Tahini Brownies

WE LEAVE FOR NORWAY A WEEK FROM TODAY AND I'M SO FLIPPIN' EXCITED! My whole fam jam is flying from Orlando to Oslo and Thomas and I will be meeting them there. We have a direct flight from Portland to Iceland with a 20 hour layover in Reykjavík. The Blue Lagoon is only thing on my list so far to-do on our layover. Since we're going to have some time, do you guys have any suggestions on places to eat or drink in Reykjavík? 

I'm going to be good about bringing my camera around and documenting everywhere we go! On our itinerary is Oslo, Bergen, and Stavanger - So stay tuned!

On top of getting prepared to leave for Norway, we have our engagement pictures on the Oregon Coast this Thursday. So I have been running around like a chicken with my head cut off doing errands, wedding planning, shopping, and BAKING. Not that baking has anything to do with me accomplishing things on my to-do list, but a girl's gotta do whatta girl's gotta do. 

Now, let's talk about these Tahini Brownies, shall we? I never knew this level of fudgy wonderment and admiration could exist...AND they are semi-healthy to boot! Healthy for a brownie at least and you would never know the difference. I have eaten a fair share of brownies in my day, and I would put these up as a contender with the best of em'.

No butter. No oil. No refined sugar. No flour. BAM!

The creamy tahini gives these a little bit of a nutty flavor, and the maple syrup and coconut sugar provides the sweetness. Thank you Ambitious Kitchen for bestowing me the best brownie recipe there ever was and giving me inspiration to make a whole bunch of other amazing treats where healthy ingredients are hiding. Maybe avocado brownies next? 

Also, please don't judge that I used a pie dish to make these brownies. You would think someone who likes to cook would own a 9x9 inch baking pan! 

Tahini Brownies - Recipe by Ambitious Kitchen 

- 1 cup tahini
- 1/2 cup coconut sugar
- 1/4 cup pure maple syrup
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 eggs
- 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 tablespoon coconut flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup chocolate chips

For the chocolate drizzle
- 2 tablespoons chocolate chips
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil

What to do
1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x9 inch baking pan with cooking spray.

2) In a large bowl, combine the tahini, coconut sugar, maple syrup, vanilla extract and eggs until smooth and well combined. Gently fold in cocoa powder, coconut flour, salt and baking soda until batter is smooth. Fold in 1/3 cup chocolate chips into the batter. This batter should be rather thick.

3) Spread batter evenly in prepared baking pan. If it's giving you trouble to spread (because it's on the thicker side), spray a rubber spatula with nonstick cooking spray (trust me, it helps!). Bake for 22-30 minutes or until knife inserted into the middle comes out clean or with just a few crumbs attached. Don't overbake! 

4) After brownies have cooled a few minutes, prepared the chocolate drizzle: Place a small saucepan over low heat, add chocolate chips and coconut oil and stir frequently until melted and smooth. Generously drizzle over the brownies. Makes 16 brownies.

Must-Visit Tapas Spot in Portland // Ataula

Can you imagine a world where it's acceptable to go home every day and take a nap? Or a place where the sangria flows freely and the Jamón ibérico aplenty? Where you can eat patatas bravas for breakfast, lunch, and dinner with no judgement? That my friends, would be Spain. 

After visiting several spots in Spain, there's still so much of the country that I want to see with Thomas. On our bucket list is to go wine tasting in La Rioja; Eat our way through San Sebastian, which has more Michelin stars per capita than anywhere else in the world; and throw tomatoes in Buñol at the  famous La Tomatina Festival! But until then, we've found our little slice of Spanish heaven in our neighborhood at Ataula

Tucked away on a side street off of 23rd Ave and Thurman, lies what feels like Northwest Portland's best kept secret. Ataula's whole essence is characterized by how eating and drinking should be celebrated with friends and family - which is exactly the kind of place that I want to be on a date-night, or any other night for that matter. Cristina Baez and chef Jose Chesa bring a 'Portland vibe' by utilizing the Pacific Northwest's seasonal goodies and creating dishes inspired by Catalunya and other regions of Spain.  Sharing multiple 'small plates' so we can try a little of everything is my jam and at Ataula, you can't go wrong. 

On our most recent date night we started off with sangria of course. Then the plethora of jaw-droppingly good tapas started coming to the table. We had cured salmon toasts, the best Jamón ibérico de Bellota, octopus carpaccio, more sangria, bacalao, steak tartare, wine, langoustine, more wine, and THE BEST DESSERT EVER. It's a house made puff pastry, stuffed with house custard and dusted with sugar and spices. Do yourself a favor and order it no matter how full you are.  

Write here...

Write here...

First we started with Sangria because duh, why wouldn't you?! Thomas got the classic red sangria and I got a spicy seasonal sangria which was incredible. 

House cured salmon, mascarpone yogurt, black truffle honey, coca bread

Next we devoured the house special, Jamón ibérico de Bellota. "de Bellota" means acorn fed. 

Also pictured above and below is the pulpo carpaccio, made from thinly sliced octopus.

Above- Bacalao - a dried salted cod which was AMAZING. I've had bacalao in Norway, so it was neat to see the Spanish version. 

Beef tartare, smoked piquillo ketchup, egg yolk puree with chili spiced potato chips

The best langoustine I've ever had. I can't even tell you everything that was on it now, but it was incredible. If you go to Ataula and they have any type of langoustine on the menu I suggest that you get it!

The picture speaks for itself! SO GOOOOOD. 

Lobster Rolls

I am in a blissful buttery lobster coma and I don't ever want to come out. Ever since our friends told Thomas and me about the epic lobster rolls they had while traveling in Maine, we've been dying to get our hands on one. We've drooled over countless articles like 14 Must-Try Lobster Rolls across the U.S., and watched video after video like How-to Make Lobster Rolls with Matty Matheson.  Last weekend we decided enough is enough and spent all of our savings on lobster...just kidding; But those suckers are expensive! Thankfully our local Fred Meyer was having an awesome sale on lobster tails! I was toying with buying a whole live Maine lobster just to taste the difference and to have the frightening experience of cooking it. If you don't know this by now, I have zero willpower when it comes to good food - So a live lobster ended up coming home with me from Newman's Fish Company. I wonder if people thought I was a crazy lady walking down the street holding a brown paper bag far away from by body?!

There's a big debate on what makes a lobster roll "the best". Some say with mayo, some say without; Celery or no celery; butter or no butter; Or the folks that say that the meat should be served unadulterated. 

We went with the light mayo route, with just a squeeze of lemon juice, a pinch of salt and pepper, and a small dose of green onion tops sprinkled on top. I know this would be blasphemy to many, but we also added a little bit of coleslaw at the bottom of our buns to give it a touch of crunch. Last but not least we drizzled brown butter on top. I mean how could you not add butter people?!  To go alongside I made Bon Appetite's Crispiest Potato Chips and added a sprinkle of Old Bay Seasoning. Amazing. 

 Mind-blowingly good, best weekend meal ever, incredibly easy albeit slightly messy. Check check check. With the 4th of July coming up these rolls would be a SHOW-STOPPAAA.

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We don't have a massive pot, so we cooked the lobster in our cast iron dutch oven and it worked just fine. Once I stopped feeling sad for Mr. Lobster, Thomas plopped him down into the boiling water. I know it's ridiculous, but all I think of is when Sebastian is about to be thrown in the hot water by Chef Louis in Little Mermaid

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Lobster Rolls 

Lobster Rolls

- Lobster tails or live lobsters. Depending on how many rolls you are preparing, we bought a 1½ pound live lobster and 4 small lobster tails and that made 2 HUGE lobster rolls. A good rule of thumb, 1 8 oz lobster tail per person. If you're buying live lobsters, it should be at least  1½- 2 pounds per person.
- 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tablespoon of chopped chives or green onion tops
- Good quality hot dog buns or hoagie rolls, split-top
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature

Potato Chips
- 1½ pounds russet or purple potatoes
- ½ cup distilled white vinegar
- Vegetable oil (for frying; about 8 cups)
- Old bay seasoning or just simply sprinkle with salt

Cole Slaw
For this I cheated and used a pre-made mix, like this one from Trader Joe's
- 3 tablespoons of Mayonnaise
- 1 tablespoon of dijon mustard
- 1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste

What to do

1) I would make the potato chips first! Slice potatoes about ⅛” thick (a mandoline helps). Place in a large bowl, add cold water to cover, and stir to release starch; drain. Repeat until water runs clear. Return potatoes to bowl; cover with ½ cup distilled white vinegar and 6 cups water. Let sit at least 30 minutes or up to 2 hours. Drain; pat dry.
2) Fit a medium heavy pot with thermometer; pour in oil to measure 4”. Heat over medium-high until thermometer registers 300°.
3) Working in 6 batches and returning oil to 300° between batches, fry potatoes, turning occasionally to cook evenly, until golden brown and crisp (oil will have quit bubbling), about 5 minutes per batch. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer to a paper towel–lined wire rack. Season with salt or Old Bay Seasoning!

DO AHEAD: Potatoes can be fried 6 hours ahead. Keep at room temperature.

Next: Make the lobster rolls!
1) Pour water into a large pot to a depth of 1 inch; bring to a boil and salt generously. Add lobsters, cover, and cook until bright red, 7-10 minutes. Transfer lobsters to a rimmed baking sheet and let cool ( we cooked our live lobster first, and then did the tails in a second batch)
2) Crack lobster shells, pick meat from tail and claws, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Mix lobster, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons mayonnaise in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper and add more mayonnaise, if desired.
3) To make the brown butter, simply start melting the butter over medium heat. Swirl the pan occasionally to be sure the butter is cooking evenly. As the butter melts, it will begin to foam. The color will progress from a light yellow color to golden-tan to, finally, a toasty-brown. Once you smell that nutty aroma, take the pan off the heat and transfer the browned butter into a heat-proof bowl to cool. When you transfer the brown butter to a new container, try to leave as much of this sediment in the pan as possible. You can also strain the butter through a fine meshed strainer or cheese cloth to remove all the particles.
4) We wanted the outside of our buns crispy and the inside soft. Brush the outside of the buns with a little of the brown butter. In a large skillet over medium heat, toast the buns on the outsides. 
5) To assemble the rolls, place a layer of cole slaw and pile the lobster on high! Drizzle with the brown butter and sprinkle with green onions or chives! 

Happy Lobster-Roll-Eating Ya'll!

Breakfast Hash

I love Sundays. During the winter/spring/rainy season in Portland when all we wanted to do was stay inside, I loved waking up to a hot cup of coffee and a cozy breakfast. That is the absolute best. But now that the rain has FINALLY stopped and the temperatures are climbing into the 90's, I'm switching out hot coffee for iced, and super carb-y breakfasts for something a little lighter. And when I say "light" I just mean not biscuits smothered in gravy. Bikini season ya know. 

Weekdays are for fruit and yogurt, but weekends are for HASH. Hash's are great for a quick one-skillet breakfast. You can literally sauté anything you like, crack some eggs in there, top with a little cheese and voila! I had a bunch of leftover asparagus and prosciutto, so I made this hash last weekend. I added onions and fingerling potatoes and it turned out so good!

Since it's 100 degrees this morning in Portland and we don't have AC, the only breakfast I'll be having are the prosecco popsicles sitting in the freezer that I just made. Yesterday when I cooked breakfast I was dripping sweat by the end and I had to stick my head in the freezer, so I will absolutely not be cooking anything today. 

Stay cool friends!

Breakfast Hash with Prosciutto, Asparagus, and Potatoes 

- 1 pound fingerling potatoes
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
- 1 1/2 ounces chopped prosciutto (4 slices)
- However many eggs you want! We usually crack in 6
- Grated parmesan
- Chopped fresh parsley

What to do
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. To get the potatoes extra crispy, Slice the small fingerling potatoes in half, toss with a little oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet until crisp and brown, Turning occasionally. 

While the potatoes are cooking, heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat and sauté red onion, until soft about 5 minutes. Add asparagus; season with salt and pepper and cook, covered, until almost tender, 3 minutes. Stir in prosciutto. With a spoon, make nests in the hash and crack 1 egg into each. Cook, covered, until whites are set, 5 minutes. Grate parmesan cheese on top and sprinkle with parsely. 

Barbacoa Taco's with Pineapple Salsa

Sorry it's been a little quieter around these parts lately. I'm in this weird funk where I have SO MUCH to do that I end up not doing anything at all and just binge watching Shameless. Pitiful I know. Between work, wedding planning, and trying to blog, there never seems like there's enough hours in the day. However, this weekend I'm turning over a new leaf and I am not doing ANYTHING besides wedding planning and blogging. Last weekend I went to a friends bachelorette party, and let's just say after one-too-many gin and tonics and a pole-dancing class later, I had a major case of the spins on Saturday... so my production level was nonexistent. 

This weekend I'm excited to hang out at home, knock a few things off of my to-do list, and make some delicious food, like these dreamy barbacoa tacos. Guys, you will want to make these every weekend once you try them. Slow cooking the meat in a dutch oven or slow-cooker makes it melt-in-your-mouth tender with a little crispiness around the edges. Mission Tortillas are the perfect vessel for getting as much of this barbacoa in your mouth as possible. Why do I buy the smallest and thinnest Mission Corn Tortillas you might ask? So I can eat twice as many tacos, duh! Making a sweet/spicy pineapple salsa to go on top gives the tacos a little freshness and balances them wonderfully; And I love adding thinly sliced radishes and cilantro as well. 

Happy Taco Friday Friends!

Barbacoa Tacos with Pineapple Salsa



- 4 lbs beef brisket (or beef chuck roast will also work)
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 chipotle chilis in adobo, chopped ( Plus 3 tablespoons of adobo sauce)
- 1 cup beef broth
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1½ Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp salt, then more to taste
- 1 tsp ground black pepper
- ¼ tsp ground cloves
- ¼ cup fresh lime juice

Pineapple Salsa
- 1 cup fresh pineapple, diced
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and diced
- 1/2 sweet onion, diced
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
- 1 lime, juiced
- salt and pepper to taste

- 2-3 ripe avocados
- 1-2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice (Depending on how lime-y you like it) 
- 2 tablespoons minced red onion
- 1 tablespoon minced jalapeño
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- As much chopped cilantro as you like ( We put a lot!) 
- Salt and pepper to taste. 

For Taco Assembly
- Mission Extra Thin Corn Tortillas
- Thinly sliced radishes
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Any other toppings you like! 

What to do 
1) Cut the beef into large cubes. In a large skillet over medium high heat add the vegetable oil and sear the beef on each side. Transfer to your dutch oven or slow-cooker. 
2) In a food processor add adobo chilis, adobo sauce, beef broth, garlic, cumin, oregano, salt, pepper, cloves, and lime juice. Pulse until blended and pour on top of the meat.
3) Cook on low for 8-9 hours or high for 6 hours. 

Make the salsa towards the end of the beefs cooking time. Combine all the salsa ingredients together in a large bowl and stir. Let sit for 30 minutes or so for the flavors to meld. 

Same with the guac! Mix and mash all the ingredients together and you're good to go!

Honey Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Bowls

If you're anything like me than you have to really psych yourself up for Mondays. I had a moment this past weekend when my eyes popped open around 6:30 AM thinking it was Monday morning; BEST FEELING EVER realizing that it was only Sunday and I had the whole day ahead of me. I've tried to make my weekends as productive as possible lately since our wedding is only 9 months away now! That sounds like an eternity, but I am the queen of procrastination. I'm trying not to stress at all, but there are SO many little details that I would have never even thought to think about until they pop-up! But for now I am just chipping away at my checklist. One of my biggest goals is to get fitty fit before the wedding (says every bride ever). I just joined Pure Barre and it is kicking my booty! I seriously limped into work all last week, but I think I'm on the uptick now. 

Thomas and I are both trying to eat healthy during the week so we can splurge a little on the weekends. Wedding or not, there's no way we can give up taco or pizza nights. To kick start my Mondays on a healthy foot, I love eating a protein packed bowl for lunch. This Honey Chipotle Chicken Quinoa bowl is layered with lime-y quinoa, guacamole, arugula, and smoky & sweet chicken breast. This meal is so easy to prep over the weekend so you can have lunch for the week!

Honey Chipotle Chicken Quinoa Bowls - Recipe Adapted from Jessica Merchant

honey chipotle chicken
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Sprinkle of salt and pepper
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons adobo sauce, from a can of chipotles in adobo
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoon dijon mustard
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 garlic cloves, minced

6 cups spring greens (I use arugula)
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup torn fresh cilantro
4 green onions, sliced
1 avocado, sliced
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon honey

lime quinoa
1/2 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
1 cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable stock, or even water
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 lime, juiced and zest freshly grated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

What to do

1) Add the chicken breasts to a baking dish or ziplock bag and season with salt and pepper. In a bowl, whisk together the olive oil, adobo, honey, mustard, cilantro and garlic. Pour the marinade over the chicken, covering it evenly. Place it in the fridge and marinate for at least 2 hours, or even overnight.
2) When you're ready to make the meal, heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tiny bit of olive oil and add the chicken, then cover the skillet and cook until the chicken is deeply browned on both sides and cooked in the center, about 6 minutes per side.
3) To make the quinoa, add the quinoa and stock (or water) to a saucepan over high heat and bring it to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Stir in the coconut oil (you can swap butter), lime juice, zest, salt and pepper.
3) To make the salads, add the greens in a large bowl and toss them with a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Add the chicken on top along with the quinoa, cilantro, green onions and avocado. Drizzle the bowl with the lime juice, olive oil and honey. Serve!


Strawberry Panna Cotta Tart // Happy First Birthday Crumb Kisses!

It's been a year friends! A year since I first hit publish on this strawberry tart post that officially made Crumb Kisses a thang. It's been a year of cold meals due to taking photos for too long; A year of cooking up a storm in our little kitchen; A year of fails, triumphs, late nights and early mornings; A year of batter splattered clothes and flour in my hair; And most importantly, a year of doing something that I love and look forward to every day. 

Another thing to celebrate, STRAWBERRY SEASON! Since the first post I published last year with the Crumb Kisses name was a strawberry tart, I wanted to continue the tradition here on out and make a tart every year. Thomas made panna cotta for me for the first time and I was hooked! It's so creamy, sweet, and tangy at the same time, so I thought it would go perfectly in these little mini tarts. This was the first time I ever used a tart pan and the crusts turned out a little deformed! How do you get that perfect wavy edge? Although they weren't the prettiest things in the world, they were super tasty, and the strawberries and pistachios on top definitely helped their appearance. 

Cheers to this blog for giving me a reason to make indulgent desserts and share our obsession with food, and cheers to you guys for sticking around :)

Strawberry Panna Cotta Tart

Tart Dough (Dough recipe by Williams Sonoma)
- 1 egg yolk
- 2 Tbs. very cold water
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- 1 1⁄4 cups (160 g) unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1⁄3 cup (67 g) sugar
- 1⁄4 tsp. salt
- 8 Tbs. (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄4-inch cubes

Panna Cotta
- 1 cup (250 g) Greek yogurt
- 1/2 cup (150 ml) heavy cream
- 1/4 cup (50 g) sugar
- 1 vanilla pod, cut in half seeds removed
- 3 gelatin sheets, softened in cool water

Strawberry Topping
- 10-12 fresh strawberries
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- Chopped pistachios for garnish

What to do 

1) For the dough: In a small bowl, stir together the egg yolk, water and vanilla; set aside.
To make the dough by hand, in a large bowl, stir together the flour, sugar and salt. Using a pastry cutter or 2 knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until the texture resembles coarse cornmeal, with butter pieces no larger than small peas. Add the egg mixture and mix with a fork just until the dough pulls together.

Transfer the dough to a work surface, pat into a ball and flatten into a disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, about 30 minutes.

2) While the dough chills, make the panna cotta: In a saucepan, heat the cream with the sugar, scraped out vanilla seeds and the vanilla pod until the sugar is completely dissolved. Squeeze all water out of gelatin sheets and add to the mixture, stir until gelatin has dissolved. Set aside to cool slightly. Then, remove the vanilla pod shell, transfer to a bowl and stir with yogurt.

3) Grease your tart trays with butter and sprinkle with flour. Remove the dough from the fridge and roll out on a floured work surface to 1/2 cm thickness. Using a glass or small knife, cut disks from the pastry. Line the trays and bake for 12-15 minutes at 350°F (180°C). Remove from the oven and after 5 minutes gently remove the cookies from the trays, cool on a rack.

4) Once cooled pour the panna cotta filling and place in the fridge for 2-3 hours. Wash the strawberries, remove stems and chop finely. Stir with honey and lemon juice. Serve the tarts with strawberries and garnish with chopped pistachios!

Strawberry Rosé Sangria

I know some people think it's a  little silly to have all of these "National Food Days", but I am an absolute sucker for them! It's like you get mini holidays all year round! National beer day, donut day, ice-cream day, and pizza day are all winners in my book, but the mack daddy of all the days is NATIONAL ROSÉ DAY!!!!!!!!! It's happening Saturday folks; I'll most definitely be lounging somewhere drinking the pink nectar of the gods and probably over using #roséallday. 

I also just read this news article talking about Aldi's $8 bottle of rosé was named one of the best wines in the world! Would Postmates deliver a case of wine to my apartment door ya think? 

I just happened to have a bottle of Ruffino Sparkling Rosé in the fridge this weekend and decided to make an epic Strawberry Rosé Sangria...with rum...and hood strawberries. Could 3 things be anymore perfect together? I can't imagine a better accompaniment than this sangria to a day basking in the sun. This rosé is perfect on it's own, but sometimes you just want that little extra somethin' somethin', and a generous shot of rum will do just the trick. 

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Strawberry Rosé Sangria 

- 1 bottle (750 ml) dry rose wine
- 1/2 cup of white rum
- 2 tablespoons sugar (more to taste depending on how sweet you like yours
- 1 1/2 cups sliced strawberries
- 1 sliced lime
- 1 1/2 cups seltzer or soda water (you may not need this depending on how fizzy you like it 

What to do
1) Mix the wine, rum and sugar in a pitcher, stirring to dissolve the sugar. The amount of sugar you want to add will depend on how sweet your rosé is, so add 2 tablespoons first and then go from there. Then add the strawberries and sliced limes.
2) Refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.
3) If you're lazy like me sometimes, you can just fill your glass with ice and sliced fruit, pour over 2 ounces of rum, an ounce of simple syrup, top with rosé and give it a good stir!
3) Add the seltzer/soda water just before serving if you want it a little fizzier. 

Chicken Lettuce Wraps // Our First Date

Every single one of us have certain foods that spark nostalgia the second we take a bite. What comes to mind for me would be mint chocolate chip ice-cream, and how every time I take a spoonful I can picture sitting at my nana's table eating ice-cream for breakfast. Or how anytime I eat fried fish it brings back memories of walking down to the lake with my dad to go fishing and bringing our catch home for a fish fry. And  lettuce wraps of all things will always remind me of my first date with Thomas :)

Who would have thought that measly little lettuce wraps at the Cheesecake Factory could become such a monumental meal in our life?!  I'll never forget our first date, obviously. I guess it was kind of like a second date technically since we had already met on a cruise a few weeks prior. But this was our first date date. We met at the Cheesecake Factory at the Millennial Mall in Orlando and I can still remember what I was wearing! These shiny maroon leggings which sound god awful, which they probably are, but I thought they looked rockin' at the time! 

You could tell that we were both nervous, but a cute-giddy-first-date-kind-of-nervous; you know the kind. The damn Cheesecake Factory menu is so long that I just had to pick something quickly so I went with the lettuce wraps and then Thomas ordered the exact same thing! if you've ever had the lettuce wraps at CF then you know they're massive and one platter could feed an entire tribe. But there we were, with two huge platters of lettuce wraps and only a few bites taken here and there as a result of all the butterflies crowding our stomachs. We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening talking about anything and everything, and the rest is history! I've been hooked on Thomas and lettuce wraps ever since ;)

Now we make these bad boys at home all the time! I love doing different variations, but my favorite is Thai inspired with lots of garlic, ginger, peppers, lemongrass and cilantro. I love pairing them with avocado, marinated cucumbers, and a sweeter sauce to drizzle over the top. A healthy delicious meal that can be made in a jiffy. If you're anything like me you'll throw on those old maroon leggings while you're cooking. 

Thai Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

- 2 tablespoons of cooking oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon of grated fresh ginger
- 2 lemongrass stalks, thinly sliced (white parts only) 
- 1 pound boneless skinless chicken breast, diced small
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 teaspoons of soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 head of lettuce leaves, something easy for wrapping. Butter lettuce is great! 
- Chopped fresh cilantro
- Salt & Pepper to taste ( The soy sauce should give you enough sodium for your liking) 

What to do
1) In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion and red pepper with a pinch of salt and sauté until starting to soften, about 5-10 minutes. 
2) While the onions and peppers are cooking, Remove the outer later of the lemon grass stalks. Cut off the lower bulb (the tip) of the stalk. Thinly slice the white parts and either discard the tops of the stalks or reserving for later to use to flavor soup. 
3) Once the onion and peppers have started to soften, add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass. Sauté until fragrant, another 2-3 minutes. 
4) Remove the mixture to a bowl. Wipe out the pan and then heat a tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add diced chicken and cook until golden brown. Add the honey, soy sauce, hoisin sauce, and rice vinegar and cook until the chicken is done, about 10-15 minutes. Add the onion and pepper mixture back in at the end and stir to incorporate. Serve the chicken mixture alongside a plate of lettuce leaves, marinated cucumber, sliced avocado, chopped cilantro, and any other toppings you desire. 

Marinated Cucumbers 
- 1 English Cucumber (or 2 Japanese cucumbers)
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 2 Tbsp sesame oil
- 1-2 Tbsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- pinch - 2 Tbsp crushed red pepper flakes (depending on how much kick you want)

What to do
1) Wash and thinly slice the cucumber. Put the cucumber slices in a large bowl and sprinkle with
1-2 Tbsp salt, Just enough to cover each slice with a bit of salt.  Toss them to evenly coat. 
2) Let the cucumbers sit for about 10 minutes until they've absorbed a little salt.  Place them in a colander/strainer and rinse off the salt.  Rinse out the large bowl and make the sauce.  Add 3 tablespoons rice vinegar, 1 Tbsp sesame oil and 1 tsp sugar with a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes (or more if you want them spicier!). Whisk together.  Add the cucumber back in the bowl with the sauce. Toss until evenly coated.

Cilantro Dipping Sauce
In a small stainless-steel saucepan, bring 5 tablespoons of rice vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer, stirring. Simmer for 2 minutes. Pour the liquid into a small glass or stainless-steel bowl and let cool. Add 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, 1/4 teaspoon red-pepper flakes. I added in another little squeeze of honey, a small pour of soy sauce, and a 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil to the mixture. Add whatever you want to this! It's fun to mix it up!

Coconut Chicken Curry + Homemade Garlic Naan

This post should really be titled "Collegiate Coconut Curry". When my best friend Lindsey and I lived together in college, this curry made an appearance at least once a week. I was the cook and Linds was on kitchen duty. And if we didn't do the dishes? Who cared, because we were "grown-ups" and we could do what we wanted ;). I remember the first day we moved into our apartment sophomore year I felt like we were so grown-up. We popped open Barefoot's finest moscato and kicked our heels up on our hand-me-down couch and were livin' the dream. 

I first started cooking when Linds and I lived together. We had a rotating menu of chicken caesar bowtie pasta, taco soup, my nana's chicken & rice recipe, and this curry. Our meals might not have been fancy, but we weren't your average college kids eating ramen every night that's for sure! Don't get me wrong, we devoured our fair share of $2 pizza slices and drunken Taco Bell, but other than the occasional blunder I feel like we fed ourselves pretty well! 

Sitting on the couch having girl talk, watching Law & Order marathons, drinking wine and eating curry with Linds were some of my favorite nights. We were real party animals as you can tell ;) No, we definitely had our fun, but what I reminiscence most about from college is hanging out in our very first apartment and figuring life out together. Now Lindsey is moving to Hawaii with her husband and starting her career as a PA there and I couldn't be more happy for her. If she whips up this curry and homemade naan for her new Hawaiian neighbors they are going to love her.

I love making curry now with Thomas. Sorry Linds, you've been replaced ;) It's the perfect meal if you want a fun and cozy dinner at home. This was my first time making naan and it was fairly simple and the perfect vehicle to sop up all of the delicious sauce! This curry is a little on the sweeter side, has a spicy kick, and is the quintessential comfort food. 

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Coconut Chicken Curry 

-2 tablespoons oil
- 2 1/2 tablespoons of curry powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne powder
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 chicken breasts, cut into bite size cubes
- 1 can of tomato sauce (14 oz)
- 1 can diced tomatoes (14 oz) - I use fire roasted with green chilies!
1 can coconut milk or coconut cream (I use the coconut cream from Trader Joe's!)
- 1/2 tablespoon of sugar
- salt & pepper to taste
- chopped fresh cilantro
- basmati rice for serving

What to do
1) Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a non-stick skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add your curry powder and cayenne pepper and stir until fragrant. 
2) Saute sliced onions in the curry mixture until they start to soften, then add in the minced garlic cloves and cook another minute. 
3) Add the cubed chicken pieces to the onion mixture and season with salt & pepper. If the pan needs a little more oil add it now. If you feel like the chicken needs to be coated a little more, don't be shy! Add a few more dashes of curry powder or garam masala to your liking. Cook chicken until the pieces start to brown and the juices are running clear.
4) Add in your tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, coconut cream, and sugar. Season the sauce with about a teaspoon of salt and a few cranks of black pepper. 
5) Let the sauce simmer for at least 30 minutes. Make any adjustments you need with seasonings and then serve with basmati rice, fresh cilantro, and naan bread on the side. 


Garlic Naan Bread 

Recipe from what to cook today

- 2 tsp instant yeast
- 1 cup lukewarm water
- 1/2 Tbsp sugar
- 3 1/3 cups of all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp of baking powder
- 2 1/2 Tbsp of cooking oil I used avocado oil- it's neutral tasting
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1/2 cup of plain Greek yogurt

Serve with:
- 2 cloves of garlic minced + melted butter
-Fresh cilantro leaves

What to do
1) Place the instant yeast, lukewarm water and sugar in a bowl. Let it sits until foamy, around 10 minutes.
2) In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, salt, and baking powder. Add in the yeast, cooking oil, garlic, and yogurt

If using stand mixer:
1)Attach the dough hook and let it knead on speed 2 (on kitchen aid) for about 5 minutes or so. Until the dough is no longer sticky to the bowl and come together into a nice silky mass. It may be just a tiny bit sticky to the touch, but I know when this is the case, my bread always comes out soft

If kneading by hand:
1)Work through the sticky stage and knead until the dough is no longer sticky about 10-15 minutes. It will come together as smooth

After kneading:
1) Place the dough in a lightly oiled dough. Cover with a plastic wrap and place in a warm place (not hot or you might kill the yeast) and let it rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour or less

1) Lightly dust your working surface and your hands with flour. Place the dough on it and punch it down and roll it into a long log and divide into 8 to 10 equal pieces of dough. Keep them covered and work with one dough at a time. Roll the dough out into about 6-inch circle, it may not be perfect circle (as you can see in the photo). Don't roll the dough too thin though. We still want a soft thick naan, not a crispy naan. I would say about 1/4-inch in thickness

Cooking on stove-top:
1) Preheat your large skillet (iron-cast is best if you have one). Brush the skillet with some melted butter. Place the naan on the skillet and let it cook until the naan start to puff up and you see some char spots (my favorite parts) about 1-2 minutes. Brush with some butter and flip to the other sides and cook for another 1 minute or less. Remove from the heat and brush with more butter and garlic if you want. Continue with the rest of the dough and stack them up as you cook them. Serve warm with some fresh cilantro leaves or other dishes

Storing and reheating:
1) I wrap them up well individually with plastic wrap and freeze them if I'm not going to eat them the next day or so. When I want them, I just thaw them in the refrigerator and then sprinkle with some water and cover with aluminum foil and reheat in the oven at 425 F for 10 to 15 minutes until warm OR you can just throw them on the grill. They heat up nicely too. We get rid of our microwave a while ago, but I believe you can reheat it in microwave too after thawing. Just be sure not to use aluminum foil in there though

Bacon & Mushroom Quiche + Radicchio Salad

One of my favorite things is getting up in the morning and sharing a cup of coffee with my mom at the kitchen table. It's one of the things I miss the most living in Portland away from home. There's something so cozy about waking up to the smell of fresh coffee brewing, the crackle of bacon sizzling on the stove, and sitting down with your momma and talking about anything and everything. My mom has always been a morning person. She would rip open the curtains when we were kids and start singing "rise and shine" to get us up for school. It was torture lol. I look back now nostalgically on those early morning wake up calls and know that I will do the same thing to my children :) 

I wish more than anything I could hop on a plane and head to Florida to celebrate my mom for Mother's Day. If I could, I would get up Sunday morning and brew her favorite coffee and make her this bacon & mushroom quiche for brunch with radicchio salad on the side. Quiche is a dish that's quick and easy to make, that way you can pop it in the oven and enjoy your morning.

Since Thomas has me on a Jarlsberg kick right now, I added a generous amount of Jarlsberg cheese along with crispy bacon, lots of sautéed shallots and mushrooms, and fresh thyme leaves. Radicchio salad is also my new obsession. After I had the radicchio salad at Tasty & Alder during our staycation, I've been making our own version at home. It's the perfect amount of crispness and crunchiness to go alongside the quiche. 

I hope all of the momma's out there have an amazing Mother's Day! 

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Bacon & Mushroom Quiche 

- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
-8 oz of thick cut bacon cut into bite size pieces
-  8 oz of sliced mushrooms
- 2 shallots, thinly sliced
- Fresh thyme
- 8 large eggs, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) half & half
- 2 teaspoons of salt
- pinch of ground nutmeg
- 1/2 cup (120 ml) Gruyère, finely grated
- prepared pie crust ( or make this homemade recipe by All Recipes) 

What to do
Cook bacon in a saucepan over medium-high heat until bacon pieces are crispy. Remove bacon and reserve bacon fat. In the same saucepan, cook mushrooms, shallots, and thyme sprigs in the bacon fat until mushrooms are golden brown. Pluck out thyme, and transfer mushroom mixture to a medium bowl; set aside.

Place rack in middle of oven; preheat to 325°. Purée eggs in a blender on medium-high speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add half-and-half, salt, and nutmeg. Beat on medium-low until custard is smooth, about 15 seconds. Mix in mushroom mixture, cooked bacon bits, and a little more thyme removed from the stem. Once incorporated, fold in gruyère cheese. 

Place crust In a 9-inch glass pie plate, and pour egg custard on top. Beat one egg and brush the edges of the crust with egg wash. Bake quiche until edges are set but center slightly wobbles, 45-60 minutes (it will continue to set after baking). Transfer to a wire rack and let cool a little before slicing. 
Note: depending if you do a homemade crust or by a pre-packaged crust, baking instructions may vary. 

Do Ahead: Quiche can be baked 1 day ahead. Tightly wrap and chill. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Radicchio Salad 

- 2 medium heads of radicchio
- Manchego or parmesan cheese, finely grated (use as much as you fancy! We use a lot!) 
- 1 lemon
- 1 medium garlic clove
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon of honey
- 3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil 

What to do
1) Remove any wilted outer leaves from the radicchio. Quarter the heads, and remove the stem. Halve each quarter lengthwise, then cut crosswise into 2 to 3 chunks so pieces are bite-sized. Transfer radicchio to the basket of a salad spinner or wash will cold water and dry well and set aside. 
2) Half lemon in half and juice all of the lemon into a bowl, add minced garlic clove, salt, black pepper and honey. Whisk mayonnaise into the mixture until smooth. Slowly whisk in the olive oil. Taste and adjust with salt, honey, pepper, or lemon juice as desired. 
3) Toss radicchio with  dressing and add in manchego or parmesan cheese. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or pepper if needed. Fresh baked breadcrumbs would be amazing in this as well!

Blackberry Jalapeño Margarita's

It magically hit 80 degrees in Portland today folks! Did we think the day would ever come?! It feels like we've been  perpetually stuck in winter like the "Long Night" and we've all been wandering around Portland like White Walkers. Game of Thrones anyone? I can't wait until the next season premieres on July 16th!
Any who, winter has been dreadfully long and I'm ecstatic that the sun has decided to peek it's sleepy little head out of the clouds. 

On days like today the streets are buzzing, everyone is in a great mood, and there's most certainly libations being had. This glorious weather could not be arriving at a more perfect time, because it's CINCO DE MAYO TOMORROW!! It's only one of my favorite days of the year!

Friday + the whole weekend ahead of us + copious amounts of guacamole + tequila = pure ecstasy :) 

Many people get the heebie-jeebies at just the thought of bad tequila nights. For me, there's never a bad time for tequila! And I can guarantee that a well made margarita will completely erase any hangover memories that you may have.

These Blackberry Jalapeño Margaritas are unreal guys and gals. Sweet blackberry and spicy jalapeños combine harmoniously with simple syrup to create the base of this festive cocktail. I used Altos Plata Tequila and Cointreau which are two of my absolute faves. You can always switch out blackberries with strawberries, mango, or pineapple - Anything would be delicious!

Thomas was working when I tested this recipe... so let's just say I was happily having a fiesta all by myself ;) 

Adios Amigos!

Blackberry Jalapeño Margaritas

- ¾ cup tequila
- ½ cup cointreau or triple sec
- ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
- 1 cup blackberry/Jalapeño syrup - Add more or less depending on how sweet you like yours!  (see recipebelow)
- fresh blackberries and lime wedges for garnish

Blackberry Jalapeno Syrup, makes 1 ½ cups
- 1 cup Sugar
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
- 1 large jalapeno with the seeds
- lime wedges
- Flaky salt for the rim

What to do
1) To make the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a small pot and bring to a brief boil over medium heat.
2) Transfer the syrup to a blender and add the blackberries and the jalapeno. Blend until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into an airtight container or mason jar. Refrigerate for up to 1 week.
3) To make the margaritas: Rim 4 glasses ( or two large mason jars in my case)  with a lime wedge and then dip them into a dish filled with flaky salt. Upright the glasses and fill them with big ice cubes.
4) Fill a cocktail shaker with the tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and 1 cup of the Blackberry Jalapeno syrup, plus a handful of ice. Shake vigorously and strain the margaritas into the prepared glasses.
5) Garnish with fresh blackberries and lime wedges.

Roasted Poblanos with Chicken + Mexican Corn Salad

A whole week where we can guiltlessly eat tacos, enchiladas, bowls of guac AND drink as much tequila and cerveza as we want?! Pinch me because I must be in a dream! That's right friends...it's Cinco de Mayo week. Growing up in a primarily Mexican community, I grew up trying so many different traditional dishes (Tongue tacos anyone?) I would probably eat anything as long as it comes on a warm homemade corn tortilla! Here is a cool article on 7 wonderfully weird tacos from Mexico that you've never heard of! So fun. I would love to travel to Mexico someday and try the real deal. Has anyone ever been to Bacalar or Oaxaca? They look beautiful and much less touristy than Cabo or Cancun.

While I do love a good fat & cheesy burrito on occasion, Thomas and I usually opt for something lighter if we're craving Mexican food on a weeknight. These roasted poblanos with chicken from Skinnytaste makes an appearance at least once a month in our house. Everything is so fresh and we usually don't even add cheese, but since it's Cinco de Mayo week why the heck not?! And let me tell you about this Mexican corn salad...it's too good for words honestly. I can't wait to get out the grill this summer and make corn on the cob just to put it in this salad. It's creamy, crunchy, cilantro-y, and the perfect addition to any dish you're whipping up this week. 

Roasted Poblanos with Chicken + Mexican Corn Salad 

poblano recipe adapted by Gina Homolka at SkinnyTaste 

Roasted Poblanos with Chicken
- 4 poblano peppers (2 per person)
- 1 medium jalapeño pepper

- 4 medium vine tomatoes, quartered
- 1/2 onion chopped
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (we always add a little more)
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- salt to taste

- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- 2-3 chicken breasts, boiled and shredded
- 1 cup (237 ml) called white beans, drained and lightly mashed
- 3/4 cup (177 ml) chicken broth
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
- salt to taste
- ground black pepper
- 1 1/4 cup (295 ml) shredded cheese (pepper jack or Colby jack work best) 
- chopped fresh cilantro for garnish

What to do
1) Using a small sharp knife, cut a slit lengthwise along one side of each poblano pepper, then make a small crosswise slit along the top to create a T-shape, being careful not to cut off the stem. Carefully cut out and remove the core and scoop out the seeds. On a baking sheet, roast the poblanos and jalapeños under the broiler in the oven turning often until the skin is completely blistered. Transfer to a paper bag (or place in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap) and let steam for 10 to 15 minutes. 
2) To make the sauce: In a blender, combine the stemmed, roasted jalapeño pepper including the seeds, the tomatoes, onion, garlic, cilantro, and 1/4 cup (60 ml) of water.  Blend until smooth. 
3) In a large deep nonstick skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the pureed mixture, cumin, and salt. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally until thickened and the color turns deep red, 20 to 25 minutes. 
4) While the sauce is cooking, boil your chicken breasts in chicken stock until fully cooked and tender, about 15 minutes. Place on a plate to cool and then shred the meat. 
5) For the filling: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, and cilantro. Cook, stirring until soft, about 2 minutes. Add the chicken, beans, broth, cumin, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper to taste, and cook until the liquid has reduced, about 5 minutes. 
6) While the filling is cooking, preheat the over to 350 degrees
7) Pour a thin layer of sauce into the bottom of a baking dish. Carefully stuff filling into each poblano pepper. Place the peppers down in the baking dish and top with a generous sprinkle of cheese. Bake until hot and bubbly, 20-25 minutes and then put under the broiler at the end if you want the cheese nice and crispy. 

While the poblanos are baking in the oven, make the corn salad!

Mexican Corn Salad

- 1 (16 oz) bag frozen corn (Grilled corn on the cob would be even better!)
- 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 3-4 oz Cotija cheese, crumbled (you can use feta if you can't find it!)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 1 small jalapeño pepper, finely chopped (use less if you don't like as much heat!)
- 1/3 cup chopped cilantro
- 2 tablespoons red onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- salt and pepper to taste

What to do
1) Heat a little oil over medium heat. Add frozen corn and let cook until corn starts to char, stirring occasionally, 7-10 minutes
2) While the corn is cooking, mix together mayonnaise, cheese, lime juice, cilantro, red onion, garlic, chili powder, and salt and pepper in a large bowl. When corn is done, gently fold it in with other ingredients. 

Happy Fiesta!

Honey Ham & Gruyère Grilled Cheese

If you're anything like us, then you have an entire ham left in your fridge from Easter Sunday. By the time we finally sat down to eat late Sunday afternoon we were so full from popping Cadbury eggs and eating peeps that we barely could eat our honey ham and green beans. At least the ham had a lot of honey on it so we wouldn't crash from our Easter candy sugar high :)

I love any type of leftovers, but ham is the absolute best. Cold ham sandwiches, split pea soup with ham hocks, throwing it in quiches & frittatas, the options are endless! A new recipe I'm adding to our leftover ham repertoire are these Honey Ham & Gruyere Grilled Cheese's. Melty gruyere cheese mixed with the sweet & salty ham and a smear of apricot jam and dijon mustard is the perfect spell for grilled cheese magic. We use THIS RECIPE, but any kind of ham will do! What are some of your favorite leftover ham recipes? 


Honey Ham & Gruyère Grilled Cheese

-Leftover ham
- Slices of crusty bread
-1/2 pound sliced Swiss cheese, preferably Gruyère
-2 tablespoons dijon mustard
-1/4 cup apricot preserves

What to do
1) Preheat skillet over medium heat. Generously butter one side of a slice of bread. Place bread butter-side-down onto skillet. Top with slices of gruyère cheese and ham. Mix the mustard and preserves and spread on the other slice of bread. Close the sandwiches and griddle over moderate heat, turning, until golden, crisp on the outside and melted inside, about 3 minutes. Cut in half and serve right away. 

Easter Egg Cupcakes

I have to be honest about something... I'm not a great baker. But I'm trying nonetheless! Anytime a baked good turns out well for me it's because I've tried very very hard. I love cooking so much because you can transform a dish by tossing in a little of this and a sprinkle of that. Baking on the other hand is a science. Any baking pictures you might see on this blog might look fairly neat and tidy, but in reality there's flour all of my counter, clothes, and face; There's measuring spoons thrown about and vanilla extract dribbled  in various spots; And there's a pile of dishes in the sink covered in batter or bright pink and teal icing. At least that was the case when I made these Easter Egg Cupcakes in spirit of Easter weekend on the horizon.

Thomas and I are making Easter baskets for each other this year (sorry Thomas this is a spoiler alert), but I accidentally already dug into the Cadbury mini eggs that I bought for his basket. After discovering these Cadbury mini's I knew I needed to craft a cute Easter treat. The kitchen wasn't so pretty in the process but thanks to Sally over at Sally's Baking Addiction the cupcakes turned out pretty dang good! I used Sally's recipe for Simply Perfect Vanilla Cupcakes which are so fluffy and moist. Then I just created plain vanilla frosting and used food coloring to make it Easter-y pink and teal. 

Happy Easter Weekend Friends!

Easter egg Cupcakes

-1 and 3/4 cups (200g) cake flour1
-3/4 teaspoon baking powder
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
-1 cup (200g) granulated sugar
-3 large egg whites, at room temperature
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract2
-seeds scraped from 1/2 of a vanilla bean
-1/2 cup (120g) full-fat sour cream at room temperature3
-1/2 cup (120ml) whole milk at room temperature3

Vanilla Frosting

-1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
-4 - 5 cups (480-600g) confectioners' sugar
-1/4 cup (60ml) heavy cream
-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
-salt, to taste
-optional: 2 drops red food coloring to tint pink, 1-2 drops of food coloring for teal/light blue


-Cadbury mini eggs
- 1 bar of white chocolate, sliced into shards

What to do

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (177°C). Line a 12-cup muffin pan with cupcake liners. Line a second pan with 2 liners - this recipe makes about 14 cupcakes. Set aside.
  2. Make the cupcakes: Whisk the cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on high speed until smooth and creamy - about 1 minute. Add the sugar and beat on high speed for 2 minutes until creamed together. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the egg whites, vanilla extract, and vanilla bean. Beat on medium-high speed until combined, then beat in the sour cream. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients until just incorporated. With the mixer still running on low, slowly pour in the milk until combined. Do not overmix. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour/spoon the batter into the liners - fill only 2/3 full to avoid spilling over the sides. Bake for 19-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. For around 30 mini cupcakes, bake for about 11-13 minutes, same oven temperature. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before frosting.
  5. Make the frosting: With a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy - about 2 minutes. Add 4 and 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar, the heavy cream, and vanilla extract with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 full minutes. Add up to 1/2 cup more confectioners' sugar if frosting is too thin or another Tablespoon of cream if frosting is too thick. Add a pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Frost cooled cupcakes. I simply used an icing knife.
  7. Create nests on top of cupcakes with sliced shards of white chocolate and mini Cadbury eggs.

Make ahead tip: Cupcakes can be made ahead 1 day in advance, covered, and stored at room temperature. Frosting can also be made 1 day in advance, covered, and stored in the refrigerator until ready to use. Leftover cupcakes keep well covered tightly in the refrigerator for 3 days. Frosted or unfrosted cupcakes can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Recipe Notes:

  1. If you cannot get your hands on cake flour, you can make a DIY version from all-purpose flour and cornstarch. Measure 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Remove 2 Tablespoons. Mix in 2 Tablespoons of cornstarch. This equals 1 cup of cake flour. I suggest doing this twice, mixing it all up in 1 bowl then removing 1/4 cup since you need 1 and 3/4 cups in this recipe.
  2. For best flavor, pure vanilla extract is strongly recommended. If using imitation, increase to 1 Tablespoon (3 teaspoons).
  3. Whole milk and sour cream are strongly recommended for the best taste and texture. A full fat plain yogurt would work instead, though the cupcakes may not be as light. Same goes with a lower fat milk.

Our Staycation in Downtown Portland +A champagne cocktail recipe

Lately it feels like work weeks blur into the weekends and astonishingly we are already to the middle of April. How did that happen?! Many times on the weekends after a long week, it's so good to relax within the four walls of our apartment that it feels like chore to leave and go anywhere. Is that bad? Obviously I love getting out and exploring, but sometimes life and time gets the better of me. Clothes need to be folded and season finales of Big Little Lies needs to be watched. Side note, have you guys seen it yet? Nicole Kidman hasn't changed since Practical Magic! I think she really is a witch :)

Anyways, since Thomas works a lot on the weekends and we haven't been exploring this wonderful city as much as we would like lately, we decided to take a staycation last weekend; It was absolutely perfect. 

A full Portland travel guide is the works that I'm making for you guys, but in the meantime here’s a look at our little staycation experience, including plenty of travel recommendations for eating, drinking, and staying in Downtown Portland.

Hotels Downtown

We stayed at The Nines Hotel downtown. I was so impressed! It's located right in the heart of downtown, so it makes walking to restaurants, bars, and activities around town a breeze. The room was so comfy and luxurious. Tiffany blue accent chairs and couches scattered around the room, flowy white curtains, and a chandelier in the corner makes you feel pretty fancy pants. To top it off, when we arrived there was champagne waiting! My kind of place!

Other great hotels we looked at before landing on The Nines was Hotel Vintage, Ace Hotel, The Heathman, and Hotel Deluxe.

Best Bars in Downtown Portland 

On the rooftop of the Nines is Departure  where we kicked our weekend off. Departure has such a fun vibe, especially if it's happy hour on Friday and the sun is out shining! You can take in amazing views of the city and the mountains if it's a clear day. Even though Departure has the city's largest sake list, champagne was definitely our drink of choice all weekend. At the end of this post I'll share a link to some of my favorite champagne cocktails right now. 
After enjoying the patio for a bit, we made our way inside to experience chef Gregory Gourdet's 11 item tasting menu. Asian flare with a modern spin, dishes like Vietnamese Duck Curry and spicy Chili Prawns came to the table one-after-one. We finished with dessert of course; Dark Chocolate Brownie Cake with peanut brittle, miso caramel, and banana ice cream. Perfection. 

Other cool bars Downtown: 
Pepe Le Moko // This cozy and cute speakeasy only has 42 seats and makes a killer grasshopper. Go here for your night cap, or day cap, or any cap really.
Multnomah Whiskey Library // Well it's a library of whiskey...what more could you ask for. 
Bailey's Taproom // We can't talk about Portland bars without mentioning beer! Bailey's Taproom is a convenient walk anywhere from downtown and they have 26 rotating taps to keep your heart happy. 

Must-Try Downtown Portland Food Spots

Obviously this list would be too long if I put all of the must-try's, but for now here's the stops we went to and some other of our favorites downtown.
Tasty n Alder //  Tasty n Alder has been on our food bucket list forever. We usually never want to wait in the 2-hour brunch line, but GUYS, IT IS SO WORTH IT. We put in our name and then meandered over to Powell's bookstore until they called us 2 hours later to get our grub on. First we ate the best radicchio salad of our lives with bacon lardons, manchego, and a six minute egg. Then we shared the cutest homemade buttermilk mini biscuits smothered in sausage gravy. I would have literally licked the plate if Thomas would have looked away. Next we split a Boudin Blanc Sausage Omelette with parsnip, celery root, dijon, and gruyere. And last but certainly not least we split a Pork Schnitzel with a sunny side up egg, ham, havarti, and mustard braised cabbage. Washed down with perfectly brewed coffee, it was definitely the best brunch I've had in Portland. Almost in a food coma we headed back to The Nine's and took a much needed nap. 

Grassa // It's definitely not pasta crafted by Massimo Bottura, but if you want a fast-service handmade pasta in downtown then Grassa is the place to go. We ordered take-out and sat-in our hotel room watching the NCAA Championship. I swear we're cool.

Urban Farmer // Located in the Nine's Hotel, Urban Farmer is all about locally sourced organic meat and is primarily known as a steakhouse, but we tried out their brunch. I got the spicy shrimp and grits with pulled pork and a perfectly poached egg on top. Never would I have thought to add pork to shrimp and grits, but I'm definitely going to replicate it at home. Thomas had the not-so-pretty-to-photograph-steak and eggs. He said it was delicious though which is all that matters! 


Other Must-Try Food Spots Downtown

Clyde Common // European-inspired small plates and great cocktails
Nong's Khao Man Gai Food Cart // Lunch spot that has the best Thai style chicken and rice
Q Restaurant // Cozy restaurant with seasonal dishes like "Short Ribs Braised in Rhubarb Gastrique"
Boxer Ramen // Cute space and great ramen
Lardo // If you want epic sandwiches and the best "dirty fries" of your life
Chizu // Calling all cheese lovers! It's a sushi-bar style cheese bar!
Mother's Bistro // Classic brunch spot. Where I take any family any-time they visit!

Cutest Downtown Portland Shops

The Union Way Shops // Down a little alley way in downtown Portland Near Powell's books lies Union Way. Shops include Will Leather Goods, Quin candy, an apothecary shop, a couple clothing stores among others.
Tender Loving Empire // Cutesy, quirky store with a lot of handmade goods and products from local artisans
Radish Underground // Gifts and clothing by local designers
Canoe // Trendy home goods

French 75 - Recipe and photo by Bon Appetite

Like you can see from our weekend photos, I've been obsessed with champagne cocktails. This French 75 is the perfect combination of gin and bubbly!



  • 2 ounces London dry gin
  • ¾ ounce fresh lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce simple syrup
  • 2 ounces Champagne
  • Long spiral lemon twist (for serving)

What to do

Combine gin, lemon juice, and simple syrup in a cocktail shaker. Fill shaker with ice, cover, and shake vigorously until outside of shaker is very cold, about 20 seconds. Strain cocktail through a Hawthorne strainer or a slotted spoon into a large flute. Top with Champagne; garnish with lemon twist.