Third Annual Peanut Butter and Julie's Favorite Things
Ah yes. 'Tis true. Although in this case, I'm not referring to the time of the year when family and friends gather. I'm not referring to the time of the year when the kitchen is filled with flaky pies and bottomless trays of cookies. I'm not even referring to that time of year when you can find the movies Elf, A Christmas Story, and Christmas Vacation on cable at any given hour of the day (although that is a very nice perk.)
No boys and girls, I am referring to the time of the year when it is time for the Third Annual Peanut Butter and Julie's Favorite Things list to be posted. Now if you're a PB&J newbie, then you're likely confused. Please refer to my First and Second annual lists before continuing. We'll wait....
.......O.K., now that we're all on the same page (literally), we are ready to continue. Drumroll!!
1. I was going to post this list yesterday, on Black Friday, but I spent the better part of the day preparing the Peanut Butter and Julie site for the launch of my NUMBER ONE item. Just when you think that you've gotten the hang of this web configuration thing, you realize that you're not even close, which is kind of a bummer. But, after several hours of cutting, pasting, and scanning help forums, I was finally able to add a page dedicated to my **New Line** of Julie Anne's Granola to my blog. Please take a moment a check it out. Again, we'll wait.....
So, there you have it, my number one selection for this year's list. True, this selection might be a bit self-serving and biased, but the customers at Whole Foods seem to love my product, and I am very, very proud of the entire line. Up until now, only the Las Vegas locals have been able to purchase my granola, but it is now available through my site, through Amazon.com, or through Etsy (although you'll get the most bang for your buck via this site.) You can also email me directly. If you are a fan of my style of recipes and of my blog, then I think you'll really enjoy my granola. It will make a great holiday housewarming, teacher, or Secret Santa gift, a perfect stocking stuffer, or a healthier addition to a holiday gift basket.
Alright, enough of the self-marketing. Onward with the list!
2. Even when your favorite cook or baker is not in the kitchen, chances are pretty good that he or she would rather be in the kitchen. For those times when they can't be in their favorite room of the house, why not buy them something that reminds them of their culinary happy place? I have been a fan of Philosophy's adorable line of beauty and bath products for many years, especially those which have cooking and baking themes. Their spot-on tempting aromas make it difficult to remember that they are not for consumption! Some of my favorite holiday-themed items include The Cookbook, with flavors like Pumpkin Spice Muffin and Pear Cobbler, The Bake Shoppe, featuring Buttercream body lotion, and Cookie Exchange, with Oatmeal Raisin and Coconut Macaroon shower gels. Getting clean has never been so delicious! Philosophy offers free shipping through tomorrow (11/29) if you enter "holiday" at checkout. *** Jo Malone makes some of my favorite cologne fragrances, incorporating lovely combinations of fruits and spices. Her newest, spicy Vanilla and Anise, and her fruity Pomegranate Noir,are two of my current favorites. They can run bit on the pricey side, but they also last for years.*** A few weeks ago, when I was tweeting with some other twits on Twitter, I came across a tweet from Sun Basil Garden, mentioning some foodie-themed soaps that she makes. Intrigued, I followed the link to her store, and I found the most adorable collection of reasonably priced handmade soaps. I believe that I finally stopped myself after I filled the shopping cart with 8 different kinds, but I just couldn't resist varieties such as Peanut Butter Cookie and Milk, Eggs and Bacon, and Frosted Cupcake. I'm certain that I'll be back for more!
3. No foodie holiday shopping list would be complete without at least a few cookbook recommendations. Though to an outsider it might seem as though we couldn't possible fit another cookbook into our already jam-packed cabinets, believe me, where there's a will, there's a way. I believe that a great philosopher once said "There is no such thing as too many cookbooks." O.K., maybe that's not true, but I'm saying it now, and I'm sure that my fellow foodies would agree. For the past two years, I have recommended my friend Sara Foster's first two cookbooks, so of course this year I am suggesting her third: Sara Foster's Casual Cooking. Oh no! What will I recommend next year? Well, a little southern birdie told me that Sara is working on a fourth book. Whether it will be ready next year or not, I don't know....but one can hope. *** I also became a fan of The Pastry Queen cookbooks this year, all written by the talented and approachable Rebecca Rather of the Rather Sweet Bakery & Cafe in Fredericksburg, Texas. In addition to the original book, she has also written a Christmas with the Pastry Queen edition, and her newest is titled Pastry Queen Parties. After flipping through her enticing collection of recipes, you too will say "long live the queen!"
4. It's no secret that I am cuckoo for cookie cutters. I love to find fun new shapes for that special occasion or for someone with a particular interest. This year I happened to become acquainted with Ann Clark Ltd., a Vermont-based company that has been making reasonably-priced cookie cutters in oodles of shapes since 1989. My person favorites include the High Heel Shoe, Little Black Dress, and the little VW Bug-like car. They also have some fun mommy-and-me or grandma-and-me kits for budding bakers. Ann's daughter, Elizabeth, is a fellow blogger (www.makemorecookies.com) and a Peanut Butter and Julie reader, which is how I found out about their site. She generously offered readers a 10% discount off of Ann Clark products through the holiday season. Just enter code BLGA12 at checkout. Stay tuned for a future blog post featuring some of Ann Clark's cutters.
5. Much like a shoe addict can never have enough room in her closet, a foodie can never have enough room in her kitchen cabinets---and yet we continue to covet whimsical serving platters, bowls, and dishes. At least we food-bloggers can argue that "it's for taking pretty pictures for the blog." That's our story, and we're stickin' to it. Some of my favorite serveware finds have been at Anthropologie, a store that primarily sells clothing but also has a housewares line with a very vintage feel to it. I love these Anthropologie serving bowls with floral patters. *** Who likes to juggle a bowl for their tomato soup and a plate for their grilled cheese sandwich on their way over to the T.V. to watch the big game? Certainly not my husband. The soup and sandwich ceramic tray duo from Uncommon Goods is an inventive solution. Problem solved. *** I've loved enamelware dishes ever since I was a customer at Foster's Market, where they use them for their in-house dining. This Pink Gingham Round Cake Pan from Broadway Panhandler is one of several that would brighten up any kitchen collection.
6. What's a holiday season without chocolate, candy, and more chocolate? The problem with holiday dinners is that they are HUGE, so huge that you rarely see the surface of your plate through all of the food that is piled on top in one large heap. After a feast like that, the last thing that I want to do is add on a square of creme anglaise-topped bread pudding or a wedge of apple pie. That said, I simply cannot ignore my sweet tooth. The ideal solution is a rich and satisfying piece (or two) of hand-crafted chocolates. There are so many great chocolatiers out there, so it was hard to narrow my recommendation down to just one. Moonstruck Chocolates, with their whimsical shapes, would be fun for all ages. Their four piece Holiday Collection or Peppermint Patty are priced low enough to serve as unique stocking stuffers or enviable Secret Santa gifts. *** My mother introduced me to Norman Love, who makes gorgeous (but pricier) shimmering truffles in holiday flavors such as Candycane, Gingerbread, and Hot Toddy. *** MarieBelle Chocolates are definitely the Maserati of the chocolate world, but I had to include them for their detailed design alone. Who knows? Maybe they'll let you work out some sort of payment plan for their 100 piece box . *** Not a chocolate fan? First of all, what's wrong with you? Just kidding. Morning Glory Confections, which I found through Martha Stewart, has the most incredible sounding nut brittles, my favorites being Thai Curry and Peanut and New Mexico Chili and Pumpkin Seed.
7. As much as we all want to avoid the subject, the white elephant in the room must be addressed. I'm sorry, but someone needs to do it, and it might as well be me. The holiday season is no friend to your skinny jeans. I know, I know--I just went on and on about chocolate and candy. How could you, Julie? Sorry, but it was a good set-up for these items on my list. Selfish, I know. A good pair of workout shoes can do wonders for your fitness routine. They can even motivate you to work out (stop laughing.) This year, thanks to my friend Jenny from the blog Picky Palate, I became familiar with the Asics Gel Nimbus running shoes, and I am now a devotee of these cushiony and comfortable kicks. My marathoner husband is now on his third pair. If that's not an endorsement..... *** No time to workout during the holiday rush? Never fear! A few years ago, I purchased a pair of really odd-looking MBT fitness shoes, which have a shape that forces your muscles to work harder when you walk, stand, and do everyday activities. Today, most major shoe companies have come out with a similar product, such as the Reebok Easy Tone. Believe it or not, these shoes do work, and I have actually been sore after a few hours of working in the kitchen. No, they're not exactly Louboutins, but they will make your legs look great when wearing pumps much less expensive than Louboutins.
8. Hello my name is Julie, and I am a specialty foods store shopaholic. I cannot enter a boutique gourmet foods store and "just look." Inevitably, I will emerge with $8 jars of Herbes de Provence mustard, fig jam, and artisanal maple cream. This is why I avoid these sorts of establishments during the holiday season. I'm supposed to be buying for others after all, not for myself. I'm willing to bet that the foodie in your life has a very similar predicament, so why not fill their stocking with a little culinary cheer? Vervacious Balsamic Table Sauces come in unique flavors such as Chocolate or Espresso Balsamic that only an adventurous foodie could love. *** I have been a fan of the Savannah Bee Company for years. Not only is their artisanal southern line of honey products consistently delicious, but their packaging is perfect for gift giving. My personal favorites include the tall flute of Tupelo Honey (bring it in place of a bottle of wine for a hostess gift!) or their Honey Sampler, which includes four different flavors. *** I discovered the NapaStyle store, owned by Food Network chef Michael Chiarello, during a recent trip to Napa. I'm a sucker for specialty salts and spice rubs, so I couldn't resist bringing home a few jars. In retrospect, I should have brought home a case. I have been putting the Chardonnay and Oak Smoked Salt and the Cocoa Spice Rub on anything and everything that makes even remote sense....and even some stuff that makes no sense whatsoever.
9. Ask an professional chef or avid home cook for a list of their top must-have kitchen tools, and a good sharp knife is bound to be somewhere at the top. Not only does this essential item make prep work ten times easier, it makes it safe. If your knife has ever slipped off of an onion an onto your finger (%&#$*!!), then you know what I mean. A freshly sharpened knife will make you feel like you are in one of those classic Ginsu commercials: See how our knife will cut through a tin can AND THEN slice right through a tomato! But wait, there's more.... Although I never recommend the classic tin can experiment, I do recommend investing in a good sharpener. Last year, I received the Chef's Choice Knife Sharpener, which isn't only easy, it's kinda fun too. *** As far as knives, you can't go wrong with a sturdy Shun. Feel like splurging? The Shun Classic Santoku will make you feel like Morimoto himself. At a slashed price, the Shun Classic 7-inch is still a cut above the rest.
10. In my opinion, merchandise from any company that helps needy animals already deserves a second look. In this case, however, it deserves a third (or maybe even a fourth.) A Dog's Life makes the most adorable bags of custom dog treats, on which you can place the mug of your beloved mutt. Flavors such as Peanut Butter and Honey, Double Cheeseburger, Steak Frites, Apple Pie, Quattro Formaggio, and Sweet Potato cater to those finicky foodie pups, and the company's special Rescue Dog Labels celebrate dogs who have been rescued or who are waiting to be rescued. If you're anything like me, the only problem is determining which of the hundreds and hundreds of photos of your dogs to use (of course when it comes to finding a recent photo of myself or Eric, I have none.)
11. One of my other loves, besides cooking, dogs, and my treadmill, is music. I really love all kinds of music, although I never have been able to jump on the Dave Matthews bandwagon. I just don't get it. I'll even confess to liking that new Miley Cyrus song: "Noddin' my head like yeah! Movin' my hips like yeah!" C'mon, you have to admit. It's catchy. Anyhow, food and music can easily go hand in hand. I love to have a great play-list on my Ipod as I shuffle around the kitchen. Music is also essential for pulling off a memorable dinner party. Now, "memorable" could potentially be a bad thing if your selection includes the explicit lyrics Eminem CD, but it could be a good thing if you select one of my current favorites. The Gipsy Kings is always my number one pick, followed closely by the soundtrack from the foodie film Big Night. Michael Buble sings great standards, but if you prefer the original crooners the Rat Pack Live at the Sands CD is perfect for a retro-themed party or for New Year's.