Peanut Butter Cocoa Cookies with Jam & Life Altering Moments

There are only a handful of things you come across in your life which change how you live everyday. An extraordinary person. Discovering a dream job. Having a baby or in our case, bringing home a puppy for the first time. Maybe a life altering moment which sends you in an unforeseen direction.

Or maybe it was something less dramatic. Something you picked up as a hobby or started learning for any number of reasons, but you found yourself deeply drawn into it. It quietly changes you little by little, embedding itself into your life. You start thinking about it all of the time. In the shower, while driving, standing in line at the grocery store. Your daily culture is now infused with it.

For me there have been a few of the former instantly altering moments; meeting Diane over 16 years ago, us raising our pups together, buying a home together. As far as the less dramatic events, there are only a couple which have fully become a part of me. Cooking and aikido.

Cooking began as a young teenager on our cattle ranch. We always had a freezer full of beef, and since we tended to be a very self sufficient set of individuals in the family,  I started fixing my own meals. It started out teenage boy basic – monster sized burgers. Then I started making sauces, then cooking trout caught in the creek running through our property. It continued to blossom and the joy and curiosity in cooking has never strayed from my soul.

Aikido began much later. A little over eight years ago I stumbled across a dojo one night after watching a movie with Diane. I had been casually looking for something to help stay fit and maybe develop some skills. I had heard of aikido and it seemed like a good fit to my personality, but I didn’t know much. We watched from the window as their class went on, a mix of several races and ages of people all in white uniforms, many with traditional black Japanese hakama. There was a calm yet powerful presence to the class.

I recognized one of the gentlemen with a hakama on. He was one of our regular customers at the restaurant were I managed. I liked him. He was “good people” as we liked to say. Next time he was in I chatted with him about aikido and felt myself being drawn in towards it. It wasn’t long before I had my first intro class. He was too humble at the time to mention it, but I soon discovered he was one of the head instructors at the dojo.

This a video we filmed and produced for dojo.

Over eight years ago. And now it is hard to remember life before aikido. Our Sensei, or head teacher, is one of the kindest most sincere people I know. He  is also able to disable any attacker with core shaking power, like a massive wave instantly and effortlessly sweeping you up in its motion. And even though the dojo has produced several amazing and powerful martial artists, it is also welcoming to nearly all ages and abilities. From the old to the young, the fit to the initially uncoordinated, from the stocky man to the petite woman.

For me, through the dojo, I have found another home and family. I move through crowded rooms differently now, more aware and with greater body control. Life’s difficulties somehow seem less unsettling and are often met with a calmer head. I have become more patient with myself and gradually become more aware of my weaknesses and in doing so, I’m able to lessen them. Aikido has become a great influence in the quality of a person I try to be. And have come to know and trust a great group of people in which we meet with a smile and dude hug.

For the food fixated, I am amazed if you have made it this far through the post. You must be wondering what in the hell does any of this have to do with peanut butter cookies. Where’s the sweets?!

Every year Diane and I try to make the time to have the dojo and their families over to the house. It is always a great afternoon with everyone chatting away, kids playing, Sierra nudging her way into constant affections. Just before 4th of July it was the dojo’s 10th anniversary so we freed up our schedule and put our party hats on.

We smoked up an 11 hour Texas brisket. Grilled sliced pork shoulder to throw into sliders. Made a curried noodle salad and a refreshing cucumber-jicama mint salad. Fried Vietnamese egg rolls. Put out the house-made pickles and kim chi. Froze up a bunch of zero-proof and adult ice pops. Made mini cupcakes using Joy the Baker’s amazing frosting recipes. It was good eating.

One of the dessert favorites was an adaptation of Giada’s Peanut Butter Blackberry Jam Cookies. They have become another house favorite. I’ve added a bit more flour to get the texture how I like them, a touch more salt, a little heavier on the brown sugar, less on the regular, and we’ll play with different jams. For the party I used up the last of my strawberry jam from this spring and it was quite delicious. Marmalades have been a surprisingly great addition as well.

Hope you enjoy the cookie recipe and we’d love for you to share any of your own life altering passions or moment. Thanks for listening!


Peanut Butter Cocoa Cookies with Berry Jam

Yield: 18 2 1/2" Cookies

Total Time: 30 min

Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis.


  • 1 1/3 c (170 g) All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/3 c (29 g) Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • 1/2 t (2 g) Baking Soda
  • 1/4 t (1.5 g) Sea Salt or Kosher Salt
  • 1 stick (1/2 c or 113 g) unsalted Butter, at room temperature
  • 3/4 c (195 g) Creamy Peanut Butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 c (100 g) Sugar
  • 3/4 c (165 g) packed light Brown Sugar
  • 1 lrg Egg
  • 1 t (5 ml) Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 c Blackberry Jam *see note 1


Preheat oven to 375°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

  1. In stand mixer bowl on low speed, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt for at least 30 seconds. Pour onto a sheet of wax paper and set aside.
  2. In stand mixer using a paddle attachment, beat the butter, peanut butter, and sugars together until fluffy (about 2 minutes), scraping down sides of bowl as necessary. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until incorporated.
  3. With the machine on the lowest speed, slowly pour the flour mix into the batter. Mix until incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape bowl sides and bottom.
  4. Roll the dough into balls or use a cookie scoop to form the balls and arrange apart and evenly on sheet pans.
  5. Press a 1/2" divot into each ball. Put jam in a piping bag *see note 2. Pipe jam into each hole.
  6. Bake for 11-14 minutes or until the dough it just set (I'll usually give the nearest one a little push test to feel if it seems too soft or if it feels like it has set up). Cool on a wire rack.

Note 1: Giada originally calls for Blackberry jam which is excellent, but we've found many variations to be equally or even more delicious. Try a nice homemade strawberry jam or some unique jam in your cupboard. Marmalades are a great choice too. If using homemade or boutique jams, make sure the jam isn't too runny.
Note 2: For a quick piping bag, place jam in a quart size ziplock bag and snip one of the bottom corners off of the bag to create your piping hole.

Recipe Source:

Hello! All images & content are copyright protected. Please do not use our images without prior permission and do not re-publish this recipe. Simply link back to this post for the recipe. Thank you.
Recipe Note for Salt: All recipes containing salt are based on kosher or sea salt amounts, not table salt. If using table salt, reduce the amount used to taste.




{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }
  1. James


  2. joey

    Brilliant cookies and an inspiring post! Food, for me, is a passion that was of the less dramatic sort you mention…it slowly took hold of my heart and soul until I found myself thinking and dreaming about it 24/7 🙂

  3. Sarah

    Hi- I’m excited to try these next time I entertain! Quick question – I have unsalted creamy peanut butter – did you use salted in the recipe (I’ll compensate with more salt)

  4. Marian (Sweetopia)

    So many things to say!
    First, amazing looking cookies (I am a major sweet tooth, you know that had to come first! 😉 I need to try them out. Loved reading about Aikido too – how it has permeated you, your life, and loved finding out about your dojo. Thank you again for a beautiful post.

  5. @sweetopia

    Need to try these Peanut Butter Cocoa Jam Cookies by @WhiteOnRice

  6. Diana

    Wow! You’ve managed to combine two of my favorite cookies into one! And thanks for pairing such great writing with your lovely photos…your blog is always a joy to read!

  7. carrian

    Love this post. The cookies look delicious and beautiful. Thank you for helping at EVO. I loved your class and felt inspired to do and be a little better in photography and believing in myself. Thank you so much!

  8. Emily

    PB&J is one of my all-time favorite treats, whether on bread, graham crackers or straight from the spoon. Can’t wait to try this recipe. (And keep the stories coming–they make recipes that much sweeter.)

  9. nancy baggett

    Loved the life-altering moments story–thanks for sharing. I will have to sift through and savor some of mine–they should not be taken for granted. As usual, wonderfully tasty pics–you guys seem very experienced at shooting cookies 🙂 (BTW-page proofs look great!)

    1. White on Rice Couple

      nancy- thank you. and would love to get a sneak peak at the proofs!

  10. Alice C.

    The visual image of 11-hr brisket has left me drooling, even after a delish Indian food lunch. Thanks so much for sharing your love of aikido and finding belonging and creating community through the dojo. Gorgeous photographs as usual!

  11. Roberta

    I love aikido too, though I practised it for a really short time…
    and it was nice to read your personal story, Todd!
    As for the recipe, these cookies look really mouthwatering, I would love to try with wholemeal flour, any suggestion to adapt the recipe in this direction? (should I add some extra wet ingredients to balance the wholemeal flour?)

  12. Javelin Warrior

    On Fridays, I share my favorite food finds in a series called Food Fetish Friday – and I love this post so I’m featuring it as part of today’s roundup (with a link-back and attribution). I hope you have no objections and I’m happy to be following along with your creations…

  13. Meg

    I was drawn to this article via Pinterest – the photography is a winner! I will admit that I didn’t expect such a beautifully written, compellingly personal article. Thank you for sharing. I have also found resonance with martial arts, and cooking. And yes, I often think of both whilst in the shower, or when waiting in line at the supermarket!

  14. Rachel @ Baked by Rachel

    You have such a wonderful talent for story telling. Beautiful photos.

  15. sally cameron

    Terrific post Todd. Reading about your experience I found myself thinking about yoga. Just a few months ago a friend talked me into going. I was hooked. I’ve joined the studio and go 2-3 days a week. Like your martial arts practice, it brings me calm and peace through the intense physical demand (hot yoga). I was the one who always shook my head when anyone mentioned yoga and just didn’t get it. Until I went. We’ll see where I am in a few years. Sounds like you treated the dojo to a wonderful day! You guys are the best. Lovely cookies shots. I’m always studying what you are doing. Hugs to you and D.

  16. Jackie @Syrup and Biscuits

    What a wonderful story and equally wonderful recipe. The photos are always stunning.

  17. Cathy/ShowFoodChef

    Wonderful and inspiring story telling, Todd. I can imagine the love and soulfulness that circled among the laughs at that party. Thank you for sharing the good!

  18. Shut Up & Cook

    For me it was understanding that it’s okay to admit I have a passion, and even more okay to relentlessly pursue that passion even if it doesn’t fit in a neat little box, or follow the “You should, you will, you must” mantra of the East Coast. My food blog is coming alive, and I couldn’t be happier!

  19. Marc @ NoRecipes

    I’ve been looking for a way to stay fit and that video really intrigued me. Then I read on and wanted to join your dojo so I can get invited to that fantastic sounding bbq next year!

  20. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    Oh boy…these look fantastic! Yum!

  21. Kimberly Murray

    I love visiting your site to get a great mix of personal insights, beautiful imagery and, of course, delicious food recipes. And I absolutely love the simple beauty of the Aikido movements you captured in the Dojo video. There have been so many defining moments in my life. One being meeting my now husband 15 years ago as a grad student. We’re so different; me, a bit fiesty…him, more patient and serene. We learn from each other continuously. Another moment is my love of music. I grew up listening to music frequently in my household, and it continues to inspire me. The most recent discovery was my love of photography. It constantly occupies my mind space and pushes me to see the world differently.

  22. Nancy@acommunaltable

    T and D,

    I always love reading your posts – they feed my soul on so many levels! I’ve been blessed to have many life altering events – a husband, children… and this amazing food community!! I think you touched on something very important Todd… each of needs to find those things that” feed our soul”, that help us grow and fulfill our own potential. Thank you for sharing some of what “feeds” you!!

  23. Colette

    Those cookies look life-altering! YUM

  24. LiztheChef

    After over 25 years as a psychotherapist, I found my bliss in blogging about food – who knew?! Now I have a tripod in my kitchen broom closet…

  25. Karen

    I always enjoy your writing, Todd. Thanks for sharing! The cookies look delicious.

  26. Dana

    Thank you for sharing your passion for aikido =)

  27. Tate Mcgee


    You have the very rare talent of beefing up a person’s appetite without even mentioning the word food :).

    You also a gift for storytelling.

    Great job!

  28. JulieD

    So wonderful for you to share with us another one of your passions, Todd. I love it. And that party sounds amazing, with all of that food!!

    One of my passions is the breast cancer cause. Shortly after my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2006, I felt so helpless because she was so far away in California. She almost died while going through chemo, she got so sick. I’m not sure how long after her diagnosis (my memory is a little foggy) but I did an internet search and a local affiliate of a huge breast cancer foundation and emailed them asked how I could volunteer. I volunteered at the 5K race that year and worked in the tent where they celebrate the survivors. I met so many wonderful women and heard so many stories. I met a woman who had her little baby girl in stroller all decked out in pink and she was there in memory of and to celebrate her grandmother. It touched me to hear her grandmother’s story. That event and my experience that year drew me in and I have been volunteering ever since. A couple of years ago, I did a 3-Day 60 mile walk in Tampa for the same organization, life-changing experience. It was so amazing. I had so many amazing connections with people that day, something like that forever changes you.

  29. Helene

    Love to read all of your stories. My life altering moment was when I joined the service, yrs ago. I lived all across Canada, met lot’s of friends, my husband and had three beautiful children. Life without them would not be the same. xo

  30. Maria

    Your posts always leave me feeling better about the world. Thank you! And of course I love the cookies!

  31. Kelley {mountain mama cooks}

    Another beautiful story. I’m still thinking about the 11 hour brisket………
    Is there a better dessert that a simple cookie? I think not. Lovely!!

  32. Diane, A Broad

    Sigh. These look so good, but it’s nearly impossible to find peanut butter in Paris. Perhaps I will need to have visitors smuggle me a jar or two!

    1. Megan

      Diane, I was having the same problem here in Brazil… no real PB! (wtf?!) So I invested in a good mini foodprocessor (great for making pesto, too) and I just make my own PB. It’s so worth it, and it’s so simple (as long as you can find peanuts, that is. I like to use roasted, salted ones); just put the peanuts in and grind ’em up until it’s creamy. I add a bit of olive oil to make it extra creamy for easy spreading.

  33. Pooja

    fantastic cookies, and great inspiration.

  34. Averie @ Averie Cooks

    The cookies look scrumptious….love all the jam in the middle. PB & J — can never go wrong there.

    And thanks for sharing about your Aikido and how it’s effected you and what it means for you.

Leave a Reply