Category Archives: Things I Love

These are the things I love. They’re not paid endorsements in any way. If they were, I would certainly tell you. They’re just a collection of things I love enough to share with you.

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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Filed under Food & Recipes, Things I Love

What we ate this summer.

Boy, did we eat well this summer! We may have consumed more than our fair share of fresh veggies in a wide variety of simple yet flavorful dishes. What is summer for, after all, if not the consumption of goodies from the farmers market and excuse to work on your tan? Here’s a peek at what we ate this summer.

Chicken Stir-Fry - My Bowl

It started with this chicken stir-fry over rice. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this before, but The Complete Package and I love rice. Like L-O-V-E it. You could put a bowl of plain rice in front of us and we’d be happy, but smothering it with this zesty stir-fry made us really happy campers. The recipe came from the Weber’s New Real Grilling Cookbook. Seen it yet? Well, you should. Holy smokes (yes, that’s a grill joke) – it’s exceptional.

When I brought this book home from the BlogHer Food Conference in Austin (Thank you, Dole!), we immediately decided to jump in and try as many recipes as we could as quickly as possible. Here’s another winner from the book.

Weber  - Avocado, Red Onion & Sun-Dried Tomato Quesadillas

This beauty is an avocado, red onion and sun-dried tomato quesadilla. It’s ooey, gooey, crispy and crunchy. It was meat-free, but it still had it all, and in an easy to eat portable package, too. So much flavor!

This next one came from an internet search TCP did for smoked chicken. Now that he has officially conquered brisket and ribs (his are to die for), he decided to tackle smoked chicken. The recipe he found was for a ‘competition grade’ chicken, and while I don’t think he’ll be competing anywhere, this bird deserves a blue ribbon. Isn’t it gorgeous? Smokey, juicy poultry in motion.

A Smoked Chicken

Next was our pizza phase – where we attempted to live out our “More Is More” motto to the fullest. This one was grilled chicken with a smokey BBQ sauce, red onion, sliced jalapenos and a blend of cheddar and monterrey jack cheese.

BBQ Chicken Pizza

Think that one was loaded? You ain’t seen nothing yet. THIS baby was loaded. I call it “All The Veggies” pizza, and it was an exercise in excess. Instead of a tomato sauce, I smeared a whole wheat dough with basil pesto, then layered on oodles of veggies – artichoke hearts, mushrooms, orange & yellow bell peppers, roasted piquillo peppers, fresh spinach, kalamata olives, and red onions – then topped it with ricotta, toasted pine nuts and a drizzle of olive oil. We could hardly pick it up, but the flavors were over-the-top fabulous.

DeLallo Veggie Pizza

Speaking of flavor, this simple dish from the Weber’s grilling book blew our minds. It is deceptive in that it doesn’t look like much, but practically explodes in your mouth. Yummy is an understatement. It starts with eggplant grilled over charcoal, which is then topped with a sun-dried tomato, shallot & garlic relish dressed in a balsamic vinaigrette. Wow. Just wow.

Grilled Eggplant with Sun-Dried Tomato Topping

Next up was a Cuban Sandwich made with leftover smoked pork tenderloin (also from the Weber book), but the star of this show was the tostones we made on the side. Ever had tostones? It’s hard to describe them, but if you ever have an opportunity to try them (or even make them), take it. They’re like thick chips made from plantains. Now, if you think plantains are just fat bananas, you are mistaken. They’re actually starchy like a potato, and unless you let them over-ripen, they are not sweet. Think of them as a potato substitute.

Cuban Sandwiches from Grilling Book - July10, 2013

To make tostones, peel and slice plantains and fry them in a little canola oil until they just start to crisp a little. Remove them from the oil, drain on paper towels, and flatten them with a metal spatula. Then, and I know this sounds strange, throw them BACK into the oil until they are a golden, crispy brown. Sprinkled with kosher salt & served with your favorite salsa, I promise you will never reach for corn chips again.

All this talk of chips and pizza is making me thirsty, which brings me to my last treat of the summer. The fine folks at Double Decker were kind enough to ask if I’d like to try their wine. I don’t think I could have said “Heck yes!” any faster. To my surprise, they sent two full-size bottles – Pinot Grigio (white) and their Red Blend. The red was opened first. We drank half the bottle with a nice steak dinner and used the last half the bottle for Blackberry Sangria. Mmm…. I can still smell and taste it just looking at this photo. My friend Beka pointed out that it appears the ice is giving a fist-bump. Wildly appropriate; it rocked!

Double Decker Blackberry Sangria - Inside NanaBread's Head

Blackberry Sangria is my new ‘must have’ for summer. To make, muddle one pint of fresh blackberries with 1/3 cup of sugar and add to a bottle of Double Decker Red Blend. Cap it and put in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours so the berries & wine can fall in love. Then strain and serve over ice with a few fresh berries for garnish. So good, and so refreshing. This would also work with red plums or raspberries. The pinot grigio is superb and crisp on its own, but also makes a great summer sangria with the addition of peaches, apples, orange slices and a handful of white grapes. If you lika de’ bubbles, top it with a splash of champagne, club soda or lemon-lime soda. Then sit back and reflect on a summer worthy of the record books.

Did you try anything this summer that knocked your socks off? Do tell!

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Filed under Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

My Favorite Season: Fall

Maine - Somesville Bridge

Oh, fall… I miss you so much. I miss experiencing all four seasons and the benefits of each like leaves turning, snow falling or bulbs blooming. But mostly I miss sweaters and drinking hot cocoa at high school football games. I long for those days when you can step outside and see your breath. In the suburbs south of Houston, we have only two seasons – Summer & More Summer. Our change of season comes down to this: in February, we stop mowing for 3-4 weeks.

The Complete Package and I both love Fall. So much so, we usually travel north each year just to celebrate autumn. Since we’ll be remodeling our master bathroom instead of traveling this year, I’m celebrating the advent of fall with a few photos from our trip to Acadia National Park in Maine back in 2008. It was glorious. So welcome, Fall. Please come see us. We miss you something fierce.

Foliage in Acadia Natl Park

Acadia Maine - Sun Through Fall Foliage

Acadia Maine Leaves in Water

Acadia - Path to Jordan Pond

Somesville Main Tree in Fall

Ever thought of visiting Acadia National Park? Learn more HERE. Some of our other fall favorites – Glacier National Park, Calgary & Banff, Yellowstone & The Tetons, and the Oregon coast. Do you have a favorite place to visit in the fall? Please share! You may just inspire our next fall vacation or someone else’s.

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Filed under Things I Love, Travel Tales

I don’t know how this happened.

Remember my post from 2 weeks ago? The one with the pineapple update? The update where I said we probably had at least 4-6 weeks until harvest? Well, we went to Austin last weekend to visit the kids and came home to this:

Pineapple Harvest 6

I don’t know how this happened. They went from firm, mostly green and this:

Pineapple Close-Up - Aug2013

to completely, thoroughly golden-yellow ripe in 4 days. FOUR DAYS!

Side by Side Comparison - 4 days

I can only attribute it to:
A.) four days of intense Houston heat, followed by
B.) a good solid day of rain during drought conditions, and
C.) my lack of experience growing pineapples (even with 15+ plants)

We had no choice but to harvest them before they got too ripe, which was disappointing because we really had hoped the kids would be here to participate. Instead, The Complete Package & I cut them down. No kids; no celebration.

Pineapple Harvest 1

Pineapple Harvest 2

Here’s a peek behind the curtain at how we’ve accumulated so many pineapple plants over the past few years. Each plant, while it’s fruiting, puts off several shoots (ratoons) that can be removed and replanted to form new plants. Each of our four fruiting plants put off at least 2 to 3 ratoons.

Pineapple Harvest 3

Pineapple Harvest 4

I’m no math whiz, but if each pineapple plant produces 3 ratoons PLUS a pineapple fruit, that means you now potentially have FOUR (4) additional future pineapple plants, because you can replant the ratoons and replant the top off the pineapple fruit. We started six years ago with the top of a pineapple plant we’d bought at the grocery store. We now have over 15 plants because we keep re-potting the ratoons & pineapple tops. I joke about our mini-plantation, but it’s actually kind of true. They’re taking over our back porch. Two years ago, we harvested one lonely but gorgeous pineapple. This year, we got this:

Pineapple Harvest 5

Which brings me to our new little gadget I just have to show off. My friend Kirsten of Comfortably Domestic (my sister from another mister) and her four boys were so excited about our pending pineapple harvest, they sent us the new OXO ratcheting pineapple corer & slicer. Oh, baby!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Ready to Cut

To use it, lop the top off your pineapple, leaving about 3/4″ so you can replant it later and become a semi-obsessed mini-plantation pineapple farmer like me.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Lop off the top

We set the pineapples into a mixing bowl to capture any juice so I could make marmalade (always thinking ahead), then TCP set about coring those golden puppies. The OXO pineapple corer tore right through each pineapple in seconds.
It was amazing to watch and surprisingly fun to use.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- OXO Pineapple Corer & Slicer

Did I mention it ratchets? You don’t have to turn the bowl or move the pineapple or anything! Just twist the handle on top and it ratchets after each cut until it reaches the bottom. Once done, you simply pull the rings right out of the shell. That’s right – I said rings!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Rings on the Slicer

It cuts the entire pineapple into perfectly even rings. Shut up! I know!

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Perfectly Sliced Rings

We set aside one tub of rings for Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug, since they both said they’d like to recreate our pineapple upside-down cake from the 2011 harvest, and poured most of the pineapple and juice into the Dutch oven to make my first ever batch of pineapple upside-down marmalade (pineapple, brown sugar & maraschino cherries). With that, there was only one last task to conquer.

Remember that post I mentioned in the first paragraph? The one where I said we probably had a few weeks until harvest? Well, I may have mentioned in that post that I’d also like to make fruity cocktails with this batch of pineapples. And since the OXO corer/slicer did such a nice job of creating the perfect vessel, there was just one last thing to do.

Pineapple Harvest 2013- Pina Colada Fixings

You should know me well enough by now to know that I never turn down a fruity ‘pinkies up’ frou-frou girly cocktail. So here’s to you, and here’s to friends who send friends kitchen gadgets, and here’s to the great pineapple harvest of 2013.

Pineapple Harvest - Pina Colada

Oh, and just in case you’d like to join me:

Pineapple Harvest 2013  - Pina Colada Recipe

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes, Things I Love

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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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Things I Love

Pineapple Update!

Our pineapple babies are growing nicely. I realized it’s been forever since my last update, and I thought you’d like to see how they’re doing. This year, we have four. FOUR! Well, four actual fruits. We’re currently up to eight pots and over a dozen plants. If you add in the ratoons (offshoots) that will have to be replanted soon, we’re up to 25+ potential pineapple plants. It’s practically a mini-plantation now. Watch your back, Dole. I’m coming for you.

Pineapple Collage - Aug2013

In my head I call them Eenie, Meenie, Miney & Mo. This is Mo (below).

Pineapple Close-Up - Aug2013

Judging by our last pineapple harvest in 2011, I’m guessing these are still at least 4-6 weeks from fully ripe which means late September or possibly even early October. But that’s okay, because we got another surprise this month – a new batch of bananas – and they’ll be ripe at about the same time.

Bananas - Aug2013

{sniff….sniff…} I smell daiquiris!

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Filed under Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love

Can It: Black & Blue Jam

Black & Blue Jam - Label Shot

Jam. It’s my jam. I love making it, which is convenient because I love eating it. There’s something magical about canning your own jam. When I open my pantry and see that Jelly Shelf with jars stacked high, I feel I’ve accomplished something. When I take a jar of homemade jam to my grandkids I feel like I’m sharing something homemade and wholesome. It’s a love that goes back to my own grandmother and memories of sitting on the steps of her root cellar, waiting anxiously to see what she might retrieve. It’s memories of my own mother baking homemade bread on glorious summer canning days, smearing warm slices of that bread with jelly foam and passing them out like Christmas presents. Magical.

When my Big Sister and I road-tripped up to Mom’s last month, I was fortunate to find gorgeous fresh blackberries and blueberries and saved them just for this – Black & Blue Jam. The combination of these two berries, blended into a rich, deep purple jam – well, it just sings to me and stirs some deep-seeded joy from my past as well as a fervent passion for the buttered toast in my future.

Black & Blue Jam - Berries in the Pot

Black & Blue Jam
7 cups fresh blueberries & blackberries, washed & stems removed
1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
3 boxes (1.75 ounces each) powdered pectin
10 cups granulated sugar
1 teaspoon real unsalted butter
6 pint or 12 half-pint canning jars
new lids & rings for each jar

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the berries and lemon juice. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the berries are soft and have released most of their juice, approximately 30-45 minutes. (Hint: I like to take an old-fashioned potato masher to mine after about 20 minutes to help extract the juice.) Add the pectin to the sugar and stir to combine, then gradually add the sugar to the berries, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Drop in the butter and continue to cook, again stirring often, until the sugar has completely dissolved and the mixture has started to thicken. Using a big soup spoon, skim off any foam or bubbles from around the edge of the pan and save it in a bowl for jelly foam toast later. It’s a jam canner’s reward for a job well done.

Turn off the heat. If you dislike seeds (I do), place a strainer over another large pan and ladle the jam into a strainer, pressing the jam through using a flexible silicone spatula. Place your sterilized canning jars close to the pot. Using a canning funnel, ladle the jam into jars, leaving 1/4″ to 1/2″ of space at the top. Once filled, use a damp paper towel to thoroughly wipe the rim of each jar, removing any jam that may have spilled over.

In a heat-proof bowl, place new canning lids (I alternate them – one face up, one face down – to keep them from sticking together) and cover them with boiling water. Let them sit for 3-4 minutes, then carefully remove them one at a time, shaking off any excess water, placing one onto each jar. Screw a ring on firmly, but not so tight that it won’t turn at all, and set them aside until all are done.

I use this handy silicone canning basket when I can anything. It allows me to lower & raise jars without any slips or accidents, and is heat-proof so it stays in the pot the entire time without melting. Process your jam jars in a hot water bath for 15 minutes (half-pints) or 20 minutes (pints). If you’re unfamiliar with water bath processing, check out this tutorial.

Jelly Collage

In my house, jam isn’t ‘done’ until it’s properly labeled. I may be slightly obsessed with creating cute labels for all my jams & jellies. It’s my creative process. Once your jars are properly labeled, you’re free to box them for storage, stack them on a pantry shelf, or pass them out to friends and family. Homemade jam makes excellent gifts. And speaking of gifts, there’s just one more to enjoy before you go – that bowl of jelly foam on warm buttered toast.

Black&Blue Jam Collage

Oh, Mom. I cannot thank you enough. {hugs}

For more on home canning, visit http://www.freshpreserving.com/getting-started.aspx

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“The Heat is On” Spicy PB Shortbreads

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads -Title Shot

I love peanut butter. This one time, in high school, a friend’s dad got me to run 5 miles for a giant jar of it on a dare. It was 1980, and there was a peanut butter shortage. I did what I had to do.

Fast forward to June of this year, when I attended the BlogHerFood conference in Austin. I had the best time and met so many fabulous food bloggers, but I was also fortunate to meet some really nice people from companies represented at the event like Adam Shapiro from Peanut Butter & Co.

Adam & I sat at the same breakfast table the first morning of the conference, but didn’t get a chance to talk. Later that weekend, I bumped into him again and got a chance to strike up a conversation and share how much I love their peanut butter (most especially their Dark Chocolate Dreams – it’s sin in a jar). Adam asked if I’d heard about their new flavor – The Heat is On. It’s a crazy blend of peanut butter and spicy chilies.

When I say crazy, I mean crazy genius. We talked about the standard things that came to mind, like using it in a peanut satay or in a dipping sauce for egg rolls or dumplings. But as we were talking, I kept thinking about what it would be like in a cookie. Specifically, a peanut butter shortbread cookie dipped in chocolate.

Adam was intrigued by the idea. Enough so that he offered to send me some peanut butter to play with. This was truly one of the greatest and most unexpected pleasures of attending my first food blogging conference – connecting with fascinating people you’d never have a chance to meet otherwise and sharing a passion for food. True to his word, here’s what Adam sent:

PB&Co Box

Not just one jar, but an entire box of various Peanut Butter & Co flavors. I was simultaneously stunned and thrilled. He even included a jar of the Dark Chocolate Dreams. What a guy! Lilly Bug (our granddaughter) immediately fell in love with the dark chocolate peanut butter. She’s a girl after her Nana’s heart. Jonah Bear (our grandson) loved the maple. He’s a pancake kind of dude, so that’s not really surprising. Personally, I went into that jar of Cinnamon Raisin Swirl with a spoon and almost didn’t come back out. I’m officially obsessed with it.

PB&Co The Heat is On

But this spicy The Heat is On is what inspired these cookies. This richly roasted peanut butter combined with a spicy blend of heat is as bold as it is fun. It’s just spicy enough to feel the burn spread across your palate, but not so spicy you’re running for a glass of water. It’s a party in a jar, and now it’s a party in a cookie. And all because I stepped out of my comfort zone and initiated a conversation with a super guy who just happened to work for a peanut butter company that I love.

The Heat is On Peanut Butter Shortbreads – for Adam
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup ‘The Heat is On’ spicy peanut butter
1/4 cup plain crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
2 tablespoons honey or agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon table salt

In a large mixing bowl, combine the butter and peanut butter, beating with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the brown sugar, honey or agave nectar and vanilla extract, beating until combined. Sift together the flour and salt and add it slowly to the butter mixture, beating until the flour is fully absorbed.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Pressed with a Glass

To press with a glass for a decorative cookie:
Scoop enough dough into the palm of your hand to form a ball roughly the size of a golf ball. Line a cookie sheet with a Silpat baking mat or parchment paper. Space the balls of cookie dough about 2″ apart and press with the bottom of a decorative glass. If the glass tries to stick to the dough, dip it in granulated sugar.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Slice & Bake style

To use the slice & bake method:
Shape the cookie dough into a log and roll in plastic wrap, twisting the ends to seal them shut. Refrigerate at least one hour, then unwrap and slice into 1/4″ slices. Place the cookies 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet.

To bake:
Pre-heat your oven to 275F. Place your oven rack in the middle portion of the oven, and bake the cookies for 40 minutes. Remember – everyone’s oven is different and some run hotter than others. Start checking the cookies at 30 minutes. If you gently press the center of the cookie and it gives a little, let them stay in a few minutes longer. I baked mine for exactly 40 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow them to cool on the baking sheets until completely cooled. Store in an airtight container for up to one week. If you want to kick it up a notch, consider dipping them in chocolate. I did. #NoRegrets.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Dipped Close-Up

To dip in chocolate:
I let the cookies cool overnight to make sure they were completely cooled. Next, combine 1/2 cup dark chocolate chips with 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips and set them over a double-boiler to melt. Once melted, whisk until the chocolate mixture is perfectly smooth, with no lumps. Scrape the chocolate into a small glass or ramekin and dip each cookie individually, placing them on waxed paper to set.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Drizzed in Chocolate

In a rush? You can scrape the melted chocolate into a zippered plastic food storage bag, press it all down to one corner of the bag, and snip the corner off. Using a quick back & forth method, drizzle the cookies until all are decorated. Then squeeze some into your mouth for good measure, and throw away the used bag. After that, it’s just a matter of waiting for the chocolate to set up, if you can wait that long. I’ve never been good at waiting, especially with cookies.

Heat Is On PB Shortbreads - Final Close-Up

Tip: If you live in a warm, humid climate like I do (hello, Houston), spread your waxed paper onto a cookie sheet before you dip or drizzle your cookies with chocolate. Once done, you can pop the entire pan into the fridge for 30 minutes or the freezer for 10 minutes to help the chocolate firm up.

Note: This recipe is adapted from a shortbread recipe at Living Tastefully. This post is not sponsored by Peanut Butter & Co. As stated above, the company provided me with a box of product to sample. All opinions (and drooling) are my own. Special thanks to Adam Shapiro of Peanut Butter & Co for his generosity.

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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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Random Thoughts Thursday

It’s early Thursday morning and I desperately need coffee. So while I’m making a cup, feel free to browse a few random things that came up this week.

1. Bake Sale for Beka (aka Cookies for Crohn’s)
My friend Megan from Country Cleaver is hosting this amazing on-line bake sale benefitting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America for the second year running. I’m participating again by baking four dozen of these Cherry Almond Shortbread Cookies dipped in dark Guittard chocolate. Holy yum!

Cherry & Almond Shortbreads - Inside NanaBread's Head

Made with flour & almond meal, dried Michigan cherries, toasted almonds & real butter these shortbread cookies stand on their own without any chocolate. But what fun is that? Seriously, when things can be dipped in dark chocolate, they absolutely should be. If these beauties have captivated you, you can bid on them! If you win, I’ll ship 4 dozen directly to your home, dipped in whichever type of chocolate you prefer – white, milk or dark. Winner’s choice.

To bid or browse the other selections generously donated by a plethora of fabulous food bloggers go to Megan’s website THIS SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 2013. That’s right, folks… this is a one day on-line auction benefiting the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation and celebrating Beka’s first half-marathon for the cure. For the record, on a scale of 1 to 10, Beka is a 15 kind of amazing. So mark your calendar and drop in on the Bake Sale for Beka to watch the bidding shenanigans. And if you end up with the winning bid on my cookies, I might just throw in a jar of homemade jelly. It’s been known to happen.

2. The Complete Package went to the Republic of Texas motorcycle rally in Austin and all we got were photos & disco light sabers.
Okay, that’s true but not entirely true. TCP (my beloved) DID attend the ROT Rally in Austin where his girlfriend (if I may brag a bit) took first place in the Metric Customs category. Yes, I refer to his motorcycle as his girlfriend. Here’s a snap in case you’re curious about her. Meh; she’s okay I guess. :)

TCP's Honda Fury

Each year, on Friday evening, participants in the motorcycle rally ride from the Austin fairgrounds into downtown in a bike parade that stretches more than 10 miles. MILES, people. And each year, My Baby and I take the grandkids downtown to watch the parade so they can see their Papi ride in. They get the biggest kick out of seeing him in the parade. It’s his rock star moment.

After he gets downtown and parks, we all walk Congress looking at the motorcycles and snapping photos. Here are a few from last Friday night. This first one is of Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug with ‘The Cat Lady’. She’s really popular.

ROT Rally 2013 - Jonah & Lilly with Cat Lady

ROT Rally 2013 - Strolling on Congress

ROT Rally 2013 - State Capitol

3. I took the kids back to Springdale Farm.
Remember last week when I mentioned I had the privilege of visiting Springdale Farm for the U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance dinner as part of the BlogHer Food conference? It was a wonderful, magical night under the stars and trees.

Springdale Farm - US Farmers & Ranchers Dinner

I enjoyed it so much I vowed to bring My Baby and the kids for a visit, and last Saturday we did just that. Despite the heat, the kids had a great time and enjoyed walking the farm, spotting fresh vegetables, and picking out some to take home. In case I haven’t been clear in past posts, I L-O-V-E a good farmer’s market or farm stand and Springdale Farm is now one of my favorites. If you’re in Austin, please visit and support a local farmer. Food doesn’t get any fresher.

Lilly & The Chickens - Springdale Farm

Jonah & Lilly - walking the herb garden at Springdale Farm

Farm Stand at Springdale

Ever wondered what an artichoke looks like when it’s left to bloom? Well now you know. You’re not going to see that in a grocery store, folks!

Artichoke Blooms - Springdale Farm

We also attempted to take Jonah & Lilly on a mural hop around Austin. More on that later, but here’s a glimpse of what we did before we died of heat stroke.

Lilly & Jonah at Austin Mural

4. Nothing rocks summer like the glitter polish.
It started with pale pink glitter polish over raspberry red and it has now morphed into pale teal glitter over a dark teal base. For a girl who doesn’t usually paint her nails, I’m totally digging the disco glitter. Hello summer!

The Megan - Teal Sparkle Nails

5. Don’t forget this weekend’s Bake Sale for Beka on-line auction!
I mean it, people. Buy my cookies and I’ll make it worth your time & money. We’re talking FOUR DOZEN HANDMADE FROM SCRATCH COOKIES and homemade jam or jelly. If I could ship a puppy, I would. I’m not above bribery. Whatever it takes. Just bid. It’s for a good cause and there are cookbooks & cookies to be had. LOTS of cookies. For a preview, CLICK HERE.

BakeSale4Beka

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Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Family Stuff, Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love