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first things. [almond butter cookies]

18 Sep

The very first first-thing: Thank you to EVERYONE who left very sweet comments on my last post. :) You guys are the greatest. Lots of cyber-hugs for all!

I’m a fan of firsts.

Whether it’s a sentimental attachment to the first book I read (“Are You My Mother?” by Dr. Seuss, in case you’re wondering) or a vivid memory of the first time I met my best friend in high school, they’ve always stuck out in my mind. Firsts are so full of the promise of something new and different, an adventure just over the horizon. They’re just exciting.

This week has been one for firsts as I’ve been moving into my new place for the school year.

We’re the first people to live in these apartments. The first laughs, the first fights, the first parties, the first all-nighters, the first breakdowns will all be on our watch. And it’s certainly comforting to know nobody has ever slept on my mattress. Or done anything else on my mattress. Ahem…

Here are a few of our house-firsts, christenings of the various appliances, etcetera. Along with what they may or may not tell you about my priorities ;)

First item in the refrigerator:

Not even mine, but I so appreciated how perfectly the Disney-themed apple-juice encapsulated my housemates’ general youthful spirit… and my Disney addiction. :)

First thing on my wall:

First thing I cooked on the stove… kind of.

First “gourmet meal” (ha!)

Um… so it turns out that like half of my boxes were filled with canned soup & these things, all of which I bought with my leftover meal points last year. I should probably open a soup kitchen. At any rate, I will be eating these for a few weeks… it happens.

First item on our couch:

My housemate embroidered it. It has polka-dots. I love it. 

And most importantly, the first use of my oven? You get three guesses… and the first two don’t count.

Cookies. Do I really need to interpret this for you?

I made these with a jar of almond butter I need to use relatively quickly before it expires… also found in the massive Hoarders-episode that is my pantry, along with some carob chips with a similar tale. I thought i may have added too much liquid, and while they definitely didn’t turn out as dense and chewy as I originally hoped, their pillowy softness and crisp edges made up for it. The entire (very small) batch was devoured by my mom and I within a day.

Almond Butter-Carob Chip Cookies
by me
Makes 8-12 depending on size

1/2 tablespoon ground flax
2-3 tablespoons hot water
1/4 cup almond butter
3 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
small pinch of salt
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
~3 tablespoons carob chips (or to taste)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease a cookie sheet.

Stir together flaxseed and water in a small cup or bowl. Set aside and allow to thicken for a few minutes. In a medium bowl, stir together almond butter and sugar. Add in flax “egg”. Stir in other ingredients; if the dough is too thick, add a small amount of water or oil.

Bake for about 8-10 minutes or until edges have set.


Now that my kitchen has begun to be broken in, it’s time for some sleep in my nice, new bed. Tomorrow’s the first day of classes!

What are your favorite firsts?

updates & foodie guest post!

8 Jul

Hey guyyyys

I’m back! Well, actually, I landed on Monday evening so I’ve been a bit delinquent. But to be fair, I got home on Monday at 10, had two days to hang out with my best friend/sleep, and then yesterday came back to school for summer research & classes. 

Here is one of the fab guest posts I’d hoped to get up while I was gone… unfortunately I had no internet access except my mom’s phone so I was only able to bring it to you now! I’ve spent a lot of today working through the ~2000 pictures I took at Disney (um, seriously) soooo be prepared (ha, Lion King reference!) for some recaps in the near future. 

Let’s give it up for one of my favorite blends (blog-friends, get it?!), XC Foodie! She’s bringing us a little bit of Cookie and a little bit of Carrot (um I NEED to make that dip, stat!)… what a cutie :) And speedy to boot… check her blog out! ;)


Hello Everyone! I’m Tara from XCFoodie.

I’m a track and cross country runner with a huge appetite for food. I love to bake and cook to offset the energy expenditure of running. I eat a mostly healthy, vegetarian diet, but I think balance is important. Today I want to do a tribute to two of Nicole’s favorite things. What are they? Cookies and Carrots of course! This is the perfect example of balance between nutritious and delicious (not that carrots aren’t delicious!).


Well, technically these are blondies. But blondies are cookie bars. Therefore they count as cookies. I put together this delicious recipe for my track team. Since we’re runners we eat… we eat a lot. You should see our psyche parties. Dessert is a mad house. I made these for practice though, and we enjoyed them after a long, strenuous speed workout. Not a crumb was left, and people were attacking me for seconds and thirds!

Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Toffee Blondies


1 cup butter (2 sticks)

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 cups brown sugar

1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons agave nectar

3 eggs

3 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/2 cup butterscotch chips

1/2 cup chocolate chips

1/2 cup toffee bits


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 9 inch pan.

Cook the butter in a saucepan over medium heat until it turns brown (see browning butter tips here if you are unfamiliar with the process), and then remove it from the heat. While it cools, combine the dry ingredients in a bowl.

Combine the brown butter, agave, and sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer, and stir with a wooden spoon until they are combined. Add the eggs to the bowl and attach the bowl to the mixer. Beat the mixture at a medium setting for 3 minutes using the paddle attachment. Add the vanilla and continue beating it until the vanilla is incorporated. Add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Remove the bowl from the electric mixer. Fold in the chocolate chips, butterscotch chips, and toffee bits. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted in the center. Take out the blondies and let them cool before cutting.


I’m a dried-bean-phobic. I had a bag of red lentils in my pantry for about a year before I decided to use them. One night, I got this intense craving for hummus, but all I had was lentils. My fridge was also overflowing with carrots that I needed to use up. I decided to combine the lentils with carrots, and they complimented each other nicely in this spicy, satisfying dip. It may not have been hummus, but it was just as delicious!

Moroccan Carrot Lentil Dip

1/2 cup dry red lentils

1 1/2 cups water or veggie broth

9 oz. carrots

1/4 cup chopped onions

1/4 heaping teaspoon of each of the following: cumin, cinnamon, coriander, turmeric, and allspice

1/8 – 1/4 tsp cayenne

salt to taste

Add the lentils and water in a saucepan. Heat on high until the water boils. Reduce to a simmer and cover, leaving the top slightly ajar. Simmer for 30 minutes, checking every so often (I checked every 5 minutes) to stir and add additional water if necessary. After 30 minutes, remove from the heat and cover completely. Allow it to absorb any leftover liquid for at least 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, saute the onions in a small frying pan on medium heat, approximately 3 – 5 minutes or until translucent. Steam the carrots (I used the microwave method, 1/4 cup water and microwaved 2.5 minutes or until soft).

Combine the lentils, carrots, and onions in the food processor. Process until smooth. Add spices and salt. Process for about 30 seconds or until they are thoroughly distributed.

What is your favorite cookie?

What is your favorite way to use carrots?

Nicole’s Question: How much do you want to hear about Disney? Be honest, I kind of understand if you don’t want to hear me babbling about how much I love Disney Princesses because I’m about 4 years old. I have a zillion pictures and don’t want to bore anyone to tears. In fact I may do it in installations. I’m not sure if I should put it chronologically or by park… Any ideas/suggestions/etc welcomed :)

guest post: Knock Your Socks Off Cake!

21 Apr

**To anyone who hasn’t seen Tangled… PLEASE WATCH IT. It’s actually one of my favorite Disney movies ever, and that’s saying something coming from me ;) SO CUTE. My friends loved it. I have seen it 3 times and may or may not have preordered the DVD like a month before it actually came out… But I digress.**

Today I have for you a fabulous guest post from the lovely Jenn over at The Kitchen Dish. Her blog is filled with amazing recipes and she is such a sweetheart! I’m so excited to give you this awesome cake recipe she chose to share with me. :) If anybody else is interested in doing guest posts, I’m looking at doing 1-2 per week as my life is rather hectic… Just shoot me an e-mail! :)

Please, go pre-heat your oven and get your mixer ready. It is time to make some cake!

You all may be surprised to find out that I have never had or made “Better than (You know what) Cake” (hey, I’m trying to keep this G Rated), but as I have looked up recipes for it, it seems like there are many versions of it. This may be a version of it, but since it came from our church cookbook, it is “Knock Your Socks Off Cake.” I don’t know that you need to be concerned about your socks, but perhaps your jeans. I have ZERO willpower around this stuff, and well, let’s just say I wear sweatpants as a result. I hope you enjoy it!


The Starters:

  • German Chocolate Cake Mix (including ingredients to prepare cake mix as directed on box)
  • Cream cheese
  • Eggs
  • Vanilla extract
  • Sugar
  • Chocolate chips
  • Instant vanilla pudding
  • Milk
  • Cool Whip


Prepare the cake mix according to package directions.


I could lick those beaters! Nicole’s addendum: I probably would ;)


Pour into a greased 9×13 pan. You can also use two 8×8″ pans, as I did; set aside.

Now…for the CREAM CHEESE layer!


Add softened cream cheese to a mixing bowl.



Add eggs, sugar and vanilla.


Mix with hand mixer until smooth.

Mix with hand mixer until smooth.

Pour evenly over German Chocolate Cake batter.

I like to start around the edges and work my way in…

….and then back out again. I think this is an easy way to get an even coating of the cream cheese mixture.

The final step before we pop this pan of deliciousness in the oven? Chocolate chips! Flour the chocolate chips with either regular flour, or you can reserve some of the dry cake batter to use for this.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of the cream cheese layer; yes, there will be a lot of chocolate chips, but trust me, you’ll be glad there is!

Bake for 40-50 minutes, and then remove from the oven and cool. You can see the chocolate chips and cream cheese have sunk to the bottom of the cake. So delicious!

Now, for the Frosting!


Combine pudding mix and milk and beat slowly for a minute.


Fold in vanilla…

And Cool Whip.



Spread on cooled cake and refrigerate.



Knock Your Socks Off Cake


  • 1 box German Chocolate Cake Mix
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • ½ C. sugar
  • 2 C. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 sm. Pkg. instant vanilla pudding
  • 1 C. cold milk
  • 1 (8 oz.) carton Cool Whip
  • 1 tsp. vanilla


  1. Assemble cake mix according to directions on box.
  2. Pour into a 9×13-inch pan and set aside.
  3. Mix cream cheese, eggs, vanilla and sugar until smooth. Spread on top of cake.
  4. Sprinkle chocolate chips over top of cream cheese mixture.
  5. Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes. Cool


  1. Combine the pudding mix and milk in a small bowl. Beat slowly for about 1 minute.
  2. Fold in Cool whip and vanilla.

Spread on cake and refrigerate.

pudim de leite condensado… & a birthday

6 Feb

In a very swift and THOROUGH departure from both the lower-sugar eating and the vegan food… I bring you a dish based around eggs, condensed milk, and sugar. But all for a special occasion!

Yes, it involves sugar. Lots of sugar. Beautiful, caramelized sugar…

My dad claims he doesn’t like sweets all that much.

This doesn’t really fit with the empirical data I’ve gathered over the years: the disappearing Easter candy (apparently the bunny likes to retract his gifts), the cookies that are gone before morning, or the fact that I have to literally hide my chocolate chips in the pantry so that they don’t get attacked.

There is, however, one dessert he has always claimed to love: my grandma’s “pudim de leite condensado.” Basically, it’s a Brazilian flan. And it’s delicious.

I have a very distinct memory of a cold Thanksgiving when we were taking one of these gems to our friend’s house for the celebration. My dad drove uncharacteristically slowly and took every curve with utmost caution. Not because of us, of course, but because of his precious pudim. I’ve also gotten into more than one disagreement about him about the last piece… It’s that good.

So in honor of his birthday today (yes, he’s getting old!), I bring you the recipe. It’s not healthy. It has a ton of sugar. But it’s made with love, and it nourishes the soul. So it’s worth every gram of fat, sugar, and calories.

(And for those of you who are fans of my grandma, she’s featured prominently in this, as it is her signature dish!)

Pudim de Leite Condensado
Recipe from here (click for more specific tips on each step)…
Pictures of the process from me!

1 scant cup sugar (for the caramel)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
Equal volume of regular milk (use the can to measure)
3 eggs
1 8-inch ring mold

Place 1 to 2 inches of water in a roasting pan. Place the pan in the oven and preheat to 325°. *This time, my grandma opted to use a double boiler, but either way works!

Put the sugar in the ring mold. Place the mold directly over medium heat. Keep turning the mold until the sugar melts into a golden brown caramel.

Spoon it up the sides of the mold until evenly spread.

Like so…

Combine the condensed milk, regular milk and eggs in a blender.

Whip until smooth.

Pour into mold and place into center of roasting pan with water, or double-boiler.

Bake the pudim for about 1 hour. It will turn golden brown on top and start separating from the sides of the mold. Let it cool to room temperature and place in refrigerator, preferably overnight (at least 6 hours).

The worst part is definitely waiting!

Dig in!

Happy birthday Dad!!!

What’s your family’s favorite, traditional dessert recipe?