Snowmen, Strietzel and Sleep Training

What happens to you when you’re sleep deprived? Do you turn into a zombie? Or become incredibly sensitive? For me, it’s a mix of things which came to a peak last week. When you have a baby, you expect to be really tired in the beginning and you are. New babies need round the clock care and a lot of that depends on mom if the babies are breastfed. I think in the beginning I was tired, but I must have been running on new mom adrenaline. The 2 hour feedings didn’t seem to bother me and I managed to get naps during the day when I was really exhausted. What I didn’t expect was to repeat that vicious cycle when we hit four months.

There is an evil called “sleep regressions” and they happen to a handful of babies. I only knew one friend who had a baby who had sleep troubles, the rest must have been angels (or maybe liars?), so I didn’t think much of it. Nolan was never a great sleeper. He had a crutch which was the exercise ball. He was addicted to bouncing and only fell asleep if bounced. We never intended to bounce him so much, but it was the only thing that soothed our fussy baby. Sleep deprivation makes my brain cloudy. Sometimes it’s hard to think straight and mostly I’m just unmotivated to add stress to my day (aka not going out if I don’t have to). With my cloudy head, I ruined some hard boiled eggs… twice. It’s hard to ruin a hard boiled egg since it involves only a few steps, but I forgot about one pan of them and let my water boil down to nothing, setting off the smoke alarm. The second time I set the kitchen timer but thought it was the annoying dishwasher beep and didn’t get to them immediately. Rubbery eggs = gross. Multi-tasking while sleep deprived is bad news for me apparently.

About a month ago, we lost patience with the bouncing. Our quads grew stronger and our back muscles ached. Around the three month mark, Nolan began to sleep in slightly longer stretches but showed no signs of dropping night feedings to give us a break. He was even making progress with naps longer than 30 minutes at a time, hallelujah! Jump to the four month mark and any sort of progress was tossed out the window and buried under a deep drift of snow. Coupled with a growth spurt, Nolan lost all abilities to sleep alone for more than one sleep cycle (30-40 minutes) without needing his crutch. For almost two weeks we tried repeatedly to get him to sleep in his crib and every night by around 2am he was in bed with us, sleeping on my chest. I’m pretty sure he was the only one getting good rest that way and Michael and I were going crazy. We needed this baby to sleep so that we could sleep again too! Can you tell we aren’t a co-sleeping family?

After a terrible night a week ago, we decided we had to do something. We didn’t want to project our frustrations onto each other and Nolan really needed way more sleep that he was getting. Average babies his age are supposed to sleep around 14 hours per day and he was nowhere close. Furthermore, I kept reading that kids who sleep longer have generally higher IQs and I feared that we would affect his intelligence! No joke. I read three books which all made me feel like a failure at parenting: Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child; Baby Wise; and The Baby Whisperer. We ended up using Ferber’s Progressive Waiting approach and are on day 6. Nolan is doing great and we are too! I’m still tired but I think my body is just catching up from lost sleep. We now have long stretches of sleep with minimal wake ups at night and he can soothe himself which is huge progress! I never thought we’d be able to lay him down awake in his crib to go to sleep but it is working! So if you’re out there struggling with the same sleep deprivation, please just try something. If it doesn’t work for you, try the next thing. If there is anything we can take away from this month, it’s that we aren’t alone. There are tons of other parents out there who’ve written the exact same blog posts and weaned from bouncing and swaddling and trained their kids to sleep the same way we are now. Thank goodness for the internet, and a husband who loves you when you’re cranky and want nothing more than to sit around in your sweatpants. And for progressive waiting and sleeping babies…

To celebrate all this recent sleep I’ve been much more alert during night feedings. I still have to keep myself occupied because, well, it’s the middle of the night and it’s dark and I’m holding a warm snuggly baby and sometimes I drift off with my head all crooked in the rocking chair… and even though I’ve got an oil for that, it’s important we don’t fall asleep because that might ruin our sleep training. Once I’ve exhausted facebook and instagram, I usually turn to pinterest. There are a lot of crafty Valentine images popping up in my feed. I’ve been thinking we deserve a Valentine’s Day reward for all this sleep deprivation which will come in the shape of Michael’s favorite cookie of all time, Springerles. It’s only fair because I often smell like a Springerle when i use my Fennel oil for lactation support. Hopefully the family doesn’t stage a revolt since I’m breaking a serious tradition of these cookies only being made at Christmas.

For now, please enjoy some stop-motion short films made by my lovely, and consider making some Strietzel (minus candied fruit) for your lovebird this Valentine’s Day. In a perfect world, I’d be making this for breakfast tomorrow too… maybe next year.


2 packages yeast or 14g by weight
1/4 C warm water
1/4 C sugar
1/4 C flour

Dissolve yeast in water in a small bowl. Add sugar and flour and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place for one hour.

6 1/2 C flour
1 C butter melted
1 1/2 C milk scalded
3 egg yolks well beaten
1 tsp salt

2 C mixed candied fruits and raisins (alternately if you’re not using candied fruit, just use 1/2 to 3/4 C raisins that you plump in hot water) Candies fruit or “Citron” is easy to find around the holidays. It’s tradition to use red and green candied cherries too.

Scald the milk (185˚F) in a medium saucepan remove from heat. Stir in cold sticks of butter, set aside.

Measure about 3 C flour into a large bowl. Whisk in salt. When milk has cooled and butter is all melted, add this to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon. Add in eggs and yeast starter and stir to combine. Continue adding flour one cup at a time into the bowl with the wooden spoon until you have 5-6 cups of flour incorporated. Knead the dough in the bowl a few times until all the loose bits are incorporated into one ball. Lightly flour a worksurface and knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (not sticky), 5-8 minutes. I usually add all of the candied fruit or raisins towards the end of kneading so the fruit doesn’t escape as many times. Grease a bowl and add the dough ball, turning to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a damp cloth. Let rise in a warm place until doubled, approximately 2 hours.

Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 9 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a 15″ rope.

Braid 4 strands, then three strands, then twist the remaining two strands.

Stack the 3 braid onto the 4 braid and secure with toothpicks. When stacking, I rotate the braid 180˚ so the braid is going in the opposite direction of the one below. Stack the twist on top and add more toothpicks.

Grease a cookie sheet and place the loaf in the center. Cover and let it rise again for about 30 minutes (until doubled). Preheat oven to 350˚F. Beat an egg yolk and brush top of loaf. Bake 1 hour covered with foil. I removed the foil in the last 10-15 minutes of baking. The loaf will be done when the top is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.


Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake

I use the Whole Foods Recipes app for my iPhone a lot. The format is great. You can search for foods on hand, or in a certain category (vegan, slow cooker, quick and simple…) which I find is a huge help for making quick meal plans. I have a couple other apps for recipes but this one I use the most. I keep recipes bookmarked in my “Favorites” tab and have a fairly dynamic collection. I finally made the time to try this recipe recently and am very happy with the results. 
I happened to be babysitting the day I decided to make this coffee cake and finished up the prep with a one-and-a-half-year-old on my hip. He seemed mesmerized by my one handed mixing, all the while educating him on each ingredient I was using. He also liked to peek in the oven window with me to check the progress. Thankfully, amid the distractions of the wee one running amuck in a non-baby-proof house, the coffee cake turned out stunning. 
The cake has a much lighter crumb topping than most coffee cakes (remember it’s low-fat) but the almonds help give texture. There is hardly any fat in the recipe, so the moisture comes from fat free yogurt. Michael says you can tell it’s low-fat but he is also not a big fan of blueberries. The girls in my office liked it a lot and I enjoyed it as well. I’d definitely make it again and recommend serving it to guests. It’s fast to put together and friendly for your summer bikini body. 

Low-Fat Blueberry Coffee Cake
from Whole Foods Recipes

2 C fresh or frozen and thawed blueberries divided
1 C whole wheat flour
1/2 C unbleached all purpose flour
1/4 C sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 C plain non-fat yogurt
1 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1/3 C sliced almonds

for the topping:
2 T whole wheat flour
1/4 C brown sugar
2 T butter
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cardamom

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Spray a 9 inch springform pan with cooking spray and set aside. Mix together the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl with your fingers until it you have pea sized clumps.

Whisk together the remaining dry ingredients. Combine yogurt, eggs, and vanilla in another small bowl and add to the dry ingredients. Mix until just combined. Add half the blueberries and smooth into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the topping evenly over the batter and add the remaining blueberries. Top with the almonds. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes and remove the sides of the pan. Let cool another 20 minutes before serving. Store covered in the fridge for up to 5 days.

You can also use a standard 12 tin muffin cup with liners instead of the springform pan. Reduce the baking time to 22-25 minutes.

Rosemary Focaccia

I recently planted an herb garden in window boxes on our deck. We get fantastic sunlight in our neighborhood and there were some leftover hangers begging me to use them. (If you didn’t know, San Francisco has crazy microclimates and it can be foggy in one neighborhood and two blocks away really sunny.) Finding boxes that were the correct size was quite a feat. I think it took me two trips and M one trip to find one that fit the width and length of the ancient hangers. I planted Rosemary, Italian Parsley, Cilantro, Sage, Thyme, Mint, and Oregano all from little starter plants. So far I have only managed to kill the Oregano and I’m crossing my fingers on the rest which are no where close to plant death. I also planted basil from seeds and they are beginning to sprout!

While M’s parents were here they also helped us clear out the backyard (shared by 4 units and not actually used by anyone) and build a raised bed. This is going to be an interesting learn-to-garden experience. At most, I’ve grown peppers and tomatoes in pots, and helped my grandpa harvest tomatoes when I was little… maybe this previous experience will inspire my green thumb…. 

Our yard was really really overgrown. One side has pavement and tons of leaves, the other has a mixture of weeds, overgrown shrubs, and hidden flowers. The weeds and grasses were reaching almost 18 inches in height. We would have received a “notice” if living anywhere where the backyard was visible to the public… thankfully we have an 8′ fence surrounding us! Oh, and I should mention we just rent so maintaining the yard is technically not our responsibility! So, while my in-laws were digging around in our backyard, they found a healthy, mature rosemary plant (among other treasures I’ll share later). This is where the rosemary for the focaccia came from.

I know I posted about Rosemary Focaccia once before, but that was long ago when I was new to the blogging world. I actually used the same basic recipe as before, but changed the ingredients slightly. I’ll add the new recipe to this post. I can’t wait for more fresh herbs this spring/summer. Do you have any great recipes for herb bread? Or herbs of any kind, I’m hoping to have enough to share. 

Rosemary Focaccia
adapted from a recipe by John Ash, From the Earth to the Table

1/4 C olive oil – good quality (plus more for the top)
1 1/2 C warm water (110˚-115˚F)
1 T + 1/2 tsp yeast
3 3/4 C a.p. flour
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 T chopped Rosemary

Stir the yeast into the warm water in a large bowl. Let it stand for about 5 minutes until it gets bubbly. Mix in the oil, flour, and salt. Knead until smooth (about 10 minutes). Coat another clean bowl with olive oil and coat your dough too. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm area for 1 1/2 hours (or doubled in size). Punch down the dough and prepare a 12×17 pan with olive oil. 

Preheat the oven to 425˚F. Stretch the dough across the entire pan making sure to keep it even. Dent the dough with your fingertips and cover with a tea towel. Let it rise again for about 15 minutes. Dent the dough again and add about 1/2 C more olive to the top making sure to spread it evenly. Use a pastry brush to spread the oil if you need. Pooling in the dents is welcome, your rosemary will have a nice hot tub. 

Bake for 10 minutes, remove from the oven and sprinkle the rosemary on top. Bake for 10-12 more minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack. Enjoy warm! 

Additional topping ideas: Sliced black olives (one of my favorites in Italy), Rosemary + Garlic, Kosher/Sea Salt, Pizza Sauce, Golden Raisin, Green Onion   

Halloween! It’s so close I can taste it….

Holidays are fun to make treats for, especially Halloween! There are parties to attend and parties to throw and parties to organize for your children (or yourselves if you live in sf where everyone seems to be crazed by Halloween well over the age most people dress in costume). If you are going to a party or just want to make something really cute, I have some ideas for you. Some are links, some are my own recipes, but all are good and fun. 

1. Vampire Bites
My sister was feeling extra crafty the other day and decided to make these Apple andPeanut Butter Sandwiches for my nephews’s Halloween party at their day care. A little less sugary than all the cupcakes, cookies, and candy kids consume and easy to make. They were so cute I was inspired to share some of my favorite Halloween treat ideas with you. Most of them are links to other blogs so I hope you enjoy and feel inspired too! 

What you need:
Red Apples (the darker the skin the better) or you could go super stylish and have different shades of vampire lipstick…
Peanut Butter
Marshmallows (small and large)
Slice apples into thin wedges cutting out the core, spread some peanut butter on the insides of two slices. line the curved side with some small marshmallows for teeth. Cut the large mallow (you can use scissors) into pointy teeth and add two of these for fangs. Voila. Simple and fantastic. Just look how much my cute little nephew likes them!

2. Boo-tiful Ghost Cake
How can you resist these cute little marshmallow ghosts? Annie of Annie’s Eat’s has been on a rampage of all things cute and halloween the past few posts. Please check out her blog – you might be blown away by all of these cute treats. 

3. Witches Fingers Cookies
I first had these cookie in college when a friend’s mom made them for a halloween party for some church folks. Other great memories from this night were M dressed as a pink flamingo lawn ornament… and a fantastic bird bath and garden gnome were also present. 

4. Caramel Apples
These are one of my favorite things… if you look closely you will see me staring longingly into the display case at these beauties. We didn’t buy one though (sad face) we bought a giant sugary disc some may know as an elephant ear? Anyways, I love caramel apples. We used to get them at a local apple orchard when we were younger. At some point we got lazy (or my parents decided they were too expensive) and just bought caramel dip from the grocery store – dangerous – but I’m returning to one of my all time favorites for number 4. 

Food Network Recipe – caramel from scratch
All Recipes – caramel pieces recipe
Be creative with your toppings!

5. No-Bake Spiderweb Cheesecake
Martha’s army is at it again. Spiderweb treats are very cute and creepy. Even better if you can find gummy spiders to decorate with. This cheesecake seems easy enough since you don’t have to bake it. No-Bake cheesecake is definitely a time saver when you are planning a party! 

6. Devil’s Food Cake with Flame Tuiles
Maybe for a more sophisticated crowd. This cake just looks sexy. Fit for a vampire (but not the Twilight kind – they are too nice for this cake). 
Another Martha. She is just too good at holiday baking. 

7. Spooky Drinks
This cocktail reminds me of a Moscow Mule (slowly making a come back  in SF) but with Rum instead. You could pretty much top any cocktail with black decorating sugar and spiders but I’ll share the recipe anyways. 

8. Pumpkin Cookies
Yep, I just posted about these the other day! (self promotion) They were one of three recipes for the Easy Bake cOven’s October recipe list. 

9. Pumpkin Ice Cream Sandwiches

To make Ice Cream Sandwiches, thaw your favorite pumpkin ice cream at room temperature until easy to scoop. Using a spoon or small ice cream scoop, add some ice cream to the flat side of one cookie and flatten it slightly. Place another cookie on top and smooth sides. Keep in freezer until ready to eat. It might be good to under-bake your cookies slightly so they don’t get hard in the freezer. 

10. Mini Mummy Dogs (Halloweenies)

I made these with my sister for Halloween last year. She is just so crafty right? I think she has a picture somewhere on her camera but I don’t have it (ahem….) Ours were cuter, because we used little smokies. Use hot dogs if you like, and wrap with crescent roll dough cut into thin strips. The thinner the better. 
Here is the link in case you forget (little smokies + crescent roll dough) hehe

What is your favorite Halloween Treat? 

Pumpkin Puffs

In honor of October and all things pumpkin, I made some pumpkin cookies. I like to call them puffs because they are cake-like and airy. It’s been while since I’ve made these, and any cookie for that matter. Life is getting busier and I don’t know how.  

It rained all weekend which made me sleepy and forced me to stay inside. I dislike wet jeans (they just don’t dry fast enough). I spent most of the day Sunday in the kitchen making cakes for my office birthday celebrations this week and had almost a whole can of left over pumpkin. Since this recipe was one of three this month for The Easy Bake cOven I decided to go ahead and make cookies.  

I like when it’s cold outside and I can heat the apartment fairly well with just the oven (oven on for 2 1/2 to 3 hours). It makes me feel less bad about cooking for long periods of time, and less necessary to turn on the inefficient baseboard heaters. Thankfully I get to say So Long to this apartment soon because M and I are moving! We will still be in the city, but were moving to a 2 bedroom with a LOT more living space. I can’t wait. I am really excited about the dishwasher as well (and free laundry!) Once we are settled I’ll take you on a tour. 

I made these cookies not just for our enjoyment, but as a bribe. I’m asking the guys in the mail room at M’s office to save boxes for us. Here is how this conversation went with M the other day…. Me: Can you ask the guys in the mail room to save us boxes to move with?
M: It would be better if you asked.
Me: Why?
M: Because you are cuter
Me: Thanks, but I’ll just make them cookies (big grin)

So, gigantic office with tons of shipments each day, I’m taking your boxes… and all you get are cookies. Not a bad swap I’d say. Unless you hate pumpkin which I’m hoping they won’t. 
I plan on making more pumpkin treats this month/November but I have no idea when I will be able to post them. If you have some recipes you think I should try please send them! 

Pumpkin Cookies aka Pumpkin Puffs

2 1/2 C flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 C butter softened
1 1/2 C sugar
1 C canned pumpkin
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Frosting Optional (I don’t think they need frosting)
2 C confectioners sugar
3 T milk
1 T melted butter
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350˚F. Mix together the dry ingredients including spices. Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy. Add in egg and mix until incorporated. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients. Using a cookie scoop, drop dough onto a cookie sheet. Bake 15-20 minutes. Cool and drizzle frosting over the top if using. 

Cookies are cake-like in texture and get better with age. I think they are best the next day. Store up to one week in an airtight container. The cookies will be puffy – hence the name “puffs” and should not spread out on the pan. If you want them to be less puffy, press the dropped dough down with wet fingers before baking. 

Friendship Bread Part 2

Last post, I told you about making friendship bread starter and revealed some silly things about my tween years. Now, I’ve made the bread and frozen the starter for victims who have yet to appear. I’m not surprised. Only M’s Aunt was excited about the Chain Bread (Yeah Aunt J!) but some of you just don’t know what surprise awaits you. I’ve decided to pursue the sneak attack method… I surprise you with starter and you feel obligated to make it. ha! 

I made the bread on a warm sunny day after a short hike near Emerald Bay in Tahoe. It’s our yearly pilgrimage to nature and escape from the city. It’s never been anything but relaxing and fantastic. I spent more time in the kitchen than normal (bread + dinner) but what else is there to do but sit around and read, or play cards, or ping pong in the yard? star gazing. Thankfully it was not so cold at night as it has been in the past. M took some amazing night photos off the pier.  

I didn’t plan the starter very well since I had to bring all of my ingredients on the trip, but I was making myself impatient waiting. Like I mentioned before, I made this once in college, and remember my mom making it when I was young. I imagine PTA moms were the culprits. (My mom was PTA president so she is considered “culprit” too.) Since I don’t remember actually making it, I chose a recipe at random from the sea of recipes on the internet. The recipe listed below I found while going through some things in the attic at my mom’s house. This was the recipe we used as kids and it is printed on pink cardstock. I think it is better than most of the recipes on the internet – though very similar. In order to save some trees, I’m not going to send printed instructions with the starter (if you are a sneak attack victim). 

I only made one loaf. I had a lot of starter and ended up dividing it into 5 segments. I didn’t realize it was ok to have more than the one cup you give everyone else. I also didn’t have pudding mix. I think I’m going to try it again with one of the starter bags in my freezer. I thought the bread was pretty tasty. It was a bit dry since I cooked it too long. Purposefully though – it didn’t look done on top so I sacrificed the bottom. It’s easy to cut the bottom off a loaf of bread. I think the sweetness of the bread surprised M. Sourdough starter makes you think you will eat a loaf of sandwich bread. I’d like to try making yeasted waffles or pancakes with the starter. It may not work at all or be totally disgusting but fun to try. If you follow the instructions, it shouldn’t be difficult at all to make two slightly tangy and sweet loaves. Let me know if you’d like to try. If you want to begin the starter on your own, follow the steps below. 

It is very important to follow these rules with the starter:
Never use metal utensils or bowls. Always use wood, plastic or glass. Keep the starter on your countertop – never refrigerate. If you receive the starter in a plastic bag, transfer it to a glass bowl loosely covered with plastic wrap so that the bag doesn’t pop. 

Amish Friendship Bread Starter
In a 2 quart glass bowl, dissolve 1/4 C warm water (110-115˚) with one package yeast
Add 1 cup flour, 1 C sugar, and 1 C milk. Stir vigorously to break up the lumps. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and follow the instructions for days 1-10 below. 

Amish Friendship Bread
Day 1 receive the starter
Day 2 Stir 
Day 3 Stir
Day 4 Stir
Day 5 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk
Day 6 Stir
Day 7 Stir
Day 8 Stir
Day 9 Stir
Day 10 Add one cup each Flour, Sugar, Milk. Stir well. Divide the starter into three separate containers with one cup each and reserve the rest for yourself. 

To make the bread on Day 10:
To the reserved started add:
1 C vegetable oil
1/2 C milk
3 eggs
1 tsp vanilla

In another bowl, combine:
2 C flour
1 C sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 C chopped nuts (optional)
1 large box instant vanilla pudding

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease two loaf pans. 
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir well. Pour into two greased loaf pans. Sprinkle the top with cinnamon and sugar. Bake for 1 hour. If bread doesn’t spring back when lightly touched, reduce heat to 325˚F and continue baking 10-15 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling. 
You can also use different kinds of pudding, raisins or dried fruit, or peeled and chopped apples. 

Chain Mail…er… Bread?

When I was a teen a group of my friends had a Notebook. I’m not sure why I am sharing this bit of information, but it seemed appropriate to link this idea to the title “chain letters”. So the Notebook. It was a just a composition notebook (or series of notebooks) that we wrote notes in and passed around to our group of friends. I think there were close to 7 of us. Much better disguised as your english note pad rather than paper notes you folded into cute little origami shapes before passing. Oh, not that I passed notes during class or anything like that…. I found one recently while going through some items my mom wanted us to clear out of storage. Oh the topics we discussed. Not worth mentioning here, but they were completely relevant at the age of 13. 

Something I really hated about receiving chain letters was a last little line that appeared, demanding if you if you didn’t copy the full page note, spin in circles with a feather on your head, and send it to 20 other friends, you were going to have bad luck for seven years. Or worse, bad luck with boys for Seven Years! Oh the mind of a thirteen year old. I’m sure there is no note passing today. These little teens are texting maniacs. Chain texts would be horrid but easier to send – all of those letter combinations make no sense to me. LOL!

I’m not really here to tell you about chain letters, but a similar phenomenon that happens with bread, Amish Friendship Bread to be exact (which has nothing to do with the Amish by the way). Friendship bread is kind of like a chain letter for baking. You begin with a portion of Starter that you either make yourself or someone has so graciously handed to you. Then you let it sit around for a while and stir, add some ingredients, stir, wait, and at the end your have quadrupled your starter. Finally, you give some starter to people you know and the whole cycle starts over again. Unless you STOP the cycle by tossing the extra starter in the freezer. I guarantee that you will not receive bad luck for freezing the starter.

I don’t remember why I recently wanted the starter. The last time I participated in the Friendship Bread Chain, I was in college. I remember it being pretty fun, and a test of patience. And at the end, it produced a wonderfully cinnamon-y loaf. Or two I can’t remember…. so, I’ve done it. I’ve made the starter and am going to send some to a lucky few. I’m going to log the starter’s process in case you want to start the chain someday. And, if I’m lucky, some of you will actually make it the bread, and I will share the successes.

Inspiration from the Humble City of Portland

M and I recently visited Portland over a long weekend for a wedding. I wanted to share some great places we visited while we were there. We are food people and were really excited about the food scene in the city. From kitschy cafes to Voodoo Donuts, Portland has quite the variety of restaurants to fit your occasion or mood. We had a long list of restaurants to choose from, and we made it to quite a few. All were lovely experiences, and we definitely need to go back for some of the rest. 

We started our trip bright and early on a 7am flight, where our attendants happily offered complimentary glasses of wine or beer. It being only 7am, M and I passed, but there were definitely a few takers on the flight. Running on 4 hours of sleep we needed coffee, not alcohol. As soon as we we settled in the hotel, we ventured with M’s parents to Park Kitchen in the Pearl District. The restaurant’s idea of lunch is “a really good short story” observing the time constraints of their lunchtime working customers (I’d like to try their “novel” dinner sometime too). Their menu allows choices of individual items or a lunch combo with a starter, main and a dessert. I can’t remember exactly but I think the latter choice was called something like a Power Lunch. I ordered a Roasted Beet Sandwich with home made potato chips and it was fantastic. It inspired my Meatless Monday meal (see recipe below). There were so many delicious items, including the bread which they get from a local bakery, Ken’s Artisan Bakery. Oh, the bread was divine! I completely fell in love with the rustic country bread they delivered during our lunch. I just don’t understand how people on the low carb diet plans can give up bread.

Ken’s Artisan Country Bread, Photo by M

Park Kitchen Leek Soup, Photo by M
Park Kitchen home made hot dog, Photo by M
Park Kitchen beet sandwich and house potato chips, Photo by M

We visited the Japanese Garden and spent some time on the grounds of Reed College for the wedding ceremony. Both beautiful places. We hiked around two waterfalls and drove a loop around Mt Hood. That is one big mountain! Portland is definitely green and lush. My inlaws fell in love immediately. The weather was in the 90’s which M and I are not used to, but relished in for the time we had. Oh, how I miss summer nights. Maybe we’ll have some summer in September and October (which is usually the case). 

Voodoo Donut: Original Voodoo Doll, Photo by M

Voodoo Donut: Chocolate Frosting, Rice Cereal, Peanut Butter Drizzle, Photo by M

Columbia River Scenic Overlook, Photo by M

Latourell Falls Hike, Photo by M

Latourell Falls, Photo by M

We stopped for coffee at Barista, also in the Pearl District, in a renovated warehouse space with a little loading dock charm. The loading dock is now a quaint little space with tables and chairs for sipping coffee. And not just any coffee. These are not your fast food coffee baristas like Starbucks, and I do appreciate a fantastic latte. I’m willing to wait five minutes for my latte when they look like the image below. Beautiful. I want to learn how to do this. I might use our espresso machine more often. Barista serves Ritual coffee as one of their espresso choices, and Ritual Roasters is one of the best coffee shops in San Francisco. I need pretty cups and saucers like these! 

Pretty! Barista Cappucino
Doesn’t M make a lovely cappuccino face?

Mt Hood, Photo by M

We had a nice time in this small town. Yes, it is small. It feels small. but it’s clean and happy. I didn’t take any more pictures of our food, but I hope this inspired you to try something new. If you aren’t able to travel this fall, find a local restaurant in your home town to support. They do exist! Check out our list below for some of the places we couldn’t fit in, and some of the places we fell in love with above. Don’t forget to eat your beets in sandwich form next Meatless Monday

Beet Sandwich
2 large beets

To roast your beets, preheat your oven to 425˚F. Wash your beets and cut off the stem and tail (the tail always reminds me of a little rat.. just what you want to think about when cooking!). You can remove the skins before or after they are roasted – just a matter of preference since they will still stain your fingers pink no matter the order. Center the beets on a large sheet of aluminum foil and coat with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Fold the sides of foil together to create a sealed pocket. Roast for one hour. Remove and let cool. Peel the skins off if you haven’t already and slice into 1/4 inch thick rounds. 

For the Sandwich (serves 2 with some Beets left over)
4 pieces good quality bread
goat cheese

To assemble the sandwiches, toast the bread. On one piece of bread spread some goat cheese, on the other piece of bread spread a thin layer of tahini. Lay 4-6 beet slices on the bread and top with lettuce. Simple, delicious and vegetarian. 

Here is the list of restaurants and places to visit M and I made, with great suggestions from friends and co-workers. If you are ever in the Portland area, please check out the great local restaurants below! 

We used a variety of guides including GQ City Guides: Portland, CitySearch Portland, and UrbanSpoon: Portland 

places to eat:

Healthy Zucchini Muffins

I recently found myself in the realm of unsatisfactory breakfasts. This usually means coffee and a mediocre scone or muffin. These pastries all too often are overly sugary or bland. I am a tough critic since making breakfast pastries is a favorite of mine, so I decided to stop being critical and make some breakfasts to take to work. Making muffins eases my objection to buying pastries you can make for two percent of the cost at a coffee shop.

I like to control the amount of sugar mostly – and the fat… well lets say I really miss it when I make a “healthy muffin.” I didn’t miss it so much this time which is the main reason I’m sharing these. You could also easily add some whole wheat flour for your daily manganese, fiber, tryptophan, and magnesium. Apparently, women who eat more whole grains also weigh less than women who eat refined grains (like a majority of breakfast pastries – or any pastries for that matter). I like the idea of weighing less and still eating these delicious muffins. I’m going to experiment more with the substitution of whole wheat in baked goods, and try making a lunch bread that includes wheat germ and whole wheat.

I like these muffins because they are a little less spice-cakey than most zucchini muffins. I posted about zucchini once before when I started a baking club. They weren’t the best recipe, but I like the idea. Just like carrot muffins, when you add a veggie to your muffin, you increase vitamin intake while decreasing the fat. Since these vegetables have such a high water content, you use less fat and don’t end up chewing forever on a dry muffin. I’m guessing you will be confused when you read the recipe below and see that I used melted butter instead of gobs of oil (and it’s much less butter than this chocolate chip recipe I know) but it makes for a nice crispy crust and the batter yields more than your standard 12 muffins. Sometimes I get annoyed by this, but I got to use my mini loaf pans for the extra… they are just so cute I couldn’t get mad at the excessive amount of batter. I also like that you fill up the cups entirely and the muffins bake up beautifully without spilling over the sides. pretty pretty.

I hope you enjoy these as much as I have.

Zucchini Muffins
Adapted from Simply Recipes

3 C packed grated zucchini (you can mix yellow squash too) large grate with skins on works fine
1 stick butter melted and cooled
1 1/3 C sugar
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 C flour
2 rounded tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 C chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350˚F. In a large bowl, beat eggs slightly and add the sugar. Mix thoroughly then add the vanilla and cooled butter (you don’t want to scramble your eggs). Mix in the zucchini. Measure in the flour, soda and spices. Give them a swirl and mix into the wet ingredients until there is only a little flour visible. Add the walnuts and mix until evenly dispersed. Grease and fill muffin tin to the tops, or slightly over the top. Bake for close to 30 minutes, or until the muffins spring back slightly when pressed.