April 2018 archive

8 artists i’m loving lately

I have been on the lookout for a print or piece of art for a blank wall of our guest bedroom for almost a year now. My search has taken so long partially because I’m picky and want the piece to be perfect, and partially because I know it will be an investment and if I’m going to spend a good amount of money I want to LOVE it. On this quest to find my dream artwork, I have found some great artists, some of them small, some of them more well known. There are many more out there that I haven’t had the chance to see, but I wanted to share some of my recent favorites.

8 Artists I'm Loving Lately | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.comphoto via Brooke Chamblee

Melody Joy McMunn – Melody Joy Art is my current art crush. I am a sucker for a good abstract, especially when it involves blues, and she has so much beautiful work in that category. I have my eye on one of her pieces and a birthday coming up, so we’ll see how it turns out ;)

Morgan Rollinson – Morgan is a local artist in the Triangle. Though I’m sure she doesn’t remember me, I actually met Morgan briefly at the Southern Weddings gingerbread barn building competition when she was working for the company. I love her fun citrus and greenery paintings (locals, find her work at FINDS in Raleigh).

Rachael Bush – Rachael is another local Triangle artist (locals, you can find her at the Midtown Farmers Market in North Hills). Though I don’t know her personally, I went to middle school and college with her cousins. Her abstracts, florals, and beautiful calligraphy always get me heart-eyed.

Anna Vaughn – The third and final local Triangle artist in this post, Anna Vaughn dubs herself a Southern expressionist artist, and creates beautiful abstract landscapes (locals, find her work at ArtSpace in Raleigh until April 28th!). I love how she uses unexpected colors and brushstrokes to depict landscapes in different ways. And an interesting fact: she and Rachael Bush (above) are related!

Blakely Made – Moving a little further south to Charleston, we find Blakely Little of Blakely Made. I’m not sure how I found her, but have followed Blakely on Instagram for a long time. I love her fun take on sailboats, landscapes, and monochromatic scenes. The marshy landscapes and front porch railings in her paintings take me right to the Charleston shores where she paints.

Theresa Losa – Theresa Losa is a more well known artist than some of the women listed above, selling some of her artwork at Serena and Lily. While her pieces are definitely out of my budget, and not quite in my decorating scheme, her linear and abstract ski and swim paintings are so fun and so original!

Kim Collinson – Another wonderful abstract artist is Kim Collinson. I love her style and the way she layers the paint on her canvases. Her work is sold on One Kings Lane and Serena and Lily, and is again well out of my price range, but still so beautiful to admire.

EMYO – The last artist on the list is Emily of EMYO. Emily is an impressionist who creates gorgeous scenes and fun florals typically with more muted, but beautiful, colors. I love her boat and park scenes.

our favorite Trader Joe’s items

Trader Joe’s is a magical place.

Our Favorite Trader Joe's Items | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

There wasn’t a Trader Joe’s near our house growing up, but I took fiddling lessons in the same shopping center as one of their stores in high school. After my lessons, my dad and I would pick up a fun snack for the 35-minute car ride home. It wasn’t until I began grocery shopping on my own that I realized Trader Joe’s is great for so many more items than just car snacks (though it is a mecca for those too). Now, Will and I stop by our local TJ’s as part of our weekly grocery shopping trip to pick up some of our favorite Trader Joe’s items. Some of these items are only sold at Trader Joe’s, but for those that are sold elsewhere, we find that Trader Joe’s has the best price or our favorite version of the product.

  • Almond butter – we get the unsalted version and the only ingredient is almonds!
  • Apples – we love the bags of Honeycrisps or individual Pink Lady apples (sometimes called Cripps Pink)
  • Clementine cranberry sparkling water – the best sparkling water flavor they sell, in our opinion
  • Pound plus dark chocolate bars – I chop these to use in cookies instead of, or in addition to, chocolate chips. The chocolate is delicious and melts better than chocolate chips.
  • Raw nuts – typically almonds and pecans, but I love that they carry hard-to-find raw cashews and hazelnuts
  • Brussels sprouts on the stalk (when in season)
  • Flowers – they have great prices on cut flowers and plants!
  • “Just Mango Slices” – dried mangos without any additional sweeteners
  • Other dried fruits – we especially love the apricots
  • Peanut butter filled pretzels – these were one of my favorite post-run snacks when I was training for my marathon
  • Dried lentils – these make for a quick, filling dish!
  • Cheese isn’t a staple on our list, but we like to pick up cheese from Trader Joe’s when we host people for dinner or when we make a special dish. Trader Joe’s has a pretty good selection and their cheeses are often less expensive than they are at other stores.

What are your favorite Trader Joe’s items? What should we add to our list?

coconut cream pie

I have three favorite pies: chocolate chess pie, bourbon chocolate chip pecan pie, and coconut cream pie. Not just any coconut cream pie, but the kind with a flaky crust, golden toasted coconut, rich, pastry cream-like coconut filling, and the fluffiest homemade whipped cream. My love of coconut cream pie is not necessarily because of my southern background, as we never made them at home, but my location definitely enabled my exposure to and exuberance for the delicious pie.

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

After a particularly rough day during my freshman year of college, I called my mom to vent, talk, and probably cry. She worked about 30 minutes away, which was far enough that I didn’t see her very often, but close enough that she could come over if I needed her to. This arrangement was great for laundry, rides home, and on this particular day, pie. That day, when I was in a typical freshman slump, she dropped everything, picked me up from my dorm, and took me down the road to Foster’s Market where we each picked out a slice of pie to share with each other. There isn’t much that one-on-one time with mum and a slice of pie can’t fix.

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

We continued this tradition of going out for pie to catch up during the semester even after freshman year and deemed these outings our “pie dates.” After years of picking out pie from the cold chest at Foster’s coconut cream pie was always our favorite. To this day, years after graduation, we still go out on pie dates. We have added new pies and new restaurants to the mix, but when coconut cream pie is on the menu, you better believe it will be on our table.

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

I hadn’t had a great cream pie until those pie dates. Not everyone in my family likes coconut, so coconut-filled desserts were not something we tried very often at home, but because we had access to many great restaurants who serve a good southern cream pie, I still say that my southern location enabled my love for coconut cream pie.

This coconut cream pie is based heavily on my memories of my first Foster’s Market pie. With it’s buttery, flaky crust, thick coconut pastry cream filling, delicious homemade whipped cream topping, and a side of good ‘ol nostalgia, it is forever my favorite.

Coconut Cream Pie
Pie
3 cups half-and-half
¼ cup cornstarch, sifted
4 eggs
¾ cup sugar
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
3 tablespoons butter
1 9-inch pie dough

Topping
1 ½ cups heavy cream
¼ cup + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
coconut flakes/chips, toasted

Pie
Preheat your oven to 450 degrees F. Press your pie crust against the sides and bottom of a pie dish. Fold a layer of the crust under at the top of the pie dish and pinch to create the edge of your pie crust. Cover the pie dough with aluminum foil or parchment paper and weight it down with dry beans or pie weights. Bake the pie crust 10-12 minutes, or until golden. Set aside to cool completely.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine ½ cup of the half-and-half and the cornstarch. Add the eggs and mix thoroughly.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix the remaining 2 ½ cups half-and-half, sugar, salt, and vanilla. Bring the mixture to a low boil, stirring every now and then until the sugar dissolves. Slowly pour 1 cup of the sugar mixture into the egg mixture while whisking. Whisking constantly, pour the tempered egg mixture back into the saucepan with the rest of the sugar mixture. Continually whisking, cook over low heat until thick, about 5-8 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the butter until melted, then the coconut. Let the filling cool slightly before filling the pie crust.

After it has cooled a bit, pour the filling into the cooled pie shell and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

Whipped Cream and Assembly
In the bowl of an electric mixer, whip the cream until loose peaks form. Add the sugar and vanilla and whip until stiff peaks form. When you are ready to serve the pie, top it with the whipped cream and toasted coconut.

This classic coconut cream pie has a perfectly flaky crust, rich, coconut pastry cream filling, fluffy homemade whipped cream, golden-toasted coconut, and a side of good 'ol nostalgia. | Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

lemon poppy seed coconut macaroons

Coconut is a divisive ingredient. I am obviously strongly on team coconut, but a few members of my family are vehemently opposed to the contentious ingredient appearing in any recipe. I get it, but I will forever continue to make coconut goodies for the good of the rest of us ;) Sometimes I can hide coconut in recipes (like granola or coconut cake), but coconut macaroons are all about showcasing the white flakes of goodness.

Lemon poppy seed coconut macaroons are crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and surprisingly simple to make!| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Lemon poppy seed coconut macaroons are crisp on the outside, chewy on the inside, and surprisingly simple to make!| Pass the Cookies | www.passthecookies.com

Coconut macaroons have the perfect balance of textures – crunchy on the outside, but moist and chewy on the inside. With only a few ingredients, they are so simple to make. This lemon poppy seed version is packed with fresh, zesty citrus flavor that combines with the coconut for a wonderful spring treat. As with most coconut macaroons, this lemon poppyseed version is Passover-friendly, for those of you celebrating! (more…)

april goals

Happy April! April is my favorite month of the year – the temperatures are finally warm, flowers and trees are blooming, and my birthday rounds out the month perfectly ;)

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

After what seems like a longer winter than usual, I’m so excited to finally have some spring weather. Sometimes I don’t even realize it until spring arrives, but the warmer weather, longer days, and colorful blooming plants all really improve my mood. I just want to be outside all the time! I always feel like the start of spring and changing season is a great time to reevaluate and set new goals too. I’m excited for April, and for all it has in store (hopefully a lot of time outside!)!

March Goals
– Celebrate Will’s birthday! – Yay, 26!
Cut sugar for one week (I have gotten into a bad habit of wanting something sweet daily). – I did this the week before my marathon.
– Wake up early enough to enjoy a slow morning before work at least two days a week. “Slow morning” meaning I have at least 15 minutes of free time before/after getting ready for the day. – This was rough after daylight savings time hit, but definitely got better throughout the month! For the last two weeks I added “slow a.m.” to each day of my agenda, which was a great reminder and made it much easier to track. I loved these slow mornings and will definitely be adding this to my goals list again.
– Run a marathon!!! Eek! I’m so excited and so nervous about this one, but I have done my best to train for it over the past few months. – Yay, yay, yay! I did it! I ran a marathon! Of all of my goals, monthly, yearly, and long-term, this is one of the ones that I am most proud to accomplish!
– Enjoy our weekend in D.C. – Our weekend in D.C. was so wonderful and so much fun! I kicked it off with the marathon and we were able to spend time with lots of family and friends.
– Do core strengthening exercises at least twice a week. Because I have been focusing on running lately, I haven’t been very good at incorporating other exercises. I know core strengthening will help prevent injuries and improve my balance while running and while going about my days. – I didn’t do this before I ran my marathon on the 10th, but I’m considering it a success because I added 2-3 days of toning exercises a week after that, which was more than half the month.
– Post the rest of our Paris pictures. – See part I, part II, and part III!
– Do less Instagram scrolling. There are so many other things I could be doing, but I have gotten into the habit of checking Instagram whenever I am on the bus, walking home, or waiting for something (i.e. water to boil, bus to arrive, etc.). I know I could be more productive if I wasn’t directing my attention to the app. – I may have scrolled a bit less, but overall, I wouldn’t consider this one a success. Adding it to the list again this month.
– Print and frame photos from Paris. – Bonus, I hung two of them too!
– Get in bed by 11:00 pm four nights a week. I would love to add “get more sleep” to this list of goals, but I’m going to start small with the task of just getting in bed. If this is successful, maybe next month we can graduate to actually getting more sleep ;) – I accomplished getting in bed by 11 most nights a week, but definitely wasn’t near asleep. Since this went well, I’m hoping to do even better this month and actually get more sleep!

April Goals
– Continue to stick to a workout routine that makes me feel good with toning and running (maybe add biking back to this as the weather gets nicer!)
– Take weekly walks
– Plant herbs and veggies
– Finish our back patio area
– Celebrate my birthday! :)
– Get in bed by 10:45 p.m. and get to sleep by 11:15 p.m. (not just in bed) four nights a week
– Do less Instagram scrolling
– Do something or try somewhere new!