S’mores Bars

Hello, hello!

Today I’d like to share the recipe for these (super easy) s’mores bars with you all. I am an original s’mores fanatic and a huge fan of these bars that I always get from one of my favorite bakeries. Inspired by the bakery (because I can’t drive 2 hours every time I want these bad boys) I decided to take the seemingly easy 3 layer bars into my own hands. And let me tell you, these turned out just as good as the ones at the shop! Maybe now I can finally try another one of their dozens of mouthwatering pastries & desserts without FOMO over these s’mores.

The following recipe was perfect for an 8×8 pan:
Graham crust:

  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs – you can purchase them pre-ground or finely grind your own graham crackers
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, melted

Chocolate ganache — For future ganache reference, doing a 1:1 (8 oz to 8 oz) ratio is best for drizzling the ganache over cakes. The 8:6 allows the ganache to solidify and not be too runny when adding the layer

  • 8 oz baking chocolate – I used 1 dark chocolate Ghiradelli baking bar and 1 semi sweet bar so it wasn’t too bitter or sweet
  • 6 oz heavy cream

Mini marshmallows to top, 1/3 of a bag should be good
Pinch of salt

  1. To begin making the crust, melt the butter and mix with the graham crumbs. Line pan with parchment paper to make things a little easier for the end. After the butter and crumbs are mixed, pack a layer into the pan. Depending on how thick you want the crust you can use all of the mixture or leave out some when you’re happy with the base’s thickness.
  2. Next is the ganache. Bring 6 oz of heavy cream to a boil in a sauce pan. While the cream is boiling, chop up the chocolate and put in a heat-proof bowl. Pour the boiling cream over the chocolate and let sit for around 5 minutes; whisk together until mixed thoroughly. Now spoon this over the graham crust being careful not to pull up the crust as the ganache is relatively sticky and may bring some crumbs – this doesn’t affect the taste if it happens, just something to be aware of. Since the ganache was very rich and sweet (even with dark chocolate) I lightly sprinkled salt over this later, which ended up giving it a great savory / sweet taste even after all the layers were assembled and set. Also, it may help to refrigerate the crust while melting and mixing.
  3. Now for the fun step — smother in marshmallows! I eyeballed this and added some extra because I love mallows. As long as the ganache is covered, like in the picture below, you should be good. 
  4. Stick this into a toaster oven broiler keeping an eye open to make sure nothing gets too brown, or worse, catches on fire! If you’re fancy you could use a blowtorch too. I got a little too excited after taking this batch out of the oven that I couldn’t even get a picture without a chunk missing!
  5. Go ahead and put this in the fridge or freezer (depending on how long you’re willing/able to wait). It’s best to make sure the crust is completely solid so it does not crumble excessively like you can see in the picture above. The ganache should be solid, but not as hard as a bar of chocolate. And the marshmallows should be perfectly toasted!

Enjoy! 

First post as a college grad 🎓

Time sure flies doesn’t it? Two weeks ago I walked across my university’s stage to receive my bachelors degree in accounting, which makes it even harder to believe four years ago I started my first day as a little freshman. Post grad life has been, in a word – boring. I don’t start my job until September so until then I have to make best friends with my CPA review books because I honestly seem them more than anyone else! A little sacrifice now will be worth it in the long run though, so no complaints here.

Although it’s been boring I’ve managed to get to some great restaurants in CLE. This week I went to Jack Flaps – #1 breakfast spot according to Cleveland Scene magazine. Ok so maybe I went there twice this week… Both times I got their most popular seller, according to our waitress, the Lemon Curd pancakes. Sorry, “jack flaps”. I usually try new things but omg these pancakes are just too good to resist with their lemon curd, mixed berry jam, graham cracker crumbs, and all around fluff.

The way to my heart – I mean, the lemon curd jack flaps

My mom went with me today and got the Fat Elvis waffle – topped with whipped peanut butter, banana, and bacon praline pieces. She was hooked and insists on going back as soon as possible, and I’m 100% okay with that. Lucky for us we went during happy hour (1-3pm, they close at 3) which means all of their waffles and jack flaps are only $5! That’s right, my normally $9.50 lemon curd cakes are only $5! Fantastic deal right there. They also have great coffee from City Roast Coffee (from inside the WSM). I totally recommend coming to this place but watch out on the weekends because the space is relatively small so there may be a (worthwhile) wait. Enjoy your holiday weekend, everyone!

The ‘Fat Elvis’

CLE takes 7th – America’s Best Cities for Food Snobs

Here is another big win for The Land! Travel & Leisure recently named Cleveland in their list of America’s Best Cities for Food Snobs. With that said, I now understand why I cringe at the mention of a chain restaurant… According to the article, readers ranked cities on all ends of the food spectrum – from bakeries, cafes, street food, to gourmet markets and restaurants – and apparently my fellow foodies agreed Cleveland was good enough for a top 10 spot. CLE knocked out cities once known as food meccas such as NYC, LA, and CHI-town to snag 7th. On my food, fun, and best-friend filled Chicago trip this past December, I was pumped for all of the great food I planned to consume in our short three day adventure; unfortunately, I was let down and most of the time thought to myself: “Wow, I can get on I-90, drive somewhere less than 5 minutes, or across the city, to have a brunch, lunch, dinner, coffee, or dessert that results in legitimate heartbreak upon finishing because I can no longer stuff my face with whatever goodness was in front of me a few minutes ago.” All I have to say is congratulations, once again, Cleveland! You finally have your place on the map and in the [good] news and I can’t wait to continue my foodie journey with you.

Cupcakes and Coffee and Groceries…Oh My

It has been a cold, cold winter here in Cleveland! With that said, any time we get above 30 and the sun shines, I am in need of an adventure. After being cooped up studying since September, and graduation looming, I need some fun distractions.

The new Heinen’s in downtown Cleveland opened a few weeks ago and I finally had the opportunity to visit with my mom. This building is a renovated bank building and in the giant rotunda is their pre-made foods, bakery, deli, and meat department; around the outer part of the rotunda and seating on the inside of everything. The aisles and produce section are off to the side and they have somehow managed to fit a store full of anything you need into a little area in a bank. This part is a little cramped, but two carts could easily fit through all of the aisles, and hey, considering downtown residents never had a full-service grocery store before, I’d say it is a worthy trade off! On the second floor is the wine and beer department. There is an appetizer bar as well upstairs and multiple tables and chairs..oh, and self serve wine tasting!! I’m also proud to say I was a winner in the store’s Twitter challenge! I will be receiving my prize (a $10 gift card) later this week. Heinen’s has great customer service because as soon as I won and sent over my information, a social media representative responded saying she had my gift card in the mail within a half hour.

Great view from the 2nd floor of the store (and one of the winning hashtag challenge photos!)

After checking out the store we headed to Pour and Colossal Cupcakes. Pour is a local coffee joint that opened in 2013 specializing in making coffee the old fashioned way by utilizing the pour over system. They only source coffees form some of the best roasters from all over the country and the baristas really take their time when making your coffee. With that said, if you are running late and have a meeting five minutes away, it’s probably a bad choice to stop here before..but well worth waiting until after to grab a cup! I had the ‘ReAnimator Coffee‘ Peru blend – soo good. The best thing about paying a little more for a quality cup of coffee is that you can taste the undertones and it goes down smoothly. Of course, Pikes Place from Starbucks is my on-the-run go to, but I honestly have no idea what could possibly be the undertone in that blend. I’m excited to start my career and begin living downtown before the end of the year! (Also scared for my bank account with all of the great food places around..)

While my coffee was being poured we headed right next door to get some cupcakes. The name says it all, the cupcakes really are colossal! They are easily shareable, but what’s the fun in that so my mom and I had our own.  I snagged the ‘Poppin Bottles’ cupcake that was a vanilla funfetti batter and a whipped champagne frosting. Someday (more than likely after a long, long run) I would like to try their cupcake milkshakes. Made exactly how it sounds, and with my two favorite things, a huge cupcake and some ice cream – YUM. I’m glad this place is really getting recognized too, there have been plenty of celebrity sightings here and many local celebrities (mainly professional athletes) are getting birthday cakes and special orders done here as well.

Hudson Farmers Market

Happy Saturday! Today consisted of studying, running, and more studying for me. I have one more week left of my 4th summer class – it was only 3 weeks to begin with. This one is Cost Accounting so it’s a major time commitment to learn 15 weeks of material in just 3! Before going to the library to study I decided to check out the Hudson farmers market. I had gone last year and got great Hot Pepper jelly from Lyon’s Market. This time I was searching for something filling in hopes it would make me productive… I went for a coffee and this strawberry blueberry muffin:

SB Muffin

Omg best muffin I have ever had. It was so fresh and moist I really did not want it to end! Every bite was as great and fresh as the first. I also bought some chocolate zucchini bread from the vendor after snagging a sample. The company is Top Tier Pastry in Garrettsville. At this point I’m wishing I had bought another for tomorrow morning, oh well. I’ll be back!

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After a major study session, lunch, and more studying I headed out to get my long run done for the week. 6 miles, so nothing crazy. I am proud that I got my 10k time down to 1:00:46! The goal for today’s run was to get the 6.2 miles done in less than an hour, 59:59 would have been perfect, but I didn’t quite make it. It’s still a good accomplishment considering last year I ran around a 1:06 at the Cleveland 10k. This is what I love about running; as long as you finish, no one else is judging your time. You’re only in competition with yourself so every minute, or even second, shaved off is an exciting accomplishment.

Hudson is such a cute city, imagine these colorful colonial styles houses lining most of the streets near their Downtown area.

Hudson is such a cute city, imagine these colorful colonial styles houses lining most of the streets near their Downtown area

Bakersfield – Short North

The other day I drove down to Columbus to celebrate my best friend’s 21st birthday. My mini trip (of only 13 hours) consisted of great food, great times, and great friends! On the “Birthday Eve” we went to a restaurant in Columbus’ Short North district. This is a cute area with some of the best cafés, restaurants, and boutiques! We went to Bakersfield because they have the best margaritas and tacos (that I’ve ever had). On my other friend and I’s birthday (yes, birthday buddies) we were introduced to these gourmet tacos, so I’m glad we decided on this place again! This restaurant has such a great atmosphere too, I 100% recommend it to anyone wanting good (slightly Americanized) tacos, great margaritas, or just a nice place to grab a drink. Most people come here to relax and socialize, so don’t expect the place to clear out quickly, especially around 6:30. We got there at about 7 and were not seated until about 7:40. They did give us the option of eating at the communal table multiple times, but we decided to stick out the wait for one (of their few) larger tables. The staff was great and would come ask if we wanted any water, drinks, or appetizers multiple times while we waited.

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After our 15 minute wait turned into about 40, we were ready to feast. I ordered their margarita which is what they’re very well known for – it was delicious! They use 100% pure blue agave tequila (aka real tequila, sorry Jose!), lime/lemon juice, agave nectar, and Triple Sec. They serve the margs in mason jars which is a cute touch. For my meal I also got the Pollo Rojo (chicken, smokey chili salsa, queso fresco, chipotle lime creme) and Cochinita Pinil (braised pork, pickled onions, salsa) tacos. Our group split the chips, guac, queso, and salsa. Aka we were in a mini food coma prior to leaving! Safe to say the long wait was well worth it.

P.S. Happy National Tequila Day 🙂

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Market District – The Holy Grail of all Grocery Stores

I have been introduced into what is the greatest grocery store I’ve ever encountered; if you know me, this is hard to believe because I am quite the Heinen’s fan! Giant Eagle has outdone themselves with Market District.  There are only 8 of these stores total, spanning through Pennsylvania and Ohio.  Unfortunately the closest one is around an hour away from my house – clearly that has not stopped me. Here’s a little overview of why this grocery store is so great: larger selection than your typical Giant Eagle in regard to organic and other ‘health’ products; a fresh hot bar, salad bar, and soup bar daily; chef’s waiting to prepare a fresh fish sandwich, pizza, sandwich, or BBQ with many options of meat and sides available – the brisket is amazing; a bakery with the most beautiful cakes, pies, tarts, and pastries I’ve ever seen; seemingly endless samples of seafood, dessert, cheese, and other daily recipes; oh and the best macarons I have ever had (…in America). The macarons are pictured in my header, that is the way they are displayed at the store and it is just beautiful.  MD also has a great section where you can put as much as you would like of anything from patriotic sprinkles to machine-grind-it-yourself peanut butter that they weigh by the pound. There is also pepper, mushrooms, olive oil, coffee, and tea with this same layout.  Their hot bar and salad bar are reasonable priced by the pound as well.  A mini bar/cafe is located in the store with room to sit inside, outside, and on the second floor.

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Only a few of the goodies

The sheer size of the store is a little daunting to some, but the designers did a great job of separating the store into categories to make it seem at least a little bit smaller. According to their website, the feel is supposed to be that of an open outdoor market. I’d say they accomplished the goal by having shorter shelving, or maybe just the excessively high ceilings! Going with the idea of markets around the world, the store has an incredible variety of foods to choose from of all ethnicities. It is just physically impossible to leave this store either empty handed or hungry!

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View from the 2nd floor cafe

Tree City Kronut Saturdays

With fried croissants shaped like donuts being all the rage in the midst of the cupcake collapse (really just the Crumbs collapse, I believe cupcakes are not a trend and that they will continue to be a success) I am excited to say I have finally had my first kronut. There is a local coffee shop, Tree City Coffee & Pastry, in Downtown Kent that specializes in…you guessed it, coffee and pastries! This is a great cafe to come and enjoy a breakfast sandwich, homemade peanut butter sandwich, a specialty pastry, or one of their hot or iced drinks. There is a lot of tables, a fireplace, and a friendly modern atmosphere. My personal favorite to get here is the biscuit with local mixed berry jelly. Among other delicious menu items are: chocolate chip walnut biscotti, various cupcake flavors ever changing with the seasons and specialty PB&J (and Nutella..and marshmallow fluff) sandwiches. Now they have plenty of other great fresh made options but that is just a condensed list of a few of my favorite things the local joint has to offer. I have mixed feelings about the coffee; it is usually served too hot to drink for a few minutes and I tend to taste a burnt flavor (roasting the beans too hot?! Not sure). Today the flavor was on point so I guess everyone has their off days. Here is this actual menu full of home-made, fair trade goodies.
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So let’s get into this Kronut business. The shop started serving kronuts about a year ago, only on Saturdays though. For over a year I somehow always managed looking wide-eyed and hungry on Instagram and Facebook over their new post displaying the Kronut of the week; unfortunately, I never got around to getting one. Things, events, and busy college life always got in the way of my Kronut and I. Yesterday I had a free Saturday so after my morning run a friend and I decided to go study at Tree City. The flavor of the day was Kahlua – the kronut was delicious, and huge! A much bigger treat that I expected! I couldn’t taste the Kahlua very much, which was okay because there was still a nice glaze on top of the kronut. (Don’t get me wrong, I do like Kahlua so a little more flavor would have been enjoyable!) It was nice being able to get a taste of what an actual fried croissant tastes like minus any flavorings, frosting, chocolate, and all those extras. It was a million flaky layers of fresh goodness! That sentence really does sum up what it tasted like. I will definitely be stopping by the next few Saturdays that I am here this summer for another coffee and kronut.
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My European Adventure

These past few weeks have been crazy busy. From packing, to traveling, to site seeing, to traveling, and then to unpacking, it’s safe to say I had no time to blog! I didn’t forget about the blog though. My whole time overseas I thought of new things to blog about. This post will be dedicated to all my thoughts (semi-condensed).

I started my adventure in the unbelievably perfect Paris, France. Words cannot describe the beauty of this city. Yes, the metro system is a bit gross and smelly, but hey, that means they’re more concerned taking care of the rest of the city and their food!! While in Paris, we did it all. Had croissants, climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower, walked around, and on top of, Notre Dame, shopped, ate macarons, slowly savored each bite of crepes, and completed all of the other Parisian things you can think of.

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Yumm 🙂

It isn’t possible to have one favorite thing about Paris so here are my two favorite things and why:

Montmartre: The Montmartre area is the highest spot in Paris with the Basilica proudly standing at the very top. The views from in front of the Basilica are simply breathtaking; you see the Eiffel Tower and all of the European style buildings that are built for miles and miles and are seemingly endless. In there area there are many cafes, restaurants, and shops. The famous Moulin Rouge is in this area as well. In a small square area, there are artists set up willing to draw or paint your portrait; some are also selling their gorgeous artwork. I had to have a few of the paintings (when in Paris….). Luckily our group had a “French Business Etiquette Brunch” with a fellow Foodie and journalist, Barbara James. She taught us many things, one of which was do NOT pay full price to the artists. I quickly learned she was right and was able to talk the artist of two watercolor paintings down 35 euros (approximately $47).

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Basilica of the Sacré-Coeur

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Views from the top of Montmartre – highest location in Paris!

Top of the Eiffel Tower: There are no fancy shops, foods, or artists up here, but there are one of a kind views that photos cannot even do justice for. After 300+ steps you are on the first level, great views, but you cannot stop there. 300+ more steps and you are at the 2nd level. You can see more than you could 300 stairs ago, but you are not done yet. To get to the very top of the approximately 1,000 foot tower, an elevator ride is required. Cramming in this elevator with fellow tourists..I mean people..is worth it once you step out of the elevator and walk all around the tower. There are 360 degrees of views that cannot be matched.

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Taken from the very top of the Tower – my favorite picture of the trip

Next on our itinerary was London. While I was not as impressed with London as I was with Paris, I am glad I got to experience the different culture and history associated with the city. We visited both the City of London and “Royal London” which includes Westminster, Buckingham, Kensington, etc. I enjoyed seeing all of the royal palaces, they are gorgeous! The architecture is incredible to think about considering everything was built hundreds of years ago. I got to try the staple dish of London as well: fish & chips! It was a lot less greasy than something you would get in America, but more greasy than Parisian food (French food regulations vs. United States sounds like a great future blog post..). Our group also ate at “Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese”; this pub was rebuilt in 1666 and is the oldest pub in London to date!

My favorite part of our 4 days in London was the Westminster Abbey area. We saw Big Ben, the London Eye, and many other historic monuments of London. I also cannot forget to mention Twinings! The original store is located on Strand Street where it has been for the past 300 years! I went a little crazy at this store buying coffee as well as any and all tea that sounded delicious.

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Westminster & Big Ben

After a 6 am wake-up call followed by a 4.5 hour train ride, we were finally in Edinburgh, Scotland. Sadly, we only had one and a half days in this old-time, historic, city. After settling in we headed to the Edinburgh Castle. Views from the castle are breathtaking, as is the history associated with the castle. There were many areas to view in the castle which would take far too long to talk about each room/mini museum we went in. Following the castle visit, we went back to the hotel and then out for some pizza! The next day started with another accounting firm visit, then we were free until our Whisky Factory tour. In between the two events, a few of us went shopping. My main concern was to find another Hotel Chocolat to get a few last minute gifts (…and of course more chocolate for myself…). After a few hours of shopping we headed to “The Scotch Whisky Experience” with our group. The tour offered a barrel ride with a lesson on the whiskey production process and finished with a tasting. To finish our time in Edinburgh, we spent a few hours on the Royal Mile shopping for gifts and personal souvenirs. We had a nice dinner followed by a visit to the local pub, then we were back to the hotel to pack up and get ready for our flight home the next day.

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View from the castle

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Whisky Tour

It is safe to say I would not have traded this experience for anything! I now understand, and fully agree with, the statement that traveling is the greatest thing money can buy. Of course flights, trains, food, and souvenirs cost money; but the cultural experience and different views of all parts of the world are priceless. The pictures I have of and from the top of the Eiffel Tower, top of Notre Dame, and top of the castle are beautiful, but they do not do the landscapes justice. I realized very quickly on the trip it is important to snap a few pictures to be able to look back on; but putting the camera away and just staring at the views is even more important to get the full experience of being abroad. Au revoir for now!

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Vanilla / Vanilla Cupcakes

Happy Monday!

Hope you are all having a great Monday so far. The other day I made some cupcakes for an upcoming birthday a friend of mine is having. I absolutely love to bake, unfortunately I don’t get to as often as I would like. If I did, I would eat everything I make within about 2 days… That is why I jump on the baking wagon every time there is some event that it would be even slightly acceptable to bring baked goods to! I’m still working on decorating cakes and hope to take a Wilton decorating class at a Jo-ann’s sometime soon! Hopefully you can’t tell, but it was my first time using a real piping bag.  I think they would have turned out a little bit better had I used a tip with a larger hole. Overall, they look pretty cute for my first try!

The recipe I used for my cupcakes came from the Brown Eyed Baker (The original recipe can be found here). I did switch out the sour cream for plain Greek yogurt though. I was able to get 36 mini cupcakes from this batch. That would translate to about 12 normal sized cupcakes.

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Cake:

  • 1½ cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1½ teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon table salt
  • 1 stick, room temperature
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt
  • 1 large egg , room temperature
  • 2 large egg yolks , room temperature
  • 1½ teaspoons vanilla extract

Frosting:

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2½ cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line mini cupcake tin with paper or foil liners.
  2. Whisk flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt together in the bowl of standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.
  3. Add butter, Greek yogurt, egg and egg yolks, and vanilla; beat at medium speed until smooth – about 30 seconds. Finish mixing by hand to make sure there are no flour pockets remaining.
  4. Divide batter evenly among cups of prepared tin. Bake until a toothpick inserted into center comes out clean, about 9 to 11 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from tin and transfer to wire rack.
  5. Using the wire whisk attachment of your stand mixer, whip the butter on medium-high speed for 5 minutes, stopping to scrape the bowl once or twice.
  6. Reduce the speed to low (Unless you want powdered sugar everywhere!!) and gradually add the powdered sugar until well incorporated
  7. Increase the speed to medium-high and add the vanilla until completely combined
  8. Whip at medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, scraping the bowl as needed.

Make sure the cakes are cooled to room temperature before frosting. Enjoy!