Category Archives: Dessert

Want S’more Cake?

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I hope you said yes, because that’s the recipe you’re getting today. Now that the solstice has happened and it’s officially summer, it’s time to get down to business and chow down on some summery food. And what’s more summery than a gooey mess of caramelized marshmallow resting on top of a slowly melting chocolate bar and a crunchy graham cracker square? Not much, that’s for sure.

I don’t remember if I’ve told you about my love for s’mores before, but s’mores and I are pretty much attached at the hip. Okay, maybe not the hip…I think the more accurate statement would be to say that s’mores and I are attached at the cheek. Or the nose. Or the eyelid. Or the hair. Because that’s where s’mores end up whenever I try to eat them like a normal person.

I know s’mores are great while eating around a fire with friends, but I usually only eat s’mores around people I know really, really well. That way, when I’ve got a huge streak of chocolate on one cheek, a smudge of charcoal on my forehead, and marshmallow bits stuck around my mouth, the people I’m with can either 1) tell me to wash my face, 2) walk away from the situation before it becomes too messy and embarrassing, 3) laugh, or if they’re my very, very best friend they can 4) tell me to grab a jar of peanut butter to smear on the s’mores and laugh as both of us get peanut butter all over our hands and faces. My best friend Michelle has visited me at the lake for the past few summers and we always do s’mores together. She’s the genius behind adding peanut butter to a food I didn’t think could get any more delicious, and sticks around while I devour an entire bag of marshmallows by myself. We have a tradition where after we do s’mores we roll around for awhile on my deck until we feel like we’re at least a liiiiitttllee less full and can walk again. S’mores with Michelle are the best.

Sadly, Michelle can’t come see me this summer because she’s working at an amazing camp helping kids. They are so lucky to have her! Even though she’s not here with me, I still crave s’mores. After all, it is summer! The other day, Erik and I went down by the shoreline of the lake with a new friend and roasted marshmallows as the sun set. That s’more session got me wanting, well, s’more! I decided to make a cake version of the popular summer treat to share with the family after dinner. It’s super-duper healthy and tastes like one giant s’more all mixed up and cake-ified (and yes, cake-ified is totally a word). I used bananas as a base so that this cake doesn’t have any butter, oil, eggs, or milk. The bananas give the cake a natural sweetness, and although not too noticeable, the subtle flavor of banana exists under the layers of gooey marshmallows, drizzles of chocolate, and crunchy graham crackers.

We’re going to need s’more of this cake in our house pronto because we ate the whole thing in one night. Served by itself, or with a scoop of ice cream on top, this cake is sure to be a hit in any home. A perk? I walked away from eating this s’more without a single smudge on my face. Take that, s’mores!

S’more Cake
Note: the cake is completely vegan if vegan chocolate is used. The topping is as well if vegan marshmallows are used. Eat up, veg friends!
Ingredients
For the Cake:
3 bananas
1/2 cup crushed graham crackers
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 bar of chocolate, crushed into chunks
For the Topping:
6 marshmallows
1 rectangle graham cracker
1/2 bar chocolate
How To
1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and spray a bread pan with cooking spray. Set aside.
2. In a large bowl, mash the three bananas until they reach a very smooth consistency. (Or, if you’re fancy and don’t have to resort to smashing down bananas with a puny fork, put the bananas in a food processor or blender and puree.)
3. Add the rest of the cake ingredients (with the exception of the chocolate chunks) to the banana mash. *Note on the crushed graham crackers: make sure you crush them so they almost have the consistency of flour.* Mix very well.
4. When the batter is mixed, fold in the chocolate chunks. Gently stir a few times and then pour the batter into the bread pan. You’re ready to put the cake in the oven; you’ll put the topping on during the last 2-5 minutes of baking.
5. Bake the cake for 25-30 minutes, or longer if needed. You’ll need to check the cake at least every 15 minutes to see how it’s progressing. Or, if you’re like me and anxious to sink your teeth into a slice of rich chocolate cake with toppings that even frosting would be jealous of, check the cake every thirty seconds by turning the oven light on. That’s totally normal, right?
6. Anyway, while your cake is baking, you’ll need to do some prep work to get the topping ready. To do this, slice the marshmallows into thin rounds (I sliced each marshmallow into 4 rounds). Set them flat out on a plate to make them easily accessible for topping the cake.
7. Crush up graham crackers until they’re just slightly chunky. Put them in a bowl. Next, crush up the chocolate bar into small chunks and mix them into the bowl with the graham crackers. Have these toppings convenient and ready for when the cake comes out.
8. When the cake is done baking (again, around 25-30 minutes, or a little longer) go ahead and take it out of the oven and get ready to work fast (leave your oven on). Put all of the marshmallows into rows on top of the cake so that they cover the surface of the cake. Next, evenly pour your graham cracker and chocolate mixture on top of the marshmallows. Put the cake back into the oven and WATCH IT CLOSELY during the next step.
9. Set your oven to broil and glue your eyes to the oven window. Okay, I’m not being serious about gluing your eyes to an oven, but you need to watch it at all times. Don’t walk away for thirty seconds, or even for five seconds. Stay by the oven for the 2-5 minutes it takes for the marshmallows to puff up a little bit and for the topping to brown. Too long on this step and you’ll have all the fire alarms going off in the house and a s’more cake that looks like you set it in the middle of a campfire. Not what you’re going for.
10. Drizzle some extra melted chocolate on top if you’re a choco-holic like me. Then grab the biggest spoon in your kitchen and scoop out a portion for anyone and everyone around you. Trust me, they’ll all want s’more.

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Healthy Whole-Wheat Nectarine Bread

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Quick! Run to the grocery store and buy a nectarine!  You’ll need it to make this.I’d love to share a slice of this with you from the loaf I just made but I’m afraid that’s not possible. Why? Because this bread is going, going…Gone.

I hope you’ve stopped reading this post for a second to run to the store to buy a nectarine. Or a whole bushel so you can make a loaf of this stuff every day. Trust me, you’ll want to. And you won’t feel a single morsel of guilt eating the whole loaf while you’re home alone for the day a few slices because this bread is super healthy. Whole-wheat  flour and sweet morsels of nectarine are united in this bread to create a bread that packs the heartiness of honest-to-goodness whole-wheat, and the delicate notes of fresh fruit. It’s the best of both worlds; filling yet delicate in the same bite.

I usually wouldn’t urge anyone to make a bread recipe. I mean seriously, bread?? I’m usually not the biggest fan of bread (unless it’s my grandma’s loaded, homemade, fresh-from-the-garden zucchini bread, or my other grandma’s decadent walnut-date bread – either of those I could easily eat in one sitting). But this bread that I made today is really, really good. I dunked a few slices into some vanilla yogurt and slathered some peanut butter on top of another chunk. This bread would be perfect as a wholesome breakfast when paired with some yogurt, a post-workout snack when matched with some protein-packed peanut butter and maybe a drizzle of honey, by itself as a snack, or warmed up for dessert and served with a giant scoop of vanilla ice cream. I guess you guys all know what my diet’s going to look like the next few days: this bread for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks. But before I proceed to eat this for the rest of the week, I’ll have to make another loaf. Here’s the recipe so you can make one too!

Healthy Whole-Wheat Nectarine Bread
Ingredients
1 cup whole-wheat flour (I used Hodgson Mill’s Whole-Wheat Flour because they grind their wheat in a way that preserves all the good stuff)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tablespoons milk (I used unsweetened vanilla almond milk)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 nectarine, chopped into small chunks
How To
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients (from flour to sugar). Stir the ingredients so that they are mixed well.
3. Add the ‘wet ingredients’ (from apple sauce to vanilla extract). Mix batter well.
4. Last, add the chopped up nectarine and gently fold the pieces in.
5. Spray a bread pan with cooking spray and then pour the batter into the pan. Bake the bread in the 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes. Stick a thin knife or a toothpick into the center of the bread to check if it is done. Then, gather your friends and family around and serve up a slice of goodness.
If you’re not too busy whippin’ this bread up yet, I’d just like to say that I apologize for the lack of book-related material on here lately. I haven’t been in the mood to write about books on here for the past couple weeks because I’m in the middle of research for school. Research=writing tons and TONS about books. I’m currently reading A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway which is plenty of book-action for me write now. I hope you caught that last pun. While I am sorry for not providing any book-insight lately, I’m glad to present you with recipes like this one. Hope you love it!

Life Is Just a Bowl of Cherries

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Or in our case, it’s a bowl of chocolate-covered cherries. In smoothie form. If the idea of plump cherries diving into a bowl of decadent chocolate isn’t enough to make you smile about life for a second, then you should probably just give up on this recipe now. But if you’re like me, and love the idea of a super secretly healthy treat appearing as a great big bowl of rich cherries and chocolate, then stick around.

This recipe is great used as a substitution for dessert, a really great sweet snack in the middle of the afternoon, or if you just want an excuse to eat chocolate covered cherries for breakfast. Whatever floats your boat! I enjoyed a huge bowl of this stuff after I came home really hungry from an event I went to. I topped my smoothie with a huge dollop of Greek Yogurt (what a shock, right?), and some sliced cherries. The blend of textures and flavors added great dimension to the smoothie. Finding the fresh cherries that began to sink into the melting mess of smoothie and yogurt was like scooping out the biggest cookie chunks in a pint of cookies ‘n cream ice cream. You know that feeling, right?

I highly recommend this as a decadent smoothie treat. It tastes heavier than some smoothies, but the ingredients are super healthy and light, meaning that this is definitely a guilt-free bowl of goodness. Feel free to sip the smoothie out of a glass like a normal person, but I’ll go right on ahead and eat this smoothie out of a bowl.

Here’s the recipe for this chocolate-covered cherry smoothie. I hope that life is as awesome as a bowl full of chocolate-covered cherries for you always!

Chocolate-covered Cherry Smoothie
Ingredients
(Makes 1 smoothie)
1 cup cherries, pitted and sliced in half
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk
Ice
Optional: 1 tablespoon (or more) sugar, or sugar substitute
How To
1. Combine everything in a blender. Blend it all up and pour into your favorite glass or bowl.
2. Have fun with toppings – add some fresh cherries to the top, a squirt of whipped cream, some yogurt, granola, or oats. Enjoy!!

I hope you’ve all been enjoying the drink recipes all week! To see a list of all the recipes with images, check out my new drinks page I created. Hope it helps you keep track of your favorites!

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothies

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Strawberries always remind me of Alaska. When we lived in Anchorage, we had a small garden where we grew strawberries, chives, rhubarb, and raspberries. The strawberries that we grew were always the cutest. Their yellow seeds weren’t any bigger than an aphid, green stems as small as newly sprouted leaves, and the actual berries were as tiny as thimbles. We’d water them and watch the plants slowly unfurl under the seemingly endless sunlight that only an Alaskan summer can bring.

While we waited for berries  to ripen we occupied ourselves by swimming in a kiddie pool in our front yard, collecting daddy long leg spiders, and playing in our top secret fort in the backyard. We hiked out as a family to the same lake each year to canoe, swim, and stay in a little cabin on an island where we’d roast hot dogs over the fire and complain about the smelly outhouse. We’d gather the cul-de-sac kids and play baseball on our pavement diamond, hitting plastic baseballs into anyone and everyone’s yard without care. We attempted to hatch a ladybug nest in our kitchen one year and a praying mantis the next, never succeeding. We learned to fish, about harvesting and giving back to the earth, and about the abundance of the Alaskan wilderness. We did a lot while the berries ripened.

Alaska will always hold a special place in my heart. It was there that I was born, learned to hike like a billy-goat, developed my tolerance for the cold, started a habit of swimming in any body of water available to me, craved fresh produce, started loving the mountains and lakes and the trees, and the patience to wait for something small and seemingly insubstantial to grow so sweet. There’s nothing sweeter than eating a button-sized strawberry you grew yourself.

Since we didn’t harvest too many strawberries (thanks to two little kids and a host of woodland creatures who loved to snack on them), we usually just ate our strawberries plain. A delicious summertime treat that gleans sweetness from these plump red berries is one I’m sure you all know and love: strawberry shortcake.

I thought I’d try to bring a little bit of strawberry shortcake action into the world of smoothies with this recipe that I came up with today. I love the flavor of the berries in this smoothie, along with the texture that the oats bring. Best of all, it’s bursting with the taste of strawberries that always brings me back to Alaska. My mom tried this smoothie with me and she commented that it tasted like a smoothie version of a strawberry crumble. This smoothie would be a perfect, well-rounded breakfast, or a refreshing dessert that is healthy and wholesome to boot. It’s fun to serve parfait style (as pictured) or to blend all the ingredients up for a great mixture of flavors and textures. It would be an easy party dessert or brunch addition to make beforehand and store in the freezer.

Strawberry Shortcake Smoothie
Serves 1-2 people
Ingredients
For the “strawberries”:
4 oz. non-fat vanilla yogurt (or use vanilla Wholesoy or a different brand if vegan)
1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
1 cup frozen, chopped strawberries
Optional: sugar, if desired. I made mine without and it was great!
For the “shortcake”:
1/4 cup oats
A little more than 1/4 cup vanilla almond milk
Optional: Pinch of Cream of Tartar (I used it to make it taste a little more like shortcake, but if you don’t have it, don’t sweat it)
Sugar (again, add sugar to this mixture if you’d like. I enjoyed mine sans sugar.)
How To
1. The night before you want to make this (or eight hours before), mix oats and milk in a small tupperware or bowl. Store it in the fridge. If you’ve made overnight oats before, this is essentially the same thing. You want this mixture to be pretty thick so adjust oat and milk ratio as necessary.
2. Eight hours or a night after you make the oat mixture, get ready to make a great smoothie! In a blender, combine all components of the strawberry mixture. Add extra milk to this mixture if you need to in order to help it blend smoother.
3. At this point, choose whether you’d like to make parfaits, or just one big glass of strawberry shortcake goodness. If you’re making parfaits: spoon some of the oat mixture into the bottom of small glasses. Top with smoothie mixture. If you’d like to add a little extra flavor and nice presentation, top with a small dollop of vanilla yogurt and a strawberry slice. Sprinkle a few uncooked oats on top as well to add a little extra crunch.  If you’re making a smoothie: dump oats into blender and blend mixture until all is mixed well. Pour smoothie into a glass or two and dive into sweet summertime strawberry-filled bliss. If you’re making the smoothie, feel free to top it off with a little yogurt, some oats, and strawberry slices as well. Hope enjoy it enough to scoop every last morsel out of the parfait glass like I did – this photoshoot was hard to get through without sampling!

Tropical Dreamsicle Smoothies

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Weather forecast for digintobooks this week: sweltering hot outside with frequent showers of ice cold drink recipes. When you’re out in the summer heat running, walking, playing with your kids, enjoying a game of tag, mowing the lawn, or whatever else you do when it’s this hot, I’ll be raining smoothies on you. All week.

Actually, not really. But I’ll be doing the next best thing: showing you tantalizing pictures of my latest cool drink concoctions and handing over the recipes so you can try them out for yourself. I figure that we all need a good frigid kick-off to summer with some icy recipes that we’ll be able to use over and over and over again as the summer months get hotter and hotter. Bring it on, sun.

I got the idea to do a week full of cold-drink concoctions while on a walk the other day. It wasn’t just any walk. I had already been out waterskiing in the morning, then swam for a while in the lake, and then caught some rays with a little nap out on the boat. After that, I ate a quick salad for lunch and then went on a walk. At 2:00 in the afternoon. On pavement. What was I thinking?

With heat waves shimmering off the road, beads of sweat dripping down my face, and my feet collecting small blisters, I started to do what anyone would do: see mirages of sapphire blue ponds, huge palm leaves to fan me, and creamsicles. Creamsicles? Yeah. I thought the same thing. See, I don’t even like creamsicles in real life. But in my state of utter desperation for anything cooler than a sun ray beating down on me, I started craving the creamy combination of vanilla ice cream and the sweet, citrusy notes of orange. I hustled (ahem, more like trudged up the super-steep hill) to get home and find myself something to drink. Enter tropical dreamsicle smoothies.

I beg you to make yourself one of these. Trust me, while drinking it you’ll be transported to your mirage location: white sandy beaches that never get too hot, a dazzling turquoise pool, palm trees swaying in a warm breeze, and those palm leaves that fan you whenever you need. You’ll forget that your face is beet red, your legs are quaking from climbing hills that might as well be 90 degree angles, and the fact that the roads are still shimmering with heat waves and will be long after the sun goes down. When you drink this smoothie, you’ll feel energized, refreshed, and way cooler than you did before you started chugging. So quick – freeze some fruit today and make this recipe as soon as you can!

Tropical Dreamsicle Smoothie
(recipe for one large smoothie or two small ones)
Ingredients
1/2 orange, peeled and sliced and frozen
1 banana, peeled and sliced and frozen
1/2 cup vanilla almond milk
4 oz vanilla yogurt (if vegan, try WholeSoy Vanilla yogurt or any other non-dairy brand)
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
How To
1. I know I said this in the ingredients, but make sure you freeze your fruit. This way, you won’t have to use ice (which sometimes dilutes flavors) and you’ll get an extra creamy smoothie. Tips for freezing the fruit: for the banana, peel one and then slice into 1 inch rounds. Put the slices into a tupperware container and then freeze for 12 hours or more. You should be able to break apart the pieces before putting them into the blender. If not, let the slices sit at room temperature for about 5 or 10 minutes to let them soften up a little bit. For the orange, peel one and then peel into slices. You can freeze the orange in slices. Once you take it out of the freezer, I recommend using a very sharp knife to cut the segments into very small pieces so the blender has an easier time of blending them.
2. Put the fruit slices into the blender. Add all other ingredients. Blend until smooth. Serve and enjoy!
*Note: in some of the pictures you can see that I topped the smoothies with a little extra dollop of vanilla yogurt. Feel free to enjoy them plain or with a little extra dreaminess by topping the smoothies with vanilla yogurt. Either way, these smoothies are delicious!

Cool Whip Pie

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I’ve talked about pies before and how they’re pretty easy to mess up (at least from my perspective). But as difficult as they are, summertime produce brings about opportunities to make glorious pies. Plump cherries bursting under the heat of the oven, apples growing sweeter when sliced and surrounded by cinnamon and dough, and strawberries slivered and surrounded by semi-sweet vanilla ice cream. Pies are perfect for family gatherings, for showcasing garden-grown fruits, and for pairing with cooling scoops of ice cream under warm summer skies.

We spent the weekend together as a family and I figured that a refreshing pie would be the perfect way to cap off our evenings. I’m also a huge, huge, HUGE fan of ice cream, so I decided to try to make a pie that would be similar to ice cream in some ways. This pie is great because it’s impossible to mess up. Unlike other pies that require hours of time to work with the dough, meticulously slice produce, and bake for a while, this one is easy to whip together. Less time making pie = more time with family and friends. That works for me during these special summer months!

If you’re an ice cream fan, a pie fan, have a sweet tooth, or enjoy eating Cool Whip straight out of the container this pie is for you (please tell me that some of you are like me and really love just spooning Cool Whip from the container…!).  Plus, it looks beautiful, will serve a crowd, and like my Nuttin’ Butter Cheesecake Bites, this pie is super-versatile. You can change the flavor of Cool Whip with just a small swirl of chocolate syrup, and easily switch out the toppings within the pie (I used cookies but you could easily use crushed candy bars, fruit, or anything else)! I have a feeling you’ll be seeing a couple variations on this pie from me throughout the summer! Hope you and your family love this pie as much as mine did.

Cookies n’ Cream Cool Whip Pie
Ingredients
1 pre-made chocolate crust
1 8 oz. container of Light Cool Whip
1 cup plain Greek Yogurt
3 packets mini oreos
How To
1. In a large bowl, combine Cool Whip and yogurt. Mix well.
2. Crush the oreos while they are still in their snack bags. Crush them well and then dump them into the Cool Whip mixture. Stir well.
3. Pour the mixture into the premade pie crust. Put the pie into the freezer for a few hours before serving.
Note: If you leave the pie in the freezer overnight or for a few days you might want to let the pie thaw at room temperature for 10-15 minutes before serving. Enjoy this creamy, dreamy dessert!!

Snacker Day Saturday: 6/02

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There’s nuttin’ butter than a cold treat on a hot day. In these summer months, everything starts tasting better frozen. Frozen grapes, frozen spiced orange slices, frozen popsicles. You name it, it’s almost always got a shot at tasting better frozen when the temperatures hit over 100. Well, we’re not quite to that temperature here yet, but I’m getting prepared. This means that my freezer right now is loaded with ice cream (typical), and some new little frozen friends that have joined the half-gallon staple of cookies and cream ice cream that resides there.

Did any of you watch the spelling bee the other night? If you did, maybe you caught my spelling mistake in the first paragraph (“nuttin’ butter” should be “nothing better”). Don’t worry, it was intentional but after watching the spelling bee the other night I feel like I am a crummy speller now. When I was in first grade I was entered into my school spelling bee and I got eliminated by spelling the word ‘salami’ wrong so maybe that’s one indication as to why I didn’t ever get entered into the national version of the contest. I couldn’t believe how talented the kids were who were competing!! I’m an English major in college and I can’t hold a flame to their spelling smarts! But nevertheless, my point in telling you this (longwinded, as always) is that I have a treat that is full of Nutter Butters. And cheesecake. And it’s bite sized. And frozen. Whew, it just gets better and better!

On this snacker day Saturday, I bring to you a decadent bite of happiness that is guilt-free, bikini friendly, refreshing, and delicious. And, if you saw the pictures I posted yesterday, I have a use for the leftover cheesecake pudding that you might have on hand. This is one of the least homemade desserts I’ve ever made but that’s alright by me.  It’s simple, versatile, and could be used as a cute party dessert when company is over or just to have on hand in the freezer in case a bad day strikes and you just really need a piece of cheesecake to put a smile back on. There’s really nuttin’ butter than that!

Nuttin’ Butter than Cheesecake Bites
Ingredients
1 snack-package of mini Nutter Butters
1 package fat-free, sugar-free cheesecake pudding mix
1 1/2 cups skim milk
How To
1. Without cracking open the Nutter Butters, use your hands to smash up the cookies while they’re still in the bag. Crush them up as fine as you can.
2. Set out a mini muffin tin and put a liner in each. Then, dump the cookies so they are equally dispersed.
3. Make the pudding by combining the pudding powder with the milk. Whisk for about 2 minutes. It should be extra thick.
4. Scoop pudding into mini-muffin tins and smooth the pudding down. Put the muffin tin in the freezer and wait for the pudding to harden. Then, take out a mini-treat as often as your heart desires and bite into a rich, flavorful snack!

Problem: you have extra cheesecake pudding and not enough muffin tins to hold it all.
Solution: grab a few mini Chips Ahoy cookies and gently smash the pudding between two cookies. Bam. Instant itsy bitsy whoopie pies!

Variations: you could pretty much use any flavor of pudding and any “crust” to make these desserts. Use what you have on hand (or have a hankering for) and get creative! Oreo crust with vanilla pudding? Graham cracker crust with butterscotch pudding? Vanilla wafers with banana pudding? I could go on and on and on. What are some of your great ideas for these little treats? Another suggestion: make a bunch of different kinds and then serve them to guests as a sort of tasting party for dessert! I think I might have to try that sometime soon!

Hope you enjoy these little cheesecake bites. I certainly am. A perfect pairing with a snack as luxurious as this one? How about reading this blog. I came across it yesterday and think it’s one of the coolest blogs I’ve seen out there. Two friends contribute their greatest talents (creativity in photography and writing) to produce a blog about making delicious food, photographing it, and telling a story about it or related to it. It’s a fresh take on food, writing, and the two elements combined. Plus, the photography and writing are both gorgeous so I urge you to take a little time while you’re snacking to check the blog out!

Have a great snacker day Saturday! See you soon with a recipe for creamy pie that’ll make you swoon.