Tag Archives: Comfortably Domestic Blog

“One Kitchen, Many Hearts”

That theme keeps recurring in my circle of blogging friends. We continually share recipes, swap family and personal stories, and most of all keep each other in stitches. When we’re not blogging, we’re usually chatting on Twitter or sharing recent finds on Pinterest. We’ve even joked about building a blogger commune with one giant kitchen so we can do this on a permanent basis (once one of us wins the lottery & all of our spouses or soon-to-be-spouses agree). Although we are literally spread out across the U.S., we are bound by our mutual love of blogging, food & family. “One Kitchen, Many Hearts” has not only become our mantra, it aptly conveys how much we’ve grown to care about one another.

Top: Mads, Kirsten & Megan; Bottom: Jeanne, Allison & Kat

Like any great group of gal pals, we love to make each other laugh. We not only support each other through thick and thin, we cheer each other on. And since some of us occasionally take it one step further and mail packages to each other, we thought it would be fun to start a gift box exchange program with a focus on sharing some of our favorite things, regional cuisines, and anything else that might tickle our fancy. Armed only with a list of food allergies and strong dislikes, our boxes are “sender’s choice” and open to just about anything that can safely be shipped (which obviously rules out kittens and cheese curds). Our goal is to ship & receive all boxes during the same week and then reveal what we all got on the same day. If this first round of boxes is any indication, this is going to be fun. I mean, who doesn’t love getting surprise packages in the mail?

This month was our first “One Kitchen, Many Hearts” box exchange, and today we’ll all be sharing what we received in a blog post on each of our blogs (links below). My first gift box came from Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World in Arizona. Here’s what she sent:

Direct from Arizona - Cactus Candy & local chili infused olive oil

Now, some of you may be thinking “Cactus candy?” but not me. I actually love the flavor of prickly pear cactus fruit. Maybe it’s a southwest thing, but it’s not totally unique to me. In fact, the best restaurant margarita I ever had was a frozen lime concoction with a thick, sweet prickly pear cactus fruit syrup swirled into it. Have mercy, it was delicious. So when I saw the candy, and given my recent love affair with Turkish Delight, I was thrilled. Prickly pear cactus fruit tastes a little like pomegranate mixed with strawberries, and the texture of these candies is like my childhood favorite orange slice candies. They’re like soft jelly gummies coated in crunchy granulated sugar, and they are lovely.

The bottle of olive oil was fate. On the very day I received my box from Allison, The Complete Package and I had a conversation about infused olive oils. Flavors we like, types we would like to try, and the basil & garlic infused oil our son-in-law had just made the previous night for eggplant and chicken parmesan. Which, by the way, was fabulous. When I opened the box from Allison and found the chili pepper infused oil, it just seemed like kismet. Somewhere, the infused oil gods were smiling on us. Now my mind is racing with all of the ways I could use it – brushed onto grilled meats, drizzled over a pizza, in salad dressings, mixed with herbs and dipped with bread. The list is literally endless.

Special thanks to Allison (and to Her Royal Highness, Allison’s young daughter) for selecting the perfect items to share with this Texas gal. I will enjoy them thoroughly and think of you fondly as I do. ¡Muchas gracias!

To see what everyone else received, click on these links:
Kat at Tenaciously Yours (recipient of my box)
Mads at Le Petite Pancake
Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic
Megan at Wanna Be a Country Cleaver
Allison at Decadent Philistines Save the World

NOTE: Tomorrow I’ll be sharing information on the Foodie PenPal program that inspired this inner circle box exchange. It’s a much larger project with over 200 participants, and it inspired our smaller version with my blogging buddies. Think you might be interested in joining? Tune in tomorrow to learn more!

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Filed under Food & Recipes, Miscellaneous Thoughts

Cookie Week: Coconut Shortbreads and a Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway


**UPDATE: Congratulations to Mads from California. She is the lucky winner of my Holiday Cookie Baking Giveaway. Enjoy your goodies, Mads, and thank you for supporting Cookies for Kids Cancer. You are a Good Cookie!**

It’s Be A Good Cookie Week! Is there any more perfect holiday treat than cookies? They’re easy to make and fun to bake. It’s one of my favorite things about the holiday season. I can’t speak for all of the other little elves participating in this project, but I’m pumped. Cookie Week is going to rock! Much like Pie Week in November, my blogging inner circle was inspired by Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic to do something this holiday season that would bring us all together. In this case, she added a special invitation to help her bake for a cause – Cookies for Kids Cancer, a non-profit organization dedicated to fighting pediatric cancers.

This organization started with a mother named Gretchen and her son Liam, who was diagnosed with neuroblastoma. Unwilling to stand by and do nothing, Gretchen decided to hold a bake sale with the goal of baking 96,000 cookies with the help of family, friends and volunteers. Three weeks later, they had raised over $400,000 for pediatric cancer research. From there, it blossomed into something even she couldn’t predict. Cookies for Kids Cancer is now nationwide, and has captured the hearts of people everywhere.

Kirsten was the first in our group to jump on the band wagon and with good cause. She lost her little sister Cheryl to pediatric cancer. Needless to say, Cookies for Kids Cancer touched Kirsten in a very personal and profound way. I’m fortunate to have never experienced this personally, but because I love Kirsten and she loved Cheryl, and because parents everywhere may someday face this same challenge, I’m proud to join their efforts and bake for a cause this holiday season along with a special group blogging friends.

For Pie Week, we used Kirsten’s fabulously flawless “No Excuses Pie Dough” as our common thread. For Cookie Week, we each selected a recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook by Gretchen Holt-Witt. Yes, she’s the same Gretchen who started that first bake sale for her son Liam. All of Gretchen’s author proceeds from the sale of the book benefit pediatric research, just like her bake sales. More about the cookbook in a little bit.

For Cookie Week, I selected Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies. I knew as soon as I saw this recipe it was perfect for me. I love shortbread and coconut. Here is the original recipe from the Cookies for Kids Cancer cookbook:

1/2 cup of sweetened flaked coconut
2 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup of powdered sugar
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 1/4 cups of flour
1/4 teaspoon of kosher salt

But I tripled the recipe so I could bake extras for a cookie exchange next week. And because I can never leave well enough alone, I also tweaked it a little. You should know by now that I can never seem to make any recipe as written. Here’s my ingredient list:

2 cups of sweetened flaked coconut
2 cups of slivered almonds
6 sticks of unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup of powdered sugar
3/4 cup of granulated sugar
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 teaspoon of vanilla bean paste
6 3/4 cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
1 bag of dark or semisweet chocolate chips for dipping

Pre-heat the oven to 250F. Spread coconut and slivered almonds on a baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for 10-15 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the coconut and almonds until finely ground (but not completely pulverized).

Place butter, sugars and extracts into mixer bowl with paddle attachment and beat until creamy. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the coconut and almonds to the butter & sugar mixture and beat on low speed until well combined. Gradually add the flour and salt. Mix until well beaten. (In my case, I had to remove the bowl from the mixer and stir the end of the flour in by hand. Triple the dough was a little too much for my 6 quart stand mixer.) Scrape out of bowl onto waxed paper or the counter top. If needed, knead the dough gently until it forms a cohesive ball. Divide and roll the dough into 1 1/2″ to 2” diameter logs. Wrap each log tightly in plastic wrap & aluminum foil. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or freeze for up to 2 months.

To bake, slice cookie dough logs into 1/4″ slices and place them about 1″ apart on a lined cookie sheet. I use silpat mats, but if you don’t have them, use parchment paper instead. Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges start to turn a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow them to cool for 10 minutes on the cookie sheet. Remove to parchment paper or cooling racks and allow the cookies to cool completely.

At this point, you can stack them into airtight containers or layer them in rows into freezer bags. But why stop there? Let’s kick it up another notch by dipping them in dark or semisweet chocolate. Shall we? In a microwave safe bowl, microwave one bag of chocolate chips at full power for 1 minute. Stir and microwave again, in 30-second intervals, until the chips are melted. Whisk thoroughly to remove all lumps, and move to a flat surface for dipping. Spreading out a long strip of parchment or waxed paper, dip one shortbread at a time, covering about 3/4 of the cookie’s surface. Allow the excess to drip off, then scrape the bottom of the cookie off on the edge of the bowl. Place the cookie immediately onto parchment paper and allow to cool. If you’re really clever, put that parchment paper on a baking sheet, and you’ll be able to pop your cookies straight into the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is fully set.

There you have it. Toasted Coconut Shortbread Cookies from the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook with a NanaBread twist, baked in honor of Kirsten & her sister Cheryl, and Gretchen & her son Liam, and for kids everywhere who are facing cancers no child should ever endure.

Now on to the giveaway. Here is what one lucky reader will win:

You know you want to win this spectacular Cookie Week giveaway!

One copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook
One OXO “Good Cookie” Spatula, benefiting pediatric cancer
One holiday print apron, handmade by NanaBread (that’s me!)
One cookie-themed holiday kitchen towel
One set of my favorite Nordicware mini-spatulas
One boxed set of sprinkles for decorating holiday cookies
Two sets (3 each) of colorful metal cookie cutters
Two sets of holiday treat sacks for sharing with others
Two silicone hot pads in red & green (to match your apron)
And lastly, one small Christmas Cookie candle by Yankee Candle Co.

Now I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Holy cow! How can I win this fabulous cookie baking giveaway extravaganza!” Well, here’s how you can do it. And the good news is, each of you has the chance to earn multiple entries.

A few quick rules & a disclaimer:
1. You must be a resident of the United States to participate.
2. You must provide a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win.
3. They call it ‘the honor system’ for a reason, so please play fair.
4. Entries must be posted by noon CST on Sunday, December 18, 2011.
5. All prizes are provided by me and paid for with my own money.

Required Entry: leave a comment & tell me your favorite holiday cookie

Bonus Entries: (a new comment must be entered for each of the following)

1. Buy a copy of the Cookies for Kids Cancer: Best Bake Sale Cookbook OR an OXO “Good Cookie” spatula, even if it is a holiday gift for a friend or family member, then return here and leave a comment telling me which item you purchased to help benefit pediatric cancer research.

2. Make a donation to Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.cookiesforkidscancer.org/donate.asp then leave a comment letting me know that you made a donation to support pediatric cancer research.

3. Tweet the following: “I entered to win a Cookie Week Giveaway in support of Cookies for Kids Cancer at http://www.insidenanabreadshead.wordpress.com @HeyNanaBread and so can you!” and return to let me know you tweeted.

4. Share the link to my blog post about Cookies For Kids Cancer on your Facebook page, then come back and post a comment telling me you did so.

5. Share a virtual cookie from Glad on Facebook, and come back and leave a comment on this post telling me you did so.

6. Visit the Glad website, official sponsor & supporter of Cookies for Kids Cancer, and register to have your holiday baking counted as a corporate donation. That’s right – Glad will donate 10 cents for each cookie donated, sold, exchanged or given as a gift this holiday season (up to $100,000). Just count your cookies, register your information, and come back here to tell me you signed up at http://www.glad.com/glad-to-give/bake/host/ to make your cookies count for the cause.

That’s seven (7) ways each of you can enter to win. Or seven potential entries for each overachiever who participates. It’s just that easy. And it gets even better. My friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic is also holding a giveaway for Cookie Week, so go to her blog (link below) and enter to win both giveaways! On Sunday, December 18th, I will select one winner randomly from the comments I receive. The winner will be e-mailed and must confirm, so be sure to use a valid e-mail address. Your e-mail address will be seen only by me, and will not be shared. Once a winner is confirmed, an update will be added to this blog post.

Don’t forget to check in this week with all of our Cookie Week bloggers. These little elves will be serving up their own selections from the Cookies for Kids Cancer Best Bake Sale Cookbook:

Monday – Kirsten from Comfortably Domestic – also having a giveaway
Tuesday – Jeanne from Inside NanaBread’s Head (hey, that’s me!)
Wednesday – Megan from Wanna Be A Country Clever
Thursday – Kat from Tenaciously Yours
Friday – Mads from La Petite Pancake
Saturday – Allison from Decadent Philistines Save the World

Happy holiday baking and thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping make pediatric cancer the ghost of Christmas Past.
-Jeanne

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Filed under Food & Recipes

I’ll Have What She’s Having…

The lovely and talented Anne at From My Sweet Heart blog has been kind enough to give me this blogging award. In fact, it’s a cooking award, so I’m especially flattered. I don’t really consider myself a food blogger, since I tend to throw recipes and food reviews in with a bunch of random family and travel topics. As I’ve said before, my blog is a lot like my junk drawers. You never know what you’re going to find. And since I’ve started featuring The Complete Package’s recipes as well, I’m assuming I’ll have to share this award with him. Look, honey! We got a cooking award! Can you believe it? He’ll probably say that you’re all tuning in to see his recipes instead of mine. He may be right. If he is, free to keep that little nugget to yourself. I’m fragile. I can’t take that kind of rejection. It could break me, and no one wants to find me in the pantry drowning my sorrows in a pan of warm brownies. Trust me… it ain’t pretty.

In honor of Anne and her faith in my blog, here’s a rundown of some of the recipes TCP and I have posted over the past year. Click on any picture to see the full post. And Anne – thanks again. You made my day. Truly.

Posole - Mexican Stew

Mexican Martinis

Carnitas - Mexican Pulled Pork

Hidden Treasure Cupcakes

Muffaletta Sandwiches

"Chicken Bucket" Coleslaw

Crunchy Fried Chicken

Old family recipe - Sweet Pickles

Flank Steak Sandwiches

Mom's Adorable Little Piggy Buns

Smoked Pork Ribs

Oatmeal Cinnamon Cookies

And in the spirit of sharing, here’s where I go to find culinary inspiration:

Comfortably Domestic
The Hill Country Cook
Jenna’s Everything Blog
A Sweet Pea Chef
Gingerbread Bagels
Brown Eyed Baker
Wanna Be A Country Cleaver
Honey Sage

If you have time, click on the links above and visit these fine ladies. They are creative, inspirational and a lot of fun, and I love them all. And don’t forget to visit Anne at From My Sweet Heart. She’s a great example of the best thing about blogging – the new friends you make along the way. Have a great week!
-NB

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Lost in a jam session & can’t stop. Please send help…and toast or biscuits!

Raspberry and red plum and blackberry...oh my!

Last month, fellow blogger Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic posted several stories about the jam she was canning. Strawberry, to be exact. Since then, I’ve had jelly on my brain (figuratively, of course). I used to can things every summer but that was years ago when we still lived in Owasso, Oklahoma. Summers there were not as unbearable as they are here. Once we moved to Houston, the heat and humidity killed my desire to can anything, since it required hours spent over a hot stove. Then I saw Kirsten’s strawberry jam, and became a woman obsessed. She planted a seed; a crazy demon jelly seed. Suddenly, I couldn’t walk past fruit without imagining it cooked into jelly or jam and packed into cute little Mason jars. Heaven help me; I do love a Mason jar.

Enter the $1.00 raspberry sale at my local grocery store. As we walked into the produce department, I was slapped in the face by a poster board sign that read “Raspberries – $1.00 a box!” Yeah, you bet your sweet ass it deserved an explanation point, Mr. Produce Stocker Man. Those little boxes have been going for $4.00 all summer. Naturally, I grabbed 10 boxes and thought about grabbing 10 more. Thanks to a spontaneous intervention from The Complete Package, I stuck with the original 10. But as soon as we got home, I broke out the sugar, pectin and jars and got to work. As I said, I was a little jelly obsessed.

Sweet little jars of fruity goodness; labels are print-your-own stickers

This past weekend, TCP and I stopped in at my favorite fruit stand – Froberg Farms in Manvel, Texas. I love this place more than I love chicken-fried steak. Someday I’ll take my camera out there and share it with you. Where else can you walk out with an entire brown paper bag packed full of freshly picked produce for around $20? It’s incredible. We love to stroll slowly through all the gorgeous produce, dried beans, canned fruits and vegetables. They also sell little fried pies, whole pies, farm eggs and fresh milk. AND they have a little trailer outside that sells all kinds of fabulous, smoky meats. This place is crazy wonderful.

Clockwise: Grandma, Mom, Big Sis & NanaBread

When I saw fresh red plums, I immediately grabbed a big bag full, and again we raced home to make jam. Red plum jam. I don’t know why, but it reminds me of Grandma Montgomery, who died when we were young. She had the most magical root cellar stocked with jars of homemade jams, jellies, pickles and canned veggies. Oh, how I loved the smell of that root cellar. Here’s a photo of her sitting with Mom as we all ate berries and ice cream. I love this old photo of us on Grandma’s porch. I’ve often wondered what Big Sis was thinking at that precise moment. She looks stunned & I look happy. I probably stole her last strawberry. Sorry, Sis. If it’s any consolation, I’m the one with the embarrassing ice cream beard. But I digress; back to jelly!

Old-fashioned red plum jam - it's seriously good stuff!

There’s no real recipe for jelly or jam. It’s just fruit, the right amount of sugar, and some fruit pectin. In fact, pectin manufacturers have made it so easy, they’ve printed a how-to which includes the proper fruit-to-sugar ratios inside the pectin box. How easy is that? The real key is in preserving it. I went old-school and used sterilized canning jars and a boiling hot water bath. If done correctly, jars of jam processed this way can have a shelf life of years instead of months. If you don’t want to process your jars in a water bath and preserve them for all eternity, Ball now makes plastic containers with screw-top lids. You can’t store this jam in your pantry, but you can certainly keep it in your fridge or freezer. Kirsten posted a great freezer jam recipe on her blog with a full-color photo tutorial. Please check it out. So now that my raspberry and plum jams are packed away, I’m eyeing a recipe for peach marmalade I got from a friend a few years ago. Peaches, oranges and maraschino cherries all cooked into a gorgeous, sticky marmalade. Oh, my. I may just have to do it. I should do it. I must do it!

Speaking of my canning bender… do you know what else I used to can years ago? Spicy sweet pickles. And do you know what’s brewing in my kitchen right now? Homemade spicy sweet pickles. It’s been at least 20 years since I’ve made them, but when we found some beautiful pickling cucumbers at Froberg’s last week, I decided to make them again. They’re from an old family recipe that has been passed down through TCP’s family for at least 3 generations. How good are they? Good enough that every time we eat another brand, we look at each other and say, “they’re good, but they’re not Aunt Teenie’s sweet pickles.” Which brings us to a recipe card mystery, a little family controversy, and my next post – Aunt Teenie’s Sweet Pickles: are they or aren’t they? Stay tuned!

Coming soon: spicy sweet pickles from an old family recipe

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Filed under Family Stuff, Food & Recipes

Tart Cherry Dark Chocolate Bark


Remember this box of cherry goodness I got from my friend Kirsten at Comfortably Domestic? She held a giveaway to highlight local Michigan cherries from one of her favorite companies, The Cherry Republic. I thank my lucky stars every day that her brilliant son pulled my name from that hat. It has truly been a gift that keeps on giving. I started on the bag of dark chocolate-covered cherries first, since I could not resist them. Oy vey! They were spectacular. So much so, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about them.

Next up? The bag of mixed nuts and dried cherries. The nuts were raw, and I like mine roasted, so I simply separated out the cherries, threw the nuts into a dry skillet, and toasted them until they smelled heavenly. Once they cooled, I mixed the cherries back in and stored them in a jar to keep them fresh. These are great for snacks or as an oatmeal topper. But I still couldn’t stop thinking about dark chocolate-covered cherries. So what does a girl do when she has a jar full of toasted nuts and dried cherries, but chocolate on the brain? That’s right, you clever little minxes. She smothers them in dark chocolate. So, without further ado… I give you Tart Cherry Chocolate Bark. Shazam!

What you’ll need:
One bag of good quality dark chocolate chips (I love Guittard)
Two cups of dried cherries & mixed roasted nuts

Start by lining an 8″ square pan with parchment paper. It’s easiest if you cut two strips and lay them in opposite directions. Did you know that cellophane tape will not stick to parchment paper? Neither did I. Lesson learned.

Using a double boiler or a metal or glass mixing bowl over a pan of boiling water, melt your chocolate then whisk until smooth. Be careful not to burn yourself, either on the hot mixing bowl or the steam. Once your chocolate is creamy and smooth, remove the bowl and set it on a kitchen towel. Next up, grab your cherry and nut mix. The Cherry Republic version is awesome. Notice those gorgeous tart cherries and those giant nut halves? No little bits or pieces here.

Add your cherry & nut mix to the melted chocolate and stir until well combined. Pour it into your prepared pan and flatten it with a spatula until it’s about 3/4″ thick. Put it into the refrigerator to set up for about an hour.

Once it’s set, remove it from the pan and cut it into squares with a sharp kitchen knife. Store in an airtight container. I like to keep mine in the refrigerator since it’s so dang hot in Houston. And that’s it! The only thing left to accomplish is a little self-restraint. Can’t help you there, but I wish you luck! Lots of luck.

Stay tuned. The last item from the gift box is a jar of cherry chipotle salsa, and there’s no telling what’s going to happen with that! Thanks again, Kirsten. Your taste in cherries is impeccable.

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A Box of Love from the Cherry Republic

Cherry goodness from Comfortably Domestic Blog and http://www.cherryrepublic.com

Michigan is the Cherry Republic. I hate to admit it, but I didn’t know cherries were grown in Michigan. Don’t boo and hiss, Michiganders (Michiganians?). I’m deeply rooted in southern Texas. We grow tropical fruits and pecans down here. That’s puh-CAHNS. I love cherries, I just wasn’t really aware of where they’re grown. I once saw a cherry tree in northern Montana, and I was awe-struck. But then my blogging friend Kirsten over at Comfortably Domestic mentioned Michigan cherries and I was intrigued. When she held a giveaway contest featuring a box of goodies from The Cherry Republic, I took my chances and entered. When I actually won and received a box of organic cherry chipotle salsa, a bag of dried cherries with mixed nuts, and a bag of dark chocolate covered dried cherries, my mind was totally blown. Not only am I now aware of Michigan’s glorious cherries, but I am a fan. A big fan. Huge. Fan. These are by far the best chocolate covered cherries I’ve ever eaten, and you guys know how I love dark chocolate. I can’t stop eating them, and I can’t thank Kirsten and the good folks at Cherry Republic enough for this fabulous gift box, but I can share their websites and encourage you to visit. I’m not sure about Mother’s Day shipping, but you can certainly check it out. What mom wouldn’t love a gift of Michigan cherries? And then there’s Memorial Day. And the Fourth of July. And Labor Day. And Halloween. Or Thanksgiving. Cherries at Christmas would be divine. Are cherries considered “lucky” on New Year’s? Don’t forget birthdays! I’m pretty sure the gift for a 29th wedding anniversary is Michigan cherries. Honey? Did you hear me?

You can buy fabulous cherry products at: http://www.cherryrepublic.com/

You can visit the lovely Kirsten’s blog at: http://comfortablydomestic.com/

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I’d like to thank the members of the Academy and the big man upstairs…

That’s not a religious reference. I’m talking about The Complete Package. He’s working from home and he’s upstairs as I type this. Thanks for your support, honey. Couldn’t have done it without you. If you’re scratching your head and wondering what the H-E-doublehockeysticks I’m talking about, it’s this:

That’s right…it’s a “passed along by a fellow blogger who in turn chose me to spotlight” award from my hilarious friend Amy over at Fix it or Deal. I have a confession to make. This is not my first. I’m not bragging, I promise. I got one of these a few weeks ago from one of my BBFFs (best blogging friends forever) Kirsten, way up north at Comfortably Domestic. I didn’t mention it back then because I totally thought it was a typo. I felt like she probably meant to mention someone else, but her fingers slipped and she accidentally typed “inside nanabread’s head.” But now that I’ve been gifted with a second one, I feel like maybe it wasn’t an error. Maybe someone actually IS reading my blog! Maybe, like Stuart Smalley, I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it…people like me! Or maybe I just have really thoughtful blogging friends. Thanks, ladies. I appreciate the fact that you could have chosen any number of other bloggers, but you chose me. That means a lot. You didn’t have to love me, but you did, but you did, but you did…and I thank you.

If I’m reading the fine print correctly, I’m now contractually obligated (kidding! There’s no contract, is there?) to list five of my favorite things and five of my favorite blogs. I hope you’ll visit each of them. Here we go:

5 Favorite Things:
1. time with my family (a true no-brainer; I love my family)
2. traveling – wherever, whenever; I just want to GO!
3. movies that make me laugh or think (ex. Zombieland, Fargo, Fractured)
4. anything smeared with dark chocolate – pretzels, peanut butter, grandkids
5. baby animals; I can’t resist them. Who’s a little cutie patootie…you are!

5 Blogs I’m Obsessed With:
1. Kandiland Blog – by my friend Kandi. She’s smart, she’s funny, she’s sometimes goofy and I love that. Her story about a camel ride made me laugh until I cried. The Complete Package refers to her as my “commenter of discriminating taste” because she seems to agree with him a lot. But I don’t hold against them. Most of the time {wink}. Her deeply personal stories about her life with two beautiful girls, her hard-working husband, and her spastic black lab Charlie keep me laughing. She’s a force of nature, and I like that. A lot.

2. Laundry & Vodka – by my friend Alex in the great state of Georgia. I found Alex through the Pioneer Woman website. She posted a comment and the name of her blog instantly grabbed me. I clicked the link to see what she was up to, and have read her every day since. Alex is pregnant with her first baby (it’s a girl!) and writes about her life with a military husband and her three canine children – Nigel, Nash and Natalie. She hooked me with a short little ditty about a creepy Sponge Bob balloon, and now I feel like we’ve been friends forever.

3. A Sweet Pea Chef – by Lacey in Austin, Texas. I can’t claim to love Lacey just because she’s a Texan. She’s actually a San Diegan who recently moved to Texas. But as we say in the Republic… “we don’t care how you got here, we’re just glad you did!” If I dreamed of being a food blogger, I’d want to be like Lacey. Her recipes are top-notch and her food photography makes me want to lick my computer screen. It’s like food porn. Sometimes I open her blog and gasp. The best part is that I’ve never tried a recipe from her blog that I didn’t like. I mean really, really like. Her panko crusted tilapia still haunts me. Deliciously.

4. Gingerbread Bagels – by Lindsey the baker. I love a good cookie, but damn! I don’t know anyone who loves cake or baking like this girl. She is one of those rare people who have a true calling or talent, and she knows how to use it. She wields a spatula the way Van Gogh worked a paint brush. She is an artist. I’m blown away every week by the desserts she masters and the easy-going, humorous way she shares them with her readers. I’m a “salty” not a “sweet” but she may just convert me. I wish I loved ANY food the way she loves Nutella.

5. The rules probably state that you can’t nominate those who nominated you, but that’s just tough noogies, because this wouldn’t be my favorites list without Fix It or Deal and Comfortably Domestic. I found Amy at FIOD through another blog, and laughed out loud at her stories about slutty Halloween costumes and a magic washcloth. When I read her article “Zombie, Zombie Burning Bright” I knew I was sunk. I can only dream of being that funny. Her monthly posting of undead creatures from her 2011 zombie calendar keep me on the edge of my seat. I found Kirsten from CD through the Pioneer Woman website. We got to know each other through recipes and comments, and I now believe we are actually twins separated at birth…except that I’m eight years older and live halfway across the country. Sure, there’s some weird science involved, but I’m still a believer. She’s the mother of 4 boys, which I sort of relate to since I’m one of five daughters. Living with that much testosterone is a foreign concept to me, but I enjoy her take on it immensely. I love these ladies more than chocolate.

Someone asked me last week what I love about blogging, and this is it – the friends I’ve made and the stories we’ve shared. My blogging buddies are like members of my big, extended family without the arguing or name-calling, and I appreciate them more than I can adequately articulate. I feel the same way about the readers who visit my blog and choose to return over and over again. I started this blog eight months ago, and I’m still amazed that people read it. And as long as we’re all having fun, I plan to continue. Thank you for your support and encouragement. It’s been a great ride so far, and I’ve enjoyed every minute.

A note to the bloggers mentioned above: you are under no obligation to pass this award along. You may exercise your free will at any time and simply smile and pat yourselves on the back, if you so choose. Or you can join the fun and pass it along to those you admire. Your choice. That’s the deal. Free shipping & handling. Limited time offer. Thank you for calling Time Life Books.

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