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?!

chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling

What the world needs now is love sweet love. As we get closer to Valentine’s Day I like to find ways to share love with people all around me. Passing around a few chocolate espresso sables with raspberry mascarpone filling is a good way to start.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate and Valentine’s Day are basically synonymous with each other, so while I grew up on royal icing frosted sugar cookie hearts, I knew we needed a chocolate alternative. And what better to pair with chocolate than espresso?! Chocolate and coffee is one of my favorite flavor combinations. In every form, the pair complements and brings out the best in each other.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Can I share a secret? I typically don’t like chocolate and raspberry together, or really chocolate with any fruits. Chocolate covered strawberries don’t entice me and I am less likely to choose a chocolate torte from the menu if raspberry sauce is included on top. So why am I making chocolate cookies with raspberry mascarpone filling? Because they break the mold.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

In smaller quantities, coffee is unnoticeable in chocolate baked goods – it merely adds depth and brings out the chocolate flavor. That is why you will almost always see coffee listed as an ingredient in brownies and chocolate cakes here on the blog. But here we use a little more – we want the espresso to shine next to the chocolate! By using dark cocoa powder, these cookies have an even deeper and more intense chocolate flavor. Bake them a little softer and they are like little brownies that melt in your mouth; bake them stiffer and they have the perfect crispness that you expect from shortbread or a typical sable cookie.

There is just enough raspberry jam to sweeten the mascarpone and make it slightly fruity, while still letting the tangy-ness of the mascarpone shine through. The coffee in the cookies adds to the equation as well and the multifaceted dessert comes out not too fruity, not too sweet, but very flavorful and absolutely delicious.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

Bake these up for your valentine, for your co-workers, for your family and friends, and share the love, sweet love.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling

Chocolate Espresso Sables
1 cup flour
½ cup powdered sugar
¼ cup dark cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon sea salt
2-3 tablespoons instant espresso powder*
½ cup (1 stick) butter, softened

Raspberry Mascarpone Filling
½ cup (1-8oz container) mascarpone
2 tablespoons raspberry jam

*If you aren’t a fan of coffee or the coffee and chocolate combination, just reduce the amount of espresso powder but don’t eliminate it. By keeping a little coffee, you will get a richer chocolate flavor without the added coffee taste.

To make the chocolate espresso sables
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, powdered sugar, cocoa powder, sea salt and instant espresso powder (all ingredients except for the butter). Add the softened butter to the dry ingredients and use your hands to work the ingredients together until the butter is fully incorporated.

Flour a flat work surface (cutting board, counter, etc) and roll the dough out onto the surface until it is about ¼-inch thick. Dip your cookie cutters in excess flour around the edges of the work surface and cut your shapes out of the dough. Transfer the cookie dough shapes to the prepared baking sheets, placing them a few inches apart from each other. Bake for 10-15 minutes, rotating halfway through. The baking time may increase or decrease depending on the size of your cookie cutters. I noticed that the smaller shapes only took about 8 minutes. Let the cookies cool on the baking trays for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

To make the raspberry mascarpone filling
In a small bowl, stir together the mascarpone and the raspberry jam until the mixture is fully combined and evenly pink throughout.

Match up the chocolate espresso sables by size. Use a knife, a spoon, or a pastry bag to place the raspberry mascarpone filling on a cooled cookie and place a matching size cookie on top. Gently press the two sides into the filling so they will stay together. As shown in the photos, you can also use the raspberry mascarpone filling as frosting on open-faced cookies or as a way to stack different sized cookies together and create a layered look.

Only fill the cookies you are going to eat or serve immediately. Uneaten cookies will get softer if you store them pre-filled, but will keep their structure if you store them not-yet-filled. Store the rest of the filling in a covered bowl or airtight container in the fridge to use when you eat or serve the rest.

Chocolate Espresso Sables with Raspberry Mascarpone Filling | www.passthecookies.com

link love

Sometimes January seems like a nice fresh start, and sometimes it just seems like the Monday of months. We got a little of both and I’m ready for February.

link love 1.27.2017via

So, on this last Friday of January, I hope you can spend some time sitting and enjoying a cup of coffee, tea or hot chocolate and spinning through some link love. Sitting and enjoying are key; walking and scrolling is not what we are going for today. Happy Friday. I hope yours is wonderful!

I never go to the movies, or even watch movies at home. Sometimes I feel like going to the movies is a waste of time that I could be using more productively (problem number one: I don’t know how to relax), but I also have a hard time justifying paying for a movie in theaters when I could stream Netflix on my computer for a small fraction of the price. Millennial problems. But, with so many well-reviewed movies out right now and the announcement of the Oscar nominees this week, I really want to see some of this year’s good movies! La La Land, Hidden Figures, Lion, Manchester by the Sea – which are worth seeing?!

Along with not knowing how to relax, I also overthink so many things! I know this is a problem, and one that so many people fall into, so I love this post about how to stop overthinking small issues. It helps determine the “small stuff” that you shouldn’t be sweating.

Did you attend a march last weekend? I went to our local one and was so inspired by all of the strong images and experiences I saw and heard from people all around the world who marched. It was amazing to see SO MANY PEOPLE come together, across cultures, ages, genders, races, even nationalities, over central issues. While we are in a time of huge division, the march brought so much hope and love to my week, and I hope that can continue. [The march was just the beginning. To continue to make a difference, educate yourself on who your representatives are, contact your members of congress (the Indivisible Guide gives great tips on this from former congressional staffers, and even provides a call script, and get involved in local town halls or organizations you are passionate about.

I wish I could accomplish half of the things in these two articles: how to never run out of ideas again and 20 life-changing habits. They seem to go with the January theme of fresh starts and new goals and routines, but February is just as good a time to start!

Have a wonderful Friday and a lovely weekend, friends.

homemade croissants

Homemade croissants, aka the best (and maybe only successful) yeasted baked good I can make. If you have been following along for a while, you know about my love-hate relationship with yeast. I like eating yeasted baked goods, but have struggled to get them right when I make them. Cookies, cakes and brownies – no problem; yeast rolls, doughnuts, babka – forget it. But croissants, one of the most time consuming yeasted breads out there, total success. How? Why? I don’t understand how that works, but it gives me hope that you can all make them too!

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Back at the beginning of the month we prepared for lots of snow. While most people ran around the grocery store stocking up on milk and bread, we made sure we had enough eggs, butter and flour. I highly suggest this method of snow preparation. Instead of milk sandwiches (or whatever you do with gallons of milk and loaves of bread), we had warm croissants and cookies when we came in from the snow. Win.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

This recipe is perfect for a snow day, weekend, or a few weeknights because, in the nature of good yeasted breads, it takes a long time. Do not let this deter you – most of the time is just for the dough to rest or rise, so, while the overall length of the project can take a while, the recipe is broken up into multiple steps that, individually, don’t take much time.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

As someone who doesn’t make yeast breads often (or well), it was so exciting to see the dough rise and act according to the directions. I took before and after pictures each time I covered the dough so I could track the progress and see if it was actually rising. Every time I expected it to look the same and every time it had doubled in size. I would jump up and down with the excitement of a child on Christmas, take my photo, compare it to the first photo and run to show Will the difference. It’s the little things, right? ;)

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

This dough is amazing. You can actually see the layers on layers on layers when you roll it out and cut it and the baked croissants flake apart when you pull them. I saved half of our dough in the freezer to whip out when we have guests or just on a Saturday morning when we want it. I really expect the feeling of whipping freshly thawed homemade croissant dough out of the fridge to make me feel like Ina and Martha, and I will likely be sorely upset if it doesn’t. Don’t you imagine that’s how they live, with homemade croissant dough in their freezers at all times, ready for the unexpected houseguest? I like to think so.

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

Homemade Croissants | www.passthecookies.com

I made plain, chocolate and funfetti croissants and cut the dough into triangles about half the size that the original recipe calls for. This gave us more croissants that were smaller, so we could try the different variations without feeling gluttonous. I highly recommend making the smaller version. The baked croissants keep in an airtight container for about a week and heat up wonderfully in the oven or a toaster oven. Alternately, you can make the dough and freeze what you don’t use before cutting or after cutting and rolling. To bake, place the frozen dough in the fridge to thaw overnight and bake according to recipe instructions.

I used the croissant recipe from Tartine (via Food52), but halved it and still ended up with plenty of dough. If you have a kitchen scale I recommend using the weight measurements, as that will be more precise, but I converted them into standard US measurements as well. The instructions on Food52 are very detailed, and I’m not sure I could explain the process better, so I linked their instructions below my halved, converted ingredients.

Homemade Croissants
Preferment:
3 ounces nonfat milk
1 ½ teaspoons active dry yeast
3 1/8 ounces (11 ¾ tablespoons) flour

Dough:
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
7 ounces (3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons) whole milk
14 ounces (3 cups) flour
1 ¼ ounces (1 tablespoon + 2 ¾ teaspoons) sugar
2 teaspoons salt
1 ½ teaspoons butter, melted

Roll-in Butter:
11 ounces (21 2/4 tablespoons) butter

Egg Wash:
1 egg
1 tablespoon cream or milk

Optional add-ins: chocolate; colorful cylindrical sprinkles, like jimmies (not nonpareils – the colors bleed)

Follow these instructions.

For chocolate croissants: place chopped chocolate in the center of the wide end of the dough triangle and roll the dough from the wide end to the tip, tucking the tip underneath the rolled croissant.

For funfetti croissants: pour sprinkles in the center of the wide end of the dough triangle (not too close to the edges), and roll from the wide end of the triangle to the tip, tucking the tip of the triangle under the rolled croissant. If you want sprinkles throughout the dough for even more of a funfetti effect (not pictured here), roll sprinkles into the butter before laminating the dough.

link love

Happy Friday! This “short” week has felt extremely long to me and I am ready for the weekend and all it brings. Here is some link love to get you to through the final stretch!

link love 1.20.2017via

President Barack Obama served his last full day as the President of the United States yesterday. NPR’s exit interview with president Obama from December is filled with lots of questions and lots of thoughts. We’ll miss you, Obamas. Thank you for serving the American people for the past eight years.

In lighter news, Beyonce interviewed her sister, Solange, and they talk about the negative connotation of control, and why they argue that it should not be viewed as a bad trait. There is girl power all over that article.

Recently I have had days where I am overcome with stress, even when there is not one specifically stressful event that occurs during the day. Sometimes I carry stress from previous days, when instead I should be starting on a fresh footing and brushing unneeded stress away at the end (or beginning) of the day. What am I stressed about? Sometimes I can’t even tell you, but I am in such a stressed out funk. This article about our brains defaulting to focus on negativity hit so close to home. Can we train neurons in our brains to overcome this tendency of negativity?

Are your good habits, newly founded for 2017 or longstanding, holding you back? This is an interesting topic and one we don’t usually think about.

These tips on things to think about before we speak are always needed. Is what you are going to say truthful, necessary, timely and kind? While we don’t always need to follow these guidelines, maybe we should all take a little more time to think before we speak, if not only to make our point more effective. As I think about one of my goals for the year, to be intentional, speaking purposefully in this way weighs on my mind.

almond banana bread

Date check. Yup, it’s still January. How are you doing on your goals?! Will and I ran past a gym this weekend and the parking lot was packed with cars. For the next 5 minutes of our run we discussed when we think most people drop their resolutions and the gym parking lot goes back to having empty spots scattered throughout. Do people hold out until February? Do they last longer than that? Was this the last weekend we will see a full parking lot? We didn’t come to a definitive answer, other than, “sometime before spring.”

Almond Banana Bread  (gluten free, refined sugar free and paleo!) | www.passthecookies.com

As I mentioned in my goals post for the year, I don’t set resolutions. So rather than set resolutions to just generally “eat healthier,” or “exercise more,” I strive to live a balanced life – balance in healthy and not so healthy food, exercise and rest, work and home. One aspect of this balance is finding ways to make treats healthier, which led to the creation of this almond banana bread. (more…)

goals for 2017 and january

We are 13 days into January and I am just finishing setting my goals for the year. Most people have already decided on and gotten started on their goals at this point, but I firmly believe in the idea that there is nothing magical about January 1st. We put so much pressure on January 1st, but goals can be set and enacted any day of the year. I like being able to relax and reflect at the end of the year and slowly figure out what it is that I truly want to focus on in the coming year once January comes. It gives me time to decompress and come off of the high of the holidays and reflect on the best parts of the entire year before. I also don’t love the word “resolutions,” but instead stick with goals and intentions, because these are not strict “dos” and “don’ts,” but rather things I want to accomplish, focus on and work toward throughout the year. These are deeper than the usual monthly goals, and I hope these intentions can guide my monthly goals throughout 2017.

Goals for 2017 and January

Goals for 2017:
Be intentional – There is only so much time in a day. I want to be more intentional with what I do and how I use it. I enjoy being busy, but can get overwhelmed when I book my days to the brim back-to-back-to-back without scheduled “me time.” I want to be intentional about what I choose to do, instead of trying to do it all. I want to reduce over-commitment (which will cause stress), and focus on the people and activities that bring joy to my life.

Deepen my faith – This is something I can always work on, but want to focus on even more this year. I want to pray more and read more of the bible. I want to find a routine for these things that works and incorporate it into my weeks in a way that is sustainable. I don’t know what this looks like yet, but hopefully I can find out as the year goes on!

Gain confidence that is not based on perfection – I recently realized that I often do not recognize the things I do well because I don’t think I’m doing them perfectly or well enough. Striving for perfection means that even when I am doing well at something, I am not confident in myself until I think I am doing each task or activity the best that it could be done. This is so bad! In the end, this leads to a lack of confidence in a lot of things, because no one is perfect at everything! I want to grow my confidence and remove the idea that perfection is a necessary variable in the equation to have confidence in anything.

Love others well – This kind of falls under the goal, “be intentional,” but I also want to separate it as another specific intention. I feel so loved when I receive kind texts and notes, and I also get so much joy from spreading love to others, on birthdays, during hard days or weeks, but also just during the mundane and routine days. I want to reach out to friends and family more often to check in and let them know I’m thinking of them, send unexpected snail mail, judge strangers less, continue generosity and follow how our donations impact the lives of others.

In addition to intentions, I want to focus on a word for the year: growth. Sometimes change can make me unsure and hold me back, but without change it is difficult to grow. There are so many aspects of my life where I want to grow and learn and build. When faced with challenges and change this year, I want to ask myself how I can grow from those instead of giving in and accepting stagnation or resisting change.

Now to get started on those intentions, I have more specific January goals!

Goals for January:
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! :)

Do you have goals, intentions or resolutions for 2017? Share them in the comments! Let’s keep each other accountable!

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