Archives for March 2014

Peanut Butter Stuffed Brownies

Today I am sharing an insanely delicious brownie recipe with y’all.

I am also starting my second 24DC today. So while these brownies are sitting in my refrigerator, I am here sipping on my fiber drink… It’s a cruel, cruel world.

Thankfully, I enjoyed enough of these brownies (and chex mix and pizza and wine…) this weekend to hold me over for the next 24 days and then some. Plus, I decided this recipe is just too good to withhold it from you any longer!

Brownie 1

Do you remember my lazy-induced recipe last week? Well, this recipe almost didn’t happen because of said laziness. I underestimated the amount of brownie mix I needed and had to run to the store mid-baking to grab more!

The things I do for the love of baking…

And if you’re wondering, yes, I used boxed brownie mix in this recipe. Girlfrand had a busy night and needed to get brownies into the oven as quickly as possible. This is a no judgement zone when it comes to brownie mix ;)

Anyways, back to the recipe at hand!

These bad boys involve a layer of dense, chocolate brownies topped with a layer of peanut buttery goodness sprinkled with chocolate chips and then topped with yet another layer of chocolate brownies.

Oh yes. It happened and it was most definitely the best brownie I’ve ever had.

Brownie 2

Peanut Butter Stuffed Brownies

Makes 24 brownies


  • 2 boxes chocolate brownie mix (plus ingredients called for on package)
  • 2-10 oz packages Reese’s peanut butter chips
  • 1.5 cups heavy whipping cream
  • 1-12 oz package semi-sweet chocolate chips


Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9×9 baking pan with cooking spray. Mix boxes of brownie mix per package instructions, scoop half of the batter into baking pan and bake for 15 minutes. The brownies will not be fully cooked. While brownies are cooking, heat heavy whipping cream over medium-low heat until it just begins to bubble. Pour over Reese’s chips and stir until melted and smooth. Spread Reese’s mixture over baked brownies and sprinkle chocolate chips on top of Reese’s layer. Top pan with remaining brownie batter and bake for 35-45 minutes. Brownies may not appear to be fully cooked but these should not be over-baked. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before enjoying.


Brownie 3

In case you were wondering, these brownies are healthy. How is that possible, you ask? I used organic eggs, whipping cream, and butter in the recipe. And we all know that organic = healthy :)

What is your favorite brownie recipe? Boxed brownie mix – yay or nay?

Blends Do Chicago!

This weekend was  SO. MUCH. FUN.

photo 3 (4)

I cannot believe it is already over but I am so happy that I have amazingly wonderful friends (that I met through this little blog!) who make weekends like this absolutely perfect!

photo 3 (5)

Katie, Caroline, and Melanie all arrived in Chicago around noon on Friday. I was so anxious for their flights to land that I stalked their travel paths into the city! I decided to show off my superb Chicago driving skillz and road rage during our drive from the airport to their hotel. Note to any and all future visitors… a cab may be a safer option than me driving ;)

photo 2 (4)

Once everyone was settled into the hotel, we headed to Eataly – AKA a blogger’s paradise. It was around 2pm and we all starving hangry so after wandering around the masses of pasta and wine and restaurants, we decided to eat at Le Verdure – the vegetarian restaurant at Eataly.

photo 1 (4)

There was a bit of a wait so we sipped on a glass of vino (I mean, if you twist my arm… ;) ) while perusing the amazing selection of Italian food.

photo 2 (5)

Caroline and I both ordered the lunch special – an open faced cheese, mushroom, and arugula sandwich with minestrone soup. It was delicious and exactly what we needed to kick off our Chicago weekend!

photo 5 (3)

photo 4 (2)

Another perk of blogger weekends… I am not the only one taking photos of my food! Hehe… Sorry for the photo, Katie ;)

photo 3 (6)

After lunch, Katie and I hit up my favorite nail salon for some much needed pedicures and then stopped by my apartment so I could grab my clothes for the evening! Katie had the privilege (somehow I do not think that’s the correct word… haha!) of meeting the infamous Mitchell. Mitchell was in prime form for her arrival and I’m pretty sure he licked her face for 5 minutes straight…

katie and mitchell

Wine and snacks and girl chat at the hotel took up the rest of the afternoon and then it was time for dinner!

photo 1 (5)

After much contemplation and discussion, I made dinner reservations at Nellcote. I absolutely love this restaurant and am so happy that I was able to share it’s glamorous atmosphere and tasty eats with these girls!

photo 4 (3)

For dinner we shared margarita pizza, roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potatoes, and potato gnocchi.  Oh, and there was also champagne :) It was all SO good and I most definitely recommend Nellcote to anyone visiting – or living in – Chicago!

photo 5 (4)

The rest of the night involved hanging out at the hotel, more girl talk, and planning our Saturday! I decided to spend the night in my own bed and took this amazing ridiculous elevator selfie to end the night ;)

photo 2 (6)

Saturday morning came bright and early. I met Katie at the hotel and we headed to body pump at my gym! I had a lot of fun showing her around my digs and I loved taking body pump with a friend. #pleasemovehere

photo 1 (6)

I was ridiculously hungry after our workout and didn’t think I was going to make it on my 7-minute walk home… Thankfully, Kyle is amazing and had a bacon-filled quiche waiting for me when I walked in the door. This recipe will be shared soon because it’s just too good to keep to ourselves!

photo 5 (5)

Once I was showered and had a tummy full of food, I met the girls for our Chicago site-seeing day!

photo 3 (8)

First stop was coffee. Priorities!

photo 4 (4)

Then we headed to The Bean for the obligatory bean selfies :) It was PACKED but we still managed to get a few photos of ourselves.

photo 1 (7)

photo 3 (7)

photo 2 (7)

Once we took our fair share of selfies, we walked a few blocks (it seemed like FOREVER because it was super windy and cold!) to a mall where we could do some damage.

photo 1 (8)

Hello Lululemon, Banana Republic, and J. Crew :) I definitely found some great buys (don’t worry Kyle, everything was on sale!) and I will share those with y’all on Tuesday!

Around 1pm, we realized we needed food in a bad way. Since this was Caroline’s first trip to Chicago, she requested Chicago-style pizza for lunch and who am I to deny her cravings?! ;) The wait was LONG (and crowded) at Giordano’s so we found an indoor patio across the street to sip wine and nibble on some bread while waiting for our table.

photo 4 (5)

Once our table was ready, we sprinted across the street and were brought a delicious, deep dish, veggie (no mushrooms, no olives!) pizza that we dove into.

photo 3 (9)

The pizza was incredible but our conversations are what made the meal perfect. I love these girls SO much and am so happy we have such great connections and can share anything and everything! #comebacktome!

After a little more shopping, we headed back to the hotel for wine (theme of the weekend…), snacks, and getting ready for the evening.

photo 1 (9)

Katie’s one request for the weekend was a margarita – I’m so happy my friends are easy to please, pizza and margs! – so on Saturday night, we hit up Mercadito for dinner.

photo 4 (6)

After eating a late lunch and snacking all afternoon, we weren’t super hungry so we split three types of guacamole and chicken tacos. And lots of tequila…

mercadito Collage

Another delicious Chicago meal for the win! After dinner, we grabbed another drink at RM Champagne Salon Bar and I surprisingly didn’t take any photos… I am blaming the tequila… and the beer and the wine. #yikes

This morning came much too early and with a headache but thankfully we had brunch planned! I took Katie, Carly, and Alisha to Little Goat when they visited back in November and knew I wanted to go again this weekend but MUCH earlier so we didn’t have to wait for a table.

photo 4 (7)

We arrived around 8am and were seated right away – Thank goodness because I needed food and I needed it fast! I decided to go with the heavy carb diet for breakfast (Have you heard of it?! ;) ) and ordered fries and a grilled cheese sandwich. It was just what the doctor ordered and I felt SO much better after getting some food into my belly.

photo 5 (7)

We walked back to the hotel after brunch and said our sad goodbyes before parting ways.

photo 1 (10)

The rest of my day was filled with a few naps (they were unfortunately not successful and I didn’t sleep!), laundry, grocery shopping, and a family walk.

I had such a great weekend and CANNOT wait until I cross paths with my pretties once again :) Miss you girls already! xoxo

If you were to visit Chicago, what would be your one request? Before I moved here, I always wanted pizza and shopping :)

What are your favorite pizza toppings? Black olives!

Weekly Meal & Fitness Plan 3.29.14

Happy Sunday!

I can’t wait to fill you all in on my fun weekend with Caroline, Katie and Melanie but right now, I’m busy meal prepping and getting back into the swing of things after a fabulous few days. I’ll be back tonight with a recap of our #blendsdochicago weekend :)

photo 3 (4)

Weekly Goal:

I’m starting up my second 24DC tomorrow (much needed after last night’s tequila, haha!) so my focus this week is putting healthy, clean foods into my body. I can’t wait to get that AdvoCare healthy feeling and energy boost back!

Weekly Meal Plan:

  • Saturday: Mercadito with my girls
  • Sunday: Chicken enchiladas via Chef Kyle
  • Monday: Hummus Chicken
  • Tuesday: Baked sweet potatoes with black beans, avocado, salsa and eggs
  • Wednesday: Shrimp and quinoa
  • Thursday: Turkey burgers with sweet potato fries
  • Friday: TBD

Weekly Fitness Plan:

  • Saturday: Body Pump with Katie and walking over 25k steps throughout the day!
  • Sunday: Walk with Mitchell and Kyle
  • Monday: 6am Boot Camp
  • Tuesday: Treadmill Run
  • Wednesday: 6am Boot Camp
  • Thursday: Kettleball Workout
  • Friday: Treadmill Run

What did you do this weekend? What is on your meal plan for the week ahead?

It’s Friday, it’s Friday!

Yes, it’s FINALLY Friday!

But it’s not any Friday… Today some of my favorites are coming to visit! So, in honor of Friday Favorites, I’m listing off some of my current favs from the week :)

1. These lovely ladies! As you’re reading this, they’re on their way to Chicago (or already here!!) and we have a fun weekend planned. Make sure you follow us on Instagram and Twitter with the hashtag #blendsdochicago (<– OF COURSE we have a hashtag!) to see us in action.

hls roomies walk

2. After much contemplation, I finally have my own AdvoCare site!

I almost went with but figured that wasn’t business appropriate ;) Although it does give me ideas for a new blog…


3. These brownie bars delectable pieces of heaven that I can’t wait to share with you next week! They’re amazing and – by some miracle, I managed to save part of the pan for my lovely ladies (and Kyle!)… This recipe does not disappoint, although I wouldn’t expect anything less from my favorite combination.


And thankfully, everyone visiting isn’t afraid of dog germs because Mitchell helped me bake last night ;)

photo (1)

4. A “family” tequila dinner at Adobo Grill last night! Mexican food paired with tequila drinks?! Yes, please! I had a fun night with Kyle and his family and can’t wait to share it all with you next week.

photo (2)

5. This maxi dress from Target. I got it in the “black” color which is an odd description considering the top is striped and the bottom is a flow-y floral. Either way, the price was right and now it just needs to warm up so I can wear it!

6. The AdvoBar snack bars have been lifesavers for me this week! I’ve been running around like a crazy person and these give me staying power (hello 10g protein!) plus they taste like a candy bar for only 140 calories. A healthy candy? No complaints from me!

AdvoBar® Snack

I’m linking up with Katie and Clare for this week’s Friday celebration :)

What was your favorite moment this weekend? What’s on the schedule for your weekend?

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Day

You guys.

I totally dropped the ball on something… Me, the queen of chocolate and peanut butter deliciousness MISSED Chocolate-Peanut Butter Day yesterday.

I should be ashamed.

Now, to give myself some credit, I do believe that this was a made up blog “holiday” but still… Missing this day is on par with missing your spouse’s or your child’s birthday. Basically something that should just never happen!

Never again, my beloved chocolate and peanut butter, will I miss your special day, the 25th of March <3

To make it up to my favorite ingredients (sorry Nutella and wine, you will have your day to shine in the future…), I’m sharing with y’all some of my favorite creations of the chocolate and peanut butter variety.

Get your mixing bowls ready, these recipes are guaranteed to make you run to your kitchen, pull out a mixin’ bowl, and throw in ALL of the chocolate and peanut butter ;)

Fudge 2

Peanut-Butter Chocolate Swirl Fudge

Reese's 4

Reese’s Cheesecake Brownies

Skinny Chunky Monkey 1

{Skinny} Chubby Monkey

Salted Peanut Butter and Fudge Brownies

brownie 2

Triple Layer Chocolate-Peanut Butter Brownies

Reese's 1

{Homemade} Peanut Butter Cups

IC Cake 1

Nut Butter + Chocolate Ice Cream Cake

Are you drooling yet? ;)

Find these and many more sinfully delicious concoctions on my Recipe Page at the top of the screen!

Also, since chocolate and peanut butter play a major role in my day-to-day diet, I’m linking up with Jenn for What I Ate Wednesday!

Did you partake in Chocolate-Peanut Butter Day yesterday? I had peanut butter toast (sadly, sans chocolate) for breakfast and then a peanut-chocolate chip trail mix for a snack which I hope counts!

What is your favorite way to enjoy the delectable pairing? Do I have to choose?! I love any type of Reese’s holiday candy but I also love eating a spoonful of PB topped with chocolate chips. It makes my heart happy :)

#28 Treat Yourself Tuesday

Happy Tuesday!

Are y’all ready for some treats? Shockingly, I didn’t do any shopping last week. Don’t worry, I’m feeling fine ;) I was able to find other ways to treat myself that didn’t involve becoming a mall rat, hehe…

Treat Yourself Tuesday Badge

If you’re new to TYT, head over here to read about why I am a firm supporter and advocate for treating ourselves – even in the smallest of ways – everyday! I promise you will fall in love with the idea and once you do, please link up below :)

First treat of the week was a night full of sushi and wine with friends! Nothing beats a fun evening out, especially over good conversation and plenty of sushi.

photo 2 (72)

Froyo. No sugary explanation needed ;)

froyo friday

There were a few nicer days (the term nice is all relative after this winter!) and I happily indulged in an iced americano. It’s my favorite Starbucks beverage and I cannot wait to enjoy it more often in the warmer weather that is {hopefully} headed our way.

photo 5 (61)

Being handy! I’ve been stressing out about all of my purses lying in a pile in my closet (yep, I stress about the oddest things…), so this weekend, during my overly productive Saturday morning, I decided to do something about it. I bought a hanging rack at Target (I guess this counts as shopping…) and now my smaller purses are organized and hung where I can see them.

photo 3 (73)

Sometimes I remind myself of Carrie Bradshaw…

-Carrie Bradshaw/Vanessa Jocson :)


photo 1 (76)

I also treated myself to some lovely yellow flowers on Saturday afternoon. A little color always brightens up my favorite spot in the apartment!

photo 2 (75)


So tell me, how did you treat yourself last week?

How handy are you when it comes to house work? Kyle will never admit it but I’m much better when it comes to fixing things ;) I credit that to growing up on an acreage! 

 Loading InLinkz ...

Dark Chocolate-Almond Cookies

Dark chocolate. Sea salt. Almonds.

Is there anything else necessary for a rich and fancy dessert? I think not.

Cookies 1

The funny thing is, these cookies were never meant to be fancy cookies. They were driven by a severe cookie craving (okay, cookie dough craving…) last week after work that needed to be satiated ASAP or there was going to be trouble.

And by trouble, I mean Kyle was going to arrive home to a cranky wife… and that is never a good thing ;)

Cookies 4

The only problem with this craving, however, was that I was feeling super lazy…. like didn’t want to walk the one block to the grocery store to get any ingredients kind of lazy. It was one of those days, what can I say?

Cookies 6

So what was a girl to do? I opened my fridge and found a dark chocolate-almond bar, almond flour and honey. It was time get creative.

Cookies 5

Thankfully my laziness creativeness also means these cookies are gluten-free AND egg-free and that means cookie dough you can eat without any worry of illness! cough *Amanda* cough ;)

I am going to claim these to be the healthiest cookies ever created. No eggs. No flour. Dark chocolate. Plus almonds. All you need to do is add in a glass of red vino and you have a heart-healthy snack. And that’s a huge win to me!

Cookies 3

Dark Chocolate-Almond Cookies

Makes 10 cookies (plus a little extra dough to eat!)


  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 oz (or 2/3) dark chocolate bar
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3 TBSP coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled
  • 2 TBSP honey
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 TBSP milk (I used almond milk)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a small food processor, chop chocolate until in small, fine pieces. Mix together flour and baking soda in medium bowl and set aside. In a small bowl, mix together coconut oil, honey, vanilla and milk. Pour liquid mixture into flour mixture and then stir in chocolate pieces. Form dough into small balls (and eat a few while you’re at it!), place onto cookie sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes, until slightly browned. Allow to cool 3-5 minutes on cookie sheet then remove to wire rack to cool completely. Enjoy!

Cookies 2

I used a chocolate bar because of said laziness but you could easily use a plain ol’ chocolate chips… although baking with a fancy dark chocolate-almond bar will give you bragging rights for days ;)

Also, Kyle LOVED these cookies. He had them for breakfast multiple times last week and when he ate the last one, he didn’t tell me. If you ask me, that’s the way to come home to a cranky wife ;)

What is your favorite healthy snack? Have you ever gotten creative in the kitchen because you didn’t want to run to the store?

Girl and the Goat, Froyo, and Sushi – A weekend of eats!

Hi there :) How was your weekend?

It was a great one for us here in Chicago.

Friday night (I am using the term “night” loosely here as our reservations were at 4:45pm!), Kyle and I finally visited Girl and the Goat! We also apparently walked right by Stephanie Izard but since I am so far removed (I have never really talked about it here but I have zero interest in any type of celebrity or their gossip…) from pop culture, Kyle had to point it out after the fact, haha!

photo 1 (75)

We tried 5 different courses including: broccoli-cheese bread (this will be recreated ASAP!), beet salad, trout tartare, goat empanadas and pig face (yep, that’s the egg one!). Everything was very good but our verdict?

GATC Collage

… Not worth the hype. (Let the hate comments begin… ;) ) Yes, the food was good. Yes, the food was innovative and creative. However, it wasn’t any better than any of the other restaurants here in Chicago and definitely not worth the 3-month wait to get in. With that being said, I still think it’s worth checking out if you’re visiting Chicago and can get on the reservation list!

Instead of getting dessert at GATG, we decided froyo was a must. I hadn’t had froyo since last year – like November-ish, and it was just as delicious as I remember ;)

froyo friday

Since we ate ridiculously early, I was ready for bed by 7:30pm. #truestory So Kyle and Mitchell stayed up to watch the Cyclones win while I went to bed at the late hour of 8pm…

photo 5 (59)

Because of that early bedtime, I was up and ready to go early Saturday morning.

photo 2 (73)

Before 10am, Kyle and I had the entire apartment cleaned, laundry done, quiche in the oven and made our weekly run to Target. Wowzers! Being productive felt amazing so we decided to cheers over mimosas while the quiche was cooking ;)

photo 3 (71)

The rest of the day included a trip to the vet for some booster shots for Mitchell, a nap and a new kettle bell workout at my gym.

photo 5 (58)

Then came sushi night with friends. I wore stripes because it is basically my signature pattern at this point ;)

photo 3 (70)

Sushi Para 2 has all-you-can-eat sushi for about $20/person and we always leave regretting the amount of sushi we ordered. There were 5 of us and we ordered this…

photo 2 (72)

And this.

photo 1 (73)

Yikes. Needless to say, I am STILL full, my fingers are still puffy from the salt, and my sushi craving has been quenched for at least a little while ;)

This morning, I slept in until the late hour of 8am, cleaned up the wine glasses from our pre-sushi festivities the night before, did a little blogging (I have a delicious recipe comin’ at ya tomorrow!) and then hit up the gym for some cardio kickboxing. The class was FULL and it got super steamy, super quick but thankfully, I sweated out alllll of the soy sauce from the night before!


I refueled with a tasty, gluten-free snack and an iced soy latte post-class. The Gluten Free Bar in chocolate peanut butter (don’t tell me you’re surprised…) was SO good and I will definitely be stocking up on more.

The rest of the afternoon was spent at lunch with family followed by a 2-hour nap. It was amazing even though I probably won’t sleep at all tonight.

I hope y’all had fabulous weekends – I can’t wait to hear about them in the comments!

Tell me one thing you did this weekend. Have you ever visited a popular restaurant only to not be overly impressed? 

Bank of America Chicago Marathon

I did it.

The lines are signed. The registration fee is paid. The training group is confirmed.

chicago marathon

I signed up and I’m running the Bank of America Chicago Marathon!

As you might remember, last year about this time I registered for a marathon and it didn’t end up happening. I was under a lot of stress with our big move, was facing some health issues and decided it would be best for my body (and my sanity) to forgo the marathon experience until I was in tip-top shape. While it wasn’t a total fail, I still ran the half-marathon – basically untrained, BTW! – I am craving that death-like marathon experience and cannot wait to participate this fall!

Typically, the Chicago Marathon entry works as a lottery. SO many people would like the opportunity to run the marathon (because Chicago is just that freakin’ awesome, #amiright?!) that everyone is entered into a lottery and at the beginning of April, the marathon committee randomly selects individuals for the race.

There is one exception, however. If you run for charity, you are automatically registered to run!

So guess what I did… I signed up to run for charity! So not only have I committed to running 26.2 miles (gulp), I have also committed to raising a minimum of $1,250 (my stretch goal is $2,000!) for the charity of my choice – TEAM PAWS Chicago.

What does TEAM PAWS support?

Funds raised by TEAM PAWS support PAWS Chicago’s national No Kill model, dedicated to ending the unnecessary killing of homeless pets. By rescuing and treating homeless pets and finding them loving new homes, PAWS is saving more than 5,800 lives every year. PAWS also focuses on prevention, providing nearly 18,000 low cost/free spay or neuter surgeries in low-income communities where most stray and unwanted pets originate. As one of the largest No Kill shelters in the nation and a national model, PAWS is dedicated to sharing best practices and lifesaving strategies with people and organizations across the country.


As you all know, I have a very soft place in my heart for this guy.

photo 4 (58)

I could go on about how I’m an animal lover, about how I support the ethical treatment of ALL animals, about how it is important to help those who can’t help themselves, and about how much joy animals bring to our lives. I love that PAWS Chicago supports not only the current issue by finding homes for homeless pets but also focuses on prevention.

I am running for a cause that is near and dear to my heart and I’d love it if you supported me and shared this link with your family and friends! Even $1 can go a long way to help our little, furry friends :) You can donate here, follow along with my fundraising progress, and read more about PAWS Chicago on my TEAM PAWS personal page.

As an FYI, this money goes directly to PAWS Chicago – I don’t see any of it or get any sort of commission from your donation.

Well, with that being said, it’s time to get running!

Here’s to surviving 26.2 miles in October! (P.S. More details including my goals and information about the race to come once I sort through my thoughts!)

Have you run a marathon? If so, what is your #1 piece of advice? 

Have you ever run for charity?

Confessions, Part VI

It’s been quite some time since I confessed my deepest and darkest secrets to y’all so how ’bout some confessions today?! I’m also linking up with Ms. Amanda for her Thinking Out Loud series :)

1. I still cannot believe I did this yesterday. It’s official… I’ve gone mad. More details coming tomorrow!

chicago marathon

2. With every change Facebook makes, I hate it more and more. Seriously, stop sorting my news feed in a weird order so I read the same posts OVER and OVER. If it weren’t for the easy connections, my account would be gone long ago…

3. My friends are coming to visit next weekend and I’m SO EXCITED!! {I just can’t hide it…} We have so much to do in only a weekend which means I better get to planning ASAP! P.S. The 3 of them are in this photo – Bonus points if you can point them out!

4. I bought my plane ticket to Blend yesterday! The plan is to get into Salt Lake City a little early so I can be a little tourist with my girls before Blend. I’m so pumped! Is it June yet?!

5. In the last few weeks, I have had four people (none of whom know each other) tell me that I am going to make a cute, pregnant woman. Are they trying to tell me something? Is it my pheromones? Do I look pregnant? Am I pregnant? <– NO.

But really, what’s all this baby talk as of late?!

6. I have been having major winery cravings lately. I would love to get to Napa ASAP but since that probably won’t happen, I need to find some local wineries to visit. Does anyone know of any wineries in the Chicago area?


I guess I don’t have many confessions for you today… Next time I promise more juicy details ;)

Your turn, tell me a confession!

Terms and Privacy