Jul 17, 2014

Tips for Baking with Kids

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My favorite intern, circa 2011

My favorite intern, circa 2011



How terrifically FUN is summer vacation, darling readers?! No school, so much free time! Throwing routine and schedules to the wind until they flit about like snow! Hooray!

Now let me ask the parents of small children the same question.

Mmm-hmmmm.

(GOOD LORD, HOW IS IT ONLY MID-JULY?)

Sound familiar? I feel you. After surviving Kindergarten, this summer marks the beginning of having Little C on a Real School schedule, meaning she is out until the third week of August (the baby, however, is now 16 months and interested in equal parts cuddling and destruction). We’ve been hanging in there so far–there have been days that my girl has done various activities and day camps, but there are still plenty of hours spent here at home in the Fog Known As San Francisco Summer.

Given the free time and the weather, baking together is on the agenda. And really, seeing as we’ll be careening towards fall and the holidays before we know it, my baking-with-my-wombfruit moments are likely to accumulate. And I don’t think I’m the only one, because I’ve gotten a few tweets and e-mails lately asking if I have any tips for baking with kids. So in the spirit of keeping everyone entertained, satisfying our sweet teeth, and doing that oh-so-noble task of getting our kids involved in the kitchen, here are a few of my favorite tips for baking with small people, particularly if you typically enjoy keeping culinary chaos to a minimum (that would be me here, raising my hand).

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Jun 27, 2014

Coconut Sugar Banana Pudding Pops

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pops above

So far this summer, I’ve made good on my promise to slow down and recalibrate a little after finishing my cookbook manuscript. And just as I was getting stuck, thinking about what kind of recipe I might want to share with you now that I can make ANY RECIPE I WANT TO, EVER, the always entertaining and so-hilarious-somebody-ought-lock-this-boy-UP Billy Green of Wit and Vinegar announced the second coming of Popsicle Week. And BAM, I suddenly had the glittering inspiration to pull together a frozen tasty treat for all y’all. Internet friends can really be the wind beneath your wings like that sometimes, I’m telling you.

coconut sugar and bananas

Taking part in Popsicle Week is no easy task. You’re basically joining a crew of people who not only develop great recipes, but fabulous photos on the regular. (I made these babies last year, which I’m realizing look a lot like the ones I made this year but believe me, they taste quite different.) I’m not even going to try and compete with all the other fantastical pops and posts out there this time around, but I can at least feel confident that my post is (probably) the only one that will mention Bill Cosby.
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Jun 6, 2014

Sunset Magazine’s Celebration Weekend 2014

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sunset sign

This past Spring marked my 11th year as a California resident. 11 years, people! Unreal. The Illinois blood runs deep–real deep–but no doubt, after that stretch of time lived in one part of the country, things are bound to change within a person, at least a little bit. There are a few things with which the Midwestern gal inside of me will never fall out of love (read: white Christmases, the unbeatable kindness of strangers, Pabst Blue Ribbon, an inexplicable fondness for Cool Whip). But over the years I’ve become very fond of my life in California, whether that be the years spent as a childless newlywed galavanting at the beach in Santa Monica, or the decidedly more grown-up years in San Francisco, where we’ve started our family and become hopelessly snobby about wine and the best artisan breads.

Regardless of what part of California we’ve called home over the past 11 years, one thing has not changed: I still catch myself, every couple of days at least, looking around, taking a deep breath and thinking to myself, I GET TO LIVE HERE. Dang, it feels good to be a Californian.

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Jun 2, 2014

Peach and Blueberry Ricotta Slice

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IMG_8436

SUMMAH! It’s hard to believe that this season is already upon us. Seems like just yesterday I was trapped in a nursing chair with a newborn, pitching an idea for a new cookbook in a hormonal haze, with my first baby heading off to kindergarten. Now, as of this week, that newborn is careening into toddlerhood (and careening into everything else in the process), a cookbook manuscript has been officially completed and delivered, and my little girl has just graduated kindergarten the same week that she lost two (!) teeth. The past few seasons have meant serious business.

But just in time for summer, things are shifting, and with that comes a slightly slower pace, and a little more time that can be spent doing whatever the heck we want–more time inhaling my kids’ necks, more time to write in this space, and–hooray!–more time to finally pour over the stack of new cookbooks that I’ve been collecting on my desk since last fall and have barely gotten to flip through.

Untitled

Having just finished many months of dealing in the currencies of sugars (albeit less-refined ones), butter, and flours, and coming into some glorious weeks of sunshine and gleaming summer fruits, I’ve been in the market for simpler, lighter fare to satiate the sweet teeth around these parts. And during one recent, delicious, totally free moment to flip through all those aforementioned cookbooks, I found my answer in the pages of Donna Hay’s latest, completely gorgeous book Fresh and Light. (Seriously, is there anything that woman can’t make look painfully beautiful? I am constantly in awe of her vision. I call her “Donna Haaayyy Gurl Haaayyy”.)

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May 10, 2014

A Little Spring Cleaning

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Hi hi! I’m writing today for no other reason than I’ve been missing you guys and this space and wanted to keep you updated on everything that’s been going on in the Piece of Cake kitchen and beyond, lest you think I’ve been trapped under something heavy. Of course there’s the business of that behemoth called cookbook number three, which, if you’ve been following on Twitter or Facebook, you’ve heard about plenty already. Sometimes I share actual details specific to the book, other times I just reveal personal neuroses:


In any case, I am officially in the homestretch of creating this third title, all baking and sweet treat making with natural, unrefined, and lower-refined sugars. No white sugar, no corn syrup. Basically a complete 180 from my first book, which ran completely on the white stuff. But for me, baking is about playing with all kinds of ingredients and every type of sugar, and it turns out that stepping away from the usual suspects can make all kinds of delicious things happen.

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Apr 17, 2014

10 Awesome Homemade Marshmallow Recipes

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mallow_collage

It’s here! Spring has sprung, friends! And with it comes one of favorite times of the year, High Marshmallow Making Season. You might have figured as much, seeing as I am crazy enough to have written an entire book full of from-scratch marshmallow recipes. As many (hundreds! thousands!) batches of mallows that I’ve whipped up over the years, I never tire of watching sticky sugar syrup spin into fluffy clouds of whipped sugar heaven. It’s like a unicorns-traveling-on-a-rainbow-level of magic. And with Easter weekend nearly here (already, for real?), it got me thinking about some of my favorite homemade mallow recipes. Let’s all indulge ourselves in a sweet, fluffy, puffy hug, shall we?

If you want to get down with any of these recipes, you might want to check out my list of Homemade Marshmallow Troubleshooting Tips.

Happy Mallowing, everyone!

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Apr 15, 2014

Chunky Monkey Coffee Cake

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IMG_7942

In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.

There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.

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