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.

Today is a holiday.

But, it doesn’t feel like a holiday.

Holidays for me are always about family and food. Matt and I have done one holiday alone together- it was good, different, but we chose it. Today we face timed with both our parents at one point or another. It was nice, but it was odd. We watched a sermon via the internet. We would have chosen to be with family today but we want to be responsible and follow the directives from our governor and protect Matt’s parents. Although we are really trying to stay positive, we thought about what we are missing today, being with family and creating memories with our niece and nephew.

Since Matt and I were on our own today we decided to be a little fancy. For breakfast we made donuts and for dinner we made quite the spread with smoked meat, hasselback potatoes, deviled eggs, and a fancy spinach salad. While I am a baker, I didn’t make dessert because I had dark chocolate cadbury mini eggs that I somehow squirreled away form myself last year. They pair quite nicely with wine, by the way.

Anyways let me tell you about the donuts. I know that is what you care about most.

For starters. I don’t like donuts. Not the typical kind anyways. I like the old fashioned cake like sour cream glazed donuts. Like the ones that come in the Franz box. I know.. right? (insert shoulder shrug). My dad used to buy these when I was a kid okay?, don’t put sprinkles on them, don’t even out chocolate on them, gasp. Plain ol’ Jane ol’…

I’m off on a tangent again. I have wanted to make donuts for a while but there are a few things that held me back. 1.) hot oil scares me and I have never really fried anything 2.) I never could find a recipe that I really liked. 3.) Time- I though donuts took a long time but they were surprisingly simple. Now I do have to take them to work… so I don’t eat them all.

Donut Ingredients:
1/2 C sugar
1 t lemon zest
2 T butter
2 egg yolks
1 t vanilla
2 1/4 C Flour
1 t baking powder
1/2 t salt
1/2 t nutmeg
1/2 t cinnamon
1/8 t ground vanilla or vanilla bean
1/2 C sour cream
cinnamon sugar or glaze

1/2 c powdered sugar
2 T milk
1 T maple syrup
1 t vanilla

I always start with all the prep for a recipe. I think it makes it easier. I seperate and measure and prep my work space. So I mix all my dry ingredients first. Flour, baking powder, spices, and salt. Then I put my sugar and lemon zest into my mixer, mix on low and add my butter.

While I cream the butter and sugar I sift my dry ingredients. Once the butter and sugar are creamed I add my egg yolks and vanilla. Then I alternate adding my flour mixture, then sour cream, flour mixture, sour cream, then finish with flour. I use a 1/4 C measure but don’t level it completely off. By the time I am done the dough is combined yet sticky. Chill for 1 hour.

While the dough chills, walk your dog, drink coffee, hang out with your husband, and prep your next steps. I set up for frying, a new and scary task. I also had to find some sort of cutter for my donuts. I do not have a donut pan, or a donut shaped cut out. What I do have are mason jar lids and the lid to a cocktail shaker. And those, my friends are what I ended up using to cut my donuts today. See- you don’t need fancy things!

I rolled my dough out on a floured surface and cut them out. While I rolled out the dough we let the oil come to temp.

We do not have a thermometer that goes above 220, we just have a meat thermometer so instead of temp, we did al of our testing with our donut holes. Because I was paralyzed by fear, I made my husband fry the donuts. He did a swell job. A+ husband. While Matt was the fry-master, I did the glazing and cinnamon sugar batheing.

They turned out.

We ate them and drank coffee while I won at cribbage. 🙂

Happy Easter. Eat donuts. Be smart. Stay safe. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face.

Comfort Food

There is something to be said for comfort food. Especially given the current climate.

Matt and I have been all over the comfort food this week. Comfort food: that warm content feeling that comes with eating something that feels like a hug. If I really think about comfort food its usually holiday food, but its not a holiday season really. This is probably because the holidays are when I see my family the most and I have been thinking about my family a lot this week. We have a lot of traditions around food. I think this is important. We make the same things, a lot…every year, and it doesn’t get old.

Family foods: I think of turkey and stuffing the way Grandma Helen made it, beef stew, spaghetti, chicken noodle soup, and meatloaf the way my mom makes them, lasagna the way Joan makes it, grandma potatoes the way Mandy makes them, chicken mole the way Uncle Mark makes it, breakfast cookies like Aunt Jill makes, Mark and Jill’s salsa, smoked meat treats like Matt and Willie make.

Here’s a shocker- If I think about comfort food it is often a baked good. Breads. Go. Figure. There are things my mom makes that never taste quite the same when I make them, with her recipe. What is that about? If I said this to her face or over the phone I can just hear her “its love” she’d say. Cooking and baking is my mom’s love language too. Swedish tea ring, spritz cookies, apple pie, carrot cake, rhubarb custard pie, homemade whole wheat bread, cranberry nut bread. It isn’t Christmas without cranberry nut bread. I don’t care who you are or where you are from, after you have cranberry nut bread at Christmas it will change your life. From that time on you will need it on Christmas morning. Thanksgiving morning and Christmas morning I always have cranberry nut bread. There have been holidays when I have been away from my family and not had it, and I longed for it.

I think of my dad when I eat leftovers and make chocolate chip cookies. I prefer the latter. I actually hate leftovers. He used to make cookies when I was a kid. My mom did too but she always let us help and his cookie making was more of a solo mission. He used the recipe on the inside of the quaker oat lid, its actually a recipe for oatmeal raisin cookies. But he always added chocolate chips instead. He had a sweet tooth, favoring chocolate. He sometimes let us help, and lick the beaters, and the spoons. It was a good thing he had a sweet tooth and my mom is a great baker since she was also a dentist, saved us from being sugar deprived children.

The same thing can be said for friends. I have certain recipes that I associate with certain friends. Tomatillo salsa, kimchi, hot chocolate cookies, earl grey cake, monster cookies, stir fry, banana bread, fudge, povitica, curried chicken salad, specific cocktails. When I got married a my friend Alex gifted her banana bread recipe to me (by the way, she makes the best banana bread around). I used to use her recipe every time I made banana bread. Isn’t it funny how you can get a recipe from someone and even though you follow it, maybe your end result doesn’t quite turn out like theirs? I have experienced this before, it can be frustrating but when you really think about it, I guess it must be that there’s something about that person making their recipe that makes it turn out special. She will forever be the banana bread queen.

For me, recipes that are associated with someone dear to me always create comfort food. I always change recipes, I can’t help myself. I use my own recipe for banana bread now, but I always think of Alex when I made banana bread.

Banana Bread

To be clear- this is not Alex’s recipe- if you want hers you gotta be in the inner circle, if you will. She doesn’t just hand it out. This is mine- adapted from many recipes- including hers.

4 ripe bananas- mashed
3/4 C brown sugar
3 eggs
1/3 C greek yogurt or sour cream
1/3 C butter- softened
2t cinnamon
2t vanilla extract
2 C flour
1 t baking soda
1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t salt
1/2 C nuts or chocolate chips or both!

Preheat your oven to 350 and prep a loaf pan. This recipes is a dump recipe. No creaming, sifting, or special steps here.

In a large bowl, mash your bananas with a fork. Add sugar, eggs, butter, vanilla, and cinnamon, whisk vigorously to combine. If you don’t want to workout and bake at the same time you could use a mixer. Don’t be concerned that the mixture is thin. Its fine, you do not need creamed sugar for banana bread. Calm down. Breathe. In a small bowl combine flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt stir with a fork to combine. Add to banana mixture at the same time you add your sour cream or greek yogurt. I always use greek yogurt but you can choose whichever you want- they work the same. Whisk again, opposite arm this time to even things out, until combined. I love multitasking. Sigh, it makes me feel so productive.

Now, this is the optional part. You can add nothing, and be vanilla. Or you can add nuts which I always do, walnuts to be specific. Or, you can add nuts and chocolate chips if you want to get funky. This time I refrained from adding chocolate.

Transfer to your loaf pan with a spatula, good to the last gloopy glob. Smooth out.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour. Then shut the oven off and leave it in there for 15 minutes. Remove to a cooling rack and allow to cool. Banana bread is amazing when it is warm. So you should eat some when it is still warm.

I did. I ate mine with an egg scramble and bacon. And coffee, of course.

Social distancing can be hard. Cook something. Bake something. It helps. I promise.

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

Soup Saturday

Soup & bread. Bread & soup.

Hope you are all safe and well. In the current climate of the Covid-19 or SARS-COV-2 threat, my husband and I have been practicing social distancing. We are both still working, but before and after work and on weekends we are sticking around the house or the trails or the well worn dog walk path that we take every day. We haven’t been to the store in a week and we plan to stay away from it for as long as we can. Instead, we are challenging ourselves to use the things we have in our freezer and our pantry and get creative. Like Chopped- home edition!

Much to Matt’s dismay I decided to make soup today. Matt is a soup hater and I am a soup lover. But, what’s funny is he always likes the soup I make, I just hear about it until dinner. Then he always admits that it was good. Chopped edition- soup Saturday. We had some ham bones in the freezer that had been in there for a while and were on the verge of freezer burn and I have more dried bean (which I am always too lazy to use) than I know what to do with. Ham and bean soup, just left it on the stove all. day. long. and ta da! Now, I am sure that you all are aware of the rule about bread with soup? One must have bread with soup. I thought everyone knew that? Croutons count, rolls are fine, bread, bread- not crackers.

Glad we could clarify that. So, I decided to play around with a sourdough beer bread recipe. Because I have limited access to supplies at this time. Good thing I stocked up on flour.

Earlier this week I saw a recipe by JoytheBaker for a scallion cheddar english muffin bread- it looked amazing, so I started with that recipe as my base (by the way I find her funny and her recipes are realistic and she doesn’t always measure, like me!). Anyhow her dough is a yeasted dough. I like to do straight sourdough if I can but I was on a time frame today and I wouldn’t have been able to allow my loaf to rise enough. I added a little less than half the yeast she added, subbed in some sourdough starter for liquid, added beer, and added 1/2 her amount of buttermilk- which I actually had.

  • Shortening or cooking spray to grease loaf pan
  • parchment paper
  • course cornmeal- a few tablespoons
  • 1 t yeast
  • 1/4 c warm water
  • 1/4 c sourdough starter, bubbly and active, fed
  • 1 T sugar
  • 3 c flour
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 t pepper
  • 1/4 t baking soda
  • 1/4 c chopped scallions
  • 1 c cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 c buttermilk
  • 1/2 c beer
  • 2 T olive oil

Prep your pan, grease first- I used crisco, cut your parchment to fit, lay it in, grease again, then sprinkle course cornmeal around the bottom and on sides, turn loaf pan to coat all sides like when you flour a pan. It looks like this:

Combine warm water and sourdough starter, stir, stir, stir, sprinkle yeast on top and let it get bubbly, add sugar. Let rest for 5 minutes and get your dry ingredients together.

Combine your dry ingredients in your mixer bowl. This recipes is super easy because you use the mixer to work all the dough and it keeps you from having to clean flour and sticky dough off the counter, yourself, your hair, your fingernails. We are keeping things real clean as of late. Extra clean.

Add the scallion and cheese and mix for a moment and incorporate with paddle attachment, then switch to dough hook. Go get your wet ingredients, time for them to work. No more resting. Mix the yeast mixture, buttermilk, and beer together. I put all three of those in a pyrex glass measuring cup. With your machine on low, slowly pour your your liquid mixture onto the dry ingredients, then add oil. Leave the mixer going to 5 minutes on low.

Scrape dough out of the bowl with oiled hands and transfer to loaf pan. Pat into corners. Sprinkle with course cornmeal. Cover with plastic wrap and put it somewhere warm to rise. I put it in my oven with the oven light on.

About 3 hours later I pulled it out and took off the plastic wrap just before the dough reached it. I turned my oven on to 400 and I baked it for 30 minutes. It started to brown along the corners and I took it out, could have it go a little longer but it was still yummy.

Serve it with soup, eat it as toast. You do you.

Quarantine Cupcakes

Okay….not quarantine cupcakes | social distancing cupcakes | stay home cupcakes | hashtag all thing Covid cupcakes | what I can control cupcakes | moral boost cupcakes | I love my friend cupcakes | I miss my people cupcakes | I’m worried cupcakes | wash your hands cupcakes | I need to feel hopeful cupcakes.

These are scary times. These are also hopeful times. I have seen so many people stepping up and being their best selves, unfortunately I have seen the opposite too. We all just need to remember that this is going to affect everyone. It will be in different ways. But it will be.

Being a nurse in this is scary job security. I won’t be quarantined at home. I’ll be at work, praying we have enough PPE, medications, staff, and ventilators. Everyone is talking surge plans. As a nurse in Montana I feel a bit helpless right now. We are anxiously waiting, trying to be prepared, wondering; will it be like it is in the media? Big cities are in the thick of it, right now its just simmering but it is on our minds daily. When?

Baking makes me feel calm, in control, settled, satisfied, effective, accomplished, content, happy. Things I need to keep feeling. These cupcakes are made with things everyone typically has. Just a small batch. My husband’s favorite and ironically the first thing I ever baked for him. I baked them in his kitchen (that could be an entire blog post in itself, just a discussion on cooking in your boyfriend’s kitchen). It was so hard to find things. He actually had almost everything I needed. A guy who has flour, sugar, powdered sugar, butter, eggs, baking soda, baking power, vanilla, and salt. Snatched him right up! He even had a muffin tin. He loves to cook, too. He only had 1 stick of butter though and no cream cheese. He didn’t have vanilla beans and the vanilla he had was imitation vanilla. But, what can you do? I was pleasantly surprised and pretty impressed. It made my baker heart happy. I love to bake for people.

Focus Liz. Cupcakes not love stories. Vanilla cupcakes to be exact. I know right. Im a chocolate gal.

Cupcake ingredients:
3 T butter, softened but not melted
3/4 c sugar
1 t baking powder
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt
1 c flour
1/2 c milk (any type works, I use almond milk all the time- you can’t tell)
1 egg (today I used a duck egg! I got them from a local farm/B&B- Oddfellow Inn)
1 t vanilla (use the real stuff if you have it, it is so much more flavorful- but if you only have the imitation kind that is ok too)
1/8 t ground vanilla or scrape 1/2 a vanilla bean and use the caviar (yes! the tiny seeds and juice is called caviar) [this is optional- if you don’t have any of this thats ok I did not have this stuff in Matts kitchen]

2- 2 1/2 c powdered sugar ( if I recall Matt didn’t have this much but you need 2 cups)
5 T butter (matt only had 1 stick of butter so I had 8 T to work with)
1 T milk
2 t vanilla
2 oz or 4 squares of white chocolate (melted- let cool)

Have I mentioned that I can be a lazy baker? I can be a lazy baker. I don’t always follow the directions of recipes because I think things can be simplified and I like to use as few dishes as possible. For this recipe I use a mixer. I put all the dry ingredients: flour, sugar (yes sugar), baking powder, baking soda, salt, and ground vanilla in with the whisk attachment and mix. Then I add my 3 T butter and turn up the speed. While the mixer is working I pour 1/2 cup milk into a clear glass measuring cup, crack 1 egg (today I had a big lovely duck egg), and 1 t vanilla in and whisk with a fork. Then I lower my speed on the mixer and slowly pour in the liquid. I let it mix until everything is incorporated and smooth.

I usually just leave it mixing. The luxury of a kitchenaid. I go do other stuff like preheat my oven to 350 and prep my tins. Today I used leftover liners- the tail end ones, so they don’t all match. When the batter looks lovely and shinny and just a little thin I scoop the batter and pop them in the oven for 18-22 minutes.

Then I watch them… it’s like a stage. The oven light is the spot light and the kitchen towels are the curtains

Then I check them with a toothpick- I check several different cupcakes just to be sure. Then let these babies cool for a while and make some lovely buttercream. Now I was quite restricted the first time I came up with this recipe but it actually turned out so well that I kept it as a note in my phone and have had it since 2014, its my go to vanilla cupcake. Now you know the year I met Matt. Ew I’m being gross, but it feels nostalgic.

Make the frosting. Start with the butter and cream it, I add the vanilla and whip it on high for a few minutes. Then I add my white chocolate and mix, then I start adding my powdered sugar. If you get the consistency you want at this point you don’t have to add the milk. I usually do because a little thinner frosting is easier to pipe out.

Today I did flat tops because I am delivering some to a friend and don’t have containers that are tall enough for lovely swooping piped frosted peaks. Matt likes extra frosting. Sigh. I don’t love cake, but I love frosting. Cupcakes are the thing that I make for other people. Not for myself. For myself I make bread or scones. Cupcakes are too sweet, they don’t go with coffee, and you can’t toast them and put peanut butter on them. Just my rationale.

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

Born and Bread

Or born in bread. Or a bread is born.

Good morning, today I am writing about bread. Not just any bread, sourdough bread. I have said before that I started experimenting with sourdough a year ago. Since then, I have come up with a process that works for my life. I can make a sourdough loaf in a total of 2 days. I only need to make one loaf because it is just Matt and I. I have made more than one at a time but the process is still the same. It does take a little preplanning, but it is totally worth it. I know exactly what is in my bread. I have played with different recipes and the use of whole wheat flour, grains and seeds. The loaf I’m making this weekend is just a typical sourdough.

Day 1: In this case day 1 was a Friday. I took my jar of starter out of the fridge at about 6:30 am, before work. I set it on the counter and went to work. After work I fed it: 1/2 cup of flour and 1/4 cup of warm water, stir, stir, stir. I left the jar in the sink, just in case it overflowed as it tends to. Then I went and had wine with my gal pal. When I got home I had dinner and then I made my dough before bed. Here’s what is in my dough:

  • 1/2 C fed, bubbly, starter
  • 1 1/4 C warm water
  • 4 C Flour
  • 1 tsp salt

I have a special baking bowl, its ceramic and it works great for bread. The warm water goes in first, then the starter. I use a fork to combine. I let it rest for a few minutes before I add the flour. I add all the flour at one time and stir with a fork until the dough has just come together, then I add the salt. I leave the dough a little shaggy and let it rest for about 10 minutes before I work it into a ball. I use a technique that I learned from a great bread book called Artisan Sourdough Made Simple by Emilie Raffa. Essentially I just fold the dough upon itself moving it in a circle in my bowl and pressing the folded section into the center. Once I have formed my dough into a ball, I cover the bowl with damp towel and I put it in my oven with the oven light on overnight. Last night I put it in about 10 and I took it out at about 9 this morning. So, I let it ferment for about 11 hours. Usually I let it ferment between 10-12 hours.

Day 2: 9am Saturday, I took my dough out, dumped the dough out of the bowl onto a lightly floured counter using floured fingers to coax it out. I repeated the process from the previous night of folding the dough but am careful not to press the air out. Air equals holes. Then, I flip the dough over and cradle the edges of the dough between the palms of my hands and apply pressure from the areas by my pinkie fingers, as I do this I twist it slightly and press. By doing this multiple times turning the dough in a circle I am again tightening the ball of dough. Next I place the dough in my floured banneton or proving basket. Its ok if you don’t have one, I didn’t until recently. I used a floured towel in a bowl and it works the same way. I put my dough back in the oven to rise for 2 more hours.

At the end of the 2 hours I prepped my dutch oven with cornmeal in the bottom and sharpened my knife. When the 2 hour mark hit I removed the dough from the oven and turned the oven on. Sourdough bakes hot, 450 degrees. The dough had almost doubled in size.

I flipped the dough into the dutch oven and scored the top to allow steam to release from the dough as it bakes. You can do a simple single slash, or an x, or your can get creative. I change my score every time. You do you. Most recipes suggest baking the dough for 30 minutes with a lid on and 20 minutes without. That is what I do. If you don’t have a dutch oven that’s ok, you can put a pan of water into your oven for the first 30 minutes and remove it for the last 20. I do a little additional time with the bread right on the rack at the end. Unfortunately it depends on the loaf as to how long. Finally, let the bread cool before you cut into it. If you cut it too soon (and I cannot explain why but I know from experience) it just won’t be right. I know it is hard, believe me.

Baking Instructions:

  • 450 degrees
  • Dutch oven with lid: 30 minutes covered, 20 minutes uncovered, extra time on rack
  • Dutch over without a lid: 30 minutes with dish of water also in oven, remove dish and bake 20 additional minutes, extra time on the rack
  • Extra time on the rack: I carefully pick my dough up from the dutch oven and place it on the rack, based on the density of the dough (how much air) it might be longer or shorter. My time typically is about 10 minutes. I know this is not a guide, but bread sings. Crust makes cracking noises. That’s one way to know your bread is baked. You can use a thermometer and stick it into the loaf to check it’s internal temp- it should be around 200 F. You can also tap on the bottom of the loaf, it should sound hollow if it is done.

Go bake some bread! But I must warn you, once you start…. you’ll never stop.

Let’s be real.

Last weekend I didn’t write a post. I know….every week, not really setting myself up for goal crushing. Here’s the thing. I love making and baking. But when things don’t turn out exactly how I want them to I chuck ’em, or I have a small adult meltdown, or I start over, or I don’t give the baby blanket, or pout (again, like an adult), or I swear off baking.

I don’t do “failure” well.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that my description of failure allows for no imperfections. I can turn out a great product but I will see all the flaws. I am working on being less critical, of myself mostly. I seem to have much for grace for others. Imagine that.

I am writing this blog to share recipes but also as a creative outlet. I have created recipes over the years that give the consistent results I want. I have added this or that to a recipe of my mom’s, my grama’s, or my food idols (like Julia, and Ina, and Ree). Sometimes I just keep their recipes, because they are classics. But I love to experiment in the kitchen. I love to look at few recipes and then make my own. This works well with cooking. With baking, it can be more dangerous.

Let me be clear. You can make the same recipe multiple times with differing results. Let me repeat myself: you can make the same exact thing multiple times with a differing result. Let me say it a different way. You can get a recipe from someone else and follow it very strictly and get a different result than they did. Then you think to yourself- “what did I do wrong?” or “why doesn’t taste like hers?” You could follow a recipe loosely, add your own spin, sub something, forget something, and it might turn out even better. You can throw things together and make something spectacular and look back and think, “huh, wish I remember what I put in that”. You can also follow a recipe perfectly and have outside factors like weather, altitude, your oven, or that butter that you didn’t realize was salted affect your outcome. You can also follow a recipe and create perfection. What I am really trying to say is that everything does not always turn out. That is life and I am still actively trying to learn that lesson.

My flat loaf “failure”

Let me tell you about last weekend. I was going to post on bread. Because I love bread and I love the process of making my own sourdough. I have a “go to” sourdough recipe that is 4 ingredients. Super simple: starter, water, flour, salt. Now, in the spirit of honesty, lets talk about my 4 ingredient sourdough fiascos. I have been making sourdough for just over a year. I don’t make it every week, some weeks are feeder weeks- like this weekend. I find I make it most in the summer and in the winter. Bruschetta season and soup season. Now I would say I have probably made 30 sourdough boules or round loaves. I would say roughly 5 turned out absolutely perfect. That is the reality. I would say 10 were under proved, 10 were over proved, probably 2 were under baked, and 3 were absolute disasters for reasons I cannot explain. Rock hard, inedible, chuck it in the bin bread loaves. Last weekend I made a loaf style sourdough. I don’t make it often but I have a few recipes and they have turned out in the past. I was looking to make a healthy toast/sandwich bread. Now, I find that whole wheat flour can be more difficult to work with in a sourdough situation. I like the nutty taste of whole wheat and the health benefits to it. I do find that it makes a more dense dough and the dough doesn’t rise as much as I’d like. I will admit to sometimes adding yeast to get the rise I want.

Last weekend I did not add yeast and I ended up with a loaf that didn’t rise well. I was frustrated and almost threw it away without even tasting it. I put it in bag and set it aside. A few days later I decided to taste it. Even thought it didn’t look how I wanted, the crust was good, the crumb was good, the texture when toasted was good. It just didn’t have the lovely dome on top. I don’t know how many times I have to let the universe remind me, but just because it didn’t turn out exactly how I planned doesn’t mean it is a failure.

Cookies can be a meal

Today I made cookies with my niece and nephew. Anyone who knows me might know how challenging it is for me to relinquish control and allow them to do all the mixing, measuring, scooping, etc. Also, the messes… We did have to review that it is important to read what the measuring cup that you are using is labeled as. Say, for instance, if you use a 2/3 cup when you think you are using a 1/2 cup….things can get a little wonky. Over all, they did great and we did not destroy my mother in laws kitchen and the cookies turned out.

My niece told me about these yummy “peanut butter jumbo cookies” her dad brought home once and she wanted to attempt to recreate them… initially… but I was not provided all the information and our shopping list was lacking. I mean, of course I should have gotten Reece’s pieces m&m candies but she didn’t tell me we needed those until we were scooping our dough out onto cookie sheets. I went with an oatmeal chocolate chip monster cookie type vibe, but alas no Reece’s pieces.


  • 2 c flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/3 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Several generous shakes of cinnamon
  • 2/3 c dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 c granulated sugar
  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 egg, room temp
  • 1/3 c peanut butter
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 1 c chocolate chunks
  • 1/4 c mini peanut butter chips
  • 1/4 c Heath pieces
  • 1/4 c pecans
  • 1/2 c rolled oats
  • 1 c corn flakes cereal
  • course sea salt ( save for sprinkling)
  • Get Reece’s pieces, add them, 1/2 c

Now before we start, I want to clarify part of my ingredient list. Room temperature eggs are important, ya hear? Take it out. Put it in a bowl. Do it. Softened butter is important too and it is not the same thing as melted butter. Melted butter does not cream. Heat a mason jar or a glass by filling it with hot water multiple times. Put your stick of butter on the counter and flip the hot glass over the butter. Please note- this will soften cold butter from the fridge but it will not defrost butter. Thank you for your attention to this public service announcement. Moving on…

Combine the dry ingredients in a separate bowl: flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

Cream butter and sugar. Have your brother hold the bowl for you. Isn’t that the sweetest thing you ever did see? Add the egg, peanut butter, and vanilla. Continue mixing until combined.

Prep all your other ingredients. In our case, we needed to chop up some nuts and chocolate chunks. Teamwork makes the dream work. In our case, the nut chopper.

Add in your dry mixture along with “the good stuff” (your rolled oats, pieces, chunks, chips, and nuts). Add the cereal last of all.

So now

Once combined, set out cookie sheets and scoop dough onto the cookie sheets, space the cookies at least 2 inches apart. Sprinkle judiciously with course sea salt (much needed concept). Bake at 350 for 13 minutes. Cool on the cookie sheet at least 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks. Enjoy! I vote you add Reece’s prices, we agreed they would have been real yummy.

Now you know what I meant when I said cookies can be a meal…. look at all that goodness jam packed into that cookie! I know what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow with my coffee!

Chocolate deserves its own holiday.

I love chocolate. If I ever crave something sweet- it’s chocolate. I have been making truffles for holidays for a while now. Mostly for Christmas and Valentines Day. Today it’s Valentines Day and I obviously made truffles. Love language. Some for work, some for friends, some for family, some for my man. We don’t actually celebrate Valentine’s Day… but I mean, chocolate.

I figured you all might like to know how to make these sweet bite size treats sure to please anyone. This year I made 3 flavors: chocolate on chocolate, white chocolate on cookie dough, and Oreo in white chocolate.

I make the insides on one day and roll and dip them on another. They need to set in the fridge for at least a few hours. You could technically do them the same day- give the insides 4 hours to firm up though.

Aren’t they purdy?

Chocolate on Chocolate insides:

16 oz chocolate- ( >60% cocoa, chips or chopped)

8 oz heavy whipping cream

1tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp espresso powder

Combine all ingredients in a double boiler or a bowl over a saucepan with about an inch of water- turn burner on medium, melt, stir intermittently. When combined and melted the mixture should be smooth. Transfer to fridge. Chill overnight.

Cookie dough insides:

1 1/2 cup yellow cake mix

1 cup flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1tsp vanilla

2 tablespoons honey

1/2 cup powdered sugar

Pinch of salt

2-3 tablespoons milk or 1/2 and 1/2

Combine everything excluding milk in a bowl and mix. Slowly add milk a tablespoon at a time until mixture comes together like cookie dough. Chill overnight. (You can add mini chocolate chips in the dough or sprinkles-if you want)


24 Oreos cookies

1tsp vanilla

6oz cream cheese

I think this is the easiest one- I literally put all the ingredients into the food processer. Start with cookies- pulverize them. Add the cream cheese and vanilla. The machine does the work. Transfer mixture to a bowl to chill overnight.

Time to dip!

Choose what you want to dip in: dark chocolate, milk chocolate, white chocolate and what you want to decorate with. I made some little white chocolate hearts, I used sprinkles, I did chocolate drizzle, I did chocolate heart drizzle

Side note: I made truffles for my wedding favor when Matt and I got married- just like these with the little heart- but I forgot about them and never set them out or assigned anyone to do something with them. I was distraught! But then I had leftovers, it wasn’t all bad.

Back to business. I use a teaspoon and dig out dollops of the insides then roll them to perfect circles. I have fancy small scoopers but the dough is a little hard and they struggle: things get stuck, you have to keep digging the insides out, they don’t make perfect circles, then I waste time and it annoys me. That’s what plain Jane spoons are for. Don’t need no fancy equipment.

I roll my truffles and place them on parchment lined sheets. I refrigerate them for about 1/2 an hour. This step isn’t absolutely necessary unless it’s hot for all the types. It is ABSOLUTELY necessary for the Oreo truffles or they melt in the chocolate. I melt about 16oz of chocolate at a time. Use what ever you want: bars, melts, disks, almond bark. I drop the truffle ball into the chocolate and use a fork to swirl it around to coat it. Then I slide the fork underneath and tap it on the edge of the chocolate bowl to get off the excess. Lay the fork on the parchment and jiggle/ slide the truffle off. Jiggle/slide is a technical motion. Then I sprinkle!

I like to drizzle chocolate on top, I think it is really fun. Or draw chocolate hearts. Make them your own! You do you. Sprinkles alone look very cute. Now, the dipped truffles need to set up in the fridge for a bit. Don’t skip this- the chocolate gets dull or they crack. Finally, nobody is perfect, trim the feet! Use a sharp sharp knife. Careful how much you handle the chocolate- especially if you don’t have icicle hands like I do.

Ok that’s about it! I love chocolate! I love love. Happy chocolate love day!