All things pumpkin

It’s that time of year. When girls wear boots and scarves and sweaters and drink pumpkin spice lattes. That time after Halloween but before thanksgiving. When leaves crunch under your feet and swirl on the road when you drive by. I love this time of year, but not necessarily the pumpkin spice latte. I’m pretty basic when it comes to coffee. Coffee and half and half. But I do bake a lot with pumpkin. I really like pumpkin baked goods but I hate pumpkin pie. Its a texture thing. If I could get past the texture I’d be all about it. I love pumpkin bread, pumpkin scones, pumpkin cookies, and pumpkin bars. YUM!

I made pumpkin bread last week and I had some leftover pumpkin puree. I put most of it in a squash soup I made but I had a little less than half a cup left. It’s raining and threatening snow. I’m going to a socially distance garage sitting wine date later and wanted to take something so I’m making pumpkin cookies, with all the things.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 C Flour
  • 1 1/2 C Rolled Oats
  • 1 t pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 t ground ginger
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/2 C (or just short) pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1/4 C granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1 C dark chocolate chunks
  • 1/2 C walnuts
  • 1/2 C pecans
  • 1/4 C shredded coconut

Combine all your dry ingredients: flour, oats, spices, baking soda, baking powder, salt and stir with a fork, set aside. Preheat oven to 350. Combine room temp butter and sugars, beat unit smooth. Add in egg and vanilla. Add pumpkin. Then add in dry ingredients slowly, until the dough has just come together, do not over-mix. If you are using a mixer, remove the bowl and use a spatula to mix in the goods. I like a generous cookie, otherwise you need 2. This recipe makes 16-20 pretty good sides cookies. I always stick a few extra chocolate chunks on top.

Bake 14 minutes. Yes 14. Let cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes before you attempt to remove.

Obviously I am having these cookies with wine, but they are also excellent with coffee or tea. Just saying…

Recipe Roundup

I have been working a lot on these…

So that’s why there isn’t much on here. My old book is full. So I am transferring and trying to organize the new one. I honestly thought it would be quicker and easier.

In addition to working on my recipe book I have been trying to narrow down recipes that I have multiple versions of. That makes for a lot of trial and error, which I then do not post in here- don’t want to give you a recipe that doesn’t turn out. I also have been doing a lot of baking as a way to support my mental health and self care. When I do that, I allow myself the freedom of not measuring, or writing things down.

I am currently in the breads and loaves section. The sweets sections of the loaves. I love flavored loaves. They are typically easy with few dishes, ingredients you always have around, and they make an awesome breakfast. I love carbs in the morning.

Here is a little sneak at the list of my loaf recipes I have honed in over the years:

  • Zucchini Bread
  • Chocolate Chocolate Zucchini Bread
  • Lemon Rosemary loaf
  • Banana Bread
  • Citrus and poppyseed
  • Pumpkin Loaf
  • Carrot Cake Loaf

Today I am only sharing two, but eventually I will share them all. This summer I spent a good amount of time going through recipes for things made with shredded zucchini which I had an excess of. Lately I have been into pumpkin, because it’s fall and its a cozy flavor. So I will share the plain old jane old zucchini bread recipe and the pumpkin loaf.

I found that I had 7 zucchini bread recipes. I made four of them and immediately got rid of 2. I adapted from the other 5 and I now have a go to recipe for zucchini bread. It is dangerous. In a really good way.

On that same note I had 4 pumpkin bread recipes. I had it narrowed down to a yummy browned butter loaf with lots of warm flavors like cardamom and nutmeg, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and a crisp cinnamon sugar sprinkle topping. I recently landed on a gem watching the food network with my mother in law. It was the final inspiration I needed for my go to pumpkin loaf. Molly Yeh puts cranberries on top of her pumpkin loaf. GAME CHANGER. Not in, just on top. It makes its look so beautiful and adds this lovely tartness.

Zucchini Bread

  • 1 1/2 C whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/2 C flour ( if you don’t have whole wheat or don’t want whole wheat you can do just all purpose flour, then it is closer to 3 1/2 cups)
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 t cinnamon+ 1 t for topping
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 1 C packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 C granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1/2 plain greek yogurt
  • 1/2 C either oil or melted butter
  • 1/2 C applesauce
  • 4 C shredded zucchini, drained of excess liquid
  • Chopped nuts (optional: occasionally I add 1/2 C walnuts)
  • 3 T turbinado sugar

First step with this loaf is to shred your zucchini. You can do this multiple ways. I typically used my food processor then transfer to a mesh strainer. You do need to strain it but don’t squeeze out the juice, there is a balance. While you are shredding your zucchini turn your oven to 350 and spray 2 loaf pans with cooking spray. Yes, 2. Thisis a double batch, my favorite! Next I mix all my dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Combine your eggs, yogurt, butter or oil, sugars, and vanilla with a whisk until combined. Add your dry ingredients and stir until just combined, then add the shredded zucchini and nuts if you want them. Transfer to the loaf tins, split equally. Now make a cinnamon sugar mixture out of the turbinado sugar and extra teaspoon of cinnamon. Sprinkle on the top of the loaves. You do not want a layer that is too thick or it won’t crackle like it should. Bake about 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Pumpkin Loaf

  • 1/2 C or 1 stick of unsalted butter
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 C packed dark brown sugar
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 1/2C whole wheat flour
  • 1/2 C all purpose flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cardamom
  • 2 t cinnamon + 1/4 t for sugar topping
  • 3/4 C pecans (1/2 C rough chop for top, 1/4 C fine chop for batter)
  • 1/2 C fresh or frozen cranberries
  • 3 T pumpkin seeds (optional: sometime I add 2 T for batter, 1T for top)
  • 2 T turbinado sugar (mix with 1/4 t cinnamon)

Part of what I love about this loaf is the toasty warm flavor. Partially attributed to browned butter and partially to the warm spices like cardamom, nutmeg and cinnamon.

Step 1 with this recipe is to brown your butter. Put the whole stick into a saucepan on medium high, melt the butter down, as it melts you can stir it a few times to get an even layer on the bottom of the pan. Once melted, turn down to medium and leave it alone. DO NOT STIR. Let it brown for up to 5 minutes, typically it bubbles a little, you will see it separate a but be able to smell a nutty smell, and you will start to see small brown flakes in the butter. If you stir you release the heat, if you leave it too long it will burn. You can swirl the pan a little but that is it. Now, burned butter does not taste good in a pumpkin loaf. So make sure you watch it, if you burn it start over. Cool your browned butter for 5 minutes before using.

While your browned butter cools, prepare your loaf pan with cooking spray, preheat oven to 350, and combine your dry ingredients: flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and spices in a small bowl. Mix all your wet ingredients: browned butter, pumpkin puree, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and vanilla. Add your dry ingredients. Add the finely chopped nuts if you want them (optional). Pour into a prepped loaf pan. Start with cranberries first, sprinkle them on top of the loaf then press them into the batter so they are half submerged, then sprinkle pecans and pumpkin seeds if you want them, then lastly the cinnamon sugar mixture. Pat the top of the loaf, make sure that the nuts and sugar have contact with the wet batter. Bake at 350 for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy! These both go great with coffee and cold mornings.

Cupcake Consult

You guyyyyysssss……I did a thing. It’s a thing I always wanted to do. Its a thing I’m pretty proud of.

I made cupcakes for a friend’s wedding, as a gift. I like to make cupcakes for friend’s kiddos birthdays. I make cupcakes for work. Matt loves vanilla cupcakes. This was the big leagues. I have been playing with my own cupcake recipes for quite some time now.

I made… a lot of cupcakes. I made 290 cupcakes. I only took 225 to the wedding. The perfect ones. The ones that turned out exactly how I wanted and planned. The other ones? Those are in my freezer. And the reasons and fact that they exist could be an entire blog in itself. I am a bit of a perfectionist, per say.

I had a plan. I laid it all out. I made a timeline. and it actually worked.

I pretended I was a bakery. I did a tasting and let them choose their cupcakes. I made 3 Costco runs and 4 grocery store runs and 3 amazon orders. I wrote out the recipes (doubled) for cupcakes and frosting. I separated out dry ingredients, both correctly and incorrectly. Take 1, I put my sugars into the dry ingredients. A cake no no. Learning opportunity. Don’t do that. I bought transport boxes and I bought 2 of my local grocery stores completely out of mascarpone cheese. I drove over a mountain pass slowly, like I had a baby on board.

They decided on Strawberries and Cream, Chocolate, and Salted Carmel. I decided on freezer bags, timelines, lists, and friends.

Specifically: I made my signature chocolate cupcake with chocolate mascarpone frosting, my strawberry cupcakes with vanilla white chocolate mascarpone buttercream, and my caramel cupcake with salted caramel cream cheese buttercream.

I knowwww….

Strawberry Cupcakes with Vanilla White Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

Cupcake

  • 3 C Flour
  • 1 1/2 C Sugar
  • 2t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 4 eggs (room temp)
  • 2t vanilla bean paste
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 3/4 C butter
  • 15-20 dices strawberries depending on size

Frosting

  • 8oz mascarpone cheese (room temp)
  • 1 C butter (room temp)
  • 2t vanilla
  • 10 oz melted quality white chocolate (slightly cooled)
  • 3-5 C powdered sugar depending on desired consistency
  • 2 T whipping cream

Topping

  • 2 T sugar
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • 15-20 diced strawberries, depending on size and how much you want on each cupcake

I like to have everything prepped before I start, I think it makes it faster and more efficient. The first thing I suggest is that you dice your strawberries. You could do all of the: cupcake and topping, but make sure you separate them. Or you could just start with cupcake strawberries. I combine my dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) in a small bowl, stir with a fork and set them aside. I typically pour all my wet ingredients into cups, in this recipe your wet ingredient is buttermilk. Please believe the baking gods or Paul Hollywood that your eggs should be room temperature. Start by creaming your butter and sugar. Add in one egg at a time and all the vanilla bean paste. Alternate adding the dry ingredients with the wet. Half the dry, half the buttermilk, repeat. Mix until just combined. Do not over mix. I used a spatula to fold the diced strawberries into the batter. Scoop batter into cupcake liners, fill 3/4 of the way full. DO NOT OVERFILL. Bake 18-22 minutes at 350. Check with toothpick to ensure cupcakes are done. I can get anywhere from 28-32 cupcakes with this recipe.

For the frosting, start with the room temp butter and mascarpone. Beat until combined. Add melted white chocolate and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and whipping cream. I like this frosting to be more dense, but then it is more difficult to pipe but it hold the strawberries better if it is more dense.

When I pipe, I do a small frosting blob (technical term) in the center and then I pipe a 2 layered circle to make a nest for the strawberries. I think these are the most beautiful cupcakes. They are simple but lovely.

Chocolate Cupcake with Chocolate Mascarpone Buttercream

Cupcake

  • 2 C flour
  • 1 C cocoa powder
  • 1 1/2 t baking soda
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 3/4 C sugar
  • 2 eggs (room temp)
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 1 C buttermilk
  • 1/2 C sour cream
  • 2 t coffee
  • 1 t espresso powder
  • 6 T butter (room temp)

Frosting

  • 4 oz mascarpone (room temp)
  • 1/2 C butter (room temp)
  • 8 oz melted quality semisweet chocolate
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 3-5 C powdered sugar depending on desired consistency
  • 2T whipping cream

First brew some coffee, because you can drink coffee while you make these. Also, coffee brings out the chocolate flavor. Don’t overdo it, you literally only need 2 teaspoons. Combine and stir your dry ingredients: flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, salt, espresso powder. Cream your sugars and butter. Add vanilla and eggs one at a time. Add 1/3 of your dry ingredients, then the sour cream, another third of the dry ingredients, half the buttermilk, add the 2 t coffee now, repeat dry then buttermilk. Mix until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. This dough will be thick. Fill cupcake liners 1/2 way full. I get about 24 from this recipe. Bake at 350 18-22 minutes, sometimes longer on these.

For the frosting, start with the room temp butter and mascarpone. Beat until combined. Add cocoa powder, melted chocolate, and vanilla. Add powdered sugar and whipping cream. I like this frosting to be more light and fluffy, almost like a mousse, I tend to be around the 3 1/2 cups. Decorate as you choose. I did a simple sprinkle.

Caramel Cupcake with Salted Caramel Cream Cheese Buttercream

Cupcake

  • 3 C flour
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 1/2 C brown sugar
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3/4 C butter (room temp)
  • 4 eggs (room temp)
  • 2 t vanilla bean paste
  • 3 T salted caramel topping/whatever you have or make your own
  • 1 C milk
  • 1/2 C sour cream

Frosting

  • 8 oz cream cheese
  • 1/2 C butter
  • 2 t vanilla
  • 3 T salted caramel topping
  • 3-5 C powdered sugar depending on desired consistency
  • 2 T whipping cream

Carmel Drizzle

  • 6 T butter
  • 3/4 C brown sugar
  • 6 T heavy cream
  • 1 t salt

Choose whether you are making your own caramel for the cake and frosting or not. It’s okay if you are not. But you should make your own drizzle for the topping because it’s just better. It’s easy and I’ll share my secret. For this cupcake I combine my dry ingredients (flour, baking powder and salt) in a small bowl, stir with a fork and set them aside. I pour all my wet ingredients into their measuring cups, in this recipe your wet ingredients are regular milk and sour cream. Start with your sugars and butter, cream these. Next add the caramel, then eggs one at a time then vanilla bean paste. Next add 1/3 of your dry ingredients, then your sour cream, another third then half you milk, then repeat this step. Mix until just combined. DO NOT OVERMIX. Fill cupcake liners 3/4 way full. Bake 18-22 minutes at 350.

For the frosting, start with the room temp butter and cream cheese. Beat until combined. Add the caramel and vanilla. You will probably need at least 4 cups of powdered sugar for this frosting. I piped this on with a french tip then drizzle with caramel and sprinkle with course salt.

So the caramel drizzle. Its totally not cheating, because caramel can be hard and I have burned a lot of caramel and it is so frustrating. Make the drizzle in a glass microwave safe measuring cup. Melt the butter first. Add the brown sugar and salt. Stir furiously with a fork. Microwave for 30 seconds. Add the cream. Stir like you mean it. Microwave for 30 seconds. Based on consistency and if the brown sugar has melted all the way, you may have do 15 more seconds. Let it cool for a bit before you drizzle or you will melt your frosting.

There you have it. These are my carefully curated recipes for the cupcakes I made most recently. They are tried and true and you hope make them and love them as much as I do. I learned a lot with this process. Some great take aways and some things I won’t forget. It made for some good laughs. I had help from my tribe. I frosted and home and decorated onsite. It was nerve wracking. I had an epic caramel spill on the beautiful pink tablecloth. TG for paper towels, wood constructed cupcake stands and aunts. It went off rather well. I was surprised. I thought it would harder than it was. I just wanted it to be perfect for my dear friend. I know I could do this, like, do this do this- to make monies. But I still want to love it. If it became my job, I don’t know that I would.

The great thing about these cupcakes(or most of my cupcake recipes) is that you bake each recipe at 350. For 18-22 minutes. If you have more batches in it takes longer. On average I would say that the chocolate ones take the longest.

Because of my work and my personal feeling about large crowds, I didn’t stay to celebrate at the wedding. In some ways I think that was a good thing, I would have been watching everyone like some creeper to see what their reactions were to the cupcakes and if they liked them or not. It could get pretty weird. Even though I wasn’t at the wedding, I sure am glad I had the opportunity to use my love language as my gift to them. It was a way I could be there.

A sense of foreboding

I haven’t felt inspired to write much or share much of anything lately. Especially related to food. I have held this in my drafts. I look at it. I edit it. I don’t know what I want to say or how I want to say it. I’m not looking to offend. I have not been able to put my thoughts to words. I have something I want to share before I post about food again. I need to talk about some real things. I posted something months back, and took it down because I received some very negative comments. I wish I had been more brave. I wish I had been more eloquent. The problems of the world are not about me. I know this. But I experience them. It’s difficult to explain what’s been going on in my mind and my heart, but I’d like to try.

I am a chronic over thinker. I have ways of pulling myself out of the pattern. I am also an over feeler. I tend to feel intense emotions related sometimes to things I have no control over. Sometimes its suffocating. It feels like the weight of the world. I just want to cry when I read the news. I just want to scream “how could you?”, literally, how? Lately I have been lost in thought and feeling about the current state of our country. I feel this sense of foreboding. I feel this heaviness, anxiousness, uncertainty. It think it is almost ironic to me, in an incredibly sad way, that we are call the United States, when I feel like we are constantly so divided. Especially right now. I am proud to be an American. I feel quite blessed to be born in this country with the parents I had, the access to first world resources, and the opportunities that I have been given.

I am not interested in talking politics. I do not believe that politics are a part of who we are as individuals. I believe that our values are a vital piece of who we are, what do, how live, and how we interact with the world around us. Our values are what contribute to our partisan view. I was taught at a young age that we are all equal, that we are special, that we are all important. I was taught that we should take care of each other. I was taught that it matters what you do in this life and how treat other people. I was taught that you should do good.

I have felt great sadness, guilt, anger, and fear in 2020. In many ways I feel helpless. I am not asking for pity, I just want to talk about what I am feeling. I wonder if others feel this too. I am a white female. I have been educating myself. For me, that looks like reading, A LOT. I have been checking my privilege. With that comes guilt and questions. The biggest question is age old, “why?”. I have donated to causes, local, national, and global this year. It doesn’t actually make me feel better. I have many things that I believe everyone deserves. I know that is not realistic and is not a reality for many. I have never been discriminated against because of skin color. I have never had that dictate any aspect of my life. I have been discriminated against because of my age and because I am a woman. But that is not the same. I have felt safe, protected. I believe that laws are important and should be enforced to keep people safe. I have never feared institutions that should be designed to protect, serve, and promote peace. I have known individuals in law enforcement, those are people I respect, love, and admire. I could never do that job. I wouldn’t even try. I also think they have a responsibility, just as I do as a nurse. I know that what you do, as a career does not make you better or more valuable. It does not make your life matter more than another.

There is a code of ethics for nurses. If you cannot uphold this code, you shouldn’t be a nurse. The code is specific and straightforward. It says that you will provide care to those in need, free of judgement or personal prejudice. As nurse, you take care of individuals often at their most vulnerable. You are their advocate. It is a huge responsibility. I do not take it lightly. I think this applies across the board with any public service. With the pandemic, healthcare experts and healthcare workers have begged the public to heed the warnings, to mitigate their risk, to do simple things… like wash their hands, social distancing, and wear a face covering in certain situations. These requests are not meant to infringe upon people’s rights. These requests are made as a plea to care about each other and protect each other, especially our most vulnerable populations. We are all just trying to figure out how to deal with our “new normal” and live our lives. This is temporary, but far from over. When I hear people make comments about the pandemic, mask mandates, and people’s rights, I cringe when it gets political. It’s not a political issue. It’s a human issue. It’s a global issue. It’s a free country, thank God for that. We have the right to make our own decisions and believe our own beliefs. People fight and die for that right. I am all for diversity of belief. We do not have to agree. The only problem I have is when individuals justify certain actions and as inherent freedoms. I cannot understand, on a fundamental level, making a choice to condemn and refuse to comply with a recommendation that is put in place to try to protect people.

It all feels heavy and wrong. Can we do ourselves a favor? Can we care about the people around us…in our circles, in our communities, in our towns and cities, in our states, in our country? Can we care enough to stand up and say something, do something, when things are wrong? Can we care enough to try to protect each other? Is it too hard? What I am most afraid of is that we won’t show each other we care on a personal, political, professional and national level until its far too late.

Strawberry Rhubarb everything.

I’m in this place in summer where I am desperately trying to keep all the summer flavors as my access to them slowly starts to slip away. Strawberry rhubarb is one of my absolute favorite flavor combinations: pie, scones, muffins, breakfast loaf, syrup, sauce, jam, kombucha. This summer I have made them all.

My friends Carol, Christina, and Karen graciously shared her rhubarb with me this summer. Christina even gave me a little rhubarb plant to add to my new garden, which I promptly killed. I believe I drowned it. When they keep me in the rhubarb, they know I bake for them. Four cups of rhubarb can go a long way. A week ago I made a strawberry rhubarb galette. This week I made strawberry rhubarb scones, rhubarb sauce, strawberry rhubarb syrup and strawberry rhubarb kombucha.

I’ll tell you about my scones and my booch today.

Strawberry Rhubarb Scones

  • 4 C flour
  • 6 T sugar
  • 4 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 1/2 t cardamom
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 3/4 C butter ( 1.5 sticks)
  • 1 large egg (rom temperature)
  • 1 1/2 C half and half
  • 1 C chopped rhubarb
  • 1 C chipped strawberries

Preheat your over to 425 degrees. Prep your baking pan with parchment paper. Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl, whisk to combine. Prep your half and half in a 2 cup glass measuring bowl, add egg and whisk. Prep your fruit. Your butter should be cold, do not defrost or soften. Chop butter into small squares, sprinkle into try ingredients. Combine using a pastry cutter, use your muscles.

Make a well in the center of the dough. By well, I mean circle like indentation where you can create an eggy half and half pond. Pour the egg mixture into the well. Using a fork, bring the dough together, start with circles from the outside in. DO NOT OVERMIX SCONE DOUGH.

You will be so disappointed because the scones with be super dense rather than light and airy. When the dough has almost come together add the strawberries and rhubarb.

Dump dough out on a floured surface. Separate into two dough blobs. Work the first one, kneed about 5 times then pat into a round inch and a half high circle. Repeat with second dough blob. I cut each circle into 8 pieces so I get 16 scones. Most recipes say cut into 6 and get 12 scones. It really depends on how big you want your scones. And how many scones you want to eat and at what increments. Do you want to say “I only had one scone” or do you want to be able to say “I have had three scones!”, for the price of one large scone… its totally up to you.

Brush the tops of these with 1/2 and 1/2 or an egg wash if it pleases you. Sprinkle with demerara sugar. Bake these precious bebes at 425 for 15-18 minutes.

Enjoy!

Cookies. Covid cookies.

Does anyone have an absolute favorite baked good? Is there one thing you crave more than anything else? One flavor? One texture? One type of sweet treat? Is there something that takes you back, makes you feel like a kid again? Provides you comfort?

You’re lucky if you answered yes.

My problem is that the “one thing”…. is 10 things. All different. Why can’t I make up my mind?

Today I was thinking about chocolate chip cookies. At work today, the nurse managers came around with snacks and drinks to show nurses they are appreciated. It was nice, I haven’t seen a lot of that from leadership where I work in the past. Things have been hectic and constantly changing. It made for positive vibes. It was lovely to be given the option of those packaged tiny cookie bites like Chips Ahoy! or Gramas cookies or cookie flavored protein bar, but for me… I just wanted a big ‘ol chocolate chip cookie, not the packaged kind, the kind right out of the oven. Hot and fresh.

I have 3 go to recipes for chocolate chip cookies. One is the recipe on the inside of the quaker oats container, its actually an oatmeal raisin recipe but its quite easy to switch chocolate chips for raisins. I learned this from my parents. Both my mom and dad made chocolate chip cookies using this recipe when I was a young’en. You see, what you do is instead of putting in raisins, you use chocolate chips- and follow the rest of the recipe. You can also get wild and crazy and add nuts and shredded coconut if you want to. My parents always did. I feel like it’s my “healthy cookie” recipe. But lets be honest, it still has butter and sugar. The next recipe is the solid gold, but its the most time consuming. Brown butter chocolate chunk cookies. Sigh, brown butter. Is there anything more decadent than roasty toasty nutty brown butter? You could literally add it to anything… I add it to cookies. But, it takes a while. And for those of you who have made brown butter or what the french call “beurre noisette” there is also burned butter… and the timeframe between brown butter and burned butter is very short. I have a puppy and a new stove that seems like it cooks everything SUPER hot. There will be no brown butter for a while, alas, I have no time for that. The last one is the one I am about to share with you…. right now…. that I have adapted over the years from several different recipes starting out as the tollhouse cookie recipe (you know, on the chocolate chip bag) and morphing into its glorious self.

Ingredients

  • 1 c butter
  • 1 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar (NOT THE LIGHT BROWN, believe me.)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 T vanilla (not little t, big T, big vanilla flavor)
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 heaping t baking soda
  • 1/4 t cinnamon
  • 1 heaping 1/2 t salt (extra to sprinkle on top should you desire)
  • an entire package of chocolate chips (about 2 cups)

So here it goes, this is my easy peasy chocolate chip cookie recipe. There is no dietary fiber in these, no extras, just straight up chocolate chip cookie goodness. Preheat your oven first, 375 degrees. You do this first before getting out any ingredients because making the dough literally takes minutes. You can make the dough in the time it takes to preheat an oven. Mind, blown. I love efficency!

Line your cookies sheets and assemble your ingredients. Cream room temp butter and brown sugar with a mixer, I use a paddle attachment. Add in your eggs one at a time on low speed. Next add in vanilla. Ensure these four ingredients are combined then shut off the mixer. Add 3 cups of flour then the baking soda, salt, and cinnamon, turn on the mixer and mix until the dry ingredients are just completely incorporated. Finally add the chocolate chips and mix until just combined.

Don’t over mix this dough. It takes minutes to make the dough, don’t waste your time. This dough should stick to itself, not the bowl. It does not need to be chilled, you can bake it right away. Scoop onto lined cookie sheets (I sprinkle with a tiny pinch of sea salt) and bake at 375 for 10 minutes. I bake one sheet at a time in the center of the oven, no turning or rotating. I cool the cookies for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet before I transfer them to a wire rack. This recipe typically makes between 25-35 cookies depending on how big you scoop your cookies. I like medium sized cookies.

That’s it. That’s all there is to it. It’s so simple. So easy. So perfect.

You should try it.

Eat cookies. Be smart. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Tastes of summer

To me, anything rhubarb and anything lemon taste like summer. I beg rhubarb from my friends since I didn’t have a plant of my own until recently. I got a plant from a friend of mine a week ago. It is small but I think I’ll get rhubarb form it later this year. I buy lemons in bulk, at all times, just more frequently in the summer. Lemon is undoubtably my favorite fruit flavor. My favorite with sweet or savory. I add it to most anything. Its my primary flavor for kombucha(lemon ginger), its my favorite scone flavor (lemon rosemary), it’s my favorite dessert (lemon bars), it’s my favorite cocktail flavor(a ginger, lemon, and lavender delight called the house standard at the local distillery), it’s my favorite summer pasta salad flavor (lemony orzo salad) and it’s basically the only salad dressing flavor I make/eat(mustard lemon vinaigrette). All. The. Lemons.

It’s been raining all day, not summer rain that’s warm and almost muggy. No thunder, no lightning, just sheets of rain and thick grey low hanging clouds. The rain today is cold, the wet chill that gets into your bones. I made tea this afternoon, hot tea, in June. But it’s June in Montana, and anything can happen. My natural go-to’s when it rains are curling up in a blanket and watching the rain fall, reading, and baking. Earlier I made lemon bars and fed my sourdough starter. This past week I made rhubarb custard tart that i’ll talk about later. I’ll make my bread dough this evening. Today, I also made some raspberry rhubarb sauce and some simple syrups because I needed something to day while my lemon bars baked. Tomorrow I’ll bake my bread.

Lemon Bars

I make my lemon bars from Ina’s recipe with a couple tweaks. The barefoot contessa’s are hands down the best and the easiest recipe to follow too.

Ingredients:

Crust

  • 1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1/8 t salt
  • 1/2 t ground vanilla

Filling

  • 6 lemons, zest and juice (makes about 1 cup of juice and I don’t measure the zest, just put it all in, the zestier the better)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • powdered sugar for sprinkling on top

Preheat the oven to 350. Make the crust using a food processor. It makes it so easy. Just combine all the ingredients and pulse. Press into your pan. Bake 15 minutes.

While the crust is baking, zest and juice your lemons. Lemon bars are a velvety lemon curd/custard wrapped in a buttery crust. Eggs and lemons.Combine the lemony goodness with sugar and eggs. Whisk until combined. Slowly add the flour in being careful to mix as you add to avoid lumps. Whisk vigorously. Pour the lemon filling over the hot crust and put back into the over for 35 minutes or until set. Mine always seems to burn a little on the edges before the center is set up.

Cool and sift powdered sugar evenly over the top. I prefer my lemon bars chilled. Cut and serve. They taste like summer.

Simple Syrup

Today I made simple syrup too because I had sugar and lemons out, and I had some time.

Simple syrup reflects its name. Very easy to make, many uses. It’s one part sugar to one part water. Even ratios.

I made two different kinds today: lemon ginger and raspberry rhubarb.

On the stovetop, heat water, bring it to a boil. Add the sugar to dissolve then add whatever you want to flavor the syrup with. Simmer for about 10 minutes then take off the heat and allow to cool. I strain out the little pieces of lemon zest, ginger, rhubarb or raspberry seeds. I use the syrup to flavor my kombucha or for cocktails.

Taste summer, change the world, be smart, stay safe, wash your hands, don’t touch your face.

My Morning Glory Muffins

Have I told you that I love scones, bread, cookies, and muffins. Oh, muffins. Muffins are for mornings. Other baked goods, I can take ’em or leave ’em. These muffins though. Next level. I had them at a coffee shop in Seattle years ago and have been trying to recreate them ever since. I think I’m close? But I’ll never quite know. They are literally my favorite breakfast. If I make them just right they taste like carrot cake, in muffin form. I’m not big on cake but I sure love carrot cake! These are simple, three bowls, but totally worth it. They even have fruits and vegetables in them, so they are a full balanced meal, in my opinion.

So, I recently got this puppy. He is the best boy. I especially love that he likes to get up every morning at 530am. Even weekends. Aren’t I lucky? He wakes up ready for the day. So… I have had the opportunity to do a lot of early morning baking lately. Sigh, lucky me. What is sleeping in? I can’t remember. This is a breakfast of champions. Just add a full pot of coffee.

Winston, the heartthrob, early riser, and canceller of Saturday morning sleep ins.

Ingredients:

  • 2 carrots, grated
  • 1 apple, grated
  • 1/4 c shredded coconut
  • 1/2 c chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 c golden raisins (now I like golden raisins and I do not really care for regular purple raisins in baked goods, but it is up to you and if that’s what you have use them. Alas this batch I had to use regular raisins. I have also subbed in craisens)
  • 2 very ripe brown bananas
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 c coconut oil- melted
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 c orange juice
  • 1 1/2 c flour ( I have played with gluten free options and other flours. Sometimes its works and sometimes it throws off the texture, if you use whole wheat flour use slightly less)
  • 3/4 c brown sugar
  • zest of one orange ( you can use dried orange peel but my preference is always fresh zest)
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 t baking soda
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/4 t ground ginger
  • 1/4 t nutmeg
  • 1/4 t cardamom (do not omit this!!!! it gives it an extra warm lovely flavor)

Turn your oven on to 375 degrees and spray or grease your muffin tins. I typically get 16 muffins from this recipe. Grate your carrots and apple. If you are feeling lazy use your food processor. Then combine your grated carrot, apple, chopped walnuts, coconut, and raisins in one bowl. In another bowl mash your bananas, add your egg, vanilla, brown sugar, melted coconut oil, and orange zest + juice. In your third bowl (your largest bowl) combine all your dry ingredients and stir with a fork. Stir in your carrotty, apply, walnutty, coconutty, raisiny mixture into your dry ingredients until everything is coated. Fold your wet ingredients in and mix until just combined. Don’t over mix. The dough will be sticky. Divide equally between muffin cups. I have some silicone muffin cups that I sometimes like to use too. Heap them to the top but don’t fill above the top of the muffin tin or they simply won’t puff up correctly.

Bake the first 10 minutes at 375 degrees, then lower to 350 degrees and bake additional 10 minutes. Unfortunately after this you do tend to have to go minute to minute until a toothpick comes out clean. If overdone these tend to get gummy. They will have a lovely soft texture when the toothpick comes out clean. 23 minutes is typically my magic number but I live in a dry place, at 4,000 ft, and I have a mixed gas and electric oven.

Let the muffins cool for a few minutes before removing them from the tin. Enjoy! Munch on these and you’ll be ready to play fetch on repeat…for hours.

Eat breakfast, change the world, be smart, stay safe, wash your hands, don’t touch your face.

I’m getting bossy, aren’t I?

All things new

I haven’t written in a while. A lot of things have been going on these last 2 months. A lot of new things. I can’t believe I skipped 2 months. Facepalm. I said I was going to blog once a week. At first, after missing one Saturday, I beat myself up. I tend to be a bit hard on myself if we are being honest. But then COVID 19, we sold our house, we bought a new house, we moved in and we tackled a long list of projects, and we got another furry friend. I mean, just a couple of major life changes all at once? Go big or go home. I didn’t bake much initially and I got in a holding pattern with my starter and my scoby. I was just feeding them, limping them along. I kinda felt like that was what I was doing too… raise your hand… anyone else? Feeding, watching, waiting. No yoga, no socializing. Lots of hiking, lots of reading, lot of puppy snuggling. Some cooking, lots of ordering out and trying to support local businesses.

COVID 19 has changed a lot of things for me. As nurse Im an “essential” employee, but what does that even mean? I know a lot of people whose jobs were not deemed “essential”. I know that hurt some people, financially and mentally. There are so many people who are essential for me to even be able to do my job. Food service, public service, first responders, waste management, housekeeping, laundry, maintenance, central supply, clerical and secretarial staff, physicians, pharmacy… Everyone is essential, maybe its just that not everyone plays an essential role in fighting a new and aggressive virus strain. Perspective I guess. I still go to work everyday. I wear a mask. I take care of my patients. I wait for the next directive. Its always changing. Its the new normal. PS I hate that phrase.

I live in a place where COVID hasn’t hit hard. I hear about how other larger metropolitan areas are coping. My older brother lives in New York. I think about him, call him, lecture him, try to tell him what I think he should do. My parents and younger brother live in Seattle. I think about them, I call them, lecture them, try to tell them what I think they should do. I worry. I wait. I wonder. I wonder what its like and thank my lucky stars that I live where I do. We are reopening… slowly. We have reached phase 2. Its interesting. There are so many contradictory moving parts and pieces of “reopening”.

We sold our house in a roundabout way. You know when things are just meant to be they seem to fall into place. I told you about the farm in another post. It was a lovely place, but it didn’t work out. It wasn’t right. This winter we were contacted a few times about interest on our house after we took it off the market. Initially it was frustrating. We weren’t looking, we had resolved to wait until late spring early summer. But then a couple asked to come look one weekend and we finally said yes (but I didn’t clean the shower ;), just the toilet). They loved it and sent us an offer before we even got back home. It was a whirlwind. They were kind enough to offer us a long closing period so we could look for a place. It sortof fell in our laps. Our fabulous realtor knew someone who was preparing to sell in the area I was most interested in. Its even by some of our friends house! We looked at a couple places but them we came home. The minute I walked into the house I knew. It was ours. Our new home. It had everything we wanted and more. Funny how things workout. Right after we went under contract one of my husbands old friends from home asked if we were interested in a lab puppy from his dog’s litter. We were getting a house with a big enough yard to have two dogs, why not. So we got a puppy. He is 12 weeks now, his name is Winston, he has grey-blue-green eyes, he is a handsome devil, and also a very good boy.

We tackled projects, mostly outside: fencing, putting in a garden and raised beds, redoing the chicken coop (we are getting chickens!), bringing a neglected flower garden and yard back to life. (Oh also moving in… with a puppy…. not recommended).

Another new thing is my kitchen. My oven. My warming drawer. I have a bigger kitchen. I have counters. I don’t have to bake in a pantry. I have an electric/gas oven. I have a warning/proving drawer. My mixer lives on my counter. I started baking few weeks ago. So far I have made whole wheat bread, sourdough, gluten free sourdough, banana bread, key lime pie, brownies, granola, lemon bars, rhubarb custard pie bars, and morning muffins.

I took the rhubarb bars to work today. Have I told you about my intense love of rhubarb and everything that could be made with rhubarb? I love rhubarb. I am going to get a rhubarb plant. For now, I rely on my friends and the farmers market. Two people asked me for the recipe. I guess that means they turned out okay? Im still getting used to my oven. The first thing I baked, I burned. Of course I had a meltdown, because that’s what I do. Its a hot oven? Shoulder shrug? I will get used to it. When I wrote out the recipe for the bars at work and wrote it out again this evening they were different. I need to get back to writing this stuff down I tell ya. Otherwise I cant remember and I can’t recreate it. I’ll do better. That means more recipes on here. Recipe to follow.

Rhubarb Custard Pie Bars (origins from my mom’s pie recipe, adapted to feed lots of hungry nurses… you see mathematically you get more pieces out of a 9×14 pan than a 9 inch pie plate)

Ingredients: Crust

  • 2 C Flour
  • 1 c butter, room temp
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar
  • 1 t vanilla

Pulse in a food processor. This dough will be crumbly, but you should be able to easily press it into a pan. You know, you could also buy some sugar cookie dough and skip the making step and press it into a pan, if you want, I have done that before in a pinch. If time is on your side you will get a better crust making it yourself. Go ahead and grease a 9×14 pan. Turn the oven on to 350 degrees. Press shortbread/cookie dough into the pan, be sure to go up the sides. Puncture with a fork, sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Remove to cool, turn oven down to 325 degrees.

Make the filling while the crust bakes.

Ingredients: filling

  • 4 C diced Rhubarb
  • 4 large eggs
  • 3/4 C flour
  • 1 1/2 C sugar
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 t nutmeg
  • 1 t vanilla
  • 1/2 t salt

Dice rhubarb into small pieces. Set aside. Combine all other ingredients and stir well to combine. You can get fancy and use a whisk, I use a good old fashioned fork. This will create a thick liquid. You are looking for the consistency thick enough to coat the spoon and not run completely off but still drip off the spoon. Fold in the rhubarb and pour over the hot crust when it is done baking. Back into the oven, bake at 325 for 1 hour. Depending on your oven you may need to bake it longer. It should be just set, but might still have a wobble. If you tilt the pan a little you should not see liquid run to the side but you may see the filling move a little or settle. Cool on a wire rack and then chill. Best to chill several hours before eating.

You should make this new thing. You try new things. Try not to eat it all at once. Be kind, be smart, stay safe, wash you hands, don’t touch your face.

cookbook collector

I didn’t bake this morning because Matt and I are packing. We are moving. I’m excited and heartsick at the same time. I’m leaving my little pantry behind. Moving on to bigger and better square footage. This morning I started packing the kitchen. It could take years…just kidding. Not packing everything- yet- just things I don’t use on a regular basis. I didn’t get very far. I poured myself some coffee and started thumbing through my cookbooks. By the way, I counted them today, I have 34. I will go through them and see which ones I can part with. Some were gifts, some were inherited, some are Matt’s, 34 seems like too many though…

I find as I am going through them that many recipes are tagged with sticky notes, favorites or ones I want to make but haven’t yet. It is inspiring, it makes me want to cook and bake all the things. The only problem is that in our current situation, we are doing minimal grocery runs and I don’t have all of the ingredients for these recipes. We have the basics but we have cut back so that we don’t have to move a lot of food too. We are buying the essentials which to Matt are hot pockets, spicy nuts, and lunch meat and to me are apples and spinach… That is a different issue. Always send your husband to the store with a list. Lesson learned, time and time again.

A couple of my favorite cook book authors are Ina Gartan, Ree Drummond, Teighan Gerard, and of course Betty Crocker. Most of my favorite cookbooks have food stained and weathered pages, stains from ingredients for that recipe. They are well loved. Going through my cookbooks reminded me a few things:

1.) I love what food is capable of. I think that is why I love to cook and bake. It brings people together.

2.) If I wasn’t a nurse I would be a chef.

3.) Food is a way to be creative.

4.) Food still is and always will be a way that I show people I love them.

5.) I used to use my cookbooks a lot more than I do these days. That is because I have been using my own recipes adapted from these people I admire so much. Or, I have memorized the recipes that are dear to me and I don’t need the paper version because I know them by heart.

For the last few years I have been toying with my own recipes and writing them down in composition notebooks. I have recipes from friends and family too. Going through these cookbooks solidified another thing: I want to have my own cookbook someday. That, my friends is why I am doing this. To force myself to write down those grand slams so that I can recreate them and someday- someone else can too.