Category Archives: Bread & Dessert

On Berry Pie and Babies

Berry Pie with Buckwheat Crust

What better to soothe a weepy new mother than a slice of homemade berry pie and a decaf espresso topped with cream?

Sorin’s birthday was last week and so I baked a pie. He happened to walk through our sweaty, un-airconditioned kitchen while I was trying to roll out dough that was too soft and throwing together the filling without measuring anything and we both looked at each other and laughed about the same thing, why didn’t we just buy a damn pie? Any other woman, one week postpartum during an intense heatwave, would’ve had the sense to do so. But no, I had to bake it myself. And it turned out to be quite delicious, despite soft dough and no measurements, which makes me think this is a good recipe to pass along. Pie is finicky. But this recipe seems to defy the odds again and again, always turning out no matter how hard I try to screw it up.

But before the recipe, let me tempt you with this sweet little foot. Don’t you just want to kiss it?

Despite my prediction that the baby wasn’t ever going to come, she did, arriving on her due date with 14 minutes to spare.

I ran into a friend in the pediatrician’s waiting room last week and she said, “aren’t second babies delicious?” Although I’ve never been one to say babies are so cute I want to eat them up, I had to admit this time that delicious was just the right word.

First babies are amazing for the absolute awe they inspire. When you’re an adult, not all that much feels new anymore, but a first baby makes the whole world new again.When O was born, I felt like my world had been cracked open and a flood of emotions and experiences I never could’ve predicted came rushing in. You change when you have a baby. Your marriage changes, the daily rhythm of your life changes, your feelings about your career change, the way you view the world changes. It’s amazing, but also really, really hard.

A second baby slips into your life like a soft breeze. She nurses and sleeps and wakes and poops and makes little squeaky noises and around her, our life continues on much like it did before.  A second baby is like someone you already know finally showing up. There you are, I thought, when she was first placed on my chest all wet and warm and staring right at me, of course.

And there’s a feeling of victory with a second baby, isn’t there? Not only did you survive the first one, but you chose to do it all over again and this time you feel like you know what you’re doing. The hiccups won’t kill her and there’s no need to burst into tears every time she does; if you put either breast milk or aquaphor on it, it will clear up; just breastfeed whenever and don’t worry about how much they are or aren’t eating or what their poop looks like; life won’t be like this forever, it will get easier.

The arrival of our sweet little J completes our family and everything feels just as it should be. I want to bottle up this time so it never disappears completely. The weepiness this go-round comes not from being overwhelmed but from knowing the sweet newborn stage will be over so soon. These childbearing years are so hard and exhausting and completely lovely. And they pass so quickly.

Of course, by the end of next week I’ll probably be begging for mercy. The blissed out wave of hormones I’ve been riding since she was born will finally come crashing down, the reality of not having my mom here anymore cooking and cleaning and entertaining O will set in, I’ll be exhausted and un-showered and my hair will start shedding and the toilet will need to be cleaned and the laundry will pile up and the baby will be inconsolable just as O needs me to come in and sit with her while she takes 20 minutes to go to the bathroom and I will think, dear god, please let these babies grown up into independent people soon.

But until then, I’m in love. Pure, sweet, baby love.


O & J, two sweet sisters

Three Berry Pie with a Buckwheat (or rye) Crust

The pie crust recipe I use is 101 Cookbooks Flaky Rye Pie Crust. She has a link to a Melissa Clark video about how to make crust in a food processor, which is what I always do. I also pre-bake the bottom pie crust like Melissa Clark does.

This time I was out of rye flour and used buckwheat flour instead and the crust still turned out really well, light and flaky with a subtle nutty flavor. Regular buckwheat flour is usually toasted and the flavor is too strong for pie crust – instead, buy raw buckwheat groats and blend them yourself into flour. Sounds fussy, I know, but it’s not hard to do. Whole Foods and probably many health food stores sell raw buckwheat groats. Simply blend them in a blender until very finely ground.

101 Cookbook’s filling is fancier than what I threw together: about 2 pounds of mixed fresh blueberries, raspberries and sliced strawberries, 1 to 2 tablespoons brown sugar (I like tart, not overly sweet pie filling), a dash of cinnamon, a drizzle of vanilla and 4 tablespoons quick cooking tapioca (to thicken the filling, instead of flour). Now that fall is here, I think this crust would be great with apple pie filling, too.


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Good Morning!

IMG_7132You know how it goes. Those two overripe bananas on your kitchen counter have been attracting fruit flies for days, so you either need to put the bananas in the freezer where they’ll take up space for a month or two before you finally just throw them away, or, you can bake banana bread.

Two things usually stop me from baking banana bread. The first is that cup of white sugar that most recipes call for. A cup of sugar just seems like too much for something that calls itself “bread.” The second is that I usually end up eating 75% of the loaf myself, which make that cup of sugar seem extra evil.

This time around, I felt a little better about eating most of the banana bread myself over the course of 3 days because I made Smitten Kitchen’s Crackly Banana Bread (with slight modification). Made with white whole wheat flour, coconut oil, a bit of maple syrup and a handful of crunchy millet it’s just as good as regular old banana bread. I don’t see any reason to ever go back.

I made one modification to Smitten Kitchen’s recipe, cutting out the light brown sugar entirely and just using 1/3 cup maple syrup. The bread was still sweet enough for me. When it first comes out of the oven you might not think so, but wait a day. This banana bread tastes best on day 2 and 3, sweet and very moist. The millet is optional; I happened to have some in my pantry that I’ve been trying to use up, so I went for it. It adds a slight and appealing crunchiness to the bread.

The other reason I felt less guilty about having a slice of banana bread after every meal for 3 days is because banana bread isn’t the only thing I’ve got baking in the oven, if you know what I mean. And Mama is hungry.


This abstract belly shot doesn’t really capture the full glory of my growing midsection, 28 weeks (or is it 27?) and counting. Second pregnancies are much different than the first ones, aren’t they? For starters, I keep losing track of how far along I am instead of obsessively tracking and charting every minute. I’m sitting in a cafe right now drinking a blend of decaf and caffeinated coffee, although for the first pregnancy I swore off caffeine entirely. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older or because I’m chasing a 3 1/2 year old around or both, but my body just can’t make it through the day without at list a little hit of caffeine. Prenatal vitamins? I took them religiously during my first pregnancy. This time, I gave them up at week 8 when they were making my horrible nausea unbearable and never got back in the habit of taking them daily. Yoga? Ha! I have neither the time or the ability to twist my midsection, since this 2nd pregnancy belly is about the same size now, at the beginning of the third trimester, as it was the day I gave birth to O.

None of which means I’m any less in love with this little one. It’s not that I’m thinking less about this baby, it’s just that I’m more confident everything will be fine. Second children might get less undivided attention than the first born, but they also get the gift of less anxious, paranoid, nutso parents.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got to get out of this cafe. Three out of the four tables around me are talking about “the industry” and I can’t take it anymore….their latest project that was well received at film festivals, the set design that is completely wrong and doesn’t capture the mood, the script they’re working on bla bla bla bla. Sometimes I try to remember what people were talking about at coffee shops in Seattle when I overheard their conversations. Life, I guess?

The New Banana Bread


3 large ripe-to-over-ripe bananas
1 large egg
1/3 cup coconut oil, warmed until it liquefies
1/3 cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch of cardamom (optional)
1 1/2 cups white whole-wheat flour
2 tablespoons uncooked millet (optional)


Preheat your oven to 350°F and butter a 9×5-inch loaf pan.

In the bottom of a large bowl, mash bananas with fork. Whisk in egg, then oil,  syrup and vanilla extract. Sprinkle in baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and cardamom then stir until combined. Stir in flour until just combined, then millet.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until a tester comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Cool loaf in pan on rack.




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Giving Thanks for Being Over Extended (and some sweet potato ice cream)

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans

Last Friday night when I was making granola bars at 9:30pm to take to a bake sale the next day I thought to myself, “when was the last time a man was ever in this situation?”

I marched out to the living room and posed the question to Sorin who was reading or watching TV. I can’t remember which, but whatever it was it looked relaxing. I wasn’t ranting to him; I was happy to make granola bars that were raising money for a good cause. Just as I was happy to put work aside for a few hours on Wednesday to help with a craft project at O’s preschool and later that night bake garlic bread for my monthly book club potluck dinner (which I did while supervising O brushing her teeth, which involved lots of sprinting between the bathroom sink and the oven and only half a loaf of burned garlic bread).

My point was, men don’t socialize in the same way women do, like requiring that everyone read a book and cook food before we get together. Nor do most men participate in all the extras of parenthood in the same way that moms do. That bake sale for charity and those hand print turkey cards that the preschool is delivering to a retirement home? All of it orchestrated by moms. Busy moms, exhausted moms, moms who are completely overextended. And yet, we keep showing up and baking things and organizing fundraisers and social events and planning holidays to make them extra-special as if we have all the time in the world.


Sorin reasoned that I didn’t have to do any those things, they’re all voluntary. And he’s right. Plus, he added, there are lots of women with kids who never get involved in things like bake sales. He’s right about that too, I could just say no. But I like being involved in the community I’ve met since having a child. I also like giving back to the greater community, which is something I had good intentions to do all through my twenties and early thirties but never really did even though I had all the time in the world. Ironically, now, when I’m busier than ever, I’ve found the time to volunteer and raise money and get involved.

I mean, really, what the hell was I doing with my time before I had a child? I wasn’t volunteering. I wasn’t baking for any bake sales. I had a job and I exercised and socialized and slept a great deal more and read the entire Sunday Times but that still leaves large swaths of time that are unaccounted for. Why are there still so many classic novels I haven’t read? Why isn’t my career more established by now? Why are there so many continents I have never been to?

This insanely busy time of my life makes me feel perpetually behind and guilty of neglecting so many things I can’t quite get to, but I’m thankful to have such a full life. I would rather be crazy busy than have endless weeks of long days with nothing to do. I would rather be constantly surrounded by people and pulled on by a toddler than feel alone and lonely. This year I’m giving thanks for the chaos, embracing it instead of resenting it. Embrace the chaos! I think that might just have to be my mantra for the next 20 years.

Easy Sweet Potato Ice Cream (without an ice cream maker)

This ice cream is a new version of what was originally a recipe for chocolate ice cream. It’s made with sweet potatoes (a vegetable!) but tastes just like pumpkin pie. The flavor is subtle, it’s not overly sweet and it’s a cinch to make. Because of all the sweet potato in there, I think, the ice cream is slightly icy and freezes harder than the original chocolate recipe. Just give it a little time out of the freezer to soften up.

Serve the ice cream in bowls at Thanksgiving, or pour it into a gingersnap pie crust or sandwich it between cookies. The recipe makes around 3 cups of ice cream.

You can also add maple-glazed pecans if you want, recipe is at the bottom.

Oh, and I also give thanks to David Lebovitz from whom this recipe is adapted.

Sweet Potato Ice Cream with Maple-Glazed Pecans


1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled (about 3 or 4 potatoes)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
1 1/2 cups cold heavy cream, divided
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk, or more to taste
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon salt


Cut the sweet potatoes into 1-inch cubes, put them in a pot and cover with water.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, or until tender when poked with a fork.  Drain the sweet potatoes and let cool to room temperature.

Puree the potatoes in a blender or food processor with the cinnamon, nutmeg and a pinch of salt. Stir in 1/2 cup of the whole cream.

Use an electric mixer to whip the rest of the cream and the vanilla into soft peaks. By hand, gently stir together the whipped cream,  sweetened condensed milk, sweet potato and a pinch of salt.


Pour into a bowl or other container. (If you want to add pecans to the ice cream before freezing it, see recipe below)

Freeze the ice cream for 3 to 6 hours, until it reaches the consistency of ice cream.

Maple-Glazed Pecans Recipe:


1/2 cup maple syrup
1 cup pecans
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 325 F

Bake the pecans for 10 minutes until toasted.

Heat the maple syrup and a pinch of salt in a small saucepan. When it comes to a boil stir in the pecans, then cook until the syrup returns to a full boil.  Stir the nuts for 10 seconds or so, then remove them from the heat and let cool. I usually sprinkle more salt on the pecans at this point. When cooled, they will still still be a little sticky.

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It Could Be Worse


Is summer over yet?

I don’t think I ever asked this question until I moved to LA. Summer in LA has always felt tedious to me. It’s more of the same, just hotter. And summer here always insists on creeping well into September and October, all but eliminating autumn.

During summer in LA I feel restless instead of relaxed. I feel penned in. Or maybe it’s not LA; is this just what summer is like as adult?

But we do have some lovely foggy mornings in the summer that are perfect for Sunday morning walks in Elysian Park.


And we have strawberries in the yard.


And we eat strawberries in our froggy pool.


And put them in homemade ice cream.


This homemade ice cream is made without an ice cream maker and has no eggs in it. It takes about 10 minutes, plus freezing time, to make. It is delicious. Really delicious. All weekend long Sorin and I kept catching each other standing in front of the open freezer, spooning it into our mouths.

Have I ever mentioned that standing alone in the kitchen, eating something right out of a container while reading a magazine is one of my favorite guilty pleasures?

This ice cream isn’t exactly healthy, but it could be worse. You could be spooning thickeners and stabilizers and other unknown ingredients into your mouth, too. There are only two main ingredients in this ice cream: whole cream and sweetened condensed milk. Plus vanilla and a pinch of salt. I added dark chocolate and coffee to one batch and fresh organic strawberries to the other.

So, see, it could be worse.

I got this attitude from my grandma who was known to say, “things are never so bad that they can’t get worse.” You could argue that just hearing someone say this to you will make you feel worse, but I’ve always thought of it as the German-Catholic way of saying the glass is half full. Granted, as the mother of five kids on a farm in North Dakota she probably didn’t envision this pearl of wisdom being applied to something as ridiculous as ice cream.

I think this ice cream would make the perfect ice cream cake. Double the recipe and pour it into a gingersnap or Oreo crust. Freeze and slice. This will be happening in my house as soon as enough time has passed that it won’t seem scandalous to make another batch of this crazy stuff.

Cook’s Country’s Magic Chocolate Ice Cream

This recipe comes from a Cook’s Country magazine I’ve held on to for years, just so I could try this recipe. Cook’s Country is known for testing recipes an insane amount of times until they work, so there is really no need to tinker with this recipe. In fact, tinker at your own risk.

The coffee is added mostly to offset the sweetness of the condensed milk and to really bring out the bittersweet chocolate flavor. You could make the ice cream without it, but it might taste too sweet and less chocolately.



1 teaspoon instant coffee or espresso powder  (I used some from one of those Starbucks instant coffee packets)
1 tablespoon hot water
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used a 3.5 ounce bar of 85% Valrhona)
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt (don’t forget this, it’s an oddly essential part of the flavor)
1 1/4 cups cold heavy cream


Combine the coffee powder and hot water in a medium-sized bowl. Let sit for 5 minutes.

Add the chocolate and sweetened condensed milk to the coffee and microwave the mixture until the chocolate is melted, stopping the microwave and stirring every 10 seconds.

Stir in the vanilla and salt. Let cool.

Use an electric mixer to whip the cream into soft peaks. By hand, gently fold the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture. I like to leave some white streaks, which breaks up the chocolate flavor in a really delicious way once the chocolate is frozen.

Pour into a container, cover,  and freeze until it has the texture of ice cream, about 4 to 6 hours. If you’re like me, you’ll open the freezer and test it every hour.

Egg-Free Strawberry Vanilla Ice Cream

I came up with this recipe with the leftover cream and sweetened condensed milk. I think you could tinker with it quite a bit. Keep in mind that the sweetened condensed milk makes the ice cream plenty sweet, so any extra flavors you add should balance that out. Fresh fruit with a little bit of tart flavor is perfect.


1 cup cold heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Sliced or possibly pureed fresh fruit to taste
Pinch of salt


Use an electric mixer to whip the cream and vanilla into small peaks. By hand, gently stir in the sweetened condensed milk, fruit (or other flavoring) and salt.

Freeze for 3 to 6 hours, until it reaches the consistency of ice cream.

Both of these recipes will keep for at least a week in the freezer, maybe more.


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Easy (really, they are) Whole Wheat Rolls

easy_ww_rollsWhen we first moved into our house 3 1/2 years ago, we had a very small collection of artwork. Very. Small.

Because this was our first real home, one we owned and planned to stay in for awhile, we imagined ourselves slowly but steadily building a collection of beautiful things to hang on our walls. I wanted artwork that reflected who we are and who we once were (before being a married couple in Los Angeles). I didn’t want anything to be generic or bland or straight from Ikea and on to our walls. I wanted the art to be sentimental, attached to a person we knew or a moment in time.

As I sit here typing in our dining room – which isn’t a real dining room, it’s one of our main rooms and probably the room that I spend most of my time in  – it still feels like we have so many blank spaces. I sort of long for the day when the house we live in is full and cozy and we’re surrounded by years, even decades, of the life we have lived. Our kids will come home from college or jobs or their own families and feel as if they are snuggling back into a nest that has been well tended over the years. People will come over for dinner parties and feel the warmth and love of the home we’ve created because the objects in the house will be the type that speak to people.

But there’s a price to pay for that kind of authentic coziness built up over years, isn’t there? It means you have more life behind you than ahead of you. It means this crazy, exhausting, but amazing period of childrearing will be over. I remind myself of this when I feel like my house still doesn’t quite look like the full-on home I want it to be.

But lately,  all those blank spaces are quickly being filled up by a steady stream of toddler art. I get a kick out of how amazed I am by each piece she presents to us. Take a gander at the latest haul from her cubby at school. To you, those might just look like paper towel rolls with wads of brown something-or-another glued on, but to me, those brown globs were painted and glued by someone who two years ago could barely burp on her own, let alone hold a paintbrush.


Below, we have two pieces I call “Abstract Bear & Puppy with Pom Poms”
(taped to the wall over O’s recent graffiti art in her bedroom)


This next one is a favorite. Every time O finds it in her room she says, “What is this Mama?” I don’t know either, but I’ve always liked it. And I love it when she calls me Mama.


Finally,  her latest art installment, “Speaker Warranty with Blue Flower Sticker.” O hung this above her bed, which admittedly was a big blank wall I’ve been meaning to fill. She got around to it before I did.


I’ve bought the plastic bin for under her bed where we keep art for posterity. Some pieces get taped on the wall or fridge and a few make their way into the toy box. But the thing about toddler art is that it keeps coming. And coming. And coming. Inevitably, some of it has to disappear into the recycling bin. Those two brown logs she painted? Recycled this afternoon. I kept the one with the popsicle stick stuck through the middle because we like to pretend it’s a periscope, but when she gets tired of playing with it, should I save it in the art bin or throw it out? I always feel like I’m betraying O a little bit when I throw something out, but there are only so many painted paper towel rolls one house can hold.

But this one, this fantastically colorful mess of art will definitely be saved in the plastic bin for posterity. She calls it “car seat” which feels like a pretty big artistic statement, probably inspired by her campaign to get me to turn her real car seat around.


Yes, she is still rear-facing. Yes, I know most kids her age are front facing. So does she. She reminds me of this daily. “Mom,” my almost 3 year old says patiently but firmly, “I’m ready to turn my car seat around.”

I feel like the mother who makes her daughter be the very last one to get her ears pierced or start shaving her legs. Thankfully we’re not close to that age yet. But lately I’m feeling like I just want to swaddle her up and rock together for awhile, staring into each other’s eyes like we used to do.

Clearly, I am a woman in need of some comfort food so today I made my most comforting food of all: homemade bread warm from the oven with a whole lot of butter spread on top.

If you’ve been wanting to bake whole wheat bread but didn’t know where to start, then start with this recipe.

These rolls have just the right amount of whole wheatiness without being too heavy. The recipe is really easy and practically foolproof. For these reasons, I love these rolls. Plus, if you time it right your house will be filled with the sweet, yeasty aroma of baking bread just as your kids or partner comes home. And you will casually say, “Oh, that? I’m just baking some homemade bread” like it’s no big deal.

If you want to get picky, then yes, the texture of these rolls isn’t as light as air; they’re a little chewy. Some might say the “crumb is slightly tough” but those type of people have way more time than I do to experiment and perfect every whole wheat roll recipe out there. While they’re kneading and proofing and fermenting their mother starters I’ll be cranking out dozens of these easy rolls that my toddler loves.

Easy Whole Wheat Rolls Adapted from Whole Foods Market


3 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon ground chia seeds (made by putting 1 tbsp of chia seeds in a coffee grinder)
3 tablespoons warm water
1 1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (0.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm (105 to 115°F) milk or unsweetened almond or soy milk (put it in the microwave for 6o seconds to reach the right temperature)
1 cup all-purpose flour


Melt the butter first, so it cools a little before you add it to the dough.

Next, use a fork to whisk together the ground chia seeds and water. Let it sit for 5 minutes. The texture will be like gel.

In a large bowl mix together the whole wheat flour, sugar, salt and yeast.

In a small bowl, use a fork to whisk together the warm milk and chia mixture. Pour into the whole wheat flour. Add the butter. Mix well with a wooden spoon.

Add the all-purpose flour in 3 parts, mixing just enough each time to combine the flour.

Dough before the first rise

Dough before the first rise

You’ll end up with a sticky, fairly wet dough. Cover the bowl and set aside in a warm spot to let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Oil a 12-muffin tin.

Preheat oven to 400 F

Spoon even amounts of the dough into each muffin cup, shaping each blob of dough gently with your hands so they’re roundish and smooth.

Let rise uncovered for about 1 hour, until rolls rise up just over the top of the muffin tins.

dough rising in the muffin tin

dough, after rising in the muffin tin

Bake rolls until golden brown and cooked through; I baked them for 15 minutes.

Recipe Note: I make these rolls using ground chia seeds mixed with water instead of 1 egg because eggs and me don’t get along anymore. You could just use an egg. Or, not. The original recipe says the egg isn’t even necessary but you might have to add more flour so the dough holds together.

I buy chia seeds at Trader Joes. Whole Foods and other health-foodie markets also sell them.


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