Sourdough Bread in a Cast Iron Dutch Oven


Fresh from the oven.  Baking bread can be detected in the air from inside & outside the house.

Sourdough Bread

FullSizeRender 2This makes a very large loaf of bread in a giant Cast Iron Dutch Oven.  Half the recipe for a smaller, single loaf size.

in a bowl:  1/2 cup boiling water, 1/2 cup cold tap water, 2 tablespoons yeast and let it sit for about five minutes, until it bubbles, foams, and grows.

In a very large mixing bowl, pour 3 cups sourdough starter and a tablespoon of honey.  On top of the sourdough starter, make a little mountain of 2 cups flour.  Gently mix 2 teaspoons salt into the flour to distribute it.

Wait until the yeast is foamy and pour it around the sides of the flour in the large mixing bowl, like a moat.

Continue the gentle mixing, using larger motions to mix all of the ingredients together, until you have a soft dough. Switch to using your hands to knead the dough in the bowl, as the dough holds together.

Add flour and knead in the bowl until the dough is the desired consistency, stiff, but flexible, like Playdough.

Place dough ball on a large piece of parchment paper in a clean bowl and cover with a clean, dry cloth.  Let it sit in a warm spot for an hour or two (depending on the warmth of the room), until it doubles in size.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees with the Cast Iron Dutch Oven inside, lid on.

Open your ovens so they are ready to receive the bread.

Quickly, so as not to loose too much oven heat, lift the dough out of the bowl, using the parchment paper, and deposit into the hot cast iron dutch oven.  Return the lid and close the oven.

Bake for 30 minutes with the lid on,  and 30 minutes with the lid off

When the baking time is nearing completion, and top starts to brown, check the bread for doneness by and inserting a thermometer into the center of the bread.  Your goal is 200 degrees internal temperature and a hard, crispy crust.

When the bread is done, lift it out of the Dutch Oven and let it cool on a rack, for as long as you can stand it (!), before cutting into it to sample with butter.

Charlotte summoning my dad & stepmom each day, usually before & after school, using the chain lock on our back gate.  They live in a house behind ours on the same property, so we smell what’s cooking in each other’s ovens.


Sourdough Banana Date Bread


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Sourdough Banana Date Bread packed for a camping overnight at the beach.

Sourdough Banana Date Bread

Begin with a mixer bowl and add one stick of butter, one cup of dates (or agave), one teaspoon of vanilla, and three ripe bananas.  Let the mixer mash this mixture until it is pulvarized together.

Slowly, add two eggs and mix.

Pull the mixing bowl from the mixer and set on counter.  Pour in 1-2 cups of sourdough starter, depending on how much you would like to “spend” from your batch of starter.  Mix gently.

Now, without mixing, yet, pour two cups of wheat flour onto the center of the wet banana mixture.  Let it sit on top.

Sprinkle one teaspoon baking soda and 1/2 teaspoon salt onto the flour.   Add one cup of hemp seeds and half a cup of flax or chia seeds.

With a small spoon, do your best to mix the dry ingredients on top, slowly adding in the wet banana mixture.  Add more flour, if the mixture seem too wet.  Your goal is the consistency of cake batter.  Use big, slow mixing motions, wetting the dry, without over-mixing.

Spatula into a bread pan greased with grapeseed oil.

On top of the dough, sprinke crushed mixed nuts and fresh bananas sliced length-wise.

Bake in a preheated 350 oven for one hour, or until the center comes out clean on a toothpick.

Van camping view at Hobson’s Campground. Ventura, California.

Vermont Cheddar Quiche



Vermont Cheddar Quiche served on a “brew day” at home.

Vermont Cheddar Quiche

Pie Crusts

Make crusts ahead and store in the freezer until ready for filling.

In a mixer beat the following ingredients and press into three pie or tart pans.

4 cups flour

1 tablespoon sugar

2 teaspoons salt

3 1/4 sticks butter

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

1 egg

Pie Crust Recipe from “Cooking at the Cat Track Ranch” by Martha Sage Vang


Start by filling the crusts with a layer of grated sharp cheddar cheese.   I buy three blocks of different sharp cheddar cheese and make each layer a different type.

Add a single layer of meat and/or vegetable filling.  My favorites are mushroom, broccoli, ham, and onion.

Add a double layer of more cheese.

For each crust, whisk 8 eggs, 2 cups of cream, salt, and pepper.

Make a well in the center of each quiche and pour the egg mixture into it, then pour more to cover the cheese.

Place quiches on baking sheets to catch spillover while they bake.

Bake at 300 degrees for two hours and a little more to set the insides and brown the top.

Let cool a bit before cutting & serving.

Quiche Recipe from “A Way of Living” by Pia and Simon Pearce.

Brew Day set up, American wheat beer in the making.

Key Lime Pie


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Key Lime Pie topped with whipped creme.

 Key Lime Pie


1 1/4 cups graham crackers made into crumbs in a food processor

2 tablespoons sugar

3 tablespoons melted, unsalted butter


14 oz can sweetened condensed milk

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup lime juice


3/4 cup chilled whipped cream


Preheat oven to 350.

Mix crust ingredients and press into a shallow tart pan.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Leave oven on.

Whisk together sweetened condensed milk amd egg yolks in a bowl.

Add lime juice and whisk until thoroughly combined.

Pour filling into the crust and bake in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.

Cool pie completely, then chill for at least 8 hours.

Before serving, beat whipping cream and add as a top layer to the pie.

Recipe from Epicurious

🎼 Happy Birthday, Dear Dad…

Early Summer Cooking Group


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Early Summer, Another Kitchen Cooking Club


Berries & Cream


Ham & Cheese Buckwheat Gallettes


A Musical Parade

Simple Hummus


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Preparing hummus for a birthday beach potluck.

Simple Hummus

2 cans chickpeas

2 cloves garlic

4 tablespoons tahini

1 tsp salt

6 tablespoons quality olive oil

3 1/2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice


Pour liquid from the chickpeas into a bowl and set aside.

Rinse the chickpeas and put in a food processor, adding tahini, garlic, salt, lemon juice, and seven tablespoons of the reserved liquid.  Blend with the food processor and add the olive oil as it runs.

Top with a few whole chickpeas and drizzle the top with olive oil, sprinkle with paprika, and garnish with parsley leaves, if you like.

Recipe from


Dinner & movies in bed.  Daddy’s on a climbing trip & we are testing out our hummus.


Heading for the beach tomorrow with our hummus, sand toys, & a birthday present.

Chocolate Birthday Cake 


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Born just under four pounds five weeks early, fed by syringe for seven weeks…six years ago.

Chocolate Birthday Cake

1 cup boiling water

3/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. fine sea salt

2 cups granulated sugar

10 Tbs. (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature

3 eggs

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 1/4 cups buttermilk

Butter two 9-inch round cake pans. Line the bottom of each pan with a round of parchment paper. Dust the pans with flour, tapping out the excess.

In a small heatproof bowl, whisk together the boiling water and cocoa powder until smooth. Let cool completely.

In a bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and salt. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using a mixer, beat together the granulated sugar and butter on medium-high speed until the mixture is light in color and texture, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, then beat in the vanilla and the cooled cocoa mixture.

Reduce the speed to low and add the flour mixture in 3 additions, alternating with the buttermilk and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth, stopping the mixer occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and smooth the tops.

Bake the cakes until they begin to pull away from the sides of the pans, 35 to 40 minutes. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of each pan to release the cake. Invert the pans onto the racks, lift off the pans and peel the parchment paper off the cakes. Turn the cakes right side up and let cool completely.

Place 1 cake layer, bottom side up, on a cake plate. Using an icing spatula, spread the top of the layer with a generous 1/2 cup of the frosting. Place the second layer, top side down, on top of the first layer. Frost the top and then the sides with the remaining frosting. Slice the cake into thick wedges and serve.

For chocolate cupcakes, line 24 muffin cups with paper liners. Spoon the batter into the prepared cups. Bake until the tops spring back when pressed in the center, 20 to 25 minutes. Let the cupcakes cool before frosting.

Recipe from William Sonoma

Chocolate Frosting

3 3/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

1 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder

8 Tbs. (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1 cup heavy cream, or as needed

To make the cake, preheat an oven to 350°F.

In a bowl, sift together the confectioners’ sugar and cocoa powder. Using the mixer, beat in the butter on low speed until it is crumbly. Beat in the vanilla, then gradually beat in enough of the cream to make a spreadable frosting.

Brown Sugar Frosting

Melt ½ lb butter
Add: 1 cup dark brown sugar
Boil 2 minutes
Add: ¼ cup milk
Bring to full boil and let cool
Gradually add 4 cups powder sugar and beat to spread
Melt 2 squares bitter chocolate and drizzle on frosting.

Recipe from Plum Cove Cottage


Charlotte ice skating with her brothers for her sixth birthday.

 Crackers at Home


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Crackers at Home

If we understand the origins of food, how it is made, why we eat, then our relationship with food become a two way street.  I water and grow, wash and cut, roast and bake, and food gives back to me, energy and health.  In that light, it is satisfying to make a food at home with basic ingredients, to strip it of preservatives, and increase its nutrition levels.  Self-reliance factors in, as well.  This is why I make crackers.

Crackers Recipe

3 cups all-purpose flour, or a mix of all-purpose and whole grain flours

2 teaspoons sugar

2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup water

Optional Toppings: 1 tablespoon sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon fennel seeds, 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, 1 teaspoon sea salt

Place a rack in the lower third of the oven and heat to 450°F. Sprinkle a baking sheet lightly with flour and set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, and salt.

Add the oil and water to the flour mixture. Stir until a soft, sticky dough is formed. If a lot of loose flour remains in the bottom of the bowl and the surface of the dough, add more water a tablespoon at a time until all the flour is incorporated.

Divide the dough into two halves and set one half aside. Sprinkle your work surface lightly with flour and set the other half on top. Pat it into a thick square with your hands.

Working from the center of the dough out, roll the dough into a rectangle roughly 1/8-inch thick or thinner, if you can. If the dough starts to shrink back as you roll it, let it rest, uncovered, for 5 minutes and then continue rolling.

Using a pizza cutter or a sharp knife, cut the dough into individual crackers.

Transfer crackers to baking sheet and prick with fork so they won’t puff up during baking.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, but keep an eye on them.

Cool and store the crackers: Transfer the baked crackers to a wire rack to cool completely. The crackers will crisp further as they cool. Store the crackers in an airtight container on the counter for 3-5 days. If you’re crackers are a little old and less-than-crispy, lay them on a baking sheet and put them in a 350°F oven for a few minutes to re-crisp.

Recipe From The Kitchn

Charlotte putting on her rock climbing shoes in Joshua Tree National Park.

Pecan Sticky Buns


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Upside Down (un-flipped) Pecan Sticky Buns

Before I completely separate myself from sweet recipes after a season of treats, here are notes about my favorite holiday recipes this year so I can find them again next year (….. or sooner).

This Pecan Sticky Bun recipe from Deb Perelman, Smitten Kitchen, is intimidating because it has so many steps.  But, once you wrap your head around what needs to be done, it’s not so hard, and the result is superb.

Her description is so long, that I “skimmed” when I read it and missed the step where you flip the buns.  They are baked sitting in the Pecan Caramel as a layer on the bottom of the pan and are to be flipped before serving so the goo is on top of the bun instead of underneath.  My husband did ask where the sauce part was.  It was there, just on the underside, instead of on top.  Although, the taste is the same, they definitely look more decadent when flipped.

I tried the Whole Lemon Bar recipe in the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook this year, too, but, despite the fact that they contain the entire lemon, they were not tart enough for my family.  I have a Lemon Bar recipe in the Archives of this blog and remember it as the best one.  It is from the New York Times and comes out like Lemon Curd on Shortbread.  That is my go-to Lemon Bar recipe for now, and this is my go-to Sticky Bun recipe.

Pecan Sticky Buns

Make the Dough:
1 packet (1 tablespoon) instant or active dry yeast
3/4 cup milk
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
6 tablespoons  butter, melted and cooled to lukewarm
4 large egg yolks
1 large whole egg
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting counter
1 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
Oil or butter to coat bowl

Proof the yeast.

Whisk in butter, yolks and whole egg.

Add half the flour and combine with the dough hook of a stand mixer or a wooden spoon.

Add salt, then second half of flour and continue to mix until a craggy dough forms.  Knead for 5-10 minutes.

Let the dough rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.

Prepare Caramel:
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup  honey
1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in a medium heavy saucepan over medium heat.

Stir in brown sugar, cream, honey and salt.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until caramel is golden brown and glossy, about 3 to 5 minutes.

Pour into a the bottom and up the sides of a deep 9×13-inch baking dish and let the dish cool down in the fridge while you assemble your rolls.

Mix Filling:
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon coarse or kosher salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups toasted and cooled, chopped pecans (divided)

In a small bowl, stir sugars, cinnamon and salt together.

Remove slightly cooled caramel base from fridge and sprinkle it with 1 cup pecans.

Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and roll it into a rectangle that is 18 inches wide and 12 or so inches long. (It’s okay if it goes longer/thinner, but try to keep the width at 18″.)

Brush the dough with melted butter.

Sprinkle it with the filling and then 1/2 cup pecans.

Roll the dough into a tight 18-inch long spiral.

Using a sharp serrated knife, very, very gently saw the log into 1 1/2-inch sections; you should get 12.

Arrange the buns evenly spread out over pecan-caramel base.

Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for another 1 to 2 hours, until they press tightly together in the pan and look puffed again.

*(Or, you can refrigerate the buns overnight, and up to 16 hours. If chilling overnight, remove from fridge 1 hour before you’d like them to bake. Heat oven to 350°F (175°C).)

Bake your buns until they’re puffed and golden (the internal temperature should read 185 degrees F), approximately 30 to 40 minutes. If they brown too quickly on top before the centers are baked, cover dish with foil for remaining baking time.

Let rest in pan on cooling rack for 2 to 3 minutes, then carefully and quickly invert onto a large serving tray, nudging any caramel left behind in the pan or puddled in the center of the buns back evenly over the tops and sides. Eat warm. Store any leftovers in the fridge, rewarming slightly.

Adapted Recipe from smitten


Holiday Whole Lemon Bars

Christmas Salad


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Christmas Salad

This salad has the warm, winter feel of a Christmas salad.  In an effort to balance out the sweets of the season, inspired by Moroccan flavors, vitamin-enriched with sweet potatoes, and filled with Mandarin oranges from the front yard tree, this salad is today’s pick for a fresh, December meal.  Salud!

Christmas Salad

Add to a bed of chopped, fresh spinach

Cooked, chopped sweet potatoes

Diced oranges or tangerines

Dired raisins, cranberries, or dates

Diced chives or green onions

Optional: Sliced avocado, shaved or grated parmesan, nuts


Whisk together to taste: olive oil, lemon juice, Vegenaise, honey, whole grain mustard, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1/2 tsp ground ginger,  a pinch of cumin, salt.


Ventura’s Poinsettia Pavilion Christmas Tree