Baby Bump {39 Weeks} and Bark in the Park


Happy Friday!

I’m still pregnant but happily that could change any day now! This week I’ve been having some pregnancy insomnia, which is apparently a common complaint when you’re this far along and trying to sleep with a watermelon where your stomach used to be.  But don’t worry, these three are resting up for baby.  This was the scene last weekend after a big walk.

Other than not sleeping much I’m feeling pretty good so we’ve been making an effort to get out of the house while we’re still footloose and fancy free.  On Wednesday night we took the dogs to Bark in the Park at the Durham Bulls with the help of my sister.  It was a blast, tons of dogs, nice vendors, puppy pools and Durham Magazine on hand taking professional dog shots for their blog.  The girls were ready for their closeup:IMG_0780After the photoshoot Bengal sat on Joe’s lap for several innings (so ladylike) and Red discovered that peanut shells under the seats are delicious. I definitely recommend bringing your pup to Bark in the Park next year!






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Decadent Banana Bread with Mini Chocolate Chips


This recipe is a decadent spin on the classic banana bread – improved, in my opinion, with the addition of mini chocolate chips.  Every bite is delicious and dense, packed with chocolate and banana.  It’s a great way to use your overripe bananas and if for some reason it doesn’t disappear within a a day of baking, it freezes well tightly wrapped in foil.  I like to use the mini chocolate chips because they distribute more evenly through the bread and won’t sink to the bottom of your loaf pan.  The key to perfect banana breads is not overmixing the batter once the liquid ingredients are added to the dry. 

What to buy:

  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for greasing the pan
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2-3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed with a fork (about 1 cup)
  • 1 1/2 cups mini chocolate chips

What to do:

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • combine flour, baking soda and salt and set aside
  • whisk eggs and vanilla until combined
  • grease a medium to large size loaf pan with butter or cooking spray
  • cream butter and sugar in a stand mixer until light and fluffy
  • gradually pour the egg mixture into the butter, while mixing, until incorporated
  • add the bananas (which will appear to curdle the mixture, don’t fret)
  • slowly mix in the flour mixture until just incorporated and fold in the chocolate chips
  • transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about one hour
  • cool the bread in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes until you can flip it out to cool fully


Paint Your Pet with HappyMess in Durham

Recently my husband and I attended one of those sippin’ and paintin’ classes that have become popular in the last couple of years.  The theme for this one was “Paint Your Pet” (yes, we’re obsessed with our labs) and the class was offered at HappyMess Studios in Durham.  Joe signed us up back in February as a birthday present to me and some six months later we finally found a time to attend!

 When you first arrive the instructor shows you to your place where she has roughly sketched out a  photograph of your choice.  IMG_1702Fortified by whatever beverages you bring,  (a milkshake for me and beers for Joe,) you learn a brief lesson about colors and shading.  IMG_1697And then you get to work!

Our instructor, Libby, circulated between us for the next couple of hours to make sure we were on track and to help us mix the colors.  Before we knew it, 3 hours flew by and we were signing and dating our masterpieces.





DSC_0097Thanks to Libby’s hand, this photograph became this painting:IMG_1718

And this oneDSC_0879became this work of art by Joe:

IMG_0663And finally with this sweet face as inspirationDSC_0101

I painted: IMG_1720Overall, it was a great time, our instructor could not have been nicer and we took home some artwork that won’t win any awards but makes me smile.

Baby Bump {37 Weeks}

Happy Friday!

I’m so excited (and appropriately anxious) that we could have a baby any day now! I feel good, just moving slower and melting in the August heat.  I can’t get enough Cookout milkshakes (seasonal fresh watermelon anyone?) and I’ve celebrated both the last 8 and 9 month milestones with cupcakes and candles because why not?!  If this baby has a sweet tooth he can blame his mom.

Some Good Reads {Summer 2014 – Part 2}

Being pregnant and a little less on the go this summer has allowed me to get a lot of reading done so I have an updated summer book list to share!  I’ve also been reading more pregnancy/parenting focused books and have divided my list accordingly.   If you like my literary tastes and want more, check out my previous lists: fall 2013summer 2013winter 2014, spring 2014, and summer 2014 part 1.   As always, send any recommendations my way or tweet me @sally_cooks.

 I hope you have a good, book-filled end to the summer!

  • You Should Have Known is a gripping story about a family therapist in New York who writes a book based on her theory that people who marry the wrong people have only themselves to blame.  As her book is about to go to press her life begins to unravel in such a way that undermines her theory and had me staying up late (well, ’til 10) to see what was going to happen.
  • The Secret History is long (at 592 pages) but worth picking up for its highly entertaining story of  five students at a small liberal arts college in Vermont who exclusively study the Classics and form a tightly knit clique capable of murder.
  • The One and Only is Emily Giffin’s (author of Something Borrowed and Where We Belong) latest and my book club’s August selection.  The book is set in fictional Walker, Texas—a small college town that lives and dies by football.  It’s an easy summer read, entertaining if a touch predictable.
  • I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You: A Novel is written from the point of view of Richard, a brooding English artist living in Paris after his wife and American mistress have left him. Somehow author Courtney Maum, makes Richard into a sympathetic character and in doing so, presents a compelling portrait of a marriage and a family in crisis.
  • The Map Thief is the true story of antiquarian map dealer, E. Forbes Smiley who spent years doubling as a map thief —until he was finally arrested for stealing maps from the Yale University library.   Unfortunately Smiley refused to be interviewed or to comment on the book so the story is missing his firsthand account but is interesting nonetheless and provides a comprehensive history of mapmaking and collecting.
  • Landline is a work of fiction from the author of author of Eleanor & Park and Fangirl and is a funny take on love, marriage, and the complication of magic phones that allow you to talk to the past.


  • Bumpology answers the common and uncommon questions about pregnancy and parenting like “Can I eat peanuts during pregnancy? Do unborn babies dream? Can men get pregnancy symptoms too? How much do babies remember? How can I get my baby to sleep through the night?” I like how it is broken up into simple questions followed by a three or four  paragraph, easily digestible answer.
  • And Baby Makes Four was given to me by my dog-expert Aunt P because it provides straightforward instructions on how to prepare your family dog(s) for a new baby’s arrival. Written by a behaviorist and mother, this useful guide helps to address specific pet behaviors like possessiveness, jealousy, fear of new people and new situations, inappropriate jumping, and chewing on baby toys.  Not that my dogs do any of that, of course…
  • How to Rock Your Baby is a refreshingly calm take on childrearing by Erin Bried, a senior staff writer at SELF magazine.  It is laid out in the form of essential tips for new moms and soon-to-be new moms, from the author’s experience and her interviews with ten other moms.
  • The Kids Will Be Fine is a “manifesto” for moms that encourages readers to opt out of the masochism cycle that motherhood has become. This is a book for moms everywhere that gives “women permission to slough off the judgments, order in some pizza, and remember that motherhood is also about the mother.” I can get behind that.
  • In All Joy and No Fun journalist Jennifer Senior asks: what are the effects of children on their parents? She analyzes this question from a historical, sociological, economical, psychological, philosophical, and anthropological perspective and the results are fascinating and not always depressing.
  • I thought This Is Ridiculous This Is Amazing: Parenthood in 71 Lists was laugh-out-loud funny.  I can’t pick a favorite list but one of my favorite lines, and I’m paraphrasing is “Son, you’re awesome and any woman would be lucky to be with you but you should pick one who is like your Mom.  And if you’re into men, you should still pick a man who is most like your Mother.”


Classic Crème Brûlée

Today I’m sharing a recipe for one of my top five favorite desserts.  If you’ve never made crème brûlée before you’re going to be surprised by how simple it is to make the classic, creamy, decadent dessert.  All you need to whip up this fancy pants dessert is a pint of whipping cream, 4 eggs, sugar, salt, vanilla and some cute ramekins and a blow torch.


What to buy (makes 4 servings):

  • 1 pint whipping cream
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • pinch salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar per each ramekin, for caramelizing
What to do:

  • preheat oven to 300 degrees
  • spray four ramekins with non-stick cooking spray
  • heat cream in a microwave safe bowl until it begins to bubble, took two minutes in my microwave
  • in a separate bowl, combine egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar, stirring for 2-3 minutes until it lightens in color and becomes fluffier in texture
  •  slowly pour warm cream, vanilla and salt into the egg sugar mixture, whisking to temper the eggs so they don’t scramble
  • add vanilla, salt, and whisk to combine
  • pour into prepared ramekins
  • Add 2 cups water to 2-cup glass measuring cup and microwave on high power until boiling, about 4 minutes.
  • bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until mostly set in the middle as it will continue to set as it cools
  • to achieve the caramelized top layer,  sprinkle the top of each ramekin with 2 teaspoons sugar and using a torch held about 6 inches away from the surface, heat the sugar evenly until you’ve reached the desired level of caramelization



Dark Chocolate Dipped Almond Biscotti

My husband is the perfect taste tester because he likes most flavors and is happy whenever I cook something.  He rarely requests I make something in particular, so when he does, I get excited to make something I know he’s craving.  This was the case  a couple of weeks ago when he told me he really liked almond biscotti.  I had no idea but I used to enjoy making biscotti all the time in high school because it was one of my Aunt’s favorite treats.  I finally found one of my old recipes from way back when and  did a little baking this weekend. I had forgotten how easy and delicious homemade biscotti is and how well it pairs with a nice cup of coffee.  I dipped half of mine in dark chocolate but you could use white chocolate, milk chocolate or serve them plain.  DSC_0122

What to buy (makes about 20 biscotti):

  • 1 2/3 cups blanched sliced almonds
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • semi-sweet chocolate, white chocolate or milk chocolate for drizzling or dipping

What to do:

  • preheat oven to 350 degrees and cover a baking tray with parchment paper, spray with cooking spray
  • beat eggs, vanilla extract, and almond extract in a bowl
  • combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in another bowl
  • gradually incorporate egg mixture into flour mixture until dough comes together
  • add 1 cup almonds and mix
  • turn dough out onto parchment paper and shape into a log that is roughly 3 by 12 inches
  • sprinkle remaining almonds on top
  • bake in the preheated oven until firm to the touch, 30 to 40 minutes
  • allow to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes and transfer log to a cutting board and cut into 1/2-inch thick slices, using a serrated knife
  • return slices to baking sheet, cut-side up
  • place biscotti back in the oven and bake until biscotti are firm to the touch, about 10 minutes
  • flip each biscotti and continue baking until toasted, about 10 minutes more
  • allow biscotti to cool before dipping in melted chocolate








Crunchy Baked Tacos {and a #BeyondMeat Giveaway!}

Update: the giveaway is now closed (8/12/14) and I’ve emailed the big winner and 5 bonus swag kit winners to let them know.  Everyone who entered will receive a coupon for BeyondMeat.  Thanks for entering!!

Happy Friday everyone! Lately I’ve been on a big taco kick and have made this recipe for Spicy Mahi Mahi Fish Tacos with Mango Guacamole almost weekly.  Another one of my current favorite ways to do taco night right is this simple method for crunchy baked tacos. They’re super easy to make and adaptable to whatever meat/beans/cheese/veggies you like.  I usually make mine with seasoned ground beef or chicken but when BeyondMeat reached out to me, I decided to give their Fiesty Beef Crumbles a try.  DSC_0087

BeyondMeat’s stated mission is to find a better way to feed the planet by creating mass-market solutions to replace animal protein with plant protein. They’re dedicated to improving human health, positively impacting climate change, conserving natural resources and respecting animal welfare. You can find their meat alternatives in the frozen section for around $5.49 / 11 oz bag (find a store here.)  My Harris Teeter doesn’t stock BeyondMeat but I found both crumble varieties at Whole Foods.

I snuck them into these tacos and my Midwestern-beef-loving husband thought they were delicious! I agree.

I’m also excited to present a great giveaway on Sally Cooks thanks to BeyondMeat.  EVERYONE who enters will receive a FREE BeyondMeat Coupon so you can try a bag of the crumbles in your favorite beef recipe! 5 people will get Beyond Meat SWAG kits including t-shirts, hats and coupons for BeyondMeat, and 1 big winner will receive a SWAG kit plus a $100 gift card to a BeyondMeat retail partner of their choosing (a grocery store like Safeway or Harris Teeter.)  Please click here to enter until August 12:  a Rafflecopter giveaway

What to buy (feeds 3-4):

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 small can green chiles
  • 1 japaleno, diced (I de-seeded mine so it would be less hot)
  • 1 package (11 ounces) Fiesty BeyondMeat Beef Crumbles
  • 10 taco shells (I used a combo of soft and hard corn shells)
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of chili powder
  • 1 cup shredded pepper jack cheese
  • 1 cup iceberg lettuce, shredded
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • hot sauce
  • other optional toppings: sour cream, guacamole, taco sauce

What to do:

  • preheat oven to 375 degrees and place shells in a 9 by 13 baking dish that is lined with aluminum (for easy cleanup)
  • add olive oil to pan and sauté onion, pepper, chiles until onions are softening
  • add BeyondMeat beef crumbles and onion powder, garlic powder, cumin and chili powder to skillet
  • sprinkle half of the cheese in the bottom of shells
  • evenly distribute ground beef and pepper mixture in shells
  • top ground beef with remaining shredded cheese.
  • bake for about ten minutes, or until cheese is melted and shells have started to crisp
  • remove from oven and top with lettuce, tomatoes and any other toppings you like

DSC_0094 DSC_0103 DSC_0122 DSC_0134

DSC_0145BeyondMeat Beef Crumbles

-are soy free, gluten free and kosher -made with 100% non-GMO pea protein -contain 10g of Protein – the same as ground beef -have no cholesterol, saturated or trans fat -come in two flavors: beefy – a hint of garlic and citrus perfect for pasta sauces, pizzas and more and feisty – a zesty blend of beef crumbles perfect for tacos or chili

Based on my experience with my taco recipe, I feel confident saying that BeyondMeat will fit right into your favorite beef recipes like Spicy Hot Cheese and Sausage Dip, Beef and Dark Beer Chili or Sloppy Joe Tacos.

For this recipe and giveaway I’m partnering with #BeyondMeat but as always, all words and opinions are my own!

White Chicken Enchiladas {Meals For a New Mom}

One of my dear friends just had her second baby, a precious little boy.  I can’t describe how special it was to go visit them in the hospital and how anxious it made me to meet and hold our little guy soon!

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been thinking about meals I could bring her after her baby arrived as well as recipes to make in August and freeze for when life gets a little more hectic this fall.  I did some googling to get ideas of what kinds of meals are most welcome to new parents (12 Super-Foods for New MomsWhat To Bring A New Mom (And Some Other Rules) and Feeding New Moms) to come up with this spread that I’m sharing in the hopes that you’ll send me some of your favorite “make and take” recipes.

The logistics: I packed everything in aluminum trays and plastic bags that I could leave with my friend so she wouldn’t have to worry about doing the dishes or returning anything.  I labelled the contents and noted how long things needed to be heated and at what temperature. I decided to freeze mostly everything ahead of time so they could enjoy the meals on their schedule.


What I made:








So, what’s your go-to make and take meal or what was the best thing someone ever brought you?

Food Touring in Durham with Taste Carolina

We had a great time on a walking food tour of Asheville during our honeymoon so Joe had the smart idea that we should do another food tour for my birthday.  Last weekend, we finally used the tickets from February and embarked on an afternoon tasting tour of Durham with Taste Carolina.  Like our Asheville tour, this one offered food tastings at five different locally owned restaurants with splashes of wine and tastes of beer.

As we toured downtown we realized that though we’ve been Durham residents for almost five months, there are still plenty of places we haven’t tried or even knew existed.

Where we went and what we ate:

We started at Daisy Cakesheader-1

2014-02-24-21.46.281where the owner gave a nice history of the bakery’s origins as a food truck years ago and their ongoing dedication to producing delicious savory and sweet treats daily.  Here we sampled a ham and cheese omelet and a raspberry cake with toasted meringue.  Both were very good and I’d return for the sunny atmosphere and to try their afternoon tea service (reservations required.)  



Our next stop was my favorite (and one that my sister has been raving about for months): Pompieri Pizza

Pompieri Flamewhere the pizza is Neapolitan style, hand tossed, wood-fired and cut table side with scissors.  It was delicious and we’re planning a return trip soon.

IMG_1462Here we sampled the Margherita and the Pompieri pizzas.  I don’t think you can go wrong with any of their pizza!


Following Pompieri, we were escorted around the corner to the owner’s sister restaurant Bull City Burger and Brewery for half a burger, pickle chips and a taste of their Bryant Bridge Gateway Golden Ale.

Bull_City_Logo_webHere the owner proudly shared that they make everything in house from the mayonnaise to the buns except the ketchup (apparently it takes a staggering amount of tomatoes to make 1 gallon of ketchup.)  Joe and I have dined at Bull City twice before and my only complaint is that both times my food has come out cold and once my burger was so pink I had to send it back to be reheated.  Additionally, the owner of Bull City was a bit long winded on his “pasture raised beef” lecture, but gave other good information and is without a doubt passionate about his restaurants and the food they serve.  Joe gives the beer a thumbs-up and you can only taste it at the restaurant as they don’t distribute.


Our next stop was Toastimages

a paninoteca, or Italian sandwich shop, and the most underwhelming restaurant on our tour.  Here we were served a chicken and rice soup, (pretty much the last thing anyone wanted after walking five minutes in the scorching 90 degree heat to get to the restaurant,) and a crostini with pesto, red pepper and cheese.

IMG_1470Following Toast we were led to The Parlour, an ice-cream shop on Market St., right by the Bull statue downtown.diptych-450x291

 We sampled some delicious Girl Scout Mint Chip ice-cream with fudge sauce.   Without a doubt, ice cream definitely tastes better when you’re pregnant and when the temperature is in the 90s. We rarely if ever go out for ice-cream but if we were downtown for dinner this would be a great place to get a special dessert.  Their current flavors range from summer corn and salted butter caramel to traditional vanilla and chocolate offerings.


Our tour concluded with Joe’s favorite stop: Tyler’s Taproom.  The bartenders here couldn’t be friendlier, there was a rousing beer trivia game (Joe cleaned up) and Joe bravely took on the task of drinking craft beer for two.  tylers-logoIMG_1475

In addition to tastes and sips of Durham’s best food and drink offerings, the tour also promised to provide background on Durham’s history but this was definitely a bit surface.  If you knew going in that Durham used to have a bustling tobacco-centered economy and boasted a thriving “Black Wall Street” in the early twentieth century you wouldn’t take much away from their history lesson.

All in all, the food was great, our guide was friendly and it was a nice way to spend an afternoon in one of my favorite cities.  I’d definitely recommend a Taste Carolina food tour if you love food, have visiting houseguests, are planning a foodie bachelorette party or are looking to have a fun afternoon date.