Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars

Are you ready for this? You’re Wednesday is about to get all kinds of delicious.
Speculoos, as in Speculoos Cookie Butter from Trader Joe’s, takes these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars to another level. Those old bars are one of my most popular recipes on the site, and I can’t even take credit for the recipe. But these. These Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars are a game-changer.
The texture is almost scone-like. Moist and soft, yet just a tad bit dry and crumbly, in a good way. If you know me, (I’m talking to you Hannah, and Brooke…and GG!) you know how much I love a good scone. Especially when there’s cinnamon involved. In fact, cinnamon might be my favorite spice. On a daily basis, you can find me either stirring it into oatmeal and ice cream/frozen yogurt, shaking it on top of baked sweet potatoes, and of course mixing it into manymany baked goods

So it’s no surprise I like snickerdoodles, where cinnamon sugar takes center stage. I’m not sure what exactly qualifies a snickerdoodle as such. Whether or not replacing some of the regular dairy butter with cookie butter takes away from their “snickerdoodleness,” I’m not sure, but I doubt it. I’m standing by the name. You’ll still find brown sugar and butter in the dough, and you’ll still sprinkle the top with cinnamon sugar. Cookie butter contains cinnamon as well, so you get an added punch by its incorporation.

Some other notable ways I changed the original recipe: I cut back on the brown sugar and I replaced some of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour. This is me trying to be better to my body.

As easy as it is to eat the cookie butter straight from the jar, think about these next time you have a jar (which hopefully is right now). It doesn’t take too much, only half a cup, to turn already amazing cookie bars into even more amazing cookie bars.

**P.S. It’s not too late to enter the GIVEAWAY for a $250 Food Lion gift card!!**

Cookie Butter Snickerdoodle Bars
(Adapted from these Thick and Chewy Snickerdoodle Bars)

Makes 16 bars

1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/4 all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup Speculoos Cookie Butter
1 1/4 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a 9×9 inch baking pan with nonstick spray and set aside.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flours, baking powder and salt. Whisk well and set aside.
3. In a large bowl, combine butter, cookie butter and brown sugar. Use a hand mixer to cream together until smooth. Add eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla extract. Continue to blend on medium speed until everything is well-incorporated.
4. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, mixing between additions. Use hand mixer to blend until all ingredients are just incorporated. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl as you go along.
5. Add batter to the 9×9 pan. Use your fingers to press down to fill the entire pan.
6. In a small bowl, combine white sugar and cinnamon. Stir together. Sprinkle evenly across the top of the batter in the pan.
7. Bake 18-20 minutes, or until edges just begin to pull away from the sides of the pan. It is better to undercook then overcook! These will set up a bit after rooming from the oven, so you want to pull them out when then are just barely done.
8. Let cool 5-10 minutes before slicing into square and serve.

For best taste, bars can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3-5 days.

Pasta Primavera with Spicy Marinara

Question: What would life be without hot bowls of savory, saucy pasta?

Answer: Sad, very sad.

Don’t worry. We won’t even discuss the next level of sadness which involves a life lacking of hot bowls of pasta and red wine. 
I trust you have most of the ingredients for this pasta primavera already in your cabinet and fridge, and you most definitely already have a bottle of red wine laying around too. If not, substitutions are easy enough. Do what you need to do. Sadness isn’t even in your vocabulary today. 

Did you realize February is the last full month of winter before the seasons change and Spring’s flowery warmth fills the air? It’s true. Springtime is just around the corner. You can make it! WE can make it! While we wait for the cold to pass (don’t hate me for calling mid-50’s cold), we can fill our bellies with comforting pasta noodles and steamy healthy vegetables for good measure.

As much as I love pasta and Italian cuisine in general, I don’t/can’t eat it often. Portion control is virtually impossible when it comes to eating Italian dishes at a restaurant. Even when making it at home, it’s easy to chomp down on more than a single serving size of noodles. So. delicious. I end up avoiding it altogether to spare myself over-indulgence on a regular basis.

I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis.

I mean…….

I don’t always eat pasta, but when I do, I close my eyes, let out an “mmmmm”, savor every bite, and dream of Italy.

One day I will go to Italy. Have you been? Yes? Oh. I’m a tiny bit jealous.

This is one dreamy, happy bowl of pasta. Winter blues can get lost.

Pasta Primavera with Spicy Marinara

Makes about 4 servings

For the pasta-
1 package of Trader Joe’s Garlic Basil Linguini Pasta (or 8 ounces of your choice of pasta), cooked according to package directions
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced and roughly chopped
1/2 yellow bell pepper, sliced and roughly chopped
2 cups broccoli florets
1/4 yellow onion, sliced into rings and cut in half
1 medium tomato, sliced and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon Italian blend seasoning (or any combination of basil, thyme, sage, or rosemary)

For the sauce-
2 cups marinara sauce
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha sauce
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

Shaved Parmesan cheese for topping, if desired

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
3. While pasta is cooking, add bell pepper, broccoli, onion, tomato, and garlic to a large cookie sheet lined with foil. Drizzle with olive oil. In a small bowl, combine salt, pepper, cayenne pepper and Italian blend seasoning(s). Mix well and sprinkle evenly over the vegetables. Cover pan with foil and roast in the over for about 30 minutes, stopping half way through to give veggies a gentle stir.
4. In a medium saucepan, add marinara sauce, Sriracha and red pepper flakes. Place on stove top over medium-low heat. Cook until sauce beings to simmer.
5. To serve, add about 1 cup of noodles to a bowl, top with about 1/2 cup of the roasted vegetables, and 1/2 cup of sauce. Sprinkle with with shaved Parmesan if desired. Stir everything up and enjoy!

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl

If you read my Sunday Blessings post last week, you know I made a big life decision recently. What you don’t know is what exactly that decision was.
Until now.

Dun dun dunnn! So dramatic.
So here’s the deal. Last week, I officially submitted my resignation with my current company and accepted a new job offer with a non-profit organization where I used to be an intern during college. Telling my current employer was one of the most difficult things I’ve done in a long time, but I am so excited for the new opportunity. Change is difficult, but change is good. Right?

Now that I have that news off my chest, let’s talk brownies.
I have yet to make brownies from scratch that are as good as brownies from a box. Hashtag sorry I’m not sorry. If you know of a good one, please share. But I’d be hard pressed to believe Ghirardelli or Betty Crocker don’t put up a good fight. In this particular case, I used a dark chocolate mix from Ghirardelli. 

Another reason why I love using a box mix sometimes is because it allows me to spend more time focusing on ways to add to it and make it my own. Not only did I use the help of a box mix for these chocolatey delights, but our good friend Joe (Trader Joe that is) provided me with Candy Cane Joe Joe’s. If you’ve never had them, just imagine peppermint Oreos.

I actually have my aunt/God mother to thank for the Joe Joe’s. The cookies along with some crunchy cookie butter were her Christmas gift to me this year. She knows me well.

Between Ghirardelli chocolate, peppermint cookies, and an easy homemade cream cheese filling, what we have here is one decadent treat. But don’t worry if that sounds too decadent for you. I subbed Greek yogurt for the oil, so that counts for something! If you made a new year’s resolution to lose weight or eat healthier, this totally counts.

Or if you just need something to warm your soul and make you do a little happy dance, these brownies are for you.

One last thing before I go. Happy, happy birthday to my husband! Greg wouldn’t touch these brownies with a ten foot pole, but I’m making it up to him with a special dinner tonight. Dessert isn’t his thing, but a (spoiler-alert) Mexican style dinner is!

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Peppermint Brownies with a Cream Cheese Swirl
(Adapted from recipe on back of the Ghirardelli brownie box)
Makes about 16 servings
1 box Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Brownie mix (or another mix of choice)
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup plain or vanilla Greek yogurt
25 Candy Cane Joe Joe’s (or another similar cookie)
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, lightly beaten (you will only use half of this)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon peppermint extract
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Spray 9×9 inch pan with nonstick spray. Gently twist Joe Joe’s apart and cover the bottom of the pan with half of the separated cookies. Set pan aside.
2. Prepare brownie batter by combining mix, egg, water and Greek yogurt. Pour half of the batter into the pan. Add remaining cookies, cream side down, on top of the batter. Pour remaining brownie batter on top of the cookies.
3. Prepare the cream cheese filling by combining cream cheese, sugar, half of the beaten egg, vanilla and peppermint extract in a small bowl (discard the other half of the egg, or reuse for something else). Use a butter knife or spatula to swirl cream cheese mixture across the top of the brownie batter.
4. Bake 32-35 minutes or until toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 15-20 minutes before cutting into squares. 

July Blog-A-Day #22: Puppy Surgery, Scripture and Comfort Food

This morning Zoey and I went on a walk, but it wasn’t just any walk.

Do you see the look of concern on that face?

It was Zoey’s last walk before her womanhood was taken away from her. That’s right. This morning, Zoey underwent surgery to be spayed, as well as have another minor procedure done to prevent “stomach flipping” issues that are common in Great Danes and other large bread dogs. 
Greg took the baby girl to the vet while I got ready for work and ate my breakfast. I was so excited to tear into yesterday’s mail this morning because my prints from Sacred Made Shop finally arrived. My semi-new friend Becca and one of her friends run the shop featuring scripture prints that are are gorgeously designed. Check it out!!

The highlight of my breakfast was a thick spread of mashed avocado on top of crispy whole wheat toast. A single scrambled egg added an extra kick of protein. 

Then it was time for work. Work, work, work. I spent much of the day wondering how Zoey was doing, what she was thinking about, and how cute she probably was. I arrived home at the end of the work day to this adorable face…

She was so out of it then, but slowly getting her energy back and hasn’t wasted a second chewing apart a new toy I got her in anticipation of this rough day. 
Even though I didn’t have surgery, I felt the need for comfort food. BFD was calling my name.

I used Trader Joe’s Multigrain Pancake Mix to make a short stack for myself. I filled the cakes with sliced banana, then topped it off with leftover blueberry filling (from this cheesecake), and some whipped cream for good measure. 
Here’s to hoping Zoey stops whining tonight and we can all get some much needed rest!!

July Blog-A-Day #8: A Piece of Advice

I am enjoying the challenge of posting every day through July. Then, amid my cockroach complaints yesterday, I realized these post prompts are getting off track what I really enjoy writing about. I think it’s important as a blogger to open up so you get to know me, but roaches? Really? That’s enough of that.

I’m not quitting my blog-a-day challenge, but I am spinning it around to bring the focus back to food, with a little bit of family and faith mixed in of course. (I think all of those ‘f’s may have just sparked a new tagline…)

Day 8: A piece of advice you have for others. Anything at all.

My advice to you: Do yourself a favor and buy this. The original Biscoff brand works too. Bake something with it or eat it straight out of the jar by the spoonful.  A few days later, just when you’re about to shed a tear because it’s gone, grab a mini spatula. Scrap the sides of the jar until it looks perfectly clean. Suddenly you will have yourself an extra two tablespoons of cookie butter. And it will be glorious. 
That’s my advice. Take it or leave it. 

Weekend Eats 4-7-13

Lots of deliciousness this weekend. LOTS of deliciousness. 
Friday night trip to Trader Joe’s meant lots of fresh veggies for a massive salad: spinach, onion, bell pepper, mushrooms, strawberries, avocado, goat cheese, sliced almonds, raspberry vinaigrette. Perfection. 
photo 1 (2)
Breakfast taco on Saturday morning: scrambled eggs and avocado wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla. Plus a big mug of coffee to get me going. 
egg taco
Saturday night called for another whole wheat tortilla, this time filled with homemade tuna salad made with mustard, onion, and a shake of salt and pepper. Simple as can be. Sliced apple, carrots and steamed broccoli served as side dishes. 
Sunday. We all know Sunday means brunch around here. With so many events going on in Charleston this weekend, restaurants were pure madness. We were told it would be an hour wait at one place, so we moved to the next. We were told 30 minutes so figured we’d wait it out. By this point, we. were. starving.
Then, after almost an hour of not being sat, we gave up and headed to old trusty- Coleman Public House. No wait at all! Woohoo. 
I had the Huevos Rancheros. HUEVOS. I love saying that, don’t you?
Here is where things get really good. Have you had this, or any coconut milk ice cream for that matter?   Technically, it’s a ‘frozen dessert’ according to TJ’s, not ice cream. But it’s easier just to call it ice cream…made with coconut milk. I ate mine with a couple spoonfuls of cool whip. Such a refreshing treat on these warm and beautiful spring days! 
photo 5 (1)
But the best part of my weekend? THIS. Another successful TJ’s purchase. This chocolate bar was everything I hoped it would be and more. Get yourself one two. Go!!
photo 3 (1)

What was the tastiest thing you ate this weekend?

Weekend Eats 12-3-12

This was quite a productive weekend between holiday festivities on Daniel Island, shopping, decorating and eating good food.
Friday night, Greg, Zoey and I went to the Christmas tree lighting on DI, followed by dinner at Orlando’s Pizza.

We shared this large Hawaiian pizza with ham and pineapple ($17.75). It was huge. Not surprisingly, we managed to have almost half left over that we ended up eating for lunch on Saturday. Overall the pizza was great, but I tend to like thicker crust more than thin crust like Orlando’s. Still, the flavor was there and I couldn’t complain. 
Orlando's Pizza on Urbanspoon
Saturday morning started by supporting another Daniel Island spot, Fired Urth. Greg and I sat outside with Zoey as we sipped our lattes and ate our pastries. I had the Cinnabee latte (cinnamon and honey) and Greg had a caramel latte. To eat, I had a pecan scone and Greg had a cinnamon sugar donut. Everything was amazing. 

When we told them we wanted the order “for here,” I was still expecting to-go paper cups for the lattes. So I was pleasantly surprised when the drinks were served in mugs. I was so intrigued by the foam art on top and how it managed to hold its shape as I drank my way to the bottom. 
Fired Urth on Urbanspoon
Sunday morning I made biscuits and gravy for Greg, while I wanted something a little healthier. I topped one of the Trader Joe’s buttermilk biscuits with one cooked egg and some shredded cheddar cheese. 

My weekend wrapped up with warm, gooey brownies, also courtesy of Trader Joe’s. I used their Guilt Free Brownie Mix which calls for fat free yogurt to be combined with the powder mix. I added powdered sugar on top and ate my serving with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. 

Ok, now THAT is perfection. 
What was the tastiest part of your weekend?

Light Meals and Pancake Wine

Today I have one of those “what I ate” posts for you. I know, I know…What I really need to do is get myself in the kitchen, put an apron on, and bake something sweet. It’s been too long. And it is about time I go all out to make up for lost time.

Maybe today. Maybe tomorrow.

Until then, here are some tasty ideas for everyday eating.

As part of my lunch yesterday, I had cottage cheese mixed with blueberries and strawberries.

I have always liked cottage cheese, but mostly only ate it plain, with salt and pepper shaken on top. At some point in the past year or so, I saw someone mix berries into cottage cheese and gave it a try. Now that is by far my favorite way to eat it. 
The center of my lunch was this wrap. I stayed at my desk to eat, which usually works out fine if I don’t have something too messy or that doesn’t need much preparation. 
I allowed myself a little bit of meat to make this wrap more substantial. Into the whole wheat tortilla went two slices of deli sliced buffalo chicken breast, roasted red pepper hummus, chopped onion, tomato and spring mix greens. Yum. So fresh and light. The best kind of lunch!
By the time dinner rolled around, Greg and I were more indecisive than usual. Stay home? Go out? If we go out, where should we go? The options in Charleston are endless.
Greg finally made the executive decision to go to one of our favorites places, Coleman Public House

Old trusty CPH never let’s us down. I was in the mood for something lighter for my entree since we ordered some Truffle Parmesan French Fries as an appetizer, and I knew I’d be helping Greg with his mac and cheese 😉 I ordered the Greek Salad, my first salad ever from CPH, and just like everything else I’ve had, it was delicious. 
We got home after dinner and I poured myself a glass of this white wine from Trader Joe’s that I had opened the night before while having a girls night with a friend.

I think you can guess the reason why I bought it in the first place. I am more of a red wine girl, but really enjoyed this white. Especially for less than five dollars. It had nothing to do with the name though. Nope, not at all.
I woke up this morning and got my workout out of the way, because in about twenty minutes I’m leaving to try on wedding dresses! Since the shop I’m going to is right by the new Chipotle in town, I’m thinking it only makes sense to pick up a burrito bowl for lunch. 
Just one good thing followed by another….
Life is good.

Whole Foods and a Sweet Veggie Cashew Stir-Fry

I’m off to a good start with this whole foods/plant-based diet thing. Since I’m literally just getting started, it has actually been more fun than anything, because I am exploring new foods and recipes. I have even convinced Greg to make some changes with me. That couldn’t make me happier because the times it is most difficult to eat healthfully is when G (or someone else that I’m with for that matter) is chomping down on a burger, creamy pasta dish or slice after slice of three-meat pizza. Mmmmm.

Where else to start our grocery shopping than the most stereotypical place we could choose?
Whole Foods of course. 
We went right at lunchtime yesterday and needed to fill our bellies at the cafe before we could shop. I headed straight for both the hot and cold salad bar.
I filled my bowl with a mix of baby spinach and spring greens, red onion, grape tomatoes, grilled mushrooms, chopped boiled egg (one food that I will most likely continue to keep in my diet despite cutting out most other dairy), and an edemame and pea salad. Finally, I had a couple of rosemary sweet potato wedges on the side. I just LOVE those things!

G had a pimento cheese sandwich from the deli counter. The sandwich obviously contained dairy, but was also topped with bacon. He isn’t quite ready to eliminate all meat, and asked me, “Is one piece of bacon okay?” Haha. I told him he can do whatever he wants, but one piece of bacon should be fine 😉
I took a bite too, but avoided getting any bacon in my bite.
Greg was feeling extra healthy by keeping hydrated with a gigantic bottle of water to drink.

The picture doesn’t do it justice. It was a big bottle. And only 69 cents! WHAAAAT? Bottled water is never that cheap. Too bad I couldn’t say the same for the rest of Whole Foods. After our lunch, we browsed the aisles for a good ten minutes, but decided prices were a little to high for our liking. Sorry Whole Foods. I love the cafe, but would rather save more money on groceries. Trader Joe’s here we come! We stocked up on all kinds of fresh produce, whole wheat tortillas, nuts, brown rice, and wine (duh). 
I cooked a veggie and cashew stir-fry for dinner made with TJ’s Island Soyaki Sauce (a blend of soy and teriyaki with other flavors like garlic and pineapple- YUM!). The nuttiness from the cashews and the sweetness of the sauce was delicious and filling. Meat is not missed here!

Sweet Veggie Cashew Stir-Fry
Makes about 3 servings
1 1/2 cups brown rice, cooked
1 zucchini squash, diced
5 small bell peppers (any mix of yellow, orange, red or green will work), diced
1/4 yellow onion, sliced
2 cups broccoli florets
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup cashew halves
1/3 cup Trader Joe’s Island Soyaki Sauce
1. Prepare rice according to package directions. While it is cooking, chop vegetables.
2. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat. Add all vegetables and Soyaki sauce. Stir to coat veggies in sauce. Continue to cook about 5-7 minutes, until veggies start to become tender.
3. Add cashews and stir. Cook another 3-4 minutes. 
4. When rice is finished cooking, add about 1/2 cup to each plate. Top each with 1/2-3/4 cup of vegetable mixture. Shake with more sauce if desired.

A Week of New Foods

Let’s talk about this past week, shall we?

It. Was. LONG! But guess what? It’s over! Even though I felt exhausted waking up just about every day this week, I couldn’t help but appreciate the beauty of the sunrise on my morning runs. I have the best views from the paths behind my condo. I usually hate having to stop at any point during a run, but I just had to take a picture of this.

I also have fallen in love with these dark chocolate caramels from Trader Joe’s that I first saw via Jenny’s twitter feed last week. 
The bag was small and I thought it might leave me wanting more, but I have actually made it last a couple of days. Eating just three or four chocolates at a time went a long way. And that’s saying a lot coming from me. But, to be completely honest, popping a few of these for dessert mostly came alongside a cookie or ice cream too 🙂
Another newfound Trader Joe’s item for me are their veggie burgers. 

The first burger I made this week I ate on a bun with a slice of cheese and lettuce. I had another one the following night and decided to pretend like I’m watching my carbs by skipping the bun. I topped it with some shredded cheese and had a salad with boiled egg on the side. 

I don’t love these, but they aren’t bad by any means. If you have never had a veggie burger (which I hadn’t) the first bite is a bit of a surprise. I think I just had in my mind that it was supposed to at least somewhat be similar to a beef burger. Not only do these taste completely different, but the texture was different too. These are much softer and weaker (for lack of a better word) than beef or turkey burgers. It sort of fell apart if I tried to lift it up with the fork. 

Greg and I were both more than ready to wind down last night with some quality couch and tv time. But before that, we had ourselves a date at Umi Japanese Restaurant. We have been once before, as seen here, and I was excited to try a new sushi roll. 

Greg has never cared to try sushi much before, but wanted to give it a go for his appetizer. He ordered the Spicy Shrimp Cucumber Roll, but did not like it one bit. That was fine with me, because I thought it was delicious. I ordered the Salmon Avocado Roll and a side of vegetables for my dinner. The salmon was okay, but a little too much for me. The texture creeped me out a little. The Spicy Shrimp on the other hand is probably my favorite sushi. Now that I have sushi more than just a couple of times, I think it’s perfectly okay to proclaim a favorite. 
Side note-Wanna hear a funny story? I just went back to look at my blog post about our first trip to Umi and realized I had the Spicy Shrimp Cucumber roll then too! I feel really stupid now, because I did not remember what I had before. I also had said I thought I could handle something with a stronger sushi flavor, but I guess I was wrong! 
After dinner it was time for none other than Menchie’s! It was too convenient on our way home not to go. And with a BOGO coupon in my wallet, I was ready to fill up. 
I usually stick with just one or two flavors and go with fruit toppings, but after trying a sample of the peanut butter, my decision became more difficult. I hope my flavors didn’t feel too segregated in the bowl, but I couldn’t decide on just one theme.  An imaginary line divided the peanut butter and chocolate yogurt topped with peanut butter cups from the cheesecake and vanilla topped with strawberries on the other side. 
It was a great end to a busy week and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of the weekend with Greg’s parents who are visiting us!
Hope you all have a good day!