Chewy Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies have always been one of my dad’s favorites. He is not a sweets person, but these always seem to disappear when he is around. I have tried and tested many recipes, and this one has been the softest and chewiest by far. They hold their shape well, and do not harden to a brick once cooled (pet peeve!). My preference is warm out of the oven with a tall glass of milk, but these little guys are soft for days!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 cup salted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups creamy peanut butter (crunchy works too!)
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder

Optional Items :

  • 1/2 cup white sugar and 1 tbs cinnamon for rolling (as pictured)
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips OR chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup roasted and salted pecans or peanuts, finely chopped

Total Servings: About 36 cookies (made from 2 inch dough balls)

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. Combine wet and dry ingredients separately
  3. Start by creaming the softened (room temp) butter and both sugars
  4. Add vanilla, eggs, peanut butter until thoroughly combined
  5. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, baking powder and evenly mix
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet (*the dough will be thick and resemble Play-Doh)
  7. You should be all set! If you must, go ahead and bake a few (I do!). Letting the dough set in the fridge for a few hours does improve the texture. Either way, they are YUM.
  8. While the dough is chilling (let’s assume we had the patience), set up a plate with your sugar and cinnamon mixture. You will be rolling the dough balls in this prior to baking. Optional, but suggested!
  9. When the dough is chilled, create 2 inch balls, roll in the cinnamon sugar on your plate, and place on the cookie sheet about 2-3 inches apart. These do not spread very much.

pb-cookie-ariel-stages pb-cookie-thickness

Once your cookie sheet is filled, take a fork and press the prongs horizontally into the center of the cookie (see steps above). Bake at 350F for 7-8 minutes.

pb-cookie-pre-baked pb-cookie-horizontal

Pro Tips :

  • Let your dough firm for a few house (or overnight) before baking. Will last 2-3 days in the fridge, or up to 3 months in the freezer in an airtight container.
  • Although slightly more time consuming, separating dry and wet ingredients when mixing does allow for more even distribution, especially for small yet important items like baking soda and baking powder…. Just do it. It’s worth it.
  • Bake your cookies on parchment paper for more even spreading.
  • Cookies will continue to bake for a few minutes once they are out of the oven. Take them out when the edges are golden brown, and the middle still appears soft and inflated.

Let me know how yours turn out!

Jo

 

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Diffusing Essential Oils in Your Home

While we are on the topic of essential oils… let’s talk about diffusing! It is that time of year where winter is sneaking up on us and “flu shot” advertisements are everywhere. Start by building immunity and a clean environment in your home. I use this diffuser, and it lives in our kitchen (which is open to the living room), so I like to think it fills the space! A diffuser breaks down the essential oil(s) (diluted with distilled water) into micro molecules that are projected into the air around you. The different oils that you use can have different effects. My daily essential oil of choice is Thieves! It smells cozy and is known for its’ cleaning properties. If my house can smell like baked goods as the air is being purified… Count me in!

FAVORITES from YoungLiving

  • Thieves – Great for cleaning! This one is a blend of Clove, Lemon, Cinnamon, Eucalyptus Radiata, and Rosemary essential oils.
  • Lemon – My go-to summer scent. (I mix Lemon with my homemade cleaning wipes.)
  • Purification – Another blend made up of Citronella, Lavandin, Lemongrass, Rosemary, Myrtle, and Tea Tree.
  • Peppermint– I have a roller ball attachment and apply this directly on my temples and neck for headaches… It’s magic!
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca Alternifolia)- Mix a few drops with grapeseed oil for an everyday moisturizer.

There are MANY single oils and blends, but these seem to be my staples. I use each of them everyday at some point! Depending on the time of year, others make their way into my routine, too. Stay tuned for a flu fighting assortment coming up!

How Does It Work?

Easy! Each diffuser may have slightly different settings, but should operate around the same idea. You will add the designated amount of distilled water along with 8-12 drops of your favorite oil(s). You can also mix for custom scents. For example, in the summer, Grapefruit and Lemon are a go-to for me! In the fall, Clove and Thieves. After a long day, Peppermint or Spearmint.

*I have chosen to purchase YoungLiving essential oils after extensive personal research. Their products are the most pure and least refined that I could find, and I am not advertising on their behalf. Be selective and educate yourself on the different brands before bringing them into your home. 

Give it a try,

Jo

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Homemade Essential Oil Cleaning Wipes

I don’t know about you, but reading the back of an all-purpose cleaning bottle…. scary. I can hardly pronounce the ingredients much less know their side-effects. I stumbled into making homemade cleaning wipes that are natural, chemical-free, and customizable to the scent of your choice! They are safe on counters, stainless appliances, glass, mirrors, furniture (painted, laminate, and wood), television screens… you name it! They are sanitizing for daily maintenance, but also have become my go-to dusting cloth. (If you are concerned about a new surface, just test a small area before wiping it down.)

INGREDIENTS

  • 1/2 – 1 cup of vinegar
  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 1/4 cup alcohol (I use 91% Isopropyl Rubbing Alcohol)
  • 1 tsp dish soap (I use blue original Dawn)
  • 15-20 drops of your favorite essential oil
  • Viva paper towels (need to be thick, cloth texture)
  • Container of your choice (mine is from Bed Bath and Beyond)
  • Sharp knife to cut paper towels in half

STEPS

  1. Cut the paper towel roll in half with a sharp kitchen knife.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine vinegar and water, add alcohol, add dish soap, and top it off with the essential oil of your choice (lemon for me!). I whisk it together (bubbles are fine) and pour over the pre-cut roll of paper towels until evenly saturated. If you think they are too dry, you can add a bit more vinegar.
  3. The cardboard center should easily pull out at this point, and you are all set! They should unroll from the center just like Clorox wipes (minus all the bad stuff).

essential-oils wipes-materials

You will love these! My once skeptical husband even uses them for anything and everything! Clean your phone, the TV remotes, your computer, kids toys, and obviously all of the household chores!

Enjoy!

Jo

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Organizing Your Life Through Your Lists

Are you a list person?

I can name about four places in my home where a running list can be found at any time. My work life? Forget it! Although I consider myself to be quite organized, I have a constant circulation of about 15 sheets of paper with scribbles written in every which direction. That is how I have established “order”.  The irony is that “the list” is the origin of a lot of the stress and anxiety in my world. I mean, who feels at peace when they are constantly visually reminded of all the unaccomplished things that are still left undone? Puh-lease… I have items on some of my lists that have been written and rewritten more times than I would like to admit. Sure, there is great satisfaction in crossing things off. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE that, but it definitely doesn’t happen as often as I would like.

Let’s DO Something About It…

First, where are your lists? They may be stored in our minds as ongoing ticker boards of tomorrow’s responsibilities. You know, the lists that don’t turn off when the lights do. Maybe it’s a magnetic note pad on your fridge with honey-do’s and grocery items. Perhaps there is Google Doc that you can access from one of your eight different electronic devices, or a Life Planner that lives in your purse (that always weighs 862 lbs. no matter how many times you clean it out). Let’s  simplify.

Give things a home. Do your best to have 2-3 lists, dedicated to their own topics and responsibilities. Maybe you don’t even need that many! For example, I have a traveling spiral notebook list to keep in my purse, a fridge list for groceries and errand items, and a work list for you guessed it… work only. Separating does not mean having 12 lists. Get real about it. If you are a digital person, check out Wunderlist. I personally need to physically write it and be able to hold the piece of paper, but that may work better for you.

Next, prioritize. This has been a life saver, and an ongoing effort. You do not need to look at “it” every day on the list if it is something to be accomplished in three weeks. I have a daily list of tasks/ actions that must be completed each day. If we only include the “musts”… the list gets a lot shorter. Be gentle with yourself and your time. I have been there, booked minute to minute with a demanding work schedule or juggling over-commitment. Not cool. The fortunate and unfortunate reality is that YOU are the only person with the power to make this change. So take a baby step and try.

Lastly, be flexible. Creating habits organically through seeing what works and what doesn’t has served me best, especially with the new welcomed responsibility of managing a home, our joint finances, and dual schedules/ social circles. MOST importantly, control the list – not the other way around. Each day is sweet and precious gifted with the intention of joy. Don’t let your to-do’s rob you of that opportunity! Share a smile, take more deep breaths, and count your blessings. Those three things can turn just about anything around.

Jo

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Chocolate Chip Cookies

This may be my favorite thing to talk about…Chocolate Chip Cookies! Anyone who knows me, knows my love for chocolate chip cookies! I am always playing around with recipes and tricks to get the perfect blend of crunchy, chewy, chocolatey perfection…sigh…

Here is one of the newer recipes that I have stumbled across from a dear friend. It did not disappoint! My only change was to double the amount of chocolate, and I did not add sea salt on top. For chocolate, I used what was suggested plus the same amount of semi-sweet chunks or jumbo chips.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cups minus 2 tablespoons (8-1/2 ounces) cake flour
  • 1-⅔ cups (8-1/2 ounces) bread flour
  • 1-¼ teaspoons baking soda
  • 1-½ teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-½ teaspoons coarse salt
  • 2-½ sticks (1-1/4 cups) unsalted butter
  • 1-¼ cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
  • 1-¼ pounds bittersweet chocolate chips, at least 60% cacao content 

Total Servings: About 36 cookies (made from 2 inch dough balls)

batter  batter-spoon

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven at 350F
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl- sift or stir. (In all honesty, I do not sift. Take the whisk and mix around for a bit.) In another bowl, cream softened butter and sugars, add vanilla, add eggs, and slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Add chocolate chips, but be sure to set aside a few handfuls for garnish! Stir until combined. Go ahead, eat some cookie dough. It’s delicious.
  3. At this point, I let my dough sit over night. (Well, what’s left of the dough.)
  4. Either immediately or the next day, depending on your level of patience, form into 2 inch balls and work in a few extra chips/chunks on the surface. These are from the garnish stash we talked about!
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, no need to spray, and begin arranging the cookie dough balls about 2-3 inches apart depending on their size.
  6. Bake at 350F for 9-11 minutes. I have found with my oven, 10 minutes is perfect. Your cookies should come out golden brown on the edges with a soft inflated center. They will settle and continue to firm on the hot cookie sheet.
  7. Once they are out, I let them sit for about 5 minutes before serving to get the crunchy edge. Melt. In. Your. Mouth.

cc-cookies-2  cc-cookies

Pro Tips:

  • Do not over mix! Stir by hand, with a hand beater, or in a stand mixer… but only until combined throughout.
  • Refrigerate the dough overnight in a covered container (a fitted lid is best). This allows the flavor profiles to sit and enhances that yummy brown sugar and vanilla flavor to the dough.
  • Adding more sugar does not make a sweeter cookie. I am the first to “estimate” my measurements. I prefer cooking with creativity, but baking needs to be close to exact. Make sure you don’t go overboard with tweaks or your cookies may not rise. A higher sugar content could mean a flatter cookie.
  • I do not have a kitchen scale… shocking, I know. The measuring cup version works just great! Be as precise as possible. I know some of the measurements are a bit odd.
  • Parchment paper! Easy clean up, and helps cookies keep their shape. No spray needed!
  • Favorite! Add chocolate chips/chunks to the outside of your cookie dough ball. They will bake down and sit on top to make for a more visually appealing cookie!

Eat one (or five) for me…

Jo

 

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Braided Bread

As the cooler weather approaches, my baking kicks into overdrive. There is just nothing better than a kitchen that smells like homemade bread. I have played with a few recipes over the last couple weeks, and this is my favorite. It is an adaptable recipe that can be easily manipulated by adding different variations of seasonings and spices. YUM.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c. warm water (works best between 100-110F)
  • 2 packets of active yeast (2 tbsp.)
  • 1/3 c. white sugar
  • 1/3 c. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. fine sea salt
  • 4-6 c. flour (can use all purpose flour or bread flour... I usually do both!)
  • Large bowl and butter to coat it (this is where the bread will rise)
  • Parchment paper is not required, but it bakes well on it!

Total Servings: One braided loaf as pictured (or two standard loaf pans)

STEPS

  1. Preheat oven to 375F
  2. In a stand mixer (with paddle attachment) or large bowl, combine warm water and yeast. Stir until completely dissolved (about 1 minute).
  3. Add in all ingredients but flour; Stir to combine.
  4. Slowly add flour a cup at a time. I usually add about 5 cups.
  5. On a clean, floured surface (usually my counter) – knead the dough for about five minutes. NOTE: If you have a stand mixer, you may keep the dough on level 2-3 with the paddle attachment. Add flour if too sticky. You should be able to manage it without it ending up all over your hands.
  6. Ball the dough into one large clump. Place in a buttered bowl and cover with a clean kitchen towel. I use a large metal bowl and place it in the oven at 170F to rise. Room temperature on the counter is fine, too. I have found the the heat helps it to rise faster. Let this happen for 1.5-2 hours… It should triple in size!
  7. Remove the dough from the bowl on your floured surface. I always have a cup or so of flour set aside at this point to use when kneading. Keep kneading for about 3 minutes. Split the dough into three equal parts.
  8. Roll each section into a rope with your hands. They need to be about the same thickness and length.
  9. Line up your three dough ropes and begin braiding.
  10. Place on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper and cover with the same towel. Let rise for 30-45 minutes.
  11. Bake for 15-18 minutes at 375F. Baste with butter…It is melt in your mouth good.

bb1 bb2

Pro Tips:

Additional seasoning options (mix in before flour):

  • 2 tsp. cinnamon, 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 tsp. oregano, 2 tsp. garlic powder, 2 tsp. onion powder
  • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning, 2 tsp. ground mustard
  • Depending on your flavor profile, you can press a garnish into the dough after the final round of kneading is complete. There is not a wrong or right way to do this. I usually visually add until it looks good! Some of my favorites include sesame seeds, chia seeds, flaxseed, oats… the options are endless!

Jo

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