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The Best Christmas Cookies {Recipe}

This season I kept it simple. Usually, I participate in a blogger Christmas cookie swap, and end up baking a lot and trying new, interesting recipes, but not this year. This year, Kiyo googled “Cookie recipes,” texted me one of the first results, and I’ve used it twice.

It’s this recipe; the first time I made it, I used two types of M&M’s instead of chocolate chips (because the colors were more festive, albeit more unhealthy), and walnuts (because, ew, why would you ruin cookies with nuts?). They turned out amazing. Everyone I shared them with (admittedly, a small number of people, but still) said that I nailed it. And of course, I took total credit, because for once, I’d followed a recipe almost completely. I thought I deserved a little credit, right?

This weekend I made the recipe again, but I halved it and added cacao powder; and subbed the chocolate chips/walnuts for crushed up Andes mint chocolates. Both sets of cookies came out so perfectly chewy, yet intact. I loved them so much, they were gone in exactly 1 day this time. This is one of the ways I’m keeping it simple this holiday season (the even simpler option would have been to make no cookies at all, but I just love cookies too much to ever go that far).

 

What are you making for Christmas, if you celebrate?

What I Ate Wednesday #5

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I haven’t done a WIAW in awhile; please comment or send me a message if you like these food posts so I can keep bringing them to you! This is all vegetarian:

WIAW Honolulu cereal

I LOVE this breakfast I came up with: Annie’s chocolate cereal, with almond milk, topped with cacao nibs and a sliced banana. It’s basically [healthy-ish] dessert for breakfast; you’re welcome.

WIAW Honolulu la tour cafe

In between work and errands, I picked up lunch from La Tour Cafe in Aina Haina: avocado toast! It came with a side salad and a very tasty, creamy dressing.

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I stopped home in the afternoon before my evening job and had some coffee and half of a Bouchon Bakery cookie (made by me, from a box mix). It’s kind of like a homemade oreo. I have to say, I wasn’t really a fan (but I still ate the second half later, after dinner, because in any battle against sugar, I am the loser).

WIAW Honolulu healthy bowl dinner

My homemade dinner was healthy and delectable: quinoa mixed with red onion, kale, parmesan cheese and capers, topped with roasted acorn squash and a soft-boiled egg. So good!

What did you eat today?


The Beet Box Cafe {Haleiwa}

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The Beet Box Cafe used to be a small counter where you could order food in the back of a health-food store, on the North Shore of Oahu (in the small, touristy town there called Haleiwa).

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I ordered an iced tea for while we waited for our food (you order at the counter, but they bring the food to you at the table. You then have to bring your dishes to a bin, but sometimes they come get the dirty dishes for you. It’s pretty confusing). I love that they added frozen blueberries in with the ice; by the time I finished the beverage, the plump blueberries had absorbed some of the tea, and tasted even better than regular blueberries.

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I hold a special place in my heart for restaurants that serve breakfast all day. The breakfast options here are so good that even Kiyo ordered off the breakfast menu (and he never does!). He got the Mexicali Blues: eggs scrambled with a crunchy, toasted, sprouted-corn tortilla and jalapeño jack cheese topped with homemade salsa, avocado, and sunflower sprouts, and served with brown rice and Brazilian black beans. He opted to add soyrizo (vegetarian chorizo).

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On the recommendation of a friend, I ordered the Zen, a scramble (choice of tofu or egg) of broccoli, onion, carrots and zucchini “seasoned with curry and love,” served with a scoop of brown rice and black beans and topped with avocado and sunflower sprouts. I LOVED this; it’s the kind of plate of food that I will think about and start to crave. I would definitely brave the traffic of Haleiwa to get to this again.

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Although it was a little pricey (more than $12 per plate) we were both very impressed and satisfied with our meal. We each finished our plate of goodness, and felt very full, but managed to avoid the food coma that comes from overeating food that isn’t nutritious.

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We had to save our cinnamon sugar [vegan] donut for later, since we were so full. I wouldn’t choose to eat this again; it was much too moist to be a donut. There wasn’t anything terrible or disgusting about it, but if I’m going to treat myself to dessert, I want something that’s worth the sugar and calories.

The Beet Box Cafe

66-437 Kamehameha Hwy, Haleiwa, HI 96712

(808) 637-3000

Cheesy Eddie’s {Rochester}

In May, I went to Rochester, New York, for the first time. Rochester is not a destination city; my sister graduated U of R, which was the impetus for a visit. Pleasantly, the city turned out to be more inviting than I expected, and of course, as I always do, I made it my mission to seek out the best food. Luckily, my sister having lived there for the past few years was helpful. Her best advice was a visit to a place which (strangely, I thought) is named Cheesy Eddie’s; and odd name, as it’s a bakery.

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When you hear why it has cheese in the name though, it starts to make sense: Cheesy Eddie’s specializes in cheesecake and carrot cake (which, DUH, is topped with cream cheese frosting). Who doesn’t love a bakery that has an entire category of creations called “Over-the-top Cheesecakes”? Of course, we bought a peanut butter cheesecake, which was satisfying and well-done, but forget that.

 

The Gold Medal goes to a little masterpiece called Jack’s Delight: two chocolate chip cookies, held together by cream cheese frosting. The cookies were perfect: soft with slightly crisp edges. The frosting hit just the right balance of sweet and savory, and the texture was soft but just thick and strong enough to hold the amazing dessert-sandwich together. Of course, it was rich, so I ate half one evening and the second half as my breakfast-dessert (what, you don’t ever eat dessert after eating [leftover pizza for] breakfast!?) the next day. Said “next day” was Lana’s graduation, which turned out to be a record-setting low temperature and windy; and later it hailed. In May. No, really. At least I had the crumbling second-half of my Jack’s Delight to bring a little brightness and comfort to a dreary day. Oh yeah, and celebrating Lana’s accomplishments! JK, Lana, love you! But seriously, I was devastated when we didn’t have time to go back to Cheesy Eddie’s and stockpile Jack’s Delight to bring home to Hawaii. 

 

My boyfriend literally calls me “Cookie Monster,” because I love cookies so much, but seriously, I ask you: Why don’t more people get on the frosting-cookie-sandwich bandwagon? Does anyone else agree? 

Fruit Loops Treats {Recipe}

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One of the easiest recipes ever (that actually requires heat) has to be Rice Crispie treats. My favorite sugary, unhealthy cereal is Fruit Loops, so recently I had the brilliant idea to swap out the classic cereal for an even more unhealthy and more delicious one. Have you ever done this with your favorite sugary breakfast cereal?

fruit loop treats recipe

Fruit Loops Treats

Ingredients:

  1. 3 tbsp. butter
  2. 1 package (10 oz.) marshmallows
  3. 6 cups Fruit Loops

Method:

  1. Melt butter in large saucepan on low heat. Add marshmallows; cook until marshmallows are completely melted and mixture is well blended, stirring constantly. Remove from heat.
  2. Add cereal; mix well.
  3. Press onto bottom of 13×9-inch pan greased with cooking spray or butter. Cool completely and enjoy!


What I Ate Wednesday #4

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First WIAW in a long time!

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Breakfast: yummy Kashi cereal with extra cinnamon on top. I eat my cereal and drink my coffee with almond milk. To me, cereal is kind of a treat for breakfast.

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Snack: fresh passion fruit, yum! I love that this fruit is both tangy and sweet.

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Lunch: so, disclosure: this day was awhile ago. To be honest, I can’t remember what this was. It looks like a salad with cheese, peas, avocado… salami? I’m not sure, but it looks yummy!

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Snack: chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, since, as you know by now, I need chocolate almost every day.

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Dinner: For some reason, I ate a snack for dinner this night. Does anyone else enjoy apples with cheddar cheese?

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Dessert: white wine + dark chocolate M&Ms = instant dessert perfection.

I’ve definitely noticed a pattern in my diet: too much sugar (don’t forget, fruit is sugar too). Luckily, I’m currently reading a book called “The Juice Lady’s Sugar Knockout” (review to come) so hopefully I can kick the habit, or at least reduce it, soon.

What did you eat today?


Wanderlust Oahu 2016 {Recap}

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I wrote a top-five moments of Wanderlust Oahu 2015 (which you can read here). This year, I was only able to make it up for one of the three days of the festival, so I don’t really have a top-five list to share with you; but read on to hear how my one day went!

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I worked at the Lily Lotus booth again this year (see it in the left corner of the first picture?) which is always fun, since a lot of yogis are interested in this local brand.

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Can you see why? I am actually one of their brand ambassadors, which means that I was able to participate in their photoshoot that day!

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Here are the Shakti Flow master teachers being photographed for the Lily Lotus Spring 2016 collection. I met them down at the beach at Turtle Bay as they were finishing up, since it was my turn next.

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I’ll share all my favorite photos from this shoot in another post, but here’s a highlight! It was so fun to get to try on the Summer 2016 collection and play around doing yoga on the beach, but let me tell you, doing pretty yoga poses on the sand is very hard.

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So, to back-track a minute, here was my very long Saturday:

  • 5 AM: I left my house on the south shore of the island, and made the 1-hour drive up north
  • 6:30 AM: I checked in to the event
  • 7 AM: I was able to take Ana Forrest’s class. It was very tribal, slow-moving but difficult, and I liked being exposed to a style that was totally different than anything else I’d ever tried. I wouldn’t necessarily seek out her class again, but I am happy I got to try it out
  • 9 AM: Lily Lotus photoshoot on the beach
  • 10 AM – 7 PM: Worked the Lily Lotus booth
  • 8 PM: Citizen Cope concert (there he is in the above photo. I got to be super close since I was in the booth at first!)
  • 11 PM: headed home, tired but happy

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I only had one meal, since I was busy nonstop all day. I got an order of sweet potato fries, which came with pork and a goat cheese sauce. I opted out of the pork, since I’m mostly vegetarian these days, but unfortunately, this meal was still way too heavy. Yes, it was delicious, but it would have been a better shared side dish, than main dish. I still ate all of it since I was so hungry, but I did not feel good afterwards. I wish there had been more / better vegetarian options.

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Once the sun went down, a whole new crowd arrived for the concert. It was fun to get off work and hang around and have a drink.

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Some friends met me, and one ordered a Nutella crepe (yum! of course I stole a few bites).

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The day flew by even though it was jam-packed. It’s always fun to see almost every person you now who practices yoga, all in one place at the same time! I will definitely be back next year, hopefully for longer! I think I may even turn it into a “staycation” and just enjoy, rather than work.


What I Ate Wednesday #3

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This is a really old WIAW, from the fall, when I was still working in Kailua. I began this day with two Wasa Crackers. For some reason, I actually like them, even though they are completely tasteless. I put peanut butter on them, and had coffee on the side. I drink coffee pretty much every day.

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I took my lunch break at work, next door at Whole Foods. I always just grab a little bit of everything there. I find that it’s generally hit or miss.

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Unfortunately, I seem to think that both lunch and dinner are followed by dessert. I had a chocolate peanut butter cup.

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It was a long work day, so I also had another coffee (my phone was partially broken at this time, which is why all these pictures are blurry).

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At home later than evening, I had a homemade dinner of pasta (yes, even that was homemade previously, I took it out of the freezer) with olive oil, broccoli, peas, sun-dried tomato and artichoke. Yum!

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Second dessert of the day was a triple chocolate brownie and a small cup of almond milk. Does anyone else have a chocolate problem? Seriously, I think I’m addicted!

What I Ate Wednesday #1

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Since we’re sort of starting over on ValerieBrett.com after eyechow, I decided to start numbering my WIAW posts, rather than labeling where I was that day (let’s be honest: I’m probably at home in Honolulu).

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A couple weeks ago now, in January, I tried out this CocoMama quinoa cereal that was one of my Christmas stocking stuffers!

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It didn’t look pretty since I ate it straight from the pan, but it was quick and easy to make. I mixed in Sun Potion’s Prash (a mixture of ghee, honey and healing herbs) and local bee pollen. I probably wouldn’t have chosen the fruity flavor for myself, but it wasn’t bad. WIAWMy first snack was an apple banana with Trader Joe’s Pumpkin Pie Spice Cookie Butter (omg!) – a combination I highly recommend. 
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I found a huge, glass cup with a lid for $6 at Williams Sonoma recently and I love filling it with coffee or chai and almond milk, on the go. This is what my car looks like most days as I run between jobs and teaching yoga: books everywhere, big coffee, cute lunchbox.

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I’m a big snacker. My next one was this adorable little local tangerine. Yum!

FullSizeRender_4I ate a small lunch at work: local cherry tomatoes, pretzel sticks and peanut butter.

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As a midday pick-me-up, I had a Peppermint Bark tea, leftover from a box my friend sent me over the holidays 🙂 FullSizeRender_2

It didn’t quite satisfy the sugar chocolate craving I had, though, so I had to have some dark chocolate. FullSizeRender_3

Next I worked my second job, then headed to teach my late Wednesday yoga class. On the way, I snacked on an apple sauce and Maui onion macadamia nuts.
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I taught my power yoga class, and we had live music! If that’s something you’re interested in, follow me on Instagram, which is where I announce my special events. 

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After class, my boyfriend made a simple sauce for butternut squash ravioli: olive oil, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

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For dessert, I dug into another one of my Christmas gifts: organic candy drops.FullSizeRender_2

These are perfect because they come in awesome tropical flavors, and are really small and sweet, meaning you can satisfy your sweet tooth with just one.

 

What did you eat today?

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2015

Let me just warn you now: cookie cravings are a likely side-effect of reading this blog post!

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In 2012, I participated in the Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap (see my post from that year here). It’s a fantastc annual event that partners with COOKIES FOR KIDS’ CANCER, a national non-profit organization committed to funding new therapies used in the fight against pediatric cancer, which claims the lives of more children in the US than any other disease.

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Anyways, you pay a very small fee to participate, and that goes to the charity, and the total money raised is then matched by 1-3 other partners. The cost is so small (less than $10) but you have to factor in the price you pay when you go to the post office. I’d forgotten that each box of cookies would cost at least, but probably more, than $10 to send. Ouch!

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Each person is paired with three other food bloggers, so for instance I sent one dozen of my cookies to three people, and three other people sent one dozen of their cookies to me. What a wonderful surprise to come home to!

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I sent my cookies to:

  1. http://www.mykitchenisopen.com
  2. http://mysavoryspoon.blogspot.com
  3. http://www.littleflour.com/

(recipe I used for these Mint Dark Chocolate M&M cookies is at the end of this post)

FBCookie Swap

The first dozen I received were adorable but fruity, and if you know me, you know I don’t really enjoy fruit in my dessert. Luckily, my boyfriend had the exact opposite taste in this department, so he was more than happy to eat them.

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Thank you Just Us Four! Check out her blog (which has professional-looking photos) hhttp://www.justusfourblog.com/ere.

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Next I got a bag of somewhat crumbled but very delicious, crispy tahini cookies. I would never have thought to use tahini and sesame seeds in cookies, but it was great, especially for anyone who craves a slightly savory option. At first the taste reminded me of molasses and peanut butter, before I read the card. Thank you Cats & Commas! Check them out here.

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Lastly, I received a batch similar to the ones I sent out: peanut butter M&M cookies. Simple but so satisfying! These had the consistency of peanut butter (even falling apart a little when eaten, but I’m not complaining). Thank you 24 Carrot Life! Check here out here; I am SWOONING over the sea salt chocolate chip cookie recipe she just posted!

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And finally… what cookies did I make?

The 250 Best Cookie Recipes

Well, I used the perfect cookbook to find a recipe: The 250 Best Cookie Recipes by Esther Brody. In the recipe below, instead of chocolate chips, I substituted half dark chocolate M&Ms & half mint chocolate chips. YUM!!!

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Dad’s Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 7 dozen

  • 3.5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 2/3 cup softened shortening
  • 2/3 cup softened butter or margarine
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 packages (12 oz. / 375 g) semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (optional) *I opted out.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C)

Ungreased cookie sheet

  1. In a bowl, mix together flour, salt and baking soda.
  2. In another bowl, beat shortening, butter or margarine and sugars until smooth and creamy. Best in eggs, one at a time, until incorporated. Stir in vanilla. Add flour mixture and mix well. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts, if using.
  3. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls (5 mL), about 2 inches (5 cm) apart, onto cookie sheet. Bake in preheated over for 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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