bread · Recipes

More Time (and a recipe)

Here we are! It’s nearly the end of March and what a month this has been. This post is kind of all over the place because there are resources I want to share but I also want to share a little personal life for a sense of connection to so many of you! I hope you’re staying healthy and safe and finding the extra time to be a gift. Finding “more” time is something I hear people say they wish they had more of. The bright side of this quarantine is that, more time is exactly what we have.

Time to breathe. Time to reflect on what’s really necessary in our busy lives. Time to give our kids and fur babies extra hugs. Time to get outside and notice that everything is waking up from the winter sleep. Time to connect (virtually) with family and friends. Time to dust off some old board games. Time to do TikToks with our teens (see the video at the end!). Time to clean out a closet or organize a pantry. Time for family room dance parties. Time to admire our kids for adapting to new ways of learning. Time to thank teachers for being creative and dedicated in ways they never imagined they’d have to. Time for driveway basketball and hopscotch games. Time to explore a hike we’ve always wanted to do. Time to figure out how to access and do a home work out. Time to bake and make meals together. Time to wonder what we’ll do when things go back to normal.

Home workouts; cinnamon rolls and coffee; hiking; matcha in my favorite mug (Billy Ritter)

I thought I’d use some of my time to share what we’ve been doing to fill up our days (and a healthy recipe below). This week is Carrie’s spring break and we were planning to go to Florida to visit my mom and get in some sun and beach. This week looks a little different than we planned but we’re trying to make the most of it. We all are and I feel for everyone who’s had to cancel plans or wonder about what the next couple months will bring. My heart goes out to all the health care workers, grocery employees, airline employees and everyone else who must get out there everyday and do their jobs. Thank you! As always, I’m thankful for farmers who continue to do what they do so we have access to healthy food. If you live in NE Ohio, Countryside is launching Countryside Curbside to help with access to local food makers! Creative solutions are everywhere!

Since all of this quarantine came to be, we haven’t really been on a schedule, which is tough for me. I like structure and routine. I actually thrive with structure and routine. I’ve let it all go. No specific wake up time or schedule throughout the day. What I’ve tried to do is have a list of things I’d like to accomplish each day. I’m not getting hung up on specific times. For example, I want to work out, get outside, make meals, connect with a friend or family member, read, play games, tackle a house project and catch up on some shows I’ve wanted to watch. I try to fit all of these in each day but I’m not stressing about it because we all have enough to stress about. If I start to feel antsy, I take Daisy for a walk or pour myself into an online yoga session. How about you? What are you doing to fill your days? Are you finding joy in having time or is it stressful?

Here’s a snapshot of some of our days. Lots of outside time, cuddles, food and games (not pictured–plenty of wine!):

I voted; Daisy Mae keeps me warm; we spotted a beaver at CVNP; beautiful sunset; homemade soft pretzels; photo fun with Carrie (and Jasmine).

Carrie and I did an Instagram Live on St. Patrick’s Day while making cupcakes; hiking in CVNP; playing James Bond (card game); supporting local brands-Masthead and Cleveland Kraut; more hiking in Summit County Metroparks.

Nothing too complicated here. I’m so lucky to have what I need and I hope to be able to share some of that with others throughout this challenging time. I keep supporting local and small businesses and we’re staying home. Carrie, Daisy and I have been home for 14 days (except for voting). Casey had to work and he’s been home for 3 days.

I’ve been baking but not nearly as much as I’d like because there aren’t enough home work outs to burn off the calories I’d consume if I had baked goods within reach 24/7. I don’t have any self control when I’m stuck at home! Also, I’m trying to not blow through all of our ingredients in case we really need them later.

The other day I made a healthier version of banana bread and it has been a nice little treat and thought I’d share it here. It’s not overly sweet and it’s delicious with a smear of nut butter (I love Nosh and they’re offering free shipping across the U.S. with promo code HUNKERDOWN) and a drizzle of honey (Brighton Wool and Honey is one of my favorites). I also love to sprinkle hemp seeds or chia seeds on top. The point is, this bread feels like bread but isn’t full of the carbs and sugar I’m trying to limit. Yay! I’ve also been experimenting more with healthy alternatives to some of my favorite comfort foods and baked goods. This one is a winner!

If you’re on Instagram, the videos are in my highlights. It’s easy, healthy and yummy!

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Friends, I wish you health–physical and mental! We’re all in this and we’ll get through it with kindness, patience and love. Sending you all a BIG virtual hug and hoping you find lots of ways to spend your gift of extra time that bring you joy! Here’s something you might get a laugh out of (gotta love TikTok!):

From the heart,
Shannon

 

 

Uncategorized

Handwritten Treasures

Happy 2020! It sounds so cool, doesn’t it? I remember being a kid and imagining all the amazing inventions that would exist by the year 2020. Technology has certainly come a long way and I’m grateful for the advances that make our lives easier!

As a foodie, technology has definitely enhanced my life in the kitchen. It’s incredibly simple to find, read and print recipes online in a matter of seconds. Appliances such as my Kitchen Aid Stand Mixers make mixing up anything a breeze and my recent addiction to Instant Pot has inspired me to make new recipes like homemade ramen in a flash.

Mixers

A few months ago, I was looking for something and found the binder that holds my collection of handwritten recipes from family and friends. I flipped through them and couldn’t remember the last time someone actually wrote a recipe for me or the last time I wrote a recipe. In this digital age, handwritten anything feels special.

Some of the recipe cards are from people who’ve passed and I spent the next hour looking at these cards in a very different way than I had before. The love and time that went into making food for family, parties, funerals and holidays came through in the cards that had a few stains and creases. As I looked through them, something deep within me stirred. I pictured my grandma, mom, aunts taking time to sit down, find a decent pen or pencil and share a piece of themselves on a 4×6 index card or scrap piece of paper; writing their best cursive and simply drawing a line through mistakes made along the way. Kind of a nice thought, isn’t it? Simply draw a line through our mistakes and keep writing our stories. I like that.

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Small sample of some of my handwritten cards.

These cards are tokens of love, just like the many meals we’ve shared. Food is our most fundamental way of communicating. Good times and bad. Laughter and silence. Memories and new beginnings.

I pictured my loved ones in their kitchens just as I’d seen them for years preparing dishes using real ingredients and no fancy gadgets. Cookbooks weren’t piled up and the ones that did exist were usually held together with string or tape, the pages were stuck together and notes were written in margins about the latest Bible verse to read or a little tidbit about combining sweet milk and vinegar to make buttermilk.

I visualized them wiping their hands on aprons and finding joy in the simple act of cooking. They weren’t distracted by taking an Instagram worthy photo or making their finished plates look like something from a Five-Star restaurant.ย  They simply wanted to deliver a plate full of love. Some of my fondest memories are set in kitchens.

Mammaw Brooks
Mammaw Brooks in her Kentucky kitchen.

Once I snapped out of my stroll down memory lane, I realized my daughters don’t have a keepsake of handwritten recipes. What kind of mother am I?! I mean, it’s probably not a big void in their lives but it’s something I value and want them to have. Especially, since they both love to make and eat food! Also, I miss cursive and teaching kids how to write all pretty and…well, I’ll get back on task now.

Hannah and Carrie Buns
Hannah and Carrie several years ago with matching buns!

I went right to my computer for ideas for a recipe box that I could give Hannah and Carrie as Christmas gifts. Etsy to the rescue! I found a sweet little box and adorable dividers and cards at a shop named Gertie’s Attic. I ordered 2 sets right away! The shop owner is great to work with and even sent me extra cards.

I mailed the recipe cards, along with a note explaining to the recipients what my plan was. I received handwritten recipes back within a couple days! Grandmas, grandpas, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends really came through and it was quite a treat to read their selected recipes. Of course, I also included a few from Casey and me.

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Hannah and Carrie were really surprised and had a great time flipping through the recipes! In this year of 2020 (still can’t believe it!), I’m reminded of the importance of technological progress. I’m also thankful for simple, meaningful gifts that are intended to remind my girls they’re connected to something greater and loved beyond measure.

I hope 2020 is full of wonderful times and delicious food!

From the heart,
Shannon

Do you have special handwritten recipes? Feel free to share them with me!

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bread · Holiday · pumpkin · Recipes

Rolling into Thanksgiving!

Is it really November 26? I’m feeling very behind on all holiday things. Anyone else? This past weekend, Carrie and I drove to NC to see a concert put on by Carrie’s broadway idol, Jessica Vosk. It happened to be near Hannah’s place so, as a big bonus, we got to see Han too! It was a great trip! Brunch, wedding venue tour, concert, met Jessica Vosk, hot yoga and avocado toast. Super quick and fun trip! It was a little easier to leave this time because Hannah’s coming home for Thanksgiving!ย 

Usually, when November 1st hits, I’m knee deep in Pumpkin Roll making. Not this year. I don’t know why but I hadn’t made any until today. Time has definitely snuck away from me and here it is the week of Thanksgiving and I’m cramming in some Pumpkin Rolls.

I told Hannah and Carrie this is their year to learn to make them while Hannah’s home. They’ve always enjoyed the scrumptious treat but never really spent time making these with me. I want them to know how so they can keep this annual tradition alive for years to come.

I learned how to make Pumpkin Roll from my mom and grandma and have always associated it with Thanksgiving because it’s usually part of the dessert line-up. I love it! Pumpkin Roll is delicious and classic and it’s a dessert that can be made weeks or months in advance and stored in the freezer. It’s actually much easier to slice while it’s frozen! It also makes a wonderful gift.

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You don’t need many ingredients but you do need space and dedicated time and patience. Don’t be intimidated by the rolling. I’m going to share some of my tricks with you and you’ll see how easy it is.

Fresh, seasonal ingredients make for a perfect cake. Eggs (these are from Harvest Bell), sugar, vanilla, pumpkin purรฉe, all-purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

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Prep your pans! I use jelly roll style pans. I line them with unbleached parchment and give them a quick spray with oil to be sure they don’t stick. It’s not pretty but it gets the job done.IMG_6717

Start by beating the eggs, sugar and vanilla until nice and thick. Can we talk about the color of those eggs for a second? Beautiful!

Add the pumpkin purรฉe (mine is homemade from pie pumpkins I got from Martha’s Farm) then add the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into prepared pans. I’m making a double batch. One plain and one with pecans. Please add pecans! Just chop them and sprinkle them on top before baking. My sweet Daisy Mae is there to make sure I get it right! ๐Ÿ™‚

Pop them in the oven and clean up your mess. You could also have a cup of coffee or glass of wine. Yeah, do that! These only bake until the top springs back when touched. If you bake it too long, there’s a chance it will crack when you roll it.

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Here’s where I have some advice on the rolling. For years, I flipped these things out onto a towel covered with powdered sugar. There was always a dust cloud of sugar and it went EVERYWHERE! Also, the whole process made me nervous–would the cake come out of the pan, would it crack, would I miss the towel??!! Enough of that! I adopted a new technique a few years ago and it much less messy and more calming for the baker!

I get a larger cookie sheet ready by turning it over and covering it with a tea towel. I use my handy dandy powdered sugar sprinkler jar to sprinkle sugar right on top of the pumpkin roll when it comes out of the oven. Then I put the towel and cookie sheet on top and gently invert it. Remove the pumpkin roll pan and parchment and roll up the hot cake. Let it cool completely in the towel on a cooling rack. Cotton tea towels work best.

When the Pumpkin Roll is cool, make the filling which is simply cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar and vanilla whipped up with a mixer until creamy and fluffy.

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Gently unroll the cake and spread the filling to cover the cake. If your cake cracks, do not panic. These things are very forgiving. Keep spreading the filling and move to the next step.

Roll her back up nice and tight. It’s best to do that right onto a piece of plastic wrap then sprinkle a little more powdered sugar over the roll and wrap the whole thing tightly in the plastic then in foil. Stick it in the fridge or freezer for several hours to set up.

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When you’re ready to serve, simply slice to your desired thickness. I like to slice mine in about 1″ slices. It’s so pretty and always tastes amazing!

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For me, Pumpkin Roll is about the memories I have of Thanksgiving. I miss those big family gatherings. Due to all sorts of family changes, it’s hard to keep everything the same. That’s one of the many things I love about food. It can give all the feels, bring back nice memories and create new experiences.

Maybe next year Hannah and Carrie will make this for me! Until then, I’m ready to get going on preparing one of my favorite meals of the year. I have much to be thankful for! Safe travels if you’re traveling and enjoy time with all those you’re with. Happy Thanksgiving!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Pumpkin Roll
Ingredients
Cake
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 TBSP pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
3 large eggs
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup granulated sugar
2/3 cup pure pumpkin puree
Choppped pecans, if desired (highly encouraged!)

Filling
1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1 cup powdered sugar, sifted
6 TBSP butter, softened
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup powdered sugar (optional)

Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a 15 x 10-inch jelly-roll pan with parchment paper and spray with non-stick cooking spray.
2. In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice and salt. In a large bowl with an electric mixer, beat eggs, vanilla and sugar until thick. Add in pumpkin and mix to combine. Stir in flour mixture. Spread batter evenly into prepared pan. If adding pecans, sprinkle those on top.
3. Bake for 13 to 15 minutes or until top of cake springs back when touched. Immediately loosen then sprinkle the top with powdered sugar and invert cake onto a larger cookie sheet covered with a tea towel. Carefully peel off paper. Roll up cake and towel together, starting with narrow end. Cool completely on wire rack.
4. In a medium bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter and vanilla until smooth. Carefully unroll cake. Spread cream cheese mixture over cake. Roll cake as tightly as possible. Wrap in plastic wrap then foil and refrigerate at least one hour.

Store prepared Pumpkin Roll in the fridge for up to 5 days. You can also store in the freezer for up to one month. Remove frozen Pumpkin Roll and slice in 1″ slices and serve at room temperature.

If you want to double the recipe, it’s about 3 cups of batter per pan.

Recipes · Savory Dishes

Sweet Potato Casserole

The biggest food day of the year is quickly approaching! Hello, Thanksgiving! The best holiday because it’s all about food, family and friends. For some, there’s also football but I’m in it for the food. Some people get stressed out about making “the meal” but I truly enjoy it! It’s the one time of year, I can make some of my family’s favorite dishes and eat all day long.

For the past several years, I’ve been getting as many local ingredients as possible from Countryside. Turkeys, herbs, eggs, flour, veggies, apple cider, breads, cheese–all the Thanksgiving necessities. That’s pretty normal for me all year long but it feels even more meaningful to support our farmers this time of year, as the colder months move in. It feels like one way to show how grateful we are for their hard work and dedication to our food system.

Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my oldest recipes. It’s mostly loved by my daughter, Hannah. I’ve been making this her entire life and it’s her thing at Thanksgiving. I often wonder if she wants to see me on Thanksgiving or just the Sweet Potato Casserole! Hey, a mama’s gotta do whatever she can to bribe, I mean encourage, her kids to come home!

When the big meal is over, Hannah and I have been known to have a serving of this casserole later in the evening just to top off our overly stuffed feeling! I usually make a batch for Thanksgiving and divide additional batches among smaller pans to send home with her.

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It’s really simple and delicious! What makes it super perfect is that it CAN BE MADE AHEAD OF TIME AND STUCK IN THE FREEZER! If you’ve ever made the full Thanksgiving meal, you’re doing a happy dance right now! Seriously, it freezes well and all you have to do on Thanksgiving Day is pop it in the oven! You’re welcome!

This casserole is a sweet potato filling with a pecan brown sugar topping. Start with sweet potatoes, eggs, unsalted butter, vanilla, brown sugar, flour and pecans.

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I’m making a few batches of this so you probably won’t need this many sweet potatoes! A normal recipe calls for about 6 large sweet potatoes. Bake the sweet potatoes until nice and soft and let them cool.

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While they’re baking, make the topping. Combine the brown sugar and flour in a bowl then add the butter and use a pastry cutter to combine.

Chop the pecans. Yes, you can buy chopped pecans or use a food processor to chop pecan halves but I just like the whole process so I go old school and chop pecan halves with a knife. I enjoy it and I want to have nice big pieces! As usual, Daisy Mae had to see what was going on in my photo studio!

Add the chopped pecans to the flour, brown sugar, butter mixture and stir. The good news is that you can make this topping whenever you have time and just keep it stored in an airtight container in the fridge.

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When the sweet potatoes are cool, simply remove the skins and put the orange part in a mixer bowl. Add butter, eggs and a splash of vanilla. Mix it all up until smooth.

Put the whipped mixture into a baking dish. I always use the same white oval dish because it’s the Sweet Potato Casserole dish! As I was filling it up, it dawned on me that I want to freeze this for Thanksgiving but I also want to show you a picture of the final baked casserole.

Enter my white ramekins! I’ve never thought about using these for this casserole but how fun would that be? Especially, for a Friendsgiving! I love how personal and special these make this dish feel! I’m giving an old recipe an update! Woo hoo! That’s the kinda stuff I do!

Oh, the topping! You just sprinkle some on top and, if you’re like me and can’t get enough pecans, add a few more just to make it nice and crunchy and nutty.ย  All that’s left is to do is bake it! Stick your dish or ramekins in the oven. If the top starts to get too brown, cover with foil.

When you dig into it, the filling is all fluffy and the brown sugar, butter and pecans have caramelized on top. It’s divine! It goes so well with all the other Thanksgiving dishes. I don’t want to play favorites but… it’s the prettiest of them all!

As I said before, I make extra to freeze and send off with Hannah or keep a little for myself to heat up on a cold January night.

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Sweet Potato Casserole is not a new, trendy recipe but it’s one of my family’s most loved traditions for our Thanksgiving feast. I hope you’ll try it and include it in your celebration. Serve it in ramekins or a big baking dish. Either way, your guests will gobble it up and be grateful!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Sweet Potato Casserole
Ingredients
Filling:
6 to 8 large sweet potatoes (baked)
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs

Topping:
1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1/3 cup butter, diced
1 cup chopped pecans

Instructions
Bake sweet potatoes until tender, let them cool then scoop out the flesh into a mixing bowl.

Add butter, eggs and vanilla and mix well.

Pour into a buttered baking dish or ramekins.

Combine flour and brown sugar in a bowl and cut in the butter with a pastry cutter or your hands.

Stir in chopped pecans and sprinkle on top of the filling.

Bake at 350 for 1 hour (larger dish) and 45 minutes for ramekins. Serve warm. It reheats like a dream!

To make ahead and freeze: Do everything except bake it. Once it’s topped, cover your dish with foil and stick it in the freezer.ย  Allow it to sit in the fridge overnight before you bake it.ย  Put the dish in the oven while preheating if it’s cold so it doesn’t crack when placed in a hot oven. If the top starts to get too brown, simply cover it with foil while baking. You want the top to be nice and crisp but not burnt!ย