Pumpkin Banana Breakfast Cookies

Whether we’re out searching for our ideal partner, building relationships with friends, or already happily settled in a 50-year marriage, it’s no surprise that we spend the better of our lives seeking affirmation from the people around us. On a recent trip to Seattle, we gave ourselves plenty of “nothing” time–time to really back away from our busy day-to-day lives and think about what we’re doing, why we’re doing it, where our lives our headed. Every night at the hotel, Richard would look over and grin when he saw me just sitting on the bed and hugging my pillow, thinking.

He called it pondering time, and (apart from the donuts, and the reunions with friends, and okay maybe the pizza) it was probably the part of the day I looked forward to most.

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Between blogging and baking and schoolwork and teaching and working, I hardly give myself much down time to think any more, so it quickly became apparent that I had a lot of catching up to do. For starters, I had no idea I had so many thoughts about friends and life relationships to sort out–and visiting all these new places and seeing so many old faces gave me plenty to think about.

One way I like to gauge my development is to periodically play a game we called Three Attributes. You start by listing the top three traits you looked for in an S.O., and each one is supposed to reveal something about not only your ideal mate, but yourself as well. If you’re interested in playing, I’ll give you the breakdown so you can try it for yourself before I do the big spoilers:

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So you start by picking your top three traits for a significant other–this can be either your ideal potential one or the one you already have.… Read more

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Filed under Breakfast & Brunch, Cookies, Healthy

Picnic Perfect Cauliflower Salad for #SundaySupper

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Considering it’s been 90+ degrees for the past two weeks already, to say we’re in “springtime” might be something of a misnomer. Scorching heats and sunny pool days? Summertime, I’m ready. So I say

Bring. It. ON. 

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But the sad, sad reality is that despite my summertime excitement, the orbital progress of Earth around the sun isn’t quite ready for me yet. I hear that in some parts of the northern hemisphere, spring is actually happening! We were visiting Seattle last week and there were nothing but miles of blue sky overhead–guess we brought the Cali weather with us:

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As it turns out, either Seattleans have really got their A-game going or I’m just woefully ignorant of the froyo options available in my home state, because this wonderful frozen yogurt place named Menchie’s carries a Cookie Butter flavored froyo. I must’ve stood there eating my weight in free samples until my friends had to tear me away from the machine–because if you’ve ever tasted the aromatic nectar known as cookie butter, you’ll know what I’m talking about and forgive my rudeness instantly. Right?

Proof:

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Of course, we spent the first spring days eating our way through Seattle. One of my friends lives nearby, so he took us for an absolutely fabulous dinner at a pizza joint called Serious Pie, where I ordered a mushroom truffle cheese pizza that was off the charts. Also, my seatmate on the flight over was a Seattle native, so we spent a better part of two hours chatting about all the good eats and obscure gems hidden throughout the city. Among her many recommendations was this Russian bakery known as Piroshky Piroshky, located at the heart of Pike Place Market and specializing in the best savory breads around.

When I asked the man behind the counter whether I should get the Garlic Cheese Roll or the “famous” Potato Cheese Bread, he didn’t even hesitate before he stuffed the first one in my bag and asked me if I wanted anything else:

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Like dutiful tourists, we also made sure to get our fair share of donuts.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Salads, Vegetarian

5-Minute Microwave Caramel Sauce { & 55 things you can do in 5 minutes }

As a challenge to both myself and you, I’m pairing this awesome 5-minute microwave caramel sauce recipe (from the phenomenal Liz of That Skinny Chick Can Bake) with 55 fun things you can do in 5 minutes or less a day.

Ready? Let’s begin.

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  1. Meditate somewhere in the quiet outdoors, and dressed as an all-natural owl
  2. Listen to this incredible video of Harrison Craig from The Voice Australia 2014 singing “You Raise Me Up”
  3. Eat an entire caramel apple by yourself
  4. Write a thank-you card telling someone you appreciate them
  5. Hug a dog/cat (or a stuffed animal if a live one is in short supply)
  6. Make a 15-second silly video of yourself doing Gangham Style and post it on Instagram
  7. Reread your favorite picture book
  8. Dance around your room belting out your current favorite song into a dilapidated hairbrush
  9. Make yourself a cup of hot tea to enjoy
  10. Send a text message saying “hello!” to ten friends you haven’t seen in a long time
  11. Watch this hilarious Bad Lip Reading of The Hunger Games
  12. Catch up on at least two BBC World News videos
  13. Buy a cup of coffee for the next person in lineMicrowaveCaramelSauce4--031515
  14. Do one of these super-random five-minute crafts, like tattooing a banana
  15. Find out which Pixar movie you are
  16. Hold a lively discussion about goldfish safety with your imaginary friend, Bob Gutterson
  17. Try to discover the meaning of life (may require additional 5-minute sessions)
  18. Make your own list of 5-minute activities and commit to finishing one per day for fun
  19.  Look up 5 local restaurants you have never tried and save them for your next outing
  20. Write a haiku about cheese, or your mother-in-law, or both
  21. Create a to-do list of all the things you will need to accomplish when you become World Conquerer
  22. Find a cute new wallpaper for your desktop background
  23. Write down 5 things that made you really happy this week
  24. Create a pyramid-tower out of leftover toiler paper rolls
  25. Waste your insanely valuable time on this Impossible QuizMicrowaveCaramelSaucegif2
  26. Draw a map of what the world would look like if it was filled only with unicorns, rainbows, and sprinkles, in that order
  27. Speak in a heavy English accent to the next person you meet, and keep it up for the entire conversation until they ask you where you’re from.
Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Dips/Spreads, Homemade/DIY

Miso Kale Salad with Apples, Cranberries, Sunflower Seeds, + Feta

Luck isn’t just a condition of our existence. It’s something we can make happen. It’s an attitude.

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Granted, some people simply are lucky. At least that’s the premise of that awfully addicting 2006 rom-com Just My Luck featuring Lindsay Lohan and Chris Pine, who are the luckiest and unluckiest people in the world, respectively. When they kiss one night at a party, their luck swaps and Chris’s character is suddenly waltzed away into a euphoria of fortunate circumstances that launch his music career and basically turn his life around.

I would highly recommend this movie for a night when the only thing you want in your brain is lots of nothing and eye candy action going on.

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IMHO, though, luck is akin to mojo: the better your mojo and your general vibes, the more likely you are to feel lucky, which in turn affects how likely you are to be lucky.

This past week was full of lots of lucky incidents, ranging from small things like wishing away the line at Chipotle (we were trying to order quesaritos and didn’t want to do it if anybody was waiting impatiently behind us) to some bigger things as well. Friday–incidentally, Friday the 13th–I was channeling some serious positive vibes and basically bounced through the entire day from place to place under the (of course) sunny skies of a not-so-wintry March.

It’s amazing how a simple shift of perspective can turn a dismal, dreary week into a fantastic one. On Wednesday, I taught my final class of the quarter and my students clapped so hard at the end that I thought my heart would break from happiness. That’s what I mean when I say that it’s not all about being lucky–feeling lucky is just as important, and I definitely felt lucky, grateful, and blessed when I walked out of the classroom that day.… Read more

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Filed under Lunch & Dinner, Salads

Friday Wallflavourites: Edition 23

Holy CRIPES, where have the weeks gone? And why is it 6 PM but still sunny out? Yeesh–well, happy almost-Friday, everyone! Here are some of my favorites from all over the blogosphere lately. (Also, congrats to Brittany for winning my Top with Cinnamon cookbook giveaway!

Check out this Waffled Brioche French Toast via the uber-talented Top with Cinnamon! Color me breakfast, please!

Waffled Brioche French Toast

Peanut butter & jelly is my favorite food group ever–because yes, didn’t you know it was a food group?–which is why I’m obsessed with these Peanut Butter and Jelly Muffins via How Sweet Eats!

peanut butter and jelly crumb muffins I howsweeteats.com

Fire ‘em up! This is seriously a KILLER idea for grilled cheese: Pie and Plots’ The Ultimate Cheez-It Grilled Cheese!

The Ultimate Cheez-It Grilled Cheese

Holy FUDGE! This Fudge-Filled Vanilla Cake via Cookies and Cups is mind-blowingly good. You’ll definitely want to bookmark this one…

Fudge Filled Vanilla Bundt Cake. Super fudgy cream cheese filling inside a delicious vanilla bundt!

And finally, get ready to go weak in the knees. And again. And again. These Triple-Threat Brownies via Hip Foodie Mom look AWESOME.

Chocolatey, fudgey, gooey and everything good. These Triple Threat Brownies are the best brownies ever. You have to try this recipe!

Cauliflower Crust Hamburgers via The Iron You

Crispy Kung Pao Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry via Joanne Eats Well

Crispy Roasted Potatoes Burrata via I am a Food Blog

Egg-Stuffed Bacon Scallion Pancakes via Real Food by Dad

Five-Ingredient Vegan Ice Cream Snickers via Minimalist Baker

Fudgy Peanut Butter Cup Brownies with Caramel and Pretzel Crust via A Cookie Named Desire

No-Bake Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chips Granola Bars via Life Made Sweeter

Quick Cauliflower Risotto with Asparagus Cilantro Basil Hemp Seed Pesto via Half-Baked Harvest

Roasted Broccoli Cheese Casserole via Neighbor Foodie

Simple Vegan Pancakes via Cookie + Kate

Skillet Bacon and Broccoli Macaroni and Cheese via Mom on Timeout

Tomato Basil Grilled Cheese Sandwich via Cooking with a Wallflower

In case you missed my latest posts:

Frosty Chocolate Dream Bites

Best Bread Pudding

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies

Easy English Toffee

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Peanut Butter Mousse Parfaits

For the latest updates, follow me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram!Read more

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Frosty Chocolate Dream Bites for #SundaySupper

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The last few weeks have been some of the craziest imaginable. Aside from finally scheduling my big dissertation proposal exam (this June! eep!!) and rewriting one of my articles from scratch for re-submission to a journal, I have finally registered with the school for medical wrist treatment so I can hopefully type with all of you again soon–write replies, comment on your blogs, and everything else I miss.

I’ll be back in the game again soon, so don’t lose hope in me!

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Somehow, in the midst of all this craziness, I still have stories. There’s something about storytelling that makes a girl put on Ed Sheeran’s “Thinking Out Loud” and want to dance around the room singing into a stalk of celery. Loudly. And very badly.

Last night, a bunch of us in the swim club trekked out to the beach for a bonfire. The evening air was cool but mild: even in March, all we wore were light jackets over our tank tops (sorry, East Coast friends!) and flip-flops as we watched the sun set over the shimmering ocean horizon.

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It was the quintessential college experience. By the time we arrived, all of the fire pits had been taken, so a group of us (and by “us,” I mean definitively not me) used our bare hands to dig out a 2-foot deep pit before jamming in firewood, lighter fluid, a lighter, and as many marshmallows-on-sticks as we could manage to flambe at once.

Empty pizza boxes to keep the fire from flying away.

Open bags of chips and salsa scattered across the sand, being picked through by oh-so-many dirt-packed fingers.

Rolled-up skinny jeans and late night ocean dashes.

Sand in everything.

My parents–for whom the closest we have ever got to rugged improvisation was reserving one of those tent-style camping cabins instead of the room in the lodge with indoor plumbing–would have been positively scandalized.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Frozen Desserts

The BEST Bread Pudding for #OXOCookware

Disclaimer: I was selected to be part of OXO’s Blogger Outreach program, for which I received an OXO Stainless Steel Pro 5 Qt. Casserole Dish + Cover. All opinions in this post are 100% my own.

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So my latest trip to Disneyland proved that I am the queen of not being able to spot celebrities, ever. Period. Even when I pass by them so close I actually have to maneuver to avoid hitting them in the ribs with my elbow.

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Two nights ago, we paid the Happiest Place on Earth a fond visit to celebrate–along with other annual passholders–the 20th anniversary of the Indiana Jones ride. Twenty years. Geesh! I still remember when the attraction first opened and they still handed out those little flimsy AWESOME decoder cards where you could read the ancient runes on the walls while you waited.

Wow, I just dated myself, didn’t I?

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Anyway, one of my friends hadn’t eaten anything the entire day. It was past 9 PM when we arrived at the park, so I decided to go with her to grab a bread bowl from New Orleans Square. Of course, she was so hungry at this point that I could barely do more than dodge through the crowds and keep her bobbing head in sight through all the moving bodies. At one point she screeched to a grinding halt and ducked behind a group of folks taking pictures–naturally, I sped up, swerving dangerously close to the subjects of the photo on my right as they arranged themselves. It wasn’t until I had already hopped between them and the camera that my friend grabbed me by the arm, yanked me around, and pointed to the guy in a black and white checkered shirt whom I had nearly decapitated with my elbow a second earlier.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Breakfast & Brunch

Gluten-Free Black Bean Brownies for #SundaySupper

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When I was 5, my mom told me I was allergic to chocolate.

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Now, you’d think that a future 20-year product of the public education system would have smelled something fishy, but I smelled nothing but the tantalizing, forbidden scent of chocolate.

Believe it or not, the ruse lasted until age 10, when we were selling Hershey’s bars for a school fundraiser and I sank my teeth into a gorgeous, silky chunk of chocolate heaven.

Half a decade of my life. Irretrievable. Lost. Goner than a koala chucked into a black hole.

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Aside from those five years of chocolate-less existence–and opting out of meat–and okay, my insanely picky palate–I’ve never had eating restrictions, really. At least not the kind of allergy that will debilitate you and close your throat and send you to the hospital with an EpiPen sticking out of your arm. Thank goodness.

I’m lucky in that respect, but it really wasn’t until grad school that I met friends who really did have food allergies. One of my closest classmates is allergic to a whole score of things, including nuts, dairy, and soy. I’ve told you about my recent student who has all of those allergies, plus corn, bean, fruit, and gluten allergies. Another guy in my office has Celiac, meaning gluten is a no-go for him, either. And this one’s not just a fad diet or a “gluten sensitivity,” I’ll tell you that much.

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That’s why you may have noticed a lot more “allergy-friendly” recipes around the blog lately. Have you checked out last week’s Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Peanut Butter Mousse Parfait Cups? Seriously though–gluten-free doesn’t need to mean un-tasty. In fact, I’ve had so much fun baking GF lately, my friends with gluten allergies have started asking whether the latest batch of treats is gluten-free–and it’s so nice when you can make someone who usually can’t participate feel included in something as simple as dessert.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Healthy

Easy English Toffee

Spoiler: majorly embarrassing stories ahead……

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Yesterday, over lunch, my friends and I were sharing our best embarrassing stories. You know, the ones that made you blush so hard you thought your face was actually going to combust into a bunch of fiery napalm and set ablaze everyone within 15 square yards of you. We’re not talking the kind of mild embarrassment that happens when you walk in late on the first day of class and get called out by the teacher.

We’re talking stress-dreams-of-getting-caught-stark-naked-in-a-Costco-parking-lot-on-a-Sunday-afternoon kind of embarrassment.

Unfortunately, I’m terrible at calling up examples while they are still relevant (i.e. during conversation), so I didn’t contribute much to our lunch sharing session. I did enjoy a very nice Afghani spinach flatbread, though.

But as it turns out, this is very lucky for you guys, since I’ve decided to spend this Friday sharing a few of my favorites with you! None of which involve unwanted nudity, thank goodness. So without further ado….

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Quite a few years ago at Disneyland, I was waiting in line for the bathroom next to Adventureland. There I was, fiddling with my gray Tigger jacket sleeve, minding my own business, when I suddenly look up and notice an Asian man with short-cropped hair, spectacles, and a rather square jaw standing in front of me.

Of course, I immediately feel embarrassed for the poor man. Can he read English? His unfashionable red sweater and khaki pants tell me he might be a tourist (thank you, vast over-stereotyping), and as we get closer and closer to the front of the line, I start fidgeting. Finally, when I see the “Women’s Restroom” sign passing us by the restroom entrance, I decide I can’t let him go through the agonizing embarrassment of walking into the Women’s restroom by mistake. So I do the worst thing I could possibly do in such a situation: I tap him on the arm.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars, Brownies & Chocolates, Snacks, Snacks

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Crumble Peanut Butter Mousse Parfaits for #SundaySupper

Semi-serious writer’s note: I am currently struggling through a prolonged, increasingly aggravated case of carpal tunnel onset. While I’m doing my best to keep this blog running in the meantime, if I don’t reply right away to your comments or leave comments on your blog, don’t think I don’t care–I do! It’s just this silly problem, so I’ll get back to you as I can :) thanks for reading!

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My first time on a red carpet was at my friend’s Netflix celebration, which took place at the Staples Center in downtown Los Angeles a few months ago. Sparkly gowns, diamond necklaces, stilettos: the whole shebang.

In my too-big white dress from the clearance rack at Ross, I fit in as well as a dairy cow at a dog show. A big fat one, too.

While it would be awesome to say that I’m completely at home on the red carpet, at big celebrity gigs, or attending all the other events that come along with the entertainment industry, I’m all too happy to sit here at my computer on a slow Saturday night. Black leggings, an oversized swim sweater, and messy hair that hasn’t met a brush in three days–that’s my kind of weekend in a nutshell.

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Of course, networking and big parties play a big part in the entertainment world, which is why I’m slowly working my way up to the big screens. Last week, I made my first TV appearance (!!) on The Price is Right. My family even recorded the episode so I could come home and watch for myself with them. My friends and I appeared a grand total of four times.

…Okay, I actually only made it on three times, since they seated me right at the very edge of the room and the panning camera didn’t even bother with my little dairy cow corner.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Cookies