Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Chocolate chip cookies are my go-to “feel productive” project. Whenever I’m spinning my wheels or feeling stuck on an issue, I take a break to pull out flour, butter, sugar and eggs, and get mixing. Oatmeal chocolate chip are my specialty — largely because they’re my husband Nate’s favorite, and because I continually try to trick myself into thinking the oats make them healthier (more fiber or something, right?!) — but I can’t help dabbling with the basic recipe, mixing in whatever’s in the pantry to create new riffs on the classic.

Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough

Cinnamon adds a little spice to the cookie itself. Dried cherries give it a tartness to offset all the sweet. An Oreo stuffed inside creates a gooey, ultra-decadent core. Hershey’s Kisses are a chocoholic’s twist on Peanut Butter Blossoms. By far, though, my favorite spin right now is toasted coconut.

Best Toasted Coconut Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe

I had toasted an entire bag of unsweetened coconut flakes to go with a batch of pina colada “nice cream,” a dairy-free dessert. There was plenty leftover after the cookout, so I poured half a cup into my classic oatmeal chocolate chip dough. Jackpot! If you like Samoas, you’ll go crazy for these. (A drizzle of caramel would make them an excellent stand-in for the Girl Scout cookie, actually.)

Continue reading Toasted Coconut & Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Cookies

Little, Invisible Decisions That Can Erode a Relationship

The first time someone suggested deleting an Instagram post because it’d been 10 minutes and only a handful of people had liked it, I scoffed. How could you care that much what other people think of you? Why do you even pay attention to how many likes you’re getting anyway? I wondered.

Today, I completely understand the temptation; the desire, not only to present your very best, highlights-reel version of yourself to the world, but to get addicted, at times, to the follower counts, the likes, the shares, the little badges of honor, saying “you’re worthy” as the number climbs.

It’s a phenomenon Shauna Niequist touches on — albeit indirectly — in an essay from her new book, Present Over Perfect. In it, she describes a man who has an incredible knack for connecting with people, making them feel loved almost instantly. That very gift cost him his marriage and relationship with his kids, not because of some sordid affair, but because he simply couldn’t be there for them. He got addicted to the quick fix of making people feel important for a few fleeting minutes, and he’d gotten so used to giving the best of himself to his 9-to-5 that he didn’t have the time (or energy) to invest so heavily in his own family. When he was off the clock, he checked out of being a caring, supportive human being, leaving only a distracted shell behind, it seemed. Eventually, his family left him, feeling unloved and unneeded.

Continue reading Little, Invisible Decisions That Can Erode a Relationship

Diner en Blanc: Pop-Up Picnics That Will Make Your Summer

Wearing all white to a dinner party seems like something only friends of P. Diddy — or people in a detergent commercial — would do, but Diner en Blanc makes an incredibly compelling case for busting out your brights. The organization hosts secret, pop-up dinner parties in major cities across the country, letting you know its location just hours before the big event.

lbw-diner-en-blanc-group
Photos: Candace Braun Davison

You buy tickets and agree to the dress code (head-to-toe white, or as much as you can muster); they provide the entertainment, usually in the form of a live band and/or DJ, the tables and chairs. The party itself is more of a potluck — groups of people will haul coolers, plates and over-the-top table decorations, creating over-the-top tablescapes that’d make Sandra Lee proud.

Continue reading Diner en Blanc: Pop-Up Picnics That Will Make Your Summer

In Defense of ‘Ghostbusters’

If you mention the new Ghostbusters movie to a group of people, you’re likely to immediately get some grumbling.  It’s the most disliked trailer on YouTube, and while the common refrain online is that it’s because people can’t stand the thought of an all-female Ghostbusters squad, the rationale I’m hearing most often is: “I don’t want to see it because it will ruin my childhood.”

That’s often followed by citing previous reboots-gone-wrong: Transformers, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (for those who can’t stand Michael Bay flicks), Star TrekG.I. Joe. The thing is, would you really want a movie that exactly replicates the series you loved as a child, repeating it to a T? It’d be boring, and the jokes would probably fall flat. Having women in the lead roles, and all-new Ghostbusters in general, takes the concept you love, imagining it in a whole new way. What would happen if four different people, with their thoughts/feelings/idiosyncracies, had to throwdown against some Ectoplasm-spewing spectres?

What you need to know about the new Ghostbusters movie - Photo: Columbia Pictures
Photos: Columbia Pictures

If you can accept a different Batman every five years, you can give these Ghostbusters a chance. And it’s really only your gain if you do. The movie pokes fun at itself and its characters, and that self-awareness only adds to its charm. It doesn’t try to be serious, or unseat the original film; it does its own thing, and it does it remarkably well.

Continue reading In Defense of ‘Ghostbusters’

Pokemon Go Is the New Geocaching

Every few feet, I spot one. Or rather, I spot a gaggle, as they often travel in small groups. At first, you might dismiss them as any other person too obsessed with their phones, heads and shoulders stooped, eyes staring intently at that 4-inch screen. Their hands give it away though. They often hover their index fingers over the screen, flicking every once in a while, like they’re playing digital shuffleboard, and their finger’s the cue.

That, and they’re often heard muttering things like, “I almost had him!” or “Another friggin’ Weedle?! Nobody wants another Weedle!” Or, as the ultimate tell, they’re humming “Gotta Catch ‘Em All.”

Pokemon Go players have taken over New York City faster than the “Harlem Shake” in 2012, and it’s showing no signs of stopping. And I’m perfectly okay with that.

Continue reading Pokemon Go Is the New Geocaching

5 Crazy Foods to Try This Year

Between working at Delish and considering ‘eating’ one of my top hobbies, I’ve gotten to try a lot of crazy, over-the-top foods this year. I feel seriously spoiled, and out of all of the dishes I’ve tried, some stand out as clear winners (others are more WTF?!).

Here are the ones I can’t get out of my head, and I’m basically begging you to try them too, so we can collectively geek out over each one.

Continue reading 5 Crazy Foods to Try This Year

What It’s Really Like at the Sweets and Snacks Expo

There’s no real way to prepare yourself for the Sweets and Snacks Expo. Sure, you can study the map, but it doesn’t help you truly understand what four acres of candy and treats looks like. You can memorize Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, or religiously read press releases for every major brand in sight, but still. Nothing compares to being on the floor.

What it's Really Like Attending the Sweets and Snacks Expo in Chicago (Photo: Candace Braun Davison)

From the moment I walked through the convention center doors and glimpsed the main hall, it was sensory overload, like glimpsing Disney World for the first time. That really is the best way to describe it: An amusement park for candy dealers. Massive signs and Honey, I Blew Up the Kids-scale replicas of candy hang from the ceiling, vibrant faux-walls are erected at every booth, and mascots from just about every candy company imaginable roam the hallways. This isn’t your typical, plastic-table-and-some-poster-boards setup. Not by a longshot.

Continue reading What It’s Really Like at the Sweets and Snacks Expo

Your Fourth of July Party Playlist

There’s something about summertime that demands an anthem (or, at the very least, a party playlist). Every year, websites, DJs and magazines jump to try to claim which song will be THE song. The one everyone can’t stop playing. The one every great memory of those wild months of freedom is tethered to. The one that will forever take you back to this moment in time.

I’m not sure which tune will be THAT song, per se, but these picks make for a pretty good soundtrack to summer. And they make for an awesome Fourth of July Party Playlist, if you happen to be throwing one. (If you’re not, consider this your excuse to buy some bottle rockets and sparklers, make some chili cheese dog dip and epic margaritas, and blast these jams.)

Continue reading Your Fourth of July Party Playlist

These Epic Slip & Slides Are Taking Over Cities Across the U.S.

Now that there’s a themed 5K for just about everything, offering you the chance to get covered in brightly colored powder, drink beer while you jog, or leap over fire and crawl under barbed wire, it only makes sense event organizers are branching out into other interactive events that can tour the nation. Particularly ones for those of us who aren’t exactly the athletic type.

The latest one, Slide The City, essentially brings a water park to your hometown. It takes that beloved summertime game — running and bellyflopping down a plastic mat, AKA Slip ‘N Slide — and turns it into The Event of the Weekend. Instead of that paper-thin plastic sheet you grew up with (you know, the kind where you feel every rock and hole underneath it), Slide The City uses a 1,000-foot-long vinyl mat, and you ride in an inner tube all the way down, so there’s no scraping your knees as you dive onto the “slide.”

Continue reading These Epic Slip & Slides Are Taking Over Cities Across the U.S.

Why We Sometimes Crave Movies That Make Us Cry

Some people love ultra-dramatic Lifetime movies, or heartfelt Disney flicks. A little piece of me has always taken pride in not being that person. In being the girl who has zero interest in anything from Pixar or Dreamworks; in being annoyed by click flicks and tear jerkers.

The crazy thing is, the older I get, the more I realize I saw liking those kinds of books and movies as a weakness because it seemed to underscore me. As a kid, I was always overly sentimental. I’d get my feelings hurt and take things personally way too easily, so I adopted a standoffishness. A sense of aloofness. (Exhibit A: My tendency to slip away, instead of facing someone and saying goodbye, something I’m working on since my aunt passed away.) If I never got too close, I couldn’t get hurt. Or so I told myself.

Continue reading Why We Sometimes Crave Movies That Make Us Cry

Make Every Day Feel Like Saturday.