Category Archives: Food & Recipes

Food is an important part of our family. I don’t believe in “secret recipes.” If I make it, I’ll share it. And if you like it, I hope you’ll share it, too.

The Bee’s Knees Marbled PB Buckeyes

Bees & honey = a perfect pair. Peanut & chocolate = a match made in heaven. Put them together and what do you get? Chocolate peanut butter candy bliss.

Bee's Knees PB Buckeyes - Inside NanaBread's Head

Have you tried Peanut Butter & Co peanut butter yet? It’s The Bee’s Knees – quite literally. Their honey-infused peanut butter is a dream come true for peanut butter lovers like me who’ve been stirring honey into peanut butter since birth, or shortly thereafter. As a child, peanut butter was my go-to snack. Mom could get me to do just about anything for a jar of peanut butter. Hand me a jar and a spoon, and I would fold laundry or mop floors like it was my job. Flash forward to adult me, and I’m still stirring honey into peanut butter for a quick snack. That is until Peanut Butter & Co did it for me with The Bee’s Knees. As a member of the PB&CO Yum Squad, I accepted their challenge to play with my food and create a recipe to show off their Bee’s Knees peanut butter. They sent me two jars to play with (yum and thank you) and here’s what I did.

NanaBread’s Marbled Chocolate & Peanut Butter Buckeyes:
1 cup Bee’s Knees honey peanut butter
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted & divided (see below)
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
1/2 cup Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder
2 cups (12 ozs) chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
3 tablespoons paraffin (Gulf Wax), grated (optional)
salted, roasted peanuts for garnish

In a stand mixer, combine peanut butter, softened butter, vanilla, salt, 2 cups of the powdered sugar (setting aside 1/2 cup for later) and the almond meal. Blend on low speed until combined, then turn to medium speed and mix for 2 minutes until smooth. The dough should be the texture of soft play dough. Turn the mixture out onto a cutting board or sheet of parchment and divide it in half.

Gently knead the additional 1/2 cup of powdered sugar into half of the candy mixture until combined and smooth. For the other half, gently knead in the 1/2 cup of cocoa powder. Roll the chocolate dough into a square roughly 1/4″ thick. Roll the peanut butter dough into the same size square, then lay it on top of the chocolate square to form two layers of dough. Cut the square in half, forming two rectangles and stack them on top of each other, creating a rectangle four layers deep. Cut the rectangle into 1″ squares. Roll each piece into a ball and set aside on a parchment lined baking sheet. Rolling the dough into balls with your hands will create a pretty marbled effect. Once all the dough is rolled into balls, pop the baking sheet into the freezer so the buckeyes can firm up.

While the candy is chilling, melt the chocolate chips over a double boiler. If you don’t have one, simply place a metal mixing bowl over a saucepan with 3-4″ boiling water over medium heat. Once it starts to melt, whisk the chocolate until smooth. Add the grated paraffin (which helps set the chocolate so it doesn’t melt as easily when you pick it up) and whisk again until smooth. Dip frozen buckeyes into the melted chocolate, covering completely, and set them back onto the parchment lined baking sheet. Once dipped, place them in the refrigerator to firm up. Scrape the remaining melted chocolate into a plastic zip-style food bag and twist it to work the chocolate into one corner of the bag.

To garnish, snip the tip off the corner of the bag and pipe a spiral of melted chocolate on top of each buckeye. Top with a salted roasted peanut, and pop the sheet back into the fridge to set. Finished buckeyes should be stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator, and should keep for up to one month.

Bee's Knees PB BonBons - CloseUp of Cut Candy

Besides being fabulously sweet & slightly salty, these peanut butter buckeyes are fun to make. I always tell people I love to play with my food, so I think my favorite part of this recipe was playing with the dough to make these candy bees (8 in all). As I said, the candy mixture is the texture of play dough, and I couldn’t resist. I also couldn’t stop giggling over them and the personality they had.

Bee's Knees PB BonBons - Bee CloseUp

I’m still playing with my Bee’s Knees peanut butter. My attempt at chocolate chip pancakes wasn’t a complete failure, but wasn’t what I’d hoped for. What did work was the peanut butter & honey topping. To make, combine 2 tablespoons of Bee’s Knees peanut butter with 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter, and microwave for 30-45 seconds until it is melted. Add 4 tablespoons of your favorite honey and whisk until smooth. Pour over your favorite pancake recipe and voilà! It’s a great way to enjoy that fabulous peanut butter & honey combo and add a little protein to your breakfast routine. It’s so good! If you don’t believe me, ask these guys.

Oops… looks like that little guy might not have gotten any. {burp!}

Bee's Knees Bees & Pancakes Collage - Inside NanaBread's Head

NOTE: As a member of Peanut Butter & Company’s Yum Squad, I am occasionally sent jars of peanut butter and/or peanut butter products to play with. No further compensation is received, and all opinions are my own.

PB&Co Bee's Knees Peanut Butter

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Sweet Potato Buns (two ways!)

Sweet mother of billowy buns – these have my head spinning! Made with a freshly baked sweet potato & a touch of honey, these orange-tinted beauties will leave you craving more. Even better? They’re easy to make.

Flaky Buttery Sweet Potato Rolls

It’s rare that I decide to make homemade sandwich buns, but when I saw this recipe I knew I would give it a shot. That one lonely sweet potato in my pantry was just begging for it. The fact that they’re naturally sweetened with honey sealed the deal. What do I love most about these? Everything.

Baked Sweet Potato Buns - CloseUp

Soft on the inside. Flaky on the outside. Slightly sweet. Gloriously eggy. And as dough goes, versatile. First up was sandwich buns. Cutting this gorgeous dough into strips, I tied them into knots and smeared them with softened butter.

Buttered Sweet Potato Buns - CloseUp

Baked to golden perfection, they were perfect for grilled chicken sandwiches.
To make, we marinated boneless breasts in lime juice, garlic and olive oil then cooked them on the grill. Layered with lettuce, tomato, purple onion, a little mayonnaise and a slice of provolone, it’s one of our favorite sandwiches.

Sweet Potato Buns in Action - Grilled Chicken Sandwich

That’s not all this dough can do. It also makes perfect cinnamon rolls. Using half the dough for sandwich buns, I reserved the other half for these breakfast beauties – Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls with orange cream cheese frosting.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls - Glazed

If you thought this dough made a great looking sandwich bun, wait until you take a bite of these cinnamon buns. Without a doubt, these are the best buns I’ve ever made. Here’s how you can make them for your family.

NanaBread’s Sweet Potato Bread Dough:
1 medium sweet potato (roughly 14 ozs.)
1/2 cup warm water (115F)
6 tablespoons honey
2 envelopes (or 1/2 oz.) active rapid-rise yeast
1 cup mashed sweet potato (from the sweet potato above)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon salt
2 whole large or jumbo eggs, plus one additional egg yolk
3 1/2 to 4 cups bread flour, sifted
1/2 softened butter, to finish (instructions below)
1/2 cup sugar + 1 tablespoon cinnamon (for cinnamon rolls)

Cinnamon Roll Frosting (optional):
1 package of cream cheese (8 ozs.), softened to room temperature
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
2-3 drops Fiori de Sicilia orange essence (optional) OR 1 tablespoon frozen orange juice concentrate, thawed
2-3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

To make the bread dough: wash the sweet potato and prick the skin all around with a fork to create steam holes. Wet two paper towels and wring them out, then wrap the sweet potato in the damp towels. Microwave on high until the sweet potato is soft inside (roughly 3-5 minutes, depending on the power of your microwave). When done, set it aside to cool.

In the mixing bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the warm water and honey. Give it a quick stir with a spatula and add the rapid-rise yeast. Give it another quick stir, then walk away for at least 10-15 minutes so the yeast can bloom.

Remove the skin from the cooked sweet potato and mash it with a fork until mostly smooth (a few small lumps are okay). Sift the bread flour and set it aside. In a small bowl, beat the eggs and egg yolk with a fork until well blended.

When the yeast is ready, add the sweet potato puree, melted butter, salt and eggs and mix on low just until blended. Start adding the flour, one cup at a time, until the dough becomes sticky and clings to the dough hook (may take 3-5 mins.).

Note: this makes a soft, sticky dough. Humidity plays a part in how much flour you may need to achieve the proper texture. I’m in Houston, where the humidity was 75%, so I used all 4 cups of flour. You may use less, depending on your climate. Start by adding 3 cups of flour (one cup at a time) and slowly add more until you get a soft, sticky dough that clings to that dough hook.

Once the dough clings, stop the mixer and scrape the dough off the dough hook. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead lightly just until it forms a smooth ball. Place the dough ball in a lightly greased mixing bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and a clean towel, and place the bowl in a sunny window to rise until doubled in bulk. Once doubled, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and roll or press into a rectangle roughly 8″ x 20″.

To make sandwich buns: cut the dough into 1″ x 8″ strips (I use a rolling pizza cutter). Tie each strip into a knot, tucking the cut end underneath, and place them on a parchment or silpat mat lined baking sheet. Gently run the top of each bun with softened butter. Cover with plastic wrap and a lightweight towel and allow to rise again for at least 30 minutes, or up to one hour.

To make cinnamon rolls: combine 1/2 cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon. Liberally coat your rectangle of dough with softened butter, then sprinkle the cinnamon sugar evenly over the entire surface of the dough. Roll the dough, working along the long side of the rectangle, then pinch the seam to seal it. Roll it over until the seam is facing down on the floured board, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes. Using a sharp blade (I use my bench scraper), cut the dough into pieces 1 1/2″ wide and place them cut-side up on a lined baking sheet, at least 2″ apart. Cover with plastic wrap and a towel and allow them to rise one last time, for 30 minutes.

To bake: Pre-heat your oven to 375F. Once hot, bake your rolls one sheet at a time on the center rack of the oven. Bake 15-20 minutes, depending on your oven, or until golden brown. A good way to test sandwich buns is to gently press the center of one bun with your finger. If it feels soft and depresses easily, leave them in a little longer. If they feel firm, they’re done. Remove from the oven, place the pan on a cooling rack, and allow the buns to cool completely.

To make the cinnamon roll frosting: soften the cream cheese and butter to room temperature. Combine the cream cheese, butter, vanilla and orange essence or concentrate in a mixing bowl and whisk until smooth. Gradually add sifted powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until the mixture holds its shape when you drag your whisk through it. Scrape the frosting into a quart ziploc bag. Press the air out and seal the bag, then twist it to work the frosting into one corner of the bag. Snip the corner off with a pair of scissors, and frost the cinnamon rolls. I used a criss-cross pattern, but you could also start in the center and pipe a spiral or make the frosting thinner and use it as a glaze.

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Rolls - CloseUp

This recipe made 16 buns – 7 sandwich and 9 cinnamon rolls.

Baked buns can be frozen for future use. For the sandwich buns, place them in a freezer bag and press out as much air as possible, then place into a second freezer bag. For cinnamon rolls, leave glazed rolls on a baking sheet and place the pan into the freezer. Freeze cinnamon rolls for 2-3 hours, or until the frosting and buns are firm. Remove frozen rolls from the baking sheet and double bag them in freezer bags, just as you would the sandwich buns. Double-bagged buns should last up to 2 months in the freezer, if they last that long.

This recipe is adapted from a sweet potato roll recipe posted on the Tasty Kitchen website by Deana at Country Mom Cooks. I doubled the amount of sweet potato puree and yeast, and added more honey, melted butter and an additional egg yolk for a richer dough. Click the underlined link to the original.

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Sausage, Egg & Asparagus Tart

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Inside NanaBread's Head

You know Spring has sprung when fresh asparagus pops up in abundance. I grabbed a handful this week and made this easy tart for lunch. If you like quiche, you’ll love this. It starts with these beauties. I love this vibrant green color.

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Raw Asparagus

Alton Brown (Food Network) says the best way to cook asparagus and preserve its flavor and bright green color is to microwave it. Start by cutting off the tough stem ends, then grab a strip of 4 paper towels (still connected). Wet them and squeeze out most of the water. Un-wad the paper towels until you have a strip two towels long and two towels thick. Spread the asparagus on the damp towels in a single layer and sprinkle with kosher salt. Roll the asparagus up in the paper towels and microwave on high for 3 minutes. Done!

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Chicken Sausage

Next up are these gorgeous organic chicken, asparagus and parmesan smoked sausages from my local HEB market. I simply seared them in a hot skillet until lightly browned on both sides, then sliced them in half lengthwise.

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Scrambled Eggs

Soft scrambled eggs are cooked in the same skillet until almost but not quite set. These are just getting started. A box of frozen puff pastry makes quick work of the tart shell. To save time, thaw the puff pastry while you’re steaming the asparagus and browning the sausages. I promise – this tart could not be easier and topped with shredded parmesan cheese, it could not be more delicious.

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Cut

NanaBread’s Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart:
1 box frozen puff pastry (17.3 ounces or two ready-to-bake sheets), thawed
2 tablespoons butter, melted

1 package smoked chicken sausage (I used an asparagus & parmesan version)
1 pound fresh asparagus, microwaved (instructions above)
2 slices Lacey Swiss cheese, from your grocer’s deli counter
1/2 cup shredded parmesan cheese, to sprinkle on top

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 large eggs
4 tablespoons heavy cream or half-n-half
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 425F; remove the puff pastry from the box and let it thaw.

In a hot skillet, place the chicken sausages (sliced or whole) and brown on both sides over high heat, then remove from the skillet. In a mixing bowl, combine the eggs, cream or half-n-half, melted butter, salt & pepper. Whisk until fluffy. To the hot skillet, add 2 tablespoons of butter and swirl the pan until it is melted. Pour in the eggs, and using a silicone spatula, gently push the eggs around the skillet until they are almost set, but still wet and glossy. (Don’t worry, they’ll finish cooking in the oven.)

On a lined baking sheet, lay out one full sheet of puff pastry. Cut the remaining sheet into 3/4″ strips, and lay them around the outside edge of the bottom sheet to create a frame. Brush the edges with melted butter, then layer on your ingredients starting with the Swiss cheese, then the cut up sausages, the scrambled eggs, then the steamed asparagus. Bake at 425F for 20-30 minutes (depending on your oven), or until the puff pastry is a light golden brown.

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Construction Collage

Allow the tart to cool for a few minutes before slicing. To serve, top with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. This tart makes four large servings (main course) or nine small servings (appetizer). It’s perfect for any time of day. We had it for lunch, but it would also be lovely for brunch with fruit or dinner with a side salad. No one needs to know how simple it was, except for us. And I’ll never tell.

Spring Sausage Egg & Asparagus Tart - Sliced

Notes from the Kitchen:
1. This can be made meat-free by omitting the sausages.
2. It would also be lovely with a rotisserie chicken instead of sausage.
3. To reduce the amount of butter, try spraying the skillet with Pam instead.
4. To further reduce fat, swap 2 Tbsp. fat-free Greek yogurt for the cream.
5. The sausages & asparagus can be cooked in advance to save time.
6. To tart up your tart, try adding a small pinch of nutmeg or cayenne pepper to your scrambled eggs.
7. Leftovers should be refrigerated and eaten within 2-3 days.

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So Simple: Lemon Sour Cream Pie

Lemon Sour Cream Pie - Inside NanaBread's Head

Looking at my last three posts, I’d say there’s a high probability I’m on a fruit bender. Peach waffles. Papaya Cheesecake Bars. And now this. I think I’m trying to channel Spring. I first tasted this pie in the mid-80’s when our neighbor in Owasso, Oklahoma made it for us. It’s super simple, yet loaded with lemon flavor. A little sweet, a little tart, and a little tangy… just like me.

Lemon Sour Cream Pie:

one 8″ pre-baked pie shell (I use this recipe.)
4 small lemons, zested & juiced (1 Tbsp. zest + 1/2 cup juice)
3 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup granulated sugar
3 egg yolks
1 cup milk
1/2 stick unsalted butter, cubed
1 cup sour cream
whipped cream, to garnish

Pre-bake your pie crust (homemade or store-bought) and let it cool completely.

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, whisk together the lemon juice, lemon zest, cornstarch, sugar, egg yolks and milk. Cook over medium-low heat until thick, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter. Allow the custard to cool completely. Once cooled, whisk in the sour cream.

Pour into your pre-baked pie crust and refrigerate at least two hours. To serve, slice and top with whipped cream. Serves 8. Keep refrigerated.

If you like simple, you’ll love this pie. If you insist on getting fancy, spread a thin layer of your favorite raspberry jam on top before you slather on that whipped cream. Oh, baby! Cover me. I’m going in.

Lemon Sour Cream Pie - My Slice - Inside NanaBread's Head

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Papaya Cheesecake Bars

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut Bars & Pan

The Polar Vortex killed our papaya tree. Poor little guy. We just planted him last summer, so we barely knew him. To make matters worse, we’re having trouble finding another papaya tree to replace him. Not that we’re interviewing or anything, but the nursery doesn’t have any. Which is a round-about way to say The Complete Package bought a fresh papaya last weekend that was bigger than my head so he could germinate the seeds in an attempt to grow papaya trees. That’s great, but it left us with a gallon of diced papaya. Thatza lotta papaya.

What does one do with a gallon of fresh papaya? Not much, apparently. I searched the internet for ideas, but recipe choices were mainly limited to smoothies. After two or three of those, I was done. Then I saw a recipe for papaya jam, and that really got me thinking. Surely I could so something with papaya jam, right? Enter Papaya Cheesecake Bars.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - In the Pan

Sometimes I come up with an idea that actually works. Surprising, I know.

NanaBread’s Papaya Cheesecake Bars:
(makes two 8″ x 8″ square pans or one 13″ x 9″ rectangle)

For the papaya jam:
4 cups fresh papaya – peeled, seeded & diced
1/2 cup orange marmalade
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup sugar (optional, or add to taste)
2 tablespoons cornstarch dissolved in 3 tablespoons cold water

In a heavy-bottom saucepan, combine the fresh papaya, marmalade and orange juice. Simmer over medium-low heat until the papaya is soft and the mixture begins to thicken a little. Taste to determine if sugar needs to be added. If so, add up to 1/4 cup of sugar (to your taste) and cook until the sugar dissolves. Whisk in the cornstarch slurry and continue to stir constantly until the mixture thickens. Place a strainer over a mixing bowl, and pour the papaya mixture into the strainer. Using a flexible silicone spatula, press the papaya mixture through, straining out any fruit fiber or lumps. Allow the strained mixture to cool completely. While it’s cooling, you can start your shortbread crust.

For the shortbread crust:
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill coconut meal
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill almond meal
6 tablespoons brown sugar
a pinch of salt
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold & cubed

Pre-heat your oven to 375F. In a food processor, combine all of the shortbread ingredients. Pulse until well combined and the texture of course sand. Line your baking pan(s) with parchment and add the shortbread mixture (it will be crumbly). Shake the pan to distribute the crumbs, then tap it flat on the counter a few times to help settle them in an even layer. Cover with a sheet of parchment and use a rolling-pin or heavy glass to roll the crumbs into a solid, compact layer. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until the edges start to brown. While the crust is baking, mix up your cheesecake filling.

For the cheesecake layer:
1 package (8 ozs.) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 egg yolks
1 whole egg
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

In a mixing bowl, combine the cheesecake ingredients. Whisk until the mixture is completely smooth. Pour over the baked shortbread crust, tapping the pan on the counter to remove any air bubbles. Pop it back into the oven for 10-12 minutes, or just until you can shake the pan gently and the cheesecake doesn’t jiggle. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely. Once cooled, top with papaya jam, spreading it into a smooth even layer. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Keep refrigerated.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Cut

Truth in Marketing Moment: I dusted mine with powdered sugar, but it really served no purpose other than adding texture to the photographs. The sugar dissolved almost immediately into the papaya jam and vanished. Feel free to skip that step unless you’re also photographing your papaya bars, in which case it’ll look pretty and everybody loves pretty desserts.

That papaya jam? It’s supremely tasty, so I’ll be canning more of that.

Remember when people used to ask “If you were a crayon, what color would you be?” I’m changing my answer. It used to be Cornflower Blue, but now it’s Papaya Orange. That color just screams SASSY.

Papaya Cheesecake Bars - Horizontal

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TCP Cooks: French Toast Waffles

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

Challah: A braided bread laden with eggs, symbolizing manna from heaven.

If you love good bread, let me hear you challah!

Corny food puns are my secret love, as is warm eggy challah bread. But it’s what The Complete Package does with it that really makes my heart sing. Inspired by a sleep-over episode of Bobby Flay’s cooking show, he does the unthinkable and combines two breakfast favorites into one – French Toast & Waffles.

French Toast Waffles - Inside NanaBread's Head

To make this mouth-watering delicacy, you’ll need a fresh loaf of challah, the standard cast of French toast ingredients, and a piping hot waffle maker. A bowl of homemade whipped cream and some fresh fruit doesn’t hurt either.

TCP’s French Toast Waffles: (makes 8 slices)
1 loaf of fresh challah bread
4 large eggs
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
powdered sugar, to dust with
fresh whipped cream & macerated fruit, to garnish

Pre-heat your waffle iron (set to medium heat, if yours is adjustable).

Slice the challah bread into 1″ thick slices; set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs until lemon-colored and frothy. Whisk in the brown sugar, beating until the sugar is mostly dissolved; add the cream, vanilla and salt and whisk until combined.

Dunk each slice of challah into the egg mixture, turning to coat well, and place it in the waffle maker. Gently press the lid closed and bake until golden brown. Our small waffle maker can bake one slice at a time and each takes about 4 minutes, but it’s 32 years old, so watch yours carefully for a perfect golden hue.

When done, remove to a warm plate, dust with powdered sugar then top with fresh fruit and whipped cream. Serve immediately.

French Toast Waffles - Close-Up

Leftovers, if there are any, can be frozen. Simply place the cooked & completely cooled waffles into a zip-style freezer bag, press out any excess air, seal tightly, then drop in the freezer. To warm, place them on a baking sheet and re-heat in the oven at 275F, or pop them in the microwave for 25-30 seconds, or drop them into your toaster (just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don’t burn).

These are great with fresh peaches, strawberries, bananas or any favorite fruit. They’re also delicious with a smear of coconut curd and blackberry jam, or lemon curd and raspberry jam. There’s also the old-fashioned favorite – a pat of real butter and a drizzle of pure maple syrup. So many fabulous options, but that’s for you to discover. A word of caution: these are addictive.

Thinking of making your own Challah? Check out Smitten Kitchen’s recipe.

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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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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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