DIY: Girly Decorative Pillowcases

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Collection Collage

Feeling crafty? I am! Our OKMH gang is getting together for a weekend in just 10 days, and I’m beyond excited. All seven of us under the same roof for the first time ever? It’s going to be epic! As a special treat, I made pillowcases for the girls – bright, colorful, girly pillowcases. What’s a girlfriends weekend for, after all, if not pampering, shopping, cocktails and flashy floral prints?

This is my simple DIY tutorial for decorative pillowcases.

For one queen-size pillowcase, you will need:
one yard of cotton quilting fabric (42″ wide x 36″ long)
one 6″ x 44″ piece of a coordinating solid
one 44″ piece of 1/2″ grosgrain ribbon
thread to match
felt & embroidery floss, to make a monogram (optional)
one tiny color-coordinated button (also optional)

Start by washing and ironing your yard of quilting fabric and the coordinating solid, then trim off any scraggly threads along the unfinished edges.

DIY Pillowcase - Loose Threads

Fold the yard of quilting fabric in half lengthwise with the good sides facing each other. Because quilting fabrics come from the factory with finished edges, this means your longer sides will already be ‘finished’ and only the top & bottom of the pillowcase will need to be edged to keep it from unraveling.

DIY Pillowcase - Factory Finished Edges

Pin the long side of your pillowcase and stitch it twice, so it’s extra sturdy. CAUTION: some fabrics have white edges and print along the finished edges. Be sure to stitch inside that line so this doesn’t show on your finished pillowcase. I’ll show you what I mean.

DIY Pillowcase - Double Stitched Edges

Here’s a simple trick for stitching the bottom of the pillowcase. Because the edges are ‘raw’ they can unravel when washed. I like to use bias tape to cover the raw edge. It helps create really sharp edges when the case is turned right-side out. Place your bias tape halfway beneath your unfinished edge, leaving at least 1/2″ of excess tape on each end. Fold the edges in so they’re flush with the edge of the fabric, then bend the bias tape in half to cover the entire edge and pin it into place. Double stitch all the way across to secure the tape. When done, trim off your thread tails and turn the case right sides out. Use a ruler to push your corners into a perfect right angle, and press your pillowcase.

DIY Pillowcase - Bias Tape Collage

Now we’re ready to tackle the opening and decorative trim. For the opening of the pillowcase, I turn the raw edge under 1/2″ and press, then turn under 1/2″ again and pin it in place. Again, double stitch for a more professional finish.

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Hem Collage

If you’re making a simple pillowcase, you can stop here. But if want to embellish, a simple ruffle with ribbon trim is a great way to go about it.

DIY Pillowcase - Ribbon Collage

1. Fold your solid trim fabric in half lengthwise and lay it on your finished case. I like to place the folded edge about 1″ from the finished opening of the case.

2. Lay out the ribbon, aligning it so that it just overlaps the cut edge. Pin the ribbon and ruffle into place so that the two edges meet at the side seam.

3. Stitch it all into place. I like use a ribbon with decorative stitching, and sew just along both sides of that stitching.

4. To join the two ends, fold one edge of the ruffle fabric in about 1/2″ and press it flat. Tuck the unfinished edge inside to hide it. Fold one end of the ribbon under 1/4″ or so and pin it to cover the other end of the ribbon. To finish, stitch across the folded edge of the trim to close it.

5. One last flourish – monogramming.

Do you have to monogram your pillowcases? No, but it does add a nice finishing touch and it’s easier than you think. Using your computer, open a Word document. Type in the initial you need and change the font until you find one you like. Play with the font size so that the finished letter fits easily on your solid border. Then hit ‘print’ and grab your paper off the printer. Roughly cut out a square around your letter and pin that square onto a piece of felt. Using sharp scissors, cut out the letter. When done, pin it to your solid ruffle and sew it on with your machine OR by using a simple stitch and a contrasting embroidery floss. (This one is machine-stitched. The others below are hand-stitched.)

DIY Pillowcase - Finished & Rolled

I took this one a step further with an iron-on flower and a small felt butterfly because this one is for the young daughter of a friend. I hope she’ll love her butterfly with pearls. For the ladies, I embroidered the monograms and finished them with a cute little button in a contrasting color.

When done, I folded the pillowcases and tied them shut with a coordinating ribbon. Here’s a look at some of the finished pillowcases for our first One Kitchen Many Hearts weekend. I just love how they turned out.

DIY Pillowcase - Finished Cases Collage

There’s so much joy in a handmade gift, and I admit I had a ball making these! Even better, the ladies will all have a keepsake from our first weekend together. Now I just need them to hurry up and get here. Not that we’re watching the clock or anything (we’re all totally watching the clock), but SHAKE A LEG, LADIES! We need to get this party started!

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Pizza Week: Pepperoni Rolls Two Ways

Pizza Week Calzones - Cut - Vertical

It’s hard to compete with pizza places – they’re fast, cheap and sometimes a little too convenient, if you know what I mean. How does any parent compete with a $5 pizza from Little Caesar’s? We can’t, really. But we CAN make easy pizzas at home. Are these going to pass for gourmet? No way! But that’s not what I’m going for here. For Pizza Week, I’m shooting for quick and easy.

TIP: I use frozen bread dough. You can make your own, but I’m a confirmed yeast slayer so prepared frozen dough works for me. To thaw it more quickly on a cold day, spray the inside of a gallon zip bag then insert 2 loaves of frozen dough and seal the bag shut. Place the bag on an electric heating pad turned to high heat and cover the dough & heating pad with a thick towel. Every once in a while, check to see how it’s progressing and flip the bag over.

Once the dough is soft and warm, flour your cutting board or work surface. I always get excited when a board gets floured. A myriad of warm and wonderful goodies begins right here.

A Floured Board - Inside NanaBread's Head

Place your bread dough onto a floured board, and using your fingertips, gently press the dough into a rectangle (roughly 8″ x 12″). Cover it with a lightweight kitchen towel and allow it to rest for 10-15 minutes. When it is well rested, grab a rolling-pin and roll the dough into a larger rectangle (about 12″ x 18″).

Pizza Week - Bread Dough

I like a simple sauce on my pizza, so a small can of tomato sauce with Italian herbs & spices blended in is perfect for me. I usually throw in a little garlic salt and hot chili flakes, as well as an extra pinch of dried oregano, but that’s optional. When you’re ready to assemble, lay out your toppings and get busy. Here’s how I put together an easy Pepperoni & Mushroom Calzone.

Pizza Week Calzones - Collage

Top to Bottom: a little sauce, provolone, pepperoni, button & baby bella mushrooms sauteed in butter, Italian 5-cheese blend & parmesan; stretch out the sides of the dough & cut with pizza cutter; pinch together ends, brush with olive oil (or see below) & bake until golden.

Want to blow your family’s mind? Melt half a stick of butter, throw in a little garlic salt & oregano and then brush it all over the top of your calzone just before you pop it in the oven. Bake until golden brown, then remove from the oven and allow it to cool for 5-10 minutes before slicing. Soft, gooey pizza has to be one of the greatest things to ever come out of an oven. Can I get an amen?

Pizza Week Calzones - Vertical

Pizza Week Calzones - Cut - Horizontal

Okay… so everyone loves pizza, but sometimes we don’t have time to make bread dough or wait for it to rise. Here’s my second version of quick pizza rolls – wonton-style. These could not be simpler. You’ll need a package of wonton wrappers (produce section), a package of string cheese, a package of pepperoni, a small bowl of water and a frying pan with about 3/4″ of canola or vegetable oil.

Pizza Rolls - Wonton Style - Collage

The key to these is that small bowl of water. Use the water to ‘paint’ the edges of the wonton wrappers. It acts as glue and causes the cornstarch coating on the wrappers to seal these puppies shut, which is really important when you drop them into hot oil. If yours start to peel open again, just dip your finger in water and stick it back together again. Fry in hot oil (325F) until golden brown, then remove to paper towels to cool. Presto! Pizza Rolls!

Pizza Rolls - Wonton-Style & Ready to Serve
I like to serve these with warm marinara. Again, I usually toss in some oregano and chili flakes. I like my marinara zippy. If you like your cheese ooey and gooey, just microwave these for 30-45 seconds just before serving.

Pizza Rolls - A Perfect Bite

Ready for MORE pizza? Check out our merry band of Theme Weavers and their gooey contributions to Pizza Week:

Monday:
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Pizza Dough & a King Arthur Flour giveaway

Tuesday:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Zorbaz Taco Pizza
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – 30-Minute Cornmeal Pizza Crust

Wednesday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Proscuitto & Pear Pie
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Tangy BBQ Chicken Pizza

Thursday:
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Clam & Bacon Pizza
Monica @ The Grommom – Pesto & Roasted Veggie Pizza on Gluten-Free Crust

Friday:
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – that’s me!
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Caramelized Onion, Sausage, and Barbecue Pizza with Ranch Dressing
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Greek Pizza

PizzaWeekBadge

Honorable Mentions: The following are blog posts I’ve drooled over on other blogger’s websites. While not a part of our Pizza Week shenanigans, they are definitely worth a mention.

Megan @ Country Cleaver – Carnitas Pizza with Mango Margaritas

Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Jalapeno Popper Buffalo Chicken Pizza

Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Pot Roast Naan Pizza with Caramelized Onions & Fontina

Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Sausage, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Pizza

Michelle @ Brown-Eyed Baker – Pizza Dip

Christina @ Dessert For Two – Chocolate Raspberry Dessert Pizza

Bev @ Bev Cooks – Simple Tandoori Chicken Naan Pizza

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31 Days of Dark Chocolate Peanut Butter? Let’s make that 32.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter. It’s the stuff dreams are truly made of, especially if you love chocolate and peanut butter like I do. Peanut Butter & Co makes one that blows my skirt up every single time I crack the lid. I’ll eat it on anything – crackers, toast, bagels, cake, waffles, a spoon, or even my finger. (Hi. My name is Jeanne, and I’ve been a peanut butter addict since forever.)

Keep reading all the way to the bottom, people. This is going to get good!

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter Close-Up

Oh, baby. This is the good stuff. It’s my super-duper favorite. For real.

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter - One Glorious Spoonful

This week Peanut Butter & Co released a new cookbook titled 31 Days of Dark Chocolate Dreams‘. As a newly minted member of Peanut Butter & Co’s Yum Squad, I was thrilled to receive an advanced copy as well as a 28-ounce jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams to play with. Man, I love these guys. Great company, great products, and always such fun to work with. (Hi, Adam!)

Dark Chocolate Dreams Box - Instagram

The cookbook is amazing. As I flipped through it, I kept squealing “Oooo! I’ll make that! I’ll make THAT, too!” So many drool-worthy recipes to choose from. I’m seriously thinking of trying the dark chocolate peanut butter flourless cake first. Then maybe the marble pound cake. Or maybe ALL OF THEM.

First, though, I jumped in to make a batch of my new favorite peanut butter cookies. They’re made with coconut oil instead of butter (I know… I know… I love butter, too) but the coconut oil adds great flavor and I love the texture of these. Even better, you can stuff them with Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Gelato and BAM! – ice cream sandwiches to die for. Let’s start with the cookies first.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB & Coconut Oil Cookies - Ingredients

Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter & Coconut Oil Cookies
(Original recipe credit to AverieCooks.com)

3/4 cup Dark Chocolate Dreams Peanut Butter
1/2 cup organic coconut oil, softened to room temp
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 jumbo or large egg
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup + 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Make sure your coconut oil is softened to the consistency of softened butter (I had to microwave mine for 12 seconds). It sounds insignificant, but making sure your coconut oil is not too firm or too melted is key to the texture of these cookies. When you’re there, combine the peanut butter and coconut oil and beat for 3-4 minutes with an electric mixer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, add the vanilla extract, and beat for 30 seconds more.

Stop the mixer and again scrape down the sides of the bowl. In a small mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornstarch & baking soda and whisk to combine. Add the flour in one batch to the peanut butter mixture, then on LOW speed, mix until flour is starting to incorporate and then turn the speed up to medium and beat just until the flour mixture is well combined and the dough starts to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It should look like this:

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookie Dough - Perfect Consistency

If the mixture is too dry and crumbles easily, add a little more coconut oil and beat it again. If it seems too sticky and doesn’t easily form into a ball, add more flour – 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time – until your dough is the consistency of a new can of Play Dough. When it’s ready, grab a medium ice cream or cookie scoop and your baking sheets. I recommend using silicone baking mats for most baking projects. They guarantee your hard work won’t stick to the pan, causing violent bouts of cursing or childish hissy fits (or so I’ve heard).

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookie Dough - Perfect Scoop

That, my friends, is a perfect scoop. To get it, I simply drag the scoop through the dough then scrape it up the side of the bowl as I remove it. See how the dough presses perfectly into the scoop? That’s when you know it’s the right consistency. Scoop onto lined baking sheets, 2″ apart so you can press them.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Perfect Scoops

Note: if you don’t want to press these cookies flat for ice cream sandwiches, you can leave them like they appear in the above photo. They will take 2-3 minutes longer to bake, but result in a thicker, brownie-like cookie. For ice cream sandwiches, I pressed them with the bottom of an old glass candy dish.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Pressed

I love the pattern this makes in the cookies. If you don’t have a fancy cookie press, I highly recommend flipping over old decorative bowls or glasses. If there’s a great pattern in the bottom, it can be used as a cookie press. Be adventurous and try it!

Bake at 350F for 9-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to cool completely before removing them from the pans. Because I was making ice cream sandwiches with mine, I let the cookies cool completely on the pan, then popped the entire pan in the freezer to make sure they were super cold.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches - Close-Up

For ice cream sandwiches:
Grab a pint of your favorite ice cream or gelato and let it sit out on the counter until it starts to get nice and soft (about 5 mins). I happened to have a pint of Häagen-Dazs Salted Caramel Gelato in my freezer (lucky girl!), but Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia or Coffee Coffee Buzz Buzz Buzz, or any flavor you love will work.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - When the Magic Happens

Using the same scoop I used for the cookie dough, I placed a row of cookies ‘bottoms up’ on my tray, then placed a scoop of softened gelato in the center of each. With a flat metal spatula, aka pancake flipper, I flattened each scoop of gelato into a smooth, even layer.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies - Topped with Gelato

Top with a second cookie and immediately wrap in plastic wrap. Pop them back into the freezer for at least 2-3 hours, or until they are frozen solid. To eat, just unwrap and dig in. If you plan to nibble them one at a time, place the wrapped ice cream sandwiches into an airtight container with a tight-fitting lid. They should keep for at least 4 weeks in your freezer. This recipe makes 16 individual cookies approximately 3″ in diameter, or 8 ice cream sandwiches.

Of course, you can also use a small cookie scoop and make these more bite-size for portion control. Or you can double the recipe and keep the baked cookies in the freezer in an air-tight container so you can enjoy them plain or build ice cream sandwiches on demand. Or just eat the cookies and wash them down with a glass of milk. That works, too. But I recommend the ice cream sandwiches. Because more is more, or something like that.

Dark Chocolate Dreams PB Cookies & Salted Caramel Ice Cream Sandwiches - Stacks & Jar

Now for the best part of this post – Peanut Butter & Co has generously offered to ship a copy of ’31 Days of Dark Chocolate Dreams’ and a 28-ounce jar of Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter to one lucky reader. To participate, simply leave a comment. It could be “I love peanut butter!” or “Peanut Butter & Co is awesome!” or even “I’m a cookbook hoarder.” One reader will be chosen at random, and Peanut Butter & Co will ship this tasty prize pack directly to their door. The deadline for this drawing is Friday, February 7th at 12:00 midnight, Central Standard Time, so jump on it now. Right now! What are you waiting for?!

Dark Chocolate Dreams Cookbook

If you don’t win or can’t wait to get your hands on the cookbook, you can purchase it online by clicking HERE, along with other Peanut Butter & Co goodies and peanut butter products. The Cinnamon Raisin Swirl blows my mind and Mighty Maple is both creamy and dreamy.

Disclaimer: This is not a paid post. Peanut Butter & Co sent me an advanced copy of the cookbook and a jar of peanut butter to play with, as stated above. I am a member of their Yum Squad, which is also unpaid. Put simply, I love their products, and they have occasionally sent me peanut butter to experiment with. For example, check out my ‘The Heat is On’ Spicy Peanut Butter Shortbread Cookies made with their spicy chili-laced peanut butter. As always, all opinions are my own and are not influenced in any way by the company. I just love the quality of their stuff, and enjoy sharing that joy with you.

UPDATE: Congratulations to Linda (comment #4), winner of the Peanut Butter & Co prize pack giveaway. Thanks to all who participated, and high five to Linda. You’re going to love the cookbook AND the peanut butter! -jeanne

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Foodie Challenge: Balsamic Reduction

Ever read the fabulous food blog Country Cleaver? You should. It’s author, Megan Keno, is amazing. Each week, she posts an instructional kitchen how-to lesson. This week, it was how to make a perfect balsamic vinegar reduction. One ingredient, one method, one beautiful result. As a new twist, she is turning her How-To Tuesday posts into a monthly contest. The winner receives a $25 gift card to Target. I like Target, but I love a food challenge. Let’s do this!

Photo courtesy of Megan at CountryCleaver.com; used with written permission

Photo courtesy of Megan at CountryCleaver.com; used with written permission

To participate, you must follow Megan’s how-to lesson and then show your work. I like this SO much better than math class word problems. Since I had a bottle of balsamic vinegar in the pantry, I jumped right on it and used my reduction for lunch. First, let’s talk about the process. All you need is a bottle of balsamic vinegar and a heavy-bottomed saucepan with rounded edges.

Bahn Mi - Balsamic Reduction Collage

Step 1: Measure 1 cup of balsamic vinegar.
Step 2: Pour it into a saucepan with curved sides (important for whisking).
Step 3: Cook over medium-low heat until reduced by 1/2 and syrupy.
Step 4: Pour into a heat-proof glass container & cool to room temp.

It’s really that simple. I will say, I was afraid I would burn this and have to pour it out or start over. To prevent that, I stayed close to it, whisked often, and when it started to bubble and thicken, I reduced the flame to low – just to be sure. When it was thick enough to coat a spoon and I could scrape a path through the pan with a silicone spatula, I knew I was golden.

Bahn Mi - Balsamic Reduction Test

So what do you do with balsamic reduction? I decided to use mine on sandwiches for lunch – specifically spicy chicken bahn mi sandwiches. Because why eat a boring bologna sandwich when you can have something schmancy? Actually, I hopped on this one because I had all the ingredients at hand.

Bahn Mi - Finished Sandwich Glamor Shot

Oh yeah, baby…. come to momma! This sandwich was so flipping good, y’all. It was absolutely packed with flavor. Would I eat it again? You bet your sweet bippy I would. Here’s what you’ll need to make it at home.

NanaBread’s Spicy Chicken Bahn Mi:
1 boneless, skinless chicken breast
1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. garlic salt
1 tsp. Penzey’s Bangkok Blend spice mix
2 bakery buns (soft on the inside/crusty on the outside)
1-2 tbsp. Thai chili garlic paste
6 baby carrots, julienned
1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced
1 orange mild pepper, thinly sliced
2-3 tbsp. roasted peanuts, chopped
a few rings of purple onion, thinly sliced
one leaf of romaine lettuce, julienned
one handful of cilantro, stems removed
1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar reduction
lime wedges, for garnish & squeezing

This recipe starts with the balsamic vinegar reduction.

Bahn Mi - Balsamic Reduction

While your vinegar is reducing, prep your chicken breast by trimming off any excess fat and slicing it into 1/2″ cutlets. Heat a non-stick skillet over high heat, add 1 the olive oil, then carefully add the chicken cutlets to the pan. Sprinkle generously with garlic salt and Bangkok blend and cook just until done, flipping once (approx. 2 minutes on each side). Remove to a plate, tent with foil, and allow them to cool. And try not to snitch, which isn’t easy, because that Penzey’s spice blend smells amazing.

Bahn Mi - Finished Chicken

While your chicken rests, warm your bakery buns. I like to wrap mine in aluminum foil and throw them in the oven on low for about 15 minutes. While they’re warming, julienne your vegetables and chop your peanuts.

Bahn Mi - Ingredient Round-Up

Bahn Mi - Roasted Peanuts

When you’re ready to assemble, slice your bun almost in half horizontally (don’t go all the way through). Smear a generous tablespoon of chili garlic sauce on the bottom half of the bun (or less, as you prefer). Top with a row of chicken cutlets, then layer on the lettuce, peppers, purple onion, carrots and cilantro. To finish, drizzle with balsamic reduction and a squeeze of lime. Hello, gorgeous!

Bahn Mi - Finished - Grey Background

Oh, how I wish we had smell-a-vision. There’s so much going on here. The chicken smells warm & spicy, the chili garlic sauce opens your sinuses, and the balsamic vinegar is tangy and sweet all at the same time. This entire sandwich is an explosion of flavors, and the beauty is that they all seem to balance each other out perfectly – spicy but sweet, crispy yet soft, crunch and creamy.

I served these with one of those microwaveable Asian pad-thai-style noodle bowls topped with a sprinkling of chopped peanuts, a few pepper slices and some fresh cilantro. {Claps hands, drops mic, walks away. Boom!}

Bahn Mi - Finished Sandwich Glamor Shot2

I think Megan’s How-To Tuesday challenges and I are going to get along just fine. And if I don’t win the Target card, I’m still a winner. Because I got to eat that sandwich.

If you want to follow along or jump in and participate, follow Megan at www.countrycleaver.com, or on Twitter @CountryCleaver, or on Instagram and follow the #HowToYOUsDay hashtag.

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OKMH – The December Issue

OKMH Collage 2013

Ah, the holidays. A time for family, friends, gifts, and food followed by more gifts and even more food. Am I right? This month, our One Kitchen Many Hearts band of merry elves kissed 2013 goodbye and bid 2014 a hearty hello with our last round of gift boxes for the year. My December box was from Beka of Kvetchin’ Kitchen fame. Here’s a look at the bounty she sent.

OKMH Dec2013 - All The Goodies

So many fabulous things stuffed in one box! Let’s start with The Cuteness.

Chippy Collage

Oh how I love a cute squirrel or chipmunk. Close friends & family know that I often joke about buying a squirrel ranch to retire to in our old age. I can picture The Complete Package and I sitting on the porch in our rockers, sipping on a bourbon, watching the ‘herd’ come in for the evening. Laugh if you want, but it’s a great way to use up the seven pounds of pecans & assorted nuts in my freezer. And every girl should have a dream.

Next up: The Sparkles

Nail Polish Collage - Dec2013

Mani/pedis (or what we like to call Paws & Mitts) are an OKMH staple. This month, Beka clearly outdid herself by sending a 14-pack of Elf Polish. Get it? Elf. Christmas. I see what she did there. Even more impressive than her holiday humor is the variety of colors & sparkles included in the set. My favorite is the color/sparkle combos like the metallic silver and the chunky silver & black glitter. Or the pastels paired with the white snowflake glitter. Want gold? We got it! Partial to pinks? They’re in there, along with a passionate purple/blue shade, a groovy green and a few not-so-naughty nudes. I love it all!

And now: The Edibles

Food & Bev Collage

Just take a second to soak this in. That’s apple pie cream liqueur, coconut jam (aka coconut curd), and a bottle of Dr Pepper jelly beans. First of all, that coconut jam is off the charts amazing. I sampled it with a spoon and was this close to eating the entire jar. So creamy, so dreamy, so…. coconutty. I want to pair it with chocolate. Or smear it on a roasted banana. But what I don’t want to do is share. Speaking of sharing, the grandkids (Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug) were here when the box arrived and immediately volunteered to sample the jelly beans. They got 4 thumbs up, Beka. Way up. I have yet to try the apple pie liqueur, but that won’t last long. It’s supposed to be close to freezing in Houston tonight, and The Complete Package & I don’t do ‘cold’ well. I’m thinking hot toddies of apple pie cream liqueur mixed with my homemade Apple Pie Moonshine may be in order, or perhaps a spiked vanilla latte.

And that’s where the next part of Beka’s box comes in: The Drinkables

Coffee Cocoa Collage - Dec2013

Know what pairs well with Apple Pie Cream Liqueur? I’m guessing caramel macchiato or vanilla bean coffees and/or vanilla rose cocoa mix. Thanks, Beka! Just in time for our cold snap. I feel toastier already.

Nothing warms the heart like friends & family, and Beka’s last gift brings that point home. I’ll call our last reveal: The Collectibles

Frame & Card Collage

Adorable frame, Beka! And I know just which picture to put in it. It hasn’t been taken yet, but I have plans. Big plans. February plans. Did you notice? It’s a recordable frame. There’s a nifty recorder built into the back of the frame so you can record any message. Or song. That’s What Friends Are For, You Have A Friend In Me, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, Feelings… so many earworms, so little time. Let me know if any of those sticks with you all day. You’re welcome.

Now if you want to see what I sent to Allison, CLICK HERE!
From there, you can see the fun unfold with:

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic
Megan @ Country Cleaver
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours
Mads @ La Petite Pancake
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen

Wishing you all health, wealth and a Happy New Year! -jeanne

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Traveling TX: Lost Maples State Park

Do you ever dream of getting away from it all? Job, cell phone, e-mail, other people… all of it? The Complete Package and I found a place that does that for us. It’s called St. Clare’s Cabin near Leakey, Texas. If you’ve been a reader for a while, you’ll remember we went there last Christmas. This rustic, fabulous cabin is everything we look for in a getaway – quaint, quiet & remote.

LeakeyTX - Porch at St Clare's Cabin

The cabin is in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Hill Country – 4 miles from Vanderpool, 11 miles from Leakey. Still don’t know where that is? Well, that’s the point. It’s waaaaay out there, in the mountains northwest of San Antonio. So far out I had to drive to Bandera to get a cell signal. For real. And I loved it.

Last year, we went just before Christmas. This year, we decided to go right after Thanksgiving and I’m so glad we did. There was still some fall color to ‘ooh & aah’ over. To make the most of it, we visited Lost Maples State Park to try to catch the maples at their finest. We were almost too late, but there was still some beauty to behold. Here’s a sampling of our afternoon hiking Lost Maples.

Lost Maples - Lone Maple with Cliffs

Lost Maples - Pond at Trailhead

Lost Maples - Orange Maple

Lost Maples - Creek withTexas Rock

Did you notice that big rock in the middle of the creek? It immediately caught my eye. Why? Because it looks like the state of Texas, if the entire eastern side of the state crumbled and fell off. Err… sorry, Houston!

Lost Maples - Texas Rock

I’m taking that as a sign that we should move to the Hill Country. {wink} Another cool feature found near the water is the limestone rock that has literally been picked up by the cypress tree roots and incorporated into the trees.

Lost Maples - Cypress Stump with Rocks

The trails through Lost Maples are lovely. Some are steep and challenging; some are more level and lazy. Whichever you choose, the most important thing is to get out of the car and enjoy the trails. Pack a picnic lunch and find a quiet spot by the river. Take a nap under a maple or hike the loop & enjoy the foliage.

Lost Maples - Steps on Maple Loop

It’s so beautiful under the canopy of maples, you can’t help but relax.

To learn more about Lost Maples State Park, visit Texas Parks & Wildlife.

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Luscious Leftovers: Lettuce Wraps

We meal plan in this house. Each Sunday evening, I sit with a notepad and plan out our week. Lately, my game plan involves picking a few main dish meats that can be re-used as leftovers in a variety of ways. With just two of us, it makes it easier to buy, easier to stretch, and easier to save money as well.

For example, The Complete Package recently smoked a rack of pork ribs. That night, we had a traditional barbecue feast of ribs with beans and macaroni salad. The next night we one of my favorite simple go-to meals – Asian lettuce wraps. When I say this one is easy, I’m not even kidding. Not one little bit.

Lettuce Wraps - Inside NanaBread's Head

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • leftover smoked pork (ribs, pulled pork, chops, etc.), warmed up
  • a small pan of steamed white rice (we love basmati)
  • scallions, cut into 2″ strips lengthwise
  • butterhead or Boston lettuce, rinsed & patted dry
  • your favorite Asian hoisin or sweet chili sauce

Lettuce Wrap - Inside NanaBread's Head

To serve, simply lay out a leaf or two of lettuce. Add a spoonful of steamed rice, some smoked pork, a few scallions and a drizzle of your favorite hoisin or chili sauce (or both). Roll it up and stuff it in your pie hole. BAM! So good, and ready in mere minutes. This meal confirms my favorite motto: Keep it Simple.

Lettuce Wraps Collage - Inside NanaBread's Head

What is your go-to dinner in a hurry meal? I’d love for you to share it! -jeanne

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