Bread · Pie · Recipes · Savory Dishes

Sourdough Pizza Crust + GF Pizza Crust

Sourdough is really having a moment. A sweet friend gave me some of her sourdough starter. I made bread and it was delicious. I made rosemary crackers and I keep making them because they’re so scrumptious! It was just a matter of time until I tried my hand at sourdough pizza crust.

We’ve been making pizzas on a regular basis during quarantine. It’s fun and everyone gets to let their creativity flow into their pies. By the time we’re finished, flour is everywhere and toppings are scattered from one end of our kitchen to the other! We’ve made them on a pizza stone in the oven and on our Big Green Egg (for some reason, they always burn). I’ve checked out some of my fellow bakers’ Instagram accounts and admired their homemade pizzas made in wood-fired ovens or special pizza ovens. We’ve tried several dough recipes and techniques and last night we found our favorite so far!

The sourdough craze is making me crazy (among other things). It’s truly a love/hate relationship I have with my starter. I don’t want to love it but I do. Every single time I do the whole feeding process, I swear it’s my last. Then, I fall in love with it and I feed it and nurture it the way any good starter mama would. I came across a recipe for sourdough pizza crust on this cute site: Little Spoon Farm. I was intrigued because they use a cast iron skillet. I have nothing but love for my iron skillets so I knew I had to try it!

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IT IS SO GOOD AND REALLY EASY TO MAKE! You get all the char and the dough has that slightly sour flavor while being light and airy with a crispy crust. We made a smaller, starter pizza to share and it cooked up really well too! You just can’t go wrong with pizza.

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Carrie has been trying to eat less gluten so I made her a gluten free crust. I didn’t get a picture but it was also really delicious! Here are links to both recipes:

Cast Iron Pizza Crust and Gluten Free Pizza Crust

Homemade pizza is worth the mess and I know exactly what’s going into our pizzas. We also get to use a lot of local ingredients, so it’s just a win all the way around! These recipes are both fantastic! I hope you try them and feel free to let me know how you make pizza and your preferred toppings!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Uncategorized

Embracing the new

Hello! I hope you’re well! This is day 34 of social distancing for me. My family is healthy and has somewhat acclimated to our current reality.  There’s definitely a lot going on and so much is out of our control.

I’m trying to embrace the new. New routines, recipes, local businesses, ways of connecting with friends and family, workout programs, wines, hairstyles and t-shirt/legging combinations :). Today, I’m sharing a couple of my amazing new finds.

Last week was our first Perfectly Imperfect Produce delivery. I’ve wanted to order for a while and, with COVID-19 stay at home orders in full swing, it seemed like the ideal time to support a local, woman-owned business and keep me out of stores. We ordered the Large Organic size box which was full of fruits and veggies AND it was delivered! We were also able to make a contribution toward additional boxes Perfectly Imperfect Produce is supplying to health care workers. Perfect!

The box included Swiss Chard. I’ve only had Swiss Chard a couple times from Carrie’s school garden and I think I just chopped some up and put it in a salad. I knew I had to use all of the contents in the box! I’m determined to bring every single food item in our kitchen to new life by transforming it into a yummy breakfast, lunch, dinner or dessert. I went straight to one of my favorite books, The Vegetable Butcher. I highly recommend this book!

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What can I make with Swiss Chard? My answer? Well, Cara Mangini’s answer–Swiss Chard Crostata with Fennel Seed Crust. After a quick scan of necessary ingredients, I was certain I had everything to make it or could easily improvise. I whipped up the dough for the crostata crust the day before Easter and it was easy. The next day I made the filling and baked the whole thing for our Easter meal. I’ve never made a crust without butter! This recipe had me intrigued and I couldn’t wait to get it all together!

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I didn’t get any photos of the preparation process but here’s one of the finished crostata. It’s so pretty! The crust is unique and full of flavor from the olive oil and fennel seeds. The filling is lovely and balanced. We devoured it!

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This recipe is a keeper (I’m linking it to a site that has permission to publish the recipe)! One of the things I’ve enjoyed during quarantine is trying new recipes and experimenting with different ingredients based on what we have on hand. Are you trying new recipes or creating dishes from your pantry and refrigerator finds? I’d love to hear! Stay home and stay well!

From the heart,
Shannon

SWISS CHARD CROSTATA WITH FENNEL SEED CRUST

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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

 

 

Cakes · Holiday

King Cake

Have you tried King Cake? The first time I had it was in Cincinnati at a Fat Tuesday food day in my office (picture the largest conference room, full of food). It was from a bakery called, Servatii and I loved it! The first time I made King Cake was in 2013 with Hannah and Carrie. I’m not even sure why I did or what sparked my interest. I looked up a recipe and we started baking! Here are my babies doing their best King Cake work!

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The ring shaped confection is similar to coffee cake and topped with icing and sugars in the royal colors of purple (justice), green (faith), and gold (power/wealth), to honor the three kings who visited the Christ child on Epiphany, the 12th day after Christmas. There is a plastic baby hidden inside that finds its way to someone’s plate. In our house, we let that person make a wish! The normal tradition is that whoever gets the baby must host the next party.

Every year just before Mardi Gras, also known as Fat Tuesday, the day of feasting before the Christian fast known as Lent, people in the Midwest get pretty excited. Bakeries start offering special menu items such as: packzi (“POONCH-key”), filled doughnuts and King Cake. Below is a sampling of NE Ohio bakeries I found that offer packzi and/or King Cakes if you don’t want to make your own. Check them out and support local whenever you can! If you live elsewhere, find a local bakery that celebrates Fat Tuesday in a big way. You won’t regret it!
Becker’s
Breads and Beyond Bakery
Brewnuts
Jack Frost Donuts
Kiedrowski’s Bakery
Michael Angelo’s
Sweet Mary’s Bakery

King Cake is easy to make and this recipe delivers a soft, chewy dough, swirled with a cinnamon sugar filling. The glaze is a little tart from the addition of lemon and the combination of everything make it a nice little treat!

Start with sour cream, butter, sugar, salt, water, yeast, bread flour, eggs, and cinnamon.

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Cook the sour cream, butter and sugar in a medium size pan and let it cool slightly. Combine water, sugar and yeast and let it sit until it bubbles. Place eggs in a mixer bowl, add sour cream mixture and yeast.

Add 2 cups at a time of the bread flour and mix until a soft dough forms. Knead gently and place in a bowl to rise (about an hour).

Divide dough in half and roll one piece into a 22″ x 12″ rectangle, smear with softened butter and sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over. Don’t forget to write your note!

Roll it up, form into an oval/circular shape and pinch the ends together to seal.

Now do the same thing with the other piece of dough. Cover both cakes and let them rise again for about 30 minutes. Then bake at 375°F for 14-20 minutes.

Let the cakes cool slightly while you make the glaze. Powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, milk and lemon juice. Whisk it all together. Line up those pretty sugars and you’re good to go.

Drizzle the glaze over the cake and top with the sugars. I don’t love how the cake looks in the first picture but once it’s glazed, I adore it! So does Daisy Mae!

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I made both cakes, decorated one and let Carrie decorate the other. It was a nice break from homework! Daisy was there to supervise!

The baby! I alway push it in through the bottom once the cake is finished. They look kind of creepy. Perhaps there are cuter ones but I bought a big pack of these several years ago and I just keep using the same ones. Tiny, creepy-ish photo.

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We invited our neighbors over to catch up and eat King Cake. This cake isn’t fancy or heavy but it is delicious. It has a nice texture and flavor. Works well with coffee, tea and wine. I kept going back to get another little slice throughout the evening. It’s fun to make and something just a little different to get us through these gloomy winter days. I hope you’ll try it!


From the heart,
Shannon

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King Cake
Cake
Ingredients
1 (16-ounce) container sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
2 (1/4-ounce) envelopes active dry yeast
1/2 cup warm water (100° to 110°)
1 TBSP sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 6 1/2 cups bread flour* (I use King Arthur)
1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions

  1. Cook first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan over low heat, stirring often, until butter melts. Set aside, and cool mixture to 100° to 110°.
    Stir together yeast, 1/2 cup warm water, and 1 tablespoon sugar in a 1-cup glass measuring cup; let stand 5 minutes.
  2. Beat sour cream mixture, yeast mixture, eggs, and 2 cups flour at medium speed with a heavy-duty electric stand mixer until smooth. Reduce speed to low, and gradually add enough remaining flour (4 to 4 1/2 cups) until a soft dough forms.
  3. Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface; knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top.
    Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 1 hour or until dough is doubled in bulk.
  4. Punch down dough, and divide in half. Roll each portion into a 22- x 12-inch rectangle. Spread softened butter evenly on each rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border. Write a little note in the butter! Stir together 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle evenly over butter on each rectangle.
  5. Roll up each dough rectangle, jelly-roll fashion, starting at 1 long side. Place one dough roll, seam side down, on a lightly greased baking sheet. Bring ends of roll together to form an oval ring, moistening and pinching edges together to seal. Repeat with second dough roll. Place on parchment lined cookie sheets.
  6. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85°), free from drafts, 20 to 30 minutes or until doubled in bulk.
  7. Bake at 375° for 14 to 20 minutes or until golden. Slightly cool cakes on pans on wire racks (about 10 minutes). Drizzle Creamy Glaze over warm cakes; sprinkle with colored (purple, green, gold) sugars, alternating colors and forming bands. Let cool completely.

Creamy Glaze
Ingredients
3 cups powdered sugar
3 TBSP butter, melted
2 TBSP fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
2 to 4 TBSP milk
Instructions
Whisk together first 4 ingredients. Add 2 tablespoons milk, adding additional milk, 1 teaspoon at a time, until spreading consistency.

*6 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour may be substituted.
Note:This recipe uses bread flour, which makes for a light, airy cake. You still get tasty results with all-purpose flour–the cake will just be more dense.

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! 

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 purée, 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 purée (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! 🙂

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.  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.  Allow it to sit in the fridge overnight before you bake it.  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! 

Jams, Purees, Sauces · Pumpkin · Recipes

Pumpkin Purée + Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Last Saturday, I picked up pie pumpkins at Countryside Farmers’ Market. I got some from Martha’s Farm and Log Cabin Organic Farm. Pie pumpkins are smaller and sweeter than carving pumpkins.

When I’m at the market and meet the people who’ve planted, nurtured, harvested and given life to their crops and the earth, I feel compelled to bring that food into my home and savor it. I want to give vegetables and fruits even more life and enjoy all they have to offer in taste and nutrition. It’s important to me and a real blessing to have access to wonderful food. I also believe food should be fresh, simple and easy to prepare.

Homemade pumpkin purée is super easy to make and it tastes better than the stuff you find in stores. You just need a little time, an oven and a food processor or blender to whip up your own puree. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve used my share of canned pumpkin. It’s convenient and most of the organic ones I’ve tried are just fine. We eat a lot of pumpkin goodies in my house and most days there’s no time to make my own. However, sometimes, I’m reminded to slow down, enjoy the harvest and cherish the process of making my own ingredients.

This color alone should be motivation enough for you to make your own pumpkin purée! I use pumpkin in a variety of things: breads, pancakes, waffles, beagle food, lattes, pasta, risotto, cookies, pies, cakes, puddings…you name it and I’ll find a way to incorporate pumpkin!

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It all starts with the pie pumpkins.

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Simply cut the tops off and split them right down the middle.  A nice, sharp knife makes this pretty easy.

Scoop out the seeds and keep them.  We’ll talk about roasting those later!

Daisy Mae smelled pumpkin and came to scope out the situation in the kitchen! Be patient, girl!

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Once all the pumpkins are clean, place them flesh side down on a cookie sheet and add a little water then bake at 375 degrees for about an hour or until a fork pierces through easily.

Once they’re nice and tender, take them out of the oven and let them cool.  Scoop out the meat of the pumpkin and place in a food processor or blender.

Process or blend until smooth. Transfer to jars or containers of your choice. It freezes well!  If you freeze it, just thaw in the fridge when you need it. If you plan to use some right away, it will be just fine in the fridge for about a week.

Homemade pumpkin purée is silky and flavorful. Pumpkin is a great source of potassium and beta-carotene and contains some minerals including calcium and magnesium, as well as vitamins E, C and some B vitamins.

Using ingredients I pick up at the farmers’ market gives me a sense of place in the local food cycle. There’s something special about knowing where it all came from and interacting with the people who worked incredibly hard to produce something so delicious and nutritious. It’s pretty amazing that I get all those good feelings from making pumpkin purée from local pumpkins, huh? I’m such a food geek!

I hope you make this and enjoy the process! Find a market or farm, choose your pumpkins and spend the afternoon getting to know your food and truly appreciate it. See it, feel it, smell it then taste it! I have so many plans for my pumpkin purée and I can’t wait to share them with you! Also, Daisy loves it!

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Don’t forget the seeds, they’re one of the best parts! There’s no easy way to clean them.  Just try to pull out most of the stringy orange pieces and soak the seeds in warm water and keep rinsing/soaking a few times to get them clean. The strings will keep sinking to the bottom. Once they’re all clean, lay them out to dry.

I experimented with three flavors for my seeds:
Sweet: raw wildflower honey + brown sugar + pumpkin pie spice + vanilla
Brighton Wool and Honey’s Raw Wildflower Honey is YUMMY! Don’t get me started on their laundry detergent, bee pollen and soap.  Yeah, they’re just fantastic all the way around!

Spicy: olive oil + spicy blossom honey infused with Carolina Reaper + hubby’s Ghost Pepper salt
This honey from Fuego Spice Co is pretty amazing!

Spicy/Sweet: olive oil + chili powder + brown sugar

I divided the seeds into bowls and used 1 cup of seeds per flavor with 1 TBSP of the oil or honey then added in the sugar and spices. I let them soak for at least an hour then spread on parchment and baked at 375 for 10-15 minutes. Store them in glass containers to keep them crisp. Get creative! You can literally do any kind of spice combination!

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That’s all the pumpkin I’ve got for now! Let me know if you make the purée and what you plan to use it for! Go the extra mile and make the seeds for snacking or, better yet, take a jar to your local farmer!

From the heart,
Shannon

Pumpkin Purée
Ingredients
4-6 pound pie pumpkins
Instructions
1. Cut the tops off the pumpkins
2. Cut the pumpkins in half
3. Scoop out the insides and save the guts
4. Place the pumpkins flesh side down on a baking sheet and add about 1/4 inch of water
5. Bake at 350 for 60-90 minutes, checking periodically after 60 minutes; when a fork pierces through easily, they are finished
6. Let the pumpkins cool and then scoop the meat out into a food processor or blender
7. Process the pumpkin until smooth and transfer to jars or containers
8. Store in the freezer and defrost when needed or keep in the fridge for up to one week

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Bread · Recipes

Zucchini Bread

Yesterday, I went to my favorite farmers’ market, Countryside in Howe Meadow.  After being gone for most of July, I’m back in the swing of things and getting my hands on as much local, summer fruits and veggies as possible!

I’ve always liked zucchini.  Before the days of zoodles, I prepared it all sorts of ways.  I grilled it, baked it and baked WITH it.  It’s versatile and healthy.  Zucchini has a decent amount of potassium and is loaded with vitamin C.  It’s good for your heart!

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Zucchini bread is one of those seasonal indulgences that just feels right about this point in the summer.  Sliced and toasted with good butter or cream cheese. Yum!  While at the market, I picked up a jar of cashew almond butter from my friends at Nosh Butters.  If you haven’t tried their nut butters, I encourage you to partake in their samples the next time you see them at an event.  All of their flavors are delicious as well as vegan, gluten free, and palm oil free.  I’ve been known to hang out with a jar of nut butter and a spoon on occasion and theirs are some of my favorites.  Plus, their business philosophy is right on and it’s another local, small business we can support!

While hanging at their booth at the market, it dawned on me that nut butter would be delicious smeared on zucchini bread.  Yes!  The cashew almond variety is mellow and has just the right texture to slather on some beautiful bread.  I covered up all the pretty green flecks of zucchini before I took this photo.  I promise, they’re in there!

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If you’re loving all the zucchini and looking for ways to bake with it, try this recipe and get some Nosh nut butter to take it over the top! My recipe is light and not weighed down by tons of brown sugar like some of the ones I’ve seen.  You can certainly make this your own by substituting gluten free flour, adding nuts, berries and change the oil type to suit your taste.  This recipe can simply serve as a guide!  🙂

Summer harvest is upon us and I’m digging it!  What are some of your favorite ways to make zucchini?  I’d enjoy hearing new ideas!  Happy baking!

From the heart,
Shannon

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Zucchini Bread
You don’t even need a mixer for this recipe! It can be made in a regular loaf pan, mini loaf pans or a lined muffin tin.  I usually double or triple it and make tons to freeze or hand out to neighbors, friends and local businesses.

Ingredients:
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder
1 to 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup coconut oil melted (or whatever oil you like to bake with)
1 teaspoon grated lemon rind
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 cups shredded zucchini (12 ounces)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted (optional)
Cooking spray

Preparation:
Preheat oven to 350°.
Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through baking soda) in a large bowl. Combine wet ingredients in a large bowl; add sugar, stirring until combined. Add zucchini; stir until well combined. Add flour mixture; stir just until combined. Stir in walnuts (or fruit) if using.

Divide batter evenly between 2 (8 x 4-inch) loaf pans coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 1 hour or until a wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes in pans on a wire rack; remove from pans. Cool completely on wire rack.  Adjust baking time depending on what size bread you’re making.

Jams, Purees, Sauces · Recipes

Berry Jam

Happy Saturday!  I mentioned in my previous post that I’d share my easy jam recipe.  I don’t use pectin or spend hours making jam.  This jam is bright and fresh and can be modified to include your favorite seasonal berries.  I’ve made variations with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and mixed in different herbs like thyme and basil.

I love it and everyone I’ve made it for loves it!  It’s yummy on toast, scones, biscuits and makes an incredible topper for ice cream.  If you’re like me and scooping up all the fresh, local berries you can right now, give this jam a try.  It’s easy and delicious!

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Start with berries.  It’s strawberry season so that’s what I’m using.  Slice them and place in a medium saucepan.  Lightly mash the berries.  Add maple syrup, lemon juice, orange juice and herbs if you’re using.

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Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 55-60 minutes.  Cool and jar it up!

Super simple.  This also makes a fun gift that’s jam packed with love!  🙂  The full recipe is below. Have fun!

From the heart,
Shannon

Berry Jam

Ingredients
About 6 cups berries (strawberries, blueberries, blackberries–use one kind or mix)
1 cup pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
Optional:  2 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh thyme or basil or rosemary leaves

Directions
Place the berries in a medium saucepan. Lightly mash the berries (you can use a potato masher, pastry blender or a fork). Add the maple syrup, lemon juice, orange juice and herbs if using. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally for 55-60 minutes until thick. Cool for about 2 hours. The jam will continue to thicken. Refrigerate in air-tight jars for up to 1 month. Spread on everything!

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Cake · Recipes

Strawberry Fields and Cake

It’s summer break and we’ve had lots of rain here in NE Ohio.  School’s out and our schedules have shifted nicely to planning days packed with fun and nights that go a little later to allow for a decent amount of hammock time, games and star gazing (and more wine).

One of the many things I love about this time of year is all the fresh, local produce.  It fills me with joy!  A couple weeks ago, we grabbed strawberries from Huffman Fruit Farm at the Countryside Farmers’ Market.  We almost ate all of them before we got home!  All of a sudden, it tasted like summer.  I’ve been making a list of recipes I want to make over the next couple months and Strawberry Chamomile Olive Oil Cake with Honeyed Ricotta (mouthful), was on deck.  I found the recipe on one of my favorite blogger sites, Half Baked Harvest, and I knew it would be amazing! Everything I’ve tried on her site has been simple and yummy.

We decided to pick strawberries at Rittman Orchards and what a fun time!  We took Carrie’s friend and Daisy and started picking.  The weather was perfect and the view was incredible!

I couldn’t wait to get started on making something strawberry!  I made jam ASAP (I’ll share that recipe next) and then prepped everything to get going on the cake.  I’ve never made an olive oil cake before and my daughter, Hannah, and I were talking about making one the next time we’re together.  After making and eating this one, I’ll make an olive oil cake anytime!

This cake is light and refreshing and made me feel happy while I ate it.  It’s not too sweet and just melts in your mouth.  I love the simplicity.  It’s quick and easy to prepare for summer get togethers, brunch, birthdays or the upcoming Father’s Day weekend.  What dad wouldn’t love this?

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It all starts with fresh ingredients.  The cake is easy to prepare and using local eggs makes all the difference.  I used eggs from Mud Run Farm and that color is just what you want for this cake.

Once the cake was in the oven, I steeped chamomile tea bags in local honey from Brighton Wool and Honey.  The sliced strawberries took a dip in the infused honey.

This picture captures the moment nicely.

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Next up, was the honeyed ricotta.  Ricotta with honey and lemon whipped in the food processor until smooth and fluffy.  Easy.

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Did I mention Carrie’s friend slept over?  Here’s a view of our kitchen while I was making cake and breakfast.  This is real life and pictures that usually get posted don’t always share what’s really happening behind the scenes.  I love it! Could there be more going on in that small space?  🙂

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The cake finished baking, the strawberries were soaking and the ricotta was setting up in the fridge.  On our way back from taking Carrie’s friend home, I saw daisies growing on the side of the road and a bunch came home with us.  Some went in a mason jar while others adorned the cake.  So sweet.

I had so much fun putting on the finishing touches and photographing this cake.  It was even more fun to eat and I highly recommend making it! Just look at the inside.  It’s a beautiful color and texture.  I am delighted when baked goods turn out so well!

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As we were eating it, we talked about what we’d change or add.  It would be amazing with blueberries or raspberries!  I liked the ricotta but I think I’d substitute mascarpone next time.  I love the taste and texture of mascarpone and think it would compliment this very well.  You can also do whipped cream but the idea of whipped ricotta or mascarpone make it feel a little more special and unique.  Try it.

I did some research on how to share recipes I’ve found in cookbooks or online.  I made slight changes to the recipe, but not enough to take any credit for it.  Go to Half Baked Harvest to follow it exactly.  While you’re there, try all of her recipes.  She’s amazing and I’m thankful she shares her love of food with us!

This cake is versatile and you can easily modify to make it your own!  Let me know if you make it and how you like it!

From the heart,
Shannon