Birthday Weekend Fun

1 02 2016

On Friday, I turned 33. Thirty three is such a weird age/number to me. I like even numbers (my favorite number is 2) or multiples of 5. And 31 isn’t so bad because you’ve survived your first year in your thirties. But thirty three? It’s kinda like your sophomore year: that awkward, in-between year that just isn’t very special.

But, I’m lucky enough to have people in my life who made this birthday extra special and I’m so thankful for that!

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On Friday, my actual birthday, I started off my day with a cup of coffee in my new favorite mug from World Market.

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I don’t think you could drink from this mug and NOT be happy. It was a great way to start my day!

Later in the afternoon, Bill and I went to Ybor to enjoy a late lunch/early dinner at a fantastic Italian restaurant called Bernini’s.

They were serving $2 martinis ’til 7. Yes, please!

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We shared this amazing Caprese salad, made with Burrata cheese (LOVE!) with a white truffle balsamic reduction on top. It was so delicious!

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We topped off the night with a show! We saw the Hellcats Burlesque troupe perform at a bar in town. It was fun to get dressed up and see one of our friends perform!

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On Saturday, I knew Bill had something else planned, but he hadn’t told me what. I picked up on a few clues along the way, but he did a great job of keeping it a secret!

I started my morning with a spin on the trainer- I knew that I’d likely be eating well today (i.e. cake, cheese, wine, etc.) and I didn’t want to feel too badly about it after. I would have gone for a nice long run, but unfortunately, I sprained my ankle last weekend and haven’t been able to run:-( (Side note, looks like BDR will be a DNS for me. Side note #2- Of course I had to include a sweaty selfie in this post).

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In late afternoon, it was time to get ready. Bill and our friend Domenique helped me pick out an appropriate outfit, after finally spilling where our first stop would be: Ciro’s Speakeasy.

It must be noted that this weekend is also Gasparilla weekend in Tampa. Gasparilla is like a pirate-themed Mardi Gras here. I went to the parade last year and though I’m glad I went once, I really don’t have a desire to go again. Huge crowds, lots of traffic, drunk people EVERYWHERE. No thanks.

Well, Ciro’s is just two blocks off the parade route. Though the parade had ended several hours before, the party was still going strong, making it kind of a nightmare to get there. With a crazy stroke of luck, we were actually able to find parking a few blocks away. Seriously, it was like something out of the movies- cue the angels singing and lights glowing. Unfortunately, some of my other friends weren’t so lucky in the parking department and ended up throwing in the towel. I totally don’t blame them- they were there in spirit!

We got into our cozy booth and ordered some cheese fondue and fancy cocktails.

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Bill then gave me the most thoughtful gift anyone has ever given me. He said, “It’s Steph Appreciation Day” and he had asked friends and family to contribute. Basically, he asked them to anonymously write a few words or sentences or a paragraph, about what they appreciate about me. The idea sprung from a conversation we had had months earlier, about how we go through life and never really hear how appreciated we are until it’s too late. Doesn’t it bring you such joy, knowing that someone really thinks your awesome? So why aren’t we spreading that joy all the time? Why aren’t we making people feel special, loved, and important while they’re still here on this earth to bask in that wonderful feeling?

Yup. That’s my boyfriend. He’s pretty amazing.

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I spent the next part of the evening reading each one aloud, with many stops for tears and laughter. It was quite emotional! Anyone and everyone who is reading this: Please replicate this with a loved one in your life. You will not regret it!

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This was after reading the notes. I was happy that most of my makeup stayed put!

After our time at Ciro’s, we went to Edison food + drink lab where we shared an appetizer, salad, entree and dessert. Everything was delicious, but the dessert stole the show! We got the sugar-crusted butter cake with brown butter ice cream, pistachio, orange, and toffee sauce. OMG this was to die for! We cleaned the plate and we all agreed that the ice cream was some of the best we had ever had in our lives.

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Finally, we came home and had second dessert. Because, duh, it’s my birthday and you have to have second dessert on your birthday!

My friend Domenique is an amazing baker and she made a Boston creme pie (cake) from scratch. Chocolate ganache, moist butter cake and that amazing cream filing was the perfect ending to my night.

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Thank you so VERY much to everyone who made my birthday the furthest thing from an awkward, in-between kinda day!

Domenique and Bill- you two are amazing. I am so stinking lucky to have you two in my life!

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Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cherry Pancakes

16 06 2013

So, I have a problem. Well, maybe its not so much a problem as it is an obsession.

pancakescollagePancakes. Every weekend. I love playing around with different batter recipes and deciding what toppings or flavors will get mixed in.

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Strawberry, mango, coconut anyone?

This weekend I went a little overboard. In a good way of course!

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That my friends, is a stack of chocolate-chocolate chip cherry pancakes! HOLY DECADENCE! I felt like I was eating cake for breakfast. The pancakes came out perfectly fluffy with melty chocolate chips and warm fresh cherries inside. Step aside boring pancake batter, there’s a new girl in town!

These are perfect “special occasion” pancakes-they just take a bit of prep time. I wasn’t celebrating anything when I made them, I just had the ingredients and the idea!

black forest pancakes

If you like black forest cake, these pancakes are for you!

Chocolate-Chocolate Chip Cherry Pancakes
Makes 8 pancakes

Ingredients:

3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 cup milk (I used almond-coconut)
~1/2 cup fresh brewed coffee (or instant)
2 TBS coconut oil (liquid)
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 TBS agave nectar
~ 1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used one handful)
~1 lb fresh cherries

Topping:

chocolate chips
cherries
coconut whipped cream 

How to:

First, the painfully slow process of depitting and chopping the cherries. I don’t have a pitter, so I used a paring knife to cut up the cherries. By the time I was done, I filled a 1 qt pyrex bowl of the chopped cherries.

Put about half of the cherries in a saucepan with 1/4 cup sugar. Cook on low heat, stirring occasionally to allow the cherries to reduce to a sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare your batter:

Combine all of the dry ingredients (flours, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cocoa powder) in a large bowl. Stir to combine.

In a medium bowl, combine the milk, coffee, oil, egg, vanilla and agave nectar. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Fold in the chocolate chips and about 1/2 cup chopped cherries. Let the batter sit 5-10 minutes. It will be thick!

On a hot greased griddle, pour 1/4 cup of the batter and spread to create your pancake. Flip after several minutes, when bubbles have formed and the sides of the pancake are starting to cook.

Serve with cherry sauce, chocolate chips, coconut whipped cream and any remaining cherries. Enjoy!

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Loaded Layered Brownies

5 11 2012

So I baked this weekend. And it was bad. It was so bad, but SOOOOO good.

It involved Oreos. And cookie dough. And brownies.

It might be illegal to call myself a healthy living blogger after this one.

Saturday night, team XP had a little get together to celebrate Mary’s big news, and to welcome back Chuck.

(So that was supposed to say “Congrats Mary and Welcome Back Chuck!” But I definitely ran out of room. Whoops!)

I decided I would bring brownies because I had a box of brownie mix in the cupboard. But I couldn’t just bring brownies from a box. I had to take it up a notch. And I figured hey, I deserve it after today’s killer bike work out.

Jess and I took 3 minute shifts in the lead. When we got back, Felipe asked Jess how long it took us to ride the 30 miles. When she said an hour and a half, he said incredulously, “That’s it?!” Heck yeah. We BURNED those legs out!

So, I figured it was okay to make a ridiculously rich, loaded brownie with a cookie dough layer. And an Oreo layer. With pretzels on the bottom. Oh, and throw in some Butterfingers for good measure. Yeah, that’s more like it.

Don’t forget the milk!

Loaded Layered Brownies

Ingredients:

~2 cups crushed pretzels
2 tubes of prepared cookie dough (or you can make your own)
Oreos
Butterfinger minis
1 box of brownie batter (prepared using the directions on the box)

How to:

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Generously grease a 9 x 13 pan.

Spread the crushed pretzels on the bottom of the pan.

Pull off small handfuls of the cookie dough and press them into a layer on top of the pretzels.

Layer on the Oreos and Butterfingers.

Pour on the brownie batter.

Bake for about 30 minutes.

Enjoy!