Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Icing

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For Jodi’s birthday celebration last weekend in Asheville, I knew I wanted to bake up a special treat. (After all, what’s a birthday without some cake?) And, admittedly, I’ll use just about any excuse to give a new-to-me recipe a try.

I knew I wanted something chocolate peanut butter themed (a.k.a. the most delicious flavor combination known to humanity), and when I stumbled upon this recipe by the most reliable Ina Garten, I knew I’d found the one. (After all, I’ve had great success with other Ina recipes I’ve tried through the years, including her Portobello Mushroon Lasagna, Chocolate Chunk Blondies, and Rustic Apple Tart.) I love how her recipes are sophisticated yet not overdone. They don’t take a ton of ingredients, and they’re not trying too hard. They’re just GOOD.

Luckily, this cupcake recipe kept Ina’s solid winning streak intact. The peanut butter icing is the standout ingredient. That stuff is amazingly delicious. Last weekend, Jordan said he loved “the peanut butter sauce,” saying that it was more sauce-like than icing-like, and that was a good thing. (Plus, don’t they look so pretty with their chopped peanut garnish?)

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Chocolate Cupcakes With Peanut Butter Icing

Ingredients (for chocolate cupcakes)

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, at room temperature
  • 2 Tablespoons brewed coffee
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Ingredients (for peanut butter icing)

  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 5 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Chopped salted peanuts, for garnish
Directions (for chocolate cupcakes)
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line cupcake pans with paper liners. Set aside.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream the butter and granulated and brown sugars on high speed for about five minutes (until light and fluffy).
  • Reduce the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at a time.
  • Add the vanilla and mix well.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, sour cream or Greek yogurt, and coffee.
  • In another bowl, sift together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.
  • On low speed, add the buttermilk mixture and the flour mixture alternately to the mixer bowl, beginning with the buttermilk mixture and ending with the flour mixture.
  • Mix only until just blended, and fold the batter with a spatula to be sure it’s completely blended.
  • Divide the batter among the cupcake pans (careful to just fill about halfway, as the cake rises a good bit as it bakes).
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.
  • Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then remove from pans and allow cupcakes to cool completely before frosting them.
Directions (for peanut butter icing)
  • Place the powdered sugar, peanut butter, butter, vanilla, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Mix on medium-low speed until creamy, scraping the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is incorporated.
  • Add the cream and beat on high speed until the mixture is light and smooth.
  • Once cupcakes have cooled completely, frost each cupcake with peanut butter icing (be generous — this icing is worth it!) and top with chopped peanuts.

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Happy Birthday, Jodi! (a.k.a. Asheville FTW)

Question: What’s better than a weekend spent with some of your favorite friends?

Answer: A weekend spent with some of your favorite friends AND some awesome new friends!

Last weekend, a group traveled to Asheville, North Carolina, to celebrate the birth of the lovely Jodi Dias. Some familiar (to me) faces were there, but Jodi also invited some of her good friends who I’d never met — but loved pretty immediately. (Don’t you love it when you can trust your friends to introduce you to wonderful people?)

We spent the weekend hanging out, with lots of downtime at the house we’d rented (think lazy mornings fueled with lots of coffee and mimosas + nights with Bananagrams and beer pong), and Saturday ventured into town to hit up Burial Beer Co., followed by dinner at Tupelo Honey Cafe and a show at The Orange Peel where we saw the ridiculously talented Brandi Carlile perform. The Brandi show (despite being behind some hilariously annoying GoPro-ers) was incredible. If you’re not familiar with her music, please do yourself a huge favor and check it out. I’ve loved her music for years but had never seen her in person, and her recordings — though wonderful — do not do her justice. It was the first concert I’ve been to that nearly brought me to tears. Seriously — if you get the chance to see her live, TAKE IT. You will not regret it.

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To summarize the weekend: Thank you to Jodi for being born and for having awesome friends to introduce Kevin and me to. (We’re already planning a trip to NYC to come visit you, Kels and Jordan! Hope you were serious about that offer…) :)

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(Oh, and Ashleigh wins the award for “Best Sport of the Weekend” for taking one for the team by sleeping in The Hallway Bed. You’re the best, Ash!)

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Introducing Fulton & Roark Shave Cream!

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(Warning: This post is going to be filled with shameless promotion of and bragging about Kevin’s company, Fulton & Roark. I’m just so proud of them, though! And, luckily, I’m not the only one saying great things about F&R, so you don’t have to take my word for it.)

What type of company do two Wake Forest MBA students start when they want to go into business together? Why, a men’s grooming company, of course! (It’s not as off-base as it sounds, given Kevin and Allen’s combined backgrounds in creative, pop culture, and sensory-based careers in earlier lives.)

After spending several months developing fragrances, they launched Fulton & Roark solid cologne a couple of years ago — a product that was incredibly well received and earned them space in publications like GQ, Fast Company, Southern Living, and Men’s Health as well as on-shelf in stores across the country (and even some global locations, too!). Needless to say, that’s been amazing.

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Kevin and Allen always knew they wanted to grow the company beyond just cologne, though — extending their philosophy of creating products for “the way men operate” into other offerings. Finally, after about a year of development, their second product — a super-slick, no foam, TSA carry-on friendly shave cream — is available both in stores and on the newly designed FultonandRoark.com.

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This stuff smells amazing, is great for skin (dermatologist approved!), and comes in a beautifully designed 3.4-ounce tube complete with tube key so you can compress the tube as you go through the shave cream. Its scent is designed to complement any F&R fragrance, too, so no worries about coupling it with Tybee, Shackleford, Hatteras, or Limited Reserve 01.

Here’s what the F&R guys have to say about their shave cream:

In short, shaving is the process of dragging one or more sharpened metal blades across your face in hopes of cutting your facial hair as closely as possible. Metal-on-face friction is not so good for your skin.
 
Fulton & Roark’s shave cream was designed to create an ultra-slick, no-foam layer of protection between your razor and your face. 

A nourishing blend of avocado, tea tree, jojoba, and citrus oils replaces the moisture lost from shaving. And the fresh and clean blend of bergamot, spearmint, and gingergrass makes shaving an invigorating experience, no matter what lies ahead. 

The highly-concentrated formula means the 3.4 oz container goes a very long way, providing plenty of shaves from a travel-friendly container. After more than a year of development, we’re proud to offer our shave cream to you.

I’ve been wanting to tell y’all about this for so long, and now it’s finally a reality. Yay for F&R shave cream! Check it out and let me know what you think.

Links I’m Loving

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It’s Friday. It’s been feeling like Friday all week. (Seriously. I told someone to “Have a great weekend!” on Wednesday morning.) I blame the time change.

So anyway, at the end of this long week the last thing you want to do is navigate the interwebs for yourself. Luckily, I’ve rounded up a few things worth checking out this afternoon. Click away:

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  • Wait — you can revive a stale loaf of bread in a way that doesn’t involve bread pudding? Apparently, according to this Bon Apetit article, which includes putting said loaf of stale bread under running water.

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  • Okay, okay — one more food one. Check out this Kevin Bacon ad for the American Egg Board. Bacon for eggs? Perfect spokesperson. (And speaking of Mr. Bacon, who else is thrilled that The Following is back on? SO pumped!):

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  • To coincide with International Women’s Day on March 8, the No Ceilings initiative released a compelling campaign pointing out the disparities that still exist between men and women. Brands like Kate Spade and H&M and celebrities like Amy Poehler and Sienna Miller came together to help share the data gleaned from the No Ceilings initiative report:

Happy Friday, everyone! You earned it.

7 Reasons To Watch Netflix’s Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt Immediately

I thought I loved Tina Fey as much as I possibly could (Mean Girls! Sarah Palin! 30 Rock!) and then she went and made me an even bigger fan with her latest masterpiece, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Season One of this show premiered on Netflix last Friday, and my friend Bethany and I inhaled all of its 13 glorious episodes over the course of two short days. (Plus, I’m already re-watching it with Kevin, and he loves it so far.)

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If you’ve checked this show out as well, you already know how incredible it is, but for those who need an intro to Kimmy, I’ve put together a list of some of its biggest selling points:

1. Let’s start where the show starts: its theme song. Inspired by the timeless classic “Bed Intruder,” Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt‘s intro will be helplessly stuck in your head for days. (And you’ll likely be okay with it.) Check out this “extended version” (and don’t forget that “females are strong as hell!”):

2. You get to meet Titus Burgess. Get majorly excited about this. Though this talented guy has stolen the show on Broadway and had a small role in 30 Rock, this is his big TV debut, and he shines. Favorite moments include the filming of Titus’ music video, “Pinot Noir,” the production of his unlicensed version of The Lion King musical, and his many great quips (“Somebody in here got beans. Spill them.” and “I envy you. I’ve never been able to meet me.”).

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3. The Office and Bridesmaids top my list when it comes to comedy, and so it was wonderful to see a familiar face from both of those genius endeavors take center stage as Kimmy Schmidt. Ellie Kemper (you probably know her as Erin from The Office) is the hands down best person to play the overly optimistic Kimmy Schmidt, who finds herself trying to make it in New York City at the age of 29 after having spent the previous 15 years held against her will in an underground bunker as a victim of kidnapping. (Yep — that’s the storyline. But just go with it — it totally works.) One of the best parts? The teenaged Kimmy was kidnapped in 1998, so get ready for tons of ’90s references (including a cameo from The Babysitters Club).

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4. Martin Short plays a plastic surgeon who looks like this. (Enough said.):

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5. Other guest stars include Kiernan Shipka (better known to America as “Sally Draper), Amy Sedaris, Matt Lauer, Horatio Sanz, Christine Ebersole (the mother in the 1994 film Richie Rich, among other roles), Dean Norris (Breaking Bad‘s Hank), Nick Kroll (who plays a cycle instructor named “Tristafé”), the legend herself Tina Fey, and…the best of them all comes in Episode 11. I’m not going to spoil it for those of you who haven’t watched yet, but can promise you’ll be pleased.

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6. Jane Krakowski’s character has a touchingly deep back story. Krakowshi plays Jacqueline, an exercise- and plastic surgery-obsessed second wife of a wealthy businessman, but she’s not exactly the blonde-haired, blue-eyed socialite she seems to be

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7. NBC passed on this show, which means we get to watch it ALL AT ONCE on Netflix. Take that, network TV!

Watch away, my friends, and enjoy the magic that is Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.

Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Puppy Chow

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It’s March, which means we’re in the throes of Girl Scout cookie season. As everyone knows, Samoas are the best Girl Scout cookie, hands down. (I know they’re not called “Samoas” anymore, but they’ll always be Samoas to me…) However, Thin Mints are a close second. March also means St. Patrick’s Day, and so this minty green recipe seems perfectly suited for this time of year.

(Quick pause to show you this Los Angeles Times video about Girl Scout cookies and the fact that they’re made by more than one baker, meaning the cookies produced are slightly different. If you grew up in Maine, you likely consumed a different version of Thin Mints than someone who grew up in Georgia. Crazy — I know.)

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This puppy chow recipe came my way courtesy of my mother, whose co-worker had made a batch for a staff meeting. “Hers was really good — might be blog worthy!” my mom wrote in an email with the link to the recipe. And, after making a batch last weekend with my friend Bethany while visiting her in Richmond, she and I determined that indeed it was. So here we are.

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Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookie Puppy Chow

Ingredients (for chocolate mint pieces)

  • 6 cups (1/2 box) Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 12 Thin Mint cookies, finely crushed
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

Ingredients (for green pieces)

  • 6 cups (1/2 box) Rice Chex cereal
  • 1 1/2 cups white chocolate chips
  • Green food coloring
  • 3/4 cup powdered sugar

Ingredients (for remaining pieces)

  • Remaining Thin Mint cookies, roughly chopped
  • 1 8-ounce bag of Mint M&Ms
  • 2 1-gallon Ziploc bags

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Directions (for chocolate mint pieces)
  • Place cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small microwave-proof bowl, melt chocolate and stir gently until smooth. (I recommend microwaving for 30-second increments, stirring between each, until completely melted.)
  • Pour the melted chocolate over the cereal and gently stir (so you don’t crush the cereal!) until the cereal is coated by the chocolate.
  • Add crushed cookies and stir again.
  • Pour powdered sugar into the gallon Ziploc bag.
  • Pour cereal into the bag on top of the powdered sugar.
  • Shake, shake, shake until the cereal is completely coated with sugar. (The pieces should still be brown!)
  • Dump out onto a cookie sheet and cool completely.
Directions (for green pieces)
  • Place cereal in a large bowl and set aside.
  • In a small microwave-proof bowl, melt chocolate and stir gently until smooth. (Since the white chocolate burns much more easily than the semi-sweet chocolate, I recommend microwaving these chips for 15-second increments, stirring between each, until completely melted.)
  • Stir several drops of green food coloring into the melted white chocolate. (I think I used about 10 drops total.)
  • Pour green chocolate over cereal and stir gently until the cereal is well coated.
  • Pour powdered sugar into the second Ziploc bag.
  • Pour cereal into the bag on top of the powdered sugar.
  • Shake, shake, shake until the cereal is completely coated with sugar. (This time, the pieces should be green.)
  • Dump out onto a cookie sheet and cool completely.
Directions (remaining steps)
  • Once your chocolate mint and green cereal pieces have set, mix them together in a large mixing bowl, combining to evenly distribute the two flavors. Mix in the bag of Mint M&Ms along with the remaining Thin Mint pieces.
  • Enjoy!
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Richmond! Richmond! Read All About It!*

*I don’t know the city of Richmond very well. However, I DO know a certain Bethany Novak quite well, and (as of last fall) she lives in Richmond. I went up to visit her in her newly adopted city last weekend, and loved what I saw. (Mainly, I loved getting to hang with Bethany. But Richmond was a lovely — and delicious — backdrop to our friend reunion!)

Here’s what our weekend itinerary looked like:

  • We visited Pure Barre Near West End on Saturday morning, and it was such a great studio. Not only was it in a beautiful building, but we also had a wonderful instructor (thanks, Nikki!) who made us feel super welcome. I always love trying out PB studios when I’m in other cities, and was glad Bethany was up for a barre visit. This is by far one of the friendliest I’ve been to.

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  • Bethany suggested we refuel (and get some caffeine) following Pure Barre class at Duck Donuts, which is a build-your-own-donut shop. Yep — you read that right. You select toppings which are then placed on a still-warm donut and given to you to enjoy. It’s an amazing idea and I have no idea why more donut shops aren’t in on this genius. (Bethany got lemon iced and I got strawberry iced with coconut. We obviously split each so we could try them both. Because we’re smart.)

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  • We stopped by a nail salon for much-needed pedis, grabbed a DELICIOUS lunch at the aptly named restaurant Lunch., chilled for a bit at Bethany’s (where we whipped up a batch of Girl Scout Thin Mint Puppy Chow, which I’ll address in a separate post because it deserves that), and then headed to Criterion Cinema for the 4:50 showing of What We Do In The Shadows. (Former Mullenite Katie Kroko and her husband joined us, which was so much fun!). Fellow Flight of the Conchords fans likely have heard about this comedic documentary-style film about New Zealand-based vampires, and Bethany and I were thrilled that it was released in Richmond while we were both there to see it together. I’m glad to report that we LOVED the film (and we’re not alone — Rotten Tomatoes gave it a 95%) and I can’t wait to see it again. Anyone who enjoyed these guys’ previous work (Flight of the Conchords, Short Poppies, etc.) should be sure to see this flick.

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  • When Bethany and I get together, one of our favorite activities is cooking (especially experimenting with new recipes), and so for dinner Saturday we opted to try out the vegetable spiralizer I purchased several months ago and hadn’t yet tried out. After some thorough online research (shout-out to the blog Inspiralized and all its great tips!), we landed on a zucchini-based recipe that included roasted cauliflower and prosciutto crumbles. YUM! (My spiralizer is this inexpensive one from Target, and it worked great! It was both easy to use and easy to clean.)

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  • While we ate, we watched the first season of the just-launched Netflix Series Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. To say we loved it would be an understatement. Between Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, we inhaled all of Season One of this amazing series. (More to come on that. This show just deserves its own post as well. It needs far more than one wimpy bullet point.)

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  • Speaking of inhaling, Bethany suggested we brunch at a Greek restaurant called Stella’s on Sunday, and it was one of the highlights of the weekend. We split a hummus appetizer (that hummus was perfection, and the accompanying pita bread was freshly grilled and light and fluffy) and, despite being drawn to savory items for most brunch outings, I ordered one of the Greek Toast dishes, Tsoureki Vyssino. I was so happy with my selection. This was the best French toast-like dish I’ve ever had, hands down. It was topped with sour cherries and toasted pistachios to cut the sweet some, and instead of whipped cream it had a whipped Greek yogurt garnish which I can’t wait to try to recreate. Bethany also won at brunch with her Loukaniko Sausage Skillet. Deliciousness all around.

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I was so glad to finally get to visit Bethany in Richmond, and can’t wait to make another trip up there soon. There’s so much more to explore: art museums, the Edgar Allan Poe museum, historic sites, some great shopping areas, more awesome restaurants…and, most importantly, THIS GIRL lives there! And she’s one of my most favorite people on the planet. (This is where she lives. Isn’t that house beautiful? Built in 1908, people!)

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So, to summarize, Richmond is wonderful and if you’ve never visited I suggest changing that. And if you’re reading this and happen to live in Richmond, congratulations on having one of the world’s best people become a resident as of last fall. She’s got the license plate and everything now to prove it. Winston-Salem misses you, Bethany!

Peanut Butter Brownies: The Perfect Way To Celebrate National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day!

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Fun fact: March 1 (Sunday!) is National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day — a day virtually everyone in America can agree is AWESOME. Check out the collection of amazing peanut butter recipes — both savory and sweet — I rounded up for Paste if you need some ideas of appropriately delicious ways to take advantage of this event. (I personally tested every recipe on that list, so I can vouch for them all. If you’re a Brussels sprouts fan, give that Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Peanut Vinaigrette recipe a try. It sounds a bit strange, but it TOTALLY works.)

To celebrate such a worthy holiday, I grabbed a list off of the Paste gallery and baked up a batch of Peanut Butter Brownies (recipe courtesy of The Smitten Kitchen, so you know it’s a good one). These brownies are more blondie-like in nature, and are topped with a chocolate ganache that makes them just about perfect.

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What are you doing to celebrate National Peanut Butter Lovers’ Day, friends? Don’t worry — you still have a couple of days to decide! Got any go-to peanut butter recipes to share?

Peanut Butter Brownies with Chocolate Ganache

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Ingredients (for brownies)

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup creamy peanut butter
  • 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Ingredients (for ganache)

  • 1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, softened

Directions (for brownies)

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees and place rack in the middle of the oven. Grease a 13″x9″ baking pan. Set aside.
  • Beat together butter and sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until mixture is light and fluffy. Add peanut butter and beat until incorporated.
  • Beat in whole eggs, egg yolk, and vanilla, then reduce mixer speed to low.
  • Beat in flour until just combined.
  • Mix in 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips, then spread batter into prepared pan. (The batter will look like cookie dough, which will make you very excited.)

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  • Bake until brownies are deep golden, puffed on top, and a wooden pick inserted into the center comes out clean (about 40-45 minutes). (Your house will smell incredible.)
  • Cool COMPLETELY in pan on a cooling rack (about 1 1/2 hours).

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Directions (for ganache)

  • Put remaining 1 1/2 cups chocolate chips in a heatproof bowl.
  • Bring cream to a boil in a small saucepan, then pour over chocolate chips and let stand for one minute.
  • Gently whisk in butter until butter and chocolate are melted into a smooth mixture.
  • Spread ganache on cooled brownies and let set for 15-20 minutes before slicing.

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  • Eat ‘em! (I stored our brownies in the fridge and loved them chilled. They can be stored at room temperature as well, in a sealed container, for up to three weeks.)

 

 

Workout Accessory Wish List

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Pretty regularly, I share the workout wardrobe pieces I have my eye on, but this post is dedicated instead to workout accessories. This is all about those “extras” that help round out your workout (or workout prep).

Up first: gym bags! I often go straight from work to a Pure Barre class, so it’s not uncommon to find me lugging my gym bag (and my lunch bag, and purse, and laptop bag — seriously, it’s like I’m moving into the office each day) to work with me. Having a functional gym bag — and one that’s the right size to meet your needs — is important! Here are a few I’m loving:

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Do sports bras count as accessories? I think so. I’m going with yes. With that in mind, here are a few I’m in love with. (I had to narrow down the list. There are so many adorable sports bras out there!)

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Can’t forget the hydration! Here are some of my favorite water bottles to take along on your next visit to the gym or studio.

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Moving on to yoga mats and accessories.

  • Nomadix Towels (these your “everything” towel, and can be used as yoga mats, beach towels, pack towel for camping, etc. — I’m obsessed)

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  • Jade Yoga Mat (This is the mat I have, and I love it. They come in multiple lengths, so you can get a longer-than-usual mat if you want. Plus, they’re super grippy.)

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What are your favorite workout accessory finds? Any can’t-live-without recommendations?

 

 

 

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