As a child I hated peanut butter. I never liked it until I was 26 years old and vacationing in Hawaii with my husband. Each morning I would wake up with a severe Jif creamy peanut butter craving...the "do not mess with me until I have had my coffee peanut butter" kind of morning. I finally found satisfaction when one of the hotel workers was kind enough to dig in the back of the kitchen and find a huge economy size jug of Jif creamy peanut butter (it was seriously like a foot tall)...I can only imagine the shelf life of that peanut butter...makes me shiver.

As I sat on the balcony, in the early hours of the morning, eating my bowl of Jiff creamy peanut butter with a plastic spoon and pondering my new love for it; it occured to me that maybe I was pregnant...8 months later my little girl was born, a natural peanut butter lover!

I have loved peanut butter ever since and have even managed to curb my addiction from Jif creamy peanut butter to something a little more healthy. This is it! I will never go back to store bought peanut butter; with homemade, it is much healthier and the flavor is intense!

Homemade Peanut Butter
Adapted from Alton Brown
Makes about 1 1/2 cups

15 ounces (scant 2 cups) shelled and skinned roasted peanuts, recipe follows
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil

Place the peanuts, salt and honey into the bowl of a food processor.

Process for 1 minute.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Place the lid back on and continue to process while slowly drizzling in the oil and process until the mixture is smooth, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes.

NOTE: Add more oil if a creamier texture is desired. I found it hard to spread (especially after being refrigerated) using this amount of oil but I preferred it that way because it is healthier and still tastes great.

NOTE: I buy already roasted peanuts but if you want to roast them yourself follow Alton's directions below.

Roasted Peanuts:
2 pounds in-shell raw peanuts*
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 to 2 tablespoons kosher salt
*Cooks note: Use Spanish peanuts for peanut butter as they have a higher oil content.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Rinse the peanuts under cool water to remove excess dirt. Pat dry and place in a large bowl and toss with the peanut oil and salt until well coated.

Place on 2 half sheet pans, making sure to spread them out into a single layer. Roast in the oven for 30 to 35 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through cooking. Once you remove the peanuts from the oven, let them cool slightly before eating. They will continue to "cook" and become crunchy as they cool.

If using peanuts to make peanut butter, remove shells and discard. Remove the skin by rubbing the peanuts together in your hands held over a salad spinner, allowing the peanuts and skins to fall into the bowl. Once the skin has been loosened from all of the peanuts close the salad spinner and spin until all of the skin has been separated from the peanuts.

Yield: Approximately 2 pounds roasted peanuts in shell




I have certain moments in my day-to-day life where I freak out and have to clean my house and then that is followed by a serious need to was one of those days and unfortunately it coincided with 90 degree weather. While the rest of my family was outside swimming and enjoying the day, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor, the fronts of my cupboards and thinking about the perfect cookie flavor combinations. Can you tell I am stressed? This is what I do when I am stressed...Clean, Bake, Eat.

Anyway... these cookies are good! So good that when I was baking the last batch I went to the kitchen when I heard the timer and saw 6 missing cookies from the cooling racks. I thought "wow, 6 cookies in less than 15 minutes is impressive!" However, it came to mind that it could've been this little thief that lives in my house and sleeps in my bed...BUDDY.

He has been known to help himself to whatever he feels like...

exhibit A
One pound of butter with a side of cardboard...missing

exhibit B
17 Christmas cookies in the front row with slober still on the waxed paper...missing

Luckily my husband fessed up this time and Buddy was in the well as the rest of oatmeal cookies.

I learned a few years ago that dried cherries and chocolate are my favorite combination of flavor in cookies. The tart cherry flavor really compliments the richness of the have to try them.

Chocolate Chunk Oatmeal Cookies with Pecans and Dried Cherries
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, May 2005
Makes 20 Cookies

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries or cranberries, chopped coarse
4 ounces dark chocolate, chopped into small pieces about the size of chocolate chips
3/4 cup (12 tablespoons, 1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened but still cool
1 1/2 cups packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

NOTE: Original recipe calls for bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Use parchment paper to line several standard baking sheets and set aside.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

In another bowl combine the oats, pecans, dried cherries and chocolate.

In the bowl of a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer, cream together the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on medium-low, add the egg, vanilla and beat until incorporated.

Scrape down the sides of the bowl, turn the mixer to low, and add the flour mixture to the bowl. Stir until just combined. Finally incorporate the oats, nuts, cherries and chocolate. Do not over mix. Turn off the mixer and use a rubber spatula to give the dough a final stir and make sure that all the ingredients are incorporated.

I use the Pampered Chef Large Scoop when making these cookies (approximately measures 3 tablespoons). Scoop cookies and drop on parchment lined baking sheets.

NOTE: the original recipe suggests using an ice cream scoop to measure 1/4 cup portions of dough. If you use this amount of dough per cookie you will need to bake for approximately 20 minutes and the total yield will be 16 cookies.

Bake until the cookies are uniformly golden, but still wet in the middle, about 15 minutes. You might think that they're undercooked, but you're wrong - resist the urge to over bake, they will set up further as they cool.

Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Store cooled cookies in an airtight container at room temperature.




My neighbor just had a sweet baby girl and my friend's son just turned 3 so it was the perfect day to make cupcakes, for everyone!

I absolutely love the cake in this recipe. The frosting was ok but I think it misses something when you don't add the cream. Next time I will probably use my traditional buttercream frosting (recipe follows).

I piped the frosting on using a plastic bag (corner cut off) and dipped strawberries in dark chocolate, then drizzled white chocolate on once dry. The batter filled 6 large cups in the picture shown or it would fill a 12 capacity regular muffin tin. I use a large Pampered Chef Scoop when filling regular muffin tins.

White Chocolate Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
Adapted from Gourmet Traveller
Serves 12

125 gm (8.82 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
110 gm (1/2 cup) sugar
3 eggs
80 gm (6 chocolate squares, 6 ounces) white chocolate, melted
110 gm (3/4 cup) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Strawberry frosting
250 gm (about 18 tablespoons) soft unsalted butter
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
150 gm (about 7 medium) strawberries, puréed and strained

Using an electric mixer, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, add eggs one at a time, beating well after each, then add the melted white chocolate

and stir to combine. Sift flour and baking powder over cake batter and fold in until combined. Line muffin tins with 12 paper cases, then divide mixture among cases and bake at 150F/180C for 20 minutes or until cakes spring back when lightly pressed.

For strawberry frosting, puree the strawberries,

Using an electric mixer, beat butter until pale and fluffy, add icing sugar and beat until soft peaks form, then add strawberry purée and beat until combined. Spread or pipe frosting over cupcakes and serve. Cupcakes will keep in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

If you want to try a more traditional buttercream frosting recipe, this is one I use often.

Traditional Buttercream Recipe
Adapted from Magnolia Bakery
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
3-4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoons vanilla extract

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add 2 cups of the sugar and then the milk and vanilla. On the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy, about 3-5 minutes.

Gradually add the remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating well after each addition (about 2 minutes), until the icing is thick enough to be of a good spreading consistency. You may not need to add all of the sugar.




So I am back from was amazing! Probably one of the best vacations we have taken yet. We literally laid on the beach; all day, every day. We managed to squeeze in some deep sea fishing, snorkeling, walking and of course a lot of eating!
Now that I am back to reality and trying to get into the swing of things I had to hurry tonight to get a meal cooked. I found this great recipe; super easy, quick and tastes great. You could eat it alone with a side of veggies, wrap it up in a tortilla, or with a side of tortilla chips. My husband added hot sauce to kick up the heat but the kids and I thought it tasted great without.

Beef and Rice
Adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures
Serves 4

1 pound lean ground beef
1 medium onion, chopped
1 can (14 ounces)diced tomatoes with liquid
2 cups beef broth
1 cup rice
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 can (14 ounces) black beans (optional)

In a large skillet, cook ground beef with onion until the meat is no longer pink; drain.

Stir in remaining ingredients;

bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes or until rice is tender.

I like mine with black beans but my husband prefers his without; either way it tastes great!

Here are some pictures from our Mexico trip...




My husband's cake for him, he requests caramel apple pie. So I tried this recipe, it was delicious. The pie crust was a little tricky to work with. You have to make sure it is very cold and you work quick. Use a little flour on the parchment paper when you are rolling it out if it gets too sticky. Or maybe you have your own favorite pie crust recipe. Or maybe you just want to buy frozen pie crusts. Bottom line, its all about the caramel apple filling...with a side of vanilla ice cream...with cinnamon sprinkled on top...and a candle!

Caramel Apple Pie
Loosely adapted from

Pie Crust:
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, chilled
1/3 cup ice water
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 egg, beaten
6 cups apples (Jonathan or Granny Smith)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons butter
Streusel Topping:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2 toffee bars, crushed

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Make the Pie Crust:
Chill all ingredients, including the flour and vinegar. Combine the flour, salt and sugar. Cut in butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles cornmeal. In another bowl, mix water and vinegar with the beaten egg. Add the liquid mixture, 1 tablespoon at a time, to the flour mixture, tossing with a fork to form a soft dough.
Divide dough into two pieces. Roll out 2 pie shells on two pieces of parchment or waxed paper. Cut vent holes in the top pie shell with small cookie cutters. Keep pie shells cooled in refrigerator until ready to use.

Peel and slice apples.

I LOVE my apple peeler!

Sprinkle with lemon juice. Combine dry ingredients in large bowl and add apples.

Toss to mix. Add vanilla and cream. Melt butter in heavy skillet. Add apple mixture and cook approximately 8 minutes, to soften apples.

Take one pie shell out of refrigerator and line a pie dish. Turn apples into pie shell.

Streusel Topping:
Combine the flour and sugar. Mix in butter with fork until coarse crumbs. stir in the crushed toffee bars. Sprinkle over pie. Add top pie shell and seal along the edge. Brush with beaten egg white and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 degrees F and bake 45 minutes longer.

I am off to Mexico so I won't be posting for a while!




"Purplicious!" That is what my daughter said as she sat down to a bowl of this oatmeal. As the fresh blueberries sit in the hot oatmeal some will burst and turn this oatmeal into a beautiful shade of purple.

Oatmeal is a breakfast favorite in my house, I am always making it but never eating it...until today. For the first time I actually enjoyed a bowl of oatmeal with my kids. The warm blueberries explode with flavor in your mouth, followed by the sweet cinnamon and honey.

Blueberry Oatmeal- CLEAN EATING
Adapted from Martha Rose Shulman
Serves 2

1 1/3 cups water
1/8 teaspoon salt (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons mild honey
2/3 cup rolled oats or oatmeal
1/3 cup blueberries
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped or grated orange zest
1/2 cup coconut milk or organic milk

Bring the water to a boil in a medium-size saucepan. Add the salt, cinnamon, honey and oatmeal. Reduce the heat, and simmer uncovered for five minutes or until most of the water has been absorbed. Add the blueberries, orange zest and milk (or alternate beverage). Bring to a simmer, and simmer five more minutes or until the oatmeal is thick and creamy and the blueberries have begun to pop. Cover and let stand for five minutes, then serve.

To make in a microwave: Place the oatmeal, water, salt, honey, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large Pyrex bowl — at least 1 1/2 quarts. Cover the bowl with a plate. Microwave at 100 percent power for three minutes. Let sit one minute, then carefully remove the plate. Stir in the blueberries, orange zest and milk. Cover with the plate, and microwave for two minutes more. Let sit for one minute so the oatmeal will absorb the milk.

Advance preparation: If you want to save a few minutes in the morning, you could combine all the ingredients except the milk, blueberries and orange zest the night before. The oats will absorb all of the liquid. Add the milk, bring to a simmer and proceed with the recipe.

We have had so much rain this summer...

I have never seen the falls going like this...



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