Small Space Entertaining

This year one of the most exciting things my family did was move to a new apartment. Since moving in and setting up shop on the Upper West Side, I've been wanting to start having people over more often. Some formal get togethers and mostly informal get togethers - but I wanted to be able to take advantage of our dining nook to accommodate friends and family at a moments notice. For many years we didn't even have enough space to own a dining table! So the fact that we even have a dining nook feels luxurious and I'm grateful for every single square foot of space. Even though we're lucky to dwell in an apartment with space for a table - it's still a small space by most people's standards. Entertaining in small spaces definitely has it's challenges, but when your home is filled with people that you adore and you break bread together, you just can't beat it. So I've come up with a few tips to make the most of entertaining in small spaces. These tips were lifesavers for me when we hosted our first "Friendsgiving" this year and fit 22 people in our apartment!

Invest in multi-purpose pieces

Investing in an expandable table can be a great way to grow your space efficiently. We were thrilled to find this beautiful table on with a built in leaf. These armchairs anchor the table perfectly with our existing dining chairs. It's impeccably made, storage friendly, and so easy to transition from as little as 4 seats to 10.  I can't say enough amazing things about this table. It's a well built piece that we'll have forever. Just thinking about all of the family meals and parties that we'll enjoy together at this table makes me feel all tingly inside. I can't think of a better furniture investment than a dining table that hosts a growing group of family and friends.

I've collected serving dishes and platters slowly over the years. While lots of color and pattern may be tempting (trust me I LOVE color), investing in classic white plates and serving pieces is always a safe bet. I'm crazy about this brand. Your table will look put together and food always looks best showcased on white. Unless a piece really calls my name – I don't buy it if it's not predominantly white or cream. This is a great way to streamline your dishes over the years.

Work with what you have

While it can be tempting to pick up new linens, dishes, or decor when hosting, always take a good inventory of what you have on hand before making any decisions about where to spend extra dollars for an event. For me, I've gotten great use out of a simple and versatile burlap runner (similar here), mercury glass votives (similar here), and anytime I buy fresh flowers or greenery I think about what will last the longest. I picked up this fresh magnolia leaf garland for our Thanksgiving dinner and it's dried beautifully. Don't forget to look to your kitchen for a few finishing decor elements. Things like fresh citrus, pomegranates, or fresh herbs can look beautiful and bring just enough color to make things feel special. I have a rubber stamp place card that I use over and over which make the table look really finished and inviting. You could also invest in reusable place cards and the same benefit. Other things like complimentary linens, silverware, and dishes can easily be mismatched. In fact, I like a table with a little bit of personality and love a not-so-perfect look. Striking a good balance between casual and put together is ideal. This tip also applies to the space that you have to work with. Before your guests arrive, think about the best ways to grow your space. Rearranging your furniture so your guests have more room to mingle can make a huge difference.

Map it out

Having a proper plan in place will make things run smoothly. This is true for all entertaining, but especially in small spaces. Potluck can be a great way to pull off a menu when working with a tight kitchen and dining space. When you've only got one oven and limited counter space, having a few guests bring a dish or two is not only helpful, but almost necessary. I like to label the dishes that I'm contributing and set the table the night or day before. That way if everyone shows up and you're running behind – at least the table is ready to go and things appear to be in control. I also like to think about where all of the food and drinks will live. Using extra space on ledges or furniture can be a smart place to set up dessert, drinks, or even a small buffet. This will also maximize the space on your actual dining table. Finally a tip that I preach time and time again is to physically write out a game plan. It is so helpful when you get down to the wire and you're thinking to yourself "I know I'm supposed to be doing something – I'm just not sure what it is!" It's also a great reference to have if you end up with an eager guest who asks how they can be helpful when they arrive.

Living in NYC for the past 5+ years has taught me that you can make small spaces work. It takes a bit more planning and forethought, but the more the merrier! What's most important is that you're making memories in your home with people who mean a lot to you. How about you? Do you have any great tips when it comes to entertaining in small spaces? I have many friends in the city who have seemed to master the art of a good get together.

Thanksgiving with a Toddler

Happy Thanksgiving week! Plans and preparations are in full swing around here and we've had a blast coming up with a few new fun family traditions this year that have been great for my busy toddler. If you're still putting the finishing touches on your plans for the big day, consider adding my Sweet Potato Pumpkin Rolls to your menu or throw together a batch of my Pumpkin Spiced Homemade Play Dough for your little ones to play with leading up to the big feast.  

This yummy roll recipe that I collaborated with Naomi of Love Taza on, is a fun way to incorporate your toddler into the Thanksgiving meal! You can find the full recipe and post here.


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To combine both cooking and crafting, check out this fun Pumpkin Spiced Homemade Play Dough that Ollie has been loving lately. This was a fun cooking craft to put together for the Land of Nod blog – I always love the opportunity to contribute to their great content. Find all of the details here. Happy Thanksgiving! image0054-1024x682 Pumpkin-pie-slices-1024x682

Thanksgiving Resources

It's Thanksgiving week! I can't believe the holiday season is already here. If you're anything like me, you're frantically putting together your menu for this week. I'm hosting a large group in my tiny NYC apartment, so it's all about easy and efficient this year!  I've compiled a few of my Thanksgiving posts here for those of you who still need a little help pulling that menu together.  

A comprehensive list of my go-to recipes for each dish you'll be serving at Thanksgiving! 



Mix and Match Thanksgiving Stuffings (4 different recipes!) 




The dish I look forward to most every year at Thanksgiving and a few of my family traditions 




My Mile Pie Apple Pie recipe (along with my perfected pie crust techniques!) 




Have a happy, safe, and delicious Thanksgiving everyone!






My Culinary-Inspired Balcony with Dig Brooklyn!



I had the incredible opportunity to work with Dig Brooklyn earlier this summer to create a culinary inspired balcony that made the most of our outdoor space. Moving to an apartment in the city with ANY outdoor space is a huge bonus. I wanted to take full advantage of having this space with a beautiful view and create an area that would be a perfect spot to de-stress on summer nights. I've admired Dig Brooklyn's work for a long time and couldn't help myself from reaching out to collaborate with them on this balcony project. They are true professionals and helped me to create a space that was manageable and serene with a culinary twist. We planted traditional herbs, cherry tomatoes, and a few crazier varieties like pineapple mint and stevia. It was such a treat to be able to turn to my balcony for some of my cooking needs this summer. They were a dream to work with and there hasn't been a day that's gone by since moving here that I haven't looked out onto my balcony and had my heart flutter a little bit. My sister Kylie made this fantastic video of the install process and there are a few photos below to give you a closer look.



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One of my favorite recipes that really got a boost from my balcony the past couple of months was my Peach Salad with Tomatoes, Feta and Basil Vinaigrette. I already miss summer peaches! Beautiful letterpress herb markers via Half Pint Ink Studio. 


Do you grow your own herbs or garden? Do you find that it enhances your experience as a home cook?

Cooking with Apples on Love Taza!

collage_1 Like so many, we love to go apple picking every fall and always come home with more apples than we can get through. It's a good problem to have! But I always have a twinge of guilt when I start to see the apples head south. I've partnered with the lovely Naomi Davis from LoveTaza to come up with a few out of the box apple recipes that can be used for any meal - breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. These ideas go beyond the expected apple pie or crisp and are a blast to make, especially if you have kids or toddlers who are particularly excited about using up the family's apple bounty. Head on over to her site to get the recipes and get a sneak peek of the delicious lineup below.

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I'm finding myself hanging on to the very last bit of summer! Last week actually still felt like summer in NYC, but this week I feel like fall has officially arrived. If you're like me and not quite ready to move on to fall in the kitchen cooking with ingredients like butternut squash and pumpkin, indulge in these easy S'mores options that will remind you of summer and best of all can be made at home. They're also a great dessert option for watching the big game with friends on the weekend!  

S'mores Pudding Pie

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Smore's Granola Bites

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S'more's Bars


Rachael Ray: 5 meals in 1

  Kelsey, Victor and RR


One of the most exciting parts of my job is getting to visit places like the Rachael Ray Show. Appearances like these are always such a blast and a great way for me to share recipes that I love and offer up the solutions that work in my own kitchen. I particularly love it when I get an invite to Rachael's show because the set that she shoots her show on was previously the set for the Martha Show where I was an intern for very first season - nearly 10 years ago. While it looks completely different now, the layout is exactly the same. I have to pinch myself as I walk through the halls reminiscing about my first experiences in this space. I honestly can't believe it!




Today I appear on Rachael's show sharing how one slow cooker meal can turn into 5 delicious freezer meals to have on hand for a quick dinner at a moment's notice. It was a great challenge to take on and I had a lot of fun with it! When I arrived at the show I was thrilled to find out that Victor Cruz (Go Giants!) would be co-hosting with Rachael that day and participate in our segment. He was super nice and even suggested a playdate for our toddlers – I'm sure he was being completely serious! Check Rachael's site here to see when it airs in your town. I'd love for you to tune in!




One of the details that the Rachael Ray Show is known for is feeding their guests. They do it better than anyone else! Once you get to your greenroom, you're brought a tray of deliciousness that was lovingly prepared for you by Rachael's team. Forget about granola bars and bottled water, we're talking about things like fried okra, homemade pickles, pimento cheese crostinis, cheese tarts with fig jam and warm chocolate chip cookies perfectly packaged in a box to go. I've been on her show enough times now that I know to always come hungry!




Ta-da! Lounging in the beautiful greenroom that I once once emptied the trash in during my Martha Show intern days. One of the things that's most stressful for me when it comes to appearances like this is wardrobe. I always seem to try on countless things before finally settling on something and always try to convince myself that the occasion is worth purchasing something new. This whole ensemble came together because I wanted to wear these beautiful blue Poppy Barley booties. I LOVE these shoes! Not only do they look stunning, they are seriously the world's most comfortable shoes. I was particularly drawn to Poppy Barley because of their focus on creating a custom fit for each of their customers. I spend so much time on my feet while filming and most times I need to be in some sort of heel because I'm so darn short. The fact that their shoes are a perfect fit, makes it so you can be on your feet for hours and feel like you're walking on air – even in heels. Such a brilliant concept! They're hands down my favorite shoes to shoot in. You know that when you think about shoes first when it comes to an outfit, you're on to something good.


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I hope you catch the show today! If you miss it, you can get the recipes here.




Cooking with Honest to Nod

This past month I partnered with the Land of Nod to create some original content for their darling blog Honest to Nod. It was such a fun creative process and the posts were a blast to put together.  

As Ollie's gotten a little older and officially entered into the toddler years, I've absolutely LOVED letting him help me out in the kitchen. A few weeks ago, we decided to tackle a homemade version on one of his favorite snacks. You can check out the process and grab the recipe for DIY Fruit Snacks right here!


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I also put together a "Back to School" inspired family dinner that will get any kid excited about school!  Check out my ideas here and make sure you snag the recipe for those simple flashcard cookie sandwiches. Thanks for having me LON!


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5 Tips for Work At Home Moms



Ever since becoming a mom myself, I crave information and tips from other moms who are seeking some sort of daily balance. (aren't we all?!) Whether you're a full-time stay at home mom, you work outside the home, or work from home – every scenario seems to have benefits and challenges. It may be surprising to a lot of people that I'm primarily a work from home mom. I spend about 75% of my time working from home, while the other 25% is spent filming on set, attending meetings and events, or spent traveling for book signings or press appearances. This was what I had always hoped for! I think that I was a bit naive in assuming that this was the most manageable way to approach working motherhood. While I'm immensely grateful to spend a lot of time at home, I quickly realized after having my son that juggling both roles day in and day out from my small apartment in NYC was going to be trickier than I had thought. After spending 2 years trying to figure out what works best for us, I think I'm finally starting to get into a groove. Below are 5 tips that have been the most beneficial for me personally when it comes to working from home. This little video is a small peek into our daily routine around here. Some days it works better than others! We're constantly adjusting things around here to make sure everyone's needs are met.


1. Maximize nap time.  I refer to these precious hours as the "golden hours!" I work with intense focus and efficiency to accomplish as much as possible. Anything you can do to encourage your little one to get as much sleep as they need is both good for your kiddo and great for getting a lot done. A good quality room darkening and child safe window treatment in the nursery was a must for me as a new parent. It's resulted in more sleep for me and baby – not only do I not have to worry about cords being a safety hazard, the blackout effect allows everyone around here to get as much sleep as possible. When I'm well rested, I'm insanely more productive during the day. Investing in a good blackout shade for the nursery is one of the first tips I rattle off to friends that are expecting. The first time we installed a blackout option it went very badly. I was essentially using a spring rod with blackout panels and they would fall down at least twice a day – sometimes during nap time waking up Ollie and robbing myself of precious nap hours. I literally taped black garbage bags to my windows at one point. After making those mistakes, I made the conscious decision to invest in really good quality blackout shades and I've never looked back.


2. Establish a weekly routine. I've found that it's crucial for my home to feel like it's in some sort of "order" before I can be productive. By having one or two housekeeping tasks that I tackle each day of the week, things are easily kept up. In a moment of mom desperation I attended a small seminar hosted by Power of Moms a few months ago. It was a fantastic way to hear what works for other moms and to gain some knowledge and skills about how to better handle being a mom – especially while trying to find some sort of balance with my work. One of the most valuable lessons learned was that I need to have set weekly routines and responsibilities. Simple things like having a set day where I run the vacuum over my rugs, water my planters boxes, and wipe down all of the mirrors and windows in the apartment made such a difference in me feeling like I had some sort of control in my life. By doing a few small things each day, the upkeep began to feel more manageable and my apartment was never getting unbearably messy. Living and working in an organized space is HUGE for me.


3. Finish tasks before moving on to others. There's nothing worse that feeling like you didn't accomplish anything at the end of the day – especially when you're emotionally and physically exhausted after hours of juggling work and trying being a present parent. I've found the best way to combat this feeling, is to start and finish a task before moving on to something else on my list. It may take me all day to accomplish it, but at least I get to check one thing off the list at the end of the day. This has been a great way for me to prioritize deadlines as well.


4. Map out your week. A proper plan will work wonders for keeping a busy working schedule at home in check. I reserve Sunday evenings to create a roadmap for the week and share it with my husband so that we can tackle the coming week as a team. I feel like this tip sounds somewhat obvious, but I can't tell you what a difference it makes to have a bird eye view of what's ahead. It helps me to set expectations and coordinate additional help if needed. It's also great for Robby to know if it's going to be a particularly busy week for me – it's been a really beneficial experience to work as a team. A great example of this has been switching off mornings with Ollie. Ollie is an EARLY riser – if one of us gets up with him consistently we start to look like a walking zombie. Once we realized that it was taking a toll, we decided to alternate mornings with him. This plan has been a great way for us to know that we've each got a couple mornings throughout the week where we can sleep in or get up and get work done. This idea of mapping out your upcoming week is not only good for work and family obligations, it's also great for meals. A weekly meal plan will make your life spent in your kitchen feel more under control just like a weekly road map will make your home life feel more in control. (Are you picking up on the fact that I crave an organized home life yet?!)


5. Build a good support team. Whether it's a nanny, babysitter, playgroup or daycare, realize that no one can do it ALL on their own. In the beginning, I thought that I could manage most of it on my own if I just planned to get my work done during nap time and in the evenings. After 3 months of doing this I realized that this was a recipe for disaster. For me, I can't work every night after putting Ollie down. I need my nights to de-stress, spend time with Robby, and let my mind rest a little bit. We are incredibly blessed to have my sister Kylie as part of our team. In addition to her helping out with my little guy (and being the world's greatest aunt), Kylie also helps me with work projects. She takes all of the beautiful photos on this blog, makes videos just like this one, and helps to manage my social media. I'd be lost without her! What's particularly great about her and the way she helps our family is that she can ping pong between giving Ollie needed attention and helping me with something work related. We hit the jackpot with her – and there's not a day that goes by that I'm not immensely grateful for her place in our family/work life.


Sending a big high five to all moms out there. This is a tough job whether you "work" or not and I'm sure I'll spend my lifetime trying to obtain the perfect "balance." In the meantime, I'm going to focus on keeping all of the balls in the air. There will be days when I'm a better mom than employee and vice versa. I think what's most important is to remember that we should all be kind to ourselves and expect for things to get a little unbalanced every now and then – then we'll adjust and start the process all over again. Motherhood is the greatest and most challenging part of my life – I wouldn't have it any other way and have profound respect for anyone out there just trying their best to manage it all. Keep on keepin' on mamas!




A few sources from the video:

Video: Kylie Whiting

Motorized Blackout Roller Shades: Decorview

Planter boxes: Dig Brooklyn

Letterpressed Herb Markers: etsy - half pink ink studio

Weekly planner: Paper Source

A few favorites in the nursery: crib, glider, bookcases, rug, central park print, bookends, modern birth print

Ollie's Second Birthday: The Party Details


We've talked about the Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake (directions here!)  in depth, now I thought that I'd share just a few of the details that made this little party so much fun. I mentioned in my last post, that for Ollie's first birthday, we had ordered a few things from Shop Sweet LuLu. I was so impressed with how well curated the site was and the quality of the party decor that we received, that we just decided to reuse almost everything that had survived last year. We went with the same blue/green color theme and got a few more milk and cookies details and called it a day. Below you'll find a source list for everything we used to pull off this sweet theme. I particularly loved the cookie straws and those mini milk jugs! Happy Birthday Ollie! I'm so happy you're ours. xo


A few posts that I found while taking a trip down memory lane!

Oliver's First Birthday Party 

Oliver's First Birthday on Kelsey's Essentials

Welcome Home Oliver


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photos: Kylie Whiting


Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake: Step by Step Instructions


My sweet Ollie boy turns TWO this week! We wanted to celebrate with a small party incorporating some of his favorite things right now. In addition to being a huge fan of milk & cookies, he also loves Sesame Street and will ask for both Cookie Monster and Elmo on a regular basis. (it's so cute!) I knew that it was going to be a bit of an intense week for work, so I decided to really only focus on a cake and not worry too much about food for the party. Last year I made a bunch of food, essentially catering the party, and in a way I regretted it. I ended up being in the kitchen the whole time stressed about taco assembly! It was so much nicer to just focus on a fun cake rather than an entire menu spread. I really wanted to make a chocolate chip cookie layer cake of some sort and ended up winging it in a sense. Below you'll find all of the steps I took to make the recipe and how it turned out.






First, I had to think about the cookie. I knew that I wanted it to be thick and fairly soft. If the cookie was thin and crispy it would have been tough to pull off layers of frosting in between without it feeling like there was too much frosting. Also, I was hoping to make a cake that would be easy to cut. I fear that a thin, crispy cookie wouldn't have held up. So I took my existing chocolate chip cookie recipe and made a few changes - similar to what I would have done if I were writing a recipe for a bar cookie. The dry ingredients were standard and basic - flour, baking soda, and salt. I increased the salt a bit more than I usually would to try and obtain that sweet and salty bite. (next time I might eliminate the salt all together and just use salted butter) I know that it's the popular opinion to work only with unsalted butter so that you can better control the flavor, but I'm starting to think that I might actually like working with salted butter in baking more often. So daring, I know.



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I chose to work with melted butter rather than softened butter because I wanted the cookie to be more dense, rather than "puffy."  To the melted butter I added both brown and granulated sugar in addition to large eggs plus extra yolks to achieve the consistency I was after. I upped the vanilla and was happy with the decision - I think nine times out of ten, vanilla should be "upped."


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I used larger chocolate chunks instead of traditional chocolate chips because I wanted them to be more visible in the larger cookie. I found them right next to the chocolate chips in the baking aisle.


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I was really careful to not over-mix the dough - no mixer necessary at all. I divided the completed dough into quarters and pressed the first quarter into a greased 9-inch springform pan. If you have multiple springform pans (or 9-inch cake pans) you could do this at the same time and pop them in the oven together. I had to do this twice and it was no big deal. While the first batch of two was baking, I kept my dough in the refrigerator to keep it cool.


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After one quarter of the dough was pressed into the greased pan, I took another 1/4 cup of chocolate chunks and pressed them into the top and sides of the dough. This was really only because I wanted it to look like a perfect chocolate chip cookie. Not necessary, but I'm a big believer in your food looking as good as it tastes. Plus, who's going to complain about more chocolate?!


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I was really happy with how the cookies looked coming out of the springform pan. It was super easy to remove them and they were all perfectly the same size. After baking and cooling my big cookie layers, I made a classic cream cheese frosting. I used the frosting recipe from these bars and it was really nice. I'm sure you could use buttercream as well.




To prevent the layer cake from sliding around during transport, I plopped on a dollop of cream cheese frosting to secure everything.





I visually divided the frosting into 3 parts in my mixing bowl and used about 1/3 of the frosting in between each layer. I was so nervous that the weight of the cookies would make the frosting layers impossible, but it was actually alright. I did focus on adding a bit more frosting to the edges of the cookies so that the frost would be visible. I didn't want it to look perfect (because that would be impossible), so I didn't worry too much about it being super even on all sides. I love using an offset spatula any time any sort of frosting is involved. It's one of those silly tools that I think everyone should have who plans to ever decorate a cupcake or a cake. I like them so much I have a few in different sizes.


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Once the cake was assembled, I found myself very nervous about how to store it. The party wasn't for another 24 hours, so I had to make a call as to whether or not to leave it on the countertop or in the refrigerator. My worry about the countertop was the cream cheese frosting loosening up and shifting my layers. My concern about placing it in the refrigerator was the cold drying out the cookies. I went with the refrigerator after a tip from an expert friend on instagram and I'm so glad I did. I loosely covered it with plastic wrap and kept it chilled. By the time we got to the park and cut the cake, it was totally soft and the layers looked awesome. I was so nervous about this! I was actually surprised at how easily a serrated knife cut through it. I think the frosting softened the layers just enough to make it a good clean slice.


I was so happy with how the cake turned out for Ollie's Milk & Cookies party! The beautiful cake stand from Shop Sweet Lulu was the perfect shade of Cookie Monster blue and finished off the presentation of the cake beautifully. I can't wait to use it again! We used Shop Sweet Lulu last year for a lot of the decorations and details for Ollie's first birthday party. They have amazing stuff! It's so well curated and I was so pleased that I was able to reuse a lot of the decorations that we had used the year before. I will most likely reuse them again for his 3rd birthday party next year!


Thanks for hanging with me on a super long post. The final recipe is listed below. Feel free to comment with any questions!  I'll post the photos from the actual party later this week!


Chocolate Chip Cookie Layer Cake

Yield: 1 9-inch layer cake (12 generous servings)

4 cups all purpose flour

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

3 sticks unsalted butter (1 1/2 cups), melted

2 cups light brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

2 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

4 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 cups chocolate chips or chunks


Cream Cheese Frosting, recipe follows Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Grease 4 (9-inch) cake pans or spring form pans. *note: I made this recipe in two batches using 2 pans because I didn't have 4 cake pans that were all the same size.


In an extra large mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the melted butter and sugars until fully combined. Whisk in the eggs and yolks one at a time followed by the vanilla. Using a large rubber spatula, fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients avoiding over-mixing. Once the dough has just come together, stir in the chocolate chunks until they are evenly distributed. Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Press 1/4 of the dough into each prepared pan. If desired, press additional chocolate chunks on the top and sides of the dough.


Bake until the tops of the cookie layers are golden brown, about 24-28 minutes. Avoid over baking the cookies as you want the centers to still be soft. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack until each layer has reached room temperature.


Starting with one cookie layer on a cake plate, add 1/3 of the prepared cream cheese frosting to the center of the cookie, and using an offset spatula smooth it out evenly over the cookie, emphasizing the sides so that the cream cheese layer is visible when the next cookie is placed on top. Repeat this process two more times, ending with an unfrosted cookie on top.


Store completed cookie cake (covered) in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Before serving, allow cake to come to room temperature.



Cream Cheese Frosting
Two (8 oz.) packages of cream cheese, at room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2 cups confectioners' sugar


In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the cream cheese and butter and beat until light and fluffy. Beat in the vanilla and salt. Beat in the confectioners' sugar a little at a time, beating until fully incorporated. Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 5 days.
Photos by Kylie Whiting.

Dinner on the Bridge with the Daybreak Community

  Cooking can be such a creative outlet – whether it's pulling together a simple weeknight dinner for your family, making a special occasion meal, or even just dreaming up a menu, the creative aspect of cooking is one of the things I love most about the craft. In fact, I worked as a recipe developer for a local restaurant right after I completed Food Network Star and to this day it was one of my favorite jobs. I learned so much!


I recently had the unique opportunity to collaborate with an incredible local Utah chef on a menu for a special event in Utah. We were celebrating 10 years of the ever so charming Daybreak Community. The dinner was held on the Cross Water Bridge located in one of their newest developments and was picturesque as it gets. The menu came together so nicely and the execution was fantastic. I worked with Chef Adam Kreisel and his team at Chaia Cucina to create a menu that celebrated the best ingredients Utah has to offer from local farms like Drake Family Farm and Clifford Family Farm. It was a homey approach that made the meal feel not too fancy – yet still very impressive! I particularly loved elements like the savory chickpea flour waffle with the main course and the grilled peach and blueberry compote dessert that was a variation of my Skillet Blueberry and Peach Cobbler from Kitchen Confidence. We added gingersnap cookie crumbles, homemade creme fraiche, and grey sea salt for a refined finish.


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Thanks so much for having me Daybreak! Everything I love about my home state of Utah was captured during this dinner – great people, beautiful surroundings, and delicious food.


Special thanks to David Newkirk for these gorgeous images!

3 Salads to Make This Summer

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It's here! Summer is finally here!! That means I intend to use my oven as little as possible and utilize as much fresh produce for quick and easy meals as I can get my hands on. Salads are a great place start. Whether you're trying to decide what to make for an upcoming bbq or potluck, Kitchen Confidence is filled with fantastic salad recipes. Right now I'm planning to make my Summer Bean, Pea, and Radish Salad for a baby shower, my Charred Corn Salad with Basil Vinaigrette for a BBQ, and my Potato Salad for the Fourth of July. They're all bright and beautiful when it comes to both look and flavor.


All 3 of these delicious summer salad recipes can be found in my book, Kitchen Confidence.  Have any of you tried these recipes already? I would love to know what you think!


*An insider tip for those interested in making the Summer Bean, Pea, and Radish can buy almost all of the ingredients for this dish at Trader Joe's in their prepared produce aisle. It makes throwing this salad together so incredibly easy! I plan to make it all summer long.


Photography by Sara Remington

The One Ingredient to Throw on Your Grill This Memorial Day


Do you have big plans for Memorial Day?! We're planning to do a few home projects as we settle into our new place and enjoy any good weather in Central Park (please don't rain!). While the extent of our grilling this weekend will be indoor grilling, I couldn't help but think back on our experience grilling at Brooklyn Bridge Park last summer. Talk about a city moment! I can't think of a more stunning backdrop for grilling. It was such a fun family memory and I'm so glad we snapped photos and some video to capture how great it was.




It was around this time that I fell in love with Halloumi Cheese. (or Grilling Cheese) It's the one thing you're probably not planning on grilling that you SHOULD! This ingredient is so fun to work with and fairly fool proof. The texture is similar to feta cheese and the taste reminds me of queso fresco. It can be grilled or fried and is really mild. I like threading it onto my Marinated Veggie Skewers before throwing them onto the grill. Admittedly I eat all of the pieces of cheese first! It's addictive!! I found this exact brand at my Whole Foods today for only $4.99, which is worth every cent. Definitely pick some up for your grilling festivities this weekend!


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Mother's Day Idea- Avocado and Egg Breakfast


Happy Mother's Day weekend!  We're planning to celebrate with an extremely low-key game plan. We moved last weekend and we're still getting settled, so I'm hoping to find some time to relax and enjoy our new apartment. (It's so great!) All I really want for Mother's Day this year is to sleep in – and that's exactly what I intend on doing. Enjoying a simple breakfast with my boys wouldn't be so bad either- I love the idea of making these simple avocado toasts. I hope the day is as stress free as possible and that includes the cooking. This couldn't be easier for breakfast, yet it still will feel fresh and satisfying. And Ollie has a thing for avocados which is a bonus.



A La Modo Pie Boxes and my All-American Apple Pie

The warm weather has me thinking about pie. I know what you're thinking... pie is all about the colder months and holiday season. Not for this girl! Cherry, apple, and peach pie are some of my absolute favorite pie selections and are best enjoyed in the summer months. If I had to choose a favorite, I would undoubtedly go with apple pie. This is well-evidenced in the fact that I included my All-American Apple Pie recipe in my book, Kitchen Confidence (recipe below).  

When we were planning the photography shoot for my cookbook, I was really excited about creating a gorgeous image to showcase my apple pie recipe. I immediately thought of my friend Stephanie of Stephmodo, as she has impeccable taste and makes the most darling pie boxes that fit an individual piece of pie. How darling would it be to show up for a summer picnic with boxed slices of pie for your friends? I think they would also make for a great party favor. Lucky for you, Stephanie sells these boxes in her Etsy shop, A La Modo. You can check out her selection of boxes and other French goodies here.


Here's the image we came up with.  I'm so pleased with the result!



Photo by Sara Remington



Below are a few more images showcasing Stephanie's fabulous boxes.



iusb_760x100.11469048_2fwoa la modo LLC pie boxes with colorblock forks

a la modo LLC pie box kit geranium trio

 images courtesy of Stephanie Brubaker



Now for the recipe... it's everything apple pie should be! The all-butter crust is the perfect canvas for my well-balanced spiced apple filling. Try it out this summer and let me know how it goes!



4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and quartered 4 McIntosh apples, peeled, cored and quartered 1 tablespoon lemon juice 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1/2 cup granulated sugar 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 1 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting Perfect Pie Dough, recipe follows One 7-ounce tube marzipan almond paste 1 egg, beaten, for egg wash


PERFECT PIE DOUGH: 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting 1 teaspoon salt 1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into small pieces, chilled or frozen



Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.



Cut the quartered apples into 1/2-inch slices and mix with the lemon juice in a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the apples, toss to coat and cook, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle the sugars, cinnamon, salt, nutmeg and allspice over the apples and toss to coat evenly. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture to thicken, and then let cool completely.



Roll out one of the Perfect Pie Dough discs on a floured surface. Fit into a 9-inch pie plate, giving yourself a 1/2-inch overhang. Roll the marzipan between 2 pieces of parchment paper into a 9-by-1/8-inch-thick circle. Place the marzipan over the bottom crust. Dock the bottom crust, using a fork, and fill the pie with the apple mixture.



Roll out the second pie dough disc to fit on top of the apples. Place on top of the pie and trim the edges to about 1/2-inch overhang. Pinch the top crust to the bottom, fluting the edge or pressing to seal with the tines of a fork. Vent the pie by cutting 4 slits in the top, and brush with the egg wash.



Transfer the pie to a sheet tray and bake until the crust is golden brown and the filling is bubbly, 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes before serving. Mix the flour and salt together in a food processer. Add the butter into the flour mixture and pulse until you have large pea-size chunks scattered throughout.



Add 8 to 10 tablespoons ice water slowly, while stirring with a fork, just until combined. Transfer to a floured surface, divide in half, shape into 2 discs and wrap separately in plastic wrap. Refrigerate at least 30 minutes.

Cooking with Rachael Ray!

Did you catch me on the Rachael Ray show this morning?  I had a blast whipping up two tasty desserts with Rachael in her kitchen.  If you missed the segment you can check out the Fluffer-Nutter Truffles segment here and the Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart segment here.    If you would like to try the recipes, they are posted below!  



Fluffer-Nutter Truffles


Ingredients 1 container peanut butter sandwich cookies (such as Nutter Butter) 1 container Marshmallow Crème 1/2 cup mini marshmallows 1 cup creamy peanut butter 1/2 teaspoon salt 1 cup crushed peanuts


Preparation In a food processor, pulse cookies until they form a coarse meal. Add in the marshmallow crème, marshmallows, peanut butter and salt. Let the food processor run until well-combined.


With a small scoop or melon baller, scoop the mixture into balls. Roll the small into your hands to smooth them a bit. Roll the balls on the crushed peanuts to coat them. Place into an airtight container.



Chocolate Peanut Butter Tart


Ingredients 3/4 pack 12-ounce peanut butter sandwich cookies (such as Nutter Butter) 1/2 stick of butter, cubed A pinch of salt 1 10-ounce bag milk chocolate chips 1 cup creamy peanut butter 3/4 cup heavy cream Coarse salt (for garnish) Crushed Peanuts (for garnish)



Preheat oven to 375°F. In a food processor, pulse peanut butter cookies until they form a fine meal. Add a pinch of salt and butter. Pulse until it resembles wet sand. Dump the peanut butter cookie crust into a tart pan and press. Make sure to press to the edges and up the sides of the pan. Place the crust into the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until slightly golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Over a double boiler, melt chocolate and peanut butter, stirring occasionally. Once completely melted and smooth, remove the top of the double boiler off the heat. Slowly whisk in the cream. Once smooth, pour the ganache into the tart crust. Sprinkle with coarse salt, crushed peanuts and decorate with leftover cookies. Let sit and room temp until set or pop in the fridge for an hour.

Two Easter Sides to Try This Weekend

Finally...Spring is here!!! I sat down last night to plan out our Easter dinner menu– to say that I'm looking forward to it would be an understatement! I'm a fan of filling my holiday tables with a few traditional family recipes and a few new dishes as well. The two recipes I'm most looking forward to making are my Pickled Asparagus and my Deviled Eggs with Candied Bacon. I was smacking my lips while writing out my grocery shopping list! Both recipes are perfect for this time of year and would be a lovely addition to any Easter table. I'm planning to pick up a honey glazed ham from our neighborhood butcher so that I can really focus on making extra tasty sides. I'm also looking forward to the leftover ham sandwiches  and egg salad sandwiches we'll have next week.  

What are you planning on making? Do you look forward to the sides just as much as the main dish?

Pickled Asparagus recipe here.



Deviled Eggs with candied bacon recipe here.



Robby's Chocolate Cake

Every year my husband Robby requests the very same birthday cake. It's the recipe that his mom made for him year after year and if I do say so's pretty darn good. In fact, it's a family favorite! My favorite element is the chocolate whipped cream that it's topped with. My mother-in-law actually received this recipe years ago while she and her husband were in college! While it's not a "from scratch" recipe, which is usually my approach, this recipe is easy and accessible and can be thrown together so quickly. The result is light and spongy cake with pudding layers throughout and a dreamy whipped cream layer on top to seal the deal. We always chill it in the refrigerator for a couple of hours before serving it and my go to for decorating is fresh raspberries and chocolate shavings.  

Do you have any family recipes that you make for the same occasion each year? I find myself looking forward to certain events and holidays that have certain recipes attached to them. Happy belated birthday to my husband Robby! Grab the recipe below.


Yield: 10 servings


INGREDIENTS 1 chocolate box cake mix (my favorite is Duncan Hines) Filing: 6 oz. box instant chocolate pudding 2 ¼ cups cold milk Whipped Cream Topping: 1 pint heavy whipping cream 1 teaspoon vanilla 1/3 cup sugar 3 tablespoons of prepared chocolate pudding filling from above




Bake cake according to box directions in (2) 9 inch cake pans.


While cake bakes, make filling. In a large mixing bowl combine instant chocolate pudding and cold milk. It will be less milk than instructed, but you want the pudding extra thick. Reserve 3 tablespoons for topping.


Using a mixer, whip heavy cream in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Mix in vanilla, sugar, and 3 tablespoons of prepared chocolate pudding until combined. Chill until ready to decorate.


After the cakes have cooled, cut each cake horizontally, for four layers. Spread the pudding between the 3 layers, but not on the top of the cake.


Frost the top and sides of the cake with the whipped cream topping and refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours before serving.


Top with Raspberries and slivered almonds or chocolate shavings.