Tag Archives: NanaBread

Vintage Vanilla Wafer Cake

This is not just a story about a recipe – it’s about a quest. A search and conquer mission. Okay, there IS a recipe, but it’s also about the journey to get here.


When The Complete Package and I moved to the Austin area last spring, we discovered Opie’s Barbecue in Spicewood, Texas. On a whim, he grabbed a slice of what they called Coca Cola Cake and a new obsession began. Each time we visited, he would look for the cake on the dessert rack, and most of the time it was sold out. Life can be cruel, and missing this cake became a constant topic for him, just as Opie’s famous butterbeans became for me (sold Friday-Sunday only; dine-in only; no whining allowed).

Because the cake became so elusive, I began to dig for recipes. Searches for Coca Cola Cake resulted in chocolate sheet cakes with fudge frosting, which is the traditional Texas way. Those cakes, however, did not resemble Opie’s version in the least. The cake TCP pined for tasted of vanilla, coconut and pecans. It was sold by the slice and slathered in cream cheese frosting. No chocolate. No fudge. No hope in sight. Then I ran across a blog post about a trip through Spicewood and a coca cola cake that prompted the writer to share a memory of her grandmother’s old-fashioned vanilla wafer cake. She included a family recipe, and that’s where I decided to begin.

The first time I made the cake, I followed the recipe exactly and the result was brickish. Too dense, too sweet, and no hint of coca cola anywhere, thus leading to further confusion about why Opie’s would call it such. The second time I made it, I scaled back on the sugar and liquids, reduced a Coke in a saucepan to create a syrup, and glazed the warm bundt with coke syrup before frosting. Result – still brickish, still too heavy, and slightly soggy from the syrup. Two fails in a row, but my mama didn’t raise a quitter.

On my third attempt, I went a completely different route. What the cake lacked was lift. Soft, fluffy lift. It was at that moment that it struck me. What if I added a plain yellow cake mix to the otherwise traditional ingredients? What if I gave up on the cola aspect all together and focused on keeping it simple? Could I use that dusty can of coconut milk in my pantry to boost the overall flavor? What was there to lose in trying? Sometimes one must be bold, or at least willing to fail. Again & again.

The surprising part is that it worked. Not just worked, though. It was delicious. So much so that The Complete Package declared it a winner. And that’s how we came to create our own version of this vintage Vanilla Wafer Cake with a modern twist. Thank you, Betty Crocker.

This comes together quickly, so pre-heat your oven, grease/flour your bundt pan, gather your ingredients and let’s get started.


NanaBread’s Vanilla Wafer Cake:

  • 1 box (11 ozs.) Nilla Wafers, crushed
  • 1 bag (7 ozs.) shredded, sweetened coconut
  • 1 1/2 cups pecan pieces
  • 1 box (15.25 ozs.) yellow cake mix
  • 6 whole eggs
  • 1 can (13.5 ozs.) coconut milk  (not reduced fat)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup raw or granulated sugar (I used raw)

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Grease and flour a bundt pan and set it aside.

In a food processor, combine the vanilla wafers, coconut and pecans. Pulse until blended to the consistency of coarse sand and no large chunks remain.


Pour the crumb mixture into a large mixing bowl and add the cake mix, eggs, coconut milk, vanilla and sugar. Just dump it all in there. No need to be delicate.


Grab a spatula and stir to combine (no mixer needed), just until all ingredients are moistened. Pour into your prepared bundt pan and smooth out the top.


Bake at 350F for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean or with a few small crumbs. Keep an eye on it near the end. You don’t want to over-bake this one. Remove from the oven and allow it to cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then invert onto a cake plate and allow it to cool completely.


I swear, your house will smell like heaven right about now. This cake is good enough to eat as is, but I think we all know everything’s better with cream cheese frosting. I like to keep mine simple.  In a small mixing bowl, combine one 8-oz package of cream cheese and 1/2 a stick of unsalted butter. Allow both to rest at room temperature until softened. Add 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste (my favorite), and 1/2 to 1 cup of powdered sugar, depending on how sweet you like it. Whisk until smooth and put it in a bag for piping.

Want a quick tip for piping frosting? I do it with a Ziploc freezer bag. Simply take a quart freezer bag and put your hand inside. Then put your hand & the bag down into a tall drinking glass and remove your hand. Then fold the edge of the bag over the rim of the glass. It keeps the bag upright while you fill it.


Fold the edges of the bag up, press out the air, and seal the bag. If you have time to kill before your cake is cool, simply pop the bag back into the refrigerator. When you’re ready, snip the corner off and you’re ready to pipe. I love this time saver.


I like to use a sheet of parchment paper to keep excess frosting from running off the cake plate after it’s piped. You’ll see what I mean in a second. Twisting the top of the bag to press the frosting down to the corner, start piping in the center of the bundt and work your way from inside to outside around the entire cake.


I’m not playing when it comes to cream cheese frosting. I put it on thick, and I make sure there’s excess frosting in the middle, just in case I want more. And I always want more.


So simple, y’all. And so flavorful. And look at that lift! This one’s a keeper.

Sorry, Opie. I’ll gladly stand in line for your beautifully smoked meats, your creamy tater tot casserole, and your dine-in only butterbeans every weekend, but I’ll be having dessert at home from now on. Care to join me?


Filed under Food & Recipes, Things I Love, Travel Tales

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars for a Cure

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Cookies for Kids Cancer 2015

Each year, OXO does the most wonderful thing – they donate a great deal of money to Cookies for Kids Cancer. And each year, they invite bloggers to bake for the cause by donating $100 for every original recipe created and posted using OXO products and cookies for the cure. This year, bloggers were offered an opportunity to receive one of three baking sets: cookies, brownies or cupcakes. I applied for the brownie set and was thrilled to learn I was selected. Once I learned it was in the mail, all I could think of was caramel pear or apple blondies. Day and night, night and day, I dreamed of caramel and fruit and crumbs.

OXO Brownie Set Collage

The OXO Brownie Set Included:
OXO Non-Stick Pro 9×13 Cake Pan
OXO Brownie Spatula
OXO Baker’s Dusting Wand

The non-stick pro baking pan is amazing. It’s 13″ by 9″ and super sturdy, with double wall construction for extra insulation and a cool diamond pattern textured bottom for extra browning surface which paired really well with the copious quantities of butter and brown sugar in these caramel pear crumb bars. Have you seen the new gold-tone iPhone6? It’s got nothing on this sexy pan.
I’m sure you can tell where my priorities lie. (with the cookies)

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO 13x9 Pan

But let’s get to those sweet bars before the drool shorts out your keyboard. They actually started with another of my favorite OXO kitchen tools – the mandolin.
I used it to shave a big, fat, juicy pear into even slices.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Mandolin

From there, I lined that pretty pan with parchment paper and gave it a light spritz of baking spray. The dough for these bars comes together quickly in a food processor, so it only takes a few pulses until your pressing it into a pan. Oh, how I love easy. Just press the shortbread base into the pan, then top with sliced pears (or apples), drizzle with half a jar of caramel (yes, half a jar) and dot with the crumb topping like this.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO - Ready for the Oven

Once they’re baked to a gorgeous golden brown and your neighbors are clawing to get in because they smell so amazing, pull them out and let them cool.

Caramel Pear Bars - Ready to Serve

When they’re mostly cool but still a little warm and gooey, drizzle them with more caramel. YES, MORE CARAMEL! I love this thick goat’s milk cajeta.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - Cajeta from HEB

Using this slick OXO Brownie Spatula made serving a breeze. It has a beveled edge that cuts the bars as well as serves them. I’ve said it a million times, but I’ll say it again – I love OXO’s devotion to smart design.

Caramel Pear Bars - OXO Server

Mmm… I wish you could smell the butter, brown sugar, pears and caramel. If I could bottle this as a cologne, I’d be filthy rich. To serve these, I mixed cinnamon with powdered sugar and sifted it like fresh fallen snow over those glorious craggy crumbs. Have mercy.

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Sifter - Cinnamon Powdered Sugar

That little sifting wand is nifty. Twist the handle to open; twist to close; shake. It’s a lot of fun. And versatile. It also doubles as a tea infuser. Fill with loose leaf tea, twist to close, and dunk it in your mug. Hey… a cup of tea would be perfect with these bars! (heh heh…see what I did there?)

NanaBread’s Caramel Pear Crumb Bars
(makes one 13″ x 9″ pan or 12 large bars)

Shortbread Base:
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temp
2/3 cup dark brown sugar, firmly packed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 cups all-purpose flour

Fruit Layer:
1-2 large pears (or apples), peeled & thinly sliced or chopped
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 stick of cold butter, diced
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
Pinch of salt
4-5 tablespoons buttermilk (or regular milk)
One jar (10 ozs.) of your favorite caramel, cajeta or dulce de leche
3 tablespoons powdered sugar + 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Line a 9” x 13” baking pan with parchment, then coat lightly with baking spray.

In a food processor, add the butter, brown sugar, salt, vanilla, cinnamon and flour for the shortbread cookie base. Pulse until it forms large crumbs that press together well. Press the crumbs into the pan in an even layer.

Slice or chop the pears or apples into even pieces and toss or sprinkle with the sugar and cinnamon for the fruit layer. Spread evenly across the top of the cookie base. Drizzle with half the jar of caramel sauce.

In the food processor, combine the topping ingredients and pulse until it forms a thick dough. Pinch into marble-size chunks and scatter them over the fruit.

Bake for 35 minutes, until the top starts to brown around the edges and you can see the caramel bubbling. Cool until barely warm to the touch before drizzling with additional caramel. Just before serving, dust with powdered sugar and cinnamon (optional).

Caramel Pear Crumb Bars - OXO Cookies for Kids Cancer Recipe

Not pictured but also fabulous – serving these warm with vanilla ice cream.

And now, a word from our sponsor. Just kidding, but this bears mentioning.

– Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a recognized 501c(3) public charity duly incorporated under the laws of the state of New Jersey. Your donations are tax-deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law. 100% of proceeds raised by Cookies for Kids’ Cancer fund pediatric cancer research.
– OXO will be donating $100 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer for each blog post dedicated to this campaign in October (up to our $100,000 commitment*.)
– *In 2015, OXO will donate up to $100,000 to Cookies for Kids’ Cancer through product proceeds, bake sale matches and other fundraising efforts

Cookies for Kids Cancer Logo

Special thanks to OXO and their Blogger Outreach Program. This post is not a paid advertisement. I am not compensated for this recipe or blog post, but did receive the Brownie Baking Set at no charge to play with. All opinions are my own, and my opinion is that I will never stop loving OXO and their remarkable products. OXO rocks.

To learn more about the OXO Bloggers Outreach Program, OXO Blogger Outreach Program.
To learn more about Cookies for Kids Cancer and how you can participate, Cookies for Kids Cancer Foundation.


Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

Honey Oat PB Cinnamon Swirl Bread

Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread - Sliced

Warm cinnamon-scented carbs… is there anything better?

I finally got back into the kitchen this week and baked up a recipe for my friends at Peanut Butter & Co. This time, they challenged Yum Squad members to see what we could come up with given any two jars of their peanut butter and a bag of Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats. Two of my favorite things. My first instinct was a cookie, but I made a pledge to overcome my fear of killing yeast doughs by facing them head-on, so I tackled a sticky, yummy yeast bread with a cinnamon raisin peanut butter swirl.

I decided to use oatmeal in the dough, so I started by heating milk, water, salt, honey, butter and oats on the stove. The oats are not really cooked, just softened.

Plumped & Softened Oats - PB Swirl Bread

Once the milk & oats mixture was cooled, I added the yeast and let it sit until it was foamy and fragrant. When yeast blooms, it is fabulous to see and smell.

Growing Yeast - PB Swirl Bread

Once we had a full-blown yeast party, I blended in the eggs and added bread flour with a secret twist – Peanut Butter & Co. powdered peanut butter. I used their chocolate version. If you’ve ever wondered if you can toss powdered peanut butter into baked goods, the answer is yes! Just 3 tablespoons sifted into the flour added the perfect hint of peanut butter flavor to compliment the filling.
Do you have to use it? No. But if you can, do.

Liquids with eggs & PB flour added - PB Swirl Bread

Dough is ready! - PB Swirl Bread

Finished Dough ready to rise - PB Swirl Bread

Once the dough was mixed, I covered it in plastic wrap and a towel and let it nap in a sunny window. When it was doubled in bulk, I divided the dough into two equal rectangles, smeared half a jar of cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter over each, sprinkled them generously with a raw sugar and ground cinnamon mixture and rolled them cinnamon roll style.

Divide & Roll - PB Swirl Bread

Cinnamon Raisin PB Layer - PB Swirl Bread

Look at that gorgeous cinnamon raisin swirl peanut butter layer. I could almost eat it just like this. Next, sprinkle with raw sugar and cinnamon.

Cinnamon Sugar Sprinkle - PB Swirl Bread

Instead of individual rolls, I dropped them into buttered loaf pans and let them rise again. All I could think was “slice it, butter it, and toast it on a griddle” so I went with loaves. Two gorgeous, pillowy loaves. I wish you could smell them.

Rolled & In The Pans - PB Swirl Bread

Finally, just before I popped them in the oven, I rubbed on a little softened butter, sprinkled on some additional oats (oh, how I love these oats!) and finished with a drizzle of local honey. Just because.

Dressed & Ready to Bake - PB Swirl Bread

Now, I know what you’re thinking. ‘Yeast breads are hard. Yeast is too easy to kill. Yeast bread recipes take too long to make.’ I feel ya’ and I was with you until very recently. The truth is, yeast breads DO take longer to make due to all that rising, but don’t be fooled – they are EASY to make. I swear it.

NanaBread’s Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread:
(makes two 10″ loaves)

1 cup milk (I used 2%)
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup raw sugar (or brown sugar)
1 cup Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats, uncooked
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 of those little foil envelopes of rapid-rise yeast
4 whole eggs, at room temperature
3 tablespoons Peanut Butter & Co PB powder (optional)
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 jar (16 ozs.) Peanut Butter & Co cinnamon raisin swirl PB
1/2 cup raw sugar + 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, blended

1/2 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
2-3 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill oats
2-3 tablespoons local honey

In a small saucepan, combine the milk, water, salt, honey & raw sugar. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often to keep the honey from burning, until the mixture begins to bubble and foam around the edges. Add the old-fashioned oats and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes. Give them a stir, remove from the heat, and add the stick of butter. Allow this mixture to cool to 110F.

While the liquids are cooling, sift two cups of flour with the peanut butter powder and set it aside. Measure an additional 2 1/2 cups of flour and have it standing by.

When the milk and oat mixture is cooled to 110F, add the yeast and allow it to sit for at least 10-15 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbly and frothy. With your paddle attachment on and your mixer at low speed, blend in all four eggs.

Start adding the flour with the powdered peanut butter first, about 1/2 cup at a time, until almost blended. Switch to the bread hook attachment and start adding additional flour until the dough is thick but not dry and tries to climb over the top of your dough hook. I used 4 1/2 cups total, but you may need more or less.

Once blended, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides of the mixer and dough hook. Place the dough in a buttered or oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and set it in a sunny window to rise.

When doubled in bulk, divide the dough into two equal portions. On a piece of buttered parchment paper, shape each half of the dough into a rectangle as wide as your loaf pan. Spread on half the jar of peanut butter, working it out close to the edges. Sprinkle with half the raw sugar & cinnamon mixture, then roll like a jelly roll and place into your buttered loaf pans. Cover with plastic wrap and allow them to rise until doubled again.

Pre-heat your oven to 350F. Rub the top of each loaf with softened butter, then sprinkle with oats and drizzle with honey. Place the loaf pans on a parchment-covered baking sheet (in case of spillage during baking) and bake for 15 minutes uncovered. After 15 minutes, tent the loaves with foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, or until the loaves are risen, browned and make a hollow thump noise when you tap them. Remove from the oven and cool in the pans for 20 minutes, then turn out onto cooling racks to finish cooling (at least one hour).

I’m embarrassed to admit I avoided yeast dough for too long. So if you like hot buttered carbs as much as I love hot buttered carbs, promise you’ll tackle a yeast bread soon. Today, maybe. You can do it. I believe in you.

Honey Oat PB Swirl Bread - CloseUp

Note: As a member of the Peanut Butter & Co Yum Squad, I am occasionally given jars of peanut butter (and sometimes additional products like the Bob’s Red Mill old-fashioned oats in this recipe) to play with. What I choose to do with them is up to me. I am not compensated for the recipes or the posts.
If I like it, I share it. It’s just that simple.



Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes

Spring Outdoor Gardening With OXO

I haven’t posted since March? Well, we’re not dead – we just moved!

The Complete Package pulled the trigger on retirement and the lure to be close to our grandkids was just too strong for me, so we packed up our stuff and we moved to Beverly. Hills, that is. Okay, not Beverly Hills exactly, but we did move to the hills west of Austin. Hello, Hill Country!

Two weeks after we moved into our new home, we were hit with a massive hail storm that blew out three picture windows, totaled TCP’s truck, dented the guttering, destroyed our roof and beat our landscaping to a pulp. (Stupid hail.) Not the welcome we expected, but it didn’t dampen our love for the new place. It just meant we had more work to do. And we still absolutely love it.

While we wait for contractors to fix the big stuff, we started on the yard with a little help from OXO. Their Spring Gardening campaign kicked off just as we were preparing to redo the flower beds. Perfect timing! The box of tools they sent were exactly what we needed.

OXO Spring Outdoor Gardening Tools

I’ve made no bones about the fact that I love OXO products. Their commitment to smart design at a great price continually knocks me out. They don’t just design comfortable handles, for example. They add gel pads to the grips to prevent blisters. Ergonomic and comfortable for the win!

OXO Transplanting Trowel - Gel Pad Comfort

I decided to start with the hand plow and tackle replacing the salvia that got beat literally to death. Hail hath no fury? Try telling that to the salvia.

OXO Plow To the Rescue

Because of the pointed tip, I could literally plow through the rock to the soil beneath. This is a serious hand tool. Besides digging rocks, I also used it to re-trough the edge of the bed where approximately two gallons of tiny gravel from our asphalt shingles washed off the roof. Apparently, when golf ball size hail beats your roof badly enough, all that gravel will indeed come off and end up in your yard, which is totally bizarre. But fear not! The hand plow is your friend.

OXO Pointed Plow Blade

Next, we tackled trimming the broken branches from our oak trees and bushes. (Stupid hail.) I don’t have any idea what this bush is, but I like it. Could it be a blueberry bush? Only time will tell. If you recognize it, feel free to shout it out.

OXO Bypass Pruners

The bypass pruners made quick work of those branches and also helped me clean up our poor agave. He did not fare so well with the hail. Poor guy had holes blown all the way through his fronds.

Our Poor Hail-Damaged Agave

Once he was spruced up, I used the hand rake to create a zen pattern in the sand. You know… to help calm him and restore order. Quick question: Do you talk to your plants? I’m asking for a friend.

New House - Agave & Rock Bed

And the hand rake I mentioned? Wait until you get a load of it. Man, I love this thing. It’s the Edward Scissorhands of hand tools.

OXO Hand Rake - Fully Expanded

We used it to help spread new mulch because the storm washed all of our previous mulch into the adjacent greenbelt. (Stupid hail.) What I loved about this rake is that it’s expandable. Did you hear that? I said expandable!

OXO Expandable Hand Rake Collage

You can’t help but play with this thing, but the truth is it’s so functional and easy to use. TCP dumped piles of mulch, and I played with the new hand rake. I mean I ‘worked hard to improve the beds’. (Sometimes I wish he didn’t read my blog.) It made getting into tight nooks and crannies super easy.

OXO Hand Rake - Working Those Corners

Because you can release the lock and adjust the rake width in or out, you can put that mulch into any corner instead of accidentally flinging it out into the grass. That’s a big bonus for a klutz like me.

Now for my personal favorite – the Pour & Store Outdoor Watering Can. I’m telling everyone about this puppy. It’s pure dynamite. The spout actually swivels so you can fill and store with ease. What?!? You heard right!

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy Fill

And it holds 2+ gallons of water! You’d think that would be heavy and awkward to carry, but it’s really not. The can is so well balanced, you can grab it and go. And you don’t have to constantly peek into the can to see if it’s full yet, because the handle is translucent and you can see the water as it fills. See what I mean? The designers at OXO are so smart! Why did no one think of this before? Why didn’t I think of it before? I coulda’ been RICH, I TELL YOU!

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy View Fill Level

Other features that rock – the pivoting spout that allows you to fold and store easily and the removable spout head that goes from rain function to full stream with a twist. You’d better believe I am watering ALL the things now.

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Thoughtful Design

Once you’re done, give it a quick wipe, twist the spout back around and pop it under a kitchen cabinet. Pure genius.

OXO Pour & Store Watering Can - Easy Storage

We had so much fun playing with our new toys, we got a wild hair and planted a herb container for the front entry. In case you’re wondering, I’m already planning a Margherita pizza around that basil. ‘Hey, Basil…looking good! What, these? Oh, they’re just bypass pruners. No big whoop.’

New House - Herb Container Garden

It felt good to stand in the driveway and look over our work. The beds look good again. The plants are pruned, watered and feeling loved again. The oaks are still bruised and holding a grudge, but 2 out of 3 landscapers agree that they’ll probably recover and grow to be big and strong despite the trauma they endured.

Yes, we are still waiting for guttering and the roof to be replaced, but we really can’t complain. It could have been worse, that’s what insurance is for, and no one got hurt. For that, we are truly thankful.

New House - Front Beds & Porch

Now if OXO could just design a shingle remover and a guttering installer tool, we’d be set. Go ahead, guys. I know you can do it, and I’m willing to wait.
Up Next:
An update on the inside of our new house, including photos from that storm. (Stupid hail.)

NOTE: As a member of the OXO Blogger Outreach Program, I am occasionally given the opportunity to test OXO products, which I receive at no cost to me. I do not receive any other compensation and all opinions are my own. If you are a blogger and would like more information on the OXO Blogger Outreach Program, CLICK HERE.


Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Family Stuff, Things I Love

Peanut Butter & Co Plays Two Ways

Confession: I once jogged 5 miles for a big jar of peanut butter.
It was my junior year of high school and a friend’s dad bet he could train me to run 5 miles. My first thought was “Joke’s on you, suckah! I don’t run unless my butt’s on fire.” My second was “What’s in it for me?” His bait: a giant jar of peanut butter. This will date me, but it was 1980 and there was a nation-wide peanut butter shortage. As a PB junkie, I was game. After a few weeks of training, I ran that 5 miles and claimed my prize. Then, because I have 4 sisters, I promptly hid it under a pile of laundry in my room because a.) kids never touch laundry, b.) I didn’t care to share, and c.) see above re: peanut butter shortage.

If any sisters are reading this, I apologize. It was a dark time for peanut butter lovers and I went into “every man for himself” mode. I did what I had to.

Peanut Butter & Company recently issued a Mystery Ingredient Challenge to members of its Yum Squad. Sign up, and they would send you not only the peanut butter to play with, but a secret ingredient. Until your box arrived, you would have no idea what your mystery ingredient might be.

Here’s the peanut butter I chose to play with for this challenge:

PB&Co - White & Dark Chocolate Peanut Butters

And here’s my mystery ingredient:

PB&Co - Secret Ingredient - Espresso Powder

If you know me, you know I’m a coffee lover. I don’t function in the morning until I’ve quaffed my first cup, so this secret ingredient was perfect for me. Pinterest has been taunting me with scones lately and I found myself craving warm, flaky layers. So the first thing I made was a two-tone layered scone based on the America’s Test Kitchen cream scone recipe.

PB&Co - Two-Tone Scones2 - March 2015


For the white chocolate peanut butter layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes & chilled
3 tablespoons White Chocolate Wonderful peanut butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, as needed

Place all ingredients except the cream in a food processor and process for 6-8 pulses. Turn the processor on and slowly add enough cream until the dough sticks together and starts to form a ball. It should be the consistency of a soft biscuit dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, forming it into a square about 3/4″ thick.

For the dark chocolate peanut butter layer:
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 tablespoon baking powder
1 tablespoon Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso powder
1/2 cup semi-sweet miniature chocolate chips
3 tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes & chilled
3 tablespoons Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter
1/2 to 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream, as needed

Place all ingredients except the cream in a food processor and process for 6-8 pulses. Turn the processor on and slowly add enough cream until the dough sticks together and starts to form a ball. It should be the consistency of a soft biscuit dough. Scrape the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few times, forming it into a square about 3/4″ thick.

To layer, make sure each square of dough is the same size. Brush the top of the dark chocolate dough with a little cream and place the white chocolate layer on top. Press gently and square up the sides, then set aside while you make the glaze.

For the espresso glaze:
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 teaspoon Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso powder
1 tablespoon honey or agave nectar
2 tablespoons raw or Demerara sugar crystals, to sprinkle on top

In a small bowl, combine the cream, espresso powder and honey or agave. Whisk until smooth.

Pre-heat your oven to 425F and prepare an 8″ square baking pan by spraying it lightly with baking spray or lining it with parchment paper. Using a large kitchen knife or a bench scraper, cut the layered scone dough into equal pieces (I cut mine into 3 rows of 3 for 9 smallish scones). Place them in the baking pan so that the sides are just touching. Using a pastry brush, brush the entire surface of the scones with a thick coating of glaze, then sprinkle generously with raw sugar crystals. Bake for 14-18 minutes, or just until a toothpick comes out clean. I don’t like dry scones, so I tend to take mine out of the oven when there are still a few small crumbs sticking to that toothpick. Serve warm from the oven with a pat of butter and a hot cup of coffee. Man, I wish you could smell these.

PB&Co - Two-Tone Scones1 - March 2015

“But NanaBread… that recipe only used 3 tablespoons of each peanut butter. What else can we make with all of the ooey gooey peanut butter goodness left in those jars?” Well, I’m glad you asked, because (and I love to say this)…


I also made a layered peanut butter parfait using both White Chocolate Wonderful and Dark Chocolate Dreams peanut butter AND my beloved secret ingredient espresso powder. That’s right, folks! It’s a parfait of chocolate espresso cake layered with creamy peanut butter custard and topped with espresso whipped cream and cake crumbs. SHUT THE FRONT DOOR!

PB&Co - Chocolate Espresso PB Parfaits - Trio


For the cake:
1 box (15.25 ozs) Betty Crocker Triple-Chocolate cake mix
1 1/4 cup water
1/2 cup canola oil
3 large eggs
1 tablespoon Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso powder

Whisk all ingredients until smooth and pour into a prepared 13″ x 9″ baking pan. Bake according to the directions on the cake mix box, just until a toothpick comes out clean. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

For the peanut butter custard:
1 box (4.6 ozs.) Jell-O Cook & Serve vanilla custard mix
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 tub (8 ozs.) mascarpone cheese (or cream cheese)
1/2 cup each of White Chocolate Wonderful & Dark Chocolate Dreams

In a saucepan, combine the vanilla custard powder and milk and whisk until combined. Cook over medium-high heat, whisking frequently, until the mixture is thick and bubbly. Remove from the heat and allow it to cool, then transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until completely chilled.

Once chilled, divide the custard equally into two bowls. Add half of the mascarpone (4 ozs.) and one type of peanut butter to each bowl. Whisk until smooth and keep refrigerated until assembly.

For the espresso whipped cream:
1 cup heavy whipping cream, chilled
1 teaspoon Medaglia D’Oro instant espresso powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2-3 tablespoons sugar, to taste

In a mixing bowl, combine all of the ingredients. Whip with an electric mixer until it thickens and holds stiff peaks. Scrape it into a plastic bag and press all the air out, and place in the refrigerator until needed.

To assemble, cut the cooled cake into circles the size of the glass you’re serving these in. Start by placing a layer of cake, then spoon in the dark chocolate peanut butter custard. Top it with a another layer of cake, followed by the white chocolate peanut butter custard. Continue to layer until each glass is full, then snip the tip off that plastic bag and pipe a layer of espresso whipped cream on top. To finish, crumble leftover cake scraps over the top of each parfait. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

PB&Co - Chocolate Espresso PB Parfaits - Close-Up

I made these in two sizes – small 8-oz disposable cups for ‘party-size’ servings and large 20-oz iced tea glasses for ‘I’m alone watching a movie in my pj’s and no one can see me’ servings. As I’ve said before, this blog is a no judgement zone. These were so good, Jonah Bear & Lilly Bug didn’t come up for air.

Me: “Is it good? Do you like it?”
Them: Nod vigorously; keep shoveling
Verdict: The proof is literally in the pudding.

PB&Co - Chocolate Espresso PB Parfaits - Mine

Special thanks to Peanut Butter & Co for sending me a big ol’ box of fun for their Mystery Ingredient Challenge. They were kind enough to provide multiple jars of peanut butter and a jar of espresso powder at no cost to me, and I had a ball playing with it. To clarify, as a member of the Peanut Butter & Co Yum Squad, I am not compensated in any way. I just love the product and enjoy experimenting with it. To find out more about the many fabulous flavors they sell, CLICK HERE.



Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes, Things I Love

OXO offers pans now? YES!

We all know OXO makes a million fabulous kitchen gadgets, and I’ve made no bones about the fact that I use mine with enthusiasm. They are some of my favorites because of three key things:

1. they’re thoughtfully designed,
2. they’re well constructed & durable, and
3. they’re always affordable

When OXO launches something new, my ears perk up. When they announced they were launching a new line of pots & pans, my jaw dropped. And when they then offered members of their Blogger Outreach Program the chance to possibly test drive one, I jumped at the chance. With both feet. Receiving the e-mail that I’d been selected to receive my pan of choice was like opening presents on Christmas morning. I was giddy. Openly, gleefully giddy.

Here it is, y’all – My Precious.

OXO - 12 Inch Non-Stick Skillet - With Text

It’s sturdy. A little on the heavy side, but WOW is it solid. My first test was a simple soft fried egg. Nothing tests a new non-stick pan like a delicate egg. Result: so slippery, it sent my fried egg spinning when I swirled the pan. Also impressive was the heat distribution of the skillet due to the hard-anodized aluminum construction of the pan and that built-in heat disc in the bottom. Smart.

OXO - 12 Inch Non-Stick Skillet - Bottom

I also like the rise and slope on the sides of this skillet. The rolled edge is high enough to contain bubbly sauces and perfectly pitched to slide those early morning omelets onto a plate, even before you’ve had your coffee. It also allows sauces to be expertly poured. Again, smart design.

OXO - 12 Inch Non-Stick Skillet - Coating

My ultimate test for a new non-stick pan is caramel – hot, gooey, sticky thermonuclear caramel. To put my pan to the test, I opted for a baked caramel apple pancake. It starts on the stove and finishes in the oven, so it was a perfect way to test this pan. And since this skillet can take oven temperatures up to 430F, you can fearlessly go from stove to oven.

Baked Apple Pancake - Browned Butter & Brown Sugar

I started with butter and brown sugar and let it heat up to see if it would stick. I was surprised at how easily I could move the caramel around the pan without anything sticking. As it got hotter and hotter, I kept moving it around with a silicone spatula. As you can see from the photo, it didn’t stick at all and moved easily around the pan.

Baked Apple Pancake - Easy Caramel

While the sugar was caramelizing, I peeled and sliced 3 apples. I like firm, sweet apples like Gala, Pink Lady or SweeTangos. Cored and sliced into even pieces (about 1/4″ thick), they’re ready to roll.

Baked Apple Pancake - Apples1

Baked Apple Pancake - Apples2

Tip: remove the skillet from the heat while you add the apple slices. It takes a few minutes to get them arranged to look pretty, and removing the pan from the heat keeps your caramel from burning while you work.

Baked Apple Pancake - Apples in Caramelized Butter & Sugar

Because I prefer firm apples, I like to pop them in the oven and let them bake 5-10 minutes before adding the pancake batter. Once the caramel is bubbling and the apples are toasty, I remove the pan from the oven and pour the batter evenly over the top. It goes back into the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the pancake is just set and firm. Confession: I love bubbly edges on pancakes.

Baked Apple Pancake - Pancake Batter - Post-Bake

You know it’s done when you can gently press on the surface of the pancake and it bounces back. It’s better to take this one out a little early than to over bake it, so keep an eye on it during that last few minutes.

Now for the tricky part – flipping it out of the pan. I flipped mine immediately after I took it out of the oven and got a caramel burn on my wrist, so in retrospect, I’d wait 5-10 minutes and let it cool next time. I need to learn to be patient when pancakes are involved. To flip mine, I placed a piece of parchment over the pancake, then set a plate on top of that. Using a folded kitchen towel, I grabbed the skillet on both sides instead of the handle and gave it a quick flip.

The true moment of truth is when you lift the skillet. That’s when you see if your pan is a hero or a zero based on how many apple slices are stuck to the pan. Here’s what I got. You be the judge.

Baked Apple Pancake - Flipped & Flawless

Booyah, baby! Look at that gorgeous golden caramel apple beauty.

Want to see what the skillet looked like? I expected it to be coated in a thick, deeply entrenched layer of molten sugar but this is what I saw.

Baked Apple Pancake - Sticky Caramel Goo

This is the part where I’d usually mutter bad words and grab a scouring pad. Oh, OXO… how I test thee. Instead, I ran a little hot water in the skillet and let it sit for a minute while I grabbed plates, forks and syrup. To my surprise, the remaining crusty sugar wiped right out. No scrubbing. No sweating. No cursing. It seriously wiped right out with a paper towel. Way to go, OXO. You win again. And technically, I win too.

OXO - 12 Inch Non-Stick Skillet - Handle

Final Thoughts:
1. This is my new favorite skillet. For real.
2. The size (at 12″) is great for just about any task.
3. It is well constructed and sturdy, which I expect from OXO.
4. It browned evenly and held heat beautifully, which is a must for me.
5. OXO says this skillet is dishwasher safe, but I always hand wash non-stick pans because I’m a big ol’ chicken.
6. This skillet is on the heavy side, which may prove hard to handle for someone who’s older, younger or has problems handling heavier pots or pans. If heft isn’t an issue, you’ll love it.
7. Overall rating – two thumbs way up. I’ll be using this pan for years to come.

If you’d like to take a shot at this easy baked caramel apple pancake, here’s how you can recreate it at home.

2 cups baking mix (Bisquick or my favorite – Pioneer Buttermilk Baking Mix)
2-3 tablespoons raw (or granulated) sugar
1 pinch of salt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 to 1 cup low-fat buttermilk (can sub regular milk)
2-3 large apples – peeled, cored & cut into 1/4″ slices
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar

Pre-heat the oven to 375F.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the baking mix, raw or granulated sugar, salt, eggs, vanilla & buttermilk. Whisk until smooth. Batter should be a little on the thin side, like crepe batter. Set aside to rest, and start on your apples. Peel, core and slice the apples. Heat your non-stick skillet over medium-high heat, then add the butter and brown sugar. Stir until the sugar melts and the mixture begins to bubble. Remove from heat and arrange your apple slices. Pop the skillet into a hot oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the caramel mixture is bubbling furiously around the edges. Remove the skillet from the oven and pour the pancake batter evenly over the top. Return to the oven and bake just until the pancake is set, approximately 12-15 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow your pancake to cool for 5-10 minutes before flipping.

To flip, invert a plate larger than the skillet over the top, place one hand firmly on top of the plate, grab the handle with a dish towel and flip quickly. If you’re not a confident or expert flipper, invert the plate over the skillet, then place a kitchen towel folded lengthwise across the skillet. Place one hand on each side of the skillet, grabbing the plate with your thumbs and using your fingers to grab the skillet. Either way, flip quickly.

Note: if you’re using an older non-stick skillet that doesn’t release as well, run a silicone spatula around the edge of the skillet to help the pancake release prior to flipping. If you’re still left cursing your old ratty non-stick, consider acquiring one of these new OXO beauties. You will not regret it.

For this apple pancake, I made a simple cinnamon cream syrup.

1/2 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Heat all 3 ingredients in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking often, until the mixture comes to a rolling boil. Remove from heat and transfer to a small pouring pitcher. Serve hot.

Baked Caramel Apple Pancake - Breakfast is Served

Disclaimer: This OXO 12″ non-stick skillet was provided to me free of charge by the OXO Blogger Outreach Program so that I could play with it and share my experience. All opinions are my own, and are my honest take on it. Have you tried OXO yet? Which are your favorite OXO products? To learn more about OXO cookware, CLICK HERE.


Filed under Blogger Collaborations, Food & Recipes, Things I Love

The times, they are a-changing.

So many changes in this new year, my friends. I’ll start with an apology for not posting since before Thanksgiving. Your patience has been greatly appreciated. In fact, readership has actually increased, and for that I am truly grateful. That you choose to follow the random thoughts in my head is an endless source of amazement and joy, and I love you for it.

What’s happening? Lots. First, The Complete Package is retiring! He likes to joke that I retired years ago when our first grandchild was born. He is not wrong, although technically it was more like dropping out to play Nana than retiring. The fact that I never went back to work was just a bonus (for me). Now, at long last, he will be joining me in what I like to refer to as our “funemployed years”. What’s on tap? All kinds of things, starting with this:


Austin House - Street View with Banner
We found our ultimate retirement home in the rolling hills west of Austin. It’s a beautiful 4 bedroom, 3 1/2 bath one-story home with all of the features we’ve dreamed of – an open floor plan, low maintenance, high ceilings, wood floors and sweeping hill country views. Oh, and did I mention the kitchen? I knew I was home the instant I saw it.

Austin House - New Kitchen

Austin House - Kitchen Island

Austin House - Kitchen Tile

That island! Huge is an understatement. By all estimates, I’d guess it should accommodate 40 pies, 400 cinnamon rolls (at least), and sleep 4 full-grown adults if we run out of beds. It’s insane. I also love the great windows, morning light, deep counters and that herringbone subway tile backsplash. I can hardly believe I’m going to get to live here. For real – it almost brings tears to my eyes.

I’m looking forward to baking with the kids and cooking big family dinners. The idea being close enough for regular Sunday Suppers with the family has been a dream since our daughter graduated from UT and settled in Austin. We’ll be able to take the kids for long hikes in the hills, ride bikes around the miles of paved trails, and spend quality time at the neighborhood pool & play areas. Something else I’m looking forward to – a covered porch where I can relax and enjoy a good book or a cup of coffee. Guess what? Dreams do come true, kids.

Austin House - Back Porch

Austin House - Hill Country Views

And because the new house sits on top of a hill, we have great views of our new neighborhood and the rolling hills out by Lake Travis. I can hardly wait to pick out patio furniture. Besides the new house, we are thrilled to pieces to be closer to our daughter, Jonah Bear and Lilly Bug. With her pending divorce, we’ll now be there to help out and that gives all of us greater peace of mind. The kids are already plotting weekend sleepovers and calling dibs on bedrooms. They’re not alone. The Complete Package & I are ridiculously exited, too.

Blog posts may be few and far between for a bit. We’re working to list and sell our home of 25 years in Houston and prepare for the big move to Austin. If all goes well, we’ll be moving in early April (fingers crossed). I’ll try to keep you posted on our progress, if you’re interested. My goal is to be back up to full speed by May, with as many posts as possible in between, until I’m firmly planted here:

Austin House - Kitchen Desk with Arrow

Once we’re settled, I’ll break in that kitchen, hit the back roads to explore, and bring you new content from our little corner of Austin. Oh, the places we’ll go!
If you live in the Austin area, be forewarned – I’M COMING FOR YOU!
And I could not be more excited. -jeanne


Filed under Family Stuff, Miscellaneous Thoughts, Things I Love