To New Traditions: Sugar Cookies

The hardest part about growing up is realizing that traditions have to change: The whole family might not make it to Thanksgiving; My mom doesn’t like hanging stockings anymore; My little brothers are too big to have their bedrooms doors wrapped shut on Christmas Eve. Within those lost traditions are ones that remain: My dad reading us The Night Before Christmas (no matter how old we get); Mimosas on Christmas morning; Croquettes for Christmas dinner. Those things stay the same and I believe always will in some way.

Recently I find myself sifting through traditions old and new in order to see what I want to carry on to my own family one day. I will make pies for my own family on Thanksgiving, as I have for years now. I hope to make cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning for years to come.

As a part of tradition searching, this was the first year I made Christmas cookies from scratch. We had always used pre-made doughs, Pillsbury and the like, but they were never really right. The were often hard and the past few years we didn’t really get into it as much. I took it upon myself to tackle fresh cookies that would be more favorable and softer than in years past. I made the dough by myself, but my family still got into the cutting and decorating. The combination of my baking and my family’s help made it the perfect tradition in my book.

The Recipedsc_1463

I am developing a serious appreciation for Tasty lately because they yet to have a recipe that disappoints me. I used their sugar cookie recipe after looking at the positive comments and liking the attitude of the included video. I followed it exactly, except I included less almond butter and anticipated that it made much more than the 12 cookies that it said it did. I can thank the comments for those good decisions.

With all of my years of baking, I believe I had only made homemade icing once before this. I was not sure how my meringue powder substitute would go, but (surprise, surprise) it went pretty well. I had to add more water than I expected, and I could have probably doubled the recipe overall to make more. It was not the perfect royal icing that I was hoping to have in order to decorate, but I pin that on my inexperience and I only hope to improve it in order to decorate more intricately.

How They Taste

I knew from the second I tasted the dough that these cookies were going to be good. That hint of almond, which my family took forever to guess, was perfect. dsc_1471Even after baking they retained their flavor and remained soft for the few days that they lasted.

The key was to not roll the dough out too thin, because thicker cookies had a slight fluffiness to them that was perfect. I don’t mean make them thick, but not make them too thin either.

The cookies reminded me of pre-made cookies from years past, while also having a homemade comfort to them that you can’t get from the store. I was concerned about the flavor of the icing, but I ended up going for the iced cookies over the plain ones. I could go for one of them as I type.

Reminders for Years to Come

Here’s a mental reminder to myself to start putting together a really nice recipe book. This recipe would be first thing in the “holiday desserts” section. It’s a classic cookies that takes time but pays off in the end. I would save myself the work and make the dough one day while baking/decorating the next day. The combined mental, emotional, and stomach satisfaction was just what I was looking for. Already excited to give these another try during the next holiday season.



Less Talk, More Action: Part 2[017]

My 2016 motto was “less talk, more action”. As simple as it sounds, I was only relatively successful with it as far as joining my sorority, my summer working next to the beach, and booking a flight to Spain. 2017 is the year where I kick it up a notch.

I couldn’t go as far into the future as the lovely Paxton Mittleman did, my professional mentor who inspired me to write this up, but this list leaves me full of excitement for the coming year.

My 2017 Goals

The Measurable (in no particular order) 

  1.  Write everyday: It’ll help me in the long run, even if it’s just a quick jot.
  2. Get my nose pierced: Oddly enough my mom convinced me.dsc_1251
  3. Join a committee on my sorority: Saying “get more involved” was too vague.
  4. Get a great job in Delaware if I don’t get an internship: Gotta be realistic.
  5. Go to the beach once a month this summer: I miss it.
  6. Get a tattoo: Something dainty.
  7. Perfect the process of the french press: The Keurig isn’t cutting it, no matter how convenient.
  8. Apply for CEAStudyAbroad: Spring 2018 here I come.
  9. Get 500 followers on penneformythoughts: And enjoy the journey.screen-shot-2016-12-31-at-3-24-12-pm
  10. Try a new recipe once every 2 weeks a month: Can’t get too ambitious there, but different variations of the same thing don’t count.
  11. Visit a new [American] town or city: Road trip?
  12. Have a 30-photo nikon portfolio: Or have 30, high-quality photos I am completely and utterly proud of. Food photos don’t count.
  13. Parasail (again): I’d give zip lining a shot too.
  14. Learn [at least] one song on my guitar: I’m thinking James Arthur, Lauryn Hill, or the Lumineers-if not all three.
  15. Read 3 books on my own time: I’m not going to share how many books I didn’t read this year.

The Vague (to remind me how endless the possibilities of the future are)

  • Laugh until I cry: As much as possible
  • Stay Healthy: mentally and physically
  • Think More: Ask more questions and seek more answers
  • Stay positive: Constantly keeping that glass half full
  • Self love: Enough said

I am not making any promises to myself with this blog in particular because I can only hope my goals will fuel my passions and ideas.

Happy New Year Everyone!


You Can Call Me The Girl Who Ate the World

It was my creative writing class this semester that gave me the final push to return to my abandoned child of a blog. It reminded me that it’s not about what exactly I write but that fact that I am writing at all. The following personal narrative, and my final for the class, brings me nothing but pride and hunger for both food and adventure

Of all the posts to return to CC with, I think this is a curveball for all of us but enjoy!

The Girl Who Ate the World

By Casey Irwin

I plan on eating the world. Our planet we love and live for, I plan on devouring—and I don’t just mean I’m going to eat at the “Top Ten Restaurants in Rome”.

I am going to eat Rome.

Devour Moscow.

Consume Toronto.

Throw in some Hong Kong and even Vienna for dessert. I am going to eat the world until nothing remains.

I left Chicago because there was nothing left of it. I was eating away at it as I grew up, really learning the best mindsets when setting out to explore my city, person, or plate before me. My family nurtured me with putting experiences over everything, which showed me the best approaches to satisfying my hunger. I started off slow, not completely taking it in until the picky eater in me faded away and a big appetite took its place.  Even as I visit, returning only after it has had a chance to rebuild itself in my absence, I eat all that I missed and more of the surrounding areas. Eat one city and it is as if two grows back in its place. There is always something new to try while too much of the same also remains.

Next I will be on to Spain. I go. I try the Paella. The Jamón. The Tapas. But I don’t stop there. I consume the smiles that join me for every meal. I am given energy by the flowing conversation around the table. I snack on the satisfaction of a meal out, with a buzz from a coffee and a life-high hangover. Every element of Spain fuels me for my next trip, repaying the meals that my host family feed me with the filling feelings of appreciation and love. I leave without a regret; not a corner unturned.

Maybe India is next. India might be a bit harder to swallow, but I will take on any challenge if it means a full stomach. To some people it isn’t as pleasant as other places, but throwing enough spices on anything will make it tasty. I will be bloated by the rivers, and I’ll need to run off those festivals and traditions later. Social media will capture it all before there is nothing left to capture. Consuming India is a more intimidating idea, more than just the different table manners that come with a different place. It can take a lot of energy to step into a place without letting expectations and other people’s judgments take over, but what you get out of it is so much more. I won’t let the over crowded streets clog my arteries when there is something so satisfying about sharing a meal or traditional chai tea with someone that expects nothing from you except a smile.

Again I will be forced to question myself as I make my way to Egypt. History is like the bran muffin of subjects to some people, while to me the thousands of years of being marinated in conflict and culture have left Egypt ready to be cooked and consumed like a fine steak. My tongue may grow tired from trying to speak the native language, only to have my appetite grow with the humorous conversation around my mispronunciations. The tourist filled pyramids won’t stick with me, like how carbs never manage to keep me full for long. It’ll be the authentic restaurants and people that will carry me from one adventure to the next.

It’s then that I am ready for Melbourne, Australia. One of my high school best friends was from here, but I would like to think she would be encouraging and even helpful as I nibble away at it. The artistic support that has been created by the beautiful city, whether it be through the discussion around cafés or street art, will make it go down so smoothly. The intriguing thoughts brought up enrich my body more than any vitamin could.

Can’t leave out South America. I’ll make my way through Argentina, Bolivia, Chile,

Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela by way of the Andes Mountains. The rough terrain has nothing on my chompers, making my way through small villages and vast cities. You would think that I would get tired of it after so many countries, but people tend to forget just how different the Latin American countries are. Only once I take a sip of satisfaction where the Atlantic and Pacific oceans meet will I move on.

To Baklava in Athens.

Korean Barbeque in Seoul.

Matriarchy in Mosuo, China.

The Cliffs of Moher in Ireland.

Equality in Reykjavík, Iceland.

Only the penguins of Antarctica are safe. One sided conversations leave a bad aftertaste.

I will travel them all, picking my teeth clean of them one by one, until I have licked my plate clean and eaten it too.

~          ~         ~

 I would eat the world if I could; for I think it would taste pretty damn good.

That is the thing though. Food isn’t just food. We don’t just consume and grow from what we put in our mouths. Food is the conversation around the table. Food is the energy of whoever you care to share a meal with and the culture that surrounds its roots. Meals are remembered by the place they are eaten and who they are with. Food is an experience that can be done alone, but is so much better with people by your side to complete the experience.

The Five Ingredients to My Perfect Summer

I love summer. My allergies have finally adjusted to the beautiful flowers, my birthday is plopped right in the middle of Labor Day and Memorial Day, and everything is just more relaxing. What makes this summer special is that I am living on my own for a good part of it, and I am prepared to make it as great as I can. It’s one thing to be off of school, but it’s another to make the most of your time.

I was going to write up my five goals for summer, but I realized I didn’t want to pressure myself or hold myself to a to-do list like I do during the school year. This list is more of a reminder to myself, and others, for what summer is all about.

1.  Time to be CreativeIMG_7743.jpg

School does not leave a lot of time for writing for fun. It only really left time for my Spoon Articles, but summer gives me time to tackle both SpoonUD and my blog. More than that summer means summer cooking, baking, and photographing.

2. Beach Bumming it


Ten years ago, I never would’ve imagined how much I love the beach after I used to leave it burnt, dirty, and tired. Now I hope to spend as much skin-healthy time at the beach as I can. Game are fun, but the real beauty is in just lying there. Just me and the waves–The savage seagulls I could do without.

3. Work Work Work

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Now I can’t actually spend every day at the beach. A lot of my time is going to be spent at working at a coffee/ice cream shop, and I am extremely excited about it. The lessons learned will last a lifetime while the money I earn in the summer buys me more fun for the rest of the year. I find working empowering, especially when it’s better than doing nothing compared to having an internship.

4. Keeping it Simple

A Simple Summer is a summer I like, and not just for the alliteration. Things seem to move slower, giving me time to sort through all of my things and thoughts in order to get rid of what I don’t need. I’ve realized how much I hate clutter, so summer is the perfect time to get rid of annoyances like that.

5. Adventures

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Nothing says summer quiet like adventures. I am not very familiar with my new Jersey shore home, but I plan on getting comfortable with my surroundings. It might be tough to drag yourself out of bed, but getting up early is so worth a day of exploring a new place.

I could not be happier to be back in the blogging game now that it’s time for summer. Same drill as before–I’m still growing up and figuring out what I want to write about.

Hope you’re all still interested in joining me.

Still sharing my conscience,


Tastebud Travel: Trying Indian Food

Veggie Samosa

What’s #FoodieFriday without a sweet recipe? A very sad Friday if it weren’t for my most recent indulgence!

A Small Disclaimer: I’m a very picky eater–no matter where or with any cuisine–whose diet mainly consists of pasta, cheese, beef, and chicken.

I’m not normally one to step out of my comfort zone when it comes to food, but recently i’ve found myself craving new food combinations–even ones i’ve never even tried before. When my Anthropology class assignment literally told me to eat at an authentic, new restaurant and “BE ADVENTUROUS”, I knew I had to go past my Chinese take-out favorites. I would love to travel to India one day, even if I don’t necessarily get the guts to do that amazing looking Rickshaw Run, so yesterday I combined my school work with my personal curiosity of the country’s cuisine.

Main Course

My mom, who had never had Indian food either, came with me to try something new for herself (and because she’s the best).  Kama Bistro in La Grange (IL) was a good starter restaurant because it considers its menu full of “contemporary” Indian cuisine with influences from other cultures. We told the waiter about our lack of experience with Indian food, so she was very kind with explaining things and giving suggestions.That and some of my previous research–because this was magically an assignment at the end of the day–led us to this:

What We Tried:

  • Vegetable Samosa
  • Chicken Tikka Masala
  • Aloo Gobi
  • Plain Rice
  • Naan
  • Yellow Dal (I think? My mom kept calling it lentils…)

IMG_9524Of course we could not skip dessert, no matter how full we were. I think we went with the most American option, that beautiful Bitter Chocolate Delight beauty to the right, but it was also the only option without nuts–and my oral allergy syndrome would not appreciate any of those.

I found some of the tastes familiar, probably because of one of the spices that I could not quiet put my finger on. I liked the kick of spice that some of the dishes just barely had, because I can barely handle mild buffalo sauce on a good day. I’m not really sure what I was expecting, but I’m glad the flavors were not too overwhelming. I was not blown away, but I enjoyed my meal.

Final Thoughts: I would gladly go grab Indian food if any of my friends had a craving, but don’t wait on me to be the one to suggest it first! To be honest, my favorite part was the naan bread with the Chicken Tikka Masala coming as a close second.

What is everyone’s experience with Indian food? Should I have tried something else on the menu? Any other picky eaters out there hesitant to try new foods? 🙋

Stay Curious,


Poppin’ Like It’s Hot: Tried & True Blueberry Muffins

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Happy #FoodieFriday!

When you have a sweet tooth as strong as mine, you try your best to fit in the healthier food groups into your diet whenever possible. The only way i’m going to be eating blueberries is when I eat them in muffins–If I end up gaining the freshman 15, it will be because of Newark’s Brewed Awakening’s blueberry muffins.  I had a perfect opportunity to try to make bakery-like muffins from home, and actually eat blueberries without cringing every time I feel the squish and pop, when my mom asked me to use up a pack of blueberries.

Instead of even opening one of the dozens of cookbookScreen Shot 2015-12-17 at 7.30.34 PM.pngs in my house, I found a recipe on Pinterest-from a blog that even said the recipe was “tried and true”. As far as picking the recipe, I used my usual criteria that mostly depends on the pictures. The recipe does not call for anything out-of-the-ordinary, which makes it perfect for just whipping up one afternoon.




There is not much I would change about this recipe. I am concerned how just about everything will turn out as I put it into the oven (miss perfectionist here), but these reassured me as soon as I started to smell them baking.  The muffins are a sweet treat that I never regret eating, even when one isn’t enough.

Highlights and Tips:

  • IMG_8643.jpgFilling the muffin tins to the top with batter should make picturesque muffins that pour over the top once they rise (I personally should have filled mine more!).
  • DO NOT HESITATE with sprinkling sugar on top; It’s a nice touch!
  • Same with the blueberries: the batter-to-berry is perfect so don’t hesitate with adding the berries.
  • 25 minutes on convection bake were all my muffins needed. This gives the berries enough time to beautifully pop and ooze all over the muffins without burning the bread part.
  • I used whole milk but others may work.



Whether you’re more of a health nut or dessert connoisseur, whether you’re an amateur baker or restaurant chef, I really suggest you try this recipe. You get more than the basic blueberry muffin experience with the beauty, texture, and taste of a bakery muffin from scratch. Pair it with a cup of tea and you have yourself a great afternoon.



Eat Up!



New Year, New Me


Don’t expect to see me at the gym everyday, but 2016 is the year of Conscious Of Casey.

I originally started this blog in order to write more in my free time… then I ran out of free time. Ever since then all signs have been pointing to me make time for my writing. My hopeful field of PR is all about writing, but more importantly I need to make time for the things I enjoy–which includes writing.

I have been spending some time over the past two weeks working on my blog. Prewriting, tweaking, designing–all of it. I really wanted to be happy with everything before I began posting, and I wanted to be prepared to be consistent but still honest and real. In that process I came up with a list of what I want to stick to…

My new Conscious Of Casey Mission Statement (in list form):

  • Being Proud and Passionate: Not just posting because I think it will get views/reads, but stuff I find interesting to write about.
  • Experiences: I hope to have a lot of new experiences in 2016.. Lots of learning and passing on that wisdom
  • Opinions: Events, People, Products, and More
  • Food on Food on Food: #FoodieFriday will continue to be a thing here, as I try more recipes and restaurants

Now as an eighteen year old, I cannot say my content will always be the same. I hope my audience will grow with me as I make adjustments and try to make the best content possible.

My Mottos that will encourage me to write and keep me going just in general this year:

  • “Her success is not your failure”: you all will be seeing that quote again 😉
  • “Fake it till you make it”
  • “A bread cast upon the water comes back sponge cake”
  • Less talk, more action

Second times the charm… Get Excited!


P.S. Happy New Year!