French Onion Soup

I’m posting a recipe for soup in an effort to bring on warmer weather. You see, it seems inevitable that whenever I get ahead of myself, I end up putting my foot in my mouth. I was tempted to “think spring” and write about asparagus, but I know it would backfire and we would end up with snow in May. Kind of similar to the time I was talking to some of my friends that have babies younger than Smith and I told them that infant sleeping gets better. “Smith was sleeping through the night by six months; the waking up in the middle of the night will be over before you know it,” I told them with a sense of relief and achievement. What a foolish, foolish mother I was.


It turns out there is a wee little thing called sleep regression that tends to pop up when the little ones hit new motor milestones. The sleeping gets better, but then it takes a wild turn and you find yourself sprawled out on the floor of your baby’s room with your hand wedged inside his crib at 3:30am. It’s a humbling time. As a result, I’m embracing the cold with this French onion soup to coax the number on the thermometer upward.


French onion soup combines two of the world’s most glorious ingredients, melted cheese and caramelized onions, to make a special  lunch or a great main dish for dinner time. It warms the stomach and the soul.


French Onion Soup

Yield: 4-6 servings


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter
  • 4 onions, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 fresh thyme sprigs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 3 heaping tablespoons flour
  • 2 quarts beef broth
  • Loaf of artisan bread (or whichever bread you prefer)
  • 1/2 lb sharp swiss cheese, shredded


1. Melt the stick of butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, and salt and pepper and sauté until the onions are very soft and caramelized, about 25 minutes.

2. Add the wine, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the wine has evaporated and the onions are dry, about 5 minutes. Remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme.

3. Sprinkle the onions with the flour and stir to ensure the onions are well-coated. Turn the heat down to medium low so the flour doesn’t burn, and cook for 10 minutes .

4. Add the beef broth, bring the soup back to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

5. When you’re ready to eat, preheat the broiler. Arrange the bread slices on a baking sheet in a single layer. Sprinkle the slices with the swiss cheese and broil until bubbly and golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes.

6. Ladle the soup in bowls and add the toasted bread slices to the top. Serve immediately.

Source: Tyler Florence 

Homestead Living: Amish Sandwich Bread

IMG_5550 I almost titled this post, “White Amish Bread” and realized that didn’t really sound right. Kind of like when I said my brother earned his “small pilot’s license” or my parents looked at a house where the kitchen was described as a “big wife-loving kitchen.” It’s all in the word combinations, folks, so Amish Sandwich Bread it is. IMG_5539 The Amish community is well-known for growing, canning/preserving, and making the vast majority of their own food. Though they too have evolved with the times and rely more on processed and pre-packaged ingredients, from-scratch cooking and baking is nothing new in their book. The new movement that is striking the rest of our nation, is old hat for them, and the idea of homestead-living is probably something they would find humorous.

IMG_5615 (Smith and his cousins) I’ve been wanting to find a good recipe for sandwich bread for several months now. After trying a few different versions, I found this one and it’s one that our family has been enjoying for the past few weeks. This bread is very easy to make, it yields 2 loaves, and it’s delicious. It is soft, slightly sweet, and is sturdy enough to hold sandwich fixings.  I attempted to improve the nutritional value by swapping in whole wheat pastry flour in place of some of the all-purpose, but the texture was just not as good. Whole wheat sandwich bread is my next quest. IMG_5541 Have a great weekend, everyone. Amish Sandwich Bread  Yield: 2 standard loaves Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons active dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg yolk + 1 tablespoon water to form an egg wash (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon butter, melted


  1. In a large mixing bowl, mix together milk, water, sugar,  and yeast. Cover and allow the yeast to activate and foam for about 5 minutes.
  2. Stir in salt and oil into the yeast mixture.
  3. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, slowly add flour one cup at a time mixing well after each addition. Mix for about 5 minutes, until dough is smooth and elastic.
  4. Place dough in a well-greased bowl, turning once to grease the top. Cover and let rise in a lightly warmed place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Punch down the dough and divide into two equal pieces. Shape into loaves and place in 2 greased 9 x 5-inch loaf pans. Cover and allow to rise in a warm place for 30 mins or until dough has risen 1 inch above pans.
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. With a pastry brush, lightly brush the tops of the loaves with egg wash before baking. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from pans and with a pastry brush, lightly brush melted butter immediately after. Allow to cool completely.

Source: Barely adapted from Bakerette

Smith’s Puppy Pawty


The little rump roast I am always writing about is a full blown toddler these days. He’s walk-running, trying to ride Athena like a miniature pony, throwing tantrums when he doesn’t get his way, and making us laugh on a daily basis. We had a first birthday party for him last month and, boy, did we have fun. Our immediate families and close friends joined us for a little shindig that involved lunch, cake and ice cream, and opening gifts.



To highlight the adorable relationship between Smith and our dog, Athena, I decided on a puppy theme for the gathering. I kept decorations pretty low key by making some garland with cardstock and colored baker’s twine. My mother-in-law printed pictures of our rump roast and Athena together to display throughout our house.




I didn’t get any pictures of the non-desserts, but the menu included:







While this PAWTY was definitely a celebration of our ham ball’s birth, it was also a celebration for the birth of new parents, new aunts and uncles, new cousins, and new grandparents and great grandparents. This past year was definitely not all sunshine and lollipops, but it was an absolutely life-changing and incredibly amazing time that we will not soon forget. It’s difficult to put into words how it feels to be given the gift of motherhood. When I sit and think about the love I feel for my son, I can only describe it as a physical symptom of a combination of butterflies in my stomach and chest tightness. As I type that out, I realize It doesn’t sound pleasant-perhaps it may even sound like I need to find a cardiologist- but it’s a good thing. A wonderful thing. Happy birthday, my sweet boy.






Birthday Cakes


My second birthday- 1987

My earliest memory was on my second birthday. Some of my family members don’t think I could possibly recall moments from that early in life, but I absolutely do. There are pictures to prove me correct (see above). I remember it so well because my mom ordered me the most beautiful 2-tiered clown cake the world has ever seen.  It was 1987 and I was wearing purple courdoroy bibs. When I saw the cake, my toddler heart was so full that I wet my pants in pure joy. My body was still testing out the whole “fight or flight” thing. In this case- “faint or void your bladder.”  In an effort to avoid missing out on the magic of the moment, I chose the latter.


The cake was covered in fluffy white icing and decorated with colorful plastic clowns that were embellished with candy lifesavers. It was so beautiful I could hardly breathe. The only thing that seemed logical at the moment was to kiss the cake, and so I did. And I did it with the tender love and affection that sweet Fraulein Maria and Captain Von Trapp share during their first kiss in The Sound of Music. My sweet darling.


My clearest memory of that day is of me sneaking into the kitchen in the old farmhouse we lived in and trying to take just “one more taste” of heaven on earth. My mom came in after me and told me no (total buzzkill… it was my birthday, for goodness sake!) and ushered me back into the dining room. But what an impression that cake made on me. To earn a permanent spot deep in the hippocampus of my brain.


Every once in a while, I get requests to make birthday cakes and/or cupcakes for children’s birthdays. I always feel so honored and I take it very seriously. Childhood birthdays are big.  I’m not talking these out of control, Pinterest-crazed, everyone-gets-a-pony birthday parties. I am talking about the gathering of family and close friends to celebrate another year of life and the hope of a new year.


When I look back through old pictures of both me and my husband, there are lots of pictures from birthdays. My husband grinning widely while he stands next to a panda cake, me sitting in front of a frilly Barbie cake with my childhood friends smiling on. These are deposits in our memory banks that will last forever and my goal is to provide these kids with a special cake that makes an impression on them. Something that will make them “wet their pants” in excitement, literally or figuratively or both. I hope little Johnny or Susie will be able to someday look back through their childhood photos and see a picture of a birthday cake that I made for them; and I hope they smile fondly and remember what a happy day that was and the love that was shared and felt in that moment. The laughs, the singing, and probably the fights between siblings about sharing a toy. It’s all good stuff. 0Y0A7761


Funfetti Cupcakes with Whipped Vanilla Buttercream


This cupcake recipe is one I have been making for a few years now. It’s reliable and classic and I love it so much that I made it twice within the past month. Once on Smith’s actual birthday, and a few weeks later for his birthday party. The first round went over very well with my boo and my little rump roast. Smith gobbled up an entire cupcake with delightful glee (see picture below). The cakes were light and fluffy and had a lovely crumb. The second time around, however, I had to make a lot more cupcakes to accommodate all of the guests we would be having for lunch. In an attempt to save time, I doubled the recipe. And, wouldn’t you know it, the texture was completely different. This time, the cakes were spongier and firmer. I had mixed the batter and used the exact same ingredients. I just multiplied everything by two and the laws of chemistry cursed me.  Oh chemistry. You always win.


One of the main rules in baking is that it’s not always possible to double a recipe and get the same product.  The chemical leavening agents- baking soda and baking powder*- are integral in the chemical reaction between the ingredients in the baking process, which means there isn’t much wiggle room. Unless you are using a recipe that has the exact weights of ingredients listed, there is always the risk for a small amount of error when using measuring cups and spoons. That “small” error may not matter as much for a single batch of a baked good, but when that “small” is doubled, it can turn into a more substantial difference. The moral of the story: if you’re thinking about doubling a cake recipe, it’s probably best to play it safe and make 2 separate batches of the batter. The end result will be worth it.

*Interesting side note- baking powder is just baking powder combined with cream of tartar and cornstarch.


This boy. He fills my heart with love.


Funfetti Cupcakes with Fluffy Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

Yield: 2 dozen cupcakes

Cupcake Recipe (plus a mix-in of 1/2 cup of sprinkles)

For the frosting:


  • 3 sticks + 2 tablespoons (375 grams) unsalted butter, softened and cut into cubes
  • 3 cups sifted (475 g) powdered sugar (icing, powdered)
  • 3 tablespoons (45 ml) heavy cream, or milk
  • 2 teaspoons (10 mL) pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • Sprinkles, if desired


  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, whip butter for 8 minutes on medium speed. The butter will become very pale & creamy.
  2. Turn the mixer off and slowly add in the sugar, one cup at a time, mixing well after each addition. Add remaining ingredients and mix on low speed until combined. Turn mixer speed up to medium and whip for about 2-3 more minutes to allow frosting to become light and fluffy.
  3. Decorate cupcakes as desired. Top with sprinkles. Store unused frosting in the fridge for 1 week.

Source: Cupcakes- Martha Stewart, Frosting- Sweetapolita

Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup


We’re in the middle of a big snow storm here in Ohio and I always look forward to the days when we can stay bundled up inside and watch the flakes fall. I often conjure up these images in my head of curling up on the couch by the fireplace while we sip on warm drinks and read.  Of course, my imagination and reality sometimes conflict, especially since we don’t even have a fireplace and Smith is currently boycotting naps and battling a bad case of the grumps as a result. There are books, though. Lots and lots of lift-the-flap board books that our boy loves to read over and over and over. Spoiler alert: the Hungry Caterpillar turns into a butterfly.

For the days when the weather is frightfully cold, a bowl of soup is the perfect antidote. This broccoli cheese soup is especially comforting with its thick, creamy base and satisfying chunks of broccoli and carrots. A little bit goes a long way. Add in a hunk of fresh bread and it’s a lovely winter meal.

I hope you are all staying warm. We’re ready to go sledding!


Copycat Panera Broccoli Cheese Soup

Yield: 4 servings


  • 1 tablespoon melted butter
  • ½ medium chopped onion
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half (or 1 cup cream, 1 cup milk)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • ½ lb fresh broccoli (about 1 cup), chopped
  • 1 cup carrot, finely chopped
  • 8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese (it’s best to shred your own since pre-shredded cheese is coated with cornstarch or flour, which impacts thickness)
  • salt and pepper to taste



  1. Saute the onion in 1 tablespoon melted butter and set aside. In a large pot whisk together the melted butter and flour over medium heat for about 3-4 minutes.
  2. Slowly whisk in the half and half and chicken stock. Let it simmer for about 20 minutes.
  3. Add the broccoli, carrots, and onions. Let them simmer on medium low for about 25 minutes until the broccoli and carrots are tender.
  4. Add salt and pepper and sharp cheddar cheese. Allow the cheese to melt. Remove from heat. Use an immersion blender (or a regular blender) to puree some of the soup until you achieve your desired smoothness.

Source: The Recipe Critic



Feeding Our Rump Roast: Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal


Our not-so-little rump roast (also known as our son, Smith), recently celebrated his first birthday. As he hits more milestones and as he continues to cut those razor-sharp baby teeth, we are gradually introducing him to new foods. Now more than ever,  I am thinking about the meals that I am making for our family. I could live on bowls of cereal for dinner every night if it were my choice; but the nutrients that are going into our little whippersnapper’s body have taken precedence.


One of my favorite go-to breakfasts is this apple cinnamon baked oatmeal. It’s full of fiber and vitamin C, and it is especially satisfying this time of year in the cold Ohio Winter months. Even better, Smith gobbles it right up. I typically make a batch on Sunday and it lasts us for the whole week.

I adjusted the original recipe that I used in the past to make this breakfast a little more nutritionally-sound. I reduced the amount of sugar and substituted applesauce in place of the butter. For the sake of my little dude, I also used whole milk since being a toddler is a glorious time in one’s life as they get to enjoy high fat dairy. Lucky Smith. :)


Apple Cinnamon Baked Oatmeal 

Yield: 8 servings


  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • large eggs
  • 1/2 cup organic applesauce (unsweetened is fine, too)
  • 2 cups whole milk (low fat is fine, too)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 baking apples (I usually use Golden Delicious), peeled and diced


  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Grease a 9-inch baking dish with butter. Place the diced apples in the bottom of the pan. Set aside
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the oats, brown sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.
  3. In another bowl, break up the eggs with a whisk; then whisk in the milk, vanilla, and applesauce until well-combined.
  4. Carefully add the milk mixture to the oat mixture and gently stir together until evenly mixed.
  5. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the baking dish and spread evenly. Bake for about 45-50 minutes, until the top is golden and the oats are set. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Source: Adapted from Once Upon a Chef

Homestead Living: Wheat Pita Bread

While I find making food from scratch very fulfilling, there are a few items that I currently don’t have much desire to attempt on my own.  These include: cheese (maybe because we now live in an area with so many cheese houses),  yogurt (Fage Greek yogurt is my favorite), and ketchup (sorry hipster restaurants; I just am not on board yet). It’s fun and empowering to learn methods to make nourishing meals without needing to rely on so many pre-packaged and processed components; but, for me, the choice to make something from scratch has to make sense for our family’s health,  budget, time, and tastebuds.  Artisan bread, hummus, jam, pizza, granola, hot fudge sauce, and now this wheat pita bread are recipes that I believe meet all four of the aforementioned categories.

I finally got around to making this bread a few weeks ago. The dough doesn’t require any extraordinary ingredients, just a little time to allow it to rise and rest, and the baking process goes very quickly with the use of a pizza stone. I was so pleasantly surprised with how lovely these precious little pitas turned out. They were soft and fluffy and were a fabulous accompaniment to our dinner of chicken shawarma that evening. Our little rump roast gladly gobbled some up as well. That boy loves to eat.

In our quest to embrace more of a “homestead living” lifestyle, I am happy to add this recipe to our list of foods we will gladly make at home.

Happy Monday, everyone!

Wheat Pita Bread

Yield: 8 whole pitas


  • 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1¼ cups warm water (105˚-115˚ F), divided
  • 1½ cups bread flour, divided
  • 1½ cups whole wheat flour, divided
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • Cornmeal, for sprinkling


1. Combine the yeast, honey and ½ cup of the water in the bowl of an electric mixer.  Stir gently to combine.  Whisk in ¼ cup of the bread flour and ¼ cup of the whole wheat flour into the yeast mixture until smooth.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm and dry area until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes.

2. Remove the plastic wrap and return the bowl to the mixer stand, fitted with the dough hook.  Add in the remaining ¾ cup of warm water, 1¼ cups bread flour, 1¼ cups whole wheat flour, olive oil and salt.  Mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer the ball of dough to a lightly oiled bowl, turning once to coat. Allow dough to rise again until doubled in bulk, about 60 minutes. Meanwhile, place an oven rack in the middle position.  Place a baking stone in the oven and preheat to 500˚ F. Lightly sprinkle 2  large baking sheets with cornmeal. Set aside.

3. Once the dough has risen, transfer to a lightly floured work surface, punch down the dough and divide into 8 equal pieces.  Form each piece into a ball.  Flatten one ball at a time into a disk, then stretch out into a 6½-7 inch circle.  Place the rounds on the baking sheets and loosely cover with clean kitchen towels.  Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. The dough should puff up slightly.

4. Transfer 4 pitas, 1 at a time, onto the baking surface (you can place directly on oven rack if you don’t have a stone). Bake 2-3 minutes, until puffed and pale golden.  Gently flip the pitas over using tongs and bake 1-2 minutes more.  Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool completely.  Repeat with the remaining pitas.  Store in an airtight container. Pitas should stay fresh for 2-3 days.

Source: Annie’s Eats, who adapted it from Confections of a Foodie Bride, originally from Gourmet (May 2003)


Classic Hummus


Phew! The holidays are over and it’s back to business. This time of year, most are looking for a break from all of the excess of December and we are no different. We are hungry for meals that will give us more bang for our buck, nutritionally, and that are delicious. Contrary to popular belief, health and taste are not mutually exclusive. Just take this recipe for hummus as an example. It’s creamy and earthy and goes really well as a dip for vegetables, as a sandwich spread, or as a base for grilled chicken. And for all of you out there who think they don’t like hummus, I challenge you to reconsider. I am a converted hummus lover. Before we found The Olive Tree, our favorite Mediterranean restaurant in Columbus, I really didn’t care for hummus. I had only tried the store-bought versions and I felt it always tasted kind of pasty; but, at the risk of sounding overly-dramatic (me? … never!), my life changed forever when I tasted the pillowy goodness made by the Greek gods at The Olive Tree. Opa!

I’ve made hummus in the past, but this is the first time I have cooked the garbanzo beans myself instead of using canned beans. Not only is this more economical, it takes hummus to the next level. And, cooking beans is not at all difficult- it just takes a little planning ahead. All you need to do is pour a 15 ounce bag of dried beans into a dutch oven, cover it with water, let it soak overnight, and then simmer for about 2 hours (or until desired tenderness) the following day while you are going about your business. I found the hummus came together really nicely when I used the still-warm beans. There is always the option to peel the skins off the beans before you process them for an even creamier texture if you have extra time on your hands, but my little rump roast was throwing my mini tartlet pans all over the kitchen and heading straight for the heirloom china cabinet in our living room with a look of pure mischief on his face while I was making the hummus, so I wisely opted out of this method.

I hope you are off you a happy and healthy 2015. Happy Sunday, everyone!



Classic Hummus


  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas, liquid reserved and set aside
  • 1 tsp kosher salt, or to taste
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 Cup tahini
  • 7-8 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp reserved chickpea liquid (or water)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Hot sauce, optional (I love Sriracha)


Place all the ingredients (except the Sriracha) in a food processor. Pulse until creamy and well-combined. You may need to ad more liquid depending on your desired consistency. Remove from food processor and top with hot sauce, if desired. Store covered in the refrigerator. Enjoy!
Source: Oh She Glows, who adapted it from Barefoot Contessa

Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge


I have one more Christmas treat to share with you and it’s a super simple, easy, and tasty recipe. Before I go any further though, I have to make a comment about the title of this dessert. It is deemed “fudge,” but I know the fudge purists out there (i.e. my beloved Aunt Khaki) will cry foul. It is not boiled or made with cream; but it is still a great addition to your holiday dessert tray. So there you go my sweet fudge queen, Aunt Khaki. You have taught me the true candy-making ways.

Now- onto this dessert. One of my favorite things about this fudge is that it’s no-bake and it only took about 15 minutes of total active time in the kitchen. That, and the fact that the combination of salty, crunchy pretzels and peanut butter go so well with the flavor of bittersweet chocolate.  This is the perfect thing to make with only 5 days before Christmas. Minimal fuss in the kitchen means there is plenty of time to spend with the ones you love the most, which is usually a good thing. :)

Merry Christmas, everyone!


Peanut Butter Pretzel Fudge


  • 5 ounces (2 cups) salted thin pretzel sticks, broken into ½-inch pieces
  • 12 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1½ cups creamy peanut butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups (12 ounces) powdered sugar
  • 2 ounces (½ cup) bittersweet chocolate chips (semisweet or milkchocolate is fine, too)
  • 1 tablespoon light corn syrup

1. Line an 8×8 inch pan with foil. Spray with cooking spray. Set aside.

2.Process 1 cup of the broken pretzels in a food processor until finely ground. Combine pretzel crumbs and the 12 tablespoons melted butter in a bowl of a stand mixer. Let sit for 5 minutes.
3.Add the peanut butter, vanilla and salt to butter mixture and mix on low speed until smooth. Slowly add the powdered sugar and mix until peanut butter mixture comes together. Add remaining 1 cup broken pretzels and mix until just combined.

4.Transfer peanut butter mixture to the prepared pan and spread into an even layer. Cover surface directly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
5. Microwave the chocolate and corn syrup in 30 second intervals, stirring after each 30 seconds. Continue to put in the microwave for 30 seconds until fully melted. Stir until smooth. Pour over top of the chilled peanut butter fudge and spread evenly. Cover pan and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or up to 2 days. This fudge also freezes really well for a few weeks.

Source: America’s Test Kitchen Best-Ever Christmas Cookies