*Part of - Bean’s Baking - series
Attention Bakers: You will get TWO completely different desserts out of this recipe!
I absolutely LOVE making my very own peanut butter balls. They are such a quick and easy no-bake dessert - perfect to go along with a large family gathering. Or a fabulous dish to bring along to a party, a holiday cookie exchange, as well as simply a little treat at home, that may, or may not, last all week long.
And as y’all know what kind of crazy time period we have been living throughout the global pandemic. Plus the 24 hour news cycle endlessly discussing all things coronavirus… being in the kitchen, and making a homemade dessert, can be a thoroughly needed and recommended distraction with the current state of affairs throughout the globe. Honestly, I can’t remember enjoying the entire process of making homemade food as much I did with this dish. These peanut butter bubbles were a sincere and absolute joy to make.
But, there’s one more thing that I enjoyed even more than making them. And that was giving them all away. For the past few years of baking, I’ve tended to follow an informal rule that I imposed upon myself when making homemade desserts. And that is if I am going to bake, I am also going to share. So every time I now create a doughy and delicious treat, I make a point of passing along to neighbors, friends, co-workers, and lots of others who I am connected with in some way. For this batch of delicious treats, I brought them to work with me.
I made the treats at home on Holy Thursday, and they came to work with me on Good Friday. They were my Easter Goodies to share with everyone. And I think they went over well… At the end of my shift I went to grab my Tupperware to take home with me and every last Bubble was gone. Sooo happy indeed.
The highest compliment any baker can receive is a completely empty serving platter.
I also brought along to work the painting I’ve attached below, as a gift to a coworker. A few days prior she had brought in little Easter goodie bags for every employee, complete with the traditional green grass, candy, and plastic egg. It immediately inspired me to paint this for her in return.
I hope you enjoy making your very own batch of peanut butter bubbles. If you have little ones around the house, get them involved in the process. They can easily become dough rollers, chocolate dippers, or sprinkle spreaders. And in return, they’ll learn to love and appreciate the process of making homemade goodies.
As for me, I don’t have little ones in the house, but my little baker’s assistant diligently managed the entire process for me from the sidelines.
So next time you are looking to turn off the news, and turn up the sweet fun, go ahead and position yourself in the kitchen. Open your pantry and pull out your jar of peanut butter, turn off the news - and turn on a podcast, and get baking. And don’t forget to share! ~
2 sticks of butter - your choice - salted or unsalted.
6 cups of confectioners sugar - powdered sugar.
I full jar of peanut butter - we mostly use Peter Pan Creamy.
1 large bag of Nestle Tollhouse semi-sweet chocolate chips. For me, the chips melt quicker, easier and more thoroughly than full bars of chocolate.
1 tsp canola oil - or a bit more if needed, to help melt the chocolate.
1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
1/4 tsp salt.
Sprinkles - the miniature dot sprinkles work well here since the finished product is pretty small.
1 bag of pretzels - any shape - we used stick pretzels.
Mix the peanut butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt in a large mixing bowl. I mix by hand. The dough will take a while to get the stickier consistency. Add ingredients in slowly.
Add butter - melt in the microwave if needed for roughly 20 seconds.
Place a large sheet of parchment paper onto a large baking tray.
Rolls into balls by hand.
Place peanut butter balls on the covered baking tray.
Keep balls separated.
After all balls are rolled, go ahead and slide the tray into the refrigerator. Cover with another sheet of parchment paper. Cool for roughly an hour or so.
Once dough is cooled, proceed with the final chocolate dipping stage of the process.
-Dipping In Chocolate-
Put 2 cups of chocolate chips in the microwave - for 20 seconds.
Remove and stir.
Add canola oil to the chocolate.
Microwave again for 20 seconds.
Remove and stir.
Potentially microwave again for another 20 seconds - a third time repeating the process. Stir again. Until you get a liquidy, chocolate consistency.
Wait a few minutes for the chocolate to cool ever so slightly.
Start dipping each peanut butter ball into chocolate. Use a fork if necessary. Use a toothpick to slide the chocolate covered ball off the fork and back onto the parchment paper lined tray.
Sprinkle each ball immediately after coating in chocolate so that the sprinkles glue themselves on.
Place the completed Peanut Butter Bubbles back in the refrigerator for about an hour to cool off and solidify.
Share and enjoy!
Chocolate Covered Pretzels:
You will most likely have leftover melted chocolate after you are finished with the above process. While all the ingredients are still out, and all the dishes are already dirty, now’s the time to pull out that bag of pretzels sitting in your pantry. Dip each pretzel into the chocolate - sprinkle if you want - and line up each dipped pretzel on a piece of parchment paper, same process as above.
Cool and enjoy this easy sweet and savory treat!
Share with the world - and enjoy. ~
*Do you have a favorite go-to, quick dessert recipe that you use to bring along and share at parties? I’d love to know. Also, let me know if you make this recipe? Drop me a comment down below:
Plus - Here’s a few of my other dessert recipes to go ahead and check out:
30] Bean’s Sugar Cookie Recipe ~
25] Don’t Google It, Just Do It ~ Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookies
And if you’re a big fan of spending time at home, and cooking homemade meals from scratch in the kitchen - I’ve got some fabulously delicious recipes for at-home dinners, right here:
58] Bean’s Corona Kickin’ Chicken
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
47] Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
43] Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
10] Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
I don’t know about y'all, but I’ve been busy kicking some Corona butt.
I’m still living my life.
With some amendments, yes... You know - those simple things in life. Like being able to grocery shop in peace. That’s out the door.
Or, planning beyond one dinner out. The door’s been closed on that one too.
And, maybe it's the simple act of choosing what brand of soap or even toilet paper to buy… Something we may usually take for granted, or show zero appreciation to on a daily basis. Yes, choice is kinda, sorta, maybe severely limited on our selection of toiletries there too.
But regardless of change - I’m still working.
I’m still exercising.
I’m still staying hydrated.
I’m still washing my hands. Funny thing there - I always did wash my hands.
I still have a daily routine.
I still plan.
I still write.
I still paint.
I still cook.
I still eat.
And I still ramble on and on.
So, yeah… I’m still simply chugging along.
I suppose the only real and big difference here is that I’m gonna take that virus, and give it a swift kick in the you know what, and send it packing. I will NOT be scared at all.
And with all these simple and very basic of changes in life happening right now, I know with a hundred percent certainty that there’s one vitally important thing on the above list that is imperative to human survival. And we all certainly don’t need Google or the news to tell us that it is so. And that is food. Cooking. The act of eating. Amidst all the Corona Chaos - we all still need to eat, my friends.
Yes, Corona Apocalypse or not - we all gotta eat y’all.
So today I’m publishing a fabulous and easy and completely one pan dinner recipe. If you’ll be home busting some Corona behind, do it in style with an easy meal. That is, as long a you have some chicken available at your local grocer. Lord only knows we don’t have access to a lot of toilet paper these days, but your store may, possibly, have chicken. Makes sense, right?
This recipe was inspired by the MyFitnessPal One Pan Chicken recipe, with some modifications to suit our tastes. It’s loaded with flavor. Very healthy. And a simple dinner to whip up after a long day of fighting crime - or viruses.
I hope you enjoy making this dinner as much as I did. And I definitely intend on making it again real soon.
In the interim, I’ll keep living. I’ll keep on keepin’ on. ~
One pound of chicken - we used legs for this meal.
One pound of fresh green beans.
One small carton of cherry tomatoes.
One onion, chopped or sliced.
A few garlic cloves, chopped.
One carton of chicken broth.
One tablespoon or so of your favorite olive oil.
Balsamic Vinegar to taste.
Sea salt to taste.
Freshly ground peppercorn to taste.
Pour olive oil in a large pan.
Add chicken and start simmering.
As chicken cooks add chopped or sliced onion. Continue simmering.
Let chicken continue cooking.
Add chicken broth.
Add cherry tomatoes and seasoning.
Add balsamic vinegar.
Simmer for 15 minutes or so. Stirring occasionally.
Serve in a bowl and enjoy.
Optional: To really kick things up a notch, to really be brave, to really show Co-vid 19 that you are not afraid, serve this fabulous meal with a bottle of Corona Beer on the side. ~~
What’s your favorite one pan dinner recipe? What are you STILL doing during Corona Days? I’d love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
And for more of Bean’s Recipes - check these other delicious meals right here:
10] Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43] Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
47] Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
51] Life Is Full Of Pasta-Bilities ~ Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
Also, I’d recommend checking out my experience with MyFitnessPal and how it helped change my life:
7] My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
You know how life is just a bowl of cherries?
Well, how about how life is just a strainer full of heart pasta?
I’ve been making pasta with my own red sauce for years and years now. 20 years to be exact... And pasta always sounds good to me.
And while I’ve never made such adorable heart-shaped noodles to go along with my sauce until this month, I’ve always put a lot of heart into the recipe and the act of cooking it.
Back during my sophomore year in college, I was able to room and board in the newest dormitory housing style available on campus at that time. Now formally named after a donor to the college, back then the building was simply called “The Townhouses” - and it was, and is, in my opinion, the best dorm on campus of the small liberal arts college I attended back years ago.
So, going from a tiny and basic dorm room during my freshman year, into a suite of rooms connected with a kitchenette inside a shared living room, my second year, I was living the very best life for me at the time. And I loved that dorm as much as I loved my studies there.
The other amazing thing about The Townhouses, was the basement sitting deep underneath it.
The building houses a vast and open traditional basement, set up feeling just like a house. Even complete with a full kitchen downstairs. You know, for all the scratch made meals, Thanksgiving dinners, and home-cooked Sunday brunches that college students make on a regular basis while doing their coin laundry next to the computer lab.
And while that kitchen sat empty and collecting dust much of the year. I was determined to make use of it.
Eager to cook.
And very desperate for a home-cooked meal.
So when I realized one of the benefits of living in The Townhouses was that I was allowed free-reign over that basement kitchen, I knew I wanted to get down those stairs to that windowless basement and make myself right at home.
And, standing there looking at this really fun feature of my dorm, I immediately knew I wanted to do something special.
So, instead of just cooking a simple dinner for one, or two, or for even all my suite-mates, I had this grand and elaborate idea of cooking for the entire cross country team.
If you’re familiar with cross country and track, then you know about the traditional Friday night pasta dinners that go along with it.
Many such events were hosted by our coaches and assistant coaches, or alums, each and every week throughout the long autumn season of NCAA Division III athletics.
Well, I guess I decided I wanted in on this long-standing tradition and fun cooking festivity and celebration. I had a kitchen... I had a kitchen and I was going to use it.
I told everyone... pasta party at The Townhouses.
And word spread fast.
Not via cell phones.
And certainly not even through simple messaging or texting.
Four years before Facebook was invented.
Literally - just word of mouth.
And, knowing that I had just committed myself to host a team pasta party, I had to get supplies…
With little money - no credit card, or even a debit card yet, and a bit of cash, I went shopping.
I remember buying lots of boxes of pasta noodles. And lots of cans and jars of all that tomato-ey goodness.
With no recipe to follow...
I was getting myself ready to make A.LOT. Of sauce.
But before I could start cooking, and become Chef Bean in the kitchen of my dreams, in the windowless basement of a large building, I had to do one more thing.
I probably shouldn’t have told everyone that I was going to be cooking pasta and sauce for them without checking that basement kitchen for supplies… Or even merely for some pots???
Yes, there was a kitchen, but it was only after the informal and casual invite went out that I then discovered there were no pots, pans, mitts, serving utensils. Etc. Something… anything…. essential to the meal preparation - essential to any chef. But all things that a college student on a meal plan would not ever need to be thinking about.
If I needed it to pull off Bean’s Basement Bash with success, it was NOT going to happen at this rate.
I needed to buy a whole lot of stuff.
And I mostly needed a pot...
And so, without access to a car, I was limited to walking distance of the college. And I went shopping.
I was in search of a kitchen supply store.
Naperville, Illinois is part of a small and gorgeous downtown - a very nice, upscale, expensive, and fancy, and wonderful downtown. And while I do very much love downtown Naperville, there’s not much shopping a college student could do there any day of the week.
Knowing I couldn't drive anywhere, I looked up kitchen supply stores closest to me, and found a place called: Williams Sonoma...
Ok? I hope that's really a kitchen store? …..
Never heard of it at the time.
I walked there.
I went inside.
And I immediately knew I was in big trouble.
As my jaw dropped... at the prices….
Of the most beautiful copper pots my eyes had ever seen. I asked if they had anything less expensive? Oblivious, and not knowing anything about the store that I was standing inside.
The price tags sent me away in quite a little hurry. Actually, the price tags practically pushed me out the door and slammed it in my face.
But not before I took one last glance at the shiny, beautiful, and DREAMY copper pots. I stood outside the doors of the shop. Clueless. Shocked. And feeling very, very defeated.
Face to face with breathtaking pots, way over my price range, I said goodbye to Williams Sonoma. I said goodbye to a store that is now one of my favorite stores in any shopping mall it resides within. I may not own much of anything from there, still to this day… but I thoroughly enjoy looking at all the products when out and about. Browsing and dreaming.
And I didn’t know much about copper back then either. I just knew I liked the look of it. It brought back memories of Sunday with my father’s side of the family - the Italian side of my family. Sunday’s meant cooking in big old pots. And copper on the backsplash walls of my Papa and Grandma’s old kitchen - sitting inside their old house in the city of Chicago.
And also to this very day, I have a digital list on my phone, sitting in my notes app, entitled: Bean’s List.
I have lots of lists in my life:
I have Rory Gilmore pro-and-con lists.
I have grocery lists.
Two Week Plan lists.
I have lots of lists.
But my favorite list of all is Bean’s List.
Bean’s List is simply my ANYTHING AND EVERYTHING list. It’s my DREAM list.
It’s random. It’s anything I want to buy. And it’s everything I cannot afford.
It’s goals and wants and desires and dreams.
It’s my fun list.
And on that list - a list that I used to house on physical paper - sits a copper pot from Williams Sonoma.
Yes, I’ve now wanted a real copper pot for 20 years. 20 freaking years… Since the year 2000, during my sophomore year in college. Since Bean’s first Basement Bash held outside the walls of my family home growing up. Since my pasta party for the cross country team. Since that day I was in literal shock, and since the day my jaw sat on the ground as I dragged myself out of Williams Sonoma. Since the day I goodbye to the kitchen store of my dreams.
That’s how long I have wanted my own piece of copper to place inside my very own kitchen.
A beautiful, shiny, new, dreamy, and very large, copper pot. One that was sitting high up on the highest shelf in the expensive and wonderful Williams Sonoma.
Someday I will get that copper pot.
Even if I have absolutely zero space in my small kitchen to store it. I don’t care. I will sit it out on display somewhere. It can be housed on my stove top for all I care. That way I can stare at it. And dream of parties. Dream of cooking. Dream of cooking for other people. Dream of carb-loading for cross country meets. Dream of my grandparents house as a child. A small kitchen, with lots of food, lots of laughs. Italian Papa cooking the red sauce, Irish grandma talking with us kiddos. And copper hanging on the wall of the kitchen backsplash.
So that’s why a Williams Sonoma copper pot has been on Bean’s List for over twenty years now...
And yes, I ended up finding a pot for that party. And, I ended up hosting the Bash, just as planned. And yes, it was a fun night.
It was so fun that I never forgot that night. That Bash. At a place where any night and every night is a good night for a party - college. That night - was a great night.
And today, I don’t remember how well the food turned out? I don’t remember what ingredients I used in my first attempt at red sauce?
I just remember the joy of cooking. But mostly, I remember the joy of cooking for other people. And wanting for as many people as humanly possible to feast from that pot of sauce.
And that’s why red sauce is such an important meal to me, why we make it all the time, why we love it dearly, and why I wanted to share it with you today... Today - during the season of love… and during the month of Valentines… and red… and hearts. A time for simple - and shareable - red sauce.
But regardless of how many people one is cooking for. And regardless of the size of the pot. And regardless of the brand name of the pot that the meal is being cooked within. In the end, maybe cooking doesn’t have to be about any of that.
Maybe it’s about all the heart and soul that is poured, and grounded, and crushed, and chopped, and heated, and sautéed inside of that pot that really matters the very most.
While the meal may not have turned out perfect, the pot may have been old and scratched - a team of people still showed up to dine and to have some fun together. As they all sat inside of The Townhouses. Thinking about the upcoming run, and maybe even discussing the race taking place the following morning. But probably, and mostly, just chatting about that week’s episode of Dawson’s Creek. Or maybe The Princess Bride was being watched yet again.
And maybe while chatting over prime-time television, somebody was thinking of a pot… A pot made of copper, shiny and new; a large beast of a pot - taking up a lot of space inside the small kitchen of a very small apartment. And maybe while contemplating that shiny pot, the chef was dreaming of all the pasta-bilities yet to come. ~
Bean’s Red Sauce Recipe
Do you use any copper pots in your kitchen? I would absolutely love to know. Drop me a comment down below:
Also, y’all can check out these other delicious and comforting recipes from Bean’s Kitchen, here:
10) Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38) The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43) Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe ~
47) Bean’s Bacon Wrapped Water Chestnut Recipe ~ A Super Food For A Super Sunday
And, if you want to find out more about how I lost a whole lotta weight - completely naturally, and while utilizing the above recipes - plus, tips on maintaining weight loss, you can check out some stuff on all that right here:
7) My ‘Before & After’ ~~ How A Single Act Of Kindness, Lime Bubly, And MyFitnessPal Helped Me Lose 77 Pounds In One Year
17) Fall Flavors ~ Six Simple Steps I’m Taking This Fall To Maintain My Massive Weight Loss
21) Cinotti’s ~ And Why Life Is Too Short To Not Eat Donuts
37) New Year/New 007 ~ Here’s 20 Tips That Will Have You Seeing 20/20 In 2020 ~
2/6/2020 2 Comments
If you’ve never had bacon wrapped water chestnuts in your life, I suggest adding them into your life - as soon as humanly possible.
There’s a reason I continually make this delicious dish on special occasions. These terrifically tooth-picked creations are most definitely a quintessential party food… A happy food. A celebratory food. They are such a delicious treat that the dish garners a special occasion to quite naturally go along with it.
So, I tend to make this dish on the Christmas Eve holiday, on a night of casual and easy and most importantly, tasty, appetizers in my home. I also recently decided to make this on Super Bowl Sunday. A day which is Holiday in America - Holiday with a capital H.
And, although I don’t even watch the game…
I know, I know. I am one of those people who don’t even watch. Or should I say, I just don’t pay attention. I only watch the Puppy Bowl - if that. And the National Anthem. But - it’s Super Bowl Sunday in America - and I have to celebrate along with the rest of the country. If I must - I must.
I’m forced into it by tradition, whether I like the game of football or not. I’m just there for the puppies. And the commercials.
With that in mind, I’d highly recommend this dish if you need something to bring to a Super Bowl party, or any fun party really. It’s a great take-along dish. Something you can either prep entirely in advance and bring, hot, to a party that’s close to your home. Or, you can prep all the steps in advance except the final one. And then, once you arrive at your destination, bake the final step at the home you are bringing it to for the party. The chestnuts can then be served fresh and hot at your party location.
Either way, this dish is easy, quick, and a fabulous party food.
And guess what else, I absolutely promise you that your dish will be the highlight of the party. No other dish will bring such praise… The bacon alone will create quite a stir, but add in all the other flavors, and you are the hit of the party - guaranteed.
So prepare for this dish to go fast, whether you want it to or not, I promise.
For more of Bean’s Best Recipes, go ahead and check out these creations below:
10] Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
38] The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
43] Bean’s Bold Beef Stew Recipe
Do you love incorporating bacon into your recipes? Go ahead and step foot in your kitchen and make this dish; then - tell me how you like it? I’m so curious - go ahead and share with me in the comments down below.
I absolutely LOVE making Beef Stew! Especially in the crock pot. In fact, is there any other way to make Beef Stew? I’d love to know - because the crock pot is actually the only way I’ve ever cooked this recipe.
We make this recipe A LOT. It’s VERY simple, and takes hardly any time at all to prepare. Plus, by slow-cooking it, I get to enjoy the wonderful and hearty aroma floating around my entire apartment all throughout the day. By the time the dinner bell rings, I’m much too hungry. If only because my brain has been breathing in beef and potato filled oxygen all day long as I paint in my studio.
Another bonus with this recipe is that it is extremely hearty and healthy for anybody trying to build or maintain a healthier lifestyle.
The beef is loaded with protein - which keeps you fuller longer, and has the added bonus of making your body work harder to digest those proteins - thus, burning more calories in the process of consumption and digestion. And the remaining ingredients are loaded with other nutrients.
I love carbs... and I really love potatoes. So if you are aiming to get healthy and stay healthy, and you are leaning toward that low-carb or no-carb lifestyle - I highly advise against it. It may backfire in the long run, with the individual doing the restricting ending up craving carbs until they ultimately binge on them. It’s best to live WITH the carbs and not restrict the carbs - in my opinion. And add those carbohydrates into your life in a healthier manner. EVERYTHING in moderation does includes potatoes.
So don’t y’all ignore the potato - it might just become your best friend!
Besides, potatoes are one of the healthiest and nutrient dense foods on the entire planet. If you don’t love potatoes, go ahead and learn to love them. And NO - I am not speaking of french fries, even though, yes, I do love them like the rest of the world. But go ahead and add an entire bag of baking potatoes into the stew with zero guilt about eating a carbohydrate. Just don’t fry that potato up before you pop it into the pot.
In our two person, plus one furry angel dog, household - this recipe makes a great dinner, with about two more nights of leftovers. I recommend making it on a Sunday and eating it right away on a Sunday night in - then you have one to two nights of leftovers during the week - depending on how many people you are serving. I really hope you enjoy this recipe; I hope you enjoy cooking it; and I hope you love it as much as my hubby and I both do.
Roughly 3 pounds of baking potatoes - give or take - I usually buy a 5 pound bag and have a few leftover, to be used in other recipes throughout the week.
1 ½ pounds of beef stew meat (beef stew chunks cut into cubes)
1 bag of whole carrots from the fresh produce section
About 3 whole sweet onions
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
Salt as needed - roughly less than a small tsp
Freshly ground pepper as needed - roughly a small tsp
Water (enough water to fill the ingredients about halfway or less in the crock pot)
Heat slow cooker to Low (8-10 hours)
Peel all the potatoes and cube them
Peel the carrots and cut into roughly 1 inch chunks
Peel and chop the onions into chunks or quarters
Pour in Olive Oil to coat the bottom of the crock pot
Add all the beef stew chunks next as the bottom layer
Add carrots next
Add potatoes next
Add onions next as the top layer
Add seasoning on top the onions
Cook in crockpot on low for 8-10 hours
Share and enjoy! ~
For more of Bean’s Bold Recipes, check out these recipes from my kitchen to yours, below:
10) Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili
25) Don’t Google It, Just Do It ~ Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookies ~ *Part of ~ Bean’s Baking Series ~
30) Bean’s Sugar Cookie Recipe ~ *Part of ~ Bean’s Baking Series ~
38) The Year Of The Sweater ~ Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
*I’d love to know if you make my Beef Stew recipe? And, did you enjoy it?! Go ahead and leave me a comment down below:
And if you aren’t yet signed up for my twice-a-week newsletter, go ahead and sign up below, now. As one of Bean’s Sunshine Subscriber’s, you’ll receive two emails per week from me. One every Monday, and one every Friday. I’m here to help you turn your Monday’s into Friday’s, and live life like it’s a Friday, every gosh darn day of the week!
It’s winter y’all. And while it’s still pretty darn warm here in Florida at the moment, I’ve become so acclimated to the intense and fire-breathing dragon which is our summer heat, that right now it might as well be winter in Chicago. Any drop on the thermometer, even a pinch, and I’m absolutely freezing!
No joke. Like, for real.
And, I never enjoyed wearing sweaters. One year, many Christmases ago now, and after I was married, I received all sweaters for Christmas. All sweaters, and nothing more. Everybody who gave me a gift that holiday gave me a sweater. By the end of the evening on Christmas Day, I was literally drowning in sweaters sitting upon my lap.
I didn’t even ask for sweaters.
But sweaters I did get.
And to make matters even worse, my husband received all sweaters as well.
My mother-in-law correctly deemed it... ‘The Year Of The Sweater’ … and she really was absolutely right.
It remains to this day, one of the funniest things she ever told me, and it was all just so very true.
I’m not sure if anyone else on Earth has ever received as many sweaters for gifts as my husband and I both did that holiday a long time ago.
And for years afterward, I could not even look at a sweater without thinking of The Year Of The Sweater. I basically hated and despised sweaters since that infamous day of unwrapping all that extremely itchy wool I was then surrounded by and being suffocated from.
I mean, it could be well below zero outside, and I could be driving in a car with the windows rolled down, and I still would not succumb to the temptation of a nice and beautiful looking sweater that happened to be sitting next to me on the car seat. If it was a sweater, I was NOT wearing it.
Fast forward to today.
Living in Florida.
It’s beautiful. All year round. No joke. It’s perfection. I feel like I’m living in a paradise, or Heaven, or some combination thereof. I'm so used to the perfect weather that when the temperature takes a dip, I wear more layers than I’ve worn in my entire life, combined.
I could very easily be teleported to the Arctic tundra, and Santa Claus would hire me on the spot to work for him in his outdoor garden, simply because he wouldn’t need to buy me the standard uniform that would need to be worn in the elements. I’d already be wearing it. I’m ready for the cold.
So, yes, finally, at long last, the sweater has come back into my life. And it sits there and laughs at me with every breath I take.
It could be 69 degrees out here in Jax Beach, and I’m frozen solid.
And this winter is the worst yet - in terms of clothing. I’m in my third year living in The Sunshine State, and I was so desperate when the temperature took a slight dip that I had to go out and buy a big winter down puffy coat to get through the coldest days and nights.
And now, I’ve resorted to complete and total desperation while at home.
I currently take perfectly clean and dry sweaters, put them into the dryer, simply to get them feeling nice and toasty - steamy ... hot.
I RUN to the dryer the instant it buzzes me, and I wisk open the door of the magical appliance. I grab for the hot sweater, and hurl it around me. And then, what the heck, I might even throw on another layer. Then, finally, I can get back to work in my art studio, and I can actually concentrate. I’m from Illinois - and I’m now in Florida sitting under layers of blankets and sweaters with palm trees and perfect blue skies outside my window - I’m absolutely pathetic.
So naturally, while wearing sweaters, long pants and slippers, what does one eat when it’s a cold and frigid 70 degrees outside?
Soup. Of course. Minestrone Soup.
Today, I’m very happy to share with you my minestrone recipe that I have been making for years and years. It’s probably one of my favorite recipes that my husband and I both make together. It’s reliable, it’s consistent and tastes the same every time, it’s easy, and it’s very healthy.
I would say this recipe is a combination of my mother’s minestrone recipe, the internet’s soup, and our soup - rolling all those ideas into one perfect pot. We’ve tweaked it many times, and the recipe below is the one that is deemed perfection by my taste buds. So, we finally never waiver from this, our very perfect Minestrone Soup.
Also, I’ve done the calculations on MyFitnessPal, and at only 239 calories making 8 servings, it's not even heavy on the calories. And did I mention that it’s very healthy?
When we lived in Illinois, we tended to make this soup more so only in the winter months, as we tended to grill out every chance we’d get throughout the entire summer period.
But it IS winter in Florida, y’all.
So, as I freeze under fleece blankets and heavy sweaters, we desperately needed a hot soup to eat. We proceeded with the task, and dug out our biggest pot on New Year’s Day. Sometimes we make a big pot of chili on New Year’s, but this year, I needed soup. It called to me as much as I needed the warmth of a sweater straight from the dryer.
And I tend to think the best thing about this recipe is the week full of leftovers it will leave you with. (In our two person and one furry creature household, we have the first main dinner, and then about three nights of leftovers, both eating one bowl per night).
And I always recommend making a pot of soup on a Sunday. It’s the best day of the week for soup. On Sunday’s while you tend to your chores around the house, you can enjoy the scent of the long, slow simmer on the stovetop. But better than that, you have leftovers for the work-week ahead of you. So Sunday it is for us. Or New Year’s Day.
So this year, cold as we were, we enjoyed a nice, leisurely New Year’s holiday at home. Our little sous-chef helped us out in the kitchen…. It’s really important and vital to the entire kitchen operation that you hire such a chef. Your soup might not turn out correctly without one on staff.
And as our soup simmered long, and slow, and low atop the stove, we went through the annual routine of packing up and storing away all our holiday decor for the season.
I’m a huge fan of leaving everything up through the new year holiday if we can help it. So barring any trips or scheduling issues that would prevent us, we always take down the tree and pack everything up for the season on New Year’s Day.
We used to be completely dependent on the weather in Chicago as to when all our outdoor decor came down. If given a window of ‘nice’ weather, we had to go outside and take everything in before the world froze up again. Otherwise, we could be so unlucky as to potentially have everything sit out there until March or some other crazy date. So now I absolutely love that living here in the South the weather is not a factor to anything in terms of my household schedule.
I also took every item out of my plastic storage bins, and gave each bin a deep clean. By the time I was done with the entire process, my storage bins were clean enough to slap a pizza on top and eat right off of the plastic if one wanted. Clean AND organized, on New Year’s Day. Such a bonus.
We also purged a few older items, donating them to charity. Out with the old, in with the new. I try not to let clutter pile up until it’s unmanageable.
Overall, we had a very relaxing and productive New Year’s holiday. The soup made the day though. And as we sat down to dinner that holiday evening, watching Blue Bloods Season Eight on DVD, I was sitting under layers of blankets to keep warm during our Florida winter. And as I watched NYPD PC Frank Reagan sit at the head of his dining room table during one of the infamous Reagan family Sunday dinner scenes, surrounded by all of his kids and grandkids, including my favorite television character of all time, Danny Reagan, I couldn’t help but notice that Frank tends to almost always wear the same straw colored, button-down, cable-knit sweater to family dinner each Sunday. ~
Bean’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
For more of Bean’s recipes - click below:
~ Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili ~
*[Part of: Bean’s Baking Series]
Alright… It’s that time of year my dear friends! Time to get your baking on!
We spent this past lovely and very festive weekend baking away in our tiny little and very basic kitchen. It was fabulous! No stores, no shopping, no errands… well, yes, we did run a couple errands. But, in my dreams, we didn’t.
We just baked and frosted. Sugar cookies! How can the holiday season come and go without homemade cookies being brought to life in your oven? It can’t.
Here’s what we did. It’s simple. It just requires a bit of patience. After all, nothing sweet and precious can be rushed into existence. And no mixer needed. Made all by hand. With love…
And, as a bonus for those watching their calories, making the dough by hand and not using a stand mixer burns lots and lots of calories. As the dough slowly thickens, you have to work harder and harder to perfect the dough’s consistency. We just won’t talk about how many calories are in the cookies themselves… I heard Santa doesn’t mind, so we won’t either.
We allowed the full weekend to bake and frost, making no other commitments outside the home. No Deck The Chairs, no Christmas tree, wreath, or holly shopping, and no Nights of Lights. No to anything and everything - besides food and drink. We’ve done this every year since 2017, and this third year has really solidified it as a nice and peaceful little tradition during the holiday season.
We schedule the baking for a few weeks after the season has officially started and all the holiday activities are well underway, but before the actual holiday. It’s become a nice way to decompress, and stop everything for even just a little bit of time, during a very busy time. By stopping, we are focusing on ourselves, on family. On our baby Sheltie, who did an excellent job keeping the floor clean. On moments. And not rushing during those moments.
So we made the dough and baked all the 75 cookies on Saturday. And we spent many hours frosting and sprinkling on Sunday. All of this can definitely be done in one day, though, if you need or want. You will just need to make sure you allow a few hours to let the dough cool in the fridge once mixed though, as I mention in the instructions, or it will throw a fit and be too sticky and messy to work with. Give the dough the nap it needs before waking it up to go play!
So, get to that grocery store.
Buy your ingredients.
Dust off your copy of White Christmas on DVD. Or put some tunes on the iPad.
Note: We found two piping tubes at the local Dollar Tree. They obviously were not very high quality, and when I tried to squeeze the frosting through it ripped fairly quickly. But it did its job for a bit then we moved onto the second tube we had purchased just in case. Next year I’m thinking of getting actual squeeze bottles from Michaels or Hobby Lobby that are sold in their baking aisle - just a few more dollars a piece but probably well worth it for the hassle and mess of the squeeze bag.
Make one bowl each of white (no coloring added) frosting, green frosting, red frosting, and blue frosting by putting lots of powdered sugar in each bowl and slowly adding in a bit of water, and drops of food coloring, at a time.
To make the border frosting you can keep the white frosting a thicker, gel-like consistency - just add liquid very slowly and in tiny bits at a time. Aim for a thicker frosting and stop adding water once you like the consistency, or if it becomes to runny just add more powdered sugar. You can then spoon this frosting into the piping bag and can shape all the borders of your cookies with it. One of the goals of the border is to prevent the frosting from rolling off the edge, which gives the frosted cookie a neat and clean looking appearance. Obviously, mine didn’t meet that goal - I just know I need more practice. I did have the right consistency for the most part. And you can get as creative as you want with the border by adding details, such as eyes onto snowmen, or hats, or clothes, or garland on a tree, stripes on a candy cane, etc.
To make the flood frosting the colors can be just a tad more liquidy by just adding a tiny bit more water to the consistency in the bowl. The colored bowls of frosting will be used to fill in the middle of your bordered cookie tops - to flood all the gaps made with the border.
Make separate bowls of frosting per colors you choose
-Makes approximately 75 cookies (depending on the size of the cookie cutters you use.
Share & Enjoy!
We had sooo much fun doing this activity! Our cookies turned out pretty messy, but it was our first time using piping bags, and I hope to improve on that skill next year.
During this busy and fun and exciting time of year, stop what you’re doing for one weekend. Commit to nothing outside the home. Say no to all events and ticketed functions. Turn on some holiday tunes, or a holiday classic on the tv, light the yule log, and get baking… It’s good for the soul. And remember, looks don’t matter… it’s what’s on the inside that counts. ~
*Part of Bean’s Baking Series*
With the holidays fast approaching, I’m here to broadcast a friendly reminder. It seems everyone may be a whole lot better off if we all stopped to smell the roses, even for a bit, during this festive, yet often hectic, time of year.
And while according to commercial advertisements, the holidays have already arrived, and yes, Thanksgiving is coming up quickly… whether we like it or not, Christmas will be over in the blink of an eye.
Snap. Just like that.
It’s always over too fast.
Don’t let it all go by so quick that you don’t get to enjoy those special, slow moments.
So between now and that blink occurring, I highly recommend baking some cookies. Whatever cookie you want, just do it. Because baking takes time. It forces you into your kitchen. It makes the oven come alive with wondrous scents.
But baking also allows you to slow down for a bit. There’s no rushing allowed in the baking process. You have to mix your batter to the correct consistency. You can’t undertake. The dough must rise. All of this takes time. And patience.
So don’t wait for the perfect day…
Just bake away.
Because sometimes, in life, you just have to stop what you’re doing and bake some cookies.
To me, food, baking, and the holidays go together like a ham sandwich. Or an oreo cookie. One part just doesn't happen without the other.
And I LOVE to bake throughout the month of December especially. I’ve got quite a few types of cookies in mind that I want to bake this year, so I figured I’d start now with the chocolate chip. Yes, even if it’s the simplest of simple baking… the classic and undeniably original chocolate chip cookie. Baking, and the scent it releases into the home, reminds me of Christmas… Probably because that’s the cookie we put out for Santa! Those, and some carrots, of course.
And baking cookies really doesn’t have to be an all day project. Never forget that dough can be made in advance and then frozen for later. Or even mix the dough on a Saturday, put the bowl in the fridge, and bake on the Sunday. By doing your prepping ahead of time, when it comes time to turn on the oven, it’s then the easiest and most enjoyable part of the process. Just turn the oven light on and watch ‘em bake.
I suppose I could say that chocolate chip cookies are a staple in our house.
Well, not really.
But I want them to be.
Can’t I enjoy cookies as often as I thoroughly enjoy eating slices of completely boring 100% whole wheat bread??? I guess not on that one either.
But if cookies were an everyday food, they wouldn't be as special when you do go ahead and make them, would they?
So that’s why it’s always important to treat yourself. Have those special foods. Don’t eliminate them from your life altogether. Go ahead and eat a cookie once in a while.
And you know those sayings that start off something like:
“You know you’re getting old when…” ???
Well, that thought temporarily crossed my mind the other day.
My entire life I could always simply walk down the baking aisle at the grocery store and quickly grab a bag of Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips. It was the perfect bag size too… not too big - not too small. And it corresponded with the cookie recipe perfectly, of course.
Well - everything changed.
And I didn’t get the memo.
Never, did I ever have to look up the recipe for chocolate chip cookies online before. Because in the act of grabbing a bag of chips, the recipe was always printed on the back of the bag. That printed recipe would then direct me on through the rest of the grocery store to grab the sticks of butter, vanilla extract, etc. etc.
So, here I am at the grocery store, in said baking aisle. I grab the bag of original Nestle Tollhouse chocolate chips - not the extra dark, not the mint or other random flavors that have been added to its selection over the years, but the original semi sweet that the classic recipe calls for. And the bag might as well have weighed five hundred pounds.
Let’s just say it was the Costco sized version of chocolate chips. And that’s what was available for me to purchase, no other option. They changed their portion size! Gasp. They messed with the original recipe portion. I could always just slice open the bag in the past and pour the chips into the mixing bowl, no measuring required. But this bag was much, much too big. This meant that I would have to go back and remember how many chocolate chips corresponded to the original recipe and divide it out myself or look it up online. Plus, I had to purchase about four hundred ninety nine extra pounds of chocolate chips that I didn’t need.
Never fear, I thought. I could very easily figure out what the portion size should be... I would just read the recipe on the back of the bag to figure it out, right?
I turn the heaping bag of chips around…
The bag reads something along these lines…
“Visit our website for the cookie recipe...”
We have now reached a point in time when the chocolate chip cookie recipe is found online, not on the back of the bag. Too funny.
I did find it funny, and kind of sad, at the same time. Just for a moment.
So there we stood, both hubby and I - in the baking aisle, on our phones, to pull up Google, find the website, and figure out the ingredients I needed to buy. And actually, I’ve made these cookies so many times in my life that I know the recipe by heart. But I still go through the motions and double check the printed version to make sure that I have everything in my cart. And that printed recipe on the yellow bag of chips was always my reminder. So in one trip to the grocery store… they changed the portion size, and took away the printed recipe. Sad face.
The bag of chips ended up being so big, and so much, that I just decided to wing it, and just poured in a ton of chips into the mix in the bowl. I was done. When we got home, I didn’t want to look up one more thing online in order to make and bake my precious and simple little cookies.
I just wanted to be in the kitchen.
Light a lovely cinnamon spice scented candle.
Turn on a podcast to enjoy.
So we guesstimated on the chips. Those cookies we baked were extra tasty this time around.
In a world now where everything is GOOGLED for an answer to life’s problems, I just wanted to solve this minor little dilemma on my own. Not everything needs to be Googled. Not everything needs to be looked up online in order for the decision-making process in one’s brain to take place. Right?
Sometimes you just need to make a decision on your own. Small or big.
Don’t Google it...
Just Do it...
If it comes between guessing and Googling, go ahead and add some extra chocolate chips into the mixing bowl.
(But for all those bakers out there baking to perfection, I have included the ORIGINAL, CLASSIC, NESTLE TOLLHOUSE CHOCOLATE CHIP COOKIE recipe below for all your baking needs.) Yes, you can read the recipe here, but just know you can’t read it on the bag.
So go ahead and make some cookies. Light a candle and listen to something you love… As you mix, and scoop, and watch the dough rise in the oven.
And next time you are faced with the almighty decision of reaching for your phone and pressing G O O G L E, I encourage and challenge you to S T O P right then and there.
Whatever it is, whether it's the address to a destination you are going to drive to, or the answer to why your arm currently hurts, or what the name of the movie Tom Hanks starred in where his character goes back to college after a twenty year career in the navy? Oh, what’s the name? It’s on the tip of my tongue….?????
Don’t GOOGLE it right away.
CHALLENGE your brain for the answer.
Call up the person on the phone whose house you will be driving to and ask them what their address is? Think about Tom Hanks for a while… Contemplate where he is in the movie… think of the setting. Oh yeah... he has a crush on Julia Roberts in the movie? That’s right! I’m getting close…
Oh yeah again!... Julia Roberts is a college professor in the film.
A young and rising star named Rami Malek is also in the film… sitting in the back of the classroom.
The answer is coming to me….!
Oh yes, it’s from 2011 and takes place after the Great Recession. Before you Google up Tom, or Wikipedia search the list of movies he has been in throughout his long and very successful career, ultimately your brain might remember that the name of the movie I am referring to is Larry Crowne.
And Larry Crowne is WELL WORTH a watch by the way. Without giving away any spoilers, his speech at the end is priceless. And is spoken in such a way that only our dear Tom can deliver.
Yes, I AM in love with him.
But challenge that brain. Just as Tom Hanks’ character did in the movie by going back to school. To change. To grow. To nurture his brain.
The funny thing is Julia Roberts’ character in the film ‘suffers’ through listening to her GPS device while driving the same route from home to work every day. It’s not like she can’t remember the route from her house to the school. But it keeps talking to her and telling her where to turn. She was going crazy. Tom Hanks comes along and helps her turn the device off. It was running on auto-pilot and driving her mad during her commute.
While GPS is quite a perk of modern life, it’s definitely not always necessary.
And nope, not all change is bad. Even if the change is sad for a tiny bit of a moment in time while you are standing in the baking aisle at the Winn Dixie. And think, am I getting old? No, you’re not getting old. The world is just spinning onward a little bit more.
In the movie, Larry Crowne suffers some sadness and heartbreak. But because of those aches, he was also able to change his life most definitely for the better.
I picked up Larry Crowne from the Jacksonville Public Library. I had seen it before, and always remembered it for the speech Larry gives. It was well worth another watch, and if you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it. It’s one of those films that has it all.
Romance. Sadness. Tears.
Action... If you count riding around town on a scooter with a scooter gang - action.
Comedy, and A LOT of laughter.
So next time you’re looking for a film to watch, choose to revisit one from 2011, instead of one from 2019.
Stop and smell the roses once in a while.
Or the radishes.
Order a cup of classic Hot Chocolate. Yes, with the whipped cream on top.
Look up at the stars in the sky. And remember that each one is so very different from the other.
Get up early and watch the sun rise.
Because just as each chocolate chip cookie is unique from the next…
One sun rise
Is never the same
As the other.
Embrace change. Go with it. But challenge it too.
And stop what you’re doing once in a while, bake something delicious, and put some out for Santa. ~
Christine’s Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe (Just slightly amended from the Official Nestle Tollhouse Recipe)
2 ¼ cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 sticks of butter softened
¾ cup sugar
¾ cup densely firmly packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 bag of 12 ounce package (2 cups) semi sweet chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix everything but the chips together slowly into a creamy dough, stir, then by hand or with a spoon as it gets thicker
Add chips last and mix and mix by hand together
Scoop roughly tablespoon drops of dough onto ungreased cookie sheet
Bake roughly 9-11 minutes
Cool on the sheet for about two minutes
Then cool on cooling rack completely
Share & Enjoy! ~~
There’s nothing like a warm and delicious pot of chili to help mark the transition to the fall season. Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili will take you into autumn and boost your enjoyment of this festive and colorful time of year.
Food was such a large part of my family traditions while growing up. Whether we were making by hand homemade Italian rice balls or cookies at Christmas time, German kolaches, PaPa’s pound cake at Easter (always shaped into a lamb, of course), I learned that each food meant a season, and each season was meant to be celebrated. And celebration meant food!
These homemade meals and many more remain a large part of my family traditions today. And as I now find reason to celebrate most anything and everything in life, there is always a food or dish that I can easily match up to help mark any occasion. Whether celebrating a milestone or accomplishment, a season, birthday, or holiday, these events in life go hand-in-hand with appetizing food that’s good for the soul.
And with good food comes... Chili! Plus, to make it even better - Bean’s Soulful Southern Chili is part of my healthy lifestyle. I’m a firm believer that any food, dish or recipe can be made in a healthy and satisfying way. My husband and I cooked this chili recipe many times during the year of my weight loss journey and we continue to cook it today. Protein and fiber were my best friends while losing weight, and they remain my best friends now that I am maintaining weight loss. And this recipe is loaded with both protein and fiber. Check. Check. Hooray!
Why do protein and fiber make me so very happy? I believe both are key ingredients to help me maintain a healthy weight. Both help my stomach feel full - and feel full longer, and both take time and energy to digest. And the feeling of fullness and not overeating to feel that sensation of being full is key; making both protein and fiber crucial components to not overeating, and thus, not gaining weight.
After losing weight I’m very aware that when I’m very hungry now my goal and focus is not to eat more than I should be eating to maintain my weight. If I did eat too much in order to feel that full feeling it can lead to weight gain, even a tiny bit of weight at a time. That seemingly tiny amount of weight gain can add up fast when multiplied meal by meal - real fast; meaning just one meal at a time can lead to weight gain down the road. So, I believe it’s vital to feel satisfied after a meal. Consistently eating a meal and feeling satisfied is important with each meal, every day, and that consistency is key to weight maintenance. And this recipe is well balanced and will help to counteract all those hunger signs. One bowl of this chili for dinner, with a small and sensible dessert, and my stomach is not hungry all evening.
How is Chili a part of my family and food traditions throughout the year? I make this chili recipe guaranteed on three specific dates, plus any other time of year we simply have a taste for it. But these three dates have become a food tradition in my home. I make Chili on the first day of autumn, and I always make chili every year on Halloween, as well as every New Year’s Day. Some of these days are times when we tend to be home… chilling out, reading a book and burning a pumpkin scented candle, or watching a good film. It’s just an absolutely lovely feeling to know that a good and healthy dinner is simmering on the stove top, with not much prep work at all, and helps boost relaxation. So go ahead and make a nice hot pot of chili and sit down with a good book while it simmers.
1.5 LBS lean ground beef
1 sweet onion - chopped
1 large 28 OZ can Cento tomato purée
1 15 OZ can tomato sauce
1 15.5 OZ can dark red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can light red kidney beans
1 15.5 OZ can navy kidney beans
1 tsp McCormick Chili Seasoning
1 tsp Peppercorn from a freshly ground peppercorn grinder
1 tsp olive oil
Pinch of sea salt to taste
*Pour olive oil into large pot.
*Put ground beef in pot and start simmering.
*While ground beef is simmering chop onion.
*Add peppercorn and sea salt while simmering.
*Continue cooking beef low to medium heat and as simmering ground the meat with wooden spoon into smaller chunks - not too fine, just small chunks.
*Pour chopped onion into the simmering beef and continue simmering low to medium.
*When ground beef is browned, add all cans of beans, then tomato purée and tomato sauce.
*Add chili powder seasoning.
*Add about one 15 OZ can of water.
*Put lid on pot and simmer on low about an hour, stirring about every 15 minutes.
**Optional: Serve over pasta shells and/or add Parmesan cheese on top.
Now it’s time to feed your soul! ~~
For more of Beans’s recipes, click below:
Beans’s Minestrone Soup Recipe
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