Category Archives: Baked Goods and Desserts

S’mores Bars { + S’More Thoughts on the Difficulty of Loving Yourself }

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Almost a year ago now, I wrote this post on Defining Your Self-Worth, which received tons of amazing, thought-provoking, vulnerable, and deeply genuine comments from all of you readers out there. Today, in the midst of one of the craziest and most turbulent but also “happiest” periods of my life, I want to continue the discussion by bringing up another related topic: the Difficulty of Loving Yourself.

This is going to be a long post, so if you’re here for the S’mores Bars recipe (which is phenomenal BTW), go ahead and skip to the bottom of this post. I promise I won’t be offended!

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“We accept the love we think we deserve.” This is the catchphrase of that wonderful coming-of-age book-turned-film that I’m watching alone tonight, The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Having always identified as a Wallflour/Wallflower myself, that line always resonated with me. We accept the love we think we deserve. Fine. But what if there was no love to accept? What if, at the heart of it all, the problem wasn’t that I wasn’t accepting love, but that I didn’t deserve to be loved in the first place?

At my lowest moments, these are the thoughts that hang over my mind like an invisible but palpable cloud that blocks out all sunlight. Despite considering myself to be a fairly cheerful and positive person, the difficulty of loving myself has been something with which I have always struggled, but exponentially more so in the past six or seven years since all this crappiness happened. What makes the whole experience even more trying is–or at least was, as I’ll explain in a moment–what I perceived as a lack of stable support systems on which I could rely to actually talk about my problems. My blog has provided a surrogate version of that outlet for the past three years, but at some point the irreplaceability of face-to-face human warmth and contact just hits you, and suddenly the whole illusion of knowing what you’re doing and being the person the world thinks you are crumbles, leaving you to reconstruct some semblance of order from out of the rubble.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars

Loaded Oatmeal Monster Cookies { + loads of updates! }

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Time for some SERIOUS updates.

I know, I’ve been flagging on the writing/commenting/replying end of things (which is a total shame, because that’s the part of blogging I love best). In between teaching, prepping for my Part II exam (more on that in a sec), and some really exciting new developments in the cooking/baking part of my life, I’ve been catching about 4 hours of shuteye a night…when I’m lucky and don’t get insomnia. So to perk things up around here, I thought I’d take a big break from everything else, share some of the BEST colorful cookies I know (seriously, I served these at my ice cream cookie sandwich party a few weeks ago and they were ALL GONE), and sit down for a little life chat with all of you.

Got your tea or coffee? Good.

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1. First parcel of big news, which you might have read about on Sunday’s post, but anyway: guys, I’m competing in this year’s annual California Strawberry Festival Berry Blast-Off competition! After an hour of intensive cooking in a professional kitchen last week, the judges picked my original Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake as one of two entries for the final showdown. This will be my first time on a live stage (eep!) cooking (eep!) in front of hundreds of people (EEP!) with a microphone and cameras trained on me as I try to keep my hands steady enough to crack an egg like a normal person which I cannot for the life of me do (okay, where’s my fainting couch?). We’ll be traveling to Oxnard that morning so if you’re in the area, you might want to stop by the Strawberry Promenade at 1 PM! You can read more press releases about the competition here and here. Wish me luck!… Read more

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Steamed Strawberry Coconut Poke Cake for More-than-just-a-Mother’s Day!

Even as recently as high school, I recall taking it for granted that my mom’s identity was somehow singularly defined by motherhood – that, according to some unwritten and tacitly understood code of universal maternity, mothers were defined not by the lives they had led up to the moment of our births, but rather by their relationship to us, their children.

To me, my mom – my smart, sharp, wonderful, supportive mom – was therefore first and foremost a mother. Any other role she happened to inhabit – worker, wife, daughter, aunt, friend, sister – was incidental, almost like an afterthought meant to amplify her ability to continue to be, in my mind, the best mom in the world.

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It really wasn’t until grad school, a period when I finally started coming into my own and following some of the paths I had laid out for myself, that I learned the most valuable lesson about her: not only is she more than a supporting actor – she’s a dreamer, a visionary, an enabler, and one heck of a strong woman in her own right.

In the grand scheme of things, I’m not surprised it took me so long to realize this. Growing up, I distinctly remember telling my mom that I would one day become a famous actress, to which she replied: “It’s fine to think about – but don’t get your hopes up.” Never one to mince words or sugarcoat the truth, my mom was (and still is) undoubtedly a realist, and this fact made it difficult for me to perceive how, at the core, she was also the greatest dreamer I have ever known.

So when I started blogging three years ago, the hobby concerned her: did I have enough time to study? Were there enough hours in the day?… Read more

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Filed under Cakes & Cupcakes

The BIG Blog THANK YOU { + peanut butter chocolate rice krispies-smothered jumbo marshmallows }

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #ShareYourSummer #CollectiveBias

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The post you’re about to read to me is SUPER near and dear to my heart in many ways, mostly because it features two of my DEAREST friends, fans, and unconditional supporters (who you’ll be meeting today, yeee!). What’s more, today’s post is a rare chance for me to put my blogging overdrive on pause and say a BIG thank you, thank you, THANK YOU to the people who have meant the most to me throughout this amazing blogging journey: yep, that’s all of you!

An Introduction to the SUPPORT (SUPer ImPORTant) Team: Behind every blogger is a critical SUPPORT–or SUPer ImPORTant people–system. Whether this consists of the entire food blogging community or just your mom, blogging is never a solitary activity. It takes a lot of dedication to update your Instagram account every day at 6 AM with #frappuccino, photograph everyone’s food every time you go out to a restaurant, and hurl your kitchen into a tornado disaster zone on a semiweekly basis only to clean it up again right away because the clouds set in and all of your hard work is no longer photograph-worthy. Sure, who doesn’t admit that we’ve got our work cut out for us?

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Cheering squad at the annual Edible Book Festival

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In Vancouver 2014, meeting Nancy, the wonderful, lovely, multi-talented lady behind Gotta Get Baked

But when you’re the person who has to put up with the person who does all of this loco stuff on the regular, like most of my friends and family do, it takes much more than time: it takes patience, enthusiasm, and a genuine willingness to put your faith in the fact that your friend is not perhaps just a crazy loon whose life goal is to give every single person around her onset diabetes.… Read more

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How to Host Your Own Ice Cream Cookie Sandwich + Sundae Bar

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #StartSummer and #CollectiveBias

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Last Wednesday, I did a wonderful thing. I did a wonderful, very cool thing. I did a wonderful, very cool, crazy thing that has revolutionized the way I think about summer. Can I get a Josh Gad/Olaf solo about summer in here? No? Well bully that, here it is anyway….

I hosted my very own ice cream cookie sandwich + sundae bar!

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The only thing better than getting together to celebrate the arrival of summer with friends in late April is getting together to celebrate the arrival of summer with friends AND homemade ice cream AND homemade cookies AND homemade toppings. I stopped by Walmart the weekend before to grab some dessert-making essentials, like Hershey’s Cookies ‘n’ Cream Bars for my cookies ‘n’ cream cookies, a big bag of M&Ms for my loaded Kitchen Sink cookies, and the hit of the party: my homemade no-churn Twix ice cream, which I’m sharing here today–scroll to the bottom for the stellar (and simple) recipe!

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Hosting parties for no official designated holiday makes me one seriously happy crazy person. The night before the big get-together, I cranked up the TSwift, pulled out every pot and bowl I own, whipped up an insane amount of ice cream, and belted out the lyrics to “Blank Space” straight into my ice cream scoop while I was doing the dishes like a responsible adult-like human being thingy.

If you’ve ever experienced this feeling and love it, take my advice and throw the party. You’ll thank me for it, I promise!

If you’ve never experienced this feeling before: THROW THE DANG PARTY NOW. TRUST ME. It’s been a full week and my friends are still raving about the sweet idea!… Read more

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Filed under Cookies, Frozen Desserts

No-Bake Cookie Butter Bars for #SundaySupper

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It’s hard to believe, but change is beginning to settle in the thick, smoggy air. The days are getting longer, the cotton material of my shirt is sticking to my armpit to an increasingly embarrassing degree, and these days I can go until nearly 7:45 PM before the sun starts setting and I actually begin to feel guilty about all the work I haven’t done for the day.

In other words: summer is coming!

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It’s hard to believe we spent the last two perfect weekends outdoors at two of the West Coast’s biggest book festivals–the Young Adult literature festival last weekend, followed by the city’s annual book festival this weekend–surrounded by some of the best, most delightful names in the world of publishing. (For example, yesterday afternoon I met Mac Barnett, one of the friendliest children’s book authors out there, a veritable genius, and a client of one of the lit agents I had worked for years before!)

I spent the first weekend volunteering at the book festival, meeting a variety of YA authors but also getting to interact with thousands of wonderful, vibrant fans (over 6,500 of them turned up!). Last Saturday was brutally sunny, and some of these folks waited in line for over 2 hours just to nab a signed book copy–not to mention the opportunity to exchange a coveted “hello” with their favorite authors. I ended up monitoring the author signing queues, turning away over 200 people in the course of 3 hours because there was simply no way to accommodate every single autograph request.

It was a thankless task at best, but even I was stunned by just how gracious most of the fans were! Most were disappointed, of course, but several of them thanked me for doing my job and for treating that crazy afternoon with a cheerful smile.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Bars

Chocolate Rum Bundt Cake with Chocolate Syrup {churned by Willy Wonka’s chocolate waterfall}

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Exactly 7 days ago, our school hosted its annual Edible Book festival! And you bet your chocolatey pants that I entered.

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After last year’s Calvin and Hobbes success, I gave myself exactly two days before I started brewing up ideas for this year’s festival. The idea behind the Edible Book Festival is simple: pick a book, create a food display inspired by the book, and show it off to a happy, hungry public. Perfecto, no?

Now is a self-proclaimed amateur connoisseur of both children’s literature and baked goods, you can imagine the sort of schoolgirl high I get every time the end of March rolls around. I mean, edible books? You might as well slap my name all over the marketing flyers and call it a day.

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This year I decided to go the literal route and use the book that’s chock filled with edible references. Growing up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory wasn’t on my list of favorite books–it wasn’t even on my radar until the seventh grade, and by then I wanted nothing to do with the grotesque author who had written abominably disturbing works such as The Witches. (I mean, have you read that book? Yeesh!)

In fact, it wasn’t until I began teaching children’s literature at the university level that I read the novel in its entirety – once, then twice, then five times and ten. I couldn’t get over all the zany demises of Charlie’s rivals, or the wonderfully awful Quentin Blake illustrations accompanying these descriptions – and let’s face it: a book all about chocolate? Twelve-year-old self, WHAT WERE YOU THINKING???

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Once the cogs started turning, there was no chance in holy fudge tarnations that they were going to stop. I knew I wanted to do a display inspired by my favorite part of the books: the tragic disappearances of each of the four naughty children who enter Willy Wonka’s factory.… Read more

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Filed under Baked Goods and Desserts, Brownies & Chocolates, Cakes & Cupcakes

Cheez-It Spicy Snack Mix

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #MVCheezIt #CollectiveBias

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I didn’t watch much of college anything until grad school. Never one to paint my face blue and gold on Game Day, I was about as exciting as the white petunias sitting in your neighbor’s drought-ridden window garden.

Then basketball season came one year and suddenly I began noticing things. No, not the cute guy wearing a school jersey. (Okay, maybe a little–who doesn’t look cuter dressed from head to foot in school spirit?). I was staring at the long line behind him, filled with hardcore fans and team gear and an excited babble that refused to die down. And that’s when I started to think…huh!

Throw in a bowl of homemade snack mix and you can count me in for the fun :)

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Last week we were visiting Seattle and happened to arrive at the arena just as a bunch of fans congregated for the latest championship game. We didn’t end up buying last-minute tickets since we had a flight to catch (though trust me–he was sorely tempted!), but we did linger around watching all the buzz and excitement around the upcoming face-off, nibbling at our donuts and secretly wishing for a TV and bowl of snack mix to reward our vigilant abstention.

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In fact, I am eternally grateful to basketball and all the snacky cravings it’s inspired in me this month, because that’s how this Cheez-It spicy snack mix was born. As of earlier this year, I became equally obsessed with the game and this perfect game day food.

If somebody told me that chucking my last bag of snack mix at our school mascot would guarantee a victory on the court, I’d have one heck of a time deciding which one I’d rather keep.… Read more

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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

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
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  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