I sit at our dining table in the morning, a heaping spoonful of almond butter resting on top of my oatmeal, a dollop of jam alongside it. The windows are open to let the cool morning breeze whisper past my skin, and through them I hear kids squealing as they make their way to the school bus stop on the corner by our house. I find myself lost in thought, reminiscing about the past and contemplating the future, each almond butter + jam-laced bite taking me further into my own head.
I’ve been eating a lot of PB+J lately. Actually, to be more accurate, AB+HJ - almond butter and homemade jam. I just can’t seem to get enough of it. I’m slathering almond butter and jam on my Kashi waffles and toast, mounding it on top of oatmeal or sandwiching it between two slices of whole wheat bread for a quick and satisfying lunch. I partly blame the incredible amount of jam we have in our refrigerator right now - a few ounces of each flavor we made that wasn’t quite enough to process in a canning jar, plus a delightful fig jam made by some dear friends after a reconnaissance fig-gathering mission to some public trees down the street. But even more than the excess, I blame the fast-approaching end of Summer.
As we transition into Autumn, I find myself in a very nostalgic frame of mind. This time of year seemed to have so much more significance in my youth, always marking the start of a new chapter in my young life. Going back to school, with its new clothes and fancy backpack filled with blank notebooks and freshly-sharpened pencils signified another year of progress. I’d eagerly seek out friends I hadn’t seen in 3 months to discuss our summer vacations, who’s dating who, class schedules and the fact that we were one year closer to graduation, college and “real” life.
In college, the return to another semester was bittersweet. I was studying architecture, and while I was eager to tackle the challenges that a new design studio - with its new city, site and building program - offered, I was also wary of letting go of a care-free summer job in exchange for the stress of all-night charrettes and design reviews in front of a panel of my peers and professors. But still, there was the seeking out of missed friends to discuss summer internships, who’s engaged to who, how we had finagled our schedules to allow for one or two(!!!) days without class and the fact that we were one year closer to graduation and finding our “dream” jobs.
And now, here I am. Post undergraduate and graduate degrees, working in my field for a firm I respect designing projects I enjoy, one year closer to...what? For the first time in my life, I am settled into a place with no “end” in sight. I am happily married, living in a city I adore, with a job I enjoy waking up for. There’s no impending school, or graduation, or job search in my future. Its a comfortable feeling, but is at the same time a little bit unnerving. And when I’m feeling a little bit unnerved I seek additional comfort in food. Of late, that food has been the AB+HJ combination.
It was only a matter of time before my latest obsession made it into a baked good. And then, this recipe showed up in my reader to push me right over the edge. I made the cookies, which have a classic butter cookie texture laced with the flavor of high-quality natural peanut butter, and was initially disappointed with the pre-jam outcome. I was looking for a softer specimen, and was worried that when sandwiched on either side of a dollop of jam this cookie would, well, crumble. So I quickly searched for a new option, found a recipe that boasted a softer outcome and incorporated oats(!!!) and decided to try a thumbprint version. I loved the chewiness that the oats added to the cookie, and the fact that the jam-to-cookie ratio was more equal than the sandwich version. But, after all that worry, the sandwich cookie turned out to be really fantastic as well, with or without the addition of a little blackberry peach jam.
Each of these cookies is really wonderful on their own. I recommend filling and sandwiching only the amount of cookies you and yours can eat in a day, as they will get soft when stored in an airtight container with jam. On their own, in a ziplock bag, the cookies maintain their texture for a full 5 days.
I think that each of these recipes would be wonderful with almond butter in place of the peanut butter. When I made the suggestion to Brian, who is very traditional in his dessert choices and hates to see a good thing tampered with, he vetoed it. That was ok, the tried and true PB+J combo was a success both in taste and nostalgia-induced comfort.
PB+J Sandwich Cookiesrecipe from the new york timesmakes about 18 sandwich cookies
1/2 pound [2 sticks] unsalted butter, softened, plus more to grease cookie sheets
Cream butter, sugar and peanut butter together with an electric mixer. Add egg, and beat until well blended.
In a separate bowl, combine flour, salt and baking powder. Add the dry ingredients to the wet, adding milk as necessary to make dough just soft enough to handle. Stir in vanilla.
Shape dough into a log about 1-1/2 inches in diameter. [I suggest making two logs...the amount of dough makes one very long log that is difficult to transfer to the fridge]. Wrap dough log[s] in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days. Can be frozen if wrapped well.
Heat oven to 400*. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Remove dough from refrigerator and cut slices between 1/8" and 1/4" thick from log. Try to make the slices as even in thickness as possible. Place on baking sheets and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake until edges are lightly browned and centers are set, about 10 minutes. Cool for about 2 minutes on sheets before using a spatula to transfer cookies to a rack to finish cooling.
Sandwich flat sides of two cookies together with a heaping teaspoonful of jam.
PB+J Thumbprint Cookiesrecipe for cookie from foodnetwork.commakes about 3 dozen thumbprint cookies
1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1/2-cup creamy, natural peanut butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1 cup quick oats (I used rolled, and they were fine)
Preheat oven to 350* and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cream the butter and peanut butter together in an electric mixer on high speed. Add the sugar, brown sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until the mixture is fluffy. Add the egg and beat until combined.
Mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and oats together in a separate bowl and add to the wet mixture. Mix until well combined.
Roll dough into 1-inch diameter balls and place on baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie. Using your pinkie finger, make a deep indentation in the top of each dough ball, being careful not to press all the way down to the baking sheet.
Bake in the top half of the oven until cookies are golden, about 10 minutes. Remove from oven and re-shape indentations while cookies are still pliable, if needed. Let cool completely.
Once the cookies are cool, place on countertop and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Spoon a teaspoonful of jam into each cookie.
Sunday afternoon baking sure makes the day go by quickly (and tulips make the day more lovely!) :)
I was really excited when Sarah picked dates for this week's secret ingredient. I'm a big fan of dates. Especially dates filled with peanut butter. You've probably seen them pop up on my blog more than a couple of times. I also like dates paired with bananas, hence my morning pancakes. :) For my actual BSI submission I wanted to find a way to pair two of my favorite ingredients, PB and dates, into a baked good. I first thought of peanut butter date cookies, but after a quick internet search discovered that Tina had already made a similar recipe. I really try to be original for BSI, coming up with my own idea and own recipe, so I crossed the PB date cookies off the list of possibilities. That led me to the next idea on the list, peanut butter date blondies.
I'm relatively new to the world of blondie baking, in fact I've only made blondies two other times and both were inspired by VeggieGirlrecipes. I spent the early afternoon researching blondie recipes to be sure that I had the right ratios of flour, fat and liquid to get the right consistency.
I used natural sweeteners (turbinado sugar and the dates, of course) and whole wheat pastry flour to make the recipe a bit healthier than some of the others I was looking at. But don't let that fool you, they still aren't light in calories. Next time I'll experiment with replacing some of the butter with yogurt, and maybe add in some applesauce. Also, eliminate the egg yolks? But overall, I am very happy with the result. The rest of the batch is going to my co-workers and my hubb's co-workers. Unhealthiness problem solved. :)
The sweetness of the dates complements the saltiness of the peanuts perfectly. I thought about adding semisweet chocolate chips to the mix, even had them portioned out and ready to go in the mixer, but decided at the last moment that they might overpower the dates so I left them out. I'm so glad I did. The dates are subtle and delicious and would have been lost with the addition of chocolate.
My inspiration came from here and here. Enjoy!
Peanut Butter Date Blondies
makes (16) 2" square blondies
[250 calories, 12g fat, 4.8g sat. fat, 31.6g carbs, 2.7g fiber, 5.3g protein]
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/2 cup natural, crunchy, unsalted peanut butter
1 cup turbinado sugar
2 large eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract
1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, chopped
8 medjool dates, chopped
Preheat oven to 350*. Spray 8x8 square baking dish with oil.
In stand mixer, blend butter and peanut butter until creamy. Add sugar and blend until combined.
Add eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition. Add vanilla extract.
In separate bowl, sift together flour and baking powder.
Add dry ingredients to mixer and blend until just combined.
Fold in peanuts and dates.
Scrape batter into prepared pan and spread, smoothing top.
Bake for 30-32 minutes, until edges of blondies are beginning to brown. Cool in pan on rack. Let cook completely before cutting.
Well, the poor little No Bake Cookies never hardened. I figured out why with the help of my very wise (and somewhat disappointed) hubby. I wandered into the office to sheepishly confess that I had "slightly modified" the cookies to "try and make them a little healthier" while he gave me a blank look and simply asked "WHY?". Fair enough. I explained that I wanted to substitute honey for some of the sugar in the recipe, and that since I was adding a liquid I felt like I should subtract some liquid from the recipe. Makes sense, right? Well, the liquid I decided to subtract was butter (which was to be melted before adding to the cookie mix). "But the butter is what holds them together and makes them firm up!" Right. Point taken.
So, I leave you with Nana's No Bake Cookies, which I assure you are little bites of heavenly goodness, and look just like this before they harden up into actual cookies that you can pick up and hold rather than mushy, sticky blobs...
Nana's No Bake Cookiesmakes 4 dozen "2 bite" cookiesIngredients:
1/4 cup unsweetened baking cocoa
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
3-1/2 cups instant oatmeal (I've used rolled oats too, they are just a bit chewier)
Mix cocoa, sugar, butter and milk in a medium saucepan and simmer for 2 minutes.
Remove from heat and add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal.
Spoon onto wax paper or foil until set, 1-2 hours.
So easy, so tasty...so going to be making them soon because now I have a CRAVING!!!
Oh, and I'm fully aware that this is my second post on the day that I'm starting "one post a day"... :)