Category Archives: Blogger Collaborations

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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Pie Week: Black & White Coconut Tart

The Theme Weavers are ringing in the holidays with PIE WEEK. Wahoooooo! I love pie. Love, love, love it. It’s my favorite of all of the Food Groups – Pie, Bacon, Cheese, Chocolate & Booze. If only we could all be in one room so we could face plant into all the glorious pies to be featured this week, it would be a dream come true. Also dreamy, this gorgeous Black & White Coconut Tart.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Banners

It starts with Kirsten’s ‘No Excuses’ pie dough recipe, pre-baked into the perfect vessel. Then it gets a schmear of hot fudge sauce (it’s okay… just breathe) and a luscious layer of coconut cream. Finally, it’s crowned with glorious mounds of whipped cream and toasted coconut. Have I mentioned that I love pie?

Let’s start at the beginning – a very good place to start. Pie dough. When I say this one is easy, I’m not joking. Made in the food processor, it’s ready in a flash and flawless every single time. It’s the only recipe I use.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Kirsten's Pie Dough

For this tart, I chose to use a vintage 8″ square baking tin I found while antiquing with Kirsten last May. Using the pan reminds me of her and proves two points – 1. food = love and 2. blogging friends are real (and are lots of fun).

Black & White Coconut Tart - Fitting Dough to Pan

One of my favorite pie tools – a pizza cutter. I love a good sharp edge when working with pie dough. There’s no better example of that than this next shot, where I decide to make a fancy braided edge for my tart. Curse you, Pinterest!

Black & White Coconut Tart - Braid Collage

Did I just hear you say “Whatever!”? Oooo… I’m gonna… Ha! Not really. Truth is, this trick is not as complicated as it looks. I found the key is pinching the ends together and pressing them into the countertop to anchor the strands. From there, it’s just a regular braid. When you’re done, pinch the other ends together to seal the deal, then apply it to the tart with a little egg white as glue.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Egg Wash Glue

Once applied, press gently to make sure it’s stuck, then pop then entire thing into the freezer for half an hour. Why? Because a frozen pie shell bakes much better than a room-temperature pie shell. More flaky layers; less shrinkage. After 30 minutes, remove it from the freezer, line it with parchment paper and fill it with dried beans or pie weights to keep the crust from falling into the pan while it bakes. My tip: cut two paper strips to create a sling instead of trying to fold parchment into the corners. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Before (L) and after (R) - the beans keep the dough in place.

Before baking (L) and after (R) – the beans keep the dough in place.

Bake in a hot oven until it’s a light golden brown, then allow it to cool for at least 15 minutes with the beans still in place. After 15 minutes, you can lift out the beans and allow the tart shell to cool completely. If you plan to put your dried beans back in the pantry for soup later, be sure to let them cool completely before you seal them into a container. If you don’t, they’ll create steam in the container which will cause them to mold later.

While my tart shell was chilling, I made a batch of coconut custard from the America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook. I chose this filling because it used coconut milk for extra flavor, which was a good call – it’s dreamy. Cooked on the stove, it comes together quickly. The hardest part is resisting the urge to eat it while it cools. Once it’s done and slightly cooled, the trick is to cover it with plastic wrap so it doesn’t get that tough pudding skin layer on top. Two words that should never be used together – pudding & skin.

Black & White Coconut Tart - Coconut Custard

So now you have a baked & cooled tart shell and a cooled custard. What’s next? Assembly! First up is a layer of your favorite fudge sauce, then a thick layer of coconut custard, and finally a piped dome of whipped cream sprinkled with lightly toasted coconut. Licking the spatula is highly recommended.

Black & White Custard Tart - Filling Collage

Days like this make me happy to be one of those people who plays with their food. This one was fun to put together. Have you ever made anything that turned out so perfectly you thought, “Man, I hate to cut this!” Yeah, me neither.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - A Slice

NANABREAD’S BLACK & WHITE COCONUT TART:

One recipe of No Excuses Pie Dough (use half, freeze half for later)
One batch of America’s Test Kitchen Coconut Cream Pie custard:

  • 1 14-oz. can coconut milk (not cream of coconut)
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/3 cup shredded coconut
  • 2/3 cup sugar (divided in half)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (cold & diced)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

One batch of stabilized whipped cream topping:

  • one pint heavy whipping cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 heaping tablespoon instant vanilla pudding powder

One cup of your favorite hot fudge sauce (at room temperature)
One cup lightly toasted unsweetened coconut flakes, for garnish

To make the pie shell:
Roll the pie dough out and place in a lightly sprayed pie or tart pan. Flute or attach a decorative edge, then freeze for 30 minutes. Remove from the freezer, line the pie shell with parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake at 400F for 15-20 minutes, or until the edge is a light golden brown. Remove from the oven and cool 15-20 minutes, then lift out the paper & beans and allow it to cool completely.

To make the custard:
In a heavy saucepan, bring the coconut milk, whole milk, shredded coconut, 1/3 cup of sugar and salt to a gentle bubble, stirring often. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, remaining 1/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch until smooth. Slowly ladle about 1/2 cup of the hot custard into the egg yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to avoid lumps. Once combined, whisk the egg yolk mixture into the pan of custard and whisk to combine. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat until the custard begins to thicken. Whisk in the vanilla extract and turn off the heat. Move to a cold burner and allow it to cool for 15 minutes, then cover with plastic wrap and allow it to cool, covered, until it comes to room temperature.

To make the whipped cream topping:
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the heavy cream and sugar. Whisk on high until the cream just begins to thicken. Sprinkle in the instant vanilla pudding powder and continue to whisk until stiff peaks form. Scrape into a piping bag with a large star tip and keep refrigerated until ready to use.

To assemble the tart:
Spread a 1/4″ to 1/2″ layer of your favorite hot fudge sauce into the tart shell, spreading it an even layer. Gently spoon the coconut custard onto the fudge sauce layer and spread it into an even layer. Top with whipped cream and shaved coconut and chill until ready to serve. Makes four large servings or six smaller ones, if baked in an 8″ x 8″ square pan as seen above. Keep refrigerated.

Black & White Coconut Tarts - My Slice

Before you face plant into that last shot, be sure and check out these Theme Weavers and their crusted contributions to Pie Week:

Monday, Nov. 18:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Mile High Apple Pie
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Cranberry Cherry Ricotta Pie
Haley @ The Girly Girl Cooks – Coconut Cream Pie
Katie @ The Hill Country Cook – New Mexico Apple Pie

Tropical Tuesday, Nov. 19:
Mads @ La Petite Pancake – Pineapple Pie
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya Pie
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Black & White Coconut Tart (that’s me!)

Wednesday, Nov. 20:
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Grandma’s Chocolate Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Chocolate Cream Pie
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Maple Sweet Potato with Swiss Meringue

Thursday, Nov. 21:
Shanna @ Pineapple and Coconut – Boozy Pumpkin Eggnog Pie
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Sweet Potato Tartlets
Christina @ Buffy and George – Deep Dish Apple Pie

Friday, Nov. 22:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Sweet Potato Pie
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World – Refrigerator Pumpkin Porter Chocolate Pie with Toasted Pumpkin Porter Marshmallow “Meringue”
Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Mini Butternut Squash Glazed Pie Stacks with Marshmallow Frosting

Saturday, Nov. 23:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Biscoff Pie with Whiskey Mallow Fluff
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Berry Cherry Pie
Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Persimmon & Pear Brandy Pie with Vanilla Bean Crumble

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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OKMH – The October Box

OKMH Collage 2013

It’s that time again, kids – time for another One Kitchen Many Hearts box. Wahoo! I love mail days like OKMH, where blogging buddies send care packages to one another round-robin-style. For October, I sent a box of love to Madelyn in California and received a box from Kat in Minnesota. Here’s what Kat sent. It started with this card. So much promise in a 4×6 format.

OKMH - October 2013 - Card

As promised, there was so much to squeal over. As the postscript hints, there was a pashmina (possibly from Paris) in a lovely blue hue. So pretty. Ooo la la!

OKMH - October 2013 - Pashmina

And two bags of what can only be deemed the Rolls Royce of rice.

OKMH - October 2013 - MN Wild Rice

I already have plans that involve roasted chicken with mushrooms and grilled shrimp with lemons. Or maybe a wild rice salad with dried cranberries, oranges and nuts. So many possibilities hidden in those gorgeous ebony grains. In sharp contrast, these next goodies have no possibility of lasting. Zero. Zip. Zilch.

Caramello Bar - RIP

No mincing words here. That Caramello Bar died instantly. Thankfully, it was a quick & painless death. I made sure of that. It wasn’t pretty, but it was quick. These are lasting a little longer, but not by much.

Chocolate & Caramel Collage

Okay, confess. When you see a chocolate bar with grid lines, and that bar breaks contrary to said lines, are you compelled to ‘fix’ it by evening it up? To the point that you may eat additional squares just to make sure the bar is neatly within the lines? No? Tell the truth! It can’t just be me!

Yes, I color within the lines.

But my favorite squee-inducing gift from Kat is the vintage cookbooks (cookbooklets?) from the 30’s, 40’s and 50’s. Seriously, they are too much fun!

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage Cookbooks

Techniques, ingredients and product sizes may have changed over the years, but the tried & true recipes and killer artwork of yesteryear never go out of style.

40's Cookbook Art Collage

Vintage Cookbook Collage

Never has a sandwich filling been so happy to leap onto a loaf of bread.

OKMH - October 2013 - 50's Happy Sandwich

Hello 1950’s Thanksgiving Dinner. Hubba hubba! Please pass the gravy.

OKMH - October 2013 - Thanksgiving Spread

Pillsbury’s annual bake-off contests have been bringing home bakers together through blood-sport baking battles throughout the years, but I had no idea how many years. Kat’s flea market collection included these two vintage gems.

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage 50's Baking Books

OKMH - October 2013 - Pillsbury Bake-Off Book

That’s the $25,000 winner from the second annual Pillsbury Bake-Off. From 1950. At the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City. Amazing. Also stellar – Mrs. G. Harold Kirk of Bar Harbor, who knows how to dress for an occasion.

OKMH - October 2013 - Dolled Up Contestant

In an age where people feel comfortable wearing their pajama pants to shop and/or board airplanes, Mrs. Kirk is a breath of fresh air. She is, without a doubt, even more fabulous than her prize-winning crabmeat cobbler.

I was super excited to find this recipe for Raisin Cream Pie, since it reminded me of the Sour Cream Raisin Pies of my youth, and then this recipe card fell out of the booklet and I got a bonus recipe for Baked Beans. Like a gift from heaven.

OKMH - October 2013 - Bonus Baked Beans Recipe

The best indication a recipe was loved is the stains all over it. This one was obviously a favorite. Most touching for me, was this wee booklet that still had the mailing label attached. It was a simple shortening recipe booklet from Swift & Co. addressed to Mrs. Robert Fleischehhacker of Fort Ripley, MN.

OKMH - October 2013 - Vintage Mailing Label

Did you catch that? Two pennies for postage? No way! Most notable was her address – Route #2 with no zip code. These, my friends, were simpler times. When people knew their neighbors, shared their tables and crafted meals not only from scratch, but with a great deal of love. And just like the recipe booklets, this box from Kat is meant to be shared. I may make a dish soon to share on the blog. And I’m thinking of baking a wild rice casserole for our extended family at Thanksgiving. But I probably won’t share the chocolate.

And just when you thought I was getting sentimental.

OKMH - October 2013 - 40's Cookbook Art1

To see what everyone else shipped & received this month, visit:

Mads @ La Petite Pancake – recipient of my box
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – who sent this box to me
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic
Megan @ Wanna Be A Country Cleaver
Allison @ Decadent Philistines Save the World

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Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple with Almond & Honey Streusel

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple - Title & Text - Inside NanaBread's Head

Sweet potatoes are one of my favorite things about fall and one of the first comfort foods I reach for when the temperature drops and leaves start to turn. This year, I’m jumping into fall with a simple but flavorful sweet potato side dish for Eileen of The Joy of Caking and her collaborative Fall Harvest Dinner.

Fall Harvest Dinner Logo

Don’t let the term “simple” fool you – this dish is packed with flavor. It starts with one pound of peeled & cubed sweet potatoes, two cups of fresh pineapple chunks, a simple sauce of pineapple juice, orange juice and vanilla and is topped off with a lovely streusel of almond meal, flour, butter, honey & cinnamon sugar. The result? Sweet potato perfection.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple with broiled struesel topping - Inside NanaBread's Head

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple with Almond & Honey Streusel:
1 pound fresh sweet potatoes, peeled & cut into 1″ cubes
2 cups fresh pineapple chunks (or 1 can, if needed; juice reserved)
3 tablespoons canola oil
3 tablespoons butter, unsalted
3/4 cup orange juice
3/4 cup reserved pineapple juice
1/4 cup agave nectar or honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Peel and chop the sweet potatoes and drain the pineapple chunks, reserving the pineapple juice for the sauce.

In a large non-stick skillet over high heat, combine the canola oil and butter, and heat until melted. Toss in the sweet potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are nicely browned. Add the pineapple and stir to combine, then turn off the heat. In a small bowl, whisk the orange juice, pineapple juice, agave nectar or honey, vanilla extract and cornstarch until smooth. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes and pineapple and place the skillet into the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft and fork tender.

While your sweet potatoes and pineapple are roasting, mix up your streusel topping and set out a ceramic serving dish (or individual dishes).

For the streusel:
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons butter, melted & cooled slightly

In a bowl, combine the almond meal, flour, cinnamon and sugar; blend with a fork until well blended. Add the melted butter and stir until combined. Using your fork, break it up into 1/2″ clumps or crumbles and set it aside.

When the sweet potatoes are fork tender, remove from the oven. Spoon into your ceramic serving dish(es) and evenly spoon the crumbles of streusel mixture across the top. TIP: Place the dishes on a rimmed baking sheet to make them easier to get in and out of the oven. Turn your oven to the “Low Broil” setting, and pop the tray under the broiler just until the streusel turns a light golden brown. (Keep a close eye on it so it doesn’t burn.) Serve warm with a drizzle of honey or agave nectar over the top. If there are leftovers, try spooning this over the top of a bowl of oatmeal the next morning. Yum!

Roasted Sweet Potatoes & Pineapple - Ready to Eat - Inside NanaBread's Head

Please don’t forget to visit our Fall Harvest Dinner bloggers, who’ve contributed everything from a fall tablescape to cocktails, salads to main dishes, and of course – dessert. You don’t want to miss this!

• Eileen (our hostess) from The Joy of Caking – Invitation & Roasted Chicken
• Sandra from Sweet Sensations – Fall Harvest Tablescape
• Terra from Café Terra – Homemade Apple Pie cocktail
• Monet from Anecdotes and Apple Cores – Harvest Goat Cheese appetizer
• Dionne from Try Anything Once – Eggplant Caviar appetizer
• Amy from Ms. Toody Goo Shoes – Roasted Pear Salad with White Balsamic
• Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head (that’s me!) – side dish
• Denise and Sharon from BeBetsy – Onion Rolls
• Liz from That Skinny Chick Can Bake – Pumpkin Challah Bread
• Anne of From My Sweet Heart – Cinnamon Applesauce Tart

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Pumpkin Week: Hazelnut Pumpkin Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Title Text

Pumpkin – most people either love it or hate it. I am firmly in the ‘love it’ camp. It’s one of the things I love best about fall. When All Things Pumpkin bombard Pinterest & Twitter full force, I know cooler weather is on the horizon. So hang on to your butts, because the Theme Weavers are celebrating all things orange and tasty with Pumpkin Week and an array of our fall favorites.

“We’re staying up late telling scary stories, and in the morning I’m making waffles!” Donkey from Shrek. These gorgeous pumpkin waffles are laced with toasted hazelnut meal, buttermilk and a hint of fall spice. Seriously, friends… if we just had smell-a-vision, you’d be clamoring to get over here for breakfast. They smell HEAVENLY! And I’ll use any excuse to break out our vintage waffle maker (circa 1982). Don’t laugh; it works. But before we do anything, we need to plug in the waffle maker and let it start getting good and hot.

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Our Vintage Waffle Iron

Please don’t laugh at my waffle maker. She may not look like much, but she’s a beast. And for the record, she’s not dirty, she’s just well-seasoned. While the waffle maker heats up, let’s prep the ingredients. I like to start with the wet stuff.

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Wet Ingredients

Then I toast the hazelnut meal in a non-stick skillet and toss it in with all the dry ingredients. Don’t be like me and forget the brown sugar until the last possible second (hence the golden brown blob in the photo below). If you think food bloggers are miraculously flawless and free of mistakes, you are quite mistaken. Trust me – I screw up all the time. I just don’t show you that part.

Pumpkin Waffles - Dry Ingredients Collage

Once your wet and dry ingredients are ready to go, take those egg whites and beat the tar out of them. We have one of those awesome KitchenAid stick blenders with a whip attachment that makes short work of this step. If you don’t have one yet, you should think about it. They are the Mighty Mouse of kitchen tools. When your egg whites hold firm peaks, they’re ready to roll.

To blend all of this into pumpkin perfection, whisk the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk your wet ingredients (except for those egg whites). Then invite the wet ingredients to play with the dry ingredients and blend them together with a whisk until they’ve all gotten to know one another better. Then it’s time to fold in those fluffy, snow-capped egg whites. Just remember – they’re sensitive. Fold slowly so you don’t scare the fluff out of them. Patience pays off in fluffy waffles here.

Pumpkin Waffle - Egg White Collage

When your batter is blended, it’s time to start makin’ the waffles. I always spray my hot waffle iron with a little of that canned cooking spray before the first waffle hits the pan, just to be safe, because no one wants to sit in the floor and cry when the first one refuses to release and burns. No one.

Remember when I said food bloggers make mistakes? Well, here’s your peek behind the curtain. Proof that I’m just like you (if you like to slop your waffle batter onto the machine and say ‘Sure…that looks like enough. Why not?’).

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Over Run

It’s not tragic or anything, it just takes longer to clean up. So for my waffle maker one cup minus 2 tablespoons = the perfect amount of batter for one waffle. I can’t speak for your waffle maker, so you’ll just have to get in there and give it a shot. If yours do run over, though, please promise you’ll tweet me a quick pic, because that would make me feel SO much better. #WaffleWrecks

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Just Out of the Waffle Iron

Hello, Gorgeous! So my first waffle may have been a mess, but when the second one came out PERFECT, you can bet your sweet bippy I did a happy dance. If you’re happy & you know it clap your hands {clap! clap!}

So let’s talk toppings. These waffles are so rich and fragrant, they just need a little something sweet on top. I chose cinnamon honey butter. Because butter is a given. Adding cinnamon and honey (or agave if you like) just brings it all in for a big group hug. I make it the night before and chill it so it’s scoopable. Yum.

Pumpkin Waffles - Honey Butter Collage

When that scoop of honey butter starts to melt into a hot waffle, I promise your eyes will roll back in your head and your heart will beat a little faster. And the only thing better than one hot waffle with honey butter is a big pile of them. You can poke me with a fork now; I’m done.

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Waffles with Cinnamon Honey Butter

NanaBread’s Hazelnut Pumpkin Waffles:
4 large eggs, separated
1 cup buttermilk + 1 cup vanilla milk
OR 1 cup buttermilk + 1 cup of whole milk
1 cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie mix)
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup Bob’s Red Mill hazlenut meal
2 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Pre-heat your waffle iron while you mix up your waffles. To make, blend the egg yolks (egg whites come in later), buttermilk and milk, pumpkin, melted butter and vanilla in a bowl and whisk until well blended. In a non-stick skillet, toast the hazelnut meal over medium-low heat until it just starts to take on some color and smells robust and fragrant. Toss it into a large mixing bowl and add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices. Whisk to combine. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and whisk until thoroughly blended.

In a deep mixing bowl, beat the egg whites until they form and hold firm peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the egg whites into the waffle batter. I like to scrape to the bottom of the bowl and flip it once very gently, then turn the bowl a quarter turn and repeat the process until you can no longer see streaks of egg whites (see photo above). Once blended, you’re ready to bake.

Lightly spray your hot waffle iron with cooking spray. Depending on the size of your waffle iron, spread one cup of batter (if your waffler makes one waffle) or up to two cups (if your waffler makes 4 smaller waffles). It truly depends on your machine, so use a little caution on that first one and adjust as needed until the batter spreads to all edges without running over. When done, remove from the waffle iron and place it on a ceramic plate; cover with a clean kitchen towel to keep them warm while the others bake. My old-school Belgian Waffler made seven waffles. Two died immediately and the others were frozen for later. These will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days or in the freezer (wrapped in waxed paper and placed into air-tight freezer bags) for up to six weeks.

Cinnamon Honey Butter:
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1 cup of your favorite local honey (or agave nectar)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Beat together until smooth and creamy. Scrape into an airtight container and chill until needed. To use, simply scoop a tablespoon on top of a toasty warm waffle and enjoy. So good, y’all. So, so good.

Pumpkin Hazelnut Waffles - Digging In

Before I go, don’t forget to drop in on our other Pumpkin Week participants:

Monday
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Streusel Bread

Tuesday
Carrie @ Bakeaholic Mama – Pumpkin Pie Macarons

Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Look, Ma! I made waffles!

Wednesday
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Mini No-Bake Bourbon Pumpkin Cheesecakes with Crumble Topping

Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Pumpkin Marshmallows & Pumpkin Spice Syrup

Shanna @ Pineapple & Coconut – Creamy Maple Bacon Pumpkin Risotto

Thursday
Anne @ From My Sweet Hear – Pumpkin Doughnuts with Cream Cheese Icing & Candied Pepitas

Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Marbled Pumpkin Gingersnap Tart

Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Pumpkin Spice Cake with Maple Frosting

Friday
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Savory Pumpkin Tart

Lauren @ Climbing Grier Mountain – Pumpkin Mousse with Candied Squash

Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Pumpkin Kiss Cookies

Saturday
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – Pumpkin Scones

Monica @ The Grommom – Pumpkin Ice Cream

Pumpkin Week Badge

Note: this recipe is adapted from Smitten Kitchen.

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One Kitchen Many Hearts: August

OKMH Collage 2013

It’s that time again – time for another OKMH box exchange! I love getting a box of love from my blogging buddies almost as much as I love sending them. This month, my box came from Megan of Country Cleaver fame. Megan hails from the Seattle area and mark my words – she will be a famous foodie soon. She’s destined for greatness and a spot on the Food Network. And I’m going to be a founding member of her fan club. Perhaps even Vice President.

Our theme this month was “Pimp My Desk” or “Office Essentials” or “Back to School” – whichever you think is less offensive. Here’s what Megan sent:

Photo5

This sweet little bookmark is adorable and Megan’s timing was perfect. I literally just set a new paperback out to read when her box arrived. It was immediately put to use in my copy of ‘The Winter Garden’ by Kristin Hannah. Ever read her stuff? This one tells the story of two sisters who grew up with an adoring father and a ridiculously frigid mother. Without giving too much away, the girls learn more about their mother through the Russian fairytales she shares from her youth. It’s a good story, but overall I think I preferred her other novel ‘Firefly Lane’. If you’ve read any of her other books and have recommendations, please share!

Collage3

What better accompaniment to a good book and a lazy Saturday than a cup of tea and some sea salt caramels? Again, perfect timing. The caramels died as soon as the box was opened (yes, all 3 of them). The tea lasted longer, but only because it wasn’t rolled in caramel and dipped in chocolate. So stinkin’ good!

Next up was a spa treatment box filled with lip balm, hand salve and a soap truffle. See my previous comment to know why Megan slapped a post-it note on it that read “Soap Truffle – DO NOT EAT!” She knows me well.

Collage2

She knows me so well, she fostered my obsession with Seattle’s Beecher’s Cheese by sending me a bag of their crackers. Beecher’s is always the first place I hit when we go to Seattle and walk through Pike Place Market. I love that place. If it were possible to die from the over-consumption of fresh squeaky cheese curds, I’d be the first to do it. I could eat them by the tub. Oh wait, I totally HAVE eaten them by the tub. I’m not called ‘The Cheesel’ (like weasel) for nothing, folks.

Collage1

These little pupper magnets have to be the most adorable things ever. There’s actually a Boston Terrier magnet in honor of our beloved Ziggy who passed away in March and a pug to represent our sweet friend Miss Josie Pugglesworth of the Long Beach Pugglesworths. If the magnets didn’t having me smiling ear to ear, the pens certainly did. They’re anti-theft pens for your desk. Why anti-theft? Just read them. Springfield Sexual Addiction Center? Hilarious!

I loved everything in my box, but I’ll cherish this card from Megan most.

Collage4jpg

The post-it notes explained each gift, but that sweet card and the love behind it are the real treasure. Our Story: Seven friends meet on the internet via their blogs and become real-life friends forever. And that is the greatest gift of all.

Want to see more? Check out what I sent to Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic by clicking HERE. From there, you can click from blog to blog & follow the fun.

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Berry Week: Annie’s Blackberry Cake

Blackberry Cake - InsideNanaBreadsHead

Hooray for summer berries and Berry Week! Fresh produce from the farmers market is one of my favorite things about summer and each year I look forward to hitting all the fruit stands. Fresh berries, peaches, watermelon and all those glorious veggies make me happy to my core.

This week, our Theme Weavers band of bloggers is taking on summer’s bounty with Berry Week. Contributions include pies, cakes, cocktails and breakfast treats so stay tuned and plan to visit all this deliciousness.

Berry Week Logo

Monday:
Kirsten @ Comfortably Domestic – Fresh Strawberry Pie
Madelyn @ La Petite Pancake – Berry Sangria

Tuesday:
Anne @ From My Sweet Heart – Summer Berry Terrine with Mascarpone
Jeanne @ Inside NanaBread’s Head – Annie’s Blackberry Cake (below)

Wednesday:
Lauren @ Grier Mountain – Vanilla Gelato with Peach-Blueberry Compote
Kat @ Tenaciously Yours – Strawberry Smash

Thursday:
Megan @ Country Cleaver – Strawberry Basil Sorbet Bellini
Haley @ Girly Girl Cooks – Strawberry-Rhubarb Stuffed French Toast

Friday:
Christina @ Buffy & George – Raspberry & Cherry Pie (gluten-free crust)
Beka @ Kvetchin’ Kitchen – PNW75 Berry Cocktail
Monica @ The Grommom – Papaya-Berry Crisp (gluten-free)

Saturday:
Madeline @ Munching in the Mitten – Cherry Clafoutis
Allison @ Decadent Philistines – Raspberry Marshmallows (2 ways)

Blackberry Cake & Vintage Square Cakestand - Inside NanaBread's Head

Now let’s talk cake! I am a self-proclaimed Pie Girl. Basically, it’s because I despise dry, over-frosted cake. Yuck. I’d rather skip dessert all together than eat dry cake. Luckily, this is not that cake.

I first got this recipe from my dear friend Annie. We worked together in an elementary school front office for years and became soul sisters. She shared this gem with me and I shared it with my mom and sisters. Now it’s a family favorite. Best of all, it’s incredibly easy to make and absolutely packed with blackberry flavor. I know some people hate the M word (rhymes with hoist) so I’ll refrain. Just know that this cake is the furthest thing from dry.

Annie’s Blackberry Cake

For the cake:
1 box white ‘super moist’ cake mix (18 ozs.)
1 box black raspberry or raspberry Jell-O (3 ozs.)
1 cup vegetable or canola oil
1/2 cup milk
4 whole eggs
4 Tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
1 cup fresh or frozen blackberries
1 cup sweetened coconut
1 cup chopped pecans

For the Whipped Cream Frosting:
2 cups heavy whipping cream, chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup granulated sugar (to taste)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam
fresh blackberries for garnish

To Make the Cake:

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. The original recipe called for three 8″ round pans for a layer cake. I used a vintage square tube pan I found at an antique shop last summer, but you could also bake this cake in a 13″ x 9″ rectangle pan (even easier). Generously grease & flour your baking pan(s) and set them aside.

Next, put the coconut & pecans into a food processor and pulse until both are well combined and ground into small pieces; set those aside, as well.

Combine the cake mix, dry Jell-O powder, oil, milk and blackberry jam in a large bowl and beat with a mixer until thoroughly combined. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Gently fold in the berries, coconut and pecans until evenly distributed. Pour the batter into your pan(s) and spread it into a smooth, even layer.

Bake at 350F until a toothpick inserted near the center of the cake comes out clean. My square tube pan took 40 minutes. A 13″ x 9″ square should take 25-30 minutes, and three round layers should take 20-25 minutes. As with all recipes, baking time may vary depending on your oven, so keep an eye on it for the last 10 minutes and check it often with a toothpick. Once it’s done, remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans until cool to the touch.

To Make the Whipped Cream Frosting:

While your cake is cooling, place your mixing bowl and beaters in the refrigerator and chill for at least 15-20 minutes. Once chilled, remove from the fridge and add the cream, sugar, vanilla and jam to the bowl. Beat on medium-high to high speed just until firm peaks form.

If your cake is still warm to the touch, put your prepared whipped cream in the fridge and wait until the cake is completely cooled to prevent your cream from melting. Once the cake is cool, you’re ready to frost.

For my tube pan cake, I used a serrated knife to cut the cake into two even layers. If you use a 13″ x 9″ pan, simply top with whipped cream frosting and sprinkle with fresh berries. For a layer cake, stack one layer at a time onto a serving plate and fill with 1/2″ of the whipped cream, then top with last of the whipped cream and fresh berries. I had extra berries, so I tossed them with some sugar and used them between my layers as well.

Because of the whipped cream frosting, this cake must be refrigerated. It’s also best when eaten within 48 hours. That’s one of the reasons my family makes this for family gatherings. It’s a lot of cake to consume for two people in one weekend. If that’s an issue, you might consider baking this as cupcakes and freezing them un-frosted. Then when you need a cake fix, you can thaw as many as you want/need and make just enough whipped cream for those few.

If you’re thinking “I’m not really a blackberry fan” then try it with raspberries or strawberries. Don’t like pecans? Substitute toasted almonds. Allergic to nuts? Leave them out! I draw the line at coconut. It’s just too good to leave it out, but if you have to I promise to look the other way. It’s not brain surgery – just cake. Tweak it any way you like. Food should be fun, so play with it!

Now all that’s left to do is to dig in. My cake is going to Mom’s house. Luckily, she’s a good sharer. Speaking of sharing, here… I saved you a piece.

Blackberry Cake - A Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

Note: This recipe was adapted from a copy of a recipe taken from an old unspecified spiral-bound cookbook. It is credited to Billie Kendrick of Springdale, Arkansas. Her original recipe called for a heavy fudge-like frosting made with one pound of confectioner’s sugar. Since I’m not a buttercream fan, my family and I opt for a lighter whipped cream topping. I also took the liberty of adding blackberry jam to the cake batter for extra flavor. My heartfelt thanks go to Ms. Kendrick for her perfect summer berry confection and to my sweet friend Annie who was kind enough to share it. XOXO

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Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies

This year’s Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s) was a great success, raising $1,680 for the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America. Wahoo! Great job and high fives to all the bakers, bloggers & bidders who participated!

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

My contribution to this year’s bake sale was these luscious Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies – so buttery and delicious! My winning bidder was Taryn from the Pacific northwest (Seattle area). To my surprise, she bid a whopping $60.00 for four dozen of my shortbreads. Thank you so much, Taryn! I hope you and your friends and family enjoy them!

Now that they’re baked and shipped, I thought I’d share them here so you can make them as well. And trust me – if you love buttery shortbread cookies, dried cherries and pecans, you ARE going to want to make them. This recipe has been doubled so that it makes approximately 5 to 6 dozen cookies, depending on how big you cut them. Mine were approximately 1 1/2″ squares and made 6 dozen.

NanaBread’s Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies
adapted from The Grand Central Baking Book (Classic Buttery Shortbread)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal (almond flour)
1 1/2 cups powdered (confectioner’s) sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 sticks (2 cups) unsalted butter, room temp
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1 1/2 cups dried tart cherries
1 1/2 cups whole almonds, toasted
granulated sugar, to sprinkle on top

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. While your butter is softening, spread the flour, almond meal and almonds onto a silpat or parchment lined baking sheet and toast in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until the flour just starts to take on some light color and the almonds are fragrant. Remove from the oven and allow to cool to room temperature.

Reduce your oven temperature to 325F.

In a food processor, combine the dried cherries and cooled almonds. Pulse until both are chopped into small chunks. Don’t pulse too long, or you’ll end up with cherry/almond paste. Set aside.

In a mixing bowl, combine the toasted flour and almond meal, the powdered sugar, salt and cherry/almond mixture; whisk to combine.

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, beat the softened butter on medium speed until smooth and creamy (2-3 minutes). Reduce the speed to low and add the vanilla and almond extracts, beating just until combined. Slowly add in the dry ingredients and mix until thoroughly combined.

Line a jelly roll pan with parchment or a silpat mat. Scrape the dough onto the pan and with lightly floured fingers or a flat spatula, spread the shortbread dough into the pan, working it all the way out to the corners. To get a nice even layer, place waxed or parchment paper on top of the dough and use a rolling pin.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Pressing Into Pan - Inside NanaBread's Head

If you don’t have a rolling pin, lay some waxed or parchment paper on top of the cookie dough then top with a second cookie sheet or jelly roll pan and press to form a nice even layer. Peel the paper off and sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar, then pop the pan in the freezer to chill for 20-30 minutes.

Next, use a bench scraper (my favorite tool) or a metal pancake spatula to score the cookies into squares. I like to hold the bench scraper vertically and press until I feel it hit the bottom of the pan. (Because the bench scraper has a fairly sharp edge, just be sure not to press so hard that you damage your silpat mat!)

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cutting into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once the cookies are scored, place the baking sheet into the oven on the middle rack and bake for 40-45 minutes (time may vary depending on how hot your oven gets – each oven is a little different). When the shortbread is firm to the touch in the middle of the pan and the cookies are a light golden brown, they’re done. Remove from the oven and allow then to cool 15-20 minutes, then use your bench scraper or spatula to re-cut the cookies along your score lines.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Out of the Oven - Inside NanaBread's Head

Once they are completely cool, you can remove them from the pan and layer them with parchment or waxed paper into an air-tight container. These will stay fresh for about 2 weeks at room temperature, or up to one month in your fridge.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Cut into Squares - Inside NanaBread's Head

Love chocolate? Then why not dip them? For that first Bake Sale glamour shot, I dipped a few cookies in dark chocolate. For Taryn, my winning bake sale bidder, I created a variety pack of white, milk and dark chocolate dipped (1 dozen ea.) as well as one dozen plain so she could enjoy them in their pure just-baked form.

Cherry Almond Shortbreads - Dipped in Chocolate - Inside NanaBread's Head

Have mercy – the dark chocolate coated are my personal favorite. What a winning combo! Now I just have to hope they make it to the west coast without all that gorgeous Guittard chocolate melting. I packed them in an insulated lunch cooler with those blue ice freezer packs, so keep your fingers crossed.

Note to Self: Next year, don’t dip anything in chocolate. It’s summer, dummy.

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OKMH – The Summer Picnic Edition

Nothing beats a OKMH mail day. This month, our One Kitchen Many Hearts gang chose ‘Summer Picnics’ for our gifting theme. My box came from Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic from the northern regions of the great state of Michigan. Home of The Cherries (my favorite fruit). Did I mention she brought me a 4 pound bag of dried Michigan cherries when she came to visit in May? Because if there’s one sure way to get me to invite you down for a long weekend of antiquing, Texas Martinis and traditional southern cuisine, it’s to pack a huge bag of cherries in your carry-on (for future reference).

OKMH Collage 2013

Here’s a snap of Kirsten’s picnic extravaganza box:

OKMH June 2013 - Box O' Goodies

For the record, this might just be my favorite theme to date. There’s so much going on in this box. Let’s just break it down into manageable bits, shall we? First, each parcel was lovingly wrapped in cute polka dot tissue and tied with a ribbon and a ‘cherry lug marker’ as a gift tag.

OKMH June 2013 - Polka Dot Packaging

You’re probably thinking “What the heck is a cherry lug?” Welcome to the club. I didn’t know about them, either. Here’s what Kirsten said in her card about them: “The tags are vintage cherry lug markers from Morgan Farms – now the spot of an exciting new subdivision. I thought you’d get a kick out of having a few pieces of (Michigan) history.” She’s right. I love them. Not sure what I’ll do with them just yet, but stringing them onto a charm bracelet has crossed my mind. What would you do with them?

Cherry Chubs

Kirsten knows me well. A perfect example is this Dagoba chocolate bar. While friends send friends chocolate, true friends know what you love and send the good stuff. The dark stuff. As a bonus, this one had organic mint & rosemary essence. It was all that and a bag of chips, as we used to say back in 1993.

OKMH June 2013 - Mint & Dark Chocolate

In case the chocolate didn’t soothe all things, she also threw in a jar of Ancient Healer Herbal Salve. Oh, baby… you should smell this magical potion!

OKMH June 2013 - Ancient Healer Salve

It smells of all the great herby things – rosemary, evergreen trees, and earth. I love a good herbal salve. It’s my ‘go to’ ointment for burns, rashes or scrapes but is also perfect to soothe those summer sunburns. It’s lovely and perfect and made in Michigan. Know what else is soothing and made in Michigan? Wine!

OKMH June 2013 - Michigan Wine from Brys

This beauty came in a separate box, shipped directly from the Brys Estate in Michigan (seeing a theme here?). It’s one of my all-time favorite whites – a . Ever tried one? If you enjoy a nice chilled white wine for summer, you need to try one. But you’ll have to get your own – this Brys Gewürztraminer in mine. All mine! (You can’t hear it, but I’m doing my evil laugh while hugging the bottle.) Kirsten also included two ‘travel size’ bottles of Jose Cuervo margaritas – the perfectly portable picnic potion.

This cute post-it pad sums up how I feel about my morning coffee. As I said, girlfriend knows me well. She’s my sister from another mister. My pal from another gal. My… okay, I think you get what I’m saying. She gets me.

OKMH June 2013 - Coffee Post-Its

She also has the memory of an elephant. I wish I had her brain cells for even a day. Menopause has officially robbed me of most of mine, but Kirsten remembers all the good stuff. Like this vintage find from an antique shop. We saw one while antiquing when she was down in May. Next thing you know, there’s one in my June box. Do you know what it is?

OKMH June 2013 - Antique Cake Comb

Ultimate meat fork? No. Beard comb? No, and I’ll thank you not to mention my beard. :) It’s a cake comb! It’s used to slice delicate cakes like angel food or chiffon cakes. Even more effective than today’s serrated knives, these cake combs are the unicorns of baking utensils. This one will be perfect for my Berry Week contribution next month, so stay tuned. It will be making a return appearance in a few short weeks. (Thanks, K! Perfect timing!)

And a picnic isn’t a picnic unless it’s portable. Kirsten had that covered, as well. Check out these beauties! The first is a thermal insulated chill bag in a cute owl print. Who has two thumbs and loves owls? This girl! You pop the bag in the fridge or freezer to pre-chill, then pack and go. The second is a stainless steel thermal beverage bottle. In my favorite color, no less. It goes without saying that I love them both and will put them to good use this summer.

OKMH June 2013 - Portable Containers

And there you have it – a perfect summer picnic box from my blogging bestie Kirsten. Nailed it! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a potato salad to make and a chilled wine to chug. I mean sip. Yeah, I totally meant sip.

To see what I sent to Megan, CLICK HERE.

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