Nashville Trip

I made my second trip to visit Kayla in Nashville the first week of May! I have to say the weather was definitely much nicer this time than it was in December! Highs were in the 70's and 80's most days. It did rain all day on Saturday but it wasn't too terrible, we still managed to go out and wander around and shop. 

We hit up a few of our favorites and tried some new places on this trip. 

We hit up Urban Cookhouse and Newk's which are both favorites of mine from living in Birmingham. We also went back to Proper Bagel and I tried some new cream cheese flavors including their new Reese's Peanut Butter Cup cream cheese which was really, really good!! It wasn't too overwhelming and I LOVE Reese's. I also tried their blueberry cream cheese and that was really good as well. I tried a black and white cookie for the first time too and there's is really good! Nice and soft, and the white icing side has a hint of lemon flavor which I loved. 

On Thursday night we went to Kayla's favorite Nashville restaurant, Pastaria! Their bread is so amazing and fresh. Plus they make all their pasta by hand on site. It was probably the best pasta I've ever had in my life! I got the plain old Chitarra al Pomodoro but it was fantastic! Be warned though the portions are huge!

In my continuing effort to eat all the amazing doughnuts we stopped by the newish Nashville doughnut place, The Donut & Dog. This place specializes in brioche donuts, plus hot dogs, fries and coffee. We grabbed a side of fries as well as two donuts the first time we were there since we were feeling like a snack. Their fries are so good! Crispy and light without being too hard. We also got the Stairway to Heaven donut which is butter glaze, cinnamon & sugar and raspberry. It was an awesome doughnut!! So many layers and flavors, it was substantial without feeling heavy. The Stairway to Heaven was definitely my favorite. (We headed back in on Sunday morning and I got a Dirty O.G.). 

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We tried out the historic Bobbie's Dairy Dip one night. And I have to say the cones are HUGE and super messy! Or at least they are if it's as busy as it was the night we went. The ice cream inside my dipped cone was barely frozen. Funny experience though as I made a huge mess trying to eat mine. 

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We headed back to Biscuit Love on Friday Saturday morning and I got some more of my beloved bonuts! 

We did a bit of shopping and wandering and we went in my favorite little independent bookstore probably ever. It's called Her Bookshop. Kayla spotted in one day when she was driving around in East Nashville and she thought I'd like it. It is a truly adorable little bookstore and I swear it was like I had curated the collection of books they were selling. So many of them I already wanted to read and then there were new ones that I had to add to my list. There were also some really cute gifts, artwork and kids books. Of course I had to buy a few books! We've gotta support independent bookstores when we can! 

We stopped by the Pharmacy again on Saturday night for dinner and I had another great burger! On Sunday morning we headed out to Radnor Lake State Park and walked the trail around the lake. It was a gorgeous morning with great weather. There were lots of people out on the trails. I would recommend going early if you do go, because the parking lots definitely get full. 

The only picture of us I managed to take. Oops. 

London

I'm back from my trip to London and Paris! I'm starting my write up of all we saw and did. But whew boy is it a lot!! Here's the first part of our trip of three and half days in London.

             I started off my first international trip with six hour flight from Orlando to Reykjavik with Icelandair! I really enjoyed my flight on Icelandair, even though I was in economy class each seat had TVs and a USB port for charging. There was even a pretty awesome selection of free movies including Wonder Woman and Baby Driver. I watched part of Wonder Woman and then tried to sleep for a few hours. My flight was an overnight flight that left around 8pm. I arrived in Reykjavik around 3 am EST and I even got to see the faintest flicker of the Northern Lights on way into Iceland so that was pretty cool!

            I spent about 45 minutes in the Reykjavik airport which was kinda strange cause there were so few seats in and around the gates, but I just hung out on the floor for a little while before taking the shuttle back out to my new plane that would take me to London.

            I arrived at Gatwick around 1245pm local time and made it through customs and passport control with little fuss. I then bought myself a national express bus ticket to Heathrow as I was meeting my friend there after her flight arrived. I was so excited to see some fall leaves on my ride there since it had been about 80 degrees when I left Florida. I met up with my friend and we took the Heathrow Express train into London which was super easy. We then hopped on the Tube towards our hostel, which was fairly easy but a little hard to navigate with our big bags. Not to mention that because it was unseasonably warm for October I was of course sweating buckets. Not a good look.

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             We made it to our hostel mid afternoon and checked in. We ended up staying at the Wombat’s Hostel London. We booked two beds in a 6 bed female dorm. We were pleased with the room; it was on the main floor so no stairs needed. When we first checked in all the beds were occupied but by two days later it was just my friend and I and another girl left which was nice. Our room had a private shower and toilet room as well as separate sink, which was nice. The floor were wood and the room felt clean, the shower seemed to be cleaned daily. I’m sure hostel dorm rooms depend on your roommates but we got very lucky and had quiet, chill roommates.

            After dropping our bags and showering off almost 24 hours of traveling we headed out, walking to the Tower of London which was only about a 7 minute walk away. We walked along the Thames and over the Tower Bridge and then back along a super cute walkway along the river. There were tons of people out and we enjoyed all the sights and cute pubs and restaurants. We eventually ended up at a restaurant that as cute and kitschy inside. The food wasn’t bad but unfortunately our service was sort of terrible, it took over an hour for our food to get to us. We walked back by the Globe Theatre and talked about doing a tour of it. We headed back to the hostel and off to sleep soon after. 

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The Globe Theatre! 

           On Sunday we woke up early to get to the Columbia Road Flower Market because we were curious to see the market and I love anything to do with fresh flowers. We took our first spin on the double decker red buses, which was a bit of a bust because even with my citymapper app I found it pretty confusing of which bus to use and in which direction. It didn’t help that when we got on and I asked our bus driver if our stop was on there he said yes initially the said he actually wasn’t sure and tried to look at it on my app… didn’t inspire much confidence. Regardless we eventually got to the stop we wanted and made our way to the market. One bus experience was definitely enough and we didn’t venture back and instead stuck to the Tube.

            The Columbia Road Flower Market is on Sundays only from 8-3ish in East London. I read lots of things saying to arrive early though as the flowers go quickly. I was worried there wouldn’t be as many flowers in October but there were still tons and some truly gorgeous flowers I’d never seen before. One tip is to be cautious, as some stands don’t allow you to take photos or video of their flowers. I was sad we didn’t have anywhere to display flowers or a vase to put them in or I definitely would have bought some.

         We then walked to Beigel Bake for breakfast and had an amazing bagel and pastry! Careful as I believe they are cash only.

        After our bagels for breakfast we headed by tube to stop by and see Buckingham Palace. I managed to unwittingly get us there just in time for the daily changing of the guards. The crowds were so gigantic I actually thought the royal family might be appearing… but no apparently that was just a normal crowd day at Buckingham Palace. Regardless after pushing our way through way too many people we made our way to the other side and the green area near the park there which was gorgeous. We then walked to Harrod’s to check out the curious things they sell. We managed to get rather incredibly lost inside looking for things and kept walking in huge squares.

Our only glimpse of the actual "changing of the guard", taken in a walkway where you couldn't stop. 

            After a stop at a Café Nero for coffee we headed to the Science Museum, London for a bit. I enjoyed the exhibits a lot and there was a lot to look at for adults, not just children. We stopped in the Natural History Museum briefly then grabbed some Italian for dinner at Rocca. Next we stopped by Hatchards the oldest bookstore in London. I actually managed not to buy any books!

            We walked through St. James’ Park to Parliament Square and saw Westminster Abbey and Big Ben. Funny story, we definitely took pictures in front of Westminster and somehow missed that that’s what it was, we thought it was a different smaller church so we went back a day later to see “Westminster Abbey” and discovered we’d actually already seen it! We walked by Big Ben which is under quite a bit of construction and Parliament. We went back out for dessert at Motown in Whitechapel that night and enjoyed some ice cream. 

Hatchard's and it's infamous five story staircase.

The Science Museum London

Inside the Natural History Museum 

             On Monday we headed to Breakfast Club for breakfast on my dad’s recommendation. It was tiny but we only waited probably fifteen minutes. After we headed to the British Museum and wandered there for a few hours. We had a ridiculous amount of fun making up funny snapchats for the different works of art, although I promise we were respectful. After we started to gloss over we walked to Chinatown to get a snack at Bubblewrap London. You should definitely try their egg waffles that you can fill with all sorts of sugar and toppings. Next we headed to Trafalgar Square and looked around the National Portrait Gallery briefly.

            After that we took the Tube to the Florence Nightingale Museum, which I was especially looking forward to as a nurse who learned about Flo in nursing school! We spent about two hours there, which was probably way more than my friend wanted to see. We came outside at 3pm to what appeared to be either a tornado or darkness falling. It was incredibly strange and after I texted my dad (the resident family weather man) to ask if the world was ending, he told me it was Hurricane Ophelia that was hitting Ireland. It had picked up dust and sand from the Sahara and had formed a giant orange cloud over London. It was disturbing and the only way I can describe the strange feeling was the way it looks before tornadoes in the US. I have no recollection of what we ate for dinner nor photo evidence… 

Bubblewrap London!

           On Tuesday we got up early to do laundry and grab Dum Dum Donuts in Bethnel Green. They are in a tiny shop there. The donuts are gorgeous but definitely on the heavy side. We also grabbed bagels again at Beigel Bake for snacks later. We tried to go to the Hunterian Museum but I belatedly realized they are closed until 2020 for and extensive renovation… so that was a bust. We hopped back on the tube, making a stop at King’s Cross Station to see the Harry Potter themed Platform 9 ¾. It was a bit underwhelming honestly, to someone who has visited Harry Potter at Universal. We were glad we didn’t go out of our ways to see it. We then made our way to Portobello Road Market to wander a bit in Notting Hill. We ate at a cute café called Gail’s for lunch.

             After we headed back to see Westminster Abbey although we then realized we’d already seen it. We debated paying to go inside but eventually decided it was a lot of money, we did stop in the gift shop though and picked up some super cute gifts. I have to say I think my favorite places that we bought souvenirs were strange places like museum gift shops and the stationery section at Harrod’s which had some amazing postcards!

         Next we headed to our prebooked time at the Sky Garden to see London from the 34th floor! You do need an advance ticket to visit the Sky Garden and you should arrive during your ticket’s time period. But it's free and you can stay as long as you like. There are also a couple of restaurants in the Sky Garden you can eat at. After a few photos there and a snack we headed to Oxford St to buy me some new sneakers (sidebar London and Paris are no joke, BRING GOOD SHOES) and to Selfridges to get a backpack I’d been eyeing since my carryon seemed in danger of breaking. We then hopped on the tube and headed towards Spitaelfields Market and ate some fish and chips at Poppies. It was a little underwhelming but I really felt like the food just needed better seasoning (how’s that for typical English fare for ya).

         The next morning we were booked on the Eurostar to Paris so we grabbed some breakfast and sprang for an Uber to the train station. The weather had been particularly strange and HOT, in the 60’s and 70’s and sunny every day we’d been there but the day we left it was rainy and much more what I would have imagined as typical London weather. 

            Overall I think my favorite part of London was the London Science Museum and the Florence Nightingale Museum. London is incredibly easy to navigate in my opinion, especially with an app like Citymapper. I found the Tube to be incredibly clean and well organized. We almost never waited more than a minute or two for a train to arrive and there were workers all around if you needed help. I felt very safe on all the trains and platforms. It was a nice change of pace after using the subway in New York the last year and half as the delays get longer and longer.

            London is expensive but we managed to get pretty lucky by eating at places where there were half price menus or other cheaper options like street food or cafes. Almost every museum we went to was free or very low cost which was awesome.

            The biggest downside I see with London is how similar it feels to the US. It feels like a big city anywhere. This is probably comforting to an American not wanting to venture too far outside of their comfort zone. I did enjoy the history of London though and how much older the building are obviously. Plus I love an English accent! I’m looking forward to returning to London but moreso to use it as a base for traveling to see the rest of England like Bath, Darcy’s House and the Harry Potter Studio tour which we didn’t have time to see this time. 

Best of Birmingham: Holler & Dash

Last weekend we tried the new biscuit place Holler & Dash!! It's a biscuit house for goodness sake! 

Above was my Strawberry & Dash meal which was strawberries and whipped cream on a biscuit. It was so yummy. I was a little unsure what the combo of biscuits with whipped cream would taste like but it was a lot like strawberry shortcake! 

Rachael's Chicken Biscuit. One of her favorite types of biscuit, although I'm surprised she didn't get biscuits and gravy! 

CJ's frittata!

And Kayla's tater tot bowl! Yum!

So, if you're in the area I highly recommend stopping by Holler & Dash one morning for some good 'ole southern cooking! 

Best of Birmingham: Feast & Forest

How about a Best of Birmingham series?? I'm sure you're dying to know all of our favorite Birmingham spots! 

We tried out Feast & Forest downtown last weekend for brunch and it was very yummy. This place is super cute and pretty hipster. I got the cinnamon roll skillet with blueberry whipped cream which was delectable and Rachael and Kayla got different types of biscuits. I also fell in love with the look of this funfetti cake they have and I want it for my birthday. 

Feast & Forest is located at 212 24th St N Birmingham, AL. They are open for breakfast, lunch and Saturday brunch. 

Apple Pie Cookies

Here's a great recipe for Apple Pie Cookies just in time for Thanksgiving!!

Apple Pie Cookies

These require some work but they have all the deliciousness of pie in a portable form. We recommend serving warm with vanilla ice cream.

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Ingredients:

CRUST

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon table salt

2 sticks unsalted butter, very cold

1/2 cup water, very cold

 

FILLING

3 medium apples, whatever you like to bake with

Squeeze of lemon juice

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Boiled Cider (for cup form of cookie)

FOR ASSEMBLY

1 large egg

Coarse or granulated sugar for garnish

Baking sheets Lined with parchment paper

Rolling pin, pastry brush (for egg wash), fork (for crimping and dipping) and sharp knife (to make slits)

Round cookie cutter or cup.

Directions:

Make the pie dough: 

- Whisk together flour, sugar and salt.

- Using a food processorchop the butter into smaller pieces then add the flour mixture, working the butter into the flour until the biggest pieces of butter are the size of small peas.

- Move mixture back into large bowl and gently stir in the ice water with a rubber spatula, mixing it until a ragged mass forms.

- Knead mixture two or three times to form a ball.  
- Divide dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten a bit, like a disc. Chill in fridge for at least an hour.

Prep other ingredients:

- Line up six small dishes.

- In the first one, pour some water.

- Leave the second one empty; it will be used for apples.

- In the third one, mix the sugar and cinnamon.

- In the fourth one, place a little bit of flour to dust your surface and dip your fork for crimping.

- In the fifth one, whisk an egg with one teaspoon of water until smooth.

- In the last one, or in whatever container you keep it in, add some coarse or regular sugar for decorating the tops of the pies.

 Once crust is chilled:

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

- Roll out your pie dough pretty thin, ~1/8-inch thick, on a well floured surface. One disk at a time

- Ensure that it rolls out evenly and be sure its not sticking in any place. - Using the cookie cutter or cup to cut as many rounds as you can from the dough.

- Transfer them to parchment-lined baking sheets and keep them in the fridge until you need them.

Prepare apples:

- Peel apples and cut then into thin slices

- Place them in your second bowl, covering them with a few drops of lemon juice if theyre browning quickly.

Assembly:

Hand Pie (double crust)

- Lightly dampen one one side of a crust round with the water, to help it seal.

- Toss a few pieces of apple in the cinnamon sugar.

- Place sugared apples on the damp side of the bottom disk.

- Place a second disc of dough on top

- Seal the disks by pressing the tops and bottoms around the apple with your fingers.

- Cut decorative slits in your pies.

- Dip a fork in flour and use it to create a decorative crimp on the sealed edges.

- Brush assembled cookie with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

- Place on baking sheet and chill while you prepare the others.

Cup (using oiled muffin tin)

- Place crust round in bottom of muffin tin, creating a cup

- Toss enough apples to fill cup in cinnamon sugar

- Place sugared apples into cup of pie crust

- Drizzle with 1 tsp boiled cider

 Bake:

- Bake your apple pie cookies for 25 minutes, or until puffed and bronzed and very pie-like.

- Transfer to a cooling rack to cool before eating

Alternatively, we also made a few in muffin tins to make them look more like little apple pies. All of them were amazing!! 

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Caramel Brownies and Reese's Cup Cookies

Feeling like a lithe something sweet? These caramel brownies are heavenly and I think these Reese's stuffed cookies are now my favorite cookies ever!! 

 

Cocoa Caramel Brownies

Rich gooey brownies that will be gone before you know it!

Adapted from Alice Medrichs Bittersweet

 

Ingredients:

BROWNIES

10 tablespoons unsalted butter

1 1/4 cups sugar

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

 

CARAMEL

1/2 cup granulated sugar

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon flaky sea salt

3 tablespoons heavy cream

 

Directions:

Make the caramel: 

- Line a medium plate with parchment paper and lightly coat with cooking spray.

- In a dry saucepan over medium-high heat, melt sugar, stirring if necessary to break up large chunks. Once melted, if should be a copper color.

- Remove from heat and stir in butter.

- Once incorporated, stir in cream and salt and return saucepan to medium-high heat, bringing it back to a simmer. Cook bubbling caramel for a few minutes more, until it is a slightly darker.

- Pour out onto parchment-covered plate and transfer plate to the freezer. - Freeze until almost firm

 

Make the brownies:

- Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F.

- Line an 8×8-inch baking pan with parchment paper or foil.

- Combine butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium bowl and microwave until butter is melted, stopping to stir occasionally. The mixture should be smooth and warm.

- Stir in the vanilla then add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one.

- Once the batter is well blended, add the flour until combined.

- Spread batter into lined pan

-Break the caramel into pieces and spread on top of brownie batter.

-Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 25 -35 minutes

-Let cool completely on a rack before cutting.  

Peanut Butter Cup Stuffed Cookies

Everything wonderful about peanut butter cookies and Reeses Cups

Adapted From Sallys Baking Addiction

Ingredients:

COOKIES

1 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg, at room temperature

3/4 cup creamy peanut butter

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

18 Miniature Reese's Cups, unwrapped

OPTIONAL

1 cup (180g) semi-sweet chocolate chips

2 teaspoons creamy peanut butter

Directions:

Make the cookies: 

- Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a bowl and set aside.

- Cream butter, brown sugar, and white sugar together on in a large bowl until combined.

- On low speed, beat in the peanut butter, egg, and vanilla.

- Turn the mixer to high and beat until light in color and smooth.

- Turn the mixer to low and slowly pour in the dry ingredients. Mix until combined and a dough is formed.

- Cover tightly and chill the cookie dough for at least 1 hour.

- Preheat oven to 350F

- Remove cookie dough from the refrigerator. 

- Make an even number of 1 Tablespoon cookie dough balls

- Put a peanut butter cup into one ball, top the peanut butter cup with another cookie dough ball, and seal down the sides so that the peanut butter cup is sealed inside.

- Roll the large cookie dough ball to smoothen

- Bake the cookies for 10-11 minutes or until very lightly browned on the sides.

- Press the cookies down a bit to flatten them out. Cool on the cookie sheet for at least 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Optional drizzle:

-Melt chocolate chips and peanut butter together in the microwave, stirring often to prevent burning.  

-Drizzle over cooled cookies.

ENJOY!!

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Next up in the Exploring the Sunshine State Series:

Pensacola and Gulf Breeze

Ohhhh hometown glory!! I mentioned that we grew up in Florida right?? So of course we can’t leave our hometown out of the sunshine state series! It’s pretty darn awesome, though we might be a little biased.

This will have to be a multi part story because there are a lot of great places to eat and hang out in Pensacola!

I know everyone knows about Destin as the place to go for vacation when you live in the Midwest, but Pensacola Beach is the undiscovered gem of the Gulf Coast (well until that recent article naming it one of the best beaches in Florida…). Anyway the sand is just as white and the water is usually a gorgeous blue/green. Plus there’s less traffic (sometimes) than Destin and quite a bit to do!

Where to Stay

The beach! DUH.

Portofino is a well loved option (although I’ve never stayed there)

There are tons of great places on P’cola Beach. Check out the options on VRBO.

Downtown Pensacola is getting cuter and cuter, but you will be two bridges away from the beach (two traffic filled bridges in the summer).

To Do

The BEACH! I mean c’mon look at this water. There is also live music on the beach during the summer at Band’s on the Beach

Festivals like the Greater Gulf Coast Arts Festival in November and the Seafood Festival in September are two big ones that come to mind.

The Blue Angels: Pensacola’s Naval Air Station is the home of the Blue Angels and you can catch their huge show on the beach in June.

Fiesta of the Five Flags: Happens in May every year to celebrate the fact that Pensacola was settled by explorers from five different countries before it became part of the US. Fun fact: Pensacola is the oldest city in Florida but it was wiped out by a hurricane, thereby losing it’s historic slot to St. Augustine. There are treasure hunts and parades for the festival.

The Bushwacker Festival happens every year towards the end of the year if milk chocolate alcoholic drinks are your thing. Bushwackers are available year round at many different places on the beach.

Mardi Gras happens in the early spring every year. Obviously not a big as it is in New Orleans, but there are a variety of parades and parties that happen each year downtown and on the beach.

See more at the Visit Pensacola website. 

Downtown Pensacola

-       Seville Square

-       Gallery Night

-       Browsing the many shops and restaurants.

To eat

Fish House/Atlas

            This is two restaurants in one. It’s on the bay in Pensacola and is gorgeous at night, sitting on the deck. If you like sushi you should definitely go on Tuesday nights because Atlas has half price sushi rolls. There is live music many night on the Fish House side and amazing food all around.

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Peg Leg Pete’s

            Peg Leg Pete’s is probably my favorite place to eat on the beach. Great seafood, views of the sound, and really great drinks.

Sidelines

             I don’t really remember when the first time I ever went to Sidelines was, it feels like it has always existed in my childhood memories. It’s one of my favorite places to eat on the beach, even though it’s a sports bar and not a true “beachy” restaurant. They make some killer wings and pretty much all of their other food is awesome as well.

Cactus Flower

             Cactus Flower is a newer favorite place, and they serve some delectable Mexican food! Our absolute favorite place for mexican used to be Cancun’s in Gulf Breeze but they got shut down for selling drugs (whoops.. maybe that’s why their food was so dang good??). So alas, we’re left with Cactus Flower. Their location on Pensacola Beach is on the boardwalk so it’s pretty, but all their locations serve great food.

Santino’s            

           If you are looking for a non chain place for pizza and grinder’s Santino’s is your place! Mmmm. I love their pizza.

Bagelheads

            The only bagel place I truly love, everything else just pales in comparison. Bagelheads has been around for almost 20 years and oh my goodness is it amazing. You can buy a huge variety of bagels, muffins, baked goods, sandwiches and soups. And of course coffee. Pretty much everything there is amazing, but if you love fruity bagels you’ll definitely want to try the Blueberry Cobbler bagel which is coated in a cinnamon sugar glaze.

There's just a few of my favorite parts of Pensacola and Gulf Breeze. I'm sure there will be more posts to come, because there's no way to cover these in just one post. 

What's your favorite thing to eat and do in the Pensacola area?

Happy 4th of July!!

Happy 4th of July, Americans!! 

We celebrated by getting patriotic doughnuts from Heavenly Donut Company yesterday. Then we drank pretty sodas, laid by the pool, ate tacos at a tapas place, made smores in the microwave (because the fire pit wouldn't light), and watched fireworks today.

We also tried to decide if Kayla's poolside hairdo looked more like Elvis, a victorian woman or Bam Bam from the Flinestones. Cast your votes now. 

All in all not a bad 4th of July! 

The Doughnut Corner!

Since we just got back from New York there's no better time to do another doughnut corner post about Dough there! 

I read about a couple of different doughnut places in New York but when I went last fall I decided to visit Dough and I just had to go back last week. Mmmm. I love me some doughnuts.

My favorite is actually the plain glazed, although the cinnamon one was pretty awesome too. 

I have to warn you though, think ahead when planning to get half a dozen. My cousin Derik and I got the half dozen when we went last fall and then we had to carry them all over the city of the rest of the day. And fun fact, they won't let you bring a giant doughnut box into the Metropolitan Museum of Art. But if you're like us, you will then decide to hide the box in the pillars of the building and see if it's still there when you come back out. It was!! We're only hoping that the doughnuts weren't poisoned while we were inside. 

Sidebar: Great security they have at the Met… no one even cared about our suspicious doughnut box… :D

Have you had doughnuts from Dough?? Where else should I eat doughnuts in New York?

New York, New York!

New York, New York
You’re a helluva town
— On the Town

Rachael and I took a last minute trip to New York and New Jersey last weekend! So why not a post about the Big Apple? (Get ready for a REALLY photo heavy post)

We decided last Wednesday that we were going to fly to NY on Saturday. How’s that for last minute planning? All made possible because of my wonderful friend Liz who lives just over the river in New Jersey. We stayed with her, which is where I stayed when I went to visit her last November as well.

The city from the New Jersey side of the river! 

We got there early Saturday morning and ate some breakfast before heading into the city to see Darren Criss in Hedwig and the Angry Inch. At first we weren’t sure we were going to see a show but then Rachael remembered that Darren Criss was in Hedwig and we decided that we’d see that.

An illegal picture of the Hedwig stage

Hedwig is an hour and forty minute rock show/acid trip. It was delightfully quirky and hilarious though! I’m not sure I’d see it with anyone but Darren Criss because I loved his version of the role. I laughed out loud many times throughout the show and I can’t imagine having to peform that show 8 times a week because it is crazy hard vocally! I also loved Rebecca Naomi Jones in the lead female role. Whew can she sing! 

His eyes are all over New York… 

After the show we met up with Liz and headed over to Mother Burger  for some amazing food. Love their burgers!! Their meat is locally sourced from Long Island and man is it delicious! I’ve had both the turkey burger and regular burger and they are awesome.

With as many photos as I take, you'd think I'd learn to get my finger out of it. 

With our gorgeous host! 

With our gorgeous host! 

After that we wandered up to Columbus Circle and into Central Park. After dog watching in Central Park (Rachael and I exclaiming overy ever single dog) we wandered over to the Hudson Hotel’s two different rooftop bars. We ended up sitting down for some (albeit pricy) drinks at the Sky Terrace. But hey, you’re paying for the atmosphere. 

The Hudson Hotel lobby

Throwing some serious shade at Liz.

Next we headed back to midtown to the piano bar Don’t Tell Mama. Unfortunately we’re old ladies (and had been awake since like 3:45 am) so when we got there at 7ish there wasn’t much singing happening.

After a bit of time there we headed back to Hedwig to try the stage door, since the stars hadn’t come out after the matinee. But a couple hundred teenagers waiting see Darren Criss wasn’t our idea of a great time so after a bit of waiting we decided to leave and head home. 

Some things never change, like me chasing sunsets. 

Don't Tell Mama! 

Don't Tell Mama! 

We spent Sunday sleeping in and then headed down to the river in New Jersey to walk, sit and people watch (DOG WATCH). It was a gorgeous day, windy but sunny. That evening was the Tony Awards so we classed it up with Chinese takeout and watched the Red Carpet and Tony’s! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Mmmm, chinese food! 

Monday we headed back into the city to go to the public library at Lincoln Center. There was a Sinatra exhibit we wandered through (only took the rest of the day to get his version of New York, New York out of my head).

I devoured a yummy ham sandwich on a baguette at the Muffins Café on the Upper West Side, Liz headed to work and Rachael and I wandered across the park to the Met for the singular purpose of taking Rachael’s picture on the steps (a la Gossip Girl). Sidenote: I’ve never been to New York when it hasn’t been cold and/or snowing, so being there during the summer is gorgeous! There is green on the trees and everything!! 

Muffins Cafe

Central Park boat pond

After that we headed down to the Strand bookstore but took a quick stop in Grand Central Station because Rachael had never seen it. We met up with one of best friends from childhood, Meagan! We headed down and got a doughnut from Dough. Then walked to The Strand Bookstore. I wanted to move in, I mean four stories of books??? I restrained myself and only bought a couple of books.

Rachael's photo of Grand Central

I promise this doughnut from Dough is not as big as it looks! The plate is just tiny!

Be still my heart

We wandered up to Madison Square Park with the intention to get Shake Shack from the original. Mmmm. But we hung out a bit with Meagan before she left to go home. We stood in the, admittedly quite long line but finally got our food and frozen custard! Liz met us and we headed back to her house because we were tired and sore from all the walking we did that day. 

We ended the night with a misty walk along the river home, gazing at the New York skyline. Ahhh… 

The First Installment of the Doughnut Corner

The first installment of the Doughnut Corner!

Anyone who knows me knows that I LOVE doughnuts. It is the sixth main food group in my opinion. I go out of my way to try any and all doughnuts. I honestly have no idea how this started, but a few years ago I started researching the best doughnut place in every city I was going to visit.

I have eaten so many amazing doughnuts (it’s best not to think about the actual number of doughnuts…). It has become one of my favorite parts of visiting new places!!

Lets begin with the doughnuts that started it all:

 Mary Lou’s Donuts in Lafayette, IN (my hometown!).

They have my absolute favorite doughnuts! Plus they are dirt cheap! My favorites are the cake with chocolate icing and the tiger tails!

Mmm, look at these beauties!

Here’s a few of the other places I have been and eaten doughnuts!!

Chicago’s Do Rite Donuts

These are pricy (as are most things in Chicago) but huge! The cinnamon sugar one was my favorite here.

Fort Myer’s Bennets Fresh Roast 

This is the peanut butter glazed doughnut. Mmmm.

What are your absolute favorite doughnut places?? What’s your favorite type of doughnut?

Strawberry Fields Forever

You guys, strawberries.

We’ve made some super delicious deserts. I’ve been living on them. First I made an angel food cake to eat with the strawberries and whipped cream. If you’ve never had one from scratch you haven’t lived. SO YUMMY. It melts in your mouth, and it’s so light. Perfect for grilling out. I used this Alton Brown recipe, with the following changes.

Angel Food Cake

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup cake flour, sifted

12 egg whites (the closer to room temperature the better)

1/3 cup warm water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or extract of your choice

1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar 

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a food processor or blender (I used my Ninja) spin sugar about 2 minutes until it is superfine. Sift half of the sugar with the salt the cake flour, setting the remaining sugar aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, using the balloon whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until very foamy, but not quite forming soft peaks. Add water, vanilla extract, salt, and cream of tartar. Mix on high for 2 minutes. Slowly sift the reserved sugar, beating continuously on low. Beat until you have achieved medium peaks, slowly add the sifted flour mixture in to dust the top of the foam. Using a spatula fold in gently. Continue until all of the flour mixture is incorporated.

Carefully spoon mixture into an ungreased tube pan. Bake for 35 minutes, on the lowest rack of the oven. 

Cool upside down on cooling rack for at least an hour before removing from pan. Serve with strawberries and whip cream (I prefer homemade, like the recipe below)

Strawberry Icebox Pie

Based off of this recipe from Bake or Break. 

Ingredients

For the crust:

1 & 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted

1/3 cup granulated sugar

Pinch of salt

For the filling:

12 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup + 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

4 tablespoons heavy whipping cream

1 pound strawberries, hulled

1 & 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch

For the whipped cream:

2 cups heavy whipping cream

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions

For the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine ingredients and press into bottom and sides of 9 inch pie plate. Bake for 8-10 minutes. Cool to room temperature before filling

For the filling:

Beat cream cheese, 4 tablespoons granulated sugar, and whipping cream using a hand mixer until well mixed. Spread into bottom of cooled crust, cover, and refrigerate while preparing strawberries.  Cut strawberries into fourths. Put half the strawberries into a medium saucepan and mash.   Add 1/2 cup of sugar and cornstarch. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add remaining strawberries. Cool completely, if you're in a rush you can put the mixture in the freezer for a few minutes to speed up the process. Spread strawberry mixture over cream cheese layer. Freeze for at least 2 hours

For the whipped cream:

Beat whipping cream, sugar, and vanilla on high until firm peaks form.

To Serve:

Set pie out to thaw to your desired temperature and serve with whipped cream.

ENJOY!!

Gigi really wanted some pie too! 

Me and Rachael in Cullman

Note from Michelle: All of the strawberry dessert frenzy started when we decide to hit up the Cullman Strawberry Festival two weekends ago. We both bought two huge things of strawberries so then of course we had to decide what to do with them! Kayla's version of the Strawberry Ice Box Pie is seriously divine! The perfect ratio of whipped cream to strawberries! 

Great little bakery and cafe in Cullman

What's your favorite strawberry dessert??