Archive for February, 2013

February Favorites

Thursday, February 28th, 2013

Hi everyone! February really flew by. Here are a few of my favorite things from this past month!


The Chronicles of Narnia. I’m sure I’ve talked about these books several times on this blog. I love these stories so much, and I’ve been slowly working my way through the series for the past year or so. This particular edition of the series was put out in the order that follows the chronological story, rather than in the order they were written and originally printed. It was interesting to read this way, although The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe will always feel like the actual first book to me.

I think my favorite is The Silver Chair, even though it’s a little darker than the rest.


Cookie butter, AND Dark Chocolate Cookie Spread bars from Trader Joe’s!! I love cookie butter so much. I know not everybody enjoys it, but I could eat it everyday. I like it stirred into oatmeal, or along with sliced apples. I would eat it with a spoon straight from the jar if that was socially acceptable. These chocolate bars, filled with cookie spread, melt in your mouth and are totally scrumptious.


I discovered two drugstore makeup items that I really liked. (I should preface this by saying that I am not a makeup expert by any means – these products just worked really well for me.)

I’d heard some good things about both of these items, and they didn’t disappoint. Maybelline’s The Rocket Volum’ Express mascara is dramatic (which I like). Just a warning though, you will probably need makeup remover for this one.

I don’t like to wear foundation every day, but when I do I will always be reaching for Revlon’s Nearly Naked Foundation! It has a very natural feel and look.


Lavender! This ingredient could probably be the theme of my recipes this past month. I just love it – I love how versatile it is, and the unique twist it can add to more classic recipes.


Settlers of Catan. I am sooooo addicted to this game! Unfortunately…I am terrible at it. Like, really bad. My mind just doesn’t naturally make strategies and decisions the way you need to in order to be successful at this game. But the more I lose, the more I’m determined to figure out a way to be victorious.

Does anyone have any Catan tips?? Any strategies that have worked well for you?

That’s all for February! I hope you had a great month!

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Lavender Hot Chocolate

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013


Ok…I know. I should probably calm down with the lavender and the hot chocolate. I believe this is my third post about each of them. But these are two of my favorite things, and once I had the thought of combining them this morning, there was no turning back.

Also, I’m beginning to hear more birdsong in the morning these days, and spring is just around the corner. I thought it would be fun to post about one last comforting beverage before the winter ends.

And speaking of comforting, this hot chocolate really meets that criteria. The aroma of lavender is well known to have soothing and calming effects. When it is combined with chocolate and warmth, it becomes the perfect beverage to have at the end of a long day, or on a relaxing weekend afternoon.


I used semisweet chocolate chips, but if you prefer a smoother texture or different chocolate flavor you can substitute ingredients from any hot chocolate recipe. I also used jumbo marshmallows and toasted them over the gas stovetop, but this is up to you as well!


I used a tablespoon of lavender, which was a little strong. Feel free to decrease or increase based on how much you like the flavor – 1-2 teaspoons is a good range. Enjoy!

By the way, voting is still going on for the Girl Scout cookie contest (it will end Friday). If you want to vote for my lemon lavender bars just follow this link: Thanks so much!

Lavender Hot Chocolate

Adapted from Pioneer Woman and à la mode

Serves 2

1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Splash of vanilla extract
1-2 tsp dried lavender buds
Jumbo marshmallows, if desired

Heat milk, half and half, and dried lavender in small saucepan over medium heat until simmering. Remove from heat and let the lavender steep for about five minutes. Strain the lavender out of the milk, and return to the saucepan. Warm the milk again and add chocolate chips. Stir until melted.

Toast marshmallows using a skewer over the gas flame from your stove (if available).

Pour hot chocolate into cups, garnish with marshmallow, and enjoy!

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My favorite Instagram photos and some fun news!

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Hi everyone! I hope your week is going well.

I have a quick favor to ask – the Lemon Lavender Bars I recently blogged about made it to the final five in the Girl Scout cookie contest! This is exciting because the winner receives $250, and will recreate their recipe on tv, on New Day Northwest. Oh and let us not forget the additional prize of 24 boxes of Girl Scout cookies!

It is now up to a popular vote. They only allow one vote per person, and you can only vote once, so this is a case where every vote really matters! If you feel inclined to vote, just click this link: You don’t have to sign up for anything.

Thank you so much!!

Secondly: I was looking through my Instagram photos today and thought it would be fun to share my favorites from the past year and a half. I promise I’m not doing this just to promote my Instagram, although of course you’re more than welcome to follow me (jessiechene).

Instagram is continuing to build popularity, and I don’t think it’s just the filters. We’ll probably get tired of the vintage look after awhile. What I like about it, and the reason I check it often, is that it’s just fun to see snapshots of what different people are doing throughout their day. I follow a lot of bloggers as well as friends. And Ryan Seacrest.

Anyway, here are about 10 of my favorite Insta-moments from the last year or so:

Woody taking a peaceful nap under the Christmas lights


Last spring I took a vacation to LA with my friend Ally, and ran into Mario Lopez filming Extra at the Grove. The expression of the lady on the left shows exactly how I felt on the inside!


We stopped by San Diego too, and I just fell in love with that city. I know the photo below isn’t the best quality, but it’s one of my favorites…it kind of expresses the laid-back quality of the beach and town there.


Sisters! My sister Maren graduated from grad school and I love this pic of the three of us.


Blue skies smiling at me


Woody had very mixed feelings about the fireworks last July 4th…


October Sky


One of the best desserts I’ve ever had at Hot Cakes Molten Chocolate Cakery in Ballard


My favorite running spot. No filter needed or used.


Those are some of my favorite shots! Thanks for reading!

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Savannah Smiles Lemon Lavender Bars (with lavender whipped cream)

Tuesday, February 12th, 2013


I really do enjoy the occasional cooking competition show, such as Iron Chef or Next Food Network Star. Often in these shows the contestants are given an ingredient and asked to make something new out of it. So when my friend Lindsey told me about this Girl Scout Cookie contest, I thought it would be fun to be challenged in this way and immediately signed up.

For this recipe I decided to use Savannah Smiles. These cookies are lemon flavored and crispy.


I am a huge fan of lavender. For baking, I buy dried lavender buds from Whole Foods, and chop them up.


For these cookies, I took the dried buds and stirred them in with the crust, which also contained crumbs from the Savannah Smiles.


For the filling, I cooked up Alton Brown’s lemon curd. Sugar, egg yolks, butter, lemon….you cannot go wrong with those elements.


I wasn’t sure how or whether the lemon curd would bake, but it totally worked! After removing the bars from the oven, I sprinkled some more crushed Savannah Smiles on top. The crunch from the topping really balances out the rich smoothness from the lemon curd.

After this came the wild card element: lavender whipped cream.

To make the whipped cream, I steeped some more lavender buds in the cream, then chilled it. Make sure your cream is thoroughly chilled before whipping it, or it won’t whip properly.

I also added a few drops of food color to accentuate the lavender theme, but you could skip this if you prefer. I was so excited when the whipped cream worked! It really tied the whole dessert together. (Note: the cream needs to steep for one hour and chill for at least two, so just remember to plan ahead!)


I was so happy with how this recipe turned out, and had a lot of fun making it! Thanks to the Girl Scouts of Western Washington for putting on the contest. Girl Scout cookies are sold from March 1-17. If you’re wondering where you can buy cookies in your area, there is a  cookie locator and an app available to help you out. If you try this recipe, please let me know! Good luck!

Lavender Lemon Gooey Bars

Makes about 12 bars

Lemon curd slightly adapted from foodnetwork

Whipped cream adapted from


For the crust:
1 1/2 boxes Savannah Smiles (the full box of cookies should be crushed finely, the 1/2 box crushed into larger crumbs)
1 tablespoon flour
2 1/2 tablespoons butter, melted
1-2 tablespoons dried lavender buds

For the lemon curd:
5 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
4 lemons, zested and juiced
1 stick butter, cut into pats and chilled

For the whipped cream:
1 tablespoon dried lavender buds
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
red and blue food coloring, if desired

Heat the heavy cream and lavender buds in a small saucepan over low heat, and bring to a simmer. Remove from heat and cover. Let cream steep for one hour. Strain cream, and chill for at least 2 hours, or until completely cold.

When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Chop the dried lavender buds into fine, small pieces.

Mix together the fine cookie crumbs (reserving the remaining 1/2 box for later), flour, melted butter, and lavender. Press into the bottom of an 8-inch square baking dish. Bake for 10 minutes.

While crust is baking, fill a medium saucepan with one inch of water. Bring water to a simmer over medium-high heat.

While water is heating, whisk egg yolks and sugar together in a bowl (choose one large enough to fit over the saucepan, without touching the water). Whisk until smooth, about 1 minute.

Add the lemon zest and juice. (Lemon juice should equal about 1/3 cup – if you don’t have enough just add cold water.) Whisk until smooth.

Once the water has begun to simmer, reduce heat to low. Place bowl on top of saucepan, and whisk mixture until it’s thickened, light yellow in color and could coat the back of a spoon. This should take about 8 minutes.

Remove from heat. Add the butter piece by piece, whisking each pat in so that it’s melted before adding the next one.

Pour curd onto crust and bake for another 20-25 minutes, or until curd is set and turning golden brown on the edges.

Remove bars from oven and immediately sprinkle remaining cookie crumbs on top (these should be chopped a little rougher than the first). Press crumbs down slightly if needed. Let bars cool and set.

While bars are cooling, add vanilla and a few drops of food coloring (if desired) to heavy cream, and whip until soft peaks form. Add sugar and whip until peaks are stiff. (Note: Make sure cream is thoroughly chilled, or it won’t whip correctly.)

Serve the lavender whipped cream with bars, and enjoy!

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