Peanut Butter + Chocolate Chunk Cookies

To me, the perfect peanut butter cookie is one that’s soft, heavy on the peanut butter, and riddled with milk chocolate chunks.  This recipe is a twist on a recipe by the wonderful Joanne Chang of Flour Bakery in Boston.  If you don’t have her cookbook, I strongly suggest you pick one up.  Everything I have made from her book has been amazing.

Ingredients
  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups (454 g) chunky peanut butter
  • 2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 bag (11.5 oz) Ghirardelli milk chocolate chips
Directions

Using a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, granulated sugar, and light brown sugar on medium speed for about 5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in the eggs and vanilla until thoroughly combined.  You will need to scrape the bowl from time to time to make sure all ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.  On medium-low speed, beat in the peanut butter until thoroughly combined, about 2 minutes.

In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, and chocolate chips until well mixed.  On low speed, slowly add the flour mixture to the butter-sugar mixture.  Mix until the dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated with the wet ingredients.

Using a cookie scoop, drop the dough onto a baking sheet, spacing them about 2 inches apart.  I use a small cookie scoop, so I use two scoops per cookie to get my desired size.  You may work this out as you please but understand that baking times may vary.  Flatten each ball slightly with the palm of your hand.

Bake for 10-12 minutes at 350°, or until the edges of the cookies are golden brown.  Do not overcook!  These cookies are meant to be soft and chewy.  Let cool on a wire rack.  While each batch is baking, store the remaining dough covered in the refrigerator until all the dough is used.  Joanne Chang recommends you store the dough in an airtight container overnight before baking, but I just can’t wait that long.  I promise these are good enough, although you are welcome to wait if you like!

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Paris Restaurant Guide

Oh Paris…  You were wonderful.  Beautiful views, spectacular architecture, and absolutely incredible food.  It should be, right?  I mean, Julia Child wouldn’t have totally changed the focus of her life after having your sole meunière if it wasn’t something truly scrumptious.  Traveling to Paris and watching Julie & Julia on the plane ride home had me itching to come back and offer up a few eateries for you to try on your next trip.

Le Mary Céleste

Located in the Marais district of Pairs, this little gem should not be overlooked.  Especially if you like oysters.  I don’t even like oysters, and I could’ve eaten the entire half dozen we ordered.  They were fantastic!  Cold and flavored perfectly with a slightly spicy citrus sauce…  Don’t stop there, though.  The tapas style menu allows you to sample as many delectable dishes as you choose.  While the menu changes daily, I definitely recommend getting the braised beef if it is available.  Braised for 24 hours, you aren’t going to find a more tender, deliciously seasoned beef than what Josh and I had as our final dish of the night.  Just thinking about it makes me hungry…  Make sure you have a reservation.  The restaurant is small, and while there is a bar, it is no guarantee that you will have a seat.

Le Régalade

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Ah!  This place…  Lush, red velvet chairs settled amongst white washed walls and dark wood beams.  Scallops (Saint Jacques) served in beautiful half-shells and covered in black truffles.  A crab bisque, so light and frothy yet still rich.  Should I go on?  I can.  Josh ordered a soufflé for dessert that was baked just before it was brought out to him.  I dined on a perfectly baked pear with a sweet almond filling sitting atop a dark chocolate drizzle.  The dinner took over two hours to finish, but it was time well spent.  Every dish came out fresh, hot, and sublime.  Nothing was rushed.  Everything was perfect.

Racines 2

On our last night in Paris, we reserved a table at Racines 2.  Up until this point, we had yet to have a bad meal.  We were desperately hoping our last one would not be the exception to the rule we had come to expect.  Thankfully, we were not disappointed.  I began my meal with a sample of ravioli alongside butternut squash and walnuts.  Gorgeous kale leaves were baked to perfection giving just the right amount of crunch to the dish.  If available, you should definitely try the lamb.  It really was something.  And because it is Paris, order the chocolate ganache for dessert and contemplate why you’ve never had anything so wonderful before.  The kitchen is open to the dining area, so you are able to watch the chefs as they prepare your meal.  A great experience all around.

Ladurée

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Yes, I know this is a tourist destination.  Yes, I know they have them in the States.  You know what else?  I don’t care.  During the inevitable shopping day (it’s Paris, duh!), wander over to the location on the Champs Elysée and grab a bite for lunch.  If not lunch, go simply for the decadent macarons.  I really enjoy macarons, but I have never tasted any like those I had from Ladurèe in Paris.  Amazing!  If you do stay for lunch, Josh recommends the salmon club sandwich, and I say try the Croque Monsieur.  While you eat, feast your eyes on the beautifully decorated rooms in the classic French style.  You will feel like royalty.

One tip for eating in Paris: always make reservations!  Thankfully, you can easily make reservations online for all of these recommendations.

Bon Appétit!


36 Hours at Home: “Staycation” Essentials

Text conversation with a friend:

Her: Hey, would you be interested in seeing La La Land with me tonight?

Me: Oh man, yes I would but we are in San Diego…

Her: [Crying emojis] Bummer. What days of the month are you typically home?

Me: Tuesdays haha

Her: So Tuesdays you guys are home and you go to your jobs on those days? Otherwise you’re in Texas, Chicago, SD, or Bangladesh?

Ok, so maybe my husband and I go places a lot (Bangladesh is a stretch)…  It’s true.  With our families living in different states and our love of seeing new places, we travel all the time.  In fact, we were supposed to be going to Florida over recently, but plans changed.  I have to say, though, that staying home has its advantages.  No delayed flights, mediocre airport food, time changes, or jet lag.

Staying home can also be the perfect time to focus on yourself and get in a few things you enjoy before starting the work week again.  I love taking weekends at home to move a little slower and absorb each moment.  The New York Times puts out a “36 Hours in…” series that recommends things to do in different places throughout the world all in a weekend.  I wanted to offer you 36 Hours at Home to show that staying home can be just as fun as traveling elsewhere.

Friday

5pm – Get Out of the Office On Time

That’s it.  Leave.  Really.  The rest can wait until Monday, I promise.

7pm – Restaurant You’ve Never Tried

Pick out a restaurant in your area that you’ve never been to, grab an other, and go experience something new in your own back yard.

9pm – Movie Time

movie-night

Take your other or yourself to a movie.  If the weather is good, see if there are outdoor movies playing.  Better yet, go home and watch a movie.  There, sweatpants and dirty hair are acceptable.  No one is worried about sharing armrest space, and there is a pause button when you really have to get up and pee.

Saturday

8am – Yoga

morning-yoga

I know… 8am on a Saturday that you have nothing to do?  Just trust me.  It’s worth it.  Get up and take yourself through a practice.  It doesn’t have to be more than 15 minutes, but it will get you moving and start your mind in a good place for the day.  Try a practice from Gaia and see what you think.  Once finished, hydrate and shower.

9am – Pancakes

Just this morning, my husband and I made a batch of whole wheat pancakes.  It was so nice to be able to slow down and not worry about the pressure of time like when you go to a restaurant.  If I want to take three hours to eat my food, I can!  In truth, we all should eat a little slower.  It helps with digestion and weight control.  The best part of making breakfast together is the opportunity to talk and laugh with each other.

No husband?  No problem.  Take the time for yourself.  Prior to being married, I loved taking the time to make myself breakfast and stop to appreciate all the great things I had in my life.  Not to mention the pancakes I was about to feed myself.  Plus, making your own pancakes is WAY cheaper and healthier than going to IHOP.

10am – Pull Out Your Hobbies

Make today about what you like to do.  Lately my hobby ADHD has taken me to the realm of surface pattern design.  I love taking classes through Skillshare and learning more about the industry through courses offered from Bonnie Christine and Elizabeth Olwen.  Atly is another great place to learn new skills.

pattern design

So for a few hours this morning, do something you enjoy.  Read a book, sketch, write, make a quilt, that thing you’ve always said you wanted to do but haven’t.  Whatever!  Just do it.

12pm – Treat Yourself Lunch

Treat yourself to that trendy lunch spot you’ve looked at but said you weren’t going to pay that much for chicken salad.  One of my favorite places in the Sacramento area is Selland’s Market Cafe.  The “Josh” pizza is delicious!  Not just saying so because my husband’s name is Josh…

sellands

2pm – Afternoon a la Plaza

After you’ve taken your time at that adorable lunch spot, take a walk around the town.  Go to the park, window shop, shop for real – just move.  But while you move, observe.  Really take in and appreciate where you are.  You may notice a store you’ve never seen before.  I love finding new little bookshops to look in.  Have a conversation with a shop owner or that lady you run into every time you’re in the grocery store.  The idea is to change your experience with the routine places you see everyday.

5pm – Finish Your Project

Come home from your afternoon stroll and finish that project you started earlier today.  Share your progress with the world through social media or don’t.  One of my goals this year is to remember that some things I make can be just for me.  No one else has to see them.

7pm – Cook Something New

I am a hoarder of cookbooks.  I love them.  I guarantee you I have never made every recipe in one before buying another one.  There are plenty of new recipes to try.  Give it a shot!  If it’s terrible, that’s what take-out is for.

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Sunday

10am – Spiritual Time

I am a church-goer.  Taking time in your day to focus on your beliefs and then refocus your life is essential.

12pm – Lunch with Friends

Spend a little time with the important people in your life.  Maybe that means going to a restaurant.  It could also mean inviting people to a leisurely afternoon at your house.

5pm – At Home Spa

Put on that fuzzy robe and pamper yourself for a few hours.  Aim to be alone for a little while to decompress from being with and serving others.  Light a few candles, soak your feet, and don a face mask.  My favorite candles are from Voluspa.  Their scents are amazing without being overpowering or making you want a sugar cookie.  Formulary 55 makes an incredible foot soak that is worth every penny.  I’m not really the one you should ask about face masks, but I am currently loving the Luna oil from Sunday Riley.  It smells like green tea and is very relaxing.

7pm – Eat a Light Dinner

You have to get up early tomorrow, so don’t chow down on a huge dinner.  Eat something light and nutrient heavy like a stir fry.  You might try cooking your vegetables a little longer if you notice that close to raw veggies make you bloat and feel heavy in your stomach.  It isn’t comfortable to go to sleep with that feeling.

8pm – Grab a Tennis Ball

No, seriously.  You can give yourself a great massage with a tennis ball.  By placing the ball between your tension spots and a wall or floor, you can massage away a great deal of stress.  Use it essentially how you would use a foam roller but for a lot less money.  Dalton Wong and Kate Faithfull-Williams offer a great tennis ball routine in their book, The Feelgood Plan.

10pm – Sleep

Be in bed and heading to sleepy town by 10pm.  Studies show that this is the optimal time to go to bed to allow yourself for enough time to sleep.  Turn off your phone and computer.  As tempting as it is to lay in bed with your electronic devices and stare at Instagram until you fall asleep, don’t.  The lights emitted by your devices actually hinder you from sleeping properly.  Also, wear loose clothing.  Tight clothing can reduce melatonin production by more than half.

I hope you enjoy your weekend at home!


Dinner Party Must: Clam Pasta

Recent experience has taught me that when planning a small dinner party, sometimes simplicity is key.  Simplicity doesn’t have to mean tasteless, though.  My mother-in-law taught me this recipe for clam pasta that is easy yet anything but boring when it comes to flavor.  The best part?  It easily serves a 4-6 people without breaking the bank or taking up all your time.  Serve it with a green salad and some classic garlic bread, and you’re good to go!

Clam Pasta

Ingredients:

1 head garlic, finely chopped

2 cans chopped clams

1 box whole wheat spaghetti

2 cans diced tomatoes with Italian herbs

1 cup white wine

Red pepper flakes, to taste

Olive oil

Kosher salt

Instructions:

  1. Finely mince the entire head of garlic.
  2. Open clams and drain the juice into a separate bowl for later use.
  3. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to boil for pasta.  When water boils, cook pasta according to box directions.
  4. Meanwhile, in a large enamel pot or coated skillet, heat olive oil on medium heat.  Use enough oil to coat the bottom of your pot.
  5. Saute garlic.  Be careful not to over-brown.
  6. Turn heat on high and add diced tomatoes, white wine, and clam juice.  Add red pepper flakes to taste.  Bring sauce to a boil, stirring occasionally.  Cook sauce down until it is slightly thicker than when you started.  This is not meant to be a thick sauce.  It is only meant to lightly coat the pasta.
  7. When pasta is done cooking, drain and return to pot.  Add the clam sauce and clams.  Toss to coat.

Notes:

*You can’t have too much garlic in this recipe, so don’t be alarmed by the amount.

*If your sauce is done well before the pasta, lower the heat and let simmer until pasta is ready.

*Try very hard not to let the pasta be done before the sauce.  Pasta soaks up the sauce best right after it is drained.

*Once cooked, the pasta dish comes together very quickly, so it is best to have all your other sides complete before starting the pasta so it can be served hot.

Enjoy!


The Business of Creatives: Class Recommendations

“But I am an ar-tist!”  *said in the most uppity voice possible*

Well sister, you may be an artist, but if you want to be successful, I’m learning that you have to be a business-minded person as well.  I wanted to compile a few classes for you that have been so interesting to me as I start to learn the business side of being creative.

Of course the classes are on Skillshare because I’m obsessed, but if you use my link, you can get 2 months free!  It is COMPLETELY worth it.  Yes, I felt it necessary to use all caps.  I’m only slightly yelling at you in a friendly way.

First up: 

Watch Me Work: Real Client Projects by Dylan Mierzwinski

Watch Me Work

In this class, Dylan goes over three different real-life projects that she was commissioned to do.  The class is long, but full of valuable information regarding client correspondence, pricing your work, and the nitty gritty of completing a commission.

Next:

Pricing Your Work: How to Value Your Work as a Freelancer by Peggy Dean

Pricing Your Work

Peggy Dean discusses how to appropriately price your work so you don’t undervalue yourself.  As a beginner in this world of freelance work, I had no idea where to start on pricing my work.  Do I charge by the hour?  By the project?  I’m new at this.  Am I charging someone to much?  Am I worth it?  All those questions answered.

Last:

Sending Work to the Printer by Dylan Mierzwinski

Sending Work to the Printer

Yep, another class by Dylan M.  Really guys, she is incredibly thorough and doesn’t hide anything from you, which is why I love her classes.  This one is a little dry, but so important when you are trying to figure out how to print your work.  Thankfully, Dylan’s voice is pleasant, so I didn’t mind listening to her talk for an hour and a half at all!  Instead of just printing trial-by-error style, watch her class, and be happy with your printed work.

 

Skillshare offers a ton of different classes about the business of creatives, but these three are among my favorites.  Remember, use my link to get 2 months free!