Coffee Break

coffee break - hot chocolate

First thing’s first! A batch of hot chocolate made in the slow cooker. ♥

And next up, I have a new photography post for you. I haven’t been able to get out much with my camera the past few months because of my current living-in-a-hole-with-my-manuscript situation. BUT, I’ve been photographing nonstop inside and I wanted to let you in on a few new photography styles I’ve been testing out. Breaking out of my photography comfort zone has been invigorating, challenging, and inspiring. If you’re a food photographer and you feel like you’re in a rut, I encourage you to test out new lighting and angles! Read more right this way.

ski weekend poconos

The poconos trip this past weekend was just what we all needed. We went with a couple friends and while it wasn’t the snowy winter weekend we had hoped, we basked in the sunshine. Kevin and his buddy went snowboarding while my friend and I sat outside the lodge, ate lunch, caught up on life, and soaked up the sun.

New Dinners I’ve Tried Lately

We’ve talked about the dinner rut before. So continuing with the goal of trying one completely new dinner recipe each week, here are a couple recent favorites that will be sure to stick on our permanent rotation.

  1. Rainbow pad thai – this easy recipe comes from Pinch of Yum. We doubled it so that we could have leftovers for lunch all week. I cooked 1 lb of shrimp right before I started with the recipe, then added it back in at the very end. For the fresh herbs, I used cilantro. LOVED this meal and can’t wait to make it again.
  2. MD crab cakes – outstanding. Followed the recipe to a T and they were incredible. We had them with baked sweet potatoes + salad.
  3. Lightened-up potato gratin – we had this alongside grilled chicken last week. I used 1 sweet potato and 2 white potatoes. 1/2 cup chicken broth + 2 cups milk, instead of 2 and 1/2 cups milk. I also used almond milk instead of skim milk and gouda instead of gorgonzola because that’s all I had on hand and couldn’t get to the store until the next day. Despite these changes, it was so so so flavorful. Kevin absolutely loved this!
  4. Thai peanut lettuce wraps – making this tonight! Instead of tofu, I’m going to use 1 lb ground chicken. I can’t see us each only eating 2 lettuce wraps so I’m sure we’ll polish the whole recipe off. I’ll report back!
  5. Baked mac & cheese – I put this one on my blog! Have you tried it yet?

In weeks to come, I want to try this crockpot coconut curry chicken and maybe these citrus ginger seared scallops? Looking for other scallop suggestions though!


Exploring new-to-us dinner options has made cooking exciting again. More often than not, I’m sooo done with the kitchen after working in it all day– but cooking these new and exciting meals together doesn’t feel like a chore. And they’re all massively delicious!

Adorable new cupcake plate alert! PS: the set of 4 is on sale.


High quality, absolutely beautiful. I love the shimmery sparkle at the top!

franklin and lobster

Happy Birthday Franklin!

My little hamburger Franklin is 1 year old this weekend! We adopted him last spring when he was only about 2 months old. I can’t believe he’s one already!! He’s 56 lbs and still very much a puppy at heart. He’s as tall as he’ll get, but he may bulk up a little. He’s the funniest little thing. He still chases his tail, barks at the wind, and snores as loud as a helicopter. He had this lobster squeaky toy for a few weeks– was totally obsessed. Brought it everywhere he went in the house. Slept next to it, played with it all day long. Then he massacred it. And now he plays with the empty lobster. Such a little weirdo! We’ll celebrate his birthday this weekend with a long walk and some homemade dog treats. Jude will L-O-V-E those homemade treats too!

Jude’s 9th birthday is next month! 🙂

jude - feb 2017

The pups both had a blast in the mountains this weekend!

Speaking of healthy muffins, I made a batch of these chocolate banana muffins yesterday morning. Not sure if you’ve tried these yet, but I’m BEGGING you to give them a whirl. They taste like dessert, especially warm out of the oven or after 10 quick seconds in the microwave. Every time I make them, I can’t believe how it’s possible that bananas, whole wheat flour, cocoa powder, and coconut oil make such a fudgy and indulgent tasting treat. Love these.

easy chocolate banana muffins

New recipe video for cake batter chocolate chip cookies!

We’re nearing the end of the month which means… new baking challenge soon! Get ready for March’s baking challenge recipe which will be posted on March 1st– next week! The day before, we will review February’s baking challenge. If you have any questions about the monthly baking challenge, here is the post to read. Thank you to everyone who participated and if you haven’t yet, there’s still time!


One more thing. Have you heard of brown sugar bears? I hadn’t until Kevin found them on Amazon a month or two ago. YOU NEED THESE. Simply soak the terra-cotta bears in water, then add to your container of brown sugar. Even if your brown sugar is hard to begin with, the bears will soften it back up again within 24 hours. I used bread in the past, but bread can obviously spoil. These bears do the trick and they’re so cute– a fun bonus! 🙂 Pair the bears with these flour/sugar/brown sugar containers and you’re all set. My exact set-up for baking supplies storage!


Currently working on a couple of my final cookbook recipes: maple cookies and linzer cookies! I’ll be in the kitchen for a few days testing each, but let me know what YOU’VE been baking lately. Talk soon!


Comments are closed.

  1. Omg! Those cupcakes plates! They’re so cute! I’ve been playing around with different photography styles and techniques lately too. Mostly because I feel that the lighting in winter is so much more different than summer. I need to change the style and technique to maintain the same quality. I can’t wait for your next cookbook!

  2. I wanted to ask, you mentioned that because of some snow shadow it has had an effect on your photography. And i am in love with it. But my question is…since these days you are photographing for your cookbook, will the pics in it reflect this new kind of photography? Or will it be similar to the other 2 books? (don’t get me wrong, I loved the photos in those too)

    1. Yes, absolutely! I’ve been photographing my cookbook for the past 5 months and that’s sort of when I began working on new styling and angles. I’m excited my book will have improved photography!

  3. Gosh, I’m sorry I’ve never mentioned brown-sugar bears before! We always had them (or other shapes) when I was grow
    ing up. I’m glad you got some! So cute and useful 🙂

  4. OH maple cookies, YUM!  And I totally feel ya with the occasional dinner rut.  Sometimes it’s hard to be willing to try new recipes during the week but I’m always so happy when I do.

  5. Oh and Happy Birthday to Franklin!  My dog destroys every stuffed toy we give her, lol.

  6. Oh my gosh, the lobster shot is perfect. I love the surgical repair on the poof-less crustacean. Your youngest is finally becoming a  great “picture poser” …just like his big brother. Happy Birthday, Franklin! 

  7. Happy birthday to Franklin!! I always live seeing the pics you post of him. Looking forward to your linzer cookies in the new book as well. Hope you’ll be going on a book tour again!!

  8. I still covet those adorable cupcake plates. They’d be perfect for gatherings or just, you know, eating cupcakes off of. I can’t believe you’d never heard of brown sugar bears before! My family has been using them for YEARS and unless we accidentally let some brown sugar expire in the very back of the fridge (whoops), they’ve never let our brown sugar go hard. Franklin looks like he’s getting a bit bigger! Happy birthday to him. Can’t wait for your cookbook to come out and I concur with the above, please go on another book tour. Last couple things I made = cheese scones and oatmeal chocolate chip cookies from your base oatmeal cookie recipe, and I’m eyeing to try some of your homemade snack bars next 🙂

  9. Hi Sally!
    That picture of Franklin is just perfect!!  Happy birthday to him!! 
    I made your red velvet cupcakes (with the cream cheese frosting of course) over the weekend for a friend’s birthday & everyone loved them! My mom has been requesting blueberry pie so will have to make her one soon.  I bought a cup for cup gluten free flour to try as she could do without the gluten.  Will let you know how it turns out! 
    After seeing them on here i went & ordered those containers for my flour & i love them! They have smaller ones that are specifically for brown sugar.  They come with terra cotta discs attached to the inside of the lid. After soaking the discs can either go in the sugar or back on the lid.  Works great either way! I have to of them.   Thank you for all the product recommendations! 

    1. I’m glad you love the containers! The smaller one for brown sugar looks great. I have mine in a large one because I use so much of it. Especially lately with this cookbook!

      Please let me know how the GF pie is!

  10. Hi Sally! You always have great timing because I am making your cake batter chocolate chip cookies this weekend for a party; so excited!

    I wondered if you ever put brown sugar in the freezer? I have for years and have never dealt with stale brown sugar again. It keeps for months if necessary and only takes ten minutes to soften out of the freezer when you need it. It’s one of my favorite tips even if those beans exist. 🙂

  11. I feel your photography has become even better over the last months. I don’t know what it is, but your pictures always make me drool. If definitely shows that you got out of the rut!

  12. Sally, your pups are adorable and the pictures always make me smile! Our dog is 12.5 years young and I want another dog…my son and I just need to convince my husband! Also, the maple cookies sound delicious and I cannot wait for the new cookbook!

  13. Happy Birthday to the PUPS!!!!!!!!!! Wow….Franklin is 1 already! Wow. Speaking of the pups….several months back you made reference to their dog beds….well, since we’re in the new house now, I want to welcome my 2 pups in with new dog beds! Where was it that you purchased them? And yes, last weekend wasn’t the coldest/snowiest of weekends…more like spring around here lately….but loving it! Gives me more energy to get stuff down around the house I haven’t gotten to especially with it being lighter longer! Love it!

    1. Big Barker beds:

      They’re not very cheap, but they don’t flatten out like most dog beds– they stay very comfy and plump for the pups!

  14. Great picture of Franklin…HAPPY BIRTHDAY FRANKLIN! Can tell both of your dogs get LOTS of love! Really enjoy these “coffee break” posts.

  15. Hi Sally, your Poconos trip sounds so fun and refreshing – I could do with something like that too… Hm.
    Love the idea of trying out some new dinner recipes with your spouse. We used to do this some time ago but somehow forgot about it. Thanks for reminding me – us 🙂
    What i’ve been baking: finally the iced lemon pound cake – to rave reviews, wonderful texture of the cake, and my three-year-old loved to decorate the cake with glaze and star shaped sprinkles. Also, it’s carnival here aka mardi gras and I just made a batch of cut-out sugar cookies today, I found a cookie cutter shaped like a “fools cap” aka a hat with bells on it and I had so much fun decorating these with icing and sprinkles and bringing them to a party this afternoon 🙂 Also I have pinned that strawberry frosting for the birthday of my youngest, maybe on mini vanilly cupcakes… Brilliant idea, using freeze-dried strawberries!
    Have a wonderful weekend, Sally! Sina from Germany

  16. LOL—the little bears are definitely cute, but if you’re worried about your brown sugar getting hard or stale, you’re simply not baking enough cookies! Just increase the frequency. (Can’t imagine that’s an issue for you, Sally.) Love your recipes and can’t wait for the new cook book. Thanks.

    1. Definitely no issue here as I feel like I go through a bag of brown sugar in 2 days. But the bears are FANTASTIC.

  17. When I moved to a new group at work last March, I found out that there’s a “Cake Club” on our floor! Needless to say, I joined ASAP. We meet once a month and take turns bringing in a dessert.

    I made this scrumptious, moist, and flavorful Strawberries and Cream sheet cake with a cream cheese whipped cream icing with fresh strawberries in it. I HIGHLY recommend this Southern Living recipe.

    1. Omg a cake club sounds like the best thing in the entire world. That strawberries and cream cake!!! Need to try in the spring.

      1. The secret ingredient that makes the icing and cake SO good and refreshing is the addition of lemon juice. The icing especially!! Totally complements the tang in the cream cheese.

  18. Sally, I can’t decide what’s cuter: the cupcake plates or your two doggies! Okay, the dogs win – a very happy birthday to them both!

    I loved reading your update. On the topic of scallops, I’ve saved this recipe but haven’t tried it yet:

    Have an awesome rest of your week!

  19. I don’t know how you do it all, girl! But such exciting things going on with you! I’ve never seen those terra cotta bears before, but they sound perfect! Every weekend I’ve been either baking muffins for breakfast or brownies to throw in the freezer for my rehearsal dinner! Lot’s of baking here too!

  20. OMG, Maple Cookies – yum!!! On the holiday baking list for December! lol!

    Brown Sugar Bears – genius!

    I managed one new-to-me dinner this month – Vegetarian Singapore Noodles. Still playing with it…I think I just love the sticky noodles more than anything because…carbs!

    The muffins look fabulous but may need to wait for summer when I get more running miles in…(carbs again). I know you run too – do you use Map My Run? They have a fun challenge this year – run 1017km in 2017. Sort of motivating when the sky is grey and it is chilly outside.

    1. sticky noodles are the beeeeest!! I used to use map my run, but haven’t in a few years. But that’s an incredible goal and motivation! It will keep you accountable.

  21. My mom always had a bear in her brown sugar was growing and I always wanted it for myself. She still has it and uses it to this day. Never thought about getting one for myself!

With kitchen-tested quality recipes and step-by-step tutorials, my goal is to give you the confidence to bake and cook from scratch.

Sally's signature

Recipes You’ll Love



Join the community on the 1st of every month as we tackle a new challenge recipe. Review Sally's Baking Challenge FAQ page if you have any questions.

View More

A tradition since 2013, every December we countdown to Christmas with 10 new cookie recipes in a row!

View More

The first week of every November is all about Thanksgiving Pies.

View More

My Cookbooks

Sally's Cookbooks

About Sally

Welcome to my Kitchen!

I’m Sally, a cookbook author, photographer, and blogger. My goal is to give you the confidence and knowledge to cook and bake from scratch while providing quality recipes and plenty of pictures. Grab a cookie, take a seat, and have fun exploring! more about Sally