Category Archives: breakfast


People seem to like to ask this now quite obviously pregnant girl if I’m having any crazy cravings. You can almost see the disappointment in their faces when I tell them, no, I am not currently topping off my ice cream sundaes with a dill pickle instead of a cherry. Sorry to disappoint you, friend.

I’ve never really had strong food cravings and that doesn’t seem to be all that different now that I’m carrying around Baby Girl. Sure, I’ll have moments where I think, you know what sounds amazeballs right now? Cheese fries. But if all I have is carrot sticks and hummus, well, that’ll work too. Close enough, right?

There has been one thing I’ve had a hard time resisting over the last few months though. It’s the one thing that *always* sounds spot-on delicious to me. The good thing about this particular item is it’s not something I’m going to have lying around, it’s extremely unlikely I’m going to just whip this up on a whim, and I’d have to go out to get it. That means putting on real pants and shoes. Let’s face it, craving or not, laziness always wins out over having to put on real pants and shoes. Fact.

So what’s this mystery item I daydream about? Why, doughnuts, of course! Doughnuts and any and all of their assorted fried dough cousins – fritters, churros, hush puppies, beignets, corn dogs, etc., etc., and so on. Even funnel cake sounds good! And I don’t even *like* funnel cake! I don’t know what it is….I just have a hankering for hunks of golden brown, fried, carbohydrates these days.

Side note: how come pregnancy doesn’t make you like really crave kale? Or beets? Wouldn’t that be ideal?

I’ve only indulged in my fried dough craving a couple times over the last six months. Let’s just say I didn’t feel particularly stellar after I inhaled a giant apple fritter one Saturday morning that Eric ever-so-poignantly observed was as big as my face. It totally was too. He wasn’t trying to be mean. He was just surprised. Six months ago, I would have mowed down on about half of that thing, declared I was full and then handed the gnarled remains over to him to finish. Not anymore. The sheer amount of food I can put away these days surprises even me sometimes.

Dudes! What the heck? Who ate all this??

Oh. I did. Huh. Wonder how that happened?

Anyway. Luckily when the doughnut craving gets a little too strong to ignore, I can whip up a quick batch of the baked variety here at home. These cinnamon sugar pumpkin doughnuts may just be my favorite to date. Bursting with warm, cinnamony fall spice and pumpkin flavor, these are about as close to bakery-fresh goodness as you can get. The crunchy, cinnamon sugar exterior makes them feel all the more indulgent. I whipped up these up quickly one chilly Sunday morning a few weeks ago, built myself a roaring fire (and by that I mean I flipped the switch on the wall and the gas fireplace came on), cuddled up under my favorite purple blanket and proceed to down two of these suckers in record time.

Out of the recipe, I got 12 full sized doughnuts and 12 “doughnut holes” (same batter baked in a mini-muffin tin). I will say, as with most baked doughnut recipes, these are best the day their made. After 24 hours or so, the coating just kind of melts into the doughnut leaving behind a slightly soggy, sticky cake product. They are not, however, any less edible that way. Believe me, I popped two or three of those minis just about every time I walked by. Craving satisfied.



  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 (15 oz.) can pumpkin puree
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice, or 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon plus a heaping 1/4 teaspoon each ground nutmeg and ground ginger
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1-3/4 cups + 2 tablespoons unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • Cinnamon-sugar, for coating


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray the wells of a doughnut pan (or muffin tin) with cooking spray.
  2. Combine all ingredients except flour and cinnamon sugar in an electric mixer and beat until smooth. Add the flour and stir until just combined. Do not overmix.
  3. Fill the wells the doughnut pan about 3/4 of the way full. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for 5 minutes in the pan. Run a knife along the outer edge of each doughnut to loosen and remove to a wire rack to cool.
  4. When the doughnuts are cool enough to handle, but still warm, place a zip-top bag with cinnamon-sugar and shake to coat. Cool completely on a wire rack. Makes 15 to 18 doughnuts.




Filed under bread, breakfast

Road Trip

It’s summer and you know what that means…

Road trip!

Well, not for me. I’m staying right here. But for many others, summer means packing up the old Family Truckster Chevy Chase style and hitting the road.

Living here on the banks of the Mississippi River in shadows of I-80, this area is a stop along the way, not the destination. The interstate is packed with campers and trailers, cars with bikes, canoes and kayaks strapped to the top, and minivans glowing with the blue light of DVD players in the back seat all on their way to somewhere other than here.

When I see a car with a plate from a far off, mythical land like, say, Vermont or Oregon, I always make a little story about where they’re headed and why. They’re headed to sunny Southern California to play Micky Mouse and Disneyland. They’re fulfilling a lifelong dream to chase tornadoes on the plains of Kansas and Oklahoma. They’re running off to join the professional rodeo circuit. I had a hard time coming up with something for the car with the plate from Hawaii I saw this past winter because all I could think was, DUDE. Bummer. Seriously.

I will say this town knows what people on the road are looking for. And that’s breakfast. The best part of the long road trip is breakfast! Around here, they do it up right. A slab of ham with a side of bacon and crispy home fries. With a cinnamon roll as big as your head to start off. This is the Midwest after all. You may just be passing through, but we’re gonna go ahead and make sure you take a little extra butt jiggle with you when you leave. 😉 Aw, go ahead. You’re on vacation.

Personally, I’d rather join the crowds of motel and camper dwellers at the local joint for breakfast as opposed to make my own. I don’t know. There’s just something about getting up early and dirtying my entire kitchen before noon that makes me cranky. However, I did get a waffle iron for Christmas, so I decided it was high time I make some waffles for breakfast – instead of drowning them with maple syrup at 6pm and calling them dinner like I’ve been doing for the last six months.

This recipe for yeasted waffles makes breakfast a snap. Know why? Because the dirtying up of all the dishes happens the night before! YES! Now that I can handle. A simple yeast batter is mixed up and stuck in the fridge until morning. All you have to do is roll out of bed, flip on the waffle iron (and the coffee maker) and hot, crispy waffles are just minutes away!

I’m not sure I’ve ever had a yeasted waffle before but I really like the results. The flavor is deeper and more complex. The texture is spot on. This time I topped my waffles with strawberries, some pineapple broiled with brown sugar (mmmm…) and a dollop of Greek yogurt to cut the sweetness.

If you’re stuck at home this summer like I am, take a vacation from time consuming breakfast and make these!

OVERNIGHT YEASTED WAFFLES (As seen at Erin’s Food Files and The Novice Chef, originally adapted from Better Homes and Gardens)


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 3/4 cups milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla


  1. Stir together the flour, sugar, yeast, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl. Add in the milk, eggs, oil and vanilla to the flour mixture and beat with an electric mixer until thoroughly combined. Cover the batter loosely with plastic wrap or a towel and chill overnight or up to 24 hours.
  2. Stir the batter before making the waffles. Follow the directions on your waffle maker and repeat until all the batter is gone. How many you get will depend on your maker. I have a large Belgian waffle maker and I got 5 large waffles. 🙂


Filed under breakfast

Daily Doldrums

As much as I love my kitchen, let’s be honest, it’s kind of boring in there. And standing in front of the counter peeling, dicing, chopping and what not tends to feel a lot like work. Sure the sharing and eating part is fun, but the prep can be tedious if you’re not in the mood. And the dreaded clean up! Ugh. Sometimes I don’t make an item not because it’s time consuming, not because I have to stand there and chop, but simply because I don’t want to clean up the mess I’m about to make. I hate the clean up part!

Cooking and baking is a lot of fun, but I often find I need a little help to make it…more fun.

Multitasking. It’s what I do.

There’s music, of course. I always have my laptop nearby so putting my entire iTunes library on shuffle is always an option. Sometimes a Christmas song plays in it’s entirety in the heat of summer because I’ve got raw chicken goop all over my hands and can’t switch it. It happens. What can ya do? Sometimes I wrinkled up my nose and think, why the heck is that on here? I don’t even like that song! I’ve got two thousand tracks, a stinker or two is bound to sneak in there. Sometimes I skip the iTunes all together and go for one of my highly embarrassing Pandora stations. (Ahem. Glee Cast. Cough, cough. NKOTB. Throat clear.) Two things: 1. The music from Rent will never go out of style. 2. I still know every single word to The Right Stuff. You do too. 😉

When my awful, off-key singing gets so bad even I can’t stand it anymore, listening to other people talk is a nice distraction. Nothing makes a mundane kitchen task (dishes, anyone?) go faster than an episode or two of This American Life. Joy and Tracy keep me company once a week. Even audiobooks have found their way into the kitchen! I’ve only recently discovered books on CD, because, apparently, I was absent from real-life for the majority of the 1990s. My library has a great selection, likely because no one listens to books on CDs anymore. 😉

The right entertainment can get me totally psyched up to be in the kitchen even when I normally wouldn’t feel like it. I have great admiration for those who get up on a weekend morning and head straight into the kitchen to whip up a delicious breakfast. I am not one of those people. Weekend mornings are for eating cereal and lounging. I like to putz around on the interwebs for hours in my pajamas. Eric sits and watches guys on ESPN yell about football. Very little, if anything, gets done before 11:00 a.m. Then we grumble our way through our chores until well into the afternoon, cursing ourselves for not getting a move on a little quicker in the morning. It’s kind of a ritual.

I had an audiobook on loan from the library that I really wanted to finish before it was due back, so I decided to finish it up this morning while I whipped up some fresh baked donuts. What a great start to the day. There was nothing but relaxation, chuckles (it wasn’t a very serious book*) and good eats, everything a Sunday morning should be and more. Maybe this making breakfast thing isn’t so bad after all.

*It was Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret. 😉 Judy Blume, I will love you always and forever. I don’t care if it has been exactly 17 years since I was 12. That is all.

These little treats were like a burst of fresh, fruity sunshine on a winter’s morning. (Although…what winter, right? Heh. I’m not complaining! Also don’t want to jinx it so I best just shut up about it.) I just adore winter citrus and when paired with frozen berries, you can almost feel the sand between your toes. I’ve had my eye on these Blueberry Donuts with Orange Glaze ever since Nicole posted them (please, please check her out! Her blog is seriously OUTSTANDING! She posts such a great variety healthified dishes, I find myself bookmarking something from her blog at least once a week. She rocks!) and I’m kicking myself for not getting around to making them sooner. I thought the little chocolate donuts were king, but these may bump those from the top spot. They are soft, delicately orange flavored and bursting with berry goodness. The glaze is a great sweet contrast to the tart berries, everything works together in perfect harmony. I scarfed two in about 3.7 seconds. Then later I had another. Say goodbye to the daily kitchen doldrums and make these quick!

BAKED BLUEBERRY DONUTS WITH ORANGE GLAZE (Recipe Source: As seen at Prevention RD)


For the donuts:

  • 2 cups cake flour (or 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour + 1/4 cup cornstarch)
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk, at room temperature
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten, at room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened applesauce (I used canola oil – the applesauce I had in the fridge had gone fuzzy. Ewwww!)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup frozen blueberries (no need to thaw!)

For the orange glaze:

  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Tbsp whole milk
  • 1 Tbsp freshly squeezed orange juice + more to thin out, if desired
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sift the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt into a large bowl and whisk together. Add the orange zest and mix it in.
  3. Add the buttermilk, eggs, applesauce or oil and vanilla extract. Gently mix until just combined, do not over-mix. Fold in blueberries
  4. Lightly grease a donut pan with non-stick spray. Spoon the batter into each cup, filling about half way. Bake 8-9 minutes or until the donuts spring back when lightly touched.
  5. To make the glaze, combine powdered sugar, milk, orange juice and vanilla in a bowl. Add additional orange juice or milk, 1/2 teaspoon at a time until desired consistency is reached.
  6. Let the donuts cool in the pan for about 4 minutes. Then remove from pan to a wire rack to cool completely
  7. Dip one side of each doughnut in the glaze. Place on the wire rack and let the excess drip away. Allow the glaze to dry and serve immediately. Yield: about 21 doughnuts.



Filed under breakfast, fruit


If there’s one thing my mom and I can’t resist it’s a good craft fair. I can’t put my finger on what draws us to these hotel ballrooms and school gymnasiums filled with handcrafted wares, but if there’s one in the area, you better believe we’re ponying up the three bucks to get in and dropping our names into the box for a chance to win a door prize.

Maybe it’s the spicy scent of cinnamon potpourri. Or the catchy Christmas tunes being pumped in even when the calendar still reads October. Maybe it’s the tiny shred of hope that the snack mix lady, who hasn’t been seen since about 2003, will make a miraculous comeback and be there to share her sweet, crunchy Chex cereal/M&M goodness with the world once again. Whatever the reason, we just can’t seem to stay away.

But nowhere in either of our respective homes does a a smiling country snowman proclaiming ‘Let it Snow’ fit in. Crocheted coasters? My mom already has pile of those she made herself. In like 1978. Wine bottles stuffed with Christmas lights are played. That wreath that looks like Santa’s head complete with floppy arms and legs – uhhh…a little creepy, if we’re being honest.

The items seem to fall into one of two categories: 1) Try Not To Snicker Too Loud Because the Person who Made it is Sitting Right There and Will Feel Bad. 2) That Doesn’t Look Hard to Do At All. Fifty Bucks? Please. We Could SO Make That Ourselves.

If we were, you know, crafty.

We are not crafty. We hold out hope that one day we will be crafty, but that day has yet to arrive. Sad country snowman. 😦

So when I find a recipe that’s really just an edible craft project in disguise, I don’t know why I think it will be easy. I fall for it every single time! Blast!

These little Christmas donut bites from Love From the Oven caught my eye in one of those That Doesn’t Look Hard At All, I Could So Do That Myself kind of moments.

A simple mini donut baked up in my trusty, handy-dandy mini donut pan (I don’t use this pan very often. I wonder why. Oh. It’s kind of a pain? Now I remember.), dipped in chocolate (Yup. That always goes super smooth with no trouble at all. Right.), and then decorated with simple edibles. Like candies! And pretzels that look like antlers! Breaking pretzels into antler shapes is not only genius, it’s super easy.

For everyone except for me, of course. Apparently, a soft touch is needed to break pretzels. Evidence would suggest I’m about as gentle as an angry caged lion. THESE PRETZELS ARE MAKING ME THIRSTY! ARGH!

In the end, they came out quite well. Of course, I learned that certain mini chocolate chips have the tendency to make snowman look a little crazed if not downright pissed off. So there’s that. I ate those. Any Christmas treat that gives me the stink eye ends up jammed into my mouth. So there.

These were, of course, a big hit with all that received them. Because, crafty or not, they are pretty darn cute. And pretty darn tasty. As with most crafty projects, they take a little time and a little patience, but the end result is sure to have you coming back for more.

CHRISTMAS DONUT BITES (Donut recipe adapted from Stephanie Cooks, decorations from Love from the Oven)

What you’ll need:

  • Mini donuts (I baked mine using my mini donut pan, the recipe appears below, you could also use plain store bought donuts or fry up some yeast donuts if you’re feeling really ambitious)
  • 5 to 6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted
  • 5 to 6 ounces white chocolate, melted
  • Mini pretzel twists, broken in half to create antler shapes
  • M & M candies in red and orange
  • Large white pearl sprinkles (like these)
  • Mini chocolate chips

What you’ll do:

  • Make donuts cool completely before decorating.
  • For the reindeer, gently press the pretzels into the tops of the donuts and then remove (when you dip the donut in the chocolate, it will sink down into the holes so you can see where to place the antlers. This also acts as a little bit of ‘glue’ to hold them in place.)
  • Holding the donut by the bottom, dip the tops in the melted chocolate. Twist gently to remove the excess and allow it to drip back into the bowl. Turn right side up and reinsert pretzels if using. Place on a wire rack.
  • Gently drop an M&M (red for reindeer nose, orange for snowman nose) into the center of the donut. You may find that it sinks pretty far inside. If that happens, just place a second M&M on top so the nose is prominent.
  • Place two white pearl sprinkles above the nose to for the reindeer eyes. Use mini chocolate chips to make snowman eyes and mouths.
  • Allow the donuts to sit at room temp for the chocolate to set before packaging.


*You’ll never ever EVER find me drinking eggnog, but it is a fun holiday flavor to use in baking and one I’m warming up to as of late. These little donuts were a great way to use it!


  • 1 cup flour
  • Scant 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp baking powder
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup low fat eggnog
  • 1/2 tsp rum extract
  • 4 tbsp canola oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Stir together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg. Add the egg, rum extract and eggnog then whisk for 1 minute. Add the oil and continue to whisk until well combined.
  3. Grease the mini donut pan liberally. Fill each with about 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of batter (do not overfill, they’ll puff up like cupcakes and not look like donuts anymore!). Bake for 3 to 5 minutes. Cool completely before decorating. Yields about 4 dozen.



Filed under breakfast, chocolate

Tidings of Comfort

Food blogging is like the ultimate dinner party. There’s great food, good conversation, a connection between people with similar interests. There’s a kind of sharing that you just don’t seem to find on other blogs. What better way to say “hey, I like you!” than with a heaping plateful of pasta or delectable layer cake. Food makes others feel welcome. In real spaces and virtual ones as well.

I’ve been reading some blogs for four years or more and I love describing them to people who’ve never seen them. “This is so-and-so’s blog,” I’ll say. “She lives here, does this and likes that. She makes the most amazing <layer cakes, Mexican food, meat-free eats, sugar cookies> ” The little details you glean from a few paragraphs, photos and recipes makes you feel like you’ve known someone forever, even if you’ve never met. Sharing in the excitements of accomplishments or the joys of new babies makes it feel like there’s always a friend celebrating. It’s great to share in those moments.

But sometimes, life gets tough. That’s when the blogging community really comes together.

One of my very favorite bloggers, Annie over at Annie’s Eats, posted over the holiday weekend that she lost her father suddenly and unexpectedly on Thanksgiving day. My heart just broke for her and her family. How devastating. Many times over the course of that weekend while in the company of family and friends, my thoughts turned to Annie and her family. I wished there was something I could do to help. Even though we’re strangers, I feel like I know Annie. I think that’s what makes her such a amazing blogger.

So I made a cake. To dedicate and share with a blogger who is restless and hurting. A cake filled with the simple goodness of sugar and butter and cinnamon. The kind of cake to eat in the morning when house is quiet but thoughts are noisy and raw, stinging like icy winter sleet. When the world is washed in the gray-blue shadows of dawn that just don’t seem to brighten. The kind of cake a friend would bring to the doorstep of another who needed it, complete with hot coffee, patience and time. The kind of cake to talk over. Or sit quietly over. To grieve over. Maybe even laugh over. The kind of cake that may taste like a happy memory.

If I could, I would bring a cake like this one to Annie and her family. It’s rich, warm and satisfying. It tastes like a hug with a thick layer of crunchy cinnamon crumbs blanketing a buttery yellow cake. There’s no intricate steps, no fancy ingredients, just plain good food. It’s the kind of cake that can be made quickly, delivered promptly and enjoyed while still warm from the oven. Perfect for a friend in need.

Annie, we’re all thinking of you, praying for you and wishing you peace and comfort during this time. Hugs and cakes to you.

NEW YORK STYLE CRUMB CAKE (Recipe Source: Baked Explorations: Classic American Desserts Reinvented by Matt Lewis & Renato Poliafito)


For the topping:

  • 1 cup packed golden brown sugar
  • ½ cup white granulated sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted (oh yes, TWO STICKS. Faint)
  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour

For the cake:

  • 2 ½ cups unbleached all purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 ½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 ½ cups white granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 ¼ cups sour cream


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F and with the oven rack in the center. Grease the bottom and sides of a 9 x 13 glass baking dish.
  2. Make the topping: Combine sugars, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Pour the melted butter and whisk until combined, crushing any large lumps. Stir in flour until mixture is uniform. Set aside until ready to use.
  3. Make the cake: Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream the butter on medium speed until smooth. Scrape down the bowl and add sugar, then continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time, beating for 30 seconds  and scraping down the side of the bowl after each addition. Add sour cream and vanilla and beat until just combined. Stir in the flour in thirds, scraping the sides of the bowl before each addition, until fully incorporated. Batter will be thick.
  5. Pour the batter into buttered pan, level with a spatula. Scoop a handful of the topping mix into your hand, make a fist, and break off pieces to crumble the topping over the batter. Repeat until all the topping is used. Crumble topping will be very thick.
  6. Bake for 45-55 minutes or until a toothpick entered into center comes out clean, rotating the pan twice. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 30 minutes before serving.



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Filed under breakfast, cakes

Chocolate Crush

There’s this guy. I have a bit of a crush on him. Sometimes I follow him around or try to hold his hand or pass him notes asking him if he loves me. He’s just so super cute and nice and funny and stuff. He has a nice smile and very pretty blue eyes that remind me of the color of a swimming pool on a cloudy day.

One time we went on this walk, just the two of us, and he gave me this ring. I melted into a puddle on the sidewalk. Then I married him.

Yes. I have a serious crush on my husband. And when he wakes up on a lazy Sunday morning, blinks at me with those pools of blue underneath the kind of long, thick eyelashes any girl would kill for, and asks “Can you make the little chocolate donuts for breakfast today? They taste good and have the sugar I need to get me going in the morning.“* I can’t say no. I can’t say to no to that! What am I made of stone or something?

*And if you get that joke, I think I love you. Come over. We can down a lot of donuts together. 😉

These little chocolate donuts are a relatively new phenomenon at our house but they have already reached superstar status in the heart and mouth of my favorite food critic – my husband Eric. They certainly do get him going in the morning. Once he’s had a couple of these he’s ready to tackle all sorts of important things – like watching SportsCenter, pacing aimlessly from the front of the house to back, and sitting in a chair and staring into space. Eventually the sugar coma wears off and he can get back to doing something productive. 😉

I procured a donut pan earlier this summer (because I just couldn’t resist) and I’ve already surprised myself with number of times I’ve used it. It just makes having donuts at home so easy.

Or should I say…too easy! Let’s not fool ourselves and claim we’re enjoying a healthy breakfast here just because our little chocolate donuts are baked and not fried. They’re a cupcake with a hole in the middle. That doesn’t mean they’re not worth the splurge every once in a while, they totally are, but just accept the fact that you’re eating dessert for breakfast. It’s okay. It’s less shameful than standing over the sink in your bathrobe and polishing off half a leftover pumpkin pie straight from the dish. So…there’s that.

I’ve tried a couple varieties of baked donuts but this recipe for a chocolate on chocolate explosion of deliciousness is the runaway favorite by far. There is something so satisfying about the soft, deep, dark chocolate base and creamy chocolate glaze. And the sprinkles? Please, that’s just a happy face on plate.

So easy. Seriously. You want donuts but only have an hour? No problem. You got it, man. One bowl, a whisk and a few pantry staples is all it takes. You’ll be in Tasty Town before you can say “Time to Make the Donuts.”

I used a basic baked donut recipe I spotted over at Stephanie Cooks and just adapted it by swapping a quarter cup of the flour for cocoa powder to make a chocolate base. The secret here, I think, is dutch-process cocoa. You will not find a more chocolatey cocoa powder than the dutch-process. It looks different. It smells different. It makes the cake donut base so sinful, you’ll feel the need to confess after eating one. I’m relatively new to using it myself and it has won me over hook, line and sinker. I am now obsessed. It does wonders for the flavor here.

Now, texture-wise, you’re not going to bite into a baked donut and completely forget it’s not fried. That golden, crunchy exterior – it’s just not there. However! All donut properties are not lost here. These are baked in a screaming hot oven (450 degrees) so they are done in just a few minutes and the outside gets the fainest bit of crunch while the inside stays soft. And the glaze. Whoa Nelly! I love it. I used the same glaze I used on the donut muffins I made last year and it is just perfect. Not too thick, not too runny, it grabs those sprinkles and won’t let go but yet dries to a nice bake shop consistency too.

I will say these are best eaten the day they’re made – they tend to get a bit soggy after 24 hours or so – no less tasty, of course, but I wouldn’t make them ahead if serving to guests. But since they seriously take no time at all, you really don’t have to. These are finger licking, chocolate ring around your lips, glass of milk swigging, Sunday morning perfection. Enjoy every last bite.

BAKED CHOCOLATE DONUTS (Donuts adapted from: Stephanie Cooks, glaze is the same as in these Donut Muffins I made last year.)


  • 3/4 cup flour
  • 1/4 cup dutch-process cocoa
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
    (now that I’m writing this, I’m pretty sure I’ve been using only 1 teaspoon. Oopsies. I’ve been happy with my results but I’m going to use a tablespoon next time to fluff-ify my donuts further!)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • Chocolate glaze (recipe follows)
  • Colored or chocolate sprinkles (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees and coat a donut pan liberally with cooking spray.
  2. Stir together flour, cocoa powder, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg, vanilla, and milk and stir together for 1 minute. Add the oil and continue to whisk until just combined. Transfer the batter to a large measuring cup (or a bowl with a spout) for easy pouring.
  3. Fill each cavity in the pan 2/3 of the way full with batter. Bake for 7 to 9 minutes or until the donuts spring back when lightly touched. Cool completely before icing. Yields 10 to 12 donuts.

Chocolate Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the glaze: combine the chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over some simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is incorporated. Use immediately.


One Year Ago: Roasted Corn Salad – One of my summer favorites!
Two Years Ago: Peanut Butter Blossoms
Three Years Ago: Skillet Bruschetta Chicken


Filed under breakfast, chocolate


In the beginning, it’s all silly secrets and popsicle stained lips. There’s messy french braids and colorful, knotted friendship bracelets threaded up both wrists. Muffled late night sleepover giggles, jungles of monkey bars, and mile after mile peddled on shiny pink bikes. There’s an arm to link after getting off the school bus. There’s adventure in your own backyard. There’s nothing quite like a best friend.

Then you’re too old for the monkey bars, french braids are so elementary school and your shiny pink bike gets traded for a rusty hand-me-down car. There’s that first taste of freedom – sweet like strawberry lip gloss and chocolate milkshakes and 3:00 Friday afternoon sunshine. There’s notebook paper scribbled with purple pen confessions and shoved through the slats of a locker, a smile and a wave across a crowded hallway, a familiar face in gym class. Mix tapes and CD swaps and shared movie theater popcorn. There’s boys. The ones you’re crushing and the ones you’re cursing. Guy friends and more-than-friends-guy friends and I-wish-he-were-more-than-a-friend guy friends. There’s the last dance on prom night, memories scrawled in the margins of yearbooks, and tassels brushing against teary cheeks on graduation day. Promises are made. With some, they break quickly and quietly, fading as fast as tail lights out of the school parking lot. And yet with others, they stand strong and firm, weathering the storm of the next four years and beyond.

Then you’re starting over. There’s nerves and homesickness and worries stacked up sky high. An 8×10 cement block of a room and shower shoes and roommate squabbles. But there’s a couple girls from your floor in your Tuesday morning lecture and there’s a common thread sewn over dorm dining hall chicken fingers. All of sudden, there’s study partners and piling onto a bunk to watch Dawson’s Creek in fuzzy slippers and greasy pizza way past midnight. There’s someone’s purse strap to grab when threading through a crowd, someone to rescue you from the guy that’s all hands, to tell you you’ve had enough, to hold your hair back. There’s kissing and telling – some of the time. And then there’s a pint of ice cream and shoulder when he stops calling. There’s a bond over bombed exams, a connection over pre-bar cocktails, and a promise to be there, forever, no matter what, without saying a word. For some reason, it’s easier to keep.

The miles between you grow and the time between phone calls and visits widens. But there’s a quick text to brighten a birthday and a lunch date when you’re both home over the holidays. Cheeks flush with rose and bliss as “he’s the one” is confessed over coffee. There’s the glint of brand new diamond in the the sun. White satin and ivory lace and pretty pastel chiffon. There’s trying desperately to hold it together as she floats down the aisle because your heart is so full of happiness. From new jobs to first places to milestones big and small, you’re together, even when you’re miles apart.

The wild parties are over. The days of crashing on the couch without washing off your makeup are long gone. Conversations revolve around swapping recipes, which pre-natal vitamins you’re taking and how husbands just don’t see dirt the same way we do. And then there’s afternoon showers of pink and blue, pictures of the nursery, and a chuckle over swollen ankles. There’s ten little fingers and ten peanuty toes and perfectly puckered rosebud lips. There’s a dear friend holding her beautiful baby girl and motherhood looks stunning on her.

And with tiny pink hats and precious coos, the circle of girlfriends starts over again.


My very dear friend from college welcomed a beautiful baby girl a couple weeks back. Welcome to the world, Baby W! So glad you could join us! She is newborn bundled perfection. I’m not just saying that because her mom is one of my besties, this is a gorgeous child. 🙂 I knew I had to bring the new mom and dad sustenance to get help get them through those long days and even longer nights of caring for a baby.  Cheesy pastas for the freezer weren’t doing it for me. Creamy casseroles aren’t really her style. There was cookie dough, but that’s not a meal and if I could provide something that offered a bit of nutritional value that would be ideal…

My brain immediately went to my latest obsession…steel cut oats.

Perfect. A basket full of goodies to make an easy, nutritious, and delicious bowl of overnight steel cut oats. It’s super filling, a great vehicle for all kinds of healthy fruits, seeds and nuts and tastes great first thing in the morning all the way to the middle of the night. It’s the perfect new mom energy food. Plus, if the oatmeal just isn’t in the cards one day, the basket contains two-thirds of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and a bit of trail mix to munch on. 🙂 That works too!

In the basket I put a bag of Bob’s Red Mill steel cut oats, a jar of all-natural, unsweetened applesauce, a bag of dried cherries, a bag of fruit and nut mix, a jar of no sugar added strawberry fruit spread, creamy peanut butter and a cute little honey bear. I also made up a couple cards with some ideas for what to mix in to the oatmeal. Some used the items in the basket, some used other items like canned pumpkin, chocolate chips and fresh fruit. The recipe for the overnight oat mixture was attached with a ribbon to the outside – Up All Night Oats. 🙂

Since discovering this super easy oatmeal technique from Jessica over at The Novice Chef, I just can’t get enough of the stuff. Normally, steel cut oats would take a good half hour to cook on the stovetop. Who has time for that in morning? Definitely not a new mom! And definitely not me either. All you have to do is mix the oatmeal with a bit of unsweetened applesauce, brown sugar, cinnamon, salt and milk the night before, cover it and pop in the fridge. In the morning, pour the mixture into a saucepan, simmer on the stove for five minutes and EAT! Anything you like can be mixed in – my favorite is a bit of crunchy peanut butter, sliced banana and a drizzle of honey for sweetness.

Now, steel cut oats do have a heartier and chewier texture than regular oatmeal, so head’s up there. Personally, I prefer it that way as I tend to be turned off by the pale, mushy texture of instant oatmeal. If you’re looking for a hearty, nutritious, keeps-you-full-until-lunch breakfast, give this a try! Be sure to share it with your girlfriends too, they’ll want to know about this. 😉

OVERNIGHT STEEL CUT OATS (Recipe adapted from: The Novice Chef, originally adapted from Good Life Eats)


  • 1/2 cup steel cut oats
  • 1 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 ounces all-natural applesauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • a pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cups fat free milk


  1. Combine oats, brown sugar, applesauce, cinnamon and salt in a non-metal bowl. Stir in milk and cover and chill for at least 8 hours or up to 24 hours.
  2. Transfer oatmeal mixture to a medium saucepan. Heat just to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until oatmeal is done, adding additional milk if desired and stirring occasionally.
  3. Remove oatmeal from heat and add your desired mix-ins. Spoon into bowls. Serve with additional milk, if desired. Makes 2 servings.


Filed under breakfast, fruit

A Woman Scone-d

We’re cruising through this sweet corn celebration! The good news is, it’s ALMOST Friday. There is light at the end of the work week!

I typically don’t get real ambitious with breakfast. In fact, we’ve been married over 4 years and I don’t think I’ve ever made a big breakfast for us. No waffles, no pancakes, no bacon and eggs. I am such a bad wife! I just don’t have it together in the morning. Even on the weekend! My husband calls my morning alter-ego “Angry Erin.” He will go to extreme measures to avoid her. Smart man.

The scone is perfect answer to the homemade breakfast for the morning challenged. Make at a time when you are more coherent, toss in the freezer and then bake as you want them. Perfect! I actually hadn’t made scones until this past weekend, but after making a Sweet Corn and Rosemary variety, I can’t wait to experiment with other flavors. The subtle sweetness and rich butter flavor make them the perfect breakfast treat.

This particular recipe has a sweet flavor from the corn, a slight crunch from the cornmeal and a great floral flavor from the rosemary. I topped mine off with a glaze of apricot preserves and honey and it was the perfect sweet compliment. Another unexpected and fun way to use up those plentiful ears of corn!



  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cold and cut in 1/4 inch slices
  • 2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
  • 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels (cut from about two ears)
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cups half and half
  • Egg wash
  • Apricot-Honey Glaze (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In large mixing bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, baking powder, sugar, and salt. Mix with fork.
  3. Add butter and blend with fingertips or pastry blender until butter is evenly mixed in chunks.
  4. Blend in lemon zest and rosemary and corn kernels.
  5. Beat egg in small bowl with half and half. Pour into flour mixture and stir with wooden spoon.
  6. Turn out onto floured board and lightly knead.
  7. Lightly roll our dough to form 12-inch circle. Using a biscuit cutter or plain 3-inch cookie cutters, cut out dough or cut into triangles (I cut mine into 8 triangles).
  8. Transfer to ungreased baking sheet and brush tops with egg wash.
  9. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire rack to cool slightly.
  10. Make the glaze: In a small bowl microwave two parts apricot preserves and one part honey until warmed through and loose, about 15 seconds. Drizzle over scones. Serve warm. Makes 12.



Filed under bread, breakfast

Donut Stop Believin’

Raise your hand if you grew up in the Chicago area and vacationed on a lake in Wisconsin as a kid. Yep. Me too.

Is that a requirement for a proper Chicagoland upbringing or something? Is it written in stone somewhere? I’m thinking yes, because it seems like every family had a spot in Wisconsin they returned to year after a year. As a child of the greater Chicagoland metro area, thou shall:

  • Enjoy assorted field trips to the aquarium, planetarium and Art Institute.
  • Stop putting ketchup on your hot dogs by the age of 10.
  • Spend at least a week every summer “Up North”

See, it is written. 🙂

For as long as I can remember, my family went up to Northern Wisconsin for a week every summer to stay on Plum Lake.  At 4, at 11, at 18 there are pictures of me standing on the shore, smiling my wide “school’s out” smile. I look different in each one, but the background is frozen in time. My mom stayed on that very same lake every summer when she was a girl. The beach, the pier, the slanty, rugged cottages – everything looks exactly the same, whether it be 1960, 1990 or beyond. It’s pretty near and dear to our hearts to say the very least!

Here we are! Mom at Plum Lake circa 1962 and me around 1989. The best parts of these photos? Mom’s bathing cap.! Gotta keep that nasty lake water out of your hair! And my life jacket. Like I’m going to drown there in three inches of water. That whale is the best! I forgot about that thing… Thanks for pics, Mom and Dad!

Plum Lake is miles and miles from the hustle and bustle of the big city – under a dark, cool canopy of lush, green forests. Nestled among the trees is a beautiful, clear, sandy bottom lake and clusters of tiny cottages straight out of days gone by. A week at the lake was a week full of casting a line off the pier, boat rides and skipping rocks. A week full of sand in your bed, swing sets and drippy ice cream cones. Slamming screen doors, supper clubs, and small town shops. Salt water taffy, buckets of minnows and belly laughs.

And donuts for breakfast. The best part of all! Hey, it’s okay on vacation, right? Waking up in the morning, watching the sun toss millions of tiny sparkles across the lake, and sinking my teeth into a soft, fresh donut was one of my favorite parts of the trip.

A tiny bakery in St. Germain was the source of this delicious bounty. Every couple days, I’d get up early and head to town with my mom. Once inside, I’d breathe in the heavenly aroma of sugar, butter and frying dough. Marveling at the piles of treats in the glass case, my stomach would begin to grumble. Choosing was always the hardest part! These were some seriously good donuts. Me personally? I was partial to the cake donut with chocolate icing (they slathered it on nice and thick too. No wimpy, tasteless, crumbly glaze here. There were TEETH MARKS in the icing after you took a bite. Now that’s what I’m talking about!) and the apple fritters bursting with juicy bits of real apples and drenched in glaze that stuck to your fingers and lips.

Up North. What a great place to be a kid. And eat donuts.

It’s been about 10 years since I’ve visited Plum Lake but I’d really like to get back there someday to carry on the tradition with my own kids. Maybe I’ll even have a donut or two while I’m there, considering I can’t even remember the last time I had one.

See, donuts are just not real high on my list of acceptable foods to eat. Apples, broccoli, brown rice. Acceptable for every day. Fried dough covered in sugar? Not acceptable for every day.  Personally, I think it’s kind of hard to find a good donut – not to mention all the unnecessary calories – so that’s why I tend to avoid them. And since I don’t fry at home, I don’t see homemade donuts in my future any time soon.

Instead, I’ll just rely on these baked donut muffins to curb any fried dough cravings. I spotted this recipe over at Elly Says Opa! and have had it saved for a while just waiting for that donut craving to hit. Not saying these are healthy by any means, but baked usually beats fried. It’s like scissors to paper, if you will. These are so easy to make and really do mimic the flavor profile of a cake donut – soft, moist with just a hint of spice. The chocolate glaze makes them just a little bit naughty while still remaining mostly nice. 😉 And who can resist colored sprinkles?? Not me! They may not be the same as the real thing I remember so fondly from my childhood, but they’re a good grown-up stand in. 🙂 Eric had a hard time deciding if they were breakfast or dessert. I told him, it’s okay to swing both ways. 😉

CHOCOLATE GLAZED DONUT MUFFINS (Recipe Source: Originally adapted from: Elle’s New England Kitchen, as seen at Elly Says Opa!)


For the Muffins

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • scant 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp. allspice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 1-1/4  tsp. vanilla extract

For the Glaze

  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 2 Tbsp butter
  • 1 Tbsp. corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp. vanilla extract
  • sprinkles (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a standard muffin tin.
  2. Whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt cinnamon, nutmeg and all spice in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the egg with the canola oil, butter, milk and vanilla with an electric mixer until well blended. Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture, combining gently by hand until just moistened.
  3. Spoon the batter in the prepared muffin tins and bake for about 18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely.
  4. To make the glaze, combine the chocolate chips, butter, corn syrup and vanilla extract in a double boiler (or in a stainless steel or glass bowl over some simmering water). Stir until the chocolate is melted and everything is incorporated.
  5. Dip the tops of the muffins into the glaze and immediately top with sprinkles, if using. Makes 12 muffins



Filed under breakfast, chocolate, muffins

The Amazing Shrinking Pastry Crust

In all my adventures in cooking and baking, I hadn’t yet tackled a baked egg dish. What could be better for a Sunday brunch/lunch than fluffy baked eggs, loaded with cheese, veggies and meat? For my introduction to this wonderfulness, I decided to go with a classic – Quiche Lorraine. On the side, I served up a simple green salad dressed with homemade balsamic vinaigrette. Delicious! Light but satisfying at the same time. 🙂

Quiche Lorraine is a classic French dish that combines a flaky pastry crust with eggs, milk or cream, Swiss or Gruyere cheese and bacon. Some recipes call for onion as well. It’s all baked in the oven until warm and golden and then sliced and served like a piece of pie.

Here’s an example of where I had every intention of taking a store bought shortcut but ended up making everything from scratch instead. How often does that happen? It’s usually the other way around! I debated back and forth about making my own pastry. After much consideration, I decided I would use store bought pie crust this go round and save the pastry for another time. Well. I forgot to BUY the pie crust. D’oh! But I had the butter, flour and ice water necessary to make my own so rather than go back to the store, I decided I’d just make it myself.

I baked my pastry and quiche in a 9 inch tart pan with a removable bottom as suggested in the recipe because I thought it would make for a prettier presentation than a standard pie plate. I ran into a pretty major snafu – my crust SHRANK LIKE CRAZY! Blast!

I noticed it the minute I took it out of the oven – a HUGE gap between the pastry and the pan on one side of the pie. I had one of those “this can’t be good” moments, but moved forward anyway thinking I could somehow carefully pour the egg mixture into the crust and NOT have it overflow and run into that space.

Um. Yeah. That’s impossible. Can’t be done. I poured the eggs into the crust, where they immediately spilled over the pastry like a river flooding its bank and started leaking out the bottom of my tart pan, which luckily, was already on a baking sheet covered in foil.

Eep. 😐

I tossed that thing in the oven to bake and immediately set out to find out what in the world causes insane pastry shrinkage. Ha. That makes me think of Seinfeld. Maybe my pastry decided to go swimming and the water was too cold?


I couldn’t really come up with a definitive answer. I got everything from the dough wasn’t cold enough, to it was too wet, to I stretched it too much in the pan. I swear I didn’t make any of these mistakes along the way, but maybe I did. Oh well.

In the end, the half of my quiche that was not overrun by runny eggs was quite good! The pastry actually had a really great flavor and flake to it. It paired very well with other ingredients, all of which brought their own flavor to the table – salty, crispy bacon, creamy cheese, a slight bite from the scallions. We both enjoyed it very much. The other half…well…it was a little more frittata-like than quiche-like. It still ate, but the crust just got lost inside the egg and it certainly wasn’t as pretty.

So, pastry experts! Any tips for a Newb? Is there a way to insure butter pastry won’t shrink? Any tricks of the trade to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

QUICHE LORRAINE WITH A SIMPLE SALAD (Recipe Adapted From: Emeril Lagasse via


  • 1 recipe for Flaky Butter Crust, recipe follows
  • 6 ounces thick cut bacon, cut into narrow strips
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1 1/4 cups half-and-half (I used fat free)
  • 3 scallions, white and greens, chopped.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere or Swiss
  • 1 recipe for Simple Salad, recipe follows


On a lightly floured surface, roll out pastry dough in to an 11-inch circle. Fit into a 9-inch fluted tart pan with a removable bottom and trim the edges. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.

In a medium skillet, cook the bacon until crisp and the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Discard the fat or reserve for another use.

Arrange the bacon evenly over the bottom of the baked crust.

In a large bowl, beat the eggs, yolks, and half and half. Add the remaining ingredients and whisk to combine. Pour into the prepared crust and bake until the custard is golden, puffed, and set yet still slightly wiggly in the center, 30 to 35 minutes.

Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack for 15 minutes before serving. Serve with Simple Salad.


  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 7 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into pieces
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons ice water, or more as needed (I needed about 4)

To make the dough in a food processor, combine the flour, salt, and butter in the processor and process until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs, about 10 seconds. With the machine running, add the ice water through the feed tube and pulse quickly 5 or 6 times, or until the dough comes together and starts to pull away from the sides of the container. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten it into a disk, and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface according to the recipe, fit it into the pan, and allow to rest again in the refrigerator before baking.

Yield: one 9-inch tart or pie crust


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Assorted salad greens, for accompaniment

Beat the vinegar in a bowl with the sugar, garlic, salt and pepper until sugar and salt dissolves. Then beat in the oil by droplets, whisking constantly. (Or place all the ingredients in a screw-top jar and shake to combine.) Taste and adjust the seasonings.

Toss a few tablespoons of the dressing with the salad mix and serve immediately.

If not using dressing right away, cover and refrigerate, whisking or shaking again before use.


One Year Ago: Chicken Piccata


Filed under breakfast, veggies