Valentine’s Week Runs and Sick Again

Happy Valentine’s Week! It was a nice week here, minus a few of us (me and LM) being sick. I just had a cold, but LM had a double ear infection. She’s on meds now and hopefully gets better soon.

The week included some fun, including a visit to FW’s classroom.

I helped him do a craft.

While this one stayed home sick. She was sent home from daycare with a fever and after taking her to the dr we found out about her ears.

We also had a very thematic dinner.

I preferred the dinner B made me, though. White wine, grilled veggies and tuna are a few of my favorite things.

We had some more good eats this week, including Aladdin’s takeout. FW loves their pita quesadillas and I love their hummus so it’s a win win.

I also got in my first outdoor run in what feels like forever! I did take a spill at mile 2 – I was running up a small hill and I saw what looked like a water mane break in the road and it had splashed on the sidewalk. Just as I had stopped to run on the grass and avoid the large puddle/ice, I of course landed on a sheet of black ice and went DOWN. My leg got wet – and by the end of my run, it had turned into ice crystals on my pants!

Speaking of running, here’s how the week looked. Monday is when I started feeling sick again and Tuesday and Wednesdays runs were pretty slow and involved some walking as well. Thursday I was up earlllly with a sick baby (see above) and didn’t get in a chance to run. Weeks like these make me glad that I’m not yet training for the Cleveland half marathon – I was able to just take it easy and run or walk or do whatever I wanted, without feeling guilty for messing up my training.

Despite the spill, I was so happy to be outside for Saturday’s 5 miler. I’m grateful for the treadmill but also getting tired of having to stay indoors!

And that’s a wrap. Some questions for you:

  • Have you been sick this winter? This is my second time in a month!
  • Are you training for anything right now?

I’m linking up with the weekly wrap.

Red Velvet Oreo Chex Mix {My first attempt at Puppy Chow}

A confession – while I love to bake, I’ve never ever made the infamous Puppy Chow. You know, that Chex Mix that is coated in chocolate, peanut butter and some powdered sugar? I’ve been on a mission to make it and the perfect occasion finally happened – baking with Nicole!

I’ve been hearing a lot about the Red Velvet Oreo cookies and when I finally found them at Target (don’t worry, I went into Target to buy a “few things” and left with a cart full – EVERY TIME), I couldn’t wait to buy them. They came in a smaller-than-typical Oreo box, meaning I used the whole box in the recipe and wasn’t left with leftovers .. okay, besides the 2-3 that I had to try first.

not my photo – but this is what they look like!

I am not a big Oreo fan – sorry, I just am not. But I do love cream cheese frosting and when I heard the Red Velvet OREOS weren’t as chocolatey and had a cream cheese type frosting, I knew I had to buy a box. And of course bake with them. Want an excuse to try the Red Velvet OREOs? Here you go!

red velvet oreo puppy chow chex mix for valentine's day

Red Velvet OREO Puppy Chow 

(I added in Valentine’s M&Ms and sent a bag of this to my brother for Valentine’s Day feel free to make it any time of year you can find these OREOs though! – modified from Sally’s Baking Addiction)

Here’s what you need:
  • 20 Red Velvet OREOs, finely crushed into crumbs (divided into two halves)
  • 1 c. powdered sugar (divided into half)
  • 10 cups Rice Chex cereal (divided into two halves – 5 c. + 5 c.)
  • 1 1/4 c. white chocolate melting wafers
  • 1 1/4 c. milk chocolate melting wafers
  • Extra OREOs, roughly chopped (I used probably 4-5)
  • 1/2 c. M&Ms – I used the Valentine’s ones

Here’s what you do:

  1. Measure out powdered sugar and crushed Oreos and mix together. Divide mixture in half – you’ll use half for the white Rice Chex and half for the chocolate Rice Chex.
  2. Measure out half the Rice Chex – about 5 cups. Pour into a large bowl or tupperware with a lid.
  3. Melt white chocolate on low, in a microwave. Stir throughout to make sure you don’t burn chocolate. Pour melted white chocolate over Rice Chex and store until cereal is covered.
  4. Pour half powdered sugar/OREO mixture over white chocolate Chex. Put lid on tupperware and shake until cereal is coated with sugar and OREO mixture.
  5. Repeat the above steps with the chocolate Chex. Melt chocolate on low, pour over remaining 5 c. Rice Chex and coat, pour remaining powdered sugar/OREO mixture over chocolate Chex and shake to coat.
  6. Combine cooled white chocolate and chocolate Chex mix. Add in extra chopped OREOs and M&M. Share with a loved one or friend!

 

red velvet oreo puppy chow for valentine's day

Yum! What’s your favorite kind of Chex Mix or Puppy Chow?

 

 

 

A LOVEly Weekend

I’ll admit it – I like Valentine’s Day. I like any holiday that celebrates love – how can you not? I consider it a day to celebrate ALL love – love of your family, friends, significant others, etc. That’s how I was brought up (yes, my parents still send me a Valentine’s Day card and I send my brother one!) and I LOVE it.

That being said, I’m not one of those people who expects to celebrate myself all weekend long – with Christmas in late December and my birthday being in late January, there’s hardly a reason for me to expect any gifts, a big celebration, etc. BUT I do enjoy celebrating in other ways … like good food, good company, good drinks and well – goodness all around! Luckily, that’s how the weekend turned out.

Friday night was cold and snowy, so B and I decided to stay in, watch the Interview, and get takeout Vietnamese to eat with our new chopsticks we’d bought in Vietnam.

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Saturday morning I woke up somewhat early to get in a little treadmill and elliptical action at the gym. I had thought about doing the Chili Bowl 5k (last year, B and I ran it after doing a 9 mile training run) but the weather was cold, super windy (20+mph winds), and snowy so I was happy to stay inside and run while B slept. And of course the elliptical and treadmill helped me work up a hunger for brunch! That’s right, B and I went to Phuel for brunch – I got my favorite (granola, fruit, yogurt and honey) and B got his standard order – banana chocolate chip pancakes.

B and his pancakes. He's probably thinking "Please take the picture so I can eat these soon"

B and his pancakes. He’s probably thinking “Please take the picture so I can eat these soon”

Glorious homemade granola. Not quite as good as my mom's recipe - but the closest thing here :)

Glorious homemade granola. Not quite as good as my mom’s recipe – but the closest thing here 🙂

After brunch it was time to get in some of our weekly shopping at the West Side Market. We picked up some treats too – a cannoli for the night’s dessert. We had plans to cook a homemade Italian dinner and I of course wanted my favorite Italian dessert.

So many types of cannoli!

So many types of cannoli!

After the Market, B stopped in Hingetown for a coffee/tea stop. I decided to try a new tea at Cleveland Tea Revival – not my standard Ginger or Ginger Turmeric – and I wasn’t disappointed. Their Shark Week Tea may be a new favorite of mine.

Shark Week tea. I just googled what that meant and whoops! I'll still drink it.

Shark Week tea. I just googled what that meant and whoops! I’ll still drink it.

cleveland tea revivial

We also were able to stop off at Gallucci’s to pick up some supplies for dinner. I wish I had taken a photo of my cart – Gallucci’s is like Target to me. I go there with the full intent to buy 3-4 things and come out with 10+ items.

I <3 Gallucci's - and not just for their wine.

I

For dinner, B and I prepared an Italian feast together. My favorite way to spend the night! We prepared homemade pasta, sauce and chicken cutlets. With some bubbly and cheese and meat as an appetizer and I was in heaven.

love me some cheese!!!

love me some cheese!!!

Pasta making experts.

Pasta making experts.

Prosecco and crystal. Because why not?

Prosecco and crystal. Because why not?

I love going out to dinner – don’t get me wrong, but there’s just something about spending the time making a meal together – B and I made the pasta and chicken together, so instead of having a 1-2 hour meal at a restaurant, it turned into a whole evening activity. And it was delicious!

Dinner.

Dinner.

The pistachio cannoli from the West Side Market

The pistachio cannoli from the West Side Market – and homemade limoncello

Sunday was another COLD day. And I’m talking super cold – I woke up to -1 degree temps with 15mph winds meaning it “felt like -25”. So of course B and I decided it would be a great day for a “Lazy Sunday.” Which for me meant doing as very little as possible – but enough so that I wouldn’t get bored. I decided to play it safe and run inside again, bringing this week’s mileage to 36!

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After the workout, I wanted to do some meal prep for the week. I roasted a chicken (usually B’s job), sweet potato, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and acorn squash.

A bit of meal prep

A bit of meal prep

Then it was time for dinner with B’s family. We were celebrating my niece’s birthday (can’t believe she’s SIX!).

my contribution to the dinner - salad!

my contribution to the dinner – salad!

The gorgeous red velvet birthday cake B's mom made

The gorgeous red velvet birthday cake B’s mom made

blowing out the candles!

blowing out the candles!

We go over there almost every week, but this week was special not only for the birthday but it was also a goodbye dinner for B’s brother. He’s is traveling abroad to Germany so we had a big family meal before he leaves this week. I’m so jealous – I loved studying abroad and hope he has as much fun as I did!

A throwback to my days in Ecuador - at a futbol game!

A throwback to my days in Ecuador – at a futbol game!

Some questions for you:

  • Love or hate Valentine’s Day?
  • Did you study abroad?  If not, where do you wish you would have visited?
  • What’s your favorite type of meal to prepare?

 

Graham cracker M&M cookies {{in time for Valentine’s Day!}}

Just in time for Valentine’s Day, I’m sharing with you a dessert recipe you can share with your friends … or save them for yourself. I won’t tell anyone!

OR you could just eat the batter ... who am I to judge?

OR you could just eat the batter … who am I to judge?

I had bought  Valentine’s colored M&Ms at Target (I can’t resist anything when I’m at Target – especially seasonal items … thus the Red Velvet Oreos – which I’m also baking with!) and because I’m not a big fan of traditional M&Ms, I decided to scour my pantry to find something to bake them with. I found an unused sleeve of graham crackers and realized that was it – graham cracker, chocolate chip cookies with M&Ms would be perfect!

Graham cracker M&M cookies for valentines day

So here you go – make these any time of year (just swap out the M&M colors – or try a different candy or more chips) and enjoy the buttery and crunchy-on-the-outside-soft-on-the-inside texture.

Graham cracker M&M cookies for valentines day

Graham Cracker Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) butter, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/4 cup crushed graham cracker crumbs (about a whole sleeve)
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup M&Ms

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a parchment paper or spray with Pam.
  2. In the bowl of your stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugars until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until mixed thoroughly.
  4. Add the flour, baking soda, graham cracker crumbs and mix well. Use a spatula to make sure it’s all mixed throughout before finished. Stir in the chocolate chips and about half the M&Ms.
  5. Using a spoon (or ice cream scoop!), scoop dough into rounded tablespoons and place on prepared baking sheet.* Place a few M&Ms on top of each cookie before putting in the oven – this will make them look nicer as not all M&Ms are hidden inside the batter.
  6. Bake for 9-10 minutes or until edges start to brown. Remove from oven and let cool on cookie sheet for about a minute before removing and letting finish cool on wire rack.
  7. Enjoy!

*I’ve tried this recipe keeping the dough in the fridge for about 30 min- 1 hour and just baking as is – they are slightly more plump if you chill first, but it didn’t seem necessary. They didn’t spread out too much if they’re not chilled.

Graham cracker M&M cookies for valentines day

What are you baking for Valentine’s Day? I’ve pinned quite a few recipes that I’d love to make – too bad there’s not enough time!

Some questions for you:

  • What’s your favorite kind of M&M? I’m a fan of peanut or peanut butter or pretzel! Not as much for the regular ones. 
  • Do you like graham crackers? I ate them with peanut butter as a snack growing up – so yes! Also froze cool whip in two crackers as a sandwich to make an ice cream sandwich type snack (try it with the cinnamon and chocolate ones!)

 

Cereal Peanut M&M Cookies (and they’re perfect for Valentine’s Day!)

I’m a big fan of cookies that feature everything. That’s right – I said it – everything. I love compost cookies, monster cookies, an all those cookies that tend to be stuffed with pretty much everything in your pantry.

These aren’t quite everything-in-your pantry cookies, but they’re close. They feature Special K, granola, oatmeal, coconut, peanut m&ms … and more. Which is why I’m calling them Cereal Peanut M&M Cookies. And because breakfast cookies sounds too healthy. These are based one of my favorite recipes – Special K cookies – but have a few extra ingredients.

cereal peanut M&M cookies for valentine's day - i crashed the web

Cereal Peanut M&M Cookies

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 c (2 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbs vanilla extract
  • 2 c all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 2 c. uncooked old fashioned oats
  • 1 c. granola (try homemade granola or even your favorite store-bought – this time I used TJ’s vanilla granola)
  • 2 c Special K cereal
  • 3/4 c unsweetened coconut
  • 1 c peanut M&Ms
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips

Here’s what you do:

  1. Combine flour, baking soda and baking powder and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, mix Special K, oats, granola, coconut , M&Ms and chocolate chips. Set aside.
  3. Beat butter and sugars until fluffy.
  4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each egg is added.
  5. Stir in flour mixture slowly, mixing well.
  6. Stir in oat mixture and mix with wooden spoon until well blended.
  7. Make tablespoon sized scoops on greased baking sheets.
  8. Bake at 350 for about 12 minutes.
batter for cereal cookies ... look at that granola and those m&ms!

batter for cereal cookies … look at that granola and those m&ms!

peanut M&M cereal cookies for valentine's day

Want to make them extra special for an upcoming holiday? Add colored sprinkles and M&Ms. For example, I used the Valentine’s special M&Ms and added some red sugar crystals to the dough before baking and POOF! They’re perfect for Valentine’s Day – which is ONE WEEK AWAY!

peanut M&M cereal cookies for valentine's day

Last minute Valentine’s Day dessert – Red Velvet Heart Sandwich Cookies!

“Do you have any Valentine’s Day recipes?” my coworker, Cari, asked me the other day. Did I have any Valentine’s Day recipes? I almost laughed- I had about a bazillion pinned and about a gazillion more in my head (and a few on here). I was dying to make all of them, too! But I couldn’t. Despite reallllly wanting to make a Valentine’s Day dessert, I had just made cupcakes for our Mardi Gras gathering and was hesitant to add more sugar to my fridge (we may have 2 cupcakes left) or bring to the office.

So when Cari asked if I thought she could just cut one of the recipes I had shared with her in half, I somewhat jokingly suggested we bake together and split the recipe between the two of us.  And she said yes! I didn’t know what to do – I don’t typically bake around other people. Sure, B’s usually in the room watching TV or reading, and at home my parents are somewhere nearby, but there are few times I actually bake with someone. I don’t mind it – but I’m a very messy baker, and not that accurate (I hardly ever measure vanilla … or other things), so my baking style sometimes shocks and scares others.

Was it messy? Yes. Were my hands, the counter top, and more, covered in red batter, powdered sugar? Perhaps. But was it a success? Yes. The cookies came out delicious (although not whoopee-pie like, like the original recipe, but thus the name change), Cari’s boyfriend was excited, and I have quelled my baking itch for another day or so. AND Cari has said she’ll bake with me again, so I really can’t be that scary, right?

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Red Velvet Heart Sandwiches

Based off Annie’s Eats Red Velvet Whoopie Pies

For the cookies:

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ c cocoa powder
  • ½ tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 8 tbsp. unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 ½ c brown sugar, packed
  • 1 egg (or ¼ c Egg Beaters, like I used)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • ½ cup buttermilk, at room temperature (I used powdered buttermilk)
  • 1 oz. red food coloring (a.k.a a whole lotta food coloring)

Here’s what you do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375˚ F.  Cut yourself a heart template from cardboard or card stock. Trace the template/stencil evenly spaced onto pieces of parchment paper or nonstick foil to fit two cookie sheets.
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt. Set aside. If you’re using powdered buttermilk, add the powdered equivalent to this dry mixture.
  3. In your KitchenAid or stand mixer, mix the butter and brown sugar on medium until fluffy and creamy. Beat in the egg (or Egg Beaters) and vanilla.  If you’re using powdered buttermilk, add the 1/2 c water (or whatever the buttermilk box tells you) at this time.
  4. Turn mixer on low and slowly incorporate dry ingredients about a cup at a time. Do not overbeat. 
  5. Blend in the food coloring. I used two full little containers of food coloring gel and probably could’ve used more.
  6. Using a spoon, move batter to a piping bag fitted with a large round tip.  Pipe the batter onto the foil hearts.  
  7. Bake 8-10 minutes and cool for 4-5 minutes on baking sheets before transferring cookies to a cooling rack.  Allow cookies to cool completely before frosting/filling. I put mine in the freezer to speed up the process.

For the frosting/filling:

Here’s what you need:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, room temperature
  • 5 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • Pink sprinkles or sugar crystals (optional)

Here’s what you do

  1. Clean your stand mixer so you can make the frosting in there! Beat the cream cheese and butter on medium until smooth and creamy.
  2. Add in vanilla extract.
  3. Gradually add in powdered sugar until smooth and lump free.

Make the sandwiches:

  1. After cookies are cool, spread them out and pair them up, placing two hearts that appear the same shape and size on top of one another. Flip one cookie of each pair over so that the flat side is facing up.
  2. Make your sandwiches! Using a spoon (or another piping bag, as the original recipe suggests), place a heaping tablespoon of frosting on top of the flat side of the cookie you’d like to be the bottom. Sandwich the cookies together so the flat sides are facing each other and press gently to help the filling reach the edges.
  3. You should be able to see a thin white layer of frosting between two cookies. Feel free to sprinkle sugar crystals along the sides to add more Valentine flair.
  4. Store in the fridge and enjoy!

foil with hearts on them

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Cari loves pouring the dry ingredients

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Cari is also a great piper

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Piping the red velvet hearts

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Ready to go into the oven!

Red Velvet Valentine Heart Cookie Sandwiches

Enjoy! Our recipe made 9 sandwiches (18 cookies) and two mini heart cakes.

Sweets for your Sweetie – Valentine’s Desserts

Three days until Valentine’s Day! I’ve never been one of those girls that’s been obsessed by or goes overboard  the holiday – some flowers and a nice dinner and I’m all set. BUT how can you not get excited by all the girly, sparkly things there are out there – clothes, food, cards, more.

Are you planning on baking anything special for your loved one? Or to share with friends? Here are a few recipes that look delicious that I’ve recently pinned – I haven’t made any of these yet, but I hope to try at least one out! Which looks the best to you? I’m going to let B take a look and see which sounds good to him.

Red Velvet Heart Whoopie Pies (from Annie Eats)

 

UPDATE: I made a version of these, here.

 

Valentine Cookie Pops (from the Idea Room)

Seriously, the most amazing cake ever – Heart Cake (from I am Baker)

Valentine Hug Cookies (from Life is Sweets)

Chocolate Dipped Heart Cookies (from Martha Stewart)

AND just for fun …

Unicorn Poop Cookies! Because what says love more than unicorn poop? (from Squidoo)

Which looks best to you? Do you have any Valentine’s recipes you plan on trying out?