Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Squares

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These amazing soft and chew oatmeal raisin squares taste just like your favorite cookie, just in a bigger, chewier square. Oh, and because they have oatmeal, you can totally eat them for breakfast!

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A few days ago, I was having a chat with a new friend. When I was telling her what I did for a living (food & travel writer, recipe developer & occasional home/craft writer) she responded with “Gosh, you sound like the perfect domestic goddess!” I laughed so hard I almost spit my coffee all over my keyboard. Me? A Domestic Goddess? Clearly, she hasn’t seen me coated in flour and powdered sugar, with 45 dishes piled in the sink and an array of plates, fresh herbs, chocolate chips and more all over my dining room table. Clearly she hasn’t seen the dust bunnies (who have recently reproduced and invited their family to live with them) who dwell under my tables and consoles. Or how about that 1 year old pile of mail I still need to toss? Or the piles of clothes in my room?

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After I laughed for about 10 minutes, I started to think a little about domesticity. What actually qualifies someone as domestic? What makes someone a domestic goddess? Sure, I hate dusting, would rather give myself a partial labatomy than do dishes and would rather set myself on fire than put away my laundry, but there are house keeping things that I absolutely love. Like making my bed. This is a new revelation, but now I can’t go downstairs for coffee until our bed is made. I also love doing laundry. I may keep the clean laundry in hampers for weeks, but there’s never more than a few socks in our dirty laundry pile. Oh and vacuuming, don’t even get me started. I LOVE it. And loading the dishwasher is a source of great joy for me (not kidding).

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If you were to visit my house now, you’d see all of this first hand. You’d hear my dishwashing humming along, you’d see my perfectly made bed. You’d probably hear the washing and dryer bumping around as they toss, tumble and dry. You’d also see two large hampers full of clothes, a few pots and pans “soaking” in the sink, a few lonely dust bunnies sunning themselves on the stairs. You’d also probably see lots of dog hair on the couch and piles of (clean) props scattered on my table.

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I wonder, if you saw that, would you classify me as a domestic person? Or just a regular girl with things she loves and hates to do? It’s such a strange word and a strange way to classify someone, don’t you think? And I still beg the question, what actually makes you domestic or not? So friends, please leave your comments below on what you think. I’m channeling my inner Carrie Bradshaw today!

Oh and if you say “omg those squares look heavenly!” that’s okay too. That’s probably how I’d answer anyway :)

Soft and Chewy Oatmeal Raisin Squares

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 14. Inspired by Martha Stewart.
Prep time: >10 minutes
Cook time: 26 – 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg, room temperature
  • 2 cups old fashioned oats
  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 2/3 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • Dash of salt

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease an 8 x 8 glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray and set aside.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the butter, applesauce and sugars together until creamy. Mix in the egg and beat until combined.
  3. In another bowl, whisk the flours, cinnamon and oats together. Add the flour/oat mixture to the butter/applesauce mixture and mix to combine. Carefully fold in the raisins and pecans.
  4. Pour the mixture into your prepared baking pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake for about 26 – 30 minutes, or until golden brown (and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean).
  5. Let cool slightly and then cut into squares.

Nutritional information per square:

Calories: 255
Fat: 8 grams
Carbohydrates: 41 grams
Fiber: 2.2 grams
Protein: 5.6 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 7

One Pot Clambake

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This easy one pot clambake is the perfect dinner to whip up and enjoy this summer. No trips to the cape required! 

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It’s officially summer guys. I mean, the calendar might not say so, but the 95 degree heat and sticky humidity sure does. I love summer, but I don’t necessarily love it HERE. You see, where I live was built over swampland, so the summers tend to get a wee bit humid. And by wee bit, I mean I walk outside, my hair triples in size (but not the size you want), my face starts to sweat and I melt into a puddle of despair.

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You see, my body wasn’t meant for humidity. Which is funny being I spent 3 summers in southeast Georgia and have lived in the DC area for almost 4 years now. You’d think I’d get used to 80%+ humidity. But no. Every summer it’s the same. I walk outside, sweat my face off, retreat into the air conditioning and threaten to shave my head. Every single year. It’s actually a surprise I still have hair on my head, folks.

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The best part about this summer, though, is the pool. There’s a pool 4 minutes from our little condo and I’m already daydreaming of spending my afternoons there working on my suntan. We haven’t had access to a pool in 2 years and I’ve completely forgotten how amazing it is to have one. I’ve told E about 15,000 times, when we buy a house (here or in SC), we’re going to have a pool. I don’t care if I have to spend hours cleaning it myself. I don’t care if I’m the only person using it. I’ll use it in the middle of winter. I just need one.

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The humidity and heat aside, I’m actually looking forward to this summer. We’re finally buying an outdoor grill, we have a beautiful patio and my husband just found out he’s no longer allergic to seafood. That means this incredibly delicious one pot clambakes in our favorite Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart stock pot will be happening on a weekly basis. There’s really nothing like eating fresh seafood from a pot overlooking some trees, drinking a cold beer. Am I right or am I right?

One Pot Clambake

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 3 – 4. Inspired by Martha Stewart.
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 30 – 40 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 pound small red potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 large onion, sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup dry white wine (I used a dry Pinot Gris)
  • 1/3 cup water or vegetable broth
  • 4 small mini ears of corn (I used the steamfresh microwavable bags)
  • 2 1/2 dozen fresh littleneck clams
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1/3 pound shrimp, peeled and cooked (about 12 – 14 small pieces, 6 – 8 large)
  • 1/3 pound fresh lobster claw meat
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 -2  tablespoons crushed red pepper*

*Optional for a little heat.

Directions: 

  1. In a large Le Creuset Dutch oven (Mine was 5 1/2 quart), heat the 1 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic. Cook until just starting to soften, about 3 minutes. Increase heat to high and add in wine and water. Bring the mixture to a rapid boil and add in the potatoes. Sprinkle in the salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Cover and let boil for about 5 minutes, or until potatoes start to soften. Add in the clams and lemon juice. Cover and cook another 10 minutes, or until the clams open. Discard any unopened clams.
  2. Meanwhile microwave your corn until done.
  3. Add in the shrimp, lobster meat, parsley, corn and dill to the clam pot and reduce heat to medium low. *** Cook another 5 – 6 minutes, or until the shrimp and lobster meat turns opaque. Remove from heat.
  4. Now, there’s two ways to eat this. You can either eat the fish, corn and potatoes directly from the broth (which is what we did) or you can remove the fish, potatoes, corn and onion from the bowl and set on a large serving platter. If you do this, pour the broth into a large bowl and whisk in remaining butter, salt, pepper, more crushed red pepper, parsley and additional dill. Dip the fish into the broth and eat!

***If you pan on eating directly from the dutch oven, melt the two remaining tablespoons of butter and add to the broth when you add in the shrimp.

Nutritional information per serving (at least one ear of corn, a few shrimp, 1/2 pound clams, less than 1/4 pound potatoes, a spoonful of lobster meat and about 1/4 cup broth)

Calories: 379.25
Fat: 10 grams
Carbohydrates: 31.25 grams
Fiber: 5.3 grams
Protein: 20.25 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 6

NOTE: This post contains affiliate links.

My Weekend in San Francisco & Napa

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…As told through the lens of my camera.

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I plan on doing a much deeper, much more thorough outline of my weekend in San Francisco, but for now, I just want to share a whole bunch of photos of my amazing weekend there at the beginning of May. Even though I have family in San Anselmo and my brother has lived outside of the city for close to 5 years now, it was my first time visiting the foggy city. I knew it was going to be beautiful, but I didn’t realize just HOW jaw-droppingly gorgeous the bay area actually is.

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I found myself speechless as we drove over the iconic Golden Gate bridge and walked down Pier 39 as the seals played in the sparkling blue water.

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I was in complete awe as we drove through the redwoods on our way to North beach and up and down the bright green rolling hills of San Anselmo. I haven’t been so incredibly inspired by a city and its landscape in a very long time. I can easily see why so many people want to live there.

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That may have been my first time in Frisco, but I can promise you, it wasn’t my last.

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The whole weekend was a blast. I mean, you’re with my family, how can it not be? We spent most of our time eating, cruising around the valley and the bay, drinking wine and laughing. Honestly, I need to visit them far more often. It’s such a nice change of pace to my normal hectic, crazy schedule.

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Probably one of my favorite parts of the weekend was the time we spent in Napa. Friends, it was heaven. I mean, as a wine snob and affectionado, it was like returning to the holy grail for me. We visited two wineries, Cakebread Cellars and Silver Oak, and I can not say enough amazing things about our time at Cakebread. Dave, the brand manager, greeted us and showed us around the incredibly beautiful winery. We also picked the most perfect day to go because they were having a food festival celebrating the rubaiyat grape. The food was incredible, the wine was even better and the weather was absolutely dreamy. Plus, Dave is so knowledgable and funny, and will tell you anything you need to know about this award winning winery.

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If you make it out to Napa, go to Cakebread. It was the winery we couldn’t stop talking about the entire time we were in Napa.

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Silver Oak was beautiful as well. It’s a winery you have to go to when in Napa, if only to try the rich, fully bodied and incredibly smooth wines. Honestly, the tasting room was stuffy and the sales associate helping us was kind of rude. But that could have been because we came right from Cakebread Cellars, and no place was going to live up to those standards. Even still, we had a great tasting there and the scenery was just breathtaking.

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Besides Napa, one of my favorite afternoons was spent drinking Pliny the Elder, eating oysters at Drake’s Oyster Bay Company and relaxing by North beach with my hilarious family. I am so drawn to the water and being there reminded me of why I love the ocean so much. I keep telling E we need to move somewhere near a beach, and I think all of my nagging is finally paying off. He’s beginning to cave!

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And of course, no trip to Frisco is complete without a visit to the Golden Gate bridge. It’s so very touristy, but the Golden Gate bridge is truly a stunning landmark. It’s pretty interesting to see how they built it back in the 1930′s. It always amazes me that these landmarks built over 100 years ago without any of the technology we have now stand now.

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Another highlight was visiting the many farmers markets around the city. They make our cute little farmers market here in Falls Church look so insignificant!

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I’m already working on my trip back this fall. I seriously can’t wait to spend more time in this beautiful area and with my fabulous family!

Fresh Lemon & Caper Red Vinegar Salad Dressing

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For additional recipe ideas, you can visit the Pompeian website. This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian. All opinions are 100% mine.

I’m a salad junkie. Whenever I can, I’m eating some sort of leafy green goodness. And, even though I’m almost always perpetually on a diet, that’s not why I enjoy them. I just love eating fresh, crisp and juicy vegetables. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been obsessed with veggies. I was never one of those kids whose parents had to “force” them to eat their broccoli or their salads. In fact, I was almost always finishing my brothers because they wouldn’t touch them.

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I know, I was a weird kid. But I like to think my obsession with veggies at such an early age has helped maintaining a healthy lifestyle as an adult a little easier. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still enjoy the occasional hamburger, plate of fries or big slice of chocolate cake. But when it comes down to it and there’s an option for a a salad, that’s almost always my first choice.

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That’s why I was pretty excited when Pompeian Red Wine Vinegar asked me to create a fresh, unique salad dressing with their line of red vinegars for their “#DressingItUp” campaign.

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I do love creamy dressings, but my all time favorite is simple: A squirt of high quality olive oil and a drizzle of vinegar. Balsamic used to be my go-to, but now I can’t get enough of Pompeian’s red vinegar. I’m not just saying that either, I could literally drink it.

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For my fresh new dressing, I used stuff I found right in my pantry and fridge. A can of capers (don’t ask me why I had them), a juicy, fresh lemon, Pompeian extra virgin olive oil and red vinegar, honey and a dash of dried basil. This dressing couldn’t be simpler, but don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s boring. This vinaigrette packs a mean punch of delicious flavors, and instantly boosts any of your salads.

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Trust me, you’ll love it.

Fresh Lemon & Caper Red Vinegar Salad Dressing

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CLICK HERE FOR THE PRINTABLE VERSION OF THIS RECIPE!

Serves about 4. Recipe adapted from My Recipes.
Prep time: >5 minutes

Ingredients: 

  • 1/4 cup Pompeian red vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons Pompeian extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon real clove honey
  • 1 tablespoon capers, drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • Dash of pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne chili pepper
  • Sprinkle of dried basil

Directions:

  1. In a medium size bowl, whisk the red vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and honey together until fully combined. Then carefully whisk in the capers, garlic salt, pepper, chili pepper and dried basil. Stir to combine.
  2. Pour over your favorite salads or save for later in a tight jar!

Nutritional information per serving (about 1 1/2 tablespoons)

Calories: 39.75
Fat: 2.25 grams
Carbohydrates: 4.5 grams
Protein: 0 grams
Fiber: 0 grams
Weight Watchers Points: 1

For additional recipe ideas, you can visit the Pompeian website. This is a Sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pompeian. All opinions are 100% mine.

Let It Go

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In order to be successful in my line of work, you need to be three things; outgoing. adventurous. And disgustingly passionate. Now, I’ve met my fair share of people who don’t fit into any of these categories and they’ve done fine. But those people, those Anthony Bourdains you see traveling the world, telling stories and writing books, they definitely are. But there’s another thing I’ve learned from the seasoned travelers I am lucky enough to travel with. The ones with creased wrinkles next to their eyes, weathered hair and tattered jeans, I’ve learned you also need to stop giving a f***.

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I’m not, naturally, one of those people who can just let things roll off their shoulders. I’m a worrier. The best way to put it is that I fester. I stress about the things I can’t control and let it bother me until I burst into tears. When flights are delayed, I’m broke, my blog traffic sucks, I can’t let it go. I let it get me so down that I can’t focus on anything else. And you know what? That sucks. It’s not a way to live. I’m too busy comparing myself to other people, letting things I can’t control stress me out that I’m not living. I’m not looking out the window right beside me. I’m not focusing on what actually matters. And as a travel writer, that’s like seeing a new world through a black and white lens.

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One of the most amazing people I met on my travels was an older guy. He had been to almost every single country and had a story to tell from every place he’d been. He had dusty brown hair with a few pieces of grey, a rugged face with scars and eyes that lit up anytime you asked him a question. It was our last night and I was stressing out about something. Money, the flight, life, who knows. I was staring at my phone, huffing and puffing, while the rest of them enjoyed their dinner. He turned to me and asked what was wrong. I told him, with so much determination in my voice, what was going on. My voice was trembling and, to me, it was the worst thing to ever happen to me. He looked me right in the eyes and said “I have four words for you. Stop giving a f***. You can’t control it, get over it.” I remember those words like they were stamped into my brain. I remember the way he looked at me when he said them. He turned back to his dinner and joined right back into the conversation he was having.

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I went into this most recent trip feeling crappy. I’ve been stressed with work and I’ve just sort of let the things I love go by the wayside. Relationships, this blog, my job. I’ve been so focused on the things I can’t control, like internet traffic for example, I stopped caring about the ones that I can, like my success at work, my relationship, my self-esteem. In short, I stopped living. I was going through the motions of life, but not actually living it. I was breathing, eating, sleeping and blinking, but not enjoying any of it. I was a robot, void of any feelings, emotions and excitement.

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Notice how most of this story was written in past tense? I did that for a reason. That robot, the girl looking through a black and white lens, was the girl I was yesterday. The girl I am today is the one I’ve always been but was just too damn ridiculous and self conscious to let myself be. I know I’ll never be perfect. Hell, I know there will be times I see flashes of the girl I used to be and I’ll have trouble trying to find my place, my comfort and my stand in stressful, crazy situations. But the most comforting part of all of this is that I know I can be now. I know I can live my life completely in the present. I know that I can let the things go that are supremely out of my control. And I know that I can be happy, easy going and excited again, and that’s a pretty awesome realization.

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So how did I do that, you’re asking. How do you stop caring and learn to let it go? How do I stop comparing myself to others and base my self worth on their success? How did I learn to be happy, loving and completely in the present? It wasn’t easy, but I came up with a list. A list of ways to let those feelings go and a list of words to say when you’re feeling like shit. I’m not psychotherapist or self help guru, but it worked for me. Here’s hoping it can just work for someone else too.

How to Learn to Let it Go in 8 Super Easy Steps

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  1. Ask yourself this question: Can you control this situation? If the answer is yes, then do something about it. If the answer is no, stop caring and focus on something you can control.
  2. Play with a pet. If you don’t have a dog, find a dog to play with. Or a cat. Or a hamster. When I’m starting to feel down, I immediately pet my puppy Oscar. Dogs don’t care about blog views, your bank account, how much you weigh. They just love you, unconditionally. They are just so happy to be near you, nothing else in the world matters. And that’s a good mentality to live your life with.
  3. Unplug. That means your computer, cell phone, iPad, iPod, tablet, beeper. Whatever you have that is connecting you with the interwebs, turn off and leave off for a few hours. Or hell, overnight. If you’re like me, seeing the success of others can somethings be overwhelming. Seeing the perfectly skinny girls with perfect hair and perfect makeup on Pinterest is enough to send me spiraling into a tunnel of self loathing. So, I turn it off. If you need a lesson on unplugging, check out my girl Kristin at Dine and Dish.
  4. Talk it out. When I’m feeling depressed, sad or bummed about something I can’t seem to let go, I talk to someone about it. Sometimes it’s my husband, sometimes its my best friend, sometimes it’s another food blogger I’ve never actually met. Sometimes all you need is to hear how you feel out loud before you can find a way to feel better.
  5. Travel. There’s no drug in this world that gives you a better high than stepping off an airplane into a new country, city or town. One of my favorite quotes about traveling is this one by Gustave Flaubart: “Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world.” And that is so incredibly fitting for me and this post. When you’re hiking through the impoversihed worlds of Southeast Asia, your worries and problems feel a little smaller. It’s not even that, though. It’s hard not to be incredibly amazed and humbled when you see new cities in this incredible world. It’s hard not to feel lucky or happy if you get the chance to explore them.
  6. Exercise. In the words of one of my favorite movies “exercise makes you happy, and happy people just don’t kill their husbands.”
  7. Write. To me, writing can be incredibly therapeutic. I mean, where do you think this post came from? I was looking at another blog’s success on Facebook and, like a poision seeping through my veins, I started to feel down. I started to feel inadequate, pathetic, not as talented. And instead of festering, like I used to do so well, I wrote. I wrote this post. I wrote a chapter in my book. I just wrote, without care for anything else. And an hour later, I felt better.
  8. Love. This is probably the easiest, yet hardest, number on this list. I’ve always loved my family, my husband and my friends. And they’ve always loved me back. But I’ve never actually thought about the impact that love had on my life, when I really thought about. Love is one of the most powerful things in the world, and we don’t put as much credit on it as we should. It’s the love of my husband, who supports me through everything, the love of my family, who will always be my rocks and the love of my friends, who stand by me through thick and thin, that gets me through those situations I can’t handle. And when you sit back and realize you have the love of so many important people, it makes dealing with even the hardest things a little easier. You learn to let the stuff that doesn’t matter and focus on what does, the love in your life.

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I’ll never have it all together, but at least I can say I’m truly living my life. And how many people can say that and really mean it?

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