Hi, I'm Rachel.

A few years ago I could barely boil water.

True story.

Determined to be a kick ass wife, I developed a love for football and learned to cook in my tiny Jersey City kitchen. I spend my days working in Manhattan, my nights and weekends chasing after a rambunctious toddler, and the hours in between cooking with my husband and feeding my TV habit...oh, and I blog about it all! 

Welcome to my world!

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Monday
Sep222014

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

Soft, gooey bars made with cookie butter and M&M's...if you like treats that are really sweet and indulgent, then this is for you!

 

You guys. I'm really excited. Not because it's Monday {obviously}. 

I'm really excited because today is Lauren's virtual baby shower!

 

 

Lauren was my first real blog friend, another northern NJ resident, maker of all things sweet and wonderful. When Lauren announced that she was pregnant, I couldn't wait to participate in her virtual baby shower. Lauren hosted a virtual baby shower for me when I was pregnant, and I was really touched by this. She is so thoughtful. I love blogging for many reasons, but one big reason is the relationships that I've built and at the top of that list is Lauren!

So.

When I started brainstorming something to make for Lauren's shower, I knew that something sweet was priority numero uno. I also know that she loves cookie butter. Oh and chocolate. Must.Have.Chocolate. So I devised these awesomely sweet, cookie buttery, M&M-filled, cake mix-crusted bars. They were pretty simple and it was a gamble to see if it would all come together. I'm happy to say that they did...in a soft, gooey, speculoosy yumness. But I must warn you...if you are the type of person who thinks certain desserts are too sweet, too rich, or just too much...well then these bars probably aren't for you. If you are into that kind of thing though, well, then I'm sorry and you're welcome.

I want to thank Lauren for inspiring me to get back in the kitchen and bake something. It's been a really long time since I've enjoyed getting creative and baking something delicious in my kitchen, and this felt like rekindled love. I hope you like these bars. I added blue and green M&Ms for baby boy, but of course any M&Ms of your choosing will do. They add just a hint of chocolatey goodness, and some much needed pretty color, especially the way that they melt into the crust. I'm off to have one right now before my diet starts again tomorrow.

 

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars

1 box yellow cake mix

3/4 C butter, softened + divided

1 egg

1 C crunchy cookie butter (speculoos; creamy cookie butter will of course work too!)

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 1/2 C M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and liberally grease a 13x9" pan.

Mix together the cake mix, 1/2 C butter and egg until combined, about 30 seconds. Gently stir in M&Ms. Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the pan. Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe bowl, combine the cookie butter, sweetened condensed milk and 1/4 C butter. Microwave about 1 minute until melted and stir until all ingredients are combined and butter is fully melted. Pour over the cake mix 'crust' and spread with a rubber spatula.

Drop the rest of the cake mix batter on top in small blobs all over.

Bake for 30-35 minutes or until set. The top cake mix blobs will sink into the cookie butter mixture and get all swirled together in a truly awesome way.

Let cool, cut into bars and devour.

 

These are so good. A little too good, if you ask me.

Lauren, thanks for being a wonderful bloggy friend. You couldn't be sweeter and I wish you all the best for the coming months with your sweet baby boy. It's the best, yet hardest, thing in the world and just make sure to enjoy every moment! And if I could say just one thing to you I will tell you what my boss told me just before I went on maternity leave...you will sleep again! It might not seem like it at the time, but you will :)

 

Have you ever baked with cookie butter? This was my first foray!

What advice would you give to Lauren as a new mom?

 

Be sure to check out the rest of the party for Lauren from these truly amazing ladies:

Mini Pumpkin Layer Cakes from The Baker Chick

Mini Apple Spice Cupcakes from Dinners, Dishes, and Desserts

Mini Nutella Brownies from The Cooking Actress

Mini Iced Oatmeal Cookie Apple Pies from Girl Versus Dough

Pickles in a Blanket from The Lemon Bowl

Mini No-Bake Chocolate Cheesecakes from Bake or Break

Mini Cookie Cocktail (and Mocktail!) from We Are Not Martha

Mini Chocolate and Peanut Butter Fondant Cakes from London Bakes

Double Decker Birthday Cake Blondie Bites from Baker By Nature

Mini Brown Butter Pumpkin Cupcakes from Eats Well With Others

Roasted Caprese Stack with Peaches from Warm Vanilla Sugar

Crunchy Cookie Butter M&M Bars from The Avid Appetite

Mini Pumpkin Streusel Pies from Espresso and Cream

 

Also, for more baby goodies, here's my surprise baby shower, what I made and froze before baby, my baby to do list, what I packed in my hospital bag and the baby's hospital bag!

Friday
Sep192014

Five Things Friday

 

{scrambled eggs w/feta, mushrooms + chives makes Saturday breakfast at home feel extra decadent}

 

Well, this week really felt like we are full swing into Fall. The weather has been crisp and lovely and I've happily been breaking in my new leather jacket {one that I've been searching for for a very long time}. We've been sleeping with the windows open and I just love that cool air coming in while snuggled under a warm blanket. It's my favorite season, indeed. I went out one evening this week for a new book club with a great group of gals and it was refreshing to have a girls night out. I only knew one person out of 8, but it was so fun to have drinks, munch on chips & guac and get to know some new friends. This weekend, we have a birthday party and Penelope's music class starts up again. Outside of that, I'm really looking forward to Saturday morning snuggles and getting on top of some outstanding administrative items at home. I hope you all have a truly fantastic weekend!

 

{an amazing seafood tower + dinner with great friends that last 4+ hours}

 

{outdoor mall in Rehoboth that reminds me of a certain someone}

 

{Shaun's masterpiece from our Lewes weekend; the decadent bacon explosion}

 

{the jury's still out on emily giffin's latest, which I started reading earlier this week}

 

 

This slow cooker honey soy chicken looks like a perfect addition to my weekday repetoire

Also, this brown sugar balsamic glazed pork tenderloin. Yes please.

Clearly I'm having a love affair with my crock pot; this corn jalapeno dip needs to happen

These sweet sugar cookie pumpkins would be adorable for our building's Halloween kids party next month

And since P can't get enough freeze dried fruit, I think these pear & apple chips would be an instant hit

 

When life imitates art; OITNB writer divorces her husband to date Poussey

I'm not sure why Robin Thicke admitting he didn't write Blurred Lines is a story...Pharrell has said this from the get-go.

The Central Perk pop-up shop is open for business!

Here are some Arrested Development quotes that you should be using in everyday life. And that's why you always leave a note.

How Sesame Street stays relevant after 45 years on the job

 

I'm definitely consulting this list of 10 things to buy for fall as I do a full closet cleanse in the coming weeks

It's come to light that Steve Jobs didn't allow his kids unlimited iPad access

This 72-hour emergency kit made me realize how unprepared we are, should Superstorm Sandy 2.0 strike

A great read: 15 career tips from smart women

A poignant look at abuse relating to everything happening in the NFL right now; this article had me in tears

 

Thursday
Sep182014

A Day in the Life

6:15 My alarm starts blaring. I roll over, make it stop and snooze. I snooze for a little too long.

6:45 Shaun kisses me goodbye for the day and I hear a bit of stirring from Penelope's room, so I quickly throw my hair up and hop in the shower.

7:15 I'm dressed, the bed is made and I've got some semblance of make up on. Penelope is having quite the conversation with herself by now and so I head to her room and give her 1 million hugs and kisses. I get Penelope dressed and cuddled on the couch watching Mickey so I can finish prepping for the day.

7:30 I pack P's bag for school and my own breakfast and lunch, scrambling to get it all together and into the back of the stroller.



7:45 P is strapped in, has pulled the bow out of her hair and is starting to get antsy. We are ready to go but I remember that I forgot one of Penelope's school forms, so I turn the lights back on, fill it out quickly and scramble out the door.

8:05 After a quick chat with our morning concierge (she loves Penelope!), P and I set out for the day. We walk the short distance to her childcare center. It's a gorgeous day but I'm already sweating by the time we arrive.

8:15 I get P set in her room, drop her stroller in the coat closet so Shaun will have it for pick up, and continue on my way to the Path train, just about a 7 minute walk from the daycare center.



8:45 I get a little blogging done on my phone during my 15 minute ride to the city, and now I'm on foot to the office. But not without a stop at Dunkin for my morning fix. I'm more excited than one should be about receiving an extra 25 bonus points on my DD Perks app just by purchasing my usual coffee today.

 



9:05 I'm settled into my desk and begin devouring breakfast...coffee, vanilla Greek yogurt and a string cheese. Not quite a breakfast of champions, but it gets the job done. I turn on my Jackson Browne playlist on Spotify (because I’m also 65) to help ease into the morning.

10:00 I've caught up with my co-workers, slogged through some emails and consult my to do list. I've got a lot on my plate this week, but that's pretty standard. Conference call time!

11:00 I work away on various client projects and already begin to watch the clock for lunchtime. I wonder why I'm hungry already (this happens pretty much every day and I consider that perhaps I should eat something more substantial for breakfast).



12:00 It’s super chilly in the office today so I wander into the office kitchen for a cup of tea. I love our refrigerator chock full of Always Sunny fun.



1:00 Lunchtime! A bunch of us eat lunch together which is a great break in the day. I'm typically not that into lunch food and today is no exception. I've brought a chef’s salad that I made at home. It's solid but I'm craving something a little heartier.

1:45 Back to the grind, I've got a meeting to prepare for. We are brainstorming on a new brand that I'm advocating for.

3:00 I’m getting my yawn on and in need of a pick me up, so I grab a Diet Coke and stretch my legs. A nice look at this view helps get me through the afternoon.

3:30 I reevaluate my to do list to tackle what's needed by day’s end.


4:00 Snack time! I made some Dukan-friendly pumpkin pie mousse (recipe coming soon!) so I enjoy it while getting through some more projects.

5:30 Penelope’s pick up time! Shaun picks her up, so I shoot him a message to find out how it went and to request a picture. I’m getting super antsy at this point to get home and see my little nugget.

6:02 I’m out the door and heading up to the Path station on foot. I call my Mom to catch up on the day’s events.

6:23 My train pulls out of the station and I’m crushed up against people who don’t smell particularly great. I read on my Kindle for 15 minutes. Today, I’ve started the new Emily Giffin book.

6:40 I sprint up the Path stairs to catch the shuttle to my building.

6:50 I’m greeted by Shaun and a usually food-faced Penelope. She is so happy to see me. I quickly wash my hands, get changed and we hang out, play and get ready for bathtime.


7:15 Bathtime! P refuses to sit, and splashes until the floor and I are completely soaked. But she's so cute and I get such short time with her that I just can't bear to stop her. Her smiles and belly laughs melt my heart.

7:30 Shaun fires up {actually plugs in} the grill to get our dinner of pork chops going. P is tuckered out. She’s bathed and hanging on the couch with Dolly and her bottle. This is the moment I’ve been waiting for all day long. Snuggle time with Sweet P!



8:00 It’s Penelope’s bedtime, so we do one last diaper change with the lights down low. She kicks and cries and lets us give her a quick kiss. I place her in her crib with some lullaby music on. She tries to scramble up and continue screaming, but it lasts for about 5 seconds before she passes out from sheer exhaustion.

8:10 Shaun and I are on the couch, finally settling in for dinner! Yes, we mostly eat dinner on the couch :\ We fly through an episode of Jeopardy and then begin dinner clean up.



8:45 We settle in for Sons of Anarchy on the DVR (I’ve been waiting all week for this!). It’s so good, but I’m still struggling to stay awake since the day was so busy. As usual. {and we get yet another epic song to close out the show}

10:00 We shut down for the night. Dishwasher goes on, lights go out, teeth are brushed and faces are washed. I do one last check on a sleeping Penelope and then fall into bed with my laptop to finish churning out tomorrow's blog post.


10:30 Shaun asks if I want to watch a Barefoot Contessa or another Jeopardy. I think I mutter something in reply, but before I know it, I’m out cold and my alarm is buzzing once again.