Dani Jean


Fresh, Homemade Fig Newtons


Fresh, Homemade Fig Newtons

Summer is in full swing and the heat is on! Not many varieties of fruit trees produce ripe fruit in the dead heat of summer, especially during the 115°+ heatwave we get in the southwest each year.  Enter the fig tree.  It’s been around since the dawn of man.

The fig is a smallish tree that grows in more of a bush like way, with branches twisting, arching and growing downward. This gem of a tree produces hundreds of plump, sweet fruit each year, but not until the sun warms the earth enough to cook an egg on the asphalt. The fruit is enhanced by the late summer monsoons which imparts even more juicy sweetness.

In years past we’ve eaten the fruit from our Blackjack Fig, given it away, shared plenty with the hungry birds in the neighborhood, and composted the expired fruit, yet we still have more than we can consume.  This year I was determined to not let any go to waste.  Fresh fig newtons, an  Leftover fig preserves? Yes please!

Image of Fresh Fig Jam  Cooking In A Sauce Pan
Fresh Fig Jam For Homemade Fig Newtons

What makes a yummy fig newton?  Figs, of course. And a hint of lemon, and the gooeyness of the center. Then there is the shortbread cookie that is soft and not overly sweet, with a taste of vanilla. Add a dash of cinnamon and voila tastiness perfected.

Here is my recipe, give it a try and let me know what you did to put your spin on it, be sure to comment below!

Fig Mixture:

  • 15-20 Fresh Figs (I had a mix of small and medium size figs), chopped fine
  • 1/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • Lemon Zest from 1 Medium Organic Lemon
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp Vanilla


  • 1 Cup Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1 1/2 Cups All Purpose Flour
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp Cream of Tartar
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbs Butter
  • 3/4 Cup Maple Syrup
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 4 tsp Vanilla
  • 1 Tbs Lemon Zest

Remove butter and eggs from fridge to bring to room temperature.

Trim stems off figs. Chop figs into fine, small pieces. in medium saucepan add first four ingredients and bring to boil over medium-low heat, stir occasionally. Reduce heat and simmer just under an hour, stirring frequently.  Once mixture is thick, similar to jam, remove from heat. Once cool, add vanilla and mix. Note: if your figs weren’t very juicy you may need to add up to 1/4 cup of water while simmering.

Preheat oven to 350°. While simmering fig mixture, in a medium-size bowl whisk together the dry ingredients for shortbread.

In a large bowl, beat together softened butter, maple syrup, then add eggs and mix on medium-high for 2 minutes.  Add vanilla and lemon zest and mix well.

Gradually add flour mixture to large bowl of wet ingredients, mixing on low speed until well combined.

Take a large piece of parchment paper, spray it with cooking spray or wipe with olive oil.  Fold in half, oil sides together.  Grab about 1/4 of dough mixture and pat into a flat square-ish shape.  Place between oiled parchment. Cover bowl of dough and place in fridge. Roll dough in parchment, attempting to keep square shape, until dough is approximately 1/4” thick. Place in freezer for 5 minutes. Tip: Roll the dough/parchment on a cutting board, then pick up the board and stick the whole thing in the freezer.

Remove rolled dough from freezer, carefully peel back top layer of parchment, use a knife to cut dough in half. Spread fig jam on one half.  Carefully use knife to separate dough from parchment, place one half of dough on top of fig covered other half of dough.  Pinch edges together to seal shut.  You can also use dough from fridge to help seal up any cracks.  Slide cookies on to baking sheet.  Place baking sheet in oven.

Bake for about 25 minutes.  Remove from oven when shortbread is puffed up and just turning golden brown. Note: I baked in a large convection oven, on my back patio in 115° ambient temperature, so baking times may need to be adjusted.

Want fresh fig newtons year round?  If you have an overabundance of fruit, can it!

Giving fresh figs away is always a fun experiment.  Most people have never eaten a fresh fig before and aren’t really sure about what you are trying to feed them. Then they try a bite and either love it or hate the texture. Proceed with caution if you choose to give homemade fig newtons away (if you can get out of the house with them before they are all gobbled up) because you may end up with a horde of fig newton crazed people sleeping on your doorstep waiting for your next batch of cookies to be made. You’ve been warned.

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Our First Road Trip with Our 1 Year Old

Summer-Swimming-in-the-Ice-Cold-Lake 1

So over the weekend this happened.  Yup you’re seeing it right.  Is there a better way to spend a HOT Saturday afternoon than in your birthday suit, in the creek, surrounded by loved ones taking photos of you!?! Surely this will be one for the brag bribe book later in life.

It all began when Hunny and I mustered up the courage to take our first road trip with Bug.  We talked to family and found an open weekend.  In the week leading up to the event I made a list of items to pack, trying to keep my minimalist travel style intact as much as possible.  As the work week came to a close, I found myself frantic to finish all the items on my list, and ended up deleting a few just to avoid losing more sleep.

Wednesday night I finished making my first batch of homemade fig newtons and Thursday morning I packed our toiletry bag, reviewed our luggage and packed a few favorite books and toys for the road.  I made sure Kung Fu Panda was downloaded to the iPad.  Once Hunny was home from work we scarfed sandwiches, took out the trash, turned on the dishwasher, loaded the luggage into the truck and we hit the road.

The first two hours went well, I sat in the back seat with Bug and read her stories, we sang songs and played hand motion games.  We stopped about once every hour and a half or so to change diapers and stretch.  No crying or fussing, and since she doesn’t talk much there was no “are we there yet?”.

In the third hour I turned on Kung Fu Panda and she was mesmerized.  We don’t really watch TV in our house so this was a real treat!  About 45 Min later she was done and we pulled over and fed her changed her into her footie pjs, buckled her back in and gave her a blanket. Success is silence.

Another hour down the road I started to get anxious and looked at the map as soon as i had cell service back on my phone.  We’d gone too far…by about 50 miles.  Ugh!  We would’ve been arriving right about then, so you can imagine my state when I made this discovery.  Fortunately I have the most patient husband in the world, and he just laughed and turned the truck around. After TWO MORE HOURS of beating myself up we neared our destination.

We arrived and our Aunt and Uncle were so gracious and welcoming even though we’d kept them up so late. Why doesn’t the entire desert have cell service?  This 2016, not 1995, right?!  Why didn’t i take better notes on driving directions!  Oh well, we’d finally arrived! We quickly unpacked, relaxed for a minute and then all went to bed.

Did I mention that Uncle & Aunt live on a gorgeous plot, in a two-story log cabin they built themselves, in a valley that is surrounded by purple mountains? It doesn’t get any more relaxing that this.  The next morning Bug and I headed straight outside.  It was a B-E-A-U-T-I-F-U-L morning.  We greeted the dogs, ran around on the lawn, laid in the hammock, it was a private park and Bug ate it up with the biggest smile on her face.  Aunt met us outside and showed us the chickens & tortoise, the pond with bullfrogs and her vegetable  garden.

Aunt made a fabulous crustless egg quiche for breakfast and we caught up on the latest happenings. After breakfast Bug wanted back outside with Hunny and Uncle and headed straight for the sprinklers.  This girl loves water!  You could hear her squeals of delight all the way inside the house.

After Bugs’ morning nap we set out on a drive to a nearby canyon complete with a crystal clear spring fed reservoir surrounded by gorgeous grassy mountains.  Who do you think was in that water nearly faster than we could get her clothes off?  You guessed it – Bug’s smile was larger than life.  And boy was that water cold! She played in the water ’til her feet were nearly popsicles. On our way back we stopped and checked out the town bar, and my Uncle and Aunt introduced us to the owner and a few locals.  It was good fun and Bug even got to test drive a saddle and a vintage tractor too.

That evening we took Bug on her first ATV ride and she loved checking out all the new scenery.  We arrived back at the house, barbecued and we watched the sun set from the front porch.  Scrumptious, serene and soooooo relaxing.

We woke the next morning and repeated the previous morning’s play, delicious breakfast and nap. Then we set out on a short drive to a spot where we did a little hiking along the creek.  Again, so beautiful. As soon as we stopped hiking Bug practically dove for the water.  We let her and the dog play in the water awhile before beginning our trek back down to the lower part of the creek.  Bug and I got our feet in and practiced rock tossing skills, then Bug decided to whip off her diaper and play in her birthday suit.  She is a happy kid, but today she looked exceptionally happy.

We piled in the truck and drove over to another creek, and they showed us how the farmers dam up the water and flow it to their farmland nearby.  Then Hunny spotted a Rattlesnake!  He hustled with Bug back to the truck and Uncle took aim and fired two shots.

After all that excitement we headed back to the house, let Bug nap and relax a bit.  We regrouped and went out for dinner at the town’s only restaurant.  We were treated to a three course meal with smoked ribs as the main dish.  I’m from Texas and can honestly say these were the best ribs i’ve ever eaten.  We met the owner and thanked him for the delicious grub.  Back at the house we packed up our belongings, let Bug run more energy out and eventually said our goodbyes. We’d had an awesome stay.

We left about 30 minutes prior to Bug’s normal bedtime and after about an hour of driving she began to fuss.  We pulled over and fed her and changed her into her pajamas, then fastened her into her carseat and tucked in her blanket.  She was out like a light.  We only stopped one other time, about two hours later to change her diaper and she was right back to sleep again.  When we arrived at home we moved her from carseat to crib and all three of us slept in late the next morning. All-in-all it was a great trip.

Are there more road trips in our future? You bet! I can’t wait to plan our next adventure.  In the meantime check out 8 Tips for Road Trips with Toddler in Tow.


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8 Tips for Road Trips with Toddler in Tow


Whether you’re getting brave and want to try a road trip with your little one in tow, or you just want to beat the summer heat by heading somewhere cooler for a few days; below are top tips for keeping your sanity intact while traveling with a toddler.

This is how we roll:

  1. Run them ragged and hydrate well before you leave. This is where summer heat works to your advantage. Bonus points for taking them swimming for a few hours. Drinking lots of water well before setting off on your trip will ensure you aren’t drinking too much on the road and stopping at every gas station bathroom (yuck).
  2. Stay on schedule as much as possible.
    breakfast, √. nap time, √. lunchtime, √. nap time, √.
    Switch things up too much before you leave and coupled with your stress to pack, line up petsitter, mail pickup, etc, and your little one will pick up your energy and morph into the Tasmanian Devil. Funny how that works. Not fun trying to clam that beast…
  3. BRING IT! The entertainment that is. Our bug loves books, so on our road trip I brought six of her favorite books, a movie that she loves which I downloaded to a tablet, and one talking toy that has volume control. Bug doesn’t really get to watch TV, so the movie was a real treat. If your house has TV on often, you may want to limit Movie/TV time during the week leading up to your trip, then give them the special treat of watching a show on the road.
  4. No-Sugar, Easy-to-Eat Snacks. On our short list? Avocado (peel a bit and scoop with a spoon), cheese sticks and water. Add nuts or trail mix to help the driver and co-pilot stay awake on the road. We limit Bug’s water intake while driving (see tip #1).
  5. Plan to leave 30 min to 1 hour prior to bedtime. Yes, night driving. You may be a bit tired when you arrive, but better tired than, exhausted AND frazzled from crying baby for several hours straight.
  6. Be prepared to stop a few more times that you would normally. You wouldn’t want to ride for several hours sitting in your own pee, you can’t really blame baby for not wanting to either.
  7. Tell your little one about the adventure you are embarking on, how you are going to get there, and the fun that awaits them. Toddlers often understand more than we think they can.
  8. Don’t forget a camera and the favorite blanket. For summertime we like the light muslin style blankets.

General Safety Tips for Roadtripping:

  • Get directions, write them down on a piece of paper. Map it on your GPS or phone too, but have the paper in the glovebox for reference in case tech fails or you are out of cell range.
  • Grab a few gallons of water and stick them in the trunk/truck bed, just for emergency.
  • While you’re at it, check the tire pressure of all four tires and your spare. Check to make sure your jack and basic tools for a tire change are still in the trunk or under the truck bed.
  • Pack a few favorite toys for the car ride, but keep it safe with nothing to heavy or hard (think: if you happen to get in a wreck, that object becomes a projectile and could knock out your little one). And equally important, make sure it isn’t a toy that plays a song/sound that is annoying. The last thing you want is to hurl the kid’s toy out the window at 70 MPH and take out someone’s windshield. A favorite movie on a tablet can be a helpful diversion. Make sure you’ve downloaded the movie, in case you aren’t in cell range for streaming video service.
  • And of course, always keep your little one buckled in when you are on the road. If they are screaming and uncomfortable, it may be time to stop somewhere safe and let them out for a few minutes.

Let’s just be honest, most Dads don’t like to have control of the open road usurped by a mama. They’d prefer to press on, driving on two hours of sleep and downing four cans of Monster before they turn over the wheel, and even then only begrudgingly. My Hunny has the uncanny ability to be a backseat driver in his sleep. Yes he sleep talks at the slightest road noise (like running over the road dots when passing a car), telling me he is ready to take over driving duties again, LOL, as if I’d give them up now! And IF you are one of those lucky ladies out there who’s husband doesn’t mind co-piloting the trip, please take advantage of this luxury and road trip the heck out of the summer for all of us.

Passenger (aka Mama) Responsibilities:

  • Set course, verify directions, general navigation duties, convince driver to stop so you can ask for directions when lost.
  • Distribute snacks, drinks, moderate water intake of little ones
    Entertain toddlers by book, song, story, hand motion games, peek-a-boo or other methods, prior to breaking out the big guns (electronic entertainment)
  • Convince driver to pull over when little one really begins to fuss, so you can change diapers and let them stretch
  • Maintain positive mood by all methods possible, including playing music suitable for keeping driver awake and not completely annoyed, yet lulling little ones to sleep. Queue Jack Johnson, Beck, Mazzy Star (dating myself here), Beetles, Willie Nelson
  • Convince driver to pull over so you can breastfeed/feed little one so they fall asleep easier around bedtime
  • Crack open bottle of wine/beer upon arrival at destination, as soon as little one is asleep in travel crib.

Driver (aka Dad) Responsibilities:

  • Stay awake
  • Drive Safe
  • Laugh at Mama while she risks life and limb climbing back and forth from front to back seat to provide entertainment for offspring or retrieve lost sippy cup, toy or book.
  • Sigh loudly when Mama insists on pulling over AGAIN to change little one’s wet diaper.
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