20161204_144212

Black Onyx Chocolate Mint Cookies

Tis the season for cookies! I love this time of year just for the baking alone, as it brings back a lot of fond holiday memories. There was never a shortage of Christmas cookies in our house growing up, so I developed a sweet tooth at a very young age. While I don’t bake nearly as much as my mother did, I still like to make a few varieties to send to family members and to enjoy myself.

 

I recently received a sample of Black Onyx Chocolate Sugar from the Savory Spice Shop. It’s a combination of white sugar, black onyx cocoa, Mexican vanilla beans, Ceylon cinnamon and chocolate extract, and it is DIVINE! I was tempted to just eat the sugar on its own as a healthy snack, but I decided to share the wealth and use it in a cookie recipe instead. The cookies I made combine chocolate and mint, which is one of my favorite flavor combinations.

 

I adapted the following recipe from one I found on the spice shop’s website. Since I didn’t have enough of the chocolate sugar the original recipe called for, I just made my own modifications. These have a sort of shortbread texture, and when cooled are on the crunchier side. As expected, the chocolate mint combo is tasty and festive. The original recipe can be found here.

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 cup coconut oil, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. peppermint extract
  • 1 egg
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Black Onyx Chocolate Sugar

 

Directions: 

  1. Heat oven to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the butter, oil and sugar together until combined. Beat in the peppermint extract and egg.
  3. Slowly add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix until thoroughly combined. Your batter should be sticky.
  4. Using a melon baller or tablespoon, scoop dough into small balls and place on the sheets. Flatten gently using a metal spatula to create small disks. These can be placed fairly close together, as they will not spread much.
  5. Sprinkle each disk with some of the chocolate sugar.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, or until set. I got about 3 1/2 dozen cookies out of this recipe.

 

20161204_144144

 

20161204_143710

 

20161204_143801

 

 

A Moody, Blue York State of Mind

Oh, hello blog! Long time, no write. I see you haven’t changed a bit.

 

The past month has just royally sucked, which is why I’ve had neither the energy nor the interest to write about anything positive. I almost forced myself to post a recipe about a week ago, but for some reason it felt like a betrayal to my current state of mind. Weird how the mind works sometimes… I actually wrote out an entire post after the election, but then decided not to post it. I think it was more therapeutic for me to just write it than to post it. I also cussed quite a bit in it, so it probably wasn’t super appropriate to publish.

 

But really, the election results were god awful and I feel like I’ve been grieving ever since. I’m legitimately scared for what’s to come and disappointed in our country, but I’ve been working to channel that energy into community involvement. I think helping at least on a local level is better than doing nothing at all. So volunteer to help out in your community, people! Check out my current community initiative to help the homeless people of Charlotte and donate if you wish here. I’ve also discovered which of my Facebook (and non-Facebook) friends’ values align with mine, so that’s a plus. I’m noticing that there is power in numbers more than ever, and I think some good changes will still be made by good people, despite the present looming despair.

 

I’ve been transitioning medications (again), so the withdrawal side effects have been a bit draining. Brain zaps, nausea, dizziness and sleep issues for two weeks straight is no fun at all. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with coffee as a result. Hopefully this new one sticks, though. Just gotta keep trying, but it certainly is frustrating. Who would have thought so much effort was involved to just be “normal”?

 

My divorce was also finalized this past weekend, so I’ve had a flurry of emotions come up all at once, from sadness to grief to guilt to relief (unintentional rhyming there). It hit me harder than I expected and it’s been a rough few days. We were married for 6 years, together for 11…that’s over a third of my life! Now i’m 30 and divorced, which is not an easy realization to accept. But we’re both the better for it, and I believe there are chapters to our lives we must embrace. Sometimes it’s a struggle to completely let go, because so much investment has been made and new things can be scary. But it’s important that we all experience life to our own fullest, and doing so means making necessary changes. So I move onward from here, cherishing old memories and welcoming new experiences and people into the next chapter of my life.

 

All of these things have had an effect on my exercise levels, appetite, mood and state of mind, but sometimes we need to experience the hard parts of life to appreciate the good parts. I hope to get back to more positive posts in the coming weeks. I think this post was needed to reset my mind and get me back on track. My favorite holiday is quickly approaching, so I need to perk up and get happy. Until next time, which is hopefully a post about cookies, thanks for sticking with me  ;)

brownies2

Halloween Nostalgia & Spiderweb Brownies

Can I just say how much I LOVE HALLOWEEN?! I’ve loved it since I was a kid and have very fond memories of it growing up. My sister and I would go trick-or-treating in our huge neighborhood and fill an entire pillowcase with candy in one night. We went through our costume phases; pink bunnies as toddlers, witches as kids, Spice Girls as tweens, and then my favorite, Wayne and Garth as teenagers (we were probably too old to still trick-or-treat, but went anyway…cause candy). My parents always made Halloween fun for us too. Dad would decorate the entire outside of our house in spooky decor while mom would make us Halloween-themed baked goods (to go with our piles of candy). And since my birthday also falls in October, I would often have dual birthday/Halloween parties each year with all of my friends.

 

Is it obvious yet why I love Halloween so much??

witches

Getting ready to hit the town in our mom-made costumes!

 

These days I still like to dress up and go out with friends, though candy has now been replaced with beer. And while I can’t go trick-or-treating anymore, I do enjoy handing out candy to kids in my neighborhood. I decided to dive even further into the Halloween spirit this year by making a special baked treat like my mom used to make for us. I saw a picture of these spiderweb brownies online and thought they looked awesome, so I gave them a try using my own recipe modifications. Mine aren’t as pretty as the original picture, but I was still satisfied. The nice thing is they really don’t have to look pretty. In fact, I think the messier they are, the more spooky they look!

brownies4

Spiderweb Brownies

 

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips

 

Directions:

  1. Heat the oven to 350°. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the oil, sugar, vanilla and eggs together. Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt and mix until combined. If your batter thickens up too much, add milk to thin it out.
  3. Spread the batter evenly in the prepared baking pan and bake for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely, then slice into 16 squares and spread out on a baking sheet.
  4. Melt the semi-sweet chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave (don’t overcook!). Use a metal spatula or spoon to spread the top of each brownie with melted chocolate. They don’t have to be perfect, just be sure they’re all covered.
  5. Immediately melt the white chocolate in a small bowl in the microwave. Pour the chocolate into a pastry bag with a small pointed tip, or a Ziploc bag with a cut tip (if using a Ziploc bag, wait a few minutes so the chocolate isn’t piping hot). Draw a large swirl on the top of each brownie with the white chocolate.
  6. Using a toothpick or knife, start from the middle of each brownie and drag the icing out to the edges in thin lines, almost like you’re creating a starburst or firework. You want to do this while both chocolates are still wet so that they blend together a bit.
  7. Place the tray in the fridge or freezer to let the chocolate harden before storing in an airtight container. Makes 16 brownies.
batter

Mmmm gooey

 

brownies3

20161029_141059

Happy Halloween!

 36813386-halloween.png

recipe3

Maple Balsamic Squash & Sprouts

Fall is one of my favorite times of year, especially because it involves hearty foods and flavors. I get so delighted when I first see winter squash in the store each year, as that is a major sign for me that fall has arrived. I bought some delicata squash and Brussels sprouts this past weekend and got inspired to make a roasted veggie medley full of fall flavor. This is a great side dish to serve with any protein you like, or even as an addition to your Thanksgiving meal.

recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. delicata squash
  • 1/2 lb. Brussels sprouts
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 

Directions:

  1. Heat oven to 400°. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Slice the squash in half lengthwise, and scoop the seeds out. Lay each side face down on a cutting board and slice into half rings (the skin can stay on the squash).
  3. Rinse the Brussels sprouts, then trim the ends and discard any bad outer leaves. Slice the sprouts in half.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss all the ingredients together. Spread out in an even layer on the baking sheet.
  5. Bake for 30 minutes, tossing halfway through, until lightly browned. Change the oven to a low broil and roast for a few more minutes to crisp up the veggies. Serves 2-3 as a side dish.

 

Recipe2.jpg

Candle number 30

Goodbye 20’s, bring on 30!

Well folks, I’m turning the big 3-0 tomorrow. While some dread leaving their 20’s behind, I’m quite excited about turning 30. I’ve had a VERY eventful decade and I’m looking forward to starting a whole new, fun chapter of my life.

j19vgo

Couldn’t resist a good cat joke

My 20’s have been truly formative and satisfying for me, even though there were lots of ups and downs. Some of the highlights include:

  • Graduated from college
  • Started volunteering in animal rescue
  • Adopted two crazy kitties
  • Saw AC/DC live
  • Moved from New York to North Carolina
  • Stopped eating meat
  • Got married…and divorced
  • Lost my grandmother, but welcomed a niece
  • Found the beauty of yoga
  • Got my first tattoo, and then another a year later
  • Witnessed my beautiful sister get married
  • Lived alone for the first time ever
  • Went zip lining
  • Ran my first 5k, completed 3 more, and even placed 2nd in my age group once
  • Debuted my Black Canary alter ego
  • Saw much of the U.S. and took my first international trip
  • Started this blog
  • Lost some friends and gained others
  • Fell in love all over again
  • Hit the lowest point of my life and came back from it

 

What a list! These experiences brought out happiness, sadness, compassion, joy, despair, fear, exhilaration, disappointment, pride, motivation, hopelessness and pure bliss. The negative experiences were hard, but I think they helped to put life into perspective and allow me to appreciate the good times so much more. The last one brings out the most emotion for me, though. Any of my regular readers know that I’ve taken quite a bumpy ride on the mental health train this year. When I say the lowest point of my life, I mean rock bottom. It was a tough time, but things finally seem to be looking up now. I feel much stronger these days.

Tree

Turning 30 almost feels like a new awakening for me, like I can start some things over on a good, fresh note. My life has changed more than I could have imagined. What I thought was going to be a married, white picket fence life with kids and a dog has turned out to be the complete opposite, by choice. I’m healthier and more fit than I’ve ever been before, and I feel like I’ve finally grown into myself. Parts of my 20’s felt awkward and immature, but I have a new feeling of confidence, independence, self-awareness and maturity now. I’m slightly more extroverted than I was before. I enjoy crazy adventures and spontaneity, two things I was scared to death of before. Even though I enjoy planning some things, I’m happy and less stressed not knowing what the future has in store for me.

 

Now to get all philosophical, here are some things I’ve learned in the last ten years:

  • You’re never quite done figuring out what you really want to do with your life.
  • You’re also never done figuring out who your real friends are.
  • Relationships of any kind should always be a two-way street.
  • Surrounding yourself with people who you love and love you back is most important.
  • Compassion for people goes a long way in creating a more progressive world.
  • You have to do the things you’re most scared of doing to get further in your life.
  • It’s okay to quit doing something you don’t like if you’ve given it a fair chance.
  • Success in what you want exists, but you have to work really freakin’ hard for it.
  • Despite how much you love or care about someone else, never ignore your own needs.
  • Negative feelings, including pain, depression and grief, are temporary and will pass.
  • Never rely on someone else to make you happy, and always keep your independence.
  • Fight for and hold onto true love, regardless of how scary it is.
  • Confidence and strength are way more attractive than makeup and cleavage.
  • You’ll get a little freaked out when you get your first (and only, I might add) gray hair
  • Life is way too short to worry. All that really exists or matters is “what is.”
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Just do you. And be confident about it.
  • Life is sometimes messy and painful, but it’s also really awesome and worth living.

 

I feel blessed to have the life that I have and that is has so many great people in it. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I have BIG plans for the coming year and long-term goals that I can’t wait to share with you in this blog. I’m definitely not calling this birthday dirty or flirty…maybe sturdy? So, here’s to “sturdy” 30 and the next part of my story!

 

Cheers ~ Michelle

13620761_10100712928682182_5769773836498066037_n