Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Cone

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My mom and I have taken quite a few trips together. After I graduated high school, she took me and my two younger sisters to Costa Rica and Guatemala. We don’t do vacations the easy way with my mom. Because the easy way is no fun. Instead, we rent a car, and we navigate via paper map (the trip to Costa Rica and Guatemala was before any of had iphones) and we stay and eat at local places. My mom is a seriously amazing trip planner. She was definitely a dope travel agent/ full time quilt maker in another life. I don’t know how she does it but she finds the most amazing sights, hotels, and restaurants.

I, being the only one of the family who spoke Spanish, was the dutiful designated translator. But I got tired of that real quick. My job, as we drove, was to roll down the passenger window and ask strangers (in Spanish) how to get to some obscure place. This never quite worked out as planned. At one point during the trip, we were staying in a Costa Rican jungle town when our credit cards stopped working. We drove to the local bank to try and figure it out. It was pouring rain and my two sisters stayed in the car while my mom and I went into the bank. Lo and behold my mom had forgotten to put the emergency brake on the manual car and the car had rolled forward and smashed into the metal beam directly in front of it. The people in the bank saw what happened before my mom and I did, as we were distracted and distraught over the money situation. So that happened.

Then a few days later, on the way to the airport, in the wrecked car, trying to make it to the car rental return in time to pay for the damage and catch our flight, we got lost. As the navigator, I had no idea where we were. We were freaking out. Now I love my mom very much as I hope is evident in this post, but I had just about had it and amidst arguing, I remember quite vividly yelling at her as she asked my where we were, “I don’t know where the f*** we are.” Sorry mom. It’s pretty hilarious looking back though, right?

I tell the above story because I’ve written about going on trips with my mom and how amazing they are, but they are also sometimes stressful. But let’s be real, all good trips are a bit stressful. However, a few years back, at the end of August, my mom and I took quite a peaceful trip to Key West. She was on a business trip in Naples and I flew there first and then we rented a car and drove to the keys. Despite never harboring a burning desire to visit Key West, it will remain one of my favorite destinations. So what was so great about it? We stayed in a hotel on the outskirts of town but we rented bikes and biked into town every day. We drank mojitos at the harbor as we watched the sun go down. We went to Ernest Hemingway’s house and it was filled with cats! We ate Cuban food and ordered key lime pie at every restaurant. We were there during the Lobster fest. The streets were filled with people grilling lobster tails and it was hands down the best lobster I’ve ever tasted.

And every day we stopped by an inconspicuous street stand to buy a peanut butter soft serve cone dipped in chocolate. That stuff was life changing. And I’ve since yet to find anything of the sort. So I made my own of course.

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Peanut Butter Ice Cream – slightly adapted from Design Eat Repeat

2 cups heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

2 eggs

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup peanut butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, whisk eggs, sugar, and milk and 1 cup of heavy cream till mixture is hot and steamy. Remove from heat and stir in the rest of the cream, salt, and peanut butter. Stir until smooth. Refrigerate for 4 hours or freeze until cold. Process in ice cream machine.

Chocolate Shell – recipe from Serious Eats

1/2 cup refined coconut oil (or unrefined if you want it to taste like coconut)

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

3 tablespoons light corn syrup

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt all ingredients. Once ingredients are combined and incorporated, remove from heat and pour into bowl for dipping.

To assemble: roasted, chopped peanuts and sea salt

Scoop ice cream onto your choice of cone. Use a knife or straight metal spatula to shape ice cream into a cone shape. Place in freezer for 15 minutes.

Remove from freezer and dip upside down into bowl with chocolate shell. Immediately roll cone in peanuts and sprinkle with sea salt. It will take a few second for the shell to set. Enjoy!

 

 

Tropical White Chocolate S’mores

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I know s’mores have gotten a little out of hand recently. S’mores pies, cakes, s’mores poptarts, brownies, s’mores pudding cups, you get my drift. But I honestly love coming up with twists on classics. Inspired by some marshmallows on sale at Sprouts, I came up with this tropical s’more. The marshmallows are by a brand called Smashmallow and the flavor I bought was pineapple coconut – a pineapple flavored marshmallow covered in toasted coconut. What better to go with pineapple and coconut than macadamia nut and white chocolate? I used white chocolate Ghirardelli squares and whipped up a quick macadamia nut shortbread. Gooey, charred pineapple coconut marshmallow + Crisp and buttery macadamia nut shortbread + melty white chocolate = Island heaven.

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Macadamia Nut Shortbread

2 sticks butter

3/4 cup powdered sugar

2 cups flour

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup roasted and chopped macadamia nuts

Instructions:

Beat butter till light and fluffy, add powdered sugar and beat 1 to 2 more minutes.

Add flour and salt and mix till just combined. Add macadamia nuts. Flatten dough into a disc and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for two hours or overnight.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove dough from fridge and roll out into a large rectangle. Cut into desired size. I cut mine into 2×2 squares. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes. Cool.

To assemble: coconut pineapple marshmallows (I used smashmallow from Sprouts), Ghirardelli white chocolate squares

Doggie Banana Split

I firmly believe that dogs deserve to experience the good things in life – including banana splits. I made this for Panza the other night. We gave it to her in place of her dinner after a long walk. I know the ingredients have more sugar than dogs are really supposed to eat and doesn’t have the necessary nutrients dogs are supposed to eat in their meals, but getting a banana split once in her life for dinner isn’t gonna hurt her. The recipe requires a few steps and different ingredients. And maybe I’m crazy for making this or maybe I have too much time on my hands? Either way I promise your dog will be very happy with this for dinner.

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Doggie Banana Split

Banana Ice Cream

4 frozen bananas

1/4 – 1/3 cup coconut milk

Blend bananas and milk till smooth and consistency of soft serve. Freeze.

Coconut Whipped Cream

1 can of coconut milk chilled overnight

Open can of chilled coconut milk. Spoon out the coconut cream on top.

Place in bowl of stand mixer. Whip till light and fluffy. Refrigerate.

Strawberry sauce

1/2 cup fresh or frozen strawberries

2 tablespoons water

In a saucepan over medium heat, add strawberries and water. Cook 10 to 15 minutes until strawberries break down. Blend. Refrigerate.

Split open banana and place in dish. Scoop out some banana ice cream. Dollop on the coconut cream. Drizzle on the strawberry sauce. And garnish with strawberries, pumpkin seeds, peanuts, pitted cherries, grated carrot, or anything else safe for dogs to eat!

Blackberry Buckle

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It wasn’t until I began to immerse myself in the anti-diet mentality that the word “healthy” began to change its meaning. Previously, I had bought into the idea that healthy mostly meant being thin, an ideal supposedly achieved by eating 90% vegetables and exercising a lot. And no one told me otherwise, I had to purposefully seek out information that dispelled myths about health and weight. So I would say it really started when I began to read research discussing the false dichotomy of fat and thin, unhealthy and healthy. And for a while I believed this about other people, but not about myself. I tricked myself into believing I was still an advocate and ally for fat people, while I was still addicted to the idea of weight loss for myself. Slowly, slowly, over much therapy and a lot of reflection, by letting go of pursuing weight loss and the fear of weight gain, my idea of healthy shifted.

I almost hesitate to use the word healthy because defining something is to put parameters up around it. And if you can create a parameter, you can turn it into a diet, into a succeed or fail situation. So for me, healthy can be described in one word – flexibility. It is never the same from day to day. It has little to do with the type and quantity of food and exercise and more about how I feel in the moment. And it has nothing to do with achieving a certain body shape, regardless of whether that body is thin or strong or lean. I eat dessert everyday and I view this as healthy, for me. I prioritize my mental health over my physical health, although these are inextricably connected. And I eat a combination of what sounds good to me and what is available to me at the moment. I could go on, but the idea is that over a long period of trial and error, of tuning out the diet messages, we can figure out what healthy means to us.

Part of the reason I am writing this post is because I never felt like I had people to show me that healthy meant anything different than being thin. Like many people who have spoken out on the topic, I wish mainstream media represented a diverse range of bodies and skin colors AND different ideas of what it means to be healthy. I literally had no idea that I could eat dessert everyday and be ok. I thought I’d gain a million pounds and never stop. I just had no idea that life without the pursuit of thinness was remotely possible. I am here to tell you that it is, it definitely is.

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This buckle might be one of my favorite treats of all time. Growing up, we ate it on weekend mornings as a coffee cake. We usually had some frozen blackberries around from my grandpa’s farm, and trust me, there is no better vehicle for grandpa’s blackberries than this buckle. The buckle hits every note – tart, sweet, and jammy blackberries, plush interior, and crunchy, brown sugar tunneled lid. It’s to die for.

Blackberry Buckle – adapted from cookbook at mom’s house

1 cup white flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 stick butter

3/4 cup sugar

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

2 cups blackberries (fresh or frozen)

Topping:

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/3 cup white flour

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and sugar in stand mixer till light and fluffy.

Add egg and beat till incorporated.

Add flour and milk. Mix till everything is just combined. Fold in blackberries. Pour into springform pan.

In a separate bowl, cut butter into brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon. Sprinkle evenly on top of batter.

Bake for 40 minutes.

 

Milk Chocolate S’mores Tartlets + A Panza love story

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This blog is named after my dog Panza but I realized I don’t talk much about her on here. Which is funny because I’m pretty sure all my friends and family are sick of seeing pictures and hearing about her constantly.

Panza is not an easy dog. Some times I really wish she was a happy go lucky golden retriever who loved all people and all dogs and just went with the flow. But honestly, her personality and antics really make her so special to me. She is a very sensitive and anxious dog. She barks at any one who tries to look at her and hates being pet by strangers. She truly only likes about 4 or 5 people in this world. And those people definitely know who they are.

But at home with Brian and I, where she can relax, she loves to cuddle, get hugs and kisses, sleep, and wrestle.

We got her from animal services 2 years ago! It’s crazy how short that time has felt. She was 12 pounds, maybe 4 months old, and had just been spayed. She jumped into our laps and licked our faces and we knew she was it. It honestly feels like a true love story to me. And like I hear parents say about their kids, I didn’t know I could love anything this much. Now I totally get the crazy dog parent thing.

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I plan on talking more about Panza on here not only because this blog is named after her but because she makes for great stories. These s’mores tartlets have nothing to do with Panza other than the fact that she would love to eat them but is definitely not allowed.

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S’mores Tartlets (can be made in mini tart pan or pie pan

Graham Cracker Crust 

Marshmallow Topping

Milk Chocolate Brownie – adapted from Dulce: Desserts from Santa Fe Kitchens

6 tablespoons butter

5 ounces milk chocolate

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 cup flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and chocolate, stirring till smooth. Let cool.

Add sugar and mix till smooth. Add eggs, mix till incorporated.

Add flour and stir just till combined.

Assembly of tartlets:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If using a mini tart pan, press graham cracker crust into individual tarts. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes.

Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of brownie batter into crust and bake again for 20 minutes.

Pipe on marshmallow topping.

Brown Sugar Poundcakes and Raspberry Swirl Cream Cheese Frosting

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How many times have I told myself, when I get skinnier I’ll wear that or do that or feel that? Too many to count. One of those things I always thought I was too fat to do was dye my hair a pastel color. It logically makes no sense but somehow I made that association between thinness and pastel hair. I thought I had to be a waif to pull that trend off. Even though I saw people with larger bodies pulling off pastels gorgeously, I just never thought it would work on me.

I had been thinking about getting my hair professionally dyed for a long long time. I have way too many pictures pinned and saved on pinterest and instagram of beautiful millenial pink hair. Then the most amazing thing happened. A lady I follow on Instagram – Jamie Dana, posted a model call on her page. I fit the requirements perfectly, so I sent her a picture of my hair. I knew it was a long shot, she has over 30k followers and never in a million years did I think she would message me back. But she did! I pretty much freaked out when she asked me if I would be available the next day.

There’s one catch here. Her studio is in Orange County. I live in Santa Barbara. Now, I am familiar with Orange County. My mom lived in Lake Forest for a while. And I knew it was going to take me 2 and half hours to get there without traffic. I happened to have the next day, a Friday off, so I decided to just do it.

It took my almost three hours to get there and three hours back but boy was it worth it. Jamie and her assistant Annie are amazing. Go see them for your hair color needs if you are in Orange County. They meticulously colored and styled my hair – the whole process took over 6 hours! After lightening my hair, toning, and then putting in some gorgeous pink, peony inspired pastels, she styled and braided my hair. Her studio is called Pin and Plait Studio and it’s really awesome how much success Jamie has had in establishing herself as a young business owner. Go to her instagram page – https://www.instagram.com/jamiedanahairstylist/ to see a video of the process.

In honor of my beautiful hair, I was inspired to make a cupcake with a beautiful pink swirled frosting, resembling the different colored pink locks placed throughout my hair.

Brown Sugar Poundcakes – adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup brown sugar

1 stick butter

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup milk

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Beat butter and brown sugar in stand mixer or hand mixer till light and fluffy.

Add eggs one at a time and mix till well combined and fluffier.

Add all dry ingredients and mix 10 second.

Add milk and mix till just combined.

Pour into cupcake liners and bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown and when pressed lightly, spring back.

Raspberry Swirl Cream Cheese Frosting 

8 ounces cream cheese

1 stick butter

6 ounces frozen raspberries

4-6 cups powdered sugar

Instructions:

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, cook raspberries with 2 tablespoons water. Cook until mixture has reduced and is a syrupy consistency. Strain through a mesh sieve. Cool.

In stand mixer or with hand mixer, beat cream cheese and butter till light and fluffy about 1 to 2 minutes.

Add powdered sugar until desired consistency.

Drizzle raspberry syrup into frosting and then give the frosting 1 to two mixes just to lightly combine the syrup with the frosting. Spoon frosting into piping bag and pipe on top of cooled cupcakes.

 

Faux-Oreos with Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Filling

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One thing I miss the most from when I used to live close to my sisters and my mom was the ability to always have a partner for a shopping outing or a lunch date. I knew I could ask them on the spot and I’d always have a partner in crime. I haven’t lived near my family for a while and I craved that familial contact.

Friendship has always been a hard thing for me. Growing up with depression and anxiety and the tendency to isolate, it was often difficult to keep and maintain friendships outside of my family. I moved to Santa Barbara almost three years ago not knowing anyone (except for Brian ;)) I made a few friends in my grad school program but it took me two years to establish a friendship that reminds me of how I feel with my family. I didn’t end up meaning to write a post about my friend Laura but this is what it has turned into. We live less than 400 meters away from each other. I feel comfortable texting her at the drop of a hat to come over for lunch or a baking expedition. She is one of the only people my dog Panza truly loves besides me and Brian (and my mom). I’m so thankful for you Laura.

Laura made these cookies (I helped a little). So one thing about Laura is that she loves, like is obsessed with Smitten Kitchen. She might be your biggest fan Deb Perelman. Laura had the idea to substitute cream cheese for the margarine or shortening in the original recipe and add vanilla bean. I have a surplus of vanilla beans sitting on my kitchen windowsill but at this moment, no actual vanilla extract. As Laura pointed out, the vanilla bean is reminiscent of the Oreo cookie crumbs that stick to the white filling after rusting around in the package on the way home from the grocery store.

Chocolate Sandwich Cookiesadapted from Smitten Kitchen

1/2 cup cocoa

1 1/4 cup flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup sugar

1 stick butter

1 egg

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Beat sugar and butter in stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add egg and keep beating.

Add all dry ingredients and mix till just combined.

Roll balls of dough and place on cookie sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes depending on size of cookie.

Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Filling – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

1 stick butter

4 ounces cream cheese

4 cups powdered sugar

seeds from 1 vanilla bean

Beat all ingredients together with hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment.