your weeknight baking adventures. If you make these fudgy red wine brownies, be sure to tag me on Instagram (@hopehwoodhouse) and comment below! I’d love to see!

Fudgy Red Wine Brownies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

60 before 30

While I continually post my monthly goals, I have been thinking about creating a larger list of items I want to accomplish in the years to come, rather just in the current month. I have seen a few 101 in 1001 posts, where the goal-setter strives to achieve 101 things in 1001 days. I love this idea of setting a long period of time to work on bigger goals, so throughout the past few months I put together my own 60 before 30 list. With my 26th birthday approaching in April, 4.3 years may seem like a lot of time to finish 60 goals, but because of the life changes that I expect in our future (most notably, likely moving for Will’s residency and subsequently finding a new place to live, new routines, a new job, and a new support system), I’m giving myself some grace in the time period I have to accomplish these things.

60 before 30 | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Over the next few years I expect there will be things I wish I had added to the list, and things I don’t accomplish, and I’m okay with both of those. There is something gratifying about getting goals out of your head and actually recording them. Some of these goals are serious, some are fun, some I am confident I can accomplish, and some will be more difficult. I’ve split up this list into different areas, to make it easier to follow, and easier to mentally compartmentalize. As I achieve goals, I plan to come back here and update the list. I’m excited to get started and to share my progress throughout the next four years!

Start Date: January 24, 2018
End Date: April 24, 2021
Items Completed: 0/60

Travel and Adventure
1. Create and post a guide to the Triangle (which involves exploring new places, restaurants, cafes, etc around the area)
2. Try 5 new-to-us coffee shops in the Triangle
3. Try (at least) 5 new-to-us restaurants in the Triangle
4. Find a great coffee shop in a city/town we visit
5. Take another trip abroad
6. Go on a road trip in the western United States
7. Visit a state I have never been to before
8. Travel to a non-local town/city I haven’t been to before
9. Go on a trip with just Will
10. Go on a girls trip with my mom and sister
11. Watch a sunrise

Home and Family
12. Celebrate our four year anniversary (June 2018)
13. …and our five year anniversary (June 2019)
14. …and our six year anniversary (June 2020)
15. Start a savings account for a house
16. Learn about different ways to save money (specific accounts, funds, etc)
17. Buy another car
18. Move wherever Will’s residency takes us!
19. Prepare a room (or area, depending on where we live next) in our home for guests to stay in when they visit
20. Transfer all insurances and titles from our parents names to our names
21. Host a dinner party for friends
22. Send a Christmas card
23. Come up with 14 go-to dinners, at least 10 of which are plant-based
24. Cultivate five habits to make our life more “green”
25. Plant a small vegetable garden and actually take care of it
26. Plant herbs and keep them alive for at least half a year
27. Grow a cutting garden with a few types of flowers
28. Seasonally purge my closet of clothes I don’t wear
29. Have professional photographs taken of us
30. Grow our family
31. Start a new family tradition

Skills, Learning, and Hobbies
32. Master the top knot
33. Learn one new hairstyle
34. Expand my makeup skills by setting a time to learn from a makeup savvy friend
35. Bake yeast bread (I have never successfully made a yeasted bread!)
36. Stitch a needlepoint pillow
37. Stitch a needlepoint belt
38. Complete a DIY home project
39. Brush up on my French – get to at least 70% fluency on Duolingo
40. Learn a new skill or improve a current skill
41. Learn more about photography
42. Redesign the blog
43. Read three biographies
44. Read five fiction books
45. Read two classic books
46. Read five nonfiction books
47. Read every day for one month
48. Read the New Testament
49. Try a new workout class
50. Run two half marathons or one full marathon
51. Reach out to and meet other bloggers
52. Attend a workshop to enhance my career
53. Try new wines, learn more about them, and determine which types I typically like

54. Volunteer for a cause I’m passionate about
55. Donate blood
56. Pay for coffee for someone in line behind me
57. Send a small gift to five people out of the blue
58. Unexpectedly give to someone else (monetarily, time, gifts, etc.)
59. Send and unexpected card or package to a friend
60. Bring meals to friends who become new parents

Here we go! Do you share any of these goals? Can help keep me accountable for some in particular?

orange cranberry scones

Scones have always been one of my favorite treats for breakfast, brunch, or tea. They feel fancy but still cozy, and look impressive but are easy to make.

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Growing up, my dad would make chocolate chip scones for holiday breakfasts, and berry scones in the summer. We would snatch them warm out of the oven while the chocolate was still melty and the berries were juicy, scalding pockets of flavor amidst the soft, buttery breakfast bread.

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

For Christmas breakfast this past year, my dad went out on a limb and tried an orange cranberry variation that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind. This recreation of those delicious scones is perfect for citrus season. The fluffy, buttery scones taste so fresh and light with the addition of orange juice and orange zest, and the dried cranberries bring just the right amount of sweetness.

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Drizzle them with honey and an extra pat of butter and you’ve got the dreamiest of breakfasts, or cover them with clotted cream and jam for the most elegant and delicious tea with friends. No matter how you serve them, orange cranberry scones will be the stars of the show. I made these over the snow days last week and have been nibbling on them every day. I get so excited each morning to come downstairs and toast one to have with my tea for what feels like such a fancy breakfast. :)

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Orange cranberry scones are flaky, buttery, and moist with a fresh citrus flavor and the perfect amount of sweetness from dried cranberries.

Orange cranberry scones are flaky, buttery, and moist with a fresh citrus flavor and the perfect amount of sweetness from dried cranberries.

Orange Cranberry Scones
2 ¼ cups flour
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks), cold butter, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon orange zest (from 1 orange)
½ cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup orange juice (from 1 orange)
¼ cup plus 2 teaspoons milk
Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add the butter and cut it into the flour mixture using two knives, a pastry blender, or quick hands, until there are pea-sized clumps throughout the flour. Stir in the dried cranberries.

Combine the orange zest and orange juice and pour into the flour mixture. Add the milk and mix just until combined, being careful not to overwork the dough. If the dough is too dry, add additional milk, one tablespoon at a time.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and pat into a round or rectangle that is about 1 ½ to 2-inches thick. Cut into 6 to 8 pieces (6 for large scones, 8 for reasonable-sized scones ;)) and put each piece on a baking sheet a few inches apart from each other. Brush the tops of the dough with egg wash and bake for 15 minutes, or until golden. Serve immediately.

Scones are best the day they are made, however, you can make the dough ahead of time and refrigerate until you are ready to bake them.

Orange Cranberry Scones | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

link love

What a week! Between a busy travel schedule last weekend (and for the first three weekends of January), and the 11+ inches of snow we got on Wednesday, I feel like the busyness and the restfulness have finally balanced each other out. While I have loved the trips I have taken so far this year, I’m excited to have a weekend at home.

link love 1.19.2018

There has been some great link love over the past week or two that I can’t wait to share with you. January always seems like a fresh start and a chance to try new things and see if they work better for you than routines you may have had last year. Many of this week’s links are related to that – improving routines, schedules, and efficiency to make you happier this year.

By now, I’m sure everyone has seen, heard, or read Oprah’s Golden Globes speech. Not only was it a great, compelling speech, but there are a lot of public speaking tips the rest of us can take from it. Leave it to Oprah to teach us a lesson while giving her own speech.

I talk to my college friends and my sister about this all the time: making (and keeping up with) friends as an adult can be hard. I love these linked posts that pool advice from lots of people who have made it work, some in very unconventional ways.

Some of my favorite links to share this week are from Emily Thomas’s and Nancy Ray’s “How We Do It” series on their blogs. The two started the series with posts about organizing and managing time, moved on to organizing and managing finances this week, and will continue with five more topics over the next month. I always love seeing how other people make tasks work for them, and in my goal of simplifying, I’m trying to re-read these posts for any takeaways I can put into place in my own life.

On the theme of simplifying and time management, I love this post on the importance of white space. This was one of my biggest reasons for wanting to simplify things this year –
to add more white space to my calendar so I could get greater enjoyment out of the things that I love and the things that fill my calendar.

Lastly, another how-to post focusing on something else I want to improve – time spent reading. I used to read all the time, but after busy college semesters, and now with other things occupying my free time, I often set books on the back burner. My reading list has grown and grown, and I want to start digging in to some of the (hopefully) great books! Carly’s post on how she reads a lot is filled with do-able actions that I sometimes push away because I don’t think I have time. Hopefully getting past that first step (having books on hand) will make it easier to get into the habit of reading regularly.

With that, I hope you have a wonderful weekend, and maybe a chance to implement some of these tips!

healthy breakfast cookies

Tis’ the season for new resolutions and healthy eating. While I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, I do like having a healthy reset after an indulgent holiday season. Healthy breakfast cookies are the perfect solution.

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Often times we struggle with healthy eating not because we are unsure of what is healthy and what is not, but because in the midst of our busy schedules, we don’t allow enough time to prepare healthy food and instead end up grabbing an unwholesome snack or heating up an unhealthy meal. Today we are going to combat that by making a big batch of healthy breakfast cookies to keep on hand for when you are running out the door in the morning, or when that 3pm hunger hits you at work.

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

My favorite thing to get at the local coffee shop on campus is a “banana chocolate ball,” made by a local bakery. I don’t even like bananas (it used to be marketed as a coconut chocolate ball, which was much more appetizing to me), but I have been getting these little balls of tasty goodness since I was in college and love them! I have tried to recreate them many times in the past, with many failures along the way, but I finally developed a close replica!

My version of these healthy breakfast cookies is gluten free, vegan, and naturally sweetened. It is filled with nuts for protein, with optional add-in ingredients to break up the flavors and texture. I like to add blueberries, additional chopped nuts, or, in this case, deep dark chocolate. Use the add-ins to make them your own and to change them up from week to week!

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Thanks to the banana and almond butter, these treats are soft and moist. They are filled with good ingredients and healthy enough for breakfast, snack, or even as a substitute for sugary desserts after dinner. I brought a bag of these to Paris with us a few weeks ago and even my hot chocolate and croissant-loving family was asking for them before we headed out in the morning.

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy Breakfast Cookies
Makes about 21 1½ tablespoon cookies

¾ cup dates, packed (soaked for 10 minutes in warm water and then drained)
¼ cup honey (or maple syrup if vegan)
1 medium ripe banana
2 tablespoons natural salted almond butter or peanut butter
¾ cup almond meal
½ cup rolled oats (if you are making these gluten free, make sure to get certified gluten free rolled oats)
½ cup unsweetened coconut
¼ cup almonds, chopped
¼ cup additional optional add-ins: dried fruit, chocolate chips, chopped chocolate, blueberries, flax seed, chopped nuts, etc.

In the bowl of a food processor, pour in the soaked dates and pulse until only small bits remain. Add the banana and almond butter and mix again until combined, scraping down the sides as needed.

Next add the almond meal and rolled oats and pulse until everything is combined. The dough will be sticky and wet, but should stick together when you scoop it.

Scrape your dough into a mixing bowl. If it feels too wet to the touch to form into cookies, add another few tablespoons of almond meal and/or oats and stir. If you want to add additional mix-ins, stir them into the dough now. I used dark chocolate chunks, but also love adding chopped pecans and craisins. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Scoop 1 ½ tablespoon balls of cookie dough onto your prepared baking sheet. They won’t expand so you can place them close together, without touching. Bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the tops have a hint of golden brown. Let the cookies set on the pan for a few minutes. Serve immediately.

Store leftovers in an airtight container for a few days. If you want to keep them longer, store them in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer. I love pulling these out of the freezer for a quick on-the-go breakfast or snack!

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Healthy Breakfast Cookies | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

january goals

This is the week of goals here! How have you been doing with yours? It feels like my December goals post was so so far away. So much has happened since then! In efforts to cultivate my goal of simplifying this year, I’m going to try to add one thing that will simplify my life to each month’s goals. This month I’m focusing on my home – decluttering and purging. I have read “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” and “A Simplified Life” which both give great tips on decluttering, but I’m still not very good at it. Wish me luck!

2018 january goals | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

December Goals
– Get all of our Christmas shopping done by December 17 (we’re so close already!)  YES! All of our Christmas shopping except for a few stocking stuffers was done by December 10th! This was one of the best things we did this season – it left room for more Christmas activities and I was less stressed about finishing our shopping than I have been in previous years.
– Continue to exercise and practice self-care as the season gets crazy. This includes getting more sleep than I have been getting recently.  Definitely didn’t get more sleep, but I did a great job at keeping up an exercise routine, so I’m marking this as completed.
– Post all of my gift guides by December 12 – Nope, but close. I should have switched this date with the date for finishing my Christmas shopping ;)
– Decorate for Christmas so our home is available for planned or impromptu holiday gatherings  Yes! I seriously cried when we had to take down the Christmas tree before we left on our New Year’s trip.
– Meal plan again – we have been going out of town so much that our meal planning fell to the side on weekends, which left us scrounging during the week. I want to get back to planning our meals again because it always makes the evenings less stressful. – Didn’t do a great job of this at all. Whomp whomp.
– Spend meaningful time with both of our families for Christmas celebrations Yes, yes, yes. We spent time with lots of family in December and it was all so wonderful.

January Goals
– Clean our apartment
– Purge at least one bag of things I don’t use or need
– Build in free time on our trips to make them relaxing rather than overwhelming
– Wake up early enough to enjoy a slow morning before work at least two days a week
– Get back to meal planning

What are your January goals? Any tips for decluttering? I’m all ears!


2018 goals

Happy 2018! I didn’t intend to take so much time off from blogging, but with a very busy holiday season I didn’t have much time to take and edit photos or write posts. I would usually stress about the next time I would be able to prepare a post, but I found such peace from spending time with friends and family over the holidays that I realized I haven’t had (or haven’t made time for) relaxation and rejuvenation in a long time. Instead of stressing about a certain number of blog or Instagram posts over the last few weeks, I focused on being present with the people I love and doing things just for enjoyment, not for social media. While I spent the end of 2017 rushed and exhausted, I entered 2018 refreshed and relaxed.

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but as you know, I do like regularly setting good goals. Last year my goal was growth, and I really feel like I achieved that in many aspects of my life. I grew in my professional life, creative abilities, skills, fitness, and toward the end of the year, in my ability to recognize when I need to simplify and slow down. I learned a lot and am excited to put it all to use this year.

I recently read the book, A Simplified Life, by Emily Ley. The principle of the book is that in our modern world we are living busy, overwhelming lives, and have a lot of things vying for our attention, but we can adjust some of these things to make life a little simpler so we have more time to enjoy those we love and the rest and activities that fill our tanks. As I learned in December, continuing at such a crazy pace will quickly drain me and eventually cause burnout. These lessons come at a fitting time, as 2018 is so fresh and I am coming off such a wonderful period of rejuvenating rest. My goal for this year is to put those lessons to use and simplify. It will be easier in some areas of life and very difficult in others, but I know it will make for a better year and a better me when I am with my family and friends.

I’m looking forward to getting back into blogging this week, and I’m so excited for what this new year holds! Happy new year, friends!