Archive for April, 2012

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Sunday, April 29th, 2012

Three good things happened to me this past week. I would like to share them with you.

First things first: cookies!

I’ve mentioned before that there are three different cookie recipes that my mom and sisters and I bake on a regular basis. These are the best we’ve found, and they are all A+ recipes.

I’ve shared the first two with you already: Chewy Chocolate Cookies, and Cowboy Cookies.

Here is the third and final of my trio of favorites: Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies.

This recipe is so good. It’s just perfect. There is no need for frills or surprising ingredients – the cookies are just right. They are chewy and puffy and perfect with milk (of course).

I also like making these because it’s likely all the ingredients are already available. No trip to the store needed, no extra money spent. Sweet and simple!

The second good thing is that I met Pioneer Woman last week! She is on a book tour promoting her second cookbook, Food From My Frontier. This was actually my second time meeting her, but she was as sweet as ever and extra hilarious this time around.

This event was also fun because I went with my aunts, Linda and Karen. They are two of the funnest ladies I know and we had a great time at the event.

Me and Ree!

The third good thing is that Lauren Conrad featured my Lavender Cupcakes on her Friday Favorites post last week! I was getting my Starbucks before work early Friday morning and scrolling through some of my blogs for the day when I saw my cupcakes on her site….I had a little bit of a moment. So cool!! You can see her post here: http://www.laurenconrad.com/post/friday-favorites-53-lauren-conrad-cupcake-hair-braids-shoes-print-2012.

So those are three good things that happened to me this past week! I hope your week is as good as mine was, or even better. If you make these cookies I can guarantee you’ll be off to a great start.

Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe slightly adapted from the back of a bag of Gold Medal All-Purpose Flour

Makes about 6 dozen cookies (or less if you make them huge like I do)

Ingredients
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 eggs
4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large bag (24 oz) semisweet chocolate chips (4 cups)

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In the bowl of a large electric mixer, beat the butter, sugars, vanilla and eggs on medium speed until light and fluffy. Add in the flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until combined. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Use spoons or an ice cream scoop to drop dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until cookies are slightly golden brown. Cool for a minute on the sheet and then transfer to a wire cooling rack. Enjoy!

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LA/San Diego Trip

Wednesday, April 25th, 2012

I am officially home from vacation! I had such a good time in LA and San Diego. My friend Ally and I got a LOT of exploring done, and we ate some good food too. We also met up with my friend Kathy and ran into one or two celebs. All in all, the perfect SoCal experience.

I have a lot of pictures to share with you. Several are from my DSLR but many are just from my iPhone (usually with an Instagram filter) – it’s just so much easier sometimes!

On Wednesday we hopped off the plane and headed straight to Sprinkles in Beverly Hills.

We sampled the red velvet, chocolate marshmallow, and chocolate coconut. These cupcakes totally lived up to the hype – the cake was so moist.

Next we walked around Beverly Hills and along Rodeo Drive. We were just so happy to feel the warm sun!

While we were wandering through Saks Fifth Avenue, we bumped into NeNe Leakes (from The Real Housewives of Atlanta and Glee). She was friendly and willing to chat.

Next we went to the Grove, which is an upscale outdoor mall. There was also a Farmers Market next to the mall. We got dinner there at a place called Loteria Grill. It was SO GOOD.

Those were possibly the best nachos I’ve ever had. It was a good first day.

The next day we were up bright and early. My good friend Kathy, who lives in CA, picked us up just after 6am for a morning hike in Griffith Park.

Kathy and Ally

Hi Kathy!!

Ally and I

After hiking for awhile we walked along Melrose Avenue, then back to the Farmer’s Market for lunch! There were so many interesting things to see there.

Then we wandered over to see Mario Lopez filming Extra at the Grove. I have to tell you, those dimples were pretty epic in person.

After lunch and gazing at Mario, we explored Hollywood, Chinatown, and Venice Beach. We covered so much ground that day, thanks to our guide Kathy!

Here is a picture of the three of us with cream puffs, and also a pole…

That night Ally and I stumbled across an excellent restaurant near our hotel in Anaheim. It’s called Papa Hassan’s Grill and it fully lives up to its 4 1/2 star rating on Yelp! It is middle eastern food and it was not only delicious, but they were so friendly there and made us feel right at home.

The next day was full as well, including a visit to the Getty Museum. The architecture was so beautiful there. It just felt so fully Californian around there with the intense sun, vivid blue sky, and elegant white structure all around us.

We spent the next couple of days exploring San Diego and nearby La Jolla. I really liked San Diego. It was a totally different feel from LA – way more laid back with a beach town feel.

Our last evening and morning were spent in Santa Monica. That area was one of my favorite places as well.

The best thing we ate in Santa Monica was omusubi at Sunny Blue on Main Street. Essentially it is a rice ball with fillings – our favorite was the spicy salmon. SO GOOD!!

It was a great vacation. My favorite sort of trip is when there is time to just walk around a city and get a feeling for what it’s like. I certainly feel like I have a full impression of both LA and San Diego. It’s always a blessing to share trips like this with good friends as well!

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Frozen Key Lime Pie

Tuesday, April 17th, 2012

Hello! I hope you’re all having a good week so far. I’m having an excellent week because tomorrow morning I’m going on vacation! I’m so excited to head to Southern California. I bought some new sunglasses today and I am ready to use them!

I will keep this post short as I have some packing to do. I just wanted to make sure you knew about this absolutely scrumptious, refreshing frozen key lime pie.

This is an Ina Garten recipe, and it is one of the best I’ve tried so far. The lime flavor comes bursting through each bite. It’s frozen and a little like ice cream cake, but lighter. I’ll definitely be making this again this spring/summer.

I didn’t adapt this recipe at all (besides using lime zest on top instead of lime wedges) so I’ll send you directly to Ina for the recipe. You can find it here: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/frozen-key-lime-pie-recipe3/index.html.

I hope you give this pie a try!

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March/April Book Reviews

Sunday, April 15th, 2012

I love books. I was thinking the other day about how different points of my childhood and history are highlighted by memories of reading.

Sharing a room as a little girl with my sister Maren, clutching the sheets in suspense at bedtime as my mom read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe out loud to us.

Sitting in a big comfy chair, holding Little Women, which was one of the first big books I read on my own. My dad telling me he would take me to McDonalds if I finished it.

About 10 years old, reading the Lord of the Rings series, and dissolving into anguished tears at the part when somebody dies after a certain “You shall not pass” chapter.

Lazy summers as a young teenager, lying in the grass and absorbed by the vivid world of all of Lloyd Alexander’s books.

Then, several years later, the summer after graduating college, walking to my car after a shift at Starbucks and too absorbed by Memoirs of a Geisha to even drive home until I finished it. It was a victorious feeling to know that I would have time to read for fun again!

The last three books I’ve read were really excellent. You’ve probably heard of all of these, but if you haven’t read them yet I highly recommend all three.

Emma – by Jane Austen
I’ve mentioned before how I love Jane Austen. I pretty much keep all of her novels on a regular rotation, and I’ll probably keep reading her for the rest of my days.

I always forget how much I like this one. Emma herself is possibly a little less likeable than other Austen women, at least initially. She is a meddler and a matchmaker, but not as perceptive as she thinks, and it stresses me out! But when I actually start reading the novel, the world of this group of people pulls me in. I just enjoy living within it. This time around, I was especially struck by the character of her father, who is pitiful and hilarious.

Mockingjay  – by Suzanne Collins
Probably enough has been said about the Hunger Games series by me and others. I’ll just say that I was surprised and actually somewhat satisfied about the way the series wrapped up. I had my suspicions about what was going to happen, and Suzanne Collins surprised me in a couple areas, which I always appreciate. This book was a little bloodier than I like, and I had a couple of violent dreams while reading it, so I finished it up quickly in order to get it done with. All in all a very interesting series.

Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? – by Mindy Kaling
I absolutely loved this book!! I laughed out loud so many times, which continually startled and annoyed Woody. (He hangs out with me sometimes when I read, but he doesn’t like sudden noises and has been particularly hostile since his new haircut. I think he’s cranky because he doesn’t like to be cold, which I totally understand.)

Anyway, this book was interesting because it was about her life as a writer for The Office (and the journey it took to get there), but she is also a really relatable and interesting person. I highly recommend!

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