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.


  • 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.



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


  • 4 large lemons, 6 small/medium 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 20 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.


  • 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.

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.