Let’s start off with a few truths. I have never cared for pie. Sure, I’ve had my fair share of French silk or pumpkin pie during the holidays. Yet, I’ve never craved it. I’ve never purposefully gone out of my way to make a pie. Frankly, I wouldn’t even know where to start when making a pie. During my recent family visit, I dived right in. I set off on Pinterest to find a handful of pie recipes that seemed interesting to me.
I’ve never heard of Derby Pie, so it immediately caught my eye. This Southern dish originated from Kentucky, and is typically made with chocolate and walnuts. I opted for a recipe that used pecans. I made it and brought it to my family dinner. Within hours, I was giving out the recipe. Tell me, what are your favorite pies to make during the summer time?
1 refrigerated pie crust
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped pecans (I used a combination of both pieces and halves to give it some texture)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
In a large bowl, beat sugar and butter until creamy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add flour and salt; mix well. Stir in chocolate chips and pecans.
Pour mixture into pie crust.
Bake 60 minutes, or until center is set. Cool before serving.
We recently had family visit from California. Our Aunt Judy invited us to her beautiful home for a Mexican dinner, complete with margaritas and steak fajitas. We spent the evening enjoying family time with the background of a beautiful waterfall and gardens. Of course, I couldn’t come empty-handed. I’ve become somewhat known for my desserts since acquiring my KitchenAid. This time, I happily tried my hand at pies. Get the recipe for blueberry sour cream pie from Belle of the Kitchen here.
We arrived to our adorable hotel, The Ampersand, in South Kensington. Just minutes away from the tube, it’s the perfect location. The hotel itself has oversized velvet headboards, heated bathroom floors, monogrammed robes, and just a touch of over-the-top artsy decor. Needless to say, I loved it.
We headed out to Buckingham Palace. Afterwards, we walked to Piccadilly Circus and Covent Garden. I was on a mission for my special birthday dinner. I eagerly waited months for the cheeseburger bomb and freakshakes at Maxwell’s Bar & Grill. The cheeseburger comes with a CUP of hot, gooey cheese to drizzle over your burger. You know, because you can never enough enough cheese. As for the freakshakes, well, watch the video (below) for yourself. I got the Oreo freakshake, which was delicious right down to the fudge adorning the glass.
Several people suggested doing the Big Bus tour to get a better sense of the layout of the city. I typically avoid overtly touristy things, but I caved once I realized just how much there was to see in London. It really is a great option for those who are on a very tight frame. You can stay on the bus and see the entire city or hop on and off. We decided to get off at the Tower Bridge and make our way to Borough Market.
Foodies, Borough Market is an absolute must. Dozens of stands offer everything imaginable, from fresh oysters to pad thai. I scoured Instagram to find a few options beforehand, so I would know exactly what to eat. I opted for Scotch eggs from Scotchtails and doughnuts from Bread Ahead. Of course, there was plenty I didn’t eat. More reason to go back next time…
We had our doughnuts in the Jubliee Gardens, which sit right under the London Eye. It was too crowded for my liking and we made our way back to the quiet South Kensington. On the walk back, we weaved past Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey. That evening, we made a visit to Harrod’s. Be sure to set aside plenty of time to walk around and soak it all in. There are several places to eat within the store, albeit overpriced. We ended our evening with gelato near our hotel.
Our last and final day of this European adventure!
After a quick stop to King’s Cross for a certain Harry Potter lover, the day started out in Paddington Canal as we made our way to Little Venice. It’s a very quiet area with a handful of cafes and restaurants on the water. I imagine this area is only going to become more popular in years to come. You can follow the path to Camden or the London Zoo but we opted to head towards Kensington Palace instead. On the way, we made a pit stop at Portobello Market. It’s an antique market with everything from furs to china.
We then walked around the Kensington Palace Gardens. Kensington Palace is most commonly known for where quite a few royals live. Admittedly, I didn’t know it was broken in several apartment complexes within the palace until we visited. These days, it is known to be the home of Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.
For our last dinner in Europe, I knew I couldn’t leave without fish and chips in a traditional pub.
Last thoughts? Most of the museums in London are free. We were really bummed not to be able to squeeze in a couple free museums, let alone the British Museum. I think in another visit, we’d also be more curious to venture outside of London to see what else England has to offer. I’d love to see Oxford, Cambridge, Bath and the Cotswolds.
When my sister picked Edinburgh, Scotland for her study abroad location, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. After a somewhat confusing experience making our way to the bus, we eventually found ourselves being dropped off in the middle of Waverley Bridge, which connects Old Town and New Town. I believe it was at that moment I may have fallen in love.
We stayed in Old Town, which I would absolutely whole-heartedly advise again and again. In fact, I would go so far as suggesting our hotel, the Apex Grassmarket Hotel. Our view was surreal and if I went back, I would happily picnic on our personal patio every night.
For our first night, we ate pizza at Civerino’s. We then walked the streets of Old Town and ventured into New Town briefly for Hoot the Redeemer. It’s well hidden, so be mindful of where you’re going. We headed back early to rest up for our night trip.
For our second day, we opted to venture outside of Edinburgh. I read about Rabbie’s day trips from another blog. After scouring reviews, I decided it was simply the best (and it was). We took the one day trip to Alnwick Castle. However, I would happily go back and do other tours in a heartbeat. Scotland has so much beauty to offer. This particular tour had both Scotland and England. Below is a bridge that connects the two.
After a brief stop in Kelso, we spent three hours at Alnwick Castle. It’s been featured in Harry Potter, so clearly that was the driving factor for our visit. However, it is full of history and movie making secrets too! We finished our day driving along the Northumberland Coastline. Next time, though, I’d opt to go to the Highlands.
For our third and final day, we started by venturing to Calton Hill. This was a fairly easy staircase with stunning views of the city. There is a small cafe up there, a free art museum and plenty of people scattered across the hill relaxing, working out or playing with their dogs. We noticed that there were people on Arthur’s Seat and decided that that would be our next destination. Of course, we weren’t quite aware of how drastically different the climb was from Calton Hill. Arthur’s Seat is about 800 feet, but certain parts of the trail can be a bit unsteady and quite dirty.
Once Maia was done with her class, she showed us her campus and we had dinner at Bread Meats Bread. We then spent the rest of the evening in Old Town, including walking around to see the Elephant House cafe and Greyfriars Kirkyard. (Enter more Harry Potter references.)
As much as I looked forward to going to London, I hated leaving Edinburgh. I felt like there was so much more to see and do… The city itself is a stunning juxtaposition of both “old” and “new”. For every bustling modern store along Princes Street, it was balanced with an equally charming, but medieval structure nearby. I also can’t fail to mention how wonderful the people we encountered were.
Edinburgh is beyond charming. What an amazing choice, Maia.
See the entire trip here:
Be sure to share your favorite things to do in Edinburgh in the comments section below!
After months of meticulous planning, it arrived. Europe.
After scouring pages of Pinterest, Instagram, Thrillist and, let’s face it, just about every Google search imaginable- I was armed with handfuls of notes prepped and ready for this trip. What I hadn’t braced myself for, though, was the horrendous flight there. (Check out the video to learn more on that.)
Of the three countries we had planned to visit, I went into Amsterdam with the most uncertainty. I’d already missed the window to pre-purchase tickets for the Anne Frank House. That, for me, is almost unforgivable not to go and respect a part of history that so monumentally impacted my family. That, along with the fact I’d have no interest in a vast majority of what other extracurricular activities the city had to offer, might have unfairly set the tone even before our flight and travel troubles.
First of all, make no doubt about it, the city is gorgeous.
Someone told me Amsterdam wasn’t the place to meticulously plan, rather just to walk around and soak it all in. I learned, quickly, that that was exactly how it was going to unfold. Too stubborn to use a map, we haphazardly navigated our first night around the city only to find ourselves hungry, exhausted and perpetually lost. My advice? It is an easy city to walk, but if you have the luxury of staying for a few days, spend your first night getting familiarized with the main streets. If you’re on a mission, like us, map it out beforehand.
While we were there for two days, our first night was primarily spent traveling and getting settled. On our full day there, we started out by having Dutch pancakes at Pancakes. Fitting. We took in the Anne Frank house from the outside before making our way to the I Amsterdam sign and bloemenmarkt (flower market). This is a floating flower market and one of the only of it’s kind in the world. It’s located towards the southern canal belt. There is a Starbucks at the edge of the market, so we refueled and headed on our way.
We then went to the Dam Square, which is the capital of the Netherlands. There, you’ll find the Royal Palace, the National Monument (seen in the video- which honors victims of World War II), and a hub of activity nearby. We stopped at their local supermarket, Albert Heijn and sat eating delicious stroopwafels while soaking it all in. Stroopwafels are an absolute must. Afterwards, we walked through the red light district and along the canals near old town. We then finished our evening at SkyLounge, which overlooks the city and has arguably one of the best views of the Amsterdam skyline.
Did we uncover everything the city has to offer? Absolutely not. I do feel like it was enough to get a sense of the city and what it has to offer in the given time frame. If I did it again, I would make sure to buy Anne Frank tickets far in advance. I would also suggest the canal cruise, especially if the walking part deters you.
Want to see more? Check out our video here:
Share your favorite things to do in Amsterdam in the comments section below!
I guess you can say I’ve turned into somewhat of a stress-baker. A Kitchen Aid mixer has only further fueled this new addiction. With a new job starting tomorrow, you better believe it’s being put to use. Today, I’ve done a request from my boyfriend. Lemon blueberry bread. I’ve never been a fan of baked blueberries (or fruits in general) in my desserts. However, a recent string of successes have changed my tune.
The recipe is from Glorious Treats, as and promised, it is glorious.
Lemon Blueberry Bread
1 and 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons fresh grated lemon zest
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries (I used fresh)
1 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 Tablespons butter, melted
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9″x 5″ loaf pan with parchment paper or lightly grease with butter.
In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, blend together the melted butter, sugar, eggs, vanilla, lemon zest and lemon juice. Mix until well combined.
While slowly mixing, add flour mixture and milk in two batches (some flour, then some milk, then the rest of the flour and the rest of the milk). Stop mixing as soon as it’s just combined.
Rinse off the blueberries (if using fresh) so they have just a bit of moisture on them, then, in a small bowl toss the blueberries and 1 T. flour.
Add the flour coated berries to the batter and gently but quickly stir, by hand, to combine.
Immediately pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 55-65 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaf comes out clean. Cool bread in the pan for about 30 minutes, then move to a wire cooling rack with a baking sheet below (to catch the glaze you’re about to add).
Prepare glaze by simply whisking together the melted butter, powdered sugar, lemon juice and vanilla, then pour glaze over the loaf. Allow to set a few minutes, then enjoy!
I’ve never been an avid baker. Truth be told, I’d rather indulge on pizza. That being said, it’s become a type of therapeutic activity for me. Today, I took my anxious mind and baked… and baked… and baked.
Of course, it wouldn’t be a challenge without trying new recipes. I recently made oversized Levain Bakery copycat cookies. For Christmas, though, I wanted something a little smaller that immediately felt homemade and comforting for the holidays. As I was making this recipe, I felt like every direction left little room for error. Don’t over-mix. The butter has to be just right. Chill if warm. When I was finally finished navigating my way through the chain of commands, I thought, well that is a disproportionate amount of chocolates. Seriously… this ratio. Spoiler alert: it’s amazing. Find the entire recipe here: The Baking ChocolaTess.
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (see notes below)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature (see notes below)
1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
6 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips
Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with non-stick spray..
In a medium bowl, sift the flour, baking soda and salt together.
In another large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat together the butter, and sugars about 2 minutes and is smooth.
Add the egg and vanilla and mix on low speed until mixed in.
Gradually add the flour mixture and mix in until just incorporated. Do not keep mixing – do not overmix.
Add chocolate chips and stir with a wooden spoon, again no overmixing, just until incorporated.
Chill dough if dough is warm.
Using a small or large ice cream scoop or heaping tablespoon, drop the dough onto the prepared baking sheets, 6 to 8 per pan, depending on size you are making.
Bake the cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until the bottoms and edges are lightly browned and the tops feel firm when lightly touched,
Small cookies bake 8-10 minutes
Large cookies bake 10-13 minutes.
Let the cookies cool for 5 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer the cookies to wire racks to cool completely. Makes 15 – 30 cookies depending on size.
Did you follow our New York adventures? Well, during our trip I found the world’s most delicious cookies. Easily.
Levain Bakery is as delicious as the hype suggests. So, in my holiday baking frenzy, I decided to try out a copy cat recipe from City Cookin. These are 4 ounces of deliciousness EACH.
3 1/4 cups all purpose flour (plus 1 teaspoon for mixing with chocolate chips and walnuts)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into cubes
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
1 cup walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
In a large bowl, combine 3 1/4 cups flour, cornstarch, baking powder, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add butter, white and brown sugars. Mix until well combined and creamy.
Add eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
With the mixer on low, gradually add dry ingredients and mix until just incorporated. Dough will be stiff.
In a small bowl, combine chocolate chips and walnuts with 1 teaspoon flour, tossing to coat.
Remove bowl from mixer and mix in chocolate chips and walnuts using a spatula. This will take a little time and muscle.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat.
Divide cookie dough into 10 portions about 4 ounces each. Keep cookies in rough mounds (as opposed to flattening them out or trying to smooth them) and refrigerate for 30 minutes before baking.*
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cookies are light golden brown and just barely cooked in the middle.*
The verdict? Although my brother LOVED them, they were a hard sell for others. I’d be interested in trying a recipe with just a tad less flour, but the roasted walnuts definitely hit the spot. What are some of your favorite cookies to make during the holidays?
The other day I talked about being thankful. Don’t worry, I’m very much counting down the days until immersing myself completely and entirely in much needed family time. However, our website is also based on promising to find you all the greatest deals. So, that being said…
Thanksgiving is right around the corner. We have already been inundated with Christmas sales since Halloween. However, the next coming days aren’t about scoring the most attractive deals, running over people for the best prices or even reflecting on the questionable past of our nation’s early history. It’s about reflecting on art of thankfulness.
We say it so often… Thank you.
“Here is your coffee.” “Thank you.”
“Have a great weekend!” “Thank you, you too!”
“Let me open the door for you.” “Thank you.”
Yet, how often are those words simply… empty words?
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster. Every moment of celebration and joy, was met with another of uncertainty or reminder of the fragility of this precious life we live. You see, life is messy. Unpredictable. Above all, imperfect. There is nothing in our power we can do to change that. What we do have control over, however, is who we chose to celebrate with in those moments of joy. Who is there to mourn with us in times of loss and hardship? Who is there for us when life becomes the messy? The unpredictable? The imperfect?
This Thanksgiving, be thankful. Truly and completely so. Remember, we are all going through this journey of life together.
Be thankful. Be kind. Spend time with those you love. Be attentive. Forgive. Love. Completely.