#FreshTastyValentines is here!

#FreshTastyValentines is here! A group of 22 talented food bloggers will be posting recipes for an entire week that, we hope, will inspire you to make some healthy Valentine’s Day treats for your loved ones. Here we are…
The Bloggers
(with links to their homepages, in alphabetical order)
From February 1st through February 8th, not only will you find nearly a hundred recipe posts, but you can enter to win our awesome giveaway, courtesy of some amazingly generous donations from sponsoring companies. See rafflecopter below.
The Sponsors
(with links to their homepages, in alphabetical order)


The Giveaway For…
FOURTEEN Different Prizes
(click here for prize descriptions)

begins February 1st and ends February 8th

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thank you to #FreshTastyValentines sponsors for providing the prizes free of charge. These companies also provided the bloggers with samples and product to use for #FreshTastyValentines recipe development without additional compensation. All opinions stated are those of the bloggers.

Round Up: Peace Like a River-Inspired Culinary Creations for #bookclubcookbookCC

This month I invited #bookclubcookbookCC members to join me in reading Peace Like a River and making Mrs. Enger’s Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Frosting. Here’s my invitation post! For more info on this project, please check out this post by our fearless leader, Camilla of Culinary Adventures with Camilla.

Peace Like a River #bookclubcookbookCC

Since cinnamon rolls were the recipe of the month, I have to highlight those submissions first. :) My Cinnabon Copycat Cinnamon Rolls are obviously my fave but we also had some other cinnamon rolls this month that I’d love to try too! :)

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

First up, we have Emily at Life on Food. She made the suggested recipe from the cookbook–Mrs. Enger’s Cinnamon Rolls with Coffee Frosting. Don’t they look so good? I wish I could have one right now! I will definitely have make this recipe one day!

Emily - Cinnamon Rolls

Next, we have a twist on cinnamon rolls from Andrea at Adventures in All Things Food. She made a Cinnabun Coffee Cake! All the flavors of a cinnamon roll, sans the work. Great choice!

Andrea - Cinnabun Coffee Cake

Erin from The Spiffy Cookie chose to combine the two main sweets of the book into one tasty treat! Her Peach Cinnamon Rolls look like a fabulous treat to have for breakfast or dessert. I love how she used jam to get that great peach flavor in the winter! Mmm.

Erin - Peach Cinnamon Rolls

Now that I’ve talked about peaches, I should share the peach pies of the group! Wendy from A Day in the Life on the Farm made a fantastic-looking Spiced Peach Pie! She even used peaches she canned herself. YUM. I wish I knew how to can! Wendy, want to come visit Tennessee this summer?!

Wendy - Spiced Peach Pie

Renee from Tortillas and Honey also made a peach pie. Her Old Fashioned Peach Pie just sounds like a dream! And I love that she used her mom’s recipe, from an old Betty Crocker cookbook. Since the book takes place in the 60s, that is so fitting. Great idea, Renee!

Renee - Peach Pie

Since pancakes were mentioned a few times in the story, Sarah from Things I Make (for Dinner) chose to make Gingerbread Pancakes. They sound so festive and filling! I’m impressed with her creativity–it didn’t even occur to me to make pancakes, even though they’re one of my favorite foods. :)

Sarah - Gingerbread Pancakes

After all that sweet, we need a little savory, right?! Thankfully two of our fabulous blogging crew complied! We have two versions of the potato and fish chowder the Land family enjoys for a birthday dinner. Yay! Camilla from Culinary Adventures with Camilla decided to go the savory route. She drew her inspiration from one of the more mystical [yet sad] scenes in the book, where a pot of potato and fish chowder never seemed to run out. Though I’m not much of a fish person, her King of Soups sounds delicious!

Camilla - King of Soups

Last, but not least is another version of this soup. Ashley from Cheese Curd in Paradise made a Red Potato Chowder with White Fish. Her Minnesota family loved this soup, and usually she would make it with fish her husband caught himself, but this time she was out and used cod instead. Impressive!

Ashley - Red Potato Chowder with White Fish

I wanted to share Ashley’s recipe last so I could also mention that she is the hostess next month, so stay tuned to Cheese Curd in Paradise to see what book/recipe she chooses for us in February! Thanks for following along with #bookclubcookbookCC!

Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls #bookclubcookbookCC

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls… these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! 

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy!  #bookclubcookbookCC

This month, as you may remember, was my month to host #bookclubcookbookCC. I chose to have the group read Peace Like a River by Leif Enger and make cinnamon rolls. Though I haven’t quite finished the book yet, I’m loving it so far. The story is just so powerful and the way the Land family is united yet so divided has been incredibly compelling. I can’t wait to finish the book! No spoilers, please. :)

Peace Like a River #bookclubcookbookCC

For my recipe this month, I thought about making the provided cookbook recipe for the cinnamon rolls [especially because they call for honey in the dough which I found realllly interesting]. But then I changed my mind and made these Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls again instead. I have made them multiple times over the past couple of years for important people in my life when they have come to visit–my sister and brother in law, my college friend, my parents, my Bible study… and okay, okay… for just Ben and I on several occasions. If you come to visit us in Nashville maybe you’ll be lucky enough that I’ll make them for you too! :) And I’m sure you’d love that, because these cinnamon rolls are truly, truly amazing! So I just had to share them with you. I hope you don’t mind, because these are the best cinnamon rolls I have ever made!

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

So, why are they the best? Cinnamon rolls have the reputation for being tough to make from scratch. You have to use yeast, which scares people. They require a lot of time–make the dough and the filling and the frosting, let them rise twice, bake, frost, etc. Blah! And don’t forget the rolling out process! A challenging prospect if there ever was one. While I can’t say that these cinnamon rolls are quick to make or that they are yeast free, this dough is the softest and stablest yeast dough I have ever worked with! I’m not sure why, but it’s a cinch to roll out every. single. time. It’s incredible. Even the time that I royally screwed up the dough by not adding all the ingredients because I was trying to make the dough while making dinner, Facebook messaging a friend, listening to music, AND emptying the dishwasher. Still, easy to roll out. Winner of a recipe in my book!

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

The relative ease of making these cinnamon rolls [and yes, I just said ease of making cinnamon rolls. If you can roll out dough without tearing your hair out, cinnamon rolls are easy, imo!] is trumped by how good they taste, and how reminiscent of Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls these really are. It’s not the dough or the filling or the frosting… but all three in one that makes these treats so special. I haven’t had a Cinnabon in years, though I am tempted nearly every time I visit a mall that has one.

Tender, soft, and sweet cinnamon rolls... these basically taste like the famous mall food court treat of my childhood, but they are homemade and actually, pretty easy! #bookclubcookbookCC

Cinnabons were an integral part of my childhood. My grandpa, who passed away in September, always used to take me to the mall to split a Cinnabon with him when I was growing up. We lived near my grandparents for the first eight years of my life, and he often took care of me while my mom was in grad school and my dad was at work. Even though I haven’t had a Cinnabon with him in many years, almost every time I saw him, and even sometimes on the phone, he would mention this. He loved to reminisce about the activities we did together–everything from Cinnabon trips to feeding the ducks to making up stories together. I know I will always associate cinnamon rolls, and Cinnabon cinnamon rolls to be precise, with my grandpa. Though these past five months of pregnancy have been incredibly happy, they’ve also been filled with a touch of sadness knowing that I never got to tell my grandpa that he was going to be a great grandpa again. The last time I saw him, I was pregnant but didn’t know it yet, and I found out about the baby about a week after the funeral. Someday, a couple years from now, when I make these cinnamon rolls for [or with] our baby boy, I will tell him about his great grandpa and what a wonderful man he was. Even though these aren’t true Cinnabon cinnamon rolls, I think he would approve. <3

two years ago: Champorado [Filipino Chocolate Rice Pudding]

four years ago: Cranberry Feta Pinwheels
five years ago: Baked Rigatoni with Bechamel Sauce

Copycat Cinnabon Cinnamon Rolls

  • Servings: 12-15 rolls
  • Time: 5 hours/overnight
  • Print

slightly adapted from Culinary Couture


for dough

  • 3/4 cup water – microwaved for about 15-20 seconds, should feel warm like bathwater, about 105-110 degrees F
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar, divided
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 cup buttermilk [1/4 cup milk + a couple drops of lemon juice/vinegar stirred and left to sit for 5 minutes works great]
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 4 1/2 to 5 cups all-purpose flour

for filling

  • 2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened

for frosting

  • 2 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar


In the bowl of a stand mixer, stir together warm water, yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Let rest for 5-10 minutes until yeast starts to bubble. When frothy, add salt, buttermilk, egg, oil, and remaining sugar. Whisk to combine. With a wooden spoon, stir in 2 cups of the flour. Then using a dough hook, add flour in 1/2 cup increments, mixing on low speed until dough begins pulling away from the side of the bowl. When a total of 4 1/2 cups flour have been added, increase speed to medium and knead for 5 minutes. If you need to add an additional 1/2 cup flour, do so during this kneading process. I usually add the extra flour if the dough seems too sticky.

Grease a bowl with cooking spray [you can use the same bowl if you are coordinated enough to grease while the dough is in there/hold it to the side], then allow dough to rise in a warm location, covered with a dish towel, until doubled in size. This should take 1-2 hours.

When dough is almost ready, prepare filling. Stir together brown sugar, cinnamon, cornstarch, and vanilla in a small bowl and set aside. Also, grease a 9×13 inch baking pan and set aside.

When dough is ready, flour your clean counter top/work surface. Punch down the dough and roll into a large rectangle, about 20×30 inches. Spread butter over dough, leaving a 1 inch margin on all edges. Top with filling mixture. Roll into a tight log, rolling from the long side closest to you. When you are almost to the other end, bring the far long side up and over so the seam is on top. Gently press the exposed edge to the top of the dough to seal.

Divide the log into three sections, then divide each section into four or five rolls depending on how big you want them. Cut with a sharp knife and gently transfer cinnamon rolls to prepared pan. If you lose the filling along the way, just gather it up and sprinkle over cinnamon rolls. Cover rolls with a dish towel and let rise in a warm location for another 1-2 hours, or cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to bake the next morning [this is what I always do]. For the refrigerator rise, remove from refrigerator and let rest at room temperature for 30 minutes before baking.

When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake for 15-17 minutes for 15 rolls or about 18-22 for 12 rolls. Bake until tops begin to brown, but check in the middle to make sure the dough isn’t raw. If they need additional baking time, cover with foil to prevent excess browning.

While rolls bake, prepare frosting. Using a stand mixer, hand mixer, or a whisk, beat together cream cheese and butter until smooth. Add vanilla and lemon juice, beating until combined. Add powdered sugar gradually, mixing until smooth. In my stand mixer this usually takes about 2-3 minutes. When I make the rolls the night before, I leave the butter and cream cheese on the counter overnight so they are soft in the morning.

When rolls come out of the oven, immediately spread half of the frosting on top. Add additional frosting on individual rolls for serving, or when they have cooled down considerably. Serve warm–they reheat well too!

Book Review: Undaunted Hope

Find out all about Jody Hedlund’s wonderful new novel, Undaunted Hope. It just came out this month and I know you’ll love it!

Undaunted Hope by Jody Hedlund - a #BookReview on thepajamachef.com

A description of the book from the publisher:

Tessa Taylor arrives in 1870s Upper Peninsula, Michigan, planning to serve as a new teacher to the town. Much to her dismay, however, she immediately learns that there was a mistake, that the town had requested a male teacher. Percival Updegraff, superintendent and chief mine clerk, says she can stay through winter since they won’t be able to locate a new teacher before then, and Tessa can’t help but say she is in his debt. Little does she know that Percival will indeed keep track of all that she owes him.

Determined to become indispensable, Tessa throws herself into teaching, and soon the children of the widowed lighthouse keeper have decided she’s the right match for their grieving father. Their uncle and assistant light keeper, Alex Bjorklund, has his own feelings for Tessa. As the two brothers begin competing for her hand, Tessa increasingly feels that someone is tracking her every move, and she may not be able to escape the trap that has been laid for her.

As usual, my five point review:

  • Did you ever read Hearts Made Whole? If so, you’ll remember Tessa. In Undaunted Hope, Tessa is the star, not her older sister. Don’t fret though–these stories, while related, are completely independent. Tessa is phenomenal in this book. She’s so mature and full of faith in God. It’s fun to see the changes in her from one book to the next.
  • My favorite part of Jody Hedlund’s books are her characters. No matter who she is writing about–the main female lead, the main male lead(s), children, the “bad guys,” etc.–everyone… and I mean EVERYONE is well crafted and well developed. In this book, I think Alex and the children are the best characters by far! It’s rare that “adult books” have strong children characters, but this one does. Score!
  • Since I have family who live in Michigan, I’m familiar with the state. It’s fun to learn historical details about places I’ve been to or heard about. It’s also interesting to consider how HARD life was on the Michigan frontier in the 1870s, especially in remote areas accessible only by boat like Eagle Harbor, the setting of this story. This place was cold, isolated, and rough… but people survived and thrived. Incredible! I wouldn’t want to live there, but ya gotta do what ya gotta do.
  • One thing I loved about this story was how it combined adventure and romance and wit into one perfect, fun package. I didn’t think the actual description of the book was quite so accurate… the “trap” wasn’t quite as intense or as mysterious as it may seem, but it was pretty bad. :( Fortunately things turned out okay for Tessa!
  • The main aspect of this story that I didn’t enjoy was the love triangle. It didn’t feel very genuine or real, but it did bring for some extra special romance! :) Overall, this was a great book… a fun read on a lazy winter afternoon. Definitely check it out soon!

What are you reading lately?

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Bethany House Publishers. However, I was not required to write a positive review. The thoughts expressed above are entirely my own. Thanks to Bethany House for the chance to read this great book!

White Bean Sriracha Dip

White Bean Sriracha Dip is the best {slightly} spicy, flavorful snack you’ll make this winter! 

Did you guys survive the snow?!? On Friday in Nashville we got the biggest snowstorm the city’s seen in something like 13 years! We got about 7-8 inches of snow, but parts of the Nashville area got 9-10. So Ben and I have been snowed in since Thursday night…and today is the first day we’ve been able to really get out, except for a few random walks and the afternoon we spent building a snowman! :)

And can I admit that I frankly enjoyed being snowed in? :) I got to read a lot, watch tv/Netflix, bake a “just because” cake, work on the nursery, and just lounge about. I think I would be fineeee being snowed in for awhile longer if I had more groceries. :) #introvertalert But alas, the sun has been shining and temperatures are rising to melt the snow away… so back to reality!

White Bean Sriracha Dip | thepajamachef.com

If there are two recipe categories that I need to improve in my life, they are appetizers and beverages. I’m not sure why those types of recipes are so hard for me exactly… probably because I don’t make them very often. When I need an appetizer, I have a few go-tos… and some are super simple, like cheese and crackers, veggies and dip, or the like. As for beverages, those always seem way too complicated to use a recipe for, you know? I mainly drink things like coffee, tea, milk, juice, and a whole lotta water. So I’m not really the best person to ask about what to drink. Ha! But let’s get to the subject of the day: this awesome appetizer! Yup, if you need a new, interesting appetizer to make this winter, perhaps for a certain football game coming up soon, you will certainly want to check this one out! White Bean Sriracha Dip is just the ticket for a slightly spicy, flavorful, and unique dip.

White Bean Sriracha Dip | thepajamachef.com

It’s perfect with crackers or pita chips or veggies… so no matter what you have on hand, or what you want to serve it with [healthy or not], you’ll be satisfied. :) This dip was somewhat reminiscent of hummus, but with white beans. It’s always fun to try something new! If you don’t like much spice, just use less Sriracha. There’s tons of other flavors in this dip: sesame, curry, soy sauce, cinnamon, cilantro, lemon… and the Sriracha just enhances them. But they’d shine on their own! Regardless of your tolerance of spice, this Asian-inspired dip is divine! Hope you love it as much as we did. :)

one year ago: Cheesy Molasses Chicken with Mushrooms and Homemade Rice a Roni Mix
two years ago: Flourless Peanut-Chocolate Cookies
three years ago: Hawaiian BBQ Pulled Chicken Sandwiches

four years ago: Lime Chicken Rice Bake
five years ago: Crispy Honey Ginger Chicken

White Bean Sriracha Dip

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 10 minutes
  • Print

White Bean Sriracha Dip | thepajamachef.com

from Inquiring Chef


  • 1 – 15 ounce can white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sriracha
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon lemon or lime juice
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • sesame seeds, for garnish
  • crackers or pita chips or veggies for serving


Pulse white beans a few times in a food processor, then add oils, soy sauce, sriracha, curry powder, cinnamon, cilantro, and lemon juice. Add 1/4 cup water and puree until smooth, adding another 1/4 cup water if necessary. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with sesame seeds and serve with crackers or pita chips for serving. Also great with crudites!