cooking and baking

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Applesauce (cake)

applesauce 003

I made applesauce tonight for the first time in years. We’ve gotten a weekly vegetable delivery from a local CSA for several years now. A few weeks ago I decided to add fruit to our standing order. While we are generally good about getting to most of our vegetables, adding in fruit has taught me a couple of things.

  1. We’re picky about our fruit. Not the quality, this is all organic and lovely. However we go through phases of eating a ton of citrus or apples, then not eating them for a bit.
  2. We don’t eat enough whole fruit. It shouldn’t be that difficult for a family of four to go through small fruit order. And yet each week we have quite a bit left when the next delivery arrives.

It’s really good fruit. I don’t want to reduce our order and I don’t want to waste it. So I’m finding new ways to use it. Like the applesauce, above. Apple/pear sauce actually. My children like applesauce and we always have it around. I hadn’t made it since they were babies though.

We also have a juicer, which has been great for helping go through some of the greens some weeks too. Because there are some weeks when we’re busy and order out more, despite being lucky enough to have a fridge full of healthy food. And sometimes I’m just tired.

I made a lot of applesauce tonight. I think there may be applesauce cake for breakfast (yay!).

I feel as though this remembering how to utilize the bounty is a bit of a lost art. It’s certainly not something that comes naturally to me, make time to think about how to use up what we have or to preserve it . How do you use up fruits and vegis? And how much does your family go through in a week?


Basic Applesauce Recipe

  • Peel and core apples (I used 7 apples & 2 pears) and place in saucepan
  • add 2 cups of water, 3/4 c. sugar and 1 tsp (or to taste) cinnamon
  • boil till soft
  • mash or use an immersion blender (my favorite) till desired consistency


Impossibly Fluffy

smitten kitchen triple berry cake

This is not so much a recipe as a PSA. Go make this amazing Triple Berry Buttermilk Cake from Smitten Kitchen. Despite using the phrase “cream together the butter, sugar and lemon zest until light and impossibly fluffy” in the recipe, its remarkably easy and uses ingredients you probably already have, given that it’s berry season. Plus that lemon glaze.  Soooo good.


The Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

bakery perfect chocolate chip cookies

Look, I made you cookies. And not just any cookies, nope, for you guys I made my extra special cookies, ones that both look and taste good. Because I love you (yes, you). I’ve made a lot of cookies and I know, and I bet you know, that those two things don’t always go together. Most of the time my cookies taste pretty good. I mean, they’re butter and sugar and flour for Pete’s sake. How bad can they be? But till recently they didn’t always look good. These, however, look like I could sell them. The trick? Why chemistry of course. What kind? I have no idea, I’ll leave that sort of thing to Alton Brown, but as this recipe looks very different in execution I know it must have something to do with the chemical reactions. Science (albeit undefined science) and a recipe. You’re welcome.

Directions. They are a bit different from your usual cookie. Follow them anyway. Start with the usual, cream your butter and sugar. You’ll need 3/4 of a cup of butter, 1 cup packed brown sugar and 1/4 cup white sugar. The trick here is that the butter must be melted. This makes it not look anything like normal creamed butter and sugar. It’s not light and fluffy. Instead, it looks like this.

cream butter sugar

Yum?? Don’t worry, it will all work out. Next, add one whole egg and one egg yolk. Yep. Also toss in 1/2 a teaspoon of vanilla. And please, for all that’s holy, use real vanilla. Don’t get the imitation. Just don’t. Mix well. Then it will look like this.
butter sugar eggs

Slightly better. Add in two cups of flour, with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt whisked in. Mix until everything is combined. This takes a bit, as the dough is a little dry.


Now stir in 1/2 bag of chocolate chips. They won’t want to mix into the dough, but that’s ok. You’ll force those suckers in when you create the dough balls.  Eat some of the dough, just to check for quality. No sense in baking them if they’re not going to taste good. Fend off any youngsters with the old “you can’t eat raw eggs, you’ll get collywobbles” routine.

dough with chips

Wash your hands. Hopefully not for the first time. Grab about a 1/4 cup of dough (I think I used slightly less) and roll it into a ball. Drop the ball on the cookie tray. Don’t flatten them.  I use the silicon tray liners, if you don’t you should probably grease your tray or use parchment or some such. Space them about three inches apart. I get 8 of these on a tray. Don’t crowd them.
dough on tray

Bake at 325°F (note, not standard cookie baking temperature) for 16-18 minutes, till light brown. Do not over cook or they’ll be bricks. Tasty bricks, sure, but not what we’re going for here. Cool for twenty minutes or until you can’t stand to hear anyone whining for a cookie anymore.

Or you can do what I did today. Melt the other half of your bag of chocolate chips. Add a little milk or cream to smooth out the consistency. Dip half the cooled cookie into the chocolate. Place the dipped cookies on a plate and put them in the fridge to cool and harden for several hours. Then make everyone wait to eat theirs until you’ve taken pictures.

chocolate dipped chocolate chip cookies

Yum. The dipped version was very popular. This recipe makes 16 – 18 cookies. They last about 24 hours. It’s possible they’d last longer stored in an airtight container, but as we end up quickly storing them in our stomachs I just don’t know. They are the hands-down the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made. You should make some today.

Original recipe here. I used slightly less white sugar and dipped some of them in chocolate.

An Easy and Spectacular Cake

blueberry lemon curd whipped cream cake

One of the grown-ups in our family had a birthday this week (not me). I like to have homemade cakes for birthdays, but when they fall on a weeknight it can be tricky to accomplish. Enter the Whipped Cream Cake. Or Yellow Cake with Whipped Cream. Whatever you call it, it’s simple, delicious, looks great and is easy to tweak for variety. Everyone needs one of these in their baking arsenal. I’ve even sent it in for cake walks and teacher dinners to rave reviews. Or maybe they were just being nice. At any rate, we like it.

For yellow cakes, I often use a boxed mix. Not any boxed mix, mind you, I’m picky. I’ll only use Trader Joe’s Vanilla Cake Mix. Once you make it you’ll never use anything else either. It doesn’t taste like boxed cake and it doesn’t have a boxed cake texture. There are vanilla bean flecks throughout. If you don’t live near a Trader Joe’s (poor you), here’s my favorite from scratch recipe.

The birthday boy is partial to lemon curd and blueberry pancakes, so I incorporated those flavors into the cake. Once you’ve baked and cooled your layers (which I do in the morning before I leave) there’s really just a few steps, all of which can be completed in about five minutes, even with some helpers, which makes this feasible for work days.

cake collage

  1. Whip cream. It’s important to get your faces as close to the mixer as possible during this step. Everyone knows it won’t whip correctly without the proper germs. I also like to add a tablespoon or two of sugar and a slurp (technical term) of vanilla.
  2. Spread a layer of lemon curd on your first cake layer. Don’t be stingy.
  3. Plop (another technical term) about half the whipped cream on top of the lemon curd. Smooth it out a little, but don’t worry about it too much.
  4. Throw some blueberries on top of the cream.
  5. Add the second layer, pushing down slightly so the cream in the middle squishes out the sides, and repeat steps one-four.

That’s it. Present your cake, with or without candles. “Look I cared enough to make you a homemade cake for your birthday even though I had to work today. And it’s delicious and beautiful. Aren’t I amazing?”. Remember, it might be someone else’s birthday but you still have an opportunity to gain accolades. And isn’t that what someone else’s birthday is really about?

Baked Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto

baked risotto

Today I’m sharing one of my family’s favorite winter recipes. We get a weekly CSA delivery. When it started I really struggled to find ways to use all the winter vegetables, which can get a bit repetitive. This quick, simple and delicious recipe (from Martha, of course) was found during a search for new ideas. The risotto is baked, which makes it feasible for weeknights as well, although I like to make it on Sundays so I can take it for lunches.

Baked Butternut Squash and Kale Risotto

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 shallots, diced small (I often use onions instead, as I have them on hand)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, leaves
  • 1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1 medium butternut squash (2 pounds), peeled and diced medium (4 cups)
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 bunch kale, tough stems removed, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick strips
  • Grated Parmesan, for serving


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium Dutch oven or heavy ovenproof pot with a tight-fitting lid, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallots and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 3 minutes.


Add garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add rice and cook, stirring frequently, until opaque, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add wine and cook, stirring, until completely absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add squash and broth; bring mixture to a boil.

add squahs

Stir in kale. Cover, transfer to oven, and bake until rice is tender and most of liquid is absorbed, about 20 minutes.

finished risotto

To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan.

risotto plated

Have a lovely weekend (and let me know if you try this, it would be delicious with some no knead bread).  Lots of reveals next week – the finished table and dining room and the living room curtains. I can’t wait to share them with you.

No Knead Bread (A Pinterest Win)

no knead bread

No knead bread recipes are all over the place these days, touted as the everyman’s route to bakery deliciousness. Their promise of purity and simplicity combined with the ease of use we’ve all come to ask for in our endeavors seem to good to be true. I’ve made no knead breads from the Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day cookbook for a couple of years now and while they are easy, I’ve rarely been super impressed with my efforts. Enter the new no-knead recipe, one that quadruples the rise time and cooks in a dutch oven. Hey, I can leave stuff alone for a long time, especially if the recipe recommends I get some sleep as part of the directions. I’m down with sleep. So I tried it. All the pinners said, “best bread ever”. But you know pinners, they say that kind of stuff all the time. This time, however, they were not lying, exaggerating or just more talented than I am. I have made five loaves since this first one and each time they have lasted less than 24 hours in my house. I’m actually not making it as often because I’m pretty sure my kids would eat nothing else. Although I could probably put spinach paste on this bread and they’d eat it. AND ask for more.

One of the other great things about this recipe is that it has just four ingredients and they are all things I generally have around the house. Water? I don’t even have to walk to the creek with my fancy indoor plumbing . Salt? Kosher all the way. Bread flour? Sure. Yeast? Most of the time. It used to be that the yeast’s age was questionable, but I’ve gone through my stash with all the bread making and I now not only have yeast, it’s not even expired (I haven’t noticed a difference in the bread rise, in case you’re wondering). The recipe that follows is from Frugal Living NW, she adapted it from Jim Lahey. Check out her site for even more tips and directions.

To start, have your lovely assistant measure out 6 cups of bread flour. If you’re homeschooling, this totally counts as a math lesson (stop judging me).


°To your 6 cups of flour add 2 ²⁄3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon yeast (actually that’s doubling it, the recipe calls for ½ teaspoon but I just can’t do it) and 2 ½ teaspoons of salt. Mix it all up (I even got a fancy new Danish dough whisk). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set it out of the way to rise for 12 to 18 hours. Yes. Hours. Go take a nap, read a book, find some way to occupy your time. I’m not saying you have to be productive, just don’t worry about the bread.

When you come back, it will look like this.
yeast bubbles

Slightly yellow, with lots of little dots that look like you spilled the pepper in your dough, but which, on closer inspection, turn out to be air bubbles. This recipe makes a very wet dough so you’re going to want to have lots of flour on hand for the next step. I have found, through experimentation, that whole wheat flour, as opposed to more bread flour, seems to work better.

Liberally flour a tea towel and your hands. Take the dough from the bowl and quickly shape it into a roughly round ball, tucking the ends under. Place the ball on your towel like so and put quite a bit more flour on top. It does not have to be anything close to perfect.

shaped loaf on towel

Transfer the tea towel and bread to a bowl, cover with another towel or fold the ends on top, depending on your towel size.

shaped loaf

Let the dough rise in the bowl for 2 hours. At the 90 minute mark, put your dutch oven in the oven and set the temperature to 425º F. When the oven and pot have been heating for thirty minutes (2 hours since you transferred the dough to the bowl), carefully remove the hot pot from the oven. Flip the bread from the bowl into the dutch oven. Frugal Living NW has better pictures of this step, I was working without an extra camera man. At least without one who could take clear pictures. It seems like the bread should stick to the towel but I’ve only had that happen once (the first time, when I used bread flour) and even then it wasn’t a big deal.

Put the lid on and bake for 40 minutes. Remove the lid and bake another 10 – 15 till golden and crusty. This loaf needs to get quite golden, the one pictured here wasn’t done enough. It was still good,  just a little sticky.

finished loaf 1

Voila. Ze perfect bread. Put the bread on a rack to cool and DO NOT cut into it. You’ll hear it cracking as it cools, that’s good. Wait at least 30 minutes, preferably an hour, or your bread will be gummy. I know, this recipe requires a lot of patience. And it seems like you’d need to find so much time to make it, but really, the actual hands on time is about 10 minutes. If that. Make it the night before and shape and bake in the morning before work if your kids are early risers like mine. It is crazy good. Make it. Make it today!

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake


This cake, which I pinned several weeks ago, has been begging to be made here for the holidays. And then last week Nicole made a gingerbread cake on a sweet little pink cake stand. I’ve been looking for a little something pink for the dining room (and I’m always up for copying great ideas) to play off the Warhol print and decided that would be just the thing. I grabbed the cake stand at a local shop (no website, sorry, but you can find similar here) and was then forced to attempt the cake. Forced I say. For what is a decorative cake stand that has never held a cake? Just sad.

Mine is not as pretty. It is not hideous but I’m not a professional baker. However it was delicious. I recommend small pieces, it is very rich.
cake collage

The recipe is in Norwegian. Google translate took care of most issues. You’ll need a scale, as the measurements are in grams. Roan and I did a little home school experiment while we baked, testing our hypothesis that 250 grams of flour would be lighter than 250 grams of brown sugar, learning a little about volume in the process. Then we engaged in some serious sensory therapy. The dry ingredients for this cake smell amazing.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

As the recipe is in Norwegian, I’ve listed it here for you. I made some minor adjustments. I cooked the cake in two 9″ layer pans, rather than a spring form. Adjust the baking time down slightly if you do this. I also choose to do a whipped cream based frosting rather than the one she’s calling marshmallow. I just prefer gingerbread cake with whipped cream. I’m listing directions for both. I don’t have step by step pictures though. I can bake a cake with a child or take photos and keep the kitchen reasonably clean. I can’t do both.


  • 250g plain flour
  • 90g cocoa
  • 1 1/4ts baking soda
  • 1/4ts cloves
  • 1tsp cinnamon
  • 1tsp ginger
  • 1/4ts allspice
  • 125ml sour cream
  • 125ml natural yoghurt
  • 80ml water
  • 110g soft butter
  • 250g brown sugar
  • 50g sugar
  • 180ml corn oil (I used the canola I had on hand)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1tsp vanilla
  • 100g dark chocolate, finely chopped (I used semi-sweet chips I had on hand, chopped)

Mix together dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix sour cream, yoghurt and water in another bowl. In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add oil slowly, then eggs one at a time. Add vanilla. When combined, add flour mixture and sour cream mixture alternately, in three batches each. Fold in chopped chocolate. Pour into prepared pans and bake for 40-50 minutes at 350 degrees.

Whipped Cream Frosting

Beat a small container of whipping cream on high till it forms soft peaks. Add in 1/2 to 1 cup powdered sugar (adjust to your taste) and 1 tsp vanilla and mix till soft peaks form again. Lay one layer on stand, mound several tablespoons of frosting in the center, enough that it will drip over the sides as you place the next layer on. Pour the rest of the frosting on top and spread gently. This will not create a formally frosted cake, but rather a loose covering.

Marshmallow Frosting

4 large egg whites, 400g powdered sugar, 1/2ts vanilla extract
Beat egg whites in a bowl that can be heated until stiff. Set the bowl over a bain marie (water to boil) and continue beating while adding powdered sugar a spoonful at a time. Beat until mixture becomes very stiff (about 10 minutes). Take off the heat and stir lightly around with large spoon. Stir in the vanilla extract. After the cake is iced, sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar for a little snow effect. The glaze will harden gradually but remain soft inside, however the cake must be consumed fairly quickly or it will become too hard. I didn’t make this kind so I have no idea what her time frame is for “quickly”.

Chocolate Gingerbread Cake

I highly recommend this addition to your holiday baking.
chocolate gingerbread cake



Christmas Cookies

Christmas cookies

We made Christmas cookies this weekend, a tradition that gets more interesting each year as the children get more capable of rolling, cutting and decorating independently. It was gray and rainy here Saturday, a perfect day for baking. Everyone was a bit grumpy all day, I think this activity was one of the only times no one was complaining or fighting.  After this I gave up completely and we watched a movie. It was that or sell them to the gypsies.

Christmas cookies are one of the few recipes and cooking memories I have from my childhood. My mother is good at many, many things (seriously, she is fantastic!), but has never been much interested in cooking. Leftover issues from her own mother (funny how these things stick with us). And my father, like many of his generation, just stays away. My children have such a different experience of gender roles. I digress.

My family’s recipe for these cookies yields a very different type of cookie than I’ve encountered elsewhere as “Christmas Cookies”. I don’t know if it’s a British recipe (my mother is British and this recipe is from her family) but in my mind it is far superior. We all prefer what we grew up with, yes?

At any rate, this creates a far more cake-y and substantial cookie then the usual thin, crispy, buttery ones you find everywhere. I hope you like them as much as we do. Do let me know if you try them and what you think.

To begin, gather your ingredients. There are not too many for these, measure them out into pretty bowls for fun. And for ease of kids helping.

Measure Ingredients

My children have a very strict policy on taking turns dumping things into the mixer. And of sticking their tongues out while doing so.

One of my strongest memories from making these with my mother is waiting for the sugar and butter to cream together. For some reason I remember it taking forever. Now it takes no time at all. Although this picture tells a different story.

Scrape down the bowl and add your dry ingredients. When all is mixed remove the beaters and eat all the dough. Seriously. These cookies also have the best dough. Eat plenty. I’ve never gotten the collywobbles, despite many, many promises that I would. Whatever collywobbles are*.

bowl scraping

Now, the fun part. Ok, the other fun part.


Last year, we spent ages decorating the cookies. They were both into making them very detailed. This year saw a reversion and they both just dumped sugars on each cookie. I blame the grumps for the lack of interest in detail. I, as in past years, surreptitiously removed some of the excess sugar before baking.

cutting cookies

Christmas cookies

We’ll make gingerbread cookies next weekend, but that’s about it for our holiday baking. Well, probably a pie or two for Christmas dinner. What are some of your holiday baking traditions?

Christmas Cookies

These are cake-y, with a hint of almond.

  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 4 1/2 cups flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  1. Cream together butter and sugar till fluffy and light. Add eggs, vanilla and almond till combined. Add dry ingredients slowly.
  2. Turn out dough onto floured surface and roll out. I like to roll out fairly thick, 1/3 – 1/2 of an inch depending on my mood (or how many cookies I want to make). The dough should not be rolled too thin or they will not bake properly.
  3. Cut out cookies and decorate with sprinkle sugars. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes depending on thickness. Or you can frost after you bake.


*Collywobbles.  A nonsense phrase for comic intent. You’re welcome.  I will now be using the word pandenoodle as often as possible.


A state of intestinal disorder, usually accompanied by a rumbling stomach; for example, ‘butterflies in the stomach’.


The origin isn’t known for certain.

Colly is an English dialect word meaning coal dust. Blackbirds were hence known as colly birds. The songTwelve days of Christmas is usually sung as ‘my true love sent to me, four calling birds’… but the actual line is ‘four colly birds’. Colly-wobbles could have derived from indisposition caused by breathing coal dust.

It is more likely that this is a nonsense word formed from colic and wobble. The earliest citation of it is from Pierce Egan’s edition of Grose’s Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue, 1823:

“Collywobbles, the gripes.”

The nonsense origin is supported by two other early references, clearly used with comic intent.

Punch October 1841: “To keep him from getting the collywobbles in his pandenoodles.”

– Cuthbert Bede The Adventures of Mister Verdant Green, 1853: “A touch of the mulligrubs in your collywobbles?”

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