our big news {and the best caesar salad dressing, ever}

I’m completely aware that there needs to be boundaries set on here and that I can’t just go splashing my emotions around like paint on a canvas but we’ve had some major life changes around these parts and it’s taken a toll on me, so if you’ll pull up a seat and share a salad, I’ll spill. 

Remember this post? We’re gonna talk about it and what I meant. 

We’re moving to Salt Lake City. 

Both John and I were born and raised here in Southern California and living somewhere far from the ocean, family and friends does not thrill me. In fact I’ve been crying about it ever since we found out that moving might be a possibility. Large involuntary sobs and tears. 

I blame my tears on the fact that I hate the timing of everything. Being pregnant and then raising a brand new babe far away from everything good and familiar makes my heart break. I was already afraid that this whole "being a new mom thing" was going to super lonely, and now, well, I feel like it’s all been confirmed. New mom, new baby, new city, check; I don’t know if that’s irony or terrible luck. 

Most family and friends we've shared our big news with have reassuringly exclaimed: “It will be an adventure! At least it’s not South Dakota or Nebraska!” (Sorry if you’re from there friend, I’m sure it’s lovely.) Which, that’s true, Utah is not, but it’s also most certainly not my home. 

I’m trying to make the most of it and be cheerful, but I feel bald and raw. Like I’m moving to a place with a clean slate I never asked for. It’s like being the new girl in the worst way and I keep thinking things like: What if I don’t make any friends?! And, what am I going to do without my mom close by? 

In leu of the news my sister said “Sometimes we do hard things we don’t want to do because we have no idea what amazing things God has in store for us."

I love that silver lining of a thought, but right now, it’s all overwhelming and my heart still hurts. John's dealing with it all much better than I am. (And I used to think I was a person who handled change like a champ. Ha!)

Any advice on moving, dealing with moving to a different state while 7 months pregnant and raising a baby in a brand new city far from everyone and everything familiar, is appreciated. 

Thanks for listening to me. You're probably much braver than I am. Love you friends. xo  

the best caesar salad dressing, ever 

adapted from Gourmet magazine

makes about 1 ⅓ cups

Lunch dates with my girlfriends usually involve deep conversations and salads. This was kind of like a lunch date post, right? Right. So here's some salad. xo

note: Don’t be afraid of anchovy paste. It’s usually by the canned tuna section in your grocery store, and if you're afraid of fish, take heart that this dressing doesn’t taste fishy at all. The paste totally adds a depth of flavor that’s delicious and irreplaceable. If you have fish-phobia or mayo-phobia guests at your table just keep your mouth shut. They’ll love it I promise. 

 

2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced (cloves can be any size, but take note the bigger they are, the more garlicky your dressing will be… I chose pretty good-sized cloves :D) 

1 teaspoon anchovy paste 

4 tablespoons lemon juice, freshly squeezed (or more or less depending on your taste)

½ teaspoon dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 cup / 250g mayonnaise, the best quality you can afford, preferably organic

½ cup / 50g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated - the best quality cheese you can afford, please don’t get pre-grated! Get a wedge of cheese and hand-shred that stuff. You’ll thank me later. 

¼ teaspoon of kosher salt (or to taste)

freshly ground black pepper to taste  

 

Put all ingredients except your grated cheese into a food processor or blender and pulse/blend until smooth and combined. Add grated cheese and pulse. Scrape down sides if necessary. Taste to see if it needs any more salt, pepper or lemon juice. Chill for at least a few hours before serving. Dressing will thicken up a bit once chilled.

 

salad two ways:

dinner party style: Serve dressing over fresh baby heads of romaine lettuce split in half with lots of hand-shredded parmesan cheese and freshly cracked black pepper. (I got my baby heads of romaine from Whole Foods.)

family style: Chop romaine lettuce and Tuscan kale into thin-ish strip-like (½ inch) pieces and toss with dressing in a big bowl. Top with plenty of hand-shredded parmesan and freshly cracked black pepper. 

flag cake {chocolate buttermilk cake with whipped cream and berries}

flag cake {chocolate buttermilk cake with whipped cream and berries}

Little bit cheesy, lot a bit nostalgic, American flag cake for the 4th of July  is a tradition I grew up with and hope to carry on until my babes are grown - I hope you do too. xo

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salted oatmeal cornflake cookies {the man cookie}

This will probably be your new favorite cookie. 

This will probably be your new favorite cookie. 

I’ve been such a boob lately. My brother’s been visiting a lot and he often helps himself to food in the fridge and I've freaked out over sharing lunch meat and cheese when he starts making himself a sandwich or he eats my jalapeño potato chips. I’ve become a possessive, non-sharing food prego-saurus and it’s painfully embarrassing.

I find myself often apologizing for what I said when I was hungry, or bursting into tears at the sight of a car commercial or craving really sappy chick-flick movies. My back is killing me, my face is fat and I can no longer see certain parts of my body in the shower. Don't ask me to bend over and get something. I will curse. I often drop pens or napkins or bobby pins and just leave them there. Sorry. 

Even though I sound like a terrible, never-ceasing-to-complain human being right now, I am so grateful John is sharing this experience with me. (Even if he isn’t sometimes lol!) He’s patient, and kind and brings me ice packs and tums and tiny bowls of chocolate ice cream upon my request and often asks how I am feeling. He makes me feel validated, and often reminds me that I am carrying a small babe and to give myself a break. I remember what life was like without him, and I like it much better with him in it. He reminds me that it's okay to share lunch meat and cheese. He grounds me. 

Baby boy inside my tummy, I have no idea what kind of a mom I’ll be. I know I can feed you really well and annoyingly love you more than you’ll ever care to be loved, but thank goodness we have your dad. He's funnier than I am and more patient than I am and he'll be able to take such good care of us both.  

John, happy first Father’s Day. There are fewer things in life that bond you together more than having a child together, of that I am convinced. I freaking love your guts, thank you for loving mine. These cookies are for you. 

Love you friends. xo 

salted oatmeal cornflake cookies {the man cookie}

John, my dad and my brother devoured these cookies faster than any other cookie I’ve ever made. Enjoying them after Sunday dinner they requested that I bake some more so they could eat them for breakfast. Which of course I did, because like that smart woman I am, I saved some dough. These are addicting and crazy amazing and I'm tempted to re-name them, Man Cookie. :D

note: Please chill the dough on these. You do not have to, you can definitely bake them without chilling the dough and the world will still turn, but chilling the dough leads to the BEST stinking cookies of your life. I promise. 

 

1 cup (2 sticks) / 227g unsalted butter

1 ¾ cup / 385g dark or light brown sugar, packed 

½ cup / 200g sugar 

3 eggs 

1 tablespoon vanilla

3 ⅓ cups / 417g flour, preferably organic

1 ½ teaspoon baking soda

1 ½ cup / 150g whole oats, toasted

2 cups / 50g cornflakes, preferably organic

¾ teaspoon kosher salt 

plus more salt for sprinkling, I love Maldon salt. 

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Spread oats on a cookie sheet and toast for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool. 

Beat butter and sugar together on a medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5-8 minutes. 

Add eggs and vanilla, beat until fluffy, about 5 minutes. 

In a separate bowl, mix together your dry ingredients: flour, salt, soda and oatmeal. Slowly add to the butter egg mixture. 

Add cornflakes and mix until combined. 

Refrigerate dough for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight before baking. (see note above)

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Line cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Using a ¼ measuring cup, scoop out your cookies and place dough blobs about 3 inches apart on cookie sheet. 

Press the cookies with your fingers to flatten a bit and sprinkle with Maldon salt.

Bake for 13-16 minutes. Cookies should be golden on the outside but still appear slightly wet in the middle. 

Cool cookies completely on cookie sheet before serving.  

how to pick the best watermelon

Have you ever taken a watermelon home only to find that it's terrible and flavorless inside? Yeah, me too. Hopefully with these tips you'll never have to go through that again. 

Have you ever taken a watermelon home only to find that it's terrible and flavorless inside? Yeah, me too. Hopefully with these tips you'll never have to go through that again. 

The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on the fighting of the old, but on the building of the new.
— Socrates

These past several days have been such a whirlwind of events and changes that I’m not even sure how to process it all yet… let alone talk about it. It’s all stuff I’m not quite ready to share on here - and it’s not bad - it’s just…...a lot. Forgive my vagueness. I almost didn’t bring it up at all, but this recent news has thrown me for such a loop that I needed to take a small break from this space with a sign hanging that says “away on vacation” - I’ve been mentally gliding on a flamingo floaty device in a large pool in the middle of Palm Springs to cope.

I'm a person that is constantly in the "go-go-go" mind set, so admitting that I needed a complete break was hard; it's like I was admitting defeat or something. Is this a woman thing? I can laugh through the worst scenarios - but allowing myself to cry is something much harder.  I feel so much is expected of us women now a days - sometimes we don't give ourselves a second to process our feelings. It's almost like pausing is a sign of weakness. And I don't know why, but I feel that online/on social media can be a very, very loud place to be…and I so craved a long pause and pure quiet. 

And watermelon. 

This post idea has been brewing for a while and I’m pretty excited about it. It’s another one of those “educational posts” (remember when I talked about good fat vs bad fat?) and I hope this one changes your life. Lol, no but really

It wasn’t until I worked at Whole Foods for a while that I learned how to pick out the best produce - I’d hover over the produce guys laying out the fresh fruit + veggies and ask for samples of almost everything and they’d let me sample and show me how to pick the best stuff. I’m sure I was annoying... but they didn’t seem to mind. 

Here’s what I’ve learned from them and from my experience: 

 

How to pick the best watermelon: 

1. Choose a watermelon that feels heavy. Don’t knock on your watermelon to see if it sounds hollow. It’s not gonna tell you anything. 

2. Do not pick a watermelon with a big yellow spot. Try to find one that doesn’t have a yellow spot at all, or at least the smallest yellow spot possible. This is ironically called “the sun spot” - but it’s actually the spot where the sun didn’t touch the watermelon at all because it didn’t get rotated by the farmer. It’s the spot where it just sat in the dirt.

3. Pick one free from bruising, cuts or blemishes and one that isn’t HUGE (ie don't pick the biggest one you can find). Shoot for a medium sized one - those tend to be the best. 

4. Ask your produce guy to cut the watermelon in half for you before you buy it so you can see the inside. Pick a watermelon free of cracking on the inside - this can mean it’s pithy and dry. They’ll wrap the watermelon halves up for you real quick if it looks like a good one.

5. I know picking a watermelon is such a crapshoot - so after you’ve followed tips 1-3, use tip #4 as much as you can. There are so many grocers and farmers at markets that will do this for us and it’s such a life saver. 

 

 

My favorite way to eat watermelon: 

With a squeeze of lime and sprinkle of kosher salt. 

Cut up into cubes and frozen. (It’s like a weird popsicle and so refreshing on a hot day!)

Watermelon salad: Cut watermelon up into bite sized pieces and toss with freshly cut strawberries, goat cheese and a drizzle of balsamic reduction. Heaven. 

 

Love you friends. xo  

Why is this good for me?

watermelon - is full of beta-carotene which helps our skin and bone health. It also helps us keep our eyes strong and working and prevents macular degeneration (aka losing our eyesight). It's also helps lower our blood pressure by allowing our blood vessels to expand thus increasing blood flow. Watermelon also acts as a great hydrating food (think nature's sweet alkalizing water) and acts as a diuretic - which is a big yay for me. Anyone else out there experience constipation while pregnant? Ya, super fun huh? ;) 

oh brother {and strawberry basil scones}

Flakey, fresh and addicting, these strawberry-jeweled beauties are not only crazy good, but they're crazy easy and can be made way ahead of time. 

Flakey, fresh and addicting, these strawberry-jeweled beauties are not only crazy good, but they're crazy easy and can be made way ahead of time. 

My brother came over for dinner the other day.

This is the brother who threw the party in my parent’s backyard awhile back while still in high school. This is the brother who can chat with a stranger forever - especially about sobriety and health. This is the brother who's an underwear model, who steals my dry shampoo and pauses to smell a good candle. This is the brother who shimmies on cue when excited, talks to me about the best cheap restaurants in Hollywood and says “YES!” really loudly followed by the most contagious laugh you’ve ever heard when I say something he agrees with. He is ridiculous and beautiful and I love him. 

While I was prepping dinner with John, my brother was talking to my mom about how he can’t eat in-n-out (a local burger joint) alone. So late the previous night he called a friend to grab a burger with him. 

"Oh my gosh I’m the same way!" I interrupted.

"Right?!" He turned to me from the table, “It’s like there’s just something so humiliating about grabbing a burger and fries by yourself. You need someone to enjoy it with.”  I nodded laughing. 

We get each other. 

My brother ended up spending the night so I made fresh strawberry basil scones for breakfast. He took his first bite and said, they were “so bomb.” Then he kind of paused and said, "These kind of remind me of edibles.” I stared at him with a straight face. "Are you telling me you think my strawberry basil scones taste like pot?" He burst out laughing. “No! No…" and then under his breath said, “but kinda.” 

Trying to keep my cool I said, “You’re just saying that to bug me." He tried to hold back a laugh but he burst out, “Yeah, kinda.”

We get each other. 

And for the record, I have no idea what "edibles” taste like but SURELY they're a far cry from these scones.  Love you friends. xo

strawberry basil scones

adapted from Little Flower Baking

I fell in love with scones when I lived in England for a small while. Scones are such a non-intimidating pastry, and so easy, I don’t know why we don’t make them all the time here. I love love love these and I am very much in love with this new cookbook and might just make every single thing from it - you've been warned. ;) I hope the fact that my very carb-conscious brother ate practically all of them, proves how good they are. xo

note: These can easily be made and frozen ahead of time and then baked off quickly in the morning. These are best eaten the day they’re baked, but they are still really good the day after too. Take note that it may seem like a lot of salt, but it really mellows out when you bake the scones. If you prefer, you can reduce the salt to 1 ½ teaspoons, but leaving the salt as is, makes for a very traditional, non-sweet scone. It works, I promise and it's what the original recipe calls for. 

 

4 ½ cups / 510g all purpose flour (preferably organic)

½ cup / 100g sugar

1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon baking powder

2 teaspoons salt (I use kosher)

1 ½ cups / 342g unsalted butter, (preferably organic) cut into ½ inch cubes 

4 large eggs, cold  (preferably organic)

½ cup / 120g cold heavy whipping cream 

2 cups / 300g quartered and frozen strawberries 

⅓ cup fresh basil, finely chopped 

sugar for sprinkling 

 

In an electric mixer combine flour, sugar, salt and baking powder. Then on a low speed, add cold chopped butter and mix until little pea sized clumps form.

Add eggs and cream and mix until just combined (no longer than 30 seconds). 

tip: For the frozen strawberries, I chopped mine a bit before adding them to my dough. It’s a bit weird to chop really hard frozen fruit, but with a sharp knife it works and makes for some “strawberry freckles” throughout your dough. I liked the different size chunks.  

Add frozen strawberries and basil and mix until just combined. About 30-60 seconds. Dough will be scraggly.

On a clean floured surface, pat dough into a 9" x 12" / 23cm x 30cm rectangle that’s about 1" / 2.5cm thick. With a sharp chef’s knife cut the dough into triangle shapes. The cookbook advises to cut your dough into 3 equal, 4" / 10cm wide sections, and from there cut 3" / 8cm triangles.  I just kind of free formed some triangles and called it good. 

On a parchment lined baking sheet, place scones about 1” apart and freeze for at least 1 hour. 

Sprinkle scones liberally with sugar. 

Bake at 375° F / 190° C for about 30 minutes and rotate the baking sheet about half way (15mins) through. Scones should be very golden brown. 

Serve warm with a tiny spot of fresh honey or butter. 

lady lumps {and zucchini cake with goat cheese frosting and lemon glaze}

We got to talk to my sister via Skype a few weekends ago (for those of you who need to be brought up to speed, she’s been living in Peru since Spring 2015 ). We’ve sent emails back and forth but we haven’t seen each others faces since Christmas (which was also via Skype). She kind of has this Peruvian accent now, ending all of her sentences with an upward, high cadence and forgetting words in English. I try not to bring it to her attention, even though it makes me chuckle; my little Spanglish sister. 

Since she hasn’t seen me since we’ve announced our pregnancy, she asked to see my baby bump. I was wearing a terribly oversized grey sweatshirt with black leggings, #sundayafternoonattire and you couldn’t really see the bump that well. So I went and changed into my first fitted maternity dress so she could really see my little watermelon tummy. 

As I walked out in my new fitted dress, I turned sideways so she could see. She said, “Hot mama! Nice BUTT!!!”

Embarrassed I quickly sat down, and slightly shouted, “But what about my bump?!!” 

“It’s so cute - but really bob, your butt is amazing.” 

I asked if my butt was bigger than my bump and she just laughed.

And that was her only response.  

This zucchini cake, is probably something my sister would need convincing to eat right away, just because she's a chocolate person. Although since she's mentioned the food where she's living in Peru is nothing but potatoes, rice and chicken, she might be more eager and willing. Every week she writes me an email saying, "I miss your food and your face so much bob," and in that order. 

When writing back and forth she would relentlessly ask me when I was going to have a baby. And I would always write back, when you come home. And guess what? Baby boy is due the day my sister comes home. 

Love you friends. xo  

zucchini cake with goat cheese frosting and lemon glaze

adapted from Layered by Tessa Huff

makes one, 4 or 2 layer 6" cake

I love baked goods made with zucchini, and upon receiving this new cookbook, I had to make this cake first. If you don’t want to fuss with a layered cake, it can easily be made into a cake-loaf or a single sheet pan without the frosting and just the lemon glaze - or no glaze at all. Surprise yourself with how good it is and make it as fancy or as un-fancy as you want. xo

baker’s note: It seems like a lot of spices, but don’t let it stress you out. Make the cake even if you don’t have all the spices, it will still be fantastic. Promise. 

 

for the cake: 

2 ½ cups / 315g all purpose flour, preferable organic 

2 teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon 

½ teaspoon ground cardamom

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

½ cup plus 2 tablespoons / 150ml coconut oil 

1 ½ cups / 300g sugar

2 teaspoons lemon zest

3 large eggs

1 ½ cups / 255g grated zucchini, drained

3 tablespoons buttermilk 

1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice 

 

for the goat cheese frosting: 

4 ounces / 115g soft goat cheese, room temperature 

½ cup / 1 stick / 115g, unsalted butter, room temperature 

3 cups / 375g powdered sugar

2 to 3 teaspoon buttermilk 

 

lemon glaze: 

1 cup / 125g powdered sugar

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (or a tiny bit less)

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

 

for the cake: 

Preheat oven to 350°F / 180°C and line two 6 inch / 15cm cake pans with parchment paper and grease with butter and flour. 

Shred zucchini in a food processor. Once zucchini is shredded, lay out in a single layer using paper towels to soak up the extra moisture. Pat down using paper towels and let it sit for about 10 minutes. 

Sift together all your dry ingredients except your sugar in a big bowl and set aside. 

In an electric mixer beat together the coconut oil, sugar and lemon zest for about 2 minutes.  

Add eggs one at a time until combined. Scrape the bowl down a bit with your spatula. Mix again. 

On low speed, slowly mix in the dry ingredients until combined. 

Next gently fold in the zucchini, lemon juice and buttermilk until combined, taking care not to over mix. 

Divide the batter evenly into your two pans and bake for 40-50 minutes. Cake layers will be very thick. If you're using a different size cake plan, vary your baking time accordingly. 

Bake until golden brown on top and/or a toothpick comes out clean. 

Cool cakes completely in their pans before removing or frosting. 

 

for the frosting: 

In an electric mixer, beat goat cheese and butter together until combined and smooth. On a low speed, slowly add powdered sugar. Then add buttermilk and vanilla until incorporated and beat at a high speed until fluffy. About 3 mins. 

for the glaze: 

Whisk together powdered sugar with the lemon juice + zest until it forms a thick glaze. Adjust the amount of lemon juice to vary your thickness. A little more makes it thinner, and little less makes it thicker. 

 

Cut the cooled cake layers directly in half so you create 4 layers from 2 cakes. Assemble cooled cake with scoops of goat cheese frosting smooshed between each layer. Top cake with lemon glaze, black berries and a sprinkling of powdered sugar if you desire. Cake will keep for up to a week in the fridge, but is most delicious the first 3 days after it's made. xo

 

why is this good for me? 

zucchini - is hydrating, full of fiber, vitamin c and easily digestible. The skin of zucchini contains ton of nutrients that are really good for our eyes. 

lazy, good old fashioned cheesecake

It's called lazy for a reason. This cheesecake is really easy and made entirely in the food processor. The hardest thing about it is waiting for it to chill in the fridge for a few hours. :) 

It's called lazy for a reason. This cheesecake is really easy and made entirely in the food processor. The hardest thing about it is waiting for it to chill in the fridge for a few hours. :) 

Our lives right at this moment very much feel like someone has taken everything we thought we knew, put it on a blanket, and then tossed it up into the air saying “catch!” 

When unexpected things happen to me that are beyond my control, I feel the need to get lost in something I feel I can control like crazy-baking and binge-reading books. And maybe it’s this new, inevitable role as an upcoming “mom” that’s making me dive so deeply into both. Maybe it's some weird form of nesting. 

Speaking of mom, we celebrated my first Mother’s Day this past Sunday, (I kept calling it my PRE-Mother’s Day) and John treated me to my favorite chocolate chip cookies. Taking crude ingredients like butter, sugar and flour and turning them into something that’s incredibly good and beautiful, is very much my happy place and it seems to be John’s too. I couldn’t help but smile for 20 minutes straight as I sat at the kitchen table pretending to read my book while he measured carefully, singing along to the José Gonzalez, fully aproned, making me cookies. 

Because of the recent unexpected hiccups John and I have experienced lately, we have had some great conversations over warm cookies and milk - and last week it was cheesecake and strawberries. And even through our talks were good and deep, I may or may not have cried a few times I was laughing so hard. (John's noticed that I happy-cry-laugh more easily now. I'm okay with it. #hormones)  

Dessert is meant to be shared. Maybe that’s why I like it so much. Sucking back on a chocolate shake alone just isn't quite as fulfilling to me as sharing something sweet with someone I love. And I know baking has a bad rap to be precise and perfect, so it scares some of us into not doing it, but I’ve always fancied desserts that aren’t too fussy or exact. I like real and slightly messy... kind of like life. I've always figured it's just dessert after all, usually just the site of it makes people happy, they aren't too bothered with the details. Plus, as noted, it's a great vehicle for great conversation. 

More to come. Love you friends.  

My 93-year-old grandma is a beautiful example of healthy living. She laughs a lot and always says, ‘Just be yourself!’ She also eats dessert every single day.
— Rachel Boston

lazy, good old fashioned cheesecake 

serves 10-12

Cheesecake is something I’ve been craving lately. Just a good old fashioned, plain cheesecake. I’ve heard that being pregnant with a boy makes you crave tart things. I mean, I craved lemon before, but I have noticed that I really turn my nose at things too sweet and leap at the tart or sour. Plus, I think I’ve chanted “cheesecake, cheesecake” to John like 50 times since being pregnant but never gave into the craving. I think he’s as relieved as I am that I finally buckled down and made some. 

bakers note: This cheesecake is really easy and made entirely in the food processor. Even if your cheesecake cracks on the top, that gets hidden as you cover it with the simplest tart sour cream topping. My only concern here is that the cheesecake is so good that it will probably get eaten faster than you’d like.  xo

crust:

2 cups / 9 oz / 255g  graham cracker crumbs (to make this gluten free, use gluten-free graham crackers)

¼ cup / 35g almond meal

½ cup / 1 stick / 107g, unsalted butter, melted

¾ teaspoon kosher salt

¼ cup / 45g brown sugar

 

filling:

32 oz (4 x 8 oz blocks) / 900g cream cheese, softened to room temperature preferably organic

1 ¼ cup / 250g sugar

4 large eggs, at room temp

1 teaspoon vanilla

 

topping:

16 oz / 480g sour cream, preferably organic

3 tablespoons sugar (superfine/caster sugar works great if you have it) 

½ teaspoon vanilla

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C and line a 9" / 23cm springform pan with parchment paper (just covering the bottom). 

In a food processor, grind graham crackers until they reach a fine crumb. Add melted butter, sugar, almond meal and salt and pulse until combined. Press crust firmly into a springform pan, going up the sides of the pan about half way (or less). Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until crust appears slightly browned. Let it cool. 

While the crust bakes, rinse + clean food processor.

In clean food processor, pulse cream cheese, sugar and vanilla until combined. Add eggs one at a time and pulse until combined. Pour filling in cooled crust and bake for 55-65 minutes at 350° F / 180° C or until center of cheesecake is no longer extremely jiggly. The cheesecake should bounce back ever so slightly at the touch of your finger, and might appear slightly golden on the edges, it may even be a little cracked. Don’t worry about it. Remember it will continue to set and firm up in the fridge. 

Let cheesecake chill in the fridge for at least 6 hours or overnight. 

Mix the sour cream with sugar and vanilla, and spread on top of your cooled cheesecake. It will drip over the sides a little, but I adore the cream-like topping this creates. You can either serve immediately, or let the topping set a little in the fridge for a few hours. 

Serve cheesecake with fresh sweet strawberries. 

bonus: for fresh strawberry topping, mix 2 freshly cut pints with ¼ cup organic corn syrup. It creates a wonderful syrup that’s fantastic with the cheesecake. Do not top your cheesecake with this topping unless you are serving it immediately. The topping will make the crust soggy. 

what my mama taught me {and strawberry feta salad with the perfect poppy seed dressing}

This is my favorite version of the classic. It's crazy good and the dressing is not only made with whole ingredients but it's a cinch!  Psst! Surprise! More crazy good recipes to make mom at the end of the post. ;) 

This is my favorite version of the classic. It's crazy good and the dressing is not only made with whole ingredients but it's a cinch!  Psst! Surprise! More crazy good recipes to make mom at the end of the post. ;) 

"Did know your first curse word was damn it?” My mom told me the other day. We were talking about babies and talking and suddenly something in her memory was jogged loose. She went on,

“You were about 3 or 4 years old and you said it when you dropped something. I was so shocked that I asked you where did you learn that word? and you looked up at me innocently and said, “You.” 

 “I have absolutely no memory of that!” I laughed, “Are you sure?! That seems a little young to be cursing, I mean wasn’t I the perfect child?"

My dad chimed in, “Pretty much. You were so good that you spoiled us into thinking we were actually good parents.” He laughed at his own joke. 

“You know dad I don’t think I have EVER heard you say a curse word, like EVER.” 

“Really?” he said smugly, like he knew it. My dad just doesn’t curse. It’s annoying. 

“Yeah I pretty much learned all curse words from mom I guess.” I side-eyed my mom to see if she was paying attention. My mom gasped in protest and shook her head, “That is NOT TRUE.” She laughed and playfully hit me. 

“I’m pretty much convinced my kids will learn their first curse words from me too mom, don’t worry.” I winked.

Mom, you taught me so much more than just my first curse word. Like how to shoot m&m’s out of my nose, how to stick up for myself, how to study hard and be smart. You taught me girls can do anything and be anything they set out to be and that dark chocolate is better than milk. You taught me that to be kind is not to be weak, don't ever be afraid to speak your mind and to not be stupid when it comes to boys. You taught me that saying no doesn’t require an explanation, drinking root beer gives you the best burps and that nothing beats a rocky road ice cream cone on a hot or cold day.

You are my best friend, the smartest, funniest person I know and my hero. I love you more than I could ever really say. 

ps. Thank you for teaching me, “fruit totally belongs in a salad." This one’s for you.

 

strawberry feta salad with the perfect poppy seed dressing 

dressing yields roughly 1 ½ cups 

This salad was a staple growing up. (Thanks mom.) This is my version of the classic and I think if you made it, it would make your mom real happy. 

note: Don't stress too much about measurements here. Just have fun with it. I give super rough estimates on salad ingredient quantities for a reason - make it how you want to make it!  I've always been overly generous on adding nuts and cheese to salads - aren't those the best parts? The dressing makes enough for a crowd. ps. if you don't want to make the candied nuts from scratch, Trader Joe's candied pecans work great. 

for the salad:

3 pints fresh strawberries, washed and sliced 

8ish cups / 1800g fresh baby spinach, loosely chopped 

1 ½ cups / 225g sheep's milk feta, or any good feta cheese you can find

 

In a large bowl, toss the spinach in the dressing to coat each leaf before adding anything else. Then add your strawberries, feta cheese and nuts and gently toss again. Top with more sesame + poppy seeds, more nuts, a few more strawberries and another drizzle of the dressing. This salad is best served immediately after it's assembled. 

 

for the poppy seed dressing: 

½ cup / 142g greek yogurt, full fat, unsweetened 

⅓ cup / 80ml apple cider vinegar 

¼ cup / 56g sugar 

⅓ cup / 80ml sunflower oil 

1 tablespoon shallot, chopped finely 

½ teaspoon kosher salt 

¼ teaspoon dry mustard

1 tablespoon poppy seeds, plus more for sprinkling 

1 tablespoon black sesame seeds, plus more for sprinkling (add another table spoon of poppy seeds if you can't find black sesame seeds), 

olive oil

 

Cook chopped shallot in 1 tablespoon or so of olive oil until golden, about 5 minutes. Set aside to cool and drain shallots from olive oil. 

Whisk together all ingredients except the sunflower oil in a medium sized jar until combined. 

In a steady stream, slowly add sunflower oil to mixture, whisking constantly until combined. If mixture is too thick, add a splash or two of sunflower oil. Remember the dressing will thicken up as it's refrigerated. 

This dressing keeps well for about a week to 10 days sealed tight in the fridge. 

 

for the candied nuts: 

1 ½ cup / 165g whole raw pecans 

½ cup / 112g sugar 

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 pinches of salt (about ½ teaspoon)

Over medium heat in a large saucepan, melt the sugar + salt with the olive oil until bubbly and light brown in color. About 3-5 minutes. Don't leave the pan. Try to let the sugar be and do it's thing. If you need to stir it a bit, you can, but don't stir it a ton. As SOON as the sugar turns brown, remove the pan from the heat and add your whole nuts. 

Toss nuts around in the hot sugar mixture until nuts are coated. Dump on a cool surface like a cutting board or plate. Let cool for about 20 minutes. 

When nuts are cooled, place in a large plastic bag and bash with a meat tenderizer or a large heavy spoon or small pot to crush the nuts. (Or use a mortar and pestle.) Sprinkle the nuts on the salad just before serving so they don't get soggy. Nuts will keep for up to 3 days, sealed. 

why is this good for me? 

poppy seeds - contain fatty acids that are really good for our hearts. They're also full of fiber and iron. Did you know that poppy seeds have also been used as a remedy for anxiety and diarrhea? Maybe even at the same time? :D 

sesame seeds - are a good source of vitamin e. Vitamin e is super good for our skin, heart and nervous system. They're also full of calcium.  

 

psst! Looking for Mother's Day brunch ideas?

Here are some crazy good (and easy) recipes you can make or ask your hubs to make for you ;) 

The perfect waffle (ps. you make this guy the night before, and have the perfect waffle batter by morning.) 

Pick a loaf any loaf: Lemon yogurt loaf with tangy lemon drizzle, Brown sugar banana bread with chocolate chips, Black sesame seed carrot loaf from SQIRL (an awesome bakery in LA) 

Eggs? Messy eggs is a breakfast my dad made up and it's by far one of my favorite breakfasts. (and gluten free)

Muffin's man! Dark chocolate zucchini muffins, My mom's lemon raspberry muffins, Wholesome honey persimmon muffins (replace the persimmons with apricot or spring berry to keep them in season) 

Need something gluten free? Lemony seeded banana bread is insanely good. Cinnamon date smoothie is like a shake for breakfast. My lil' breakfast ebook is free, and holds some treasured (gluten free) recipes you can make for mom (like protein pancakes and a dark chocolate smoothie, see pics above). Treat yourself and Download it if you haven't already?! :D 

Want something mom (or you) can eat all week long? One bowl breakfast cookies or sweet + salty granola bars are a make on Sunday eat all week kind of breakfast treat. Plus they're amazing, easy and packed with nutritional goodies. (all are gluten free too!)

Okay I love you bye!! xoxo

brown sugar banana bread

You wont need any other banana bread recipe after this. A classic you'll want to save and make again and again. 

You wont need any other banana bread recipe after this. A classic you'll want to save and make again and again. 

John can usually tell when something’s wrong.

"I’m fine," I said, embarrassed he had noticed. We were getting ready for bed and I used the excuse of brushing my teeth for remaining quiet. When we got into bed he said,

“Come on, just tell me." He put his hand on my leg and asked, “What is up?” 

I burst into tears without warning. I even surprised myself, Lol. 

“It’s just so hard getting fat!” I cried. "It’s not like I’m a cute petite pregnant person that just has a cute little belly. You know those girls that look like they just stuffed a pillow under their shirt?! I'm not one of those! I mean I had padding before! I have broad shoulders and a big butt… I just, I just don’t feel pretty at all and none of my pants fit anymore. And I’m getting a double chin!” 

His eyes filled with sympathy but there was a smile there. 

“I don’t know how many times I have to explain this to you. You are not big and I love your butt. You are beautiful and growing a baby. Didn’t the doctor tell you you haven’t gained weight yet and that that was amazing? YOU told me that.” 

"Yes, well I haven’t gained weight because I was fat to begin with, and I HAVE gained weight since that last doctors visit.”

He laughed out loud. 

“Oh my gosh. You know what you need to do? You need to buy some new things that will make you feel pretty and that will fit. Go. Shopping.” Sometimes John says things that make me want to jump on top of him right then. 

I have, since my last “I’m so fat outburst" purchased one token grey dress from Madewell that gets me by right now. I mean I feel like I look like a tent in it, concealing my “no-one-can-tell-I’m-pregnant-yet-but-me-belly", but whatever, it’s comfortable and cute. 

When I look at the ultrasound pictures I remind myself I’m going through this for my son and how incredible it is that I get to grow a little new life inside of me. An incredible mama-friend texted me that our changing pregnant bodies are a good reminder that we will no longer be the center of our universe anymore, but a new little babe will.

Pregnancy grounds us in the most human way I can possibly think of. 

I’m still learning to be kind to myself. I get discouraged that I can't quite exercise the way I used to, namely because I have the worse sciatica, and too much pounding just sets it a-flame. And, as if my words thus far don't prove it, "dressing the bump" is not as fun as I imagined it would be. 

I truly think, being pregnant and/or wanting to be a mother, is the bravest, most selfless thing any woman could ever do, and I find myself getting hormonally teary and filled with awe at all of the women that chose to give birth or chose to be mothers. You really are putting everything on the line for the little one, and getting fat is just the beginning of it. Mom, thank you for getting fat for me.

I know this will all be worth it. xo

We have a secret in our culture, and it’s not that birth is painful. It’s that women are strong.
— Laura Stavoe Harm

brown sugar banana bread 

I most recently made this bread because another incredible mama-friend texted me asking if I had a good banana bread recipe. I told her I did and then realized I haven't put this one up on the blog yet. So. Here it is. This is one of the first recipes I ever "made up" about 10 years ago so it's special to me. It's one I hope will get passed on through the generations and hopefully, someday, be referred to as "Grandma Robyn's banana bread". ;) xo  

note: You don't need chocolate chips for this one, but they are good. What's non-negotiable is the turbinado sugar. Please sprinkle that on top as liberally as you wish. It gives the bread the best crispy crust on the outside while remaining perfectly moist on the inside. I love slices of this smeared with cream cheese when cooled - I learned the magic of banana bread and cream cheese from my mama. 

 

2 cups / 256g unbleached all purpose flour (preferably organic)

¾ teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt (i prefer kosher)

1 cup / 201g muscovado sugar (if you can't find muscovado sugar, don't fret - dark brown sugar or just regular light brown sugar works too)  

½ cup / 113g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

2 large eggs (or 3 medium eggs)

1 ½ cups / 450g bananas, very ripe and mashed (about 3 medium sized bananas)

cup / 74g sour cream (or full fat greek yogurt)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground (optional) 

1 cup / 175g bittersweet chocolate chips (optional) 

Spoonfuls of Turbinado sugar for sprinkling

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Prepare a 8 ½" x 4 ½" (or 9 x 5 in / 23 x 13cm) loaf pan with butter and flour OR line with parchment paper. 

Sift dry ingredients together in a separate bowl and set aside.

Whip butter and brown sugar together in electric mixer until fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. Slowly add in the eggs, one at a time until incorporated. Next add vanilla, bananas and sour cream and mix. Batter will look curdled, don't worry. 

Add your dry ingredients, in small batches on lowest speed so you don't cover your face in flour. Mix until dry ingredients are incorporated. Do not over mix. Fold in chocolate chocolate chips with a spatula. 

Pour batter into prepared loaf pan. Sprinkle turbinado sugar on top of the loaf and bake for 55-65 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. 

Cool bread in pan at least 15 minutes before slicing. Loaf keeps for a few days wrapped tightly at room temperature or for a week in the fridge.

creative tip: Serve sliced bread with cream cheese or special walnut cream cheese and a drizzle of fresh maple syrup.  Walnut cream cheese is just plain, store-bought cream cheese with your choice of roasted walnuts mashed in.  I probably use a scant ¼ cup / 30g of toasted nuts to 1 cup / 225g cream cheese, but by all means, go crazy.

easy sweet and salty granola bars {gluten free + dairy free}

She came over unexpectedly and plopped a huge bag on the couch and started pulling them out one by one. 

"I bought these as soon as you told me you were pregnant… I just had a feeling." 

She pulled out one pale blue little piece of clothing as well as some tender, gender-neutral things that lean more on the side of “boy” than girl.

"I just knew you were having a boy. But I know EVERYONE thought you were having a girl so I didn’t want to cause an upset by saying something.” 

Her eyes filled with tears. "I just knew a special little boy was coming to you. You’re a strong woman, and strong women raise good boys.” 

 I tried to make light of my emotions and said, “Gram, did you know I cried? I cried for days, I just couldn’t believe it. I was overwhelmed. I don’t know anything about raising a boy!! A BOY?!!!” 

She nodded. “You have to be tough and firm and show them you’re the boss sometimes but you can do it.” If you knew how fierce my grandmother used to be this would make you chuckle.

“And you my grandmother would know ALL about raising boys because you raised FIVE of them.”  I hugged her when I said this. 

“Yes I did!” She said proudly, and laughed wiping her eyes. 

She looked down then explained the new sweet baby items in the bag and said, “Just to get you started," she paused again, "for baby boy."

easy sweet and salty granola bars

makes about 12-16 bars 

I don’t know anything about raising a boy yet, but I do know what it’s like to be married to one. And I don’t know if this applies to ALL boys or just my man, but he does NOT eat in the morning unless it’s something he can grab on his way to work. Behold these bars. John luuuuufffs them. They’re a recipe I’ve included in my free lil’ ebook, but wanted to post them on here too and talk about the ways you can switch them up. I used to be like John, never having time to eat in the morning, but our lives have shifted and now I find myself making eggs or oatmeal; and believe me I push these warm breakfasts upon John in to-go form if he'll have it. As special as it is to eat a hot breakfast, I sincerely appreciate a quick, delicious (and chocolate) breakfast just as much as the slow one. 

note: I love Justin's brand of chocolate hazelnut butter here, because they add to the bars sweetness in the best way. But, if you want to use an unsweetened nut butter, feel free, just make sure you add a generous tablespoon or so of honey into the mix. 

 

3 cups / 289g rolled gluten free oats

1 cup / 97g pecans or walnuts, chopped (I prefer pecans)

3 tablespoons whole flax seeds 

⅓ cup + 2 tablespoons / 128g chocolate hazelnut butter OR nut butter (I like Justin's) 

⅔ cup / 327g brown rice syrup

¼ cup / 22g ground flax seed

1 cup / 170g bittersweet or chocolate chips (60% cocoa content or higher; if you can't find chips, chop up a dark chocolate bar into chip-sized pieces) 

½ teaspoon kosher salt, plus a little extra to sprinkle on top for that "salty effect" 

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C, line an 8x8-inch / 20x20cm pan with parchment paper and grease with coconut oil.

Measure and mix all dry ingredients into a bowl. Add all wet ingredients and mix until incorporated. tip! Mixing with your hands is super efficient. 

Press granola bar mixture into your pan and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown on top. I mean really press it all in there so they stick together. If you’d like, sprinkle a tiny bit of salt on top to give them that sweet + salty magic.

Cool completely before cutting. The yield really depends on how large or small you cut them. For ease, I put a square or two in a little baggie and store them in the fridge for a quick grab-and-go breakfast. They'll keep for a week in the fridge....if they last that long. ;) 

ways to switch it up:

peanut butter cup: use peanut butter for your nut butter and crush salted peanuts on top omitting the extra sprinkling of salt.

sesame please: use unsweetened almond butter for your nut butter, whole raw walnuts instead of pecans and add 1 tablespoon white raw sesame seeds, and a spoon full extra for the top. 

why is this good for me? 

oats - whole, gluten free grains contain tons of fiber, vitamins and help support our immune system.

flax seeds - promote a healthy immune system and regular bowel movements and contain a lot of fiber. Flax seeds also contain essential fatty acids and omega-3’s. These essential fatty acids help regulate the hormones in the body, promote healthy regular ovulation and optimal uterus health.  

peanut butter / almond butter - almonds are a good source of vitamin E. For women trying to conceive Vitamin E is especially important in supporting healthy egg DNA development. 

the day we found out {and coconut milk cupcakes}

"So do you already know what you’re having?” The ultrasound tech asked. 

"We’re here to find out!!" I said, maybe a little too enthusiastically. 

“Well okay, let’s see if your babe will cooperate today, but I’m warning you, it’s been a boy day today.” 

She squirted clear goo all over my tummy making a funny, empty ketchup bottle sound and pulled my pants down a little lower than comfortable.

She pressed the wand all over my stomach. A black and white picture came into view on a screen. She interpreted.  

"This is the head, these are the arms… you can see the beating heart right here." There were long pauses in between her explanations. Long pauses, that made me anxious. She kept typing things into the computer.

She must of felt my questions because she interrupted the silence with, 

 “Oh look! The baby's legs are crossed, I’m not sure if we can see what gender the baby is if those legs don’t come uncrossed.” She pressed and wiggled the wand around my tummy a little bit more trying to get the babe to reveal it's secret. This went on for an eternal minute.  

 “Ooup!”  She paused the picture and pointed to something that could only be a tiny little wee. 

“It’s a boy?” I said.

“It’s a boy!” she said back. 

I turned to John as if he didn’t hear. “It’s a boy.” He smiled and grabbed my hand, repeating those same three words in disbelief. 

On our car drive down to the doctor, John recorded asking me some questions; My feelings as to what I thought we were having, a boy or girl so we could get it on record. 

I totally and completely, no doubt in my mind thought girl. He did too. So did my mom. (She already bought stuff). I come from a line of oldest girls in the family and I just totally thought that would continue…and ever since I can remember I always pictured me holding a little baby girl first. 

So, the shock of a boy is still sinking in. I may or may not have cried about it. That probably makes me sound like a terrible person, but boys feel like so much more pressure. I feel like boys don’t like their moms. I feel like boys need their dads and have special bonds with their dads….. And did I mention I feel like boys don’t like their moms? 

These thoughts are irrational and unwarranted. All the men in my life love their moms. But still, I fear raising a boy so much more than I fear raising a girl. 

I wrote my sister an email about this, confessing my overwhelming number of fears with raising a boy and she wrote back this: 

“You need to chill. You just need to do yoga and breathe. And remember, you can have what you want, or you can have something better. God knows what you need more than you do.” It was something only a sister could say to another sister, and laugh-cried reading it. Pregnancy hormones are real. 

Any advice on raising a boy is appreciated. Love you friends. xo

 

coconut milk cupcakes

makes 24 cupcakes or one 2 layer 8 inch cake 

We took a family wager as soon as we announced our pregnancy to see what everyone thought we were having. Since my dad is the only one who predicted I'd have a boy from the start, I thought it was only appropriate to make his favorite cake to celebrate the big gender reveal. Although I hated telling him he was right, because we frequently have contests about that sort of thing... who's right and who's wrong, and he was SO right this time. My intuition feels bruised.

note: I use real coconut milk in both the cake batter and the frosting as well as unsweetened coconut to top it all off. It's sweet enough without being sugary. The problem with most coconut cakes to me is the only part that's coconutty is the shredded coconut on the outside. The coconut milk takes it to a new level. It's subtle but good; it's also really, really easy. Just make sure you pour the coconut milk out of its container and whisk it all together in a bowl before adding it to your cake. xo

 

cake:

1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) / 340g unsalted butter, softened 

2 cups / 400g organic sugar 

4 large eggs, room temperature and beaten slightly 

2 teaspoons vanilla 

3 cups / 375g organic, unbleached all purpose flour* see tip below

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder 

1/2 teaspoon baking soda 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

1 cup / 240g full fat coconut milk, completely whisked together (it tends to separate in the can) 

1 1/3 cups /  67g unsweetened finely shredded coconut 

frosting: 

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice (no more, no less)

1 teaspoon vanilla

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened 

1/2 teaspoon salt 

3 1/4 cup / 420g powdered sugar 

1/4 cup / 60g full fat coconut milk, completely whisked together (it tends to separate in the can) 

2 cups / 100g unsweetened, shredded coconut, reserved 

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C  Line two, 12-cup cupcake pans with liners or two 8 inch cake pans with parchment paper and grease with butter + flour. (If making cupcakes you do not need to grease the liners.)  

Sift all dry ingredients together in a large bowl: *flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. *When measuring the flour, don't scoop the flour with your measuring cup, gently spoon the flour into your measuring cup with a different utensil to ensure the right amount of flour into your cakes. 

Beat softened butter with sugar until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. 

Add eggs one at a time until incorporated. 

Add little coconut milk and a little bit of the dry ingredients in alternating  3-4 batches until all combined. 

Fold in shredded coconut, being careful not to over mix. 

Fill cupcake liners a generous 3/4th's of the way up and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cupcakes should be slightly golden brown. 

Cool completely before frosting. 

 

to make frosting: 

Beat softened butter with powdered sugar and salt until light and fluffy, about 5-7 minutes. 

In a separate bowl (preferably with a spout so it's easy to pour), whisk coconut milk with vanilla and lemon juice. 

Slowly add the wet coconut mixture to the butter mixture, beating slowly until combined. 

The frosting can be soft. That's okay. Stick it in the fridge to thicken up a bit if you like. I usually leave mine in there for an hour before frosting, but you don't have to. The cooling just makes it a bit easier to manage. 

Dip each frosted cupcake in shredded unsweetened coconut and serve. 

These keep for up to 3 days in an airtight container. They're best eaten the day or the day after they're made.

 

time saving tip: You can easily freeze the baked cupcakes, and let them thaw to room temperature, then frost. The frosting keeps in the fridge for up to a week in an air tight container. xo 

 

why is this good for me? 

coconut - has fatty acids that help our bodies fight off bad bacteria, viruses from urinary tract infections to the flu to gum disease. It also contains anti fungal properties that help fight fungus disorders like athlete's foot. It's also an awesome good fat. A fat that nourishes our brains and boosts our metabolisms. It's also delicious. 

fears, tears and the perfect waffle {with a lil' video}

These are like custard on the inside and crisp n’ buttery on the outside. I think I ate 4 of them before we even sat down. (pause) These are by far the best waffles I’ve ever made.
— my dad

There is this looming fear that I have absolutely no idea what I am in for. And it’s only reaffirmed when other women I love confirm that there really are no words to describe what being a mother, or childbirth is like. 

I’ve had a few people I love tell me the first month after the child is born is the hardest. That you’re a walking zombie and you feel like the torture of no sleep and midnight feeds will never end, but they assure me, it will. 

Another friend recommended the book “Bringing up Bebe” (I love you Katie!) and John and I actually bought separate copies and have been reading it simultaneously - discussing it together - like some exclusive husband/wife bookclub. It makes my heart swell that he cares so much about this stuff. 

I love the book. I love the advice. I love the breast-and-belly-streching cream another friend gave me. (I love you Lauren!) I love the questions of “How am I feeling?” and the excitement others express when they know the news and touch my stomach. Most say they can’t even tell yet, but I can most certainly tell - nothing fits! And I swear, I'm just all around fatter. 

There is still this looming fear that I won’t be strong enough to give birth. Or healthy enough, or I don’t know, why does everyone want to tell you their horrific birthing experiences? I keep telling myself this is probably going to be the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Like that will some how mentally prepare me a little better. I've run marathons and team relay races over 200 miles, but all of that, pales in comparison to the unknown I face in a few months….or for the rest of my life. 

My dad made my favorite waffles for me on Sunday. One of the traditions we had growing up was eating breakfast for dinner - especially on Sundays. While I was making whipped cream, Mom was nearby crisping up some sausages (because sausages are a real pregnancy craving right now) and John was setting the table. I love our Sunday dinners together. 

When Dad poured some more sizzling batter into the hot waffle maker, he sampled an-already-made-waffle and then handed me a torn off piece: “Because the chef must sample what he makes.” I gladly accepted, and flash-backed to when I was little and he would say the same thing. 

He doesn’t know this, but I got teary laying in bed that night replaying that moment over in my head. Maybe it was the fact that everyone I love was busy making breakfast for dinner (another craving request); but I think it was the fact that in a time when everything feels a little scary and uncertain, I still have a dad who makes me waffles for Sunday dinner. It was just the bit of familiar I needed. And, it made me excited to make waffles for dinner with my little babe someday.

These are those waffles. 

Love you friends. xo

We hope you enjoy the lil' video John + I made below. My dad wrote + composed the music for it. :) 

the perfect waffle 

serves about 4* (it all depends on your waffle maker) adapted from, the breakfast book

These are perfect smothered in freshly cut strawberries and pure maple syrup. 

note: The batter here is a yeast batter, which means it needs to rise a bit before waffle making. So, these aren't the best "make the morning you want to eat them waffle". They ARE however the best "make the batter in the morning so you can have them for dinner waffle".  They're worth it I promise. 

time saving tip: Cook the the waffles ahead of time and stick them in the freezer, tightly and individually wrapped. Pop them in the toaster for when you'd like a fresh one and they seriously taste as good as the day they were made. 

½ cup / 125ml luke warm water

1 package dry yeast (2 ¼ tsp)

2 cups / 500ml whole milk, preferably organic

½ cup (1 stick) / 113g unsalted butter, cooled

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar

2 cups / 250g all purpose flour

2 large eggs, lightly beaten 

¼ teaspoon baking soda 

 

In a large bowl, pour luke warm water and stir in the yeast. Let sit for 5 minutes. 

Next add milk, butter, eggs, salt and sugar. Whisk until combined. 

Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let the batter rise either overnight or for at least 6 hours. 

We've always found no need to grease our waffle maker, but you know your waffle maker better than I do. Batter is runny, so take care not to overfill. A little goes a long way. 

*We have a large Belgium waffle maker and we found that a doubled recipe makes about 16 waffle squares. 

more notes: We usually double this recipe to have some leftovers. 

bonus! To make "maple syrup sweetened whipped cream" beat 1 cup / 250ml heavy cream with 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup. Beat until soft peaks form. 

the cake {chocolate birthday cake with chocolate buttercream frosting}

My grandmother Jackie and her brothers used to roast potatoes in a clean trashcan of fire outside their home until the skin was charcoaled black. Then they’d peel back the blistered skin to reveal a hot, creamy white inside. They’d savor that potato with a bit of salt. “It was such a treat,” my grandmother’s told me. (I’ve heard the story a million times.) My grandmother was the oldest kid of four, 2 younger brothers and 1 younger sister, just like me. 

During their "block-party" potato roasting, there were some neighborhood boys who would come around and stomp on her brother’s hot potato, smashing it into an inedible mess. This brother was a kind and gentle soul, a boy who wasn’t ever looking for any trouble so he never fought back. They’d also pester and tease him all the way home after school until he arrived at his doorstep. 

Fed up with the bullying, one day my grandmother raced home from school faster than her brother. She waited for the mean boys to follow her brother home again and poised herself quietly on top of the roof. When they arrived at the doorway, she hopped down from the roof with a baseball bat and drove them away from her home, yelling to leave her brother alone and never come back. 

She was 11. 

I love this story as much as I love my grandmother because it shows how fierce and fiery she’s always been.

When I was little I’d ask her to make me toast with butter, and she always told me that white bread is made of nothing but garbage. Then she’d slather some butter on a seed-filled, whole-wheat, hearty piece of bread and insisting that I eat the crusts too because that’s where all the nutrients were. I hated grandma’s toast growing up, but now, I find myself buying the same kind of seed-filled bread. 

She hates all fast food joints, especially hamburgers made with american cheese and never ever eats the stuff. She hides little chocolate candies throughout her home in candy jars saying they're for the grandkids but, well, we all know better. ;)

Grandma grew up in a very humble home, sometimes relying on preserved vegetables and other canned goods for a meal. She didn’t like it. She’s made it point to feed differently than her upbringing; to always serve fresh vegetables, to eat wholesome + healthy and insists everyone around her do the same.

Typing this out makes me realize we have a lot more in common than I thought.

She has good taste and ever since my grandpa passed, I’ve found myself cooking for her often. She loves my food, and always says, “Robyn, you’re so talented, I just don’t know how you do it. You cook better than any restaurant.”

This chocolate cake is for her. It’s one I’ve made a million times at not just her request but my entire family’s request as well. It’s a cake that brings out this girlish smile in my grandmother and for a split second, as she beams from all of the “happy birthday to you” attention, I can see that little mischievous girl who was brave enough to defended her brother.

Happy birthday gram, I love you. 

And love to you friends. xo

chocolate birthday cake with chocolate buttercream frosting

adapted from ina garten's barefoot contessa at home

makes one, 2 layer, 8 inch cake, serves about 10

This cake, is the cake my family refers to when they ask if I’ll make “The Cake”. This is Ina’s recipe, but I’ve been making it for so long, that I’ve added my own spin on it. It’s a little richer, less spongey, more buttery and bittersweet than her original recipe. It’s been Robyn’ified (or Sweetish'ed?) I tried to make it extra special for grandma's birthday with handmade sugar-paste letters, and if you follow me on instagram you'll know grandma kept "wowing" at the fact that I made her something so special. (I'll be offering these letters for purchase soon.:) There's nothing better than a scratch-made chocolate cake for a loved one, no? I hope you save this one and make it for years and years to come. xo  

note: make sure all of the ingredients are room temperature while making the batter to ensure a perfect cake. Also, if you don't have pastry flour, unbleached all purpose flour will do, but pastry flour makes for a fantastically moist and delicate crumb. My family actually notices when I used all-purpose flour vs. pastry flour now, LOL. #lookwhativedone 

time saving tip: Mix all of the dry ingredients together and store it in an air tight container for up to 3 days, so when it comes time to bake the cake, you only have to add the wet ingredients. 

 

1 ½ cups / 154g unbleached, pastry flour (I love Bob's brand

2 cups / 400g sugar

¾ cup / 64g high-quality cocoa powder

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt 

1 cup / 240ml organic buttermilk, shaken

½ cup / 113g melted organic, unsalted butter, cooled slightly 

3 large eggs, at room temperature, beaten slightly

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 cup / 240ml freshly brewed coffee, cooled 

 

chocolate buttercream frosting:

6 ½ ounces / 187g bittersweet chocolate (think at least 70% cocoa content, i love callebaut)

½ pound (2 sticks) / 453g organic, salted butter, softened to room temperature 

1 teaspoon vanilla 

1 ¼ cup / 150g powdered sugar 

1 tablespoon freshly brewed coffee, cooled 

 

cake:

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180°C. 

Prepare a large cup of coffee, and let it cool. 

note: I'm not a coffee drinker, but I do use instant coffee all the time in my baking. I usually use Trader Joe's instant coffee brand. Caffeine or Caffeine free work just the same.  

In a large bowl, sift all of the dry ingredients together: flour, sugar, cocoa, salt, baking powder and soda. 

note: if your cocoa powder is clumpy, you may want to sift it first before adding it to your dry ingredients. 

Mix all cooled, room temperature, wet ingredients together slightly, before adding them to your dry ingredients. 

With a whisk, stir your wet ingredients into your dry ingredients until combined. Be careful not to over mix. It should just come together.

Prepare two 8" / 20cm round cake pans lining the bottoms with parchment paper, and grease with butter and flour. 

Evenly distribute the batter into prepared pans and bake for 35-38 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean. 

Cool cake completely in their pans before frosting. 

 

frosting: 

In a medium sized bowl, melt chocolate over a simmering pot of water, making sure the bowl of chocolate does not touch the water. 

Set chocolate aside to cool to room temperature. 

Beat butter until light and fluffy, for about 3 minutes. Do this even if your butter is very very soft. We want to get some air in there.

Add vanilla + coffee. 

Add powdered sugar, mix until incorporated. 

Add cooled, melted chocolate. If your chocolate is too warm it will melt your frosting into a beautiful but sad pool of shiny chocolate. 

Place frosting in fridge for about 20-30 minutes to "set" before frosting cake. 

Frost, serve and decorate how you please. xo 

roasted spring veggie bowls {and dinner in under 30 minutes}

There are times when I'm annoyed with the question and want to snap back with a text that says, "I don't know, figure it out!"  but lately, and especially because I have my appetite back, I'm excited to answer it:

"Hey love, do you have a plan for dinner?" John will often text me late in the afternoon with this question.  

I love when I can answer that text with a meal I've actually somewhat planned and not just frantically thrown together... cue, these veggie bowls. 

Roasted veggies (particularly for roasted veggie bowls) are my back pocket, solve any I don’t-know-what-to-make-for-dinner-solution. And, spring carrots were on sale at my local grocer, so! I pared up some more veg to go with it from there and boom, dinner was planned.

 I hope these simple tips (and very liberal "recipe") will allow you to get your creative juices flowing with all of the possibilities a roasted veg dinner can bring. This is roasted veggie bowl business is probably old hat to many of you, but hopefully this particular spring carrot + garlic + leek + eggplant + zucchini + feta combo bowl is something you'd like to try. 

 

Here are some of my favorite tips for making an incredible roasted spring veggie bowl: 

1. Get veggies that are in season. This may seem so “duh”, but really, your seasonal veg is not only going to taste way better, but it will be cheaper too. Like I said, my local grocer was having a sale on spring carrot bunches, so! Carrots for dinner it was. Also, farmers markets always have the best deals on veggies. Go forth and shop! 

2. Coat your veg in plenty of olive oil. Don’t be skimpy or worry about calories here. I hope you’re able to tell from the pictures that you want to generously coat each veggie piece with olive oil, and then sprinkle generously with salt before you pop them in the oven. I love salting my veg before they cook, they’re so much more flavorful that way. 

3. Try not to crowd the veggies on the pan. I crowded zucchini a bit too much here, which I knew I was doing, but I was in a hurry and didn’t care. If you leave a small space between your veggies, and don’t pile them on top of each other, they’ll roast nicely, have more flavor and a slight crunch. Crowded veggies makes the veg “steam” in their own juices and you lack that nice crisp roasted crust. 

4. Cut your veggies into similarly sized pieces to roast. Experiment with different cuts to see what cut you like best, for each veggie. For example, I love eggplant cut into “coins” because it crisps them up nicely. I like carrots left almost whole, peeled, but with some of their tops left on.

5. Pick a grain any grain. I love quinoa, rice, millet, farro and barley. And - as a big time saving secret, I actually cook my grains in a rice cooker. I’m all about not having unnecessary gadgets in the kitchen, but my rice cooker, is my one exception. I love this thing. I got it as a wedding present years ago and we’ve been friends ever since.  What I love most about it, is it cooks my grains perfectly every time - so I don’t have to check on them AT ALL. I literally dump and forget. Are grains super easy to cook on the stovetop? YES! Am I SO lazy about cooking grains?! YES! ;) (Hi Robin I love my rice cooker!;) 

6. Top it all off. Cheese, nuts, fresh herbs or even just a simple pad of butter, make for great toppings. Here, I chose feta cheese. Feta, goat cheese and ricotta are frequent toppers for my veggie bowls. I wish I had some fresh thyme here, but I didn't, and a trip to the store again was asking too much. ;) 

A sauce or dressing is wonderful here too, BUT, this is my stripped down completely naked version of a veggie bowl. It’s simply no fuss, and allows you to get dinner on the table in less than 30 minutes. It will make you want to answer that "what's for dinner?" text message with a winky face instead of snapping back. Tell me I'm not alone here? 

Love you friends. xo

roasted spring veggie bowl: 

serves 4 as a main dish

For this roasted veggie bowl, I threw whole, unpeeled cloves of garlic onto the sheet pans. Once it’s all done roasting, I serve the whole roasted cloves in their pods with the veggies and encourage guests to squeeze the soft, caramelized filling into their quinoa and mix it a bit. It's SO good and simple... and fun! 

note: The crispy leeks here are my favorite. You can easily cut this recipe in half for two people, but uh, keep all the leeks in there okay? They're too good. One more thing. I used 3 sheet pans total for this, and two ovens. If you don't have two ovens one oven will do, but take note you'll have to rotate your pans half way through and the roasting time will take just a tiny bit longer. 

 

2 large bunches of carrots, one purple, one orange peeled and cut into large pieces

4 large zucchini, cut lengthwise and then in half again

4 small, Italian eggplants, cut into coins

3 large leeks, cleaned and cut into coins

8 cloves garlic, unpeeled

whole milk, greek-style feta cheese to top

4 cups cooked quinoa, tossed in about 4 tablespoons of unsalted butter and bit of kosher salt. 

 

Cut and coat veggies in a generous amount of olive oil and sprinkle liberally with kosher salt and spread on a sheet pan. 

Roast veggies + unpeeled garlic for about 20-25 minutes at 375°F / 1990° C

tip! If you have a fancy oven, the convection setting here will allow you to roast all of these veggies a little faster, say 15 minutes at 350° F/ 180°C temp. 

As soon as the veggies hit the oven, cook the quinoa according to package instructions so you can get it all on the table at the same time. When quinoa is cooked, stir in some pads of butter and some kosher salt to taste. 

Serve veg on top of quinoa and sprinkle with feta cheese. Make sure you explain the bit about squeezing the caramelized garlic pod into your bowl and mixing it with your grain to your loved ones. Ah, heaven. A squeeze of lemon is fantastic here too. And, bonus! The leftovers make a great lunch. 

why is this good for me?

butter - let's talk about it. Butter is a great fat and a good source of vitamin a. To see how awesome vitamin a is, go here and for how awesome fat is, go here.  

quinoa - it's gluten free and a "complete" grain, meaning it contains protein and is often considered a meal all by itself! 

carrots - go here

garlic - has selenium. Selenium works with vitamin e, to protect our tissues from degenerating. It also helps fight agains heart disease. It also contains allicin - a phytochemical, which acts as nature's medicine for our bodies, allowing us to fight off sickness before we ever get sick. 

my grandma's buns {and brioche hot cross buns}

In a lot of ways, my two grandmothers couldn’t have been more opposite…. especially when it came to food.

Growing up my maternal grandmother always made a feast of holidays with homemade, overflowing platters of food, while my paternal grandma left the cooking to someone else.

Maternal grandmother (which is the grandmother I talk about a lot on here) always went around to everyone at the dinning room table and asked who wanted seconds before firsts had been finished. She busily made sure everyone was fed before she even sat down. She’d also wait until everyone was seated to take her fresh homemade rolls out of the oven and then come out of the kitchen with a tray of them and almost shouting say, “Who wants a fresh roll?!” and then she’d throw them across the table to raised hands. 

My paternal grandma was much more polite. She always made sure her grandkids were served their food first before sitting down herself, but dinner with her was a much more shiny, proper and well, less loud affair. 

I equally loved them both. 

One of my fondest memories at the table with my paternal grandma is Easter brunch. She’d purchase hot cross buns from a local bakery and serve them to us. They weren’t “the best roll I’ve ever had” especially since there were currants and orange peel in them or something, but I loved scooping the frosted cross that graced each bun with my little fingers. And I loved the story that grandma told with them. They were special. 


My paternal grandma passed a few years ago, but every time I see a hot cross bun, I think of her… because hot cross buns are a little fancier and more dressed up than the hot, fluffy family-secret-recipe rolls my maternal grandmother would toss across the table at us. And oddly enough, each bun is so fitting of each grandmother: Fancy and frosted vs homemade and inelegant. I feel I am somewhere between the two. 

I shared this special “family secret” roll recipe as a late Christmas present to all of you wonderful friends who subscribed to my email list by downloading the lil’ breakfast ebook. If you’d like the roll recipe, go ahead and download that ebook or hit subscribe at the side of the website; I plan on re-sending the roll recipe to those who missed it. By the way, I haven’t sent out very many emails yet, but I promise, I have been working hard on some content and goodness to share with you… happy surprises worth opening in your inbox coming soon. It will all be good I promise.


Below is my version of the perfect hot cross bun. I think both grandmothers would be proud. And yes, I am aware Easter has past, (it’s quite rude of Easter to take place in March this year, I mean really) but even still, this brioche is the easiest most fool-proof recipe I’ve ever made and it makes for fantastic buns: fancy and frosted or homemade and inelegant, your choice. ;)
 

Love you friends. x 

 

brioche hot cross buns

brioche dough adapted from artisan bread in 5 minutes a day

 

brioche dough (makes about 4 loaves. I use a little less than half of this recipe to make about 9 hot cross buns) 

1 ½ cups / 350ml lukewarm water

1 tablespoon yeast (I used Active Dry, but Red Star Platinum, or Quick-Rise yeast is also recommended)  (1 packet)

1 to 1 ½ tablespoons kosher salt

8 large eggs at room temperature, lightly beaten

½ cup / 170ml honey (a little more if you'd like your buns on the sweeter side) 

1 ½ cups / 3 sticks / 340g unsalted butter, melted

7 ½ - 8 ½ cups / 875g - 1125g unbleached all-purpose flour (you'll also need more flour for kneading the dough and to add to the dough once it's risen a first time) 

for the hot cross buns:

1 cup / 128g golden raisins 

½ cup / 64g tart dried cherries 

1 cup / 250ml boiling water 

1 teaspoon vanilla or one vanilla bean scrape

1 egg, lightly beaten for egg wash 

 

cream cheese frosting:

8 ounces / 250g cream cheese, softened, still cool  

5 tablespoons softened butter, still cool

1 teaspoon vanilla 

½ teaspoon cinnamon (or more if you'd like! I've added up to 1 ½ teaspoons before... ;) 

⅛ teaspoon cardamom (if you don't like the taste of cardamom, use nutmeg here instead)

1 cup / 120g powdered sugar 

 

for the dough:

Mix the honey with the lukewarm water. Add the yeast. Stir it up just a bit with a spoon. 

In an electric mixer with the paddle attachment, beat the eggs just slightly. Add the yeast mixture and melted butter and mix. 

Add flour slowly, about ¼ cup at a time, with the mixer speed on low. Mix until it forms a very very wet, sticky, sticky dough. 

Pour sticky, almost-unmanageable dough into a large butter-greased bowl. Keep covered with a clean cloth or plastic wrap and let it rise for at least 2 hours. 

*Dough is ready to be kneaded, used and ready to form into rolls or buns or loaves at this point. If you plan on saving your dough, you save it at this stage. It will keep for up to 3 days in the fridge in an airtight container.

After you've formed your buns, let them rise one more time before baking, about 1-2 hours. See notes below on how to make the hot cross buns. 

Then bake at 350° F/ 180° C for 18-20 minutes.

note! Baking time and rising time may very depending on altitude. Adjust accordingly. Also keep in mind refrigerated + cold dough, may take longer to rise a second time. 

 

to make the hot cross buns: 

Pour 1 cup boiling water over raisins and cherries in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon vanilla. Let it stand 20 minutes. Strain water from raisins and cherries and pat them dry with a towel. 

Take a little less than half of the brioche dough and save or freeze the rest. OR if you'd like to turn all of the dough into hot cross buns, triple the dried fruit amount. Remember this recipe makes enough for 4 loaves of brioche!)

On a floured surface, knead the raisins and cherries into the dough. Folding and kneading it about 20-25 times through. 

Once dried fruit is incorporated, form dough balls. I made each dough ball about 130g. I wanted them huge, fluffy and touching when they baked. Feel free to make yours smaller, but I recommend weighing each dough ball so you get all buns roughly the same size. 

Line a quarter sheet pan (13 in x 9 in / 33cm x 23cm) with parchment paper, and arrange your dough balls. 

Let the dough rise for a second time, covered for at least 1 hour. If you made the dough balls big like I did, they will touch when risen. 

Brush each bun with egg wash and bake for 18-22 minutes. Buns should appear golden brown. 

Wait for buns to cool before frosting. 

 

for the frosting: 

Process all ingredients in a food processor until blended. Pipe frosting on using a freezer bag or pastry bag, making the crosses as thick as you choose.

Frosting and dough can be made up to 3 days ahead of time. Keep both in the fridge until they're ready to use. 

Serve with a little extra frosting on the side and a fork if needed. xo 

help i still want a dorito {and simple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting}

The lady in front of me at the cashier was loudly talking about a bird nest in her yard. She was one of those people that can speak without breathing, where all of the sentences run together and before you know it, it’s been 5 minutes, no one else has had a word in and you still have no idea what the point is. 

I was starting to get annoyed when she looked behind her and saw that a line had formed in the midst of her rambling. She was embarrassed, apologized to everyone for her storytelling, “Oh I’m so sorry!” as she quickly ended her tale, grabbed her paper bag and rushed off. 

I completely empathized with her embarrassment. I feel like I do stupid things all the time. Lately, it’s been a lot of stupid things in the kitchen, like forgetting to add ingredients or like last weekend, lighting my finger on fire with a sparkler firework (I don't want to talk about it) or what I call “stupid eating”. 

The other day I texted John, “Don’t tell anyone, but I totally just bought Doritos, and I ate some, and made a peanut butter + jam sandwich for lunch. I am a teenager again. Send help.” 

I hesitate talking about Doritos on here. Or the fact that I crave Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal, Frosted Flakes, cottage cheese or sour dough toast slathered in melted butter + boysenberry jam or want hot dogs, like all the time. All other meat grosses me out at the moment, but slap a steaming hot kosher dog in front of me? Yes. I’ll take one to go, thanks. 

WHO AM I?

I try to mask the junk-food cravings with healthier things, but the last time I checked a carrot just doesn’t taste quite like a nacho cheese chip, similar crunch though.  

My last visit to the doctors, the nurse sat me down and asked, “So how are you feeling?” I told her I was fine, that I barfed often but I was fine. I also told her I craved rice, toast and cereal all the time. 

“Don’t eat cereal, rice or juice or you WILL get fat.” She said it with such seriousness I had to try hard not to laugh. 

“Well, I’m not a big juice drinker at all,” I said, trying to defend my eating habits. 

“No cereal. No rice. Cereal is so bad for you. Don’t eat it.” She pointed at me as she said this. "If you have to eat rice, eat brown rice. Don't ever eat white." 

I felt like telling her I probably knew more about food and what was good for me than she did, and that I most certainly didn't need a lecture on it, but I kept my mouth shut.  

“How about Doritos?” I asked. 

She looked at me with a blank stare that said, Are you kidding me? 

I laughed for the both of us. Perhaps the only saving grace was that no one was there to see me blush. 

After that doctors appointment I made myself a nice avocado and pickle sandwich... with a few Doritos. I swear I've never wanted a Dorito so badly until pregnancy.  I feel it's the universe's way of getting back at me for all of those times I wrinkled my nose at the chips and annoyingly talked about how bad they are for you at family picnics. Or it's God's way of humbling me. Which, I'm guessing, parenthood has a funny way of doing that. Humbling you. 

And so I've just begun. 

Love you friend. xo  

 

simple carrot cake with cream cheese frosting 

adapted from Baking Illustrated 

Carrot cake is personal. I am convinced there are just about as many ways to make carrot cake as there are people in my family (so a lot). This one is friendly and mild. It's like the friend you don't mind going on a road trip with because they don't talk much, but talk just enough and love to stop at all the same places you do. It's without the chunks of pineapples or raisins that my grandmother’s recipe calls for. In fact, it’s the least offensive carrot cake recipe I’ve ever tried. One that is so pleasant and addicting it attracts the non-carrot cake lover. I can’t decide if it’s my favorite carrot cake recipe ever, or my favorite simple carrot cake recipe ever. I’m thinking the latter. I am a little partial to carrot cakes filled with good surprises. The only thing surprising about this one is it is almost entirely made in the food processor, and it’s seriously gets better a day or two after it sits and it's stinking GOOD. This cake has nothing to do with my story really, only that Easter is coming up and I wanted to make a cake with bunny ears on it. So I did. No one around me complained. xo

note: If you don't have a food processor, use a high powered blender - but, I'd shred the carrots by hand...unless you have a vitamix. I've heard there's a shredding feature on those? Also, this cake is fantastic cold, which is how these slices were shot and served.  

 

2 ½ cups / 213g  unbleached, all purpose flour

1 ¼ teaspoons baking powder 

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 ¼ teaspoons cinnamon 

½ teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated 

⅛ teaspoon cloves, freshly grated

1 teaspoon of salt

1 pound / 450g  (7-8 medium sized) carrots, peeled and shredded (yields about 3 cups shredded carrot) 

1 ½ cups / 300g sugar

½ cup / 110g dark brown sugar 

4 large eggs, preferably organic

1 ½ cups / 336g  coconut oil, melted and cooled 

 

 

cream cheese frosting, makes enough to frost one, two layer 8 inch cake. If making the cake in a 9 x 13 pan, cut the frosting recipe in half. 

16 ounces (two blocks) / 455g cream cheese, softened but still cool

10 tablespoons (1 stick + 2 tablespoons) / 143g unsalted butter, softened but still cool

2 tablespoons sour cream

1 teaspoon vanilla 

2 ½ cups / 300g powdered sugar 

 

 

Preheat oven to 350° F / 180° C. Line two 8 inch / 20cm cake pans with parchment and grease with coconut oil OR grease one 13 x 9 inch / 33 x 22cm pan if you don’t want to make a layered cake. 

Whisk together flour, salt, spices, baking soda and baking powder in a large bowl. 

Grate the carrots with your food processor. Rinse the food processor once the carrots have been grated. 

With your food processor blend the eggs and sugars together until foamy - for about 30-45 seconds. Slowly stream the coconut oil into the egg mixture, blending it all together as you go. You should create a thick batter-like emulsion. 

Mix the grated carrots into your dry flour mixture until all the carrot pieces are distributed throughout the mixture evenly.

Slowly fold in the egg + sugar + oil mixture into your carrot + flour mixture being careful not to over mix. 

Pour batter into cake pans and bake for 35-45 minutes, or until the cake tester comes out clean. Cake should smell delicious, and appear slightly golden brown on top and not jiggle at all in the center or appear wet. Remember carrot cake is extremely moist, so it’s a little hard to over bake it but so easy to under bake it. 

Wait until cake is cool to frost. 

 

To make frosting: 

Process all ingredients except for the powdered sugar in your food processor. Once ingredients are blended, add the powdered sugar and blend until smooth. Chill the frosting for at least 1 hour before frosting your cake. It's a little easier to manage. Frosting can keep up to a week if tightly sealed and chilled.  

why is this good for me? 

carrots - My grandmother is a repeat story teller. I have most of the stories told about my childhood memorized. One story she frequently retells is the "Remember when I told you if you ate your carrots, your eyes would sparkle?" and apparently I would blink funny after my carrot eating to show her that my eyes were now sparkly. She loves telling that one. I totally plan on using the same trick with my own children. Anyway, carrots are really good for your eyes because they're full of vitamin a. Vitamin a not only promotes heathy eyes, but skin and immune system and reproductive health too. And with a pound of carrots in this cake, I mean, you're bound to get a little vitamin a out of it right? :)

my little not-so-secret secret {mom's lemon raspberry muffins}

for apron details see below ;) 

for apron details see below ;) 

Most recently my grandmother, upon giddily guessing my pregnancy before I formally announced it said: 

“Oh! You’re going to be a wonderful parent because you’re funny and resourceful and kind and a hard worker. You solve problems and you are beautiful. ” 

I had to write it all down because it made me chuckle. I love that she said “I’m funny” first, because that’s the best compliment in the world I think. Give me all the funny people and things. 

 

Recently, I’ve had some wonderful, strong, incredible women I love and admire congratulate me in person, or through emails or texts or phone calls or comments on our pregnancy and it all fills up my soul like rain in a bucket. Thank you. I had one most recently, (I refer to her as a lioness because she’s dang right regal) came up and kissed my cheek and congratulated me saying, 

“It will be the hardest, most rewarding thing you will ever do. There are unspeakable joyous moments to come. I’m just so happy for you.” 

John and I keep playing guessing games as to whether or not our babe is a boy or a girl. We don’t know yet. We find out in a little less than a month or so. (I’ll tell you I promise.) I love surprises and until I know the gender of our babe I’ve held off on really looking at any baby stuff. It’s almost my way of easing into it all. Enjoying the fact that I haven’t barfed in a week, that I was actually hungry enough to eat two tacos for dinner the other night and that no one can really tell that I’m pregnant yet. I can, but it still feels like a secret to the rest of the outside world. 

 

Well, no one can tell except for this one really funny girl who caught me dipping french fries in my chocolate shake on our date night. She worked at the restaurant and upon sweeping the floor around us, she gasped, catching my dip and said, “Are you PREGNANT?!” We had shared a conversation before when we were ordering food so it wasn’t as invasive as it sounds. ;) I laughed and said, “I am!” That was her invitation to gush about her little son and how fun it was to pregnant. “Oh man, do you know what you’re having yet?” I shook my head no. “Oh when I found out I was having a boy I was SO stoked. Race cars, trains, super heros and mud!” She made some whoosh sounds like a race car. “Oh my gosh congratulations! This is so exciting. I'm so excited!” 

I laughed out loud. Some people are just contagiously happy you know? I answered, “I totally know the feeling. We’re pretty stoked too.” John who wasn't exempt from the weirdness chimed in, “And we actually dipped our fries in chocolate shake before we got pregnant.” (I love that pregnancy turns me into we.) She made a face and said, “You are too funny.” I laughed, “I know!” Then I leaned across the table and said to John, “My grandma told me so.” ;) 

Motherhood is still the biggest gamble in the world. It is the glorious life force. It’s huge and scary - it’s an act of infinite optimism.
— gilda radner, comedian and actor

A note to any of my friends out there who are having trouble getting pregnant. I only know a tiny smidge of the heartache one feels when longing to have a child. It took us way longer than I had planned. I in no way am saying my pain, compares to your pain especially with this most recent news. I don't know your story. But I haven’t forgotten what that ache feels like, so just know my heart goes out to you sweet and brave women, and I have no doubt, with God, a strong heart and brains, anything is possible. Whether that be through waiting, or through a doctor’s help, adoption, fostering, life style changes or simply loving on the little ones you’re already surrounded by in your family. Whatever you choose and whatever happens, don’t be discouraged and keep your hope. If there is one thing I know to be true it is this: things always work out if we believe they will. Love you friends. xo 

ps. My friend Jenn made the apron I'm wearing above. She's crazy talented. Like, there's nothing she can't make. I love her and all her realness as much as I love this apron. Of all my aprons, I seriously wear this the one most. She's a new mama too. Check her out here and here

mom's lemon raspberry muffins

makes 12-13 muffins adapted from Pillsbury Bake-Off Cookbook

These muffins are totally nostalgic for me. I find that being a mom soon makes me turn to my own mom a lot, asking her question after question. I texted her the other day asking for her lemon raspberry muffin recipe. She told me the cookbook she got it from (an old 1990's Pillsbury cookbook) and I made some tweaks to the original recipe. Turns out my mom made the same exact tweaks I did when she made them for me growing up, even though we never discussed it until now. So, to me, that makes these muffins all the more magical. They’re easy and so good. xo  

note: You can use any type of flour for these muffins you choose. I've made them with all of the flours mentioned below before and they're all fantastic. All purpose flour yields a more "cupcake" type treat and the whole wheat or spelt flours keep it a proper breakfast muffin. I imagine they're great in a gluten free version but I didn't get around to experimenting (yet). For gluten free: I imagine a brown rice flour mixed with an all purpose gluten free flour or oat or buckwheat flour, would all equally be great. 

 

2 cups  / 250g all purpose flour / 204g spelt flour / 260g whole wheat pastry flour (mom always used all purpose)

1 cup / 200g sugar, preferably organic 

3 teaspoons baking powder 

½ teaspoon of salt

2 eggs, preferably organic

½ cup / 113g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled 

¼ cup / 60ml lemon juice

¾ cup / 175ml whole milk, cream or half and half

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 cups / 250g fresh or frozen raspberries (frozen are a little easier to work with. and if you'd like these muffins with a little less tang, only add 1 cup) 

 

Preheat oven 425° F / 220° C  Line a muffin tin with muffin liners. 

Mix flour, baking powder, salt and sugar in a large bowl. 

In a medium bowl, mix together your lemon juice, melted butter, eggs, milk and zest. Make a little well or dip in the dry mixture. Add this wet mixture to your dry flour mixture, pouring the liquid into the well. Mix until all of the ingredients come together forming a thick batter. Gently fold in the frozen raspberries. Be careful not to over mix. 

Bake for 18-22 minutes. Muffins should be golden brown on top and not look wet. Serve with butter and maybe a little drizzle of honey or lemon curd. These muffins are zingy through and through, so don't hesitate to add a little more sweetness. ;) 

 

real fat talk {roasted tomato sauce with penne pasta}

One of my brothers always says, "To be honest," when starting a sentence... which makes me raise my eyebrows and tease, "Uh, if you were honest, would you need to say that all the time bro?" But I get it, the phrase is catchy, and after spending time with him I find myself saying:

To be honest, this pregnancy stuff is no joke. 

We’ve had a lot of take out lately simply because I can’t stomach the thought of cooking or eating too much…. I feel like it’s made my creative culinary juices suffer, and I’m trying hard to not let that reflect on here. 

I also like rice, pasta, cereal and noodles more than any human really should.  

 

A friend of mine, who also happens to be pregnant was texting me the other day, and said, “Uh, morning sickness my butt! It’s ALL freaking day and night. Who started this rumor that you only feel sick in the morning? They must be punished.” I completely agreed.

As I am slowly de-bunking the myths of pregnancy and experiencing this all for the first time, I thought it would be super fun to de-bunk some fat myths.

Speaking of fat, there’s nothing quite like putting on your pants and then having to unbutton that top button simply because the tightness against your belly is the same discomfort you feel after eating Thanksgiving dinner. It's a confusing time, one in which I am asking myself, am I fat? Or is this pregnancy related?

Fat is confusing. So, let’s talk about it real quick without having us drool on ourselves out of sheer boredom. Plain and simple: good fat, is really good for us, bad fat, is really bad for us. Ladies, we especially need fat, lots of good fat to helps us balance our hormones. 

Okay okay, here’s what you need to know, this is like, beginning fun stuff, most of this you probably already know: 

Bad fats: 

Vegetable Oils - This includes Canola oil, Soybean oil, Grapeseed oil, Rapeseed oil, Corn oil, Safflower oil and, sniff, Sunflower oil. I'm a little sad to type sunflower oil because I do use it in salad dressings, but I try my best to purchase organic and cold pressed. 

What vegetable makes oil might I ask you? Lettuce? Zucchini? By the way, what's a Canola? Vegetable oil + Canola oil are usually made from cotton seeds or soybeans or rapeseeds or a mix of any of the three. We’re not designed to eat cotton seeds or rapeseeds... Not only are they GMO, but they're crazy processed and turn carcinogenic when cooked and digested. 

Hydrogenated oils - Think Crisco, shortening and that sneaky fat put into Oreos and most processed cookies, crackers and cereals. Sometimes it reads partially hydrogenated palm oil, or vegetable oil. These fats are man-made. Our bodies literally don’t know what to do with these fats and since our bodies can’t use them, these hydrogenated toxins just get stored in the fat cells in our bodies. These fats, make us fat. The fatter we are, and the more of these bad fats we eat, the sicker we get. 

 

Good fats: 

Butter, Coconut oil, Lard, Avocado and Ghee. Ghee is just clarified butter, it’s amazing. Clarified butter is basically heating the butter and skimming the lactose (or white foam) off of the top, making it versatile for those that may be sensitive to dairy. All of these fats are excellent for baking and cooking at high temperatures.

You may be thinking: Wait, wait, LARD? Yes. Organic lard is actually good for us friends. It’s a fat our body knows how to use, it’s completely natural and what our ancestors lived off of for a long time. I've seen it make a comeback lately at health grocery stores. I know it seems scary, but no one is rushing you into this relationship I promise. Lard and butter are a good substitutes for shortening in a recipe. 

Olive oil is good for cooking at medium temperatures. Yes, I tend to roast and bake with olive oil all the time, but in order to receive the best benefits from olive oil, we really shouldn’t heat it up too much. 

Sesame oil, Flaxseed oil, Hempseed oil, Chia Seed oil, Avocado oil, Walnut oil, Almond oil... are also great fats and really shouldn’t be heated at all so we can receive the full benefits. Think of adding these bad boys to salad dressings or smoothies.

When purchasing these oils + fats make sure they are organic and for oils make sure they are cold pressed.  

 

There was a time in my life when I was terribly afraid that fat made me fat. I fell victim to dry non-buttered toast and thinking low fat frozen yogurt was a "healthy choice". Over time I've learned what fat and how much fat I really should be eating and it's made me much happier and healthier. Fat, is still something a lot of us women still struggle with because we think: I can't have fat, it will make me fat. #false

I am so not a perfect eater, but I feel a little stronger knowing what I know, so I wanted to share this stuff. To be honest, (wink) I wasn't sure if you guys would like this post... so it took me a while to get it right, but, I'm throwing all this info out there because I want you to #treatyourself and I don't want you to be afraid of fat. Maybe you never feared fat? If so, hug me. 

Oh! Ps.  Here's a great chart to help you remember what temperature you should cook your fats too. Also fun fact, I graduated from this awesome (intense) holistic Culinary Nutrition Academy this December. Meghan, the founder of Culinary Nutrition Academy is the bomb-diggity and SUPER-balls to the walls intense with nutrition. I'm like a little sugar plum fairy compared to her, but she taught me tons and I like her lots. I like you a lot too. Love to you friends. xo

 

 

penne pasta with roasted tomato sauce  

serves 5-6

note: I love this sauce because it reminds me of summer, even though summer and the fresh tomatoes that come with it are far away, the fresh herbs used are a nod towards spring, and the winter root veggie (the onion) and hearty pasta keeps us grounded in the present. Even though this sauce may take a while in the oven, it’s worth it. I recommend doubling the sauce so you have more to freeze and eat later. It freezes beautifully. Last time I made this I caught my grandmother mopping up the sauce with a left over lettuce leaf. Which reminds me, this sauce would be fantastic over some roasted green veggies if you want to switch it up a bit. AND, though not the prettiest, this pasta is equally as delicious cold, like a cold pasta salad. xo  

 

¼ cup / 60ml olive oil, plus more for serving 

1 medium brown onion, chopped (about 1 heaping cup of onion)

3 cloves garlic, peeled, roughly chopped

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes 

1 ½ teaspoons dried oregano

 

1 cup / 240ml homemade chicken stock or organic chicken stock

2 (28 ounce) cans / 784g peeled plum tomatoes, crushed with your hands  

1 tablespoon sugar 

¼ cup / 60ml fresh lemon juice 

salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste

 

1 pound / 454g organic penne pasta 

½ cup / 120ml pasta water, reserved 

4 tablespoons fresh oregano, roughly chopped, plus more for garnish 

½ cup fresh basil, chopped + divided 

1 cup / 240ml heavy cream 

1 cup / 110g parmesan cheese, freshly graded - divided into ½ cups

plus more parmesan, basil and large, generous lemon wedges to serve

 

Preheat oven to 375°F / 190°C.

In a large heavy bottomed sauce pot, heat olive oil and chopped onion until translucent, about five minutes. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, dried oregano and cook for 1 minute. Add chicken stock, and simmer away until the sauce looks like it’s reduced by half (it takes about 20-30 minutes)

While sauce is reducing, drain tomatoes and crush them with your hands into a large bowl. Add sugar + pepper to bowl. When sauce is reduced, add your freshly crushed tomatoes to the pot and stir. Salt to taste, it may not need salt. 

Cover the pot with a tight fitted lid, and bake in the oven for an hour. Remove the pot from the oven and let it cool for 15 minutes. 

While the sauce is cooling, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the penne pasta until just slightly under al dente. I cook the pasta just under al dente, because once the warm sauce is added to the warm pasta, the pasta will cook just a tiny bit further. Toss the cooked pasta in a bit of olive oil to prevent sticking. Reserve ½ cup pasta water. 

With an immersion blender, or a standing blender, blend the tomato sauce in manageable batches until it reaches a smooth consistency. 

Return the sauce to the pan. Add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, ¼ cup fresh basil, lemon juice, 1/2 cup Parmesan and cream. More salt and pepper to taste, if needed. Simmer for about 5 minutes. If you'd like to thin the sauce a bit, add the ½ cup pasta water.

Add warm sauce to pasta, adding as little or as much as you choose. You could easily cover the entire pound of pasta with this sauce, but I found that to be just a little too much, and reserved some of the sauce to freeze for later. Totally up to you though. 

Top pasta with fresh parmesan, fresh oregano, basil, another squeeze of fresh lemon, drizzle of olive oil and a lemon wedge. I can’t eat this any other way. That might be a pregnancy thing, but my non-pregnant people agree with me. ;) 

If you double the sauce, it freezes beautifully for up to 3 months. 

 

why is this good for me? 

all good fats - are key to helping us women keep our hormones in balance and this hormonal balance not only makes a happy woman, but a fertile one. Good fats also help protect our organs, help us digest and use vitamins a, d, e, and k. Good fats also give us energy and they promote weight loss and help speed up our metabolism.  I think the weight loss thing is from us feeling fuller and more satisfied by fat, thus we eat + crave less... that's my personal theory. ;) 

olive oil - (and this goes for every good fat) is really good for our brains. Did you know our brain is mostly made up of fat? Olive oil helps us fight against heart disease, help control our blood sugar levels and reduces inflammation. It also helps ward off bad bacteria in our guts and has been known to heal stomach ulcers. 

 

Really amazing books to teach you more about fat, how the low-fat craze got started (aka why we started fearing fat) and books that I have learned from in order to write this post: 

The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz 

 Healing foods by Michael Murray + Joseph Pizzorno + Lara Pizzorno 

Undiet by Meghan Telphner

when pee changes everything {and easy banana cake}

I think I sat on the toilet for about 10 minutes before it sank in. Then some tears just leaked out, not the kind of tears that pour out when you’re sad crying or even happy crying. They were the kind of tears you get after laughing so hard your body doesn’t know what to do other than leak out of your eyes... Or the kind of tears you get from a freezing cold wind in your face. It's like my body didn’t know what to think or do, so my eyes just leaked. 

I took a deep breath. 

It’s weird how pee can tell you that your whole life is gonna change.  I mean it's pee. We don't really talk about pee being this life changing thing, but it is. It's weird and humbling, to say the least.

I took the test in the beginning of January, when my period didn’t come as planned. See, we’ve been trying to have a kid for a small while now and nothing’s happened. I hate to admit it but I quite frankly got used to the idea of not having kids even longer still, since pregnancy test after pregnancy test seemed to be coming back with the same, anticlimactic one-line result. 

At first, I was really sad about this lack of getting pregnant right away. So many people around me seemed to have gotten pregnant simply by snapping their fingers, I wondered why I didn’t have the same magic. 

As months and months passed there were other women who graciously shared their stories with me about how they didn’t get pregnant right away either and it took a little bit longer than they anticipated. This comforted me a lot. There’s nothing worse than feeling like you’re not normal, especially when it comes to getting pregnant. It sets this ongoing worry-fire in your head that your subconscious is constantly trying to defuse. 

I swear I’ve been planning my whole life around this large fact that I want to be a mother someday, but nothing really prepares you for how you should feel after you read those two little pink lines. My life was now redefined by something bright pink and smaller than an inch.

John wasn’t home just yet. 

I greeted him like normal and made dinner just the same. After we ate and chatted a bit, he started looking through some of the photos on his phone. I couldn’t decide if I should wait and surprise him with the news in some cute pinterest-y way or just tell him right then. 

“John,” I said, “Yeah?” he said, not looking up from his phone yet. 

I turned to face him and put my hands on his knees and said, “ I have a surprise for you, and it’s gonna change your life forever.” 

He put his phone down, looked at me and before I could even let him guess or have the wheels turn in his head I said: 

“I’m pregnant.” 

“Are you serious?” 

“Yes. We’re gonna have a baby in September.” 

What happened next is all a blur. He kept laughing incredulous laughs. I told him how I sat on the toilet for 10 minutes without moving. I’m really bad about holding anything back. 

“Wanna see the test?” I said.

“Yes!” 

I went and got it. It was then he teared and said, “I can’t believe it.” 

“Love,” I said to him, “We’re gonna be parents!”

Then, for some funny reason both of us, needing no prompt from the other, high-fived. 

And we haven’t really been able to stop talking about it since.  

the easiest banana cake

adapted from Donna Hay, serves 9

I wanted a really simple cake to celebrate our pregnancy with family. Plus banana, and specifically banana cake sounded delicious to my ever weird-carb-craving-always-nauseous-body. Plus, it’s so easy it’s almost embarrassing. People tend to poo-poo banana cake, but this one changes people’s minds. It's got a hint of caramel and cinnamon that makes people pause and say, "Is that banana?". I originally served it with homemade salted caramel sauce as Donna suggested, but the cream cheese frosting is an awesome, celebratory spin. 

note: If you don’t want to make frosting or homemade caramel sauce, *a cup of dark chocolate chips added to this cake is insanely good. I would consider omitting the cinnamon if you do so, but do whatever you choose. xo 

 

8 tablespoons / 1 stick /  125g unsalted butter, softened  

1 cup / 200g sugar

3 eggs 

2 cups / 250g all purpose flour, preferably organic

2 teaspoons baking powder, aluminum free

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

¾ cup / 180g sour cream 

1 cup / 227g ripe banana, mashed (about 1 large banana)

1 cup / 190g bittersweet / dark chocolate chips, optional (only add if not making the cream cheese frosting) 

 

Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Butter / grease a small square 8 x 8 cake pan. 

Cream together the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add one egg at a time to the fluffy mixture, mixing after each egg has been added. 

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Add the sour cream and banana to the egg + sugar + butter mixture and mix until combined (about 1 minute). Slowly add the flour mixture, with either your electric mixer speed on low or stirring it in by hand.  Mix until just combined. Be careful not to over mix.

Pour cake batter into your prepared cake tin and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until your toothpick comes out clean when testing the cake. 

Let the cake cool for at least 20 minutes serving. If you’d like to serve it with the cream cheese frosting, the cake must be completely cooled. ;) 

 

cream cheese frosting: 

 adapted from baking illustrated makes about 2 cups

8 ounces / 225g cream cheese, softened but still cool

5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened 

1 tablespoon sour cream

½ teaspoon vanilla extract 

1 ¼ cups / 150g powdered sugar 

note: You can make this with an electric mixer too, but it is much easier in a food processor if you have one. 

In a food processor blend together the butter, cream cheese and sour cream. Scrape down the bowl after blending for a few seconds. Add vanilla and powdered sugar, blending for about 10 more second until frosting is smooth. 

Spread and decorate on cooled banana cake.  

Update! Here's a picture of the banana cake with chocolate chips - same recipe, just without the frosting and add chocolate chips. I posted on instagram (@sweet.ish) a while back. :) xo 

Update! Here's a picture of the banana cake with chocolate chips - same recipe, just without the frosting and add chocolate chips. I posted on instagram (@sweet.ish) a while back. :) xo 

I love the "chocolate chip version" served slightly warm with a smear of salted butter. IT'S MAGIC.

I love the "chocolate chip version" served slightly warm with a smear of salted butter. IT'S MAGIC.