Just the other week, I posted this picture on instagram:

I wonder what I could be decorating cookies for…

Prompting a college friend to ask, are those for you? Lest we all give my grandmother a heart attack with these questions, no, no, and definitely not, no. L and I are still contemplating whether we’re ready for a kitten, much less an actual, live little human. SO, no baby floptimisms in the foreseeable future, but there will be a niece floptimism!

gender reveal balloon via @floptimism

My sister and brother-in-law announced the pregnancy a few months ago, and they had an adorable, intimate “gender reveal” party this past weekend. They asked me to put together some Pinterest-inspired desserts for the big day:

  • blue and pink question mark sugar cookies with royal icing
  • vanilla and chocolate cupcakes with blue-and-pink swirled vanilla buttercream
  • chewy brownies

gender reveal savory food via @floptimism

We also had a full menu of other delicious food, including homemade kale chips, a hemp seed tabbouleh, fruit, veggies and hummus, spanakopita, samosas, crackers and cheese, and, of course, some blue and pink m&ms, because how can you not? Some nutritious foods, some treats; some homemade, some store-bought. It was a simple spread, the focus more on celebrating a new baby-on-the-way and the excitement of learning if blue or pink balloons would pop out of the cutely wrapped box in the living room.

I know what you really want to hear about is the food, though, am I right? So here’s a little run-down of the recipes I used:

gender reveal cookies vertical via @floptimism

THE COOKIES. I will never, ever, not ever get back together bake a sugar cookie recipe that is not this one from bake at 350. It is simple, pillowy, buttery, rich, soft but sturdy — in short, utter perfection. I always use this royal icing from annie’s eats, though I’m still getting the hang of the proper consistencies for piping vs flooding. I used all-natural, vegetable-based food colorings to tint the icing blue and pink.

gender reveal cupcakes via @floptimism

THE VANILLA CUPCAKES. There’s one thing I know for sure: brown eyed baker never steers me wrong. Her snickerdoodle recipe is the inspiration for this post, and she has me sold once again on these cupcakes. They’re very rich and buttery, almost like a pound cake, but with a slightly more tender crumb. Also, the directions are little more than “dump everything into a bowl and mix.” Bonus points for simplicity. Do you know what isn’t simple, though? Artfully swirling together two colors of buttercream. That’s a project for another day, mastering the swirl. The bottom line is they tasted amazing.

THE CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES. Though the buttercream recipe came from the vanilla cupcake recipe, I used a cocoa cupcake recipe from my recipes for the base of these. The one I tried the day of the party, I enjoyed. I got very positive feedback from my dad. They’re not at all sweet — dense and dark, so full to the brim with chocolate flavor that there’s little room for anything else. However, when I had one the next night after being refrigerated in an airtight container, they just tasted bitter and dry. There’s a chance they just can’t stand up to the refrigerator, or perhaps need to be eaten the day they’re baked. Or, maybe I was tasting them through rose-colored frosting and when the excitement of the day wore off, I tasted them for what they were. I don’t know that I’ll bake them again to see which it is. Take that as you wish.

gender reveal brownies&cookies via @floptimism

THE BROWNIES. Last but not least, there are the most amazing chewy brownies by, once again, brown eyed baker. I’m telling you, this woman’s recipes are gold. I didn’t follow the recipe to a T, but mostly stayed true to it, and everyone raved about them. They are like your favorite boxed brownie, only better. They have that crackly top and fudgy, dense centers. They’re rich. They’re wonderful. I didn’t think a humble brownie could usurp my sugar cookies as the most talked about dessert on the table, but these absolutely, completely, 100% blew them out of the water. The cupcakes, a few people tried. The cookies, a few more. The brownies? Demolished. Gone. Out of I think 70 little brownie bites, there were maybe 10 left. If you’re in the chewy/fudgy camp of brownie lovers (is there really any other camp? I don’t know if we can be friends. I’m kidding, of course. More or less.), you have to make these.

gender reveal family via @floptimism

And that’s that! Another big congratulations to my sister and brother-in-law, who will make wonderful parents to a beautiful baby girl in just a few short months! The party was a fun excuse to gather together with friends and family, eat delicious food, and celebrate…and practice my buttercream swirling technique!

love in this moment

pinterest love.
some amazingly useful tips for storing and using fresh produce.

bookmark love.
these cocoa dumplings with bourbon maple sauce, seriously.
the crispy egg of my dreams.
this carrot & cider loaf cake, because deb can make me bookmark anything with her descriptions.
this pumpkin-y spin on hummus.
this easy sourdough, because sourdough wins at life and easy’s pretty nice, too.
stunning steel cut oats with cinnamon-stewed fruit.

just love…love.
the great food blogger cookie swap that I want to participate in but how in the world do you choose ONE cookie recipe to send out to 3 strangers?? That’s like trying to decide what to wear on your first day of high school, all over again.
And on a kind of more serious note, this on-point synopsis of the quarter life crisis, which is 100% a real thing. Or so I tell myself.

Me and pork chops, we’re not a thing. We don’t go way back. In fact, I have so far in my life met exactly zero pork chops that I liked. (Sorry, pork chops.) (Don’t feel so safe, adorable pigs, I still go weak in the knees for a good pulled pork.) Goodness knows I tried, though. After all, if I really wanted to cook my way through Rachael Ray’s book, I would have to face the chop eventually.

maple-mustard anything via @floptimism

I have to say, I’m glad I gave it a chance — not because I liked the pork chop in this recipe, but because I’m head over heels in love with absolutely every other aspect of it. Had I turned my nose up to it all from the start, I never would have discovered this delicious maple-mustard glaze and grilled apple side. And because I am sitting here under sweatshirts and blankets with the heat in the apartment begrudgingly switched on for the first time since March…I think it’s safe to whip out the decidedly Fall recipes.

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Subtitle: oh right, I run a food blog.

apple pb french toast waffles via @floptimism

There’s really nothing else to say. I mean, is it ok to not post for a bajillion days straight and then pick up and not even acknowledge it? Like, can we pretend that just yesterday I was lamenting the end of Summer with my Thirty Minute Thursday swordfish recipe? And now here I am again with something fresh and exciting for Fall, without commenting on the fact that literally an entire month has actually gone by?

apple pb french toast waffles close via @floptimism

Good. Because all I really feel like talking about right now is melty peanut butter, and fresh apples, and cinnamon, and some waffle-french toast hybrid business happening underneath. Because this morning when I woke up, totally overwhelmed by this crazy thing called Real Life, I had a mini moment of bliss with these ingredients, and I want you to be able to, too. Because these are waffles, softened by a cinnamon egg wash, spread with natural peanut butter and sliced apples and broiled into one perfect tower of edible fall. One bite of these, and you won’t want to talk about anything else, either.

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love in this moment

pinterest love.
a desire to make my own riff on fluffernutter brownies.

bookmark love.
this hazelnut fig-compote layer cake. please let me pull a mean girl for a second: shut up.
all-the-nuts-and-seeds granola…with homemade almond-macademia nut milk. WHAT.
kind of early in the season, but latke waffles.
homemade peach mustard…I think this warrants another WHAT.
the best ever pumpkin oatmeal, how can you not?
let’s all eat these chocolate oat cookies for breakfast.
…and then try these pumpkin cheesecake enchiladas with homemade whipped cream instead of the cool whip!
this better chocolate babka — I barely even read the recipe before bookmarking.

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love in this moment

bookmark love. [ too irresistible not to save ]
oh peanut butter pie, my love for you knows no bounds.
..but just in case we’re all too lazy for pie crust.
add this to my never-ending list of blogs to one day in my nonexistent spare time ogle over.
blended breakfast chocolate chia pudding. Ohhhh man.

just…love. love. [ links that deserve to be shared. ]
my eyes are amazed by these pictures of recipes suspended in air.
this. “women’s greatest threat isn’t misogyny; it’s counting calories.”
see also: just eat the damn brownie.

mango salsa swordfish via @floptimism

I’m so tempted to go all soapbox on you today. I just finished American Catch by Paul Greenberg, and it made me want to shout from the rooftops how we’re absolutely crazy people for importing so much seafood from farms in other countries, when American seafood from places like Bristol Bay in Alaska is so healthy and plentiful. It made me want to eat Alaskan salmon for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, but not dessert, because not even sustainable seafood should replace chocolate cake. Please tell me you’ll go and read the book yourself, so that I’m no longer tempted to write a full-on dissertation on it right here and right now.

mango salsa swordfish via @floptimism

Seafood is confusing, I get it. There are farms and oceans, organic claims that don’t actually mean anything in the U.S., overfishing and mercury and omega-3’s, and your head is liable to explode standing in front of the seafood counter trying to make the “right” choice. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has saved my poor explosion-prone head so many times, I can’t even tell you. I keep their printable pocket guide with me whenever I go shopping, and if they ever release their app for Windows phones, I will be first in line.

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raspberry mango sorbet via @floptimism

I can’t tell you how many people have wished me a happy last weekend of Summer, and how utterly not okay I am with it. I saw a pumpkin recipe on a blog last week. I wore a skirt to work the other day, because summer is not over yet, but also a scarf, because the weather seems to think that it is. My knees were a little chilly and my heart was a little sad.

I haven’t eaten nearly enough strawberries to say goodbye to them for a whole 10 months. I only made ice cream 3 times. Our local farm stand hasn’t even been open for a full month yet. I know that in a few weeks I will be all, omgapples, and stocking up on pumpkin puree just in case there’s another shortage and what happens if I have a random craving for pumpkin and the stores are all out??, but right now, right now I still want to wear dresses without stockings and pretend that I can keep my vitamin D up if I just take a quick little jaunt around the block.

raspberry mango sorbet via @floptimism

Fortunately, it’s a well known fact that it doesn’t have to be blazing hot to enjoy ice cream. Do not act surprised if you come back here in 4 months to find me writing, teeth chattering but smiling all the same, about my latest frozen creation. So whether you’re in the so-long-summer-see-you-next-year-camp, or my camp, frowning disapprovingly as the sun sets earlier and earlier each day, I hope we can come together and appreciate more ice-cream-not-ice-cream.

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