Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Dark Chocolate Cherry Layered Brownies

It's that time of year guys... Valentine's Day is just 2 weeks away! That means it's time to whip up some baked goods for your loved ones. Or you know, just for yourself, especially if your Business Man's not that much of a 'sweets' person. 

These brownies are ultra-decadent, stuffed with Dove cherry dark chocolates, and layered with a shortbread crust. And yes, there might be almost an entire pound of butter in one 9x9-inch pan. Watch out Paula, someone's on your heels with butter usage! 

But no worries, these are perfectly rich and fudgy so that you only need a small sliver. And then another small sliver. And another after that. So that really you have eaten 2.5 brownies but no one will ever know. ;-)

Chocolate layer in the center... oh yea.
The Dove cherry dark chocolates are actually a special product for Valentine's Day. I had intended to use some Hershey Raspberry White Creme kisses in these brownies, but after trips to Ray's, Meijer, CVS, and Walgreens, I am pretty sure they do not exist. Even though they are google-able. (See right here.) So, I settled with the Dove cherry dark chocolates. If you're not a big cherry person, you  could always swap out the cherry for the Dove caramel... that would be delicious. Or if you get your hands on the Raspberry kisses, let me know.


Aren't they so cute? Shaped like little hearts and everything.

Bonus points if you have a pink pan to bake them in.

[Click to PRINT]

Dark Chocolate Cherry Brownies

  • For the shortbread layer
    • 1 cup butter, softened
    • ½ cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
    •  cups all-purpose flour
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • For the brownie layer**
    • 4-oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
    • ¾ cup butter, (1 1/2 sticks)
    •  cups sugar
    • 3 large eggs
    • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
    • ¼ teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup all-purpose flour
    • 1 9-oz. package Dove cherry dark chocolate candies, unwrapped


Preheat oven to 350*F. Line a 9x9-inch pan with foil, and spray with cooking spray.

To prepare shortbread layer, beat butter and sugars until light and creamy. Gradually add salt and flour until combined. Press dough evenly into prepared pan.

To prepare brownie layer, combine the unsweetened chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water; heat, stirring occasionally until completely melted in smooth. Remove from the heat. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Whisk in chocolate mixture until well-blended. Whisk in the vanilla extract and salt. Whisk in the flour until just incorporated.

Spread half of the brownie batter over the shortbread crust. Place 20 Dove chocolates evenly over the brownie batter. Spread the remaining batter evenly over the Dove chocolates. Bake in preheated oven 45-50 minutes, until almost set.

Meanwhile, while brownies are baking, coarsely chop remaining Dove chocolates. When the brownies are done, scatter the chopped Dove chocolates over the top of the brownies; return to oven for 3 more minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Chill the brownies for 2-3 hours before removing and cutting.

**Note: If you would rather, you can use a family-sized brownie mix prepared according to package direction instead of making the brownies from scratch. I'll never tell.

Source: Adapted from Picky Palate and Annie's Eats


In running news, the weather was beautiful today! Seriously, 58*F in January is unbelievable. I had mile repeats on the schedule for today and was so excited to run them outside. Even though the wind was a bit treacherous.

I was hoping to do 4x1-mile at 6:20-6:24 with a 0.5 mile jog in between. I completed only three of them, but they were quality!

  • Mile 1 - 6:16
  • Mile 2 - 6:15
  • Mile 3 - 6:24
I know that I went out way too fast on the first two. Combine that with the 15+mph headwind, and it definitely makes sense why I was dying on the third one. One of these days I will learn to hit my pace... ay ay ay... Oh well, still a great day, 8.3 miles total.

Happy running! (And baking!)

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Rookie Mistake

I committed a rookie mistake today... I wore my new shoes on a long run.

Even my Business Man told me, "You probably shouldn't do that! Don't you  need to break them in on a short, easy run first?"

I scoffed at him, and confessed that my desire to run in the new shoes definitely outweighed my risk of ending up with blisters all over my feet.

The new kicks.
Fortunately, my feet held up just fine! 17 miles, done and done. I'm pretty sure that after 7 years, the Mizuno Wave Creation can do me no wrong.

Came home, planted myself on the couch, and got cozy with some tomato soup and grilled cheese. And a side of salt (in the form of pickles & olives). Guess I lost a lot of sweat on the run.

My Business Man and I just finished watching the movie Courageous - great movie!  A little corny at times, a little intense at times, but a wonderful message. And now I'm off to find a little sweet treat to satisfy my sweet tooth... have a great weekend everyone!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hot Off the Press... [Chicken Bacon Bleu Panini]

So I totally forgot to post a panini recipe last Thursday... whoops. I'm sure you were all waiting with bated breath and were very disappointed.

Well, never fear, because I've got a fabulous panini recipe tonight! Tangy bleu cheese and salty bacon come together to form a delectable sandwich. It comes from the panini cookbook I received for Christmas, 200 Best Panini Recipes (thanks Mom!).

The Chicken Bacon Bleu panini: grilled chicken, crisp bacon, and bleu cheese on sourdough with a spread of barbecue sauce and sliced red onion.

I had never thought of putting bleu cheese on a panini before I saw this recipe. I feared there wouldn't be enough ooey gooey cheese! But bleu cheese actually melts pretty nicely. It's no Velveeta, but it added a great tang to the sandwich. 

First, spread the bottom piece of bread with a bit of barbecue sauce, and top with some grilled chicken. I actually used my panini press to grill my chicken for the first time, and it was so easy! No need for a George Foreman in this house.

Then comes the crispy bacon. Looooooove bacon.

Then the bleu cheese crumbles. Don't go too overboard here; bleu cheese is really strong.

Then a few red onion slices.

Top with the second bread slice and panini your heart out!

I spy with my little eye a very delicious beverage.
A few minutes later, panini perfection.

[Click to PRINT]

Chicken Bacon Bleu Panini

  • 4 slices sourdough bread
  • 2 tablespoons barbecue sauce
  • 2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced
  • ½ cup crumbled bleu cheese
  • 4 slices crisp, cooked bacon
  • 8-10 thin slices red onion


Spread barbecue sauce on two slices of bread. Top with sliced chicken, bleu cheese, bacon, and red onion. Cook on panini press on HIGH until crisp on the outside and warm on the inside, about 3-4 minutes.

Source: 200 Best Panini Recipes


In other news, I got a special delivery today! I was due for a new pair of running shoes, so I went to amazon.com to order a pair of my Mizuno Wave Creation's. I've been wearing these shoes since I was 16 years old... started with the Wave Creation 6 and am now wearing the Wave Creation 13. Crazy!

Anyway, this is the first time there's ever been an exciting color! I've never had a running shoe where the main color is not white. I am so excited for my hot pink trainers... I cannot wait to run this weekend.

The best part? I got a random $35 discount from amazon! I was all prepared to shell out the big bucks for these shoes. It's totally worth it to know I'm not risking injury... that was a non-negotiable when my Business Man and I got married. I told him that buying running shoes every 4 months or so would be a must - and that they would probably run over $100 each time. He agreed. (He knows running keeps me sane, haha.)

So, when we checked out online and got these for only $105 instead of $140, we were so stoked! Still don't know why, but I'm not complaining. :) Plus free 2-day shipping thanks to my in-laws amazon prime account. Life is good.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The best pizza in the Bean Town... [Dominic's White Pizza]

I've got two favorite restaurants here in the Bean Town - Viva Maria and Thai Jasmine. Pizza/pasta and Thai noodle dishes... what can I say, I like carbs.

Much to my demise, Viva Maria closed a few weeks ago! They opened a small quick-service stand in the mall, and I have been told they are "searching for a new sit-down location." Either way, I was totally bummed.

My absolute favorite dish to order at Viva Maria was the Dominic's White Pizza, topped with fresh garlic, broccoli, spinach, tomatoes, ricotta, and mozzarella cheese. The best bite was the thick chewy crust with the sweet ricotta cheese. Man, I miss that pizza.

Last week, I decided that I just couldn't live without the Dominic's White Pizza, so I re-created it myself. And while this pizza wasn't exactly like Viva Maria's, it was pretty darn close! It definitely satisfied the craving. 

Stolen from  my Instagram account... I need to bake this pizza in the daylight so I can take some nice pictures of it. Or I could just wait until summer... Ohhhh summer nights where the sun stays out past 5:30pm.
The good thing about this pizza is that it's actually pretty healthy! It's covered in fresh vegetables, and there's no added fat from processed meats. (Not that I'm against processed meats; pepperoni's one of my favorite pizza toppings... just not so great to have it every week. Because, you know, pizza is at least a once-a-week occasion at our house.) And all the cheese gives you protein! Riiiiiight.

Give this pizza a try on your next pizza night!

[Click to PRINT]

Dominic's White Pizza

  • 1 recipe pizza dough (my favorite is Annie's Eats)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan cheese
  • 1-1½ cups broccoli florets
  • 3 cups spinach
  • ½ red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • ½-¾ cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning


Preheat oven to 500*F. Place baking stone in hot oven; let stone preheat for 30 minutes.

Sprinkle a piece of parchment paper with cornmeal. Stretch pizza dough into a 12-inch circle; place on parchment.

For sauce, combine melted butter, olive oil, garlic, and parmesan cheese. Spread onto prepared pizza dough.

To prepare toppings, place broccoli with 1 tablespoon water in microwave-safe bowl. Microwave until just crisp tender; about 2 minutes. Place spinach in a microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon water. Microwave until wilted, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Squeeze off extra water.

Top dough with broccoli, spinach, and diced red pepper. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, and then top with dollops of ricotta cheese.

Very carefully, remove hot baking stone from oven. Slide the parchment (with the pizza on it) directly onto the baking stone. Return to 500*F oven and bake 8-10 minutes until cheese is golden brown.

Source: Inspired by Viva Maria Pizza & Pasta

Monday, January 23, 2012

Chicago, Chicago

For Christmas, we got my parents four tickets to a Bulls' game... with the stipulation that they choose their game-attending buddies very wisely. Fortunately, they did, and we met them in Chicago on Saturday for some shopping, game-attending, and an all-around good time.

We arrived in the city just past lunchtime, and we were starving, so we stopped for one of our favorite Chicago foods - deep dish pizza at Giordano's.

We started with a salad, you know, to cancel out the 3 lbs. of cheese to come in the pizza. It came with anchovies (on the side), and I tried anchovies for the first time. Salty, very salty. Pretty sure I was the only one that came close to even touching them.

Oh, anchovies... you were quite the experience.
And then our pizza came out. Man, oh, man. We ordered a large supreme, stuffed with cheese, sausage, green peppers, onions, more cheese, and topped with sauce. It was SO good. The crust was definitely my favorite part. I made sure to finish off my crust, my Business Man's, and half my dad's. Just the true carb-a-holic coming out. (Notice my mom didn't share her crust... that's where my carb lovin' comes from.)

Mom prepares to attack her first ever slice of Chicago-style pizza.
After lunch, we spent the afternoon shopping. Eddie Bauer, the Nike Store, Crate and Barrel, the Gap, Williams-Sonoma, and perhaps my favorite, HomeGoods. Think the housewares section of TJ Maxx times a million. If only we would have had this store close when we moved into our house! (Or maybe not... we could potentially be thousands of dollars poorer right now.)

Infinite amounts of discounted bakeware... my dream aisle.
My dad was thrilled with the afternoon of shopping, as you can clearly see. At least Crate and Barrel has comfy furniture to lounge on.

Is he sleeping?
We stopped in the Ghiradelli shop for an afternoon pick-up. Love that they give you a free chocolate as you walk in the door. Of course we proceeded to buy more chocolate plus a salted caramel cocoa, so I guess their marketing plan works. Have you ever had salted caramel cocoa? It was delicious - a little sweet, but perfect shared between us.

We then made our way to the game, which was super fun! Our seats were up in the boonies, but we were able to see if we squinted enough. Hehe... actually we could still see pretty well. 

The game was pretty close at times, but the Bulls pulled through with a win over Charlotte. Although they didn't score over 100 points, so we didn't get our free Big Mac's. My Business Man was pretty disappointed about that.

Enjoying the game.
My favorite part had to be the mascot - Benny the Bull. He was hilarious.

Upon returning to the hotel, we feasted on a little something my mom & I had picked up earlier... Sprinkles' cupcakes!

There just happened to be a cupcake shop conveniently located just a block and a half from our hotel... coincidence? I think not.

Love the packaging... think a cutesy cupcake shop would succeed in the Bean Town? Haha... at $3.50 a pop, probably not.

We got four flavors to try - Red Velvet, Strawberry, German Chocolate, and S'mores.

So cute!
The hands-down favorite was the Red Velvet. The others claimed the German Chocolate was fantastic as well, but I didn't have any because coconut gives me the willies.

My second pick was the S'mores, which had a graham cracker crust and a ganache center with a marshmallow frosting. I might need to recreate that flavor combo at home.  

On Sunday, we ventured down to Millennium Park to meet some friends for brunch. We planned on walking through the park and visiting the Bean beforehand, but it was 25*F and spitting rain. Not so pleasant. So we stepped into the Chicago Cultural Center instead for a few minutes.

Check out the haze! We couldn't even see the top half of most of the buildings.
The Chicago Cultural Center was built in 1897, and used to be a public library. It was beautiful inside! We enjoyed walking through the rooms and displays and looking at the architecture. And coveting the tile floors.

Absolutely beautiful stained glass dome.
After our historical lesson of the weekend, we headed over to Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe to catch up with our friends Adam & Sarah who moved to Chicago a few months ago.

Their menu was quite extensive, with breakfast and lunch options. Some of the lunch options were enticing, but since the restaurant is called Wildberry Pancakes & Cafe, I decided to go with the pancakes. And I had quite the selection - red velvet pancakes, cranberry-pecan pancakes, Oreo s'mores pancakes (!) to name a few.

I ended up settling on the fig & walnut multigrain pancakes, which were absolutely delicious. The pancakes were perfectly sweet with just a hint of whole grain, and were topped with walnuts and dried figs. (First time eating figs for me.) Perfect with some maple syrup. My mom had a panini that looked pretty awesome too, so if you're looking for a brunch place in Chicago, Wildberry is the place to go!

Sadly, after brunch and a quick tour of Adam & Sarah's apartment, we had to say good-bye to my parents and start the trek back to the Bean Town... 

... but not without another stop at Sprinkles. This time for a Peanut Butter Chip cupcake with Peanut Butter frosting. Yessss. Definitely made the whole getting-ready-for-the-work-week-thing a lot easier Sunday evening.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

IL Marathon, week #2

Hi friends... we just got back from a 24-hour whirlwind trip to Chicago, which was loads of fun. I'll be back later to recap the details, but for now let's talk running!

It was pretty cold and nasty this week... so I only got outside a few days. 8*F and severe wind is not my friend! I also got in some good treadmill runs, including this morning at the hotel in Chicago. Love it when hotels have nice workout equipment! Although I did see several runners out along the lake... and it was so bitterly cold & windy. I guess if I lived there I could get used to it.

My speed workout for the week was mile repeats - 4 x 1-mile at 6:25, with a half mile jog in between. I ended up on the treadmill for this workout (not ideal), but ended up hitting 6:22, 6:22, 6:22, and then 6:20 for the last one. My legs were definitely burning by the end! 

All in all, I got in 52.5 miles, which is just where I wanted to be. 

Weekly Rundown 1.16.2012-1.22.2012
Mon - 16.5 miles LONG (8:03 avg)
Tues - 7.4 miles easy treadmill
Wed - 7.3 miles easy outside
Thurs - 4x1-mile w/ 1/2 mile jog (6:22, 6:22, 6:22, 6:20); 8 miles total
Fri - 5.3 miles easy outside
Sat - Rest
Sun - 8 miles easy treadmill (in Chicago)
Total - 52.5 miles

Next week my long run is 17 miles, and I'm looking at a 5-6 mile tempo run and some hills. Eeek! Hoping for some warmer weather so I can actually get outside.

Time to go devour my peanut butter chip cupcake from Sprinkles... yummmmm...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Things I'm Lovin', round #3

Reasons Why I'm Happy Today

1. Today we started our second semester at school. Because we are on block schedule, that means we get new classes every semester. And, I have actually taught all the classes I am teaching this semester before, which means I have the majority of my lessons planned out already! Woot woot! If you're a teacher you know how nice that is. If you're not... just imagine your workload being cut in half. 

2. I was picking up some groceries at Meijer today and stumbled across this beautiful display. It took all that I had in me to just keep walking. I probably would have let myself buy one Valentine-themed baking item, except that I might already have four varieties of Valentine sprinkles at home.

All cute little heart-shaped pans! And sprinkles! And cupcake liners!

3. I just looked back at my marathon training from last spring, and realized I didn't tackle my first 16 mile run until mid-February. And this go-round I've already run a 16+miler. And now I feel like super-woman because I'm four weeks ahead of where I was last year. That's gotta be a good sign, right?

4. I made one new year's resolution this year - to actually read my books for book club. We had our first meeting of 2012 tonight. Did I read the book? Oh, about 40% of it. Did I still have fun chatting and devouring chips & salsa at the local Mexican joint? Oh yea. Thanks to my book club peeps who still welcome me when I have nothing to add to the intellectual conversation.

5. This weekend I am going to my first ever professional basketball game - Da Bulls. I am excited. I might be even more excited for the fact that I will also get to do some shopping at Williams-Sonoma for which I have a Christmas gift card to spend. Oh yes, and a stop at Trader Joe's as well.

6. My favorite pizza place in the Bean Town closed. This is not something I'm lovin'. BUT!! I pretty successfully recreated my favorite pizza from there this weekend. Fresh garlic, spinach, broccoli, red pepper, ricotta, and mozzarella on a chewy, garlicky crust. My Business Man & I pretty much devoured the whole thing.

Gotta get into bed soon... meeting a friend for some mile repeats in the wee hours of the morning!

Past Things I'm Lovin':

Monday, January 16, 2012

IL Marathon, Week #1

[If you're not into running, feel free to skip these training recap posts.]

Week 1 has come and gone and I am feeling good! I got in 48 miles (well, 47.6 to be exact) and felt pretty good on every run.

I have started using DailyMile because the website/company I used to use to track my training closed up shop. If you're on DailyMile, friend me here

Weekly Rundown 1.9.2012-1.15.2012
Mon - 7 miles easy
Tues - 5-mile tempo @ 6:42 avg, 8.3 miles total
Wed - Rest
Thurs - 6.7 miles easy
Fri - 15 miles LONG (last 3 @ 7:41 avg)
Sat - 5.9 recovery miles, in the snow
Sun - 4.7 miles easy
Total - 47.6 miles

This coming week I'm looking at some mile repeats as my speed workout, hopefully 4x1600m @ 6:25 with 800m jog recovery. We'll see how that goes! Also hoping to get in 50 miles for the week.

I actually already completed my long run for this week this morning, 16.5 miles. I know it's not the greatest thing to run long Friday and then run long again on Monday, but we will be out of town this weekend and with today being a day off school I figured it was the easiest just to get it in. It's nice to have it out of the way!

Other exciting news of the weekend...

We spent some time in TJ Maxx on Saturday and put some finishing touches on the kitchen and the living room.

First up - the kitchen. Ever since we moved in (8 months ago), we have had these hideous blue plaid curtains up on the window over the kitchen sink. They don't really go with the whole cutesy green cupcake theme I've got going on. At all. And they were probably 30 years old, full of nastiness. I don't have a pic but they looked similar to these:

Might be alright for a country-style home... but that's not really what we're going for here.
Anyway, at TJ Maxx, I found these super cute dish towels, in the right colors. (For only $6!) So we now have dish towels as a curtain valance. I had planned on using fabric tape to make them more curtain-like, but they worked just fine hanging over the curtain rod. It looks so much better.
Bad lighting, but they are very cute!
Second - the fireplace mantle. We didn't really have any decorations on the mantle before Christmas, but after we took down the Christmas garland it looked very bare. Again, TJ Maxx to the rescue. We found these silver urns for just $10 each. Paired with some fake berries we already had - beautiful fireplace! (Just don't ask whose ashes are in the urns... bwahaha...)

Third - new rug! Thanks to my Business Man for asking for only Lowe's gift cards for Christmas, we got this awesome new rug for our living room. I'm sure he might have been a tad bitter that I didn't ask for any 'grown-up' presents for the house to help contribute, but a girl needs some new running clothes!

Anyways, it super nice to have a soft surface to lay down and stretch or foam roll my legs out. It also keeps the room warmer in these cold winter months.

That's all folks! I'm off to enjoy my last day of freedom before heading back to work tomorrow... got a busy week ahead!

Friday, January 13, 2012

This one's for the kidd-o's... [Oreo Rice Krispy Treats]

You know how I was hoping for snow last night?

Well, we got it! Only a few inches, but it was enough to first delay school, then cancel. And it's been flurry-ing all day long.

Unfortunately I wasn't able to go back to sleep after I found out we were on a delay schedule, so I was up drinking my coffee at 7:30am. Oh well, at least I had my Today Show friends to keep me company. 

I even managed to cook breakfast for my Business Man. Super gourmet French toast. 

He was livin' the dream life this morning.
One of my favorite things about snow days is the fact that I can go to the gym at 10am and do my long run while watching my favorite hour of the Today Show - Kathie Lee & Hoda, and then at 11am, the Rachael Ray talk show. 

So, today I headed to the gym a little after 10am to get my run on. I had 14 miles on the training schedule for my first long run, so I planned to run for about 2 hours. I ended up feeling really awesome and ran 15 miles, with the last 3 at 7:41-pace. Woop woop! If only all runs could be like this one.

I even thought to bring some sport beans along for some mid-run fuel (something I've been working on for long runs), but I left my water at home. Whoops. I did get off the treadmill 62 minutes in (when it resets) to go grab a drink from the water fountain, but would have been much happier with a water bottle. Oh well, such is life.

And get this - I came home to write down my run on my training schedule only to find out that I had only planned 12 miles as my long run for this week. Ay ay ay... looks like I'll be able to bump up the miles a bit more quickly as we go along the next few weeks, as long as I'm recovering okay.

So, due to the snow day, I'm in a bit of a predicament concerning some rice krispy treats. Because today was the last day of the semester (exam day), I had made a big ole' pan of Oreo Rice Krispy Treats as a reward for my geometry students surviving the final. Except now they won't take their exam until Tuesday... and these treats will be stale by then.

Good thing I bought enough ingredients to make about 5 batches!

This bag of cereal was pretty outrageous, and way cheaper than buying 2 boxes of the name-brand rice krispies.

Can you believe how big it is? 31 servings at 1 1/4 cups per serving. That's almost 40 cups of cereal. All for rice krispy treats.

Or for snacking.
Looks like we might have breakfast for dinner... in the form of these rice krispy treats. Not that I would mind it. Cereal is healthy, right? 

These are a yummy twist on the classic rice krispy treats. Crispy, chewy, marshmallowy. Adding Oreos to an already delicious dessert is always a good idea.

[Click to PRINT]

Oreo Rice Krispy Treats

  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 9 cups mini marshmallows, (15-oz.)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 9 cups rice krispies cereal
  • 30 Oreo cookies, coarsley chopped


Spray a 9x13-inch pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Combine rice krispies & chopped Oreos in large bowl. Set aside.

In a large saucepan, heat butter & marshmallows until smooth. Stir in vanilla extract until smooth.

Remove from heat and carefully stir in rice krispies & Oreos mixture until evenly coated. Quickly spread into prepared pan. To assist the process, spray your fingers with cooking spray and press with your fingers to smooth.

Let sit until firm before cutting.

Source: Adapted from Annie's Eats

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