Tuesday, July 22, 2014


Extra Fudgey Berry Bliss Cheesecake Brownies | Club Narwhal

Brownies. Has there ever been a more divisive treat? Fudgey vs. cakey. Dark vs. milk. Swirled vs. plain. Personally, I fall into the dark fudgey peanut butter swirl camp. But even Warren, who is firmly in the cakey, milk, plain jane camp loved these Extra Fudgey Berry Bliss Cheesecake Brownies. So don't worry, dark chocolate haters, these will go down the hatch just fine. 

(Also, it took an inordinate amount of time to decide whether to use fudgy or fudgey. While fudgy felt right, fudgey looked right, if that makes any sense. Probably because it contains the word fudge. These are the things that keep me up at night, friends.)

Extra Fudgey Berry Bliss Cheesecake Brownies | Club Narwhal

But back to these brownies. They are ridiculous. I mean it. Like, knock you flat down with pure unadulterated joy. Because they have everything--a rich chocolatey base mingled with smooth cheesecake filling, all topped with fresh summer berries, a final note inspired by my favorite dessert of all time--Triple Berry Tarts

And those chocolate chunks? Those hips don't lie. Just look at them. (Even buck naked--i.e., sans berries--these brownies tasted fabulous.)

Extra Fudgey Cheesecake Brownies | Club Narwhal

But the berries really put them over the top to Awesome City. Note the berry juice beckoning to you in a come hither manner. 

Extra Fudgey Berry Bliss Cheesecake Brownies | Club Narwhal

Yep, this is brownie seduction to the max. I'm not sorry. 

Extra Fudgey Berry Bliss Cheesecake Brownies | Club Narwhal


Makes 16 bars

For the Fudgey Chocolate Chunk Brownies
Adapted from Something Swanky
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cups chocolate chunks
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line 9x9 baking dish with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each one. In another bowl, sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. 

Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture in two batches. The batter will be extremely thick--so thick that it might be hard to stir. I switched from my blender to stirring by hand. Stir in chocolate chunks and scrape batter into the baking pan. Set aside.

For the Cheesecake Layer
  • 16 oz. cream cheese, room temperature (2 bars)
  • 12 oz. plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla extract
In a medium bowl mix all ingredients together until fully incorporated. Pour over the brownie layer and bake for 40-45 minutes, until cheesecake is set (it can still be a touch wobbly in the center). Cool then refrigerate for a few hours to make cutting easier. Cut into 16 bars and top with berry bliss (recipe below).

For the Berry Bliss Topping
  • 1 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 2 tablespoons instant tapioca (small pearls)
  • 1/8 cup water
  • 2 cups mixed berries. We used blackberries, blueberries, and chopped strawberries
Boil the blueberries, water, and tapioca for about 10 minutes, until tapioca is dissolved and the blueberries have thickened. You may need to add one more tablespoon of tapioca. Fold in mixed berries and spoon berries on top of cooled cheesecake brownies. 

P.S. I'm super into decadent desserts--check out my Project Yum Pinterest board for proof!

Here are a few of my favorite cheesecake and/or berry recipes:

Cake Batter Oreo Stuffed Cheesecake Bars

Cake Batter Oreo Stuffed Cheesecake Bars | Club Narwhal

Easy Dulce de Leche Cheesecake

Easy Dulce de Leche Cheesecake | Club Narwhal

Triple Berry Tarts

Triple Berry Tarts | Club Narwhal

Greek Yogurt Stuffed Berry French Toast

Greek Yogurt Stuffed Berry French Toast

Linked to Create and Share, Wonderfully Creative, Worthwhile Wednesday, Wednesday Whatsits, Wake Up Wednesdays, Whimsy Wednesday , Project Parade, Moonlight and Mason Jars, Showcase Your Talent

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos | A ridiculously easy and tasty meal! #tacos

I dream in tacos--perfectly sweet and spicy Shredded Beef Tacos, to be exact. My taco love is deep and abiding. For me, tacos mean family. Friends. Long summer nights laughing on a picnic blanket. So when a taco craving hits, it hits hard. 

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos | A ridiculously easy and tasty meal! #tacos

Our go-to taco recipe is our favorite Slow Cooker Carnitas. It is everything good in the world. But we wanted to branch out a little and try beef. We might never go back. Because when I see a gorgeous browned chuck roast, I go a little weak in the knees. I mean, behold:

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos | Beautifully browned chuck roast

Right? If you know me, you know that my tastes mirror those of a ten-year-old boy's. Pizza is my favorite food group, followed closely by french friesice cream, and chicken nuggets. In an effort to appear more like the grown up thirty-year-old that I am, I ditched my childhood ground beef tacos for these elegant (can tacos be elegant?), rich, slightly sweet tacos loaded with drool-inducing shredded beef, Warren's famous tamatillo salsa, and guacamole. 

But don't be fooled--as gorgeous and grown up as these tacos appear, they are so easy to prepare. Like the Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork, it benefits from a delicious spice rub. And while you don't have to brown the meat, doing so gives it an extra punch of something awesome and only takes about five more minutes of your time. In return, you'll get a mega dreamboat of a meal that will leave you swooning.

P.S. How pretty is the little wooden spoon we got in Peru?

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos | A ridiculously easy and tasty meal! #tacos

We served our tacos with a side of Mexican Rice from Annie's Eats. It is perfect in every way. Leftovers make great taco salads, enchiladas, and taquitos--if you happen to have any left!

Slow Cooker Shredded Beef Tacos | A ridiculously easy and tasty meal! #tacos


Adapted from Gimme Some Oven
Serves 8 
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 pounds boneless chuck roast
  • 3 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup beef stock
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced (or 1 teaspoons chipotle powder)
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 ounces green enchilada sauce (we use generic store brand)
  • 2 heaping tablespoons brown sugar
  • flour or corn tortillas
  • guacamole
  • tomatillo salsa (it's at the very bottom of the linked post)
  • cojita cheese
  • lime juice
Mix chili powder, cumin, and paprika in a small bowl. Rub into the chuck roast on both sides (you might have some leftover). Add olive oil to a large nonstick pan and heat over medium-high. Sear meat for 2-3 minutes on each side, until golden brown. Transfer meat to a slow cooker. 

Carefully pour the beef stock (or 1 cup water with 1 cube beef bouillon) into the hot pan. Simmer over low heat and scrape up the browned bits. Add the tomato paste and chipotle pepper. Toss in any remaining spices. Boil for 2 minutes, until slightly thickened and pour over the meat. Add onion and garlic. Cook for 6-8 hours on low or 4 hours on high.

When the meat is done, it will shred easily. Transfer the meat to a bowl and discard of the juices in the slow cooker. Shred. Fold in the enchilada sauce and brown sugar. Return meat to the slow cooker and keep on warm until ready to serve.

Obsessed with your slow cooker? Me too! 

Check out Simmer Down Now, my soup and slow cooker Pinterest board!

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas

Easy Slow Cooker Carnitas

Perfect Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork

Perfect Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwiches

Award Winning Chili Con Carne

Award Winning Chili Con Carne | A slow cooker hit!

Baked Avocado Rolls

Baked Avocado Rolls

Monday, July 14, 2014


Peru | Hiking the Sun Gate Trail in Machu Picchu #travel

There really are no words to describe the glory that is Machu Picchu. Cradled in the epic arms of the Andes Mountains, it seems like a thing straight out of myths--this ancient city of giant stones carved right into a green, green valley surrounded by clouds. 

Peru Rail | Machu Picchu

We boarded Peru Rail, our train car blaring with an incessant pan flute soundtrack. I think it was supposed to set the mood? Despite the ruckus, the three hour ride from Cuzco to Aguas Calientes was worth it for the views alone. The train car ceilings were lined with windows so you could see the mountains growing taller and taller all around. 

Peru | Hiking the Sun Gate Trail in Machu Picchu #travel

Peru | Hiking the Sun Gate Trail in Machu Picchu #travel

Early morning mist shrouded the ruins and we started along the trail up to the Sun Gate, a hike that offers view after view of this:

Peru | Machu Picchu #travel

Machu Picchu | Peru

And ample moments for jumping shots, a la:

Machu Picchu | Peru

We stopped quite a bit along the way to take boatloads of photos and then hiked back down to the entrance. All said it took us about an hour and half. At the Sun Gate we met a lovely biologist who studies rain forests in Costa Rica. She pointed out a few types of orchids and birds that thrive in Machu Picchu. 

Sun Gate Trail Machu Picchu

Warren donned his infamous cap, the same one he bought in Machu Picchu during his first visit six years ago. They had a touching reunion while I read my favorite passages from Pablo Neruda's The Heights of Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu Peru

But epic landscapes and childhood dreams fulfilled aside, this post really should be about the most important thing: alpacas. Because there were a million of them grazing around and looking utterly picturesque. 

Machu Picchu | Alpacas

We got to meet this little friend (who ran away after Warren tried to make her wear the aforementioned fisherman's cap). Turns out, even an alpaca can't abide the humiliation of a fisherman's cap--smart gal.  

Machu Picchu Alpaca

Machu Picchu Alpaca

She eventually forgave Warren after she heard him opening a granola bar. She trotted over and, without any fanfare, snatched it from Warren's hand and gulped it down. Then she hung around giving him Bambi eyes in hopes of scoring another sweet treat. I should say that you actually aren't supposed to eat in the park because of the overwhelming urge humans have to feed pack animals. 

Machu Picchu Alpaca

Machu Picchu | Alpacas in the Ruins #travel

Alpacas love walking in synchronization, apparently.  

Machu Picchu | Alpacas in the Ruins #travel

Besides the alpacas, there were also some quite marvelous ruins to explore. 

Machu Picchu  Ruins

Machu Picchu | Ruins

And magnificent sights to behold. 

Machu Picchu | Huayna Picchu

But let's get real, with alpacas afoot, I really couldn't concentrate on anything else. Especially when they were just lounging so casually. While I took a million photos for my sure-to-be award-winning series, Alpacas in the Ruins, Warren hiked that giant mountain below. It's called Huayna Picchu and only 400 people are allowed to hike it per day. It is known to be a monster. 

Machu Picchu | Alpacas and Huayna Picchu #travel

Of course, Warren scurried up in 45 minutes and down in about 20, which is about triple the speed I would have been able to. But, alpacas!

Machu Picchu | Alpacas and Huayna Picchu #travel

Warren, triumphant. 

Machu Picchu | Hiking Huayna Picchu

Machu Picchu really was a dream fulfilled and I'm still pinching myself to believe that I actually saw it with my very own eyes. Next week, I'll take you on our last Peruvian adventure--we'll go up 14,000 feet to visit gorgeous Lake Titicaca and some floating reed island villages!

More Peru adventures:

Peru | Cuzco Children's Folk Dance Festival #travel

Peru | Terraces in the Sacred Valley #travel