Homemade gifts: peanut butter oatmeal jar cookies

Hola! How’s life, blog friends? I know I’ve been blogging less frequently lately but life has been too hectic (yes, even without a full time job). So I come today with amazing cookies to make your life a little sweeter. Can you taste them through the screen?

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No? Ok, then you should definitely make them. These babies were incredible!!

What, you’re still trying to keep cookies out of your house as part of your New Years resolution to lose a few pounds? I have 2 things to say about that.

1. Are there really people out there that still remember their New Year’s resolutions on January 30? I’m serious. Are there? I can’t seem to remember mine. Sad truth.

2. If you make these cookies, you can taste 1 or 2… and then gift them. Trust me – the recipient will very happy. Very very happy. And making your friends even better friends this year is a really good thing to add to your resolutions.

See? Win-win Open-mouthed smile

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A few weeks ago it was my friend Katy’s birthday and I was trying to figure out the perfect gift for her. She’s a doctor so the girl is pretty much living in the hospital. I wanted to give her something that would relax her on some especially exhausting day. Since my mind always goes to food, I thought that maybe baking cookies would be a nice activity for such a day (truth be told, on days like that I prefer to mindlessly shove cookies into my mouth until I pass out. Slowing down and actually baking some is a way better approach. I think Katy agreed!). Katy rarely has time to go grocery shopping so I thought a cookie mix would be a good compromise – homemade cookies, homemade taste – a lot less measuring and planning necessary. Again, win-win.

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So I researched and researched. And I found this guide to oatmeal peanut butter jar cookies. They looked perfect!

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Of course I wanted to bake a test batch and also to give some to Katy together with the mix so she wouldn’t need to work for her cookies right away. Smile

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[Side note: I tried baking them on an ungreased cookie sheet and on a silpat. The results were identical!]

They came out even better than expected!! They were soft and a little gooey on the inside, yet hearty with the addition of oat). And of course the mini peanut butter cups (from Trade Joe’s) made these guys extra special. Everything is better with chocolate! Red heart

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I made another batch of the mix for Katy…

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… and completed the gift with a peanut butter jar (since you have to add pb to the mix), a cookie scoop, and some pretty tags. Honestly, I couldn’t be more proud of myself. The gift turned out SO CUTE!!

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Don’t wait for the holidays to shower your friends with homemade gifts. Or to eat cookies.

Are you into DIY gifts? I’d love to hear some new ideas… I’m really digging them these days Smile

Miracle berry sweetened dinner

Any Top Chef fans out there? Do you guys remember a few weeks ago when the chefs had to study up on Modernist Cuisine and then cook a quickfire meal with modernist techniques? Chris Jones started his meal with a miracle berry tablet, which reminded me I got these babies in my Christmas stocking last year (from Adam of course)!!!

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Have you heard of miracle berries before? Wikipedia tells me it’s also called synsepalum dulcificum (way harder to pronounce!) which is a plant with a berry that makes sour things taste sweet. The tablets are basically ground up miracle berries – all natural Smile

Last night we had our friends Jim and Liz over for dinner to experiment with this “mysterious fruit tab.” We started the dinner by dissolving a tablet on our tongues and then dove into lemons, limes and grapefruit. Not gonna lie, it was a little scary to take the first bite! Would it really work?

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Action shots!

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Wow, guys. This was crazy. Seriously insane. Everything was SO SWEET – I honestly had no idea how sweet they’d be (and started getting a little nervous that our whole dinner will taste like pure sugar). Biting into a lime and being overwhelmed by its sweetness was surreal (the limes were the sweetest – almost inedible at first because of how sweet they were).

We calmed our palettes for a minute with these clover rolls, which had nothing to do with our experiment but delicious nonetheless. Definitely a must-make again recipe!

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Aside from the rolls which were a last minute decision (a brilliant last minute decision!), the rest of the dinner all centered around citrus. I looked for recipes that utilized oranges (already sweet) but used lemons and grapefruit instead, knowing they would be made sweeter because of the tablets.

Grapefruit and avocado salad with a citrus dressing (here is the base recipes, I subbed grapefruit for oranges in everything)

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Jalapeno citrus salmon (based on this recipe, I used half grapefruit, half lemon juice for the glaze)

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My plate:

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My beverage of choice for the night – it had citrus notes which turned sweet. The beer tasted kind of like a beer cocktail as a result. I liked it Smile

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The effect lasts between 30 minutes and 2 hours and over the course of dinner we definitely felt it fade. The citrus still tasted very sweet but we could start slowly also tasting mild sour notes. Luckily non-citrusy components made the meal a real dinner – salmon, avocado, jalapenos all stayed true to themselves Smile

Of course we had to finish the meal with some lemon sherbet. This particular brand was super creamy – the perfect ending to a sweet citrus meal!

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This was super fun!! Apparently hot sauce and radishes should have been part of our experiment too. I may just have to keep playing around with this stuff. It’s sort of trippy in a good way Winking smile

Would you want to try this stuff? What would you make? I may use these for nights when my sweet tooth won’t stop nagging. A wedge of lemon would totally do the trick!

30 by 30: making cinnamon buns

My 30th birthday is a little over 4 months away and there are quite a few items left on my 30 by 30 list, yup – quite a few. So when my sister asked me to make something a little special (read: indulgent) for brunch this past Sunday (I’m staying with her while in NY), I decided it was time to cross one thing off the list – cinnamon buns (or cinnamon rolls – is there a difference??)

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Now before you remind me about my goals of losing a few pounds this year, let me assure you – I’m well aware of this goal. And in case I somehow forgot, my jeans very clearly (although passive aggressively) set the record straight by bursting at the seems. No, I’m not using this expression metaphorically. Literally, I looked down at my jeans yesterday while my sister was in a dressing room trying on wedding dress #3785643, and along both sides of the pant legs, I saw seems. Holding on for their dear life. No bueno.

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Needless to say I went with a lighter recipe for brunch (from Cook’s Illustrated The Best Light Recipecookbook). These guys normally know their stuff. They test dozens for recipes before publishing their own. They tell you what went wrong and what went right. I trust them.

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Yet somehow this recipe was a fail.

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The dough was crazy sticky (I added a lot of flour in an attempt to remedy that); the technique of patting it down (instead of rolling it out) into a rectangle was quite strange (they said it’d be easier but nope, quite awkward in fact) and then finally when I started forming the cinnamon roll, the dough started ripping in so many places – spewing out cinnamon sugar like crazy (you may notice patches in the below picture).

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I was not a happy camper. Not at all. But at the end, decided to just plop a bunch of dough and cinnamon sugar blobs into the pan and see what happens.

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Cinnamon bun dough blobs Winking smile

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This is what happened ~25 minutes later. Hey, not bad!

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Getting these babies out of the pan was no easy task (since I basically poured sugar over the dough, it stuck to the bottom of the pan once melted)… but I persevered.

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These were “quick” cinnamon buns, meaning the dough was not yeasted. Instead they were biscuit-like buns with a sweet cinnamon filling and a cream cheese/buttermilk glaze. I won’t be making this recipe again but they were quite tasty at the end.

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Have you ever made cinnamon buns (or rolls)? Do you have a favorite lighter recipe? And just for fun… what’s your favorite brunch food? Mine is French toast and this crème brulee baked French toast (which incidentally I made last time I was staying at my sister’s in NY) is my favorite recipe of all times!

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