Simply Gluten-Free Magazine

by Jeanne on September 10, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’d like to introduce you to one of my favorite gluten-free magazines, Simply Gluten-Free Magazine. You probably already know about it, but if you don’t I would encourage you to check it out. I’ve had the honor of writing some articles for it since it began last fall (2012). I’m actually a little bit embarrassed that I haven’t written about it here before. Last autumn, I was so wrapped up in my book launch whirlwind that I dropped the ball on other things. I’d like to rectify that now.

It was created and is edited by my pal Carol, of the Simply Gluten-Free blog. Carol and I met several years ago at a food conference and I have come to consider Carol one of my mentors. I have turned to her for advice on various aspects of being a gluten-free writer and flour-mix maker, and she is always open and generous with her time and advice. If you haven’t, I recommend that you check out her blog, as well as her amazing books, Simply…Gluten-Free Quick Meals , Simply…Gluten-Free Desserts, and Simply Gluten-Free Salads.

One of the many things I love about the magazine is that it celebrates the gluten-free lifestyle versus being resigned to it. And it has articles from all sorts of angles (baking with gums vs. baking without gums; conventional gluten-free diet as well as paleo diet, etc.). And it is also other allergen friendly. As we all know, being gluten-free often comes with being intolerant to other foods–and this magazine addresses those issues as well. On top of everything else, the writing is stellar and I see all of my favorite gluten-free pals in there, in addition to “meeting” new folks via their articles.

I have an article in the most recent issue (September/October 2013) on “The Joy of Canning.” As you know, I’m the editor of the website, Canning Across America, and canning is another passion of mine. In the article I explain the basic process of canning, list the basic equipment and procedures for canning, and include one of my very favorite jam canning recipes, Honey Lemon Apple Jam, from the excellent Food in Jars: Preserving in Small Batches Year-Round book by my canning pal, Marisa McClellan.  I highly recommend this book if you like to can!  I have been using it all summer.  One of the beauties of her recipes is that they are small-batch oriented.  So you don’t have to commit to canning a ton of stuff at a time.  3 or 4 jars at a time is what she concentrates on–and it’s so fun to have a few jars of many recipes on the shelf.  If you’ve never canned before, I hope my article will inspire you to start!

Check out Simply Gluten-Free Magazine if you already haven’t!  I’ve seen it on the shelves of my favorite grocery stores.  And you can order it from its website.

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Blackberry Cobbler, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on September 1, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHi! We are enjoying our last few days of summer freedom this Labor Day weekend before school starts. As you know, I am not a fan of uber-early mornings. It’s not in my constitution. It’s not the way any of us in our family works well. Even when Girlfriend was tiny, she was a sleeper-inner. She was never one of those toddlers who woke up at the crack of dawn (thank goodness!). So the fact that we have to get up at 6 am in order to get Girlfriend to middle school (and into class on time as she works her way through the crowds of kids who are also wandering up and down the stairs trying to get to their classes) just about does us in. We spend the weekends recovering from the weekdays.

I realize that this sounds ridiculous. We do try to get to bed at an early hour. We don’t watch TV. We try not to schedule evening activities for Girlfriend. We try to ease into the bedtime. But, our bodies don’t seem to be easily re-trainable into early morning as one would hope. We do much better if we can go to bed at around 11 or midnight and wake up at around 8 am. Sigh.

Anyway, we are trying to get in all of the sleep we can in these last days. And in between sleeping (heh) we are enjoying the bounty of summer. As I think I’ve mentioned before, the side yard between our house and that of one of our neighbors is lined with wild blackberry bushes. Most of the year these bushes are a scourge. They are pokey and nearly impossible to tame. And they line the path that goes from our driveway to the back garden, so we need to keep them in check. They technically belong to our neighbors, but that house is a rental so the neighbors don’t really care what happens to them.

Instead of complaining about them (unlike my never-ending complaints about early mornings ;) ), I decided years ago to cultivate them for our eating pleasure. When Girlfriend was little, I would send her and her pals over there to pick the blackberries. They would come back with as many berries in their tummies as were in their buckets (if their happy and berry-juice smeared faces were any indication of what they did). And I turn the blackberries they pick into cobbler. It’s one of my summer rituals. It just seems like blackberries and cobblers are the perfect match.

And I realize that I’ve never shared my cobbler recipe with you. It’s so simple and so quick to make, it’s one of those handy and perfect last minute dessert recipes. Of course, we usually eat the leftover cobbler for breakfast and for snacks during the day. But it is spectacular just as it comes out of the oven, with the biscuit topping puffed and golden, dolloped with unsweetened whipped cream. Of course, you can also use the equivalent amount of other berries that you have on hand.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWow, what a glorious summer we have had.  I can’t remember a summer with better weather in the 23 years I’ve lived in Seattle.  It’s been mostly sunny and warm.  Every day.  It’s truly been a gift.  I can’t tell you how much we have been enjoying it.   The past few days have been the exception—we’ve gotten some torrential downpours to make up for all of the rain we missed during the rest of the summer.  But that’s been it—now it is sunny and warm again.  Although there is a hint of fall in the air.   As usual, the summer has gone by very quickly.  It feels like it just started, I blinked, and now it’s nearly time for Girlfriend to go back to school.

This week has been devoted to preparing for school.  I helped Girlfriend shovel out her room (I’m serious when I say “shovel”—the amount of stuff on the floor in there always boggles my mind), find her backpack and big binder, and organize her desk.  We got all of her school supplies as well as a new lunchbox (her old one had gotten so gross, wow).  I’m feeling quite proud of us on this one—usually we wait until the day before school to do this and then everything is sold out.  And we dropped off her Epi-Pen at the school nurse’s office and completed all of the forms for that (Girlfriend has a life-threatening peanut allergy, so this is a yearly ritual for us).

The days are getting shorter, which is always bittersweet for me.  I love summer, but I do enjoy fall as well.  Getting back into the school year routine will be good for us after our lovely summer of freedom.  Girlfriend and I usually take a walk around the neighborhood each evening.  For most of the summer in Seattle, it stays light until about 9:30 pm.  So, we can walk later.  Now, I’ve been noticing that it’s dark by about 8:30—so we need to adjust our schedule to walking a bit earlier.  The park next door, which used to be an orchard and still contains many fruit trees, is full of windfall apples.  We usually pick up several on our way through to give to the chickens.  They love apples!  I have found that chickens are like kids.  They often like the sweeter things like fruit, carrots, and beets.  And, they love leafy greens.  But they turn their beaks up at cauliflower and broccoli.

The farmer’s market is now full of peaches.  I wait all year for the peaches.  I love them.  They are my favorite fruit.  Usually, at the very end of summer I get a box of peaches from the farmer’s market to freeze.  I blanch, peel, slice, and freeze them on cookie sheets and them transfer them to ziplock bags.  This way we have peaches all year round.  I also freeze bags of berries.  Currently the freezer is so full of frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries that not much else fits in there.

We also eat the peaches fresh and, of course, I bake with them.  This year I found a recipe from Ina Garten’s book Barefoot Contessa: How Easy is That? that we love!  Of course, you know how much I love her and her recipes, so I knew it would be a winner.  And it is.  This cake is another peach-pecan mix—which is my new favorite combination.  You can substitute walnuts if you’d like, or you can just not use the nuts, if preferred.   I will say that I love the crunch and the flavor that they add, though.  Either way, it’s now on my end-of-summer baking rotation.  Yum!

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Pie, Gluten-FreeHey all!  I’ve updated my Pie Crust post in order to include updated directions.  Pie crust is one of the recipes I get the most questions about and I thought it would be helpful to rewrite it to answer the most common questions.

PS: I seem to have some sort of curse when it comes to this recipe.  Once again, I realized that the gram amount of the flour in the recipe was slightly wrong until today (5/17/14).  The correct weight is 325 g (not 350 g).

PPS: You can roll the crust out between 2 pieces of plastic wrap if you prefer.

Happy baking!



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Peach-Pecan Pie, Gluten-Free

by Jeanne on August 19, 2013

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWhen Tracy and Jennifer  and Jamie asked if I wanted to be part of the online baby shower for our mutual pal, Amber, the voice behind the amazing blog, Bluebonnet and Brownies and her husband James, I immediately said yes!  I love babies and baby showers and the chance to celebrate them is always welcome.

As I thought about this post, I realized that Tracy and I had met through Amber.   Amber is one of those people who naturally brings people together.  I met Amber on Twitter sometime in 2009.   She was one of the folks I chatted with on weekly (and sometimes, daily) basis.  As you know, I love Twitter and have found it to be very convivial place.  Anyway, one day I heard about something called the Big Summer Potluck (BSP) on Twitter.  It was to be a weekend food blogger gathering put on and hosted in Pennsylvania by Pam Anderson, who has written many terrific cookbooks, and her daughters, Maggy and Sharon.  These three talented women are the voices behind the lovely blog Three Many Cooks.  Their friend, Erika, rounded out the crew who organize the weekend.  Further, I found out that my Seattle pal, Alice, was going to be the keynote speaker.  I was intrigued.  Even though it was going to be held across the country, I realized that I really wanted to go.

As it turns out, Amber’s house is close-ish to the location of the BSP, so when I told her I was thinking of attending, she immediately offered her house to me as a place to stay.  And, she was set to attend—in fact, she was helping to organize some of the stuff—and so she also could drive us to and from the BSP each day.  I was amazed at her generosity and immediately took her up on her offer and I bought my tickets that day.

Several months later, when I arrived on the East Coast, James picked me up and ferried me to their house.  When we walked in, Amber was in the kitchen, making cookies.  She welcomed me and I felt immediately at home.  It felt like we had been friends for years.   Same with James.   Same with their big, fluffy kitties, Connor and Milo.  They are, quite simply, nice and wonderful people (and kitties, who think they are people).  Being with them is like being with family.

We had a lovely weekend together (you can read more about my experience here)–that first BSP was also the place where I met Jennifer.  I ended up attending BSP the next year and staying with Amber and James again.  That was the year that I met Tracy—she also was staying with Amber and James, and we ended up being roommates.  That second BSP they had a full house–Aimée and Shaina, were roomies in Amber’s other guest room, and we all got to know each other and become friends during the time we had together.  What a terrific weekend we all had.

And now Amber and James are expecting a new family member to join their happy crew—a little boy, due in October.  I am thrilled for them.  The arrival of a baby is always a gift, but it is especially welcome when the road to having a baby has been a long and hard one.  Amber and James have been struggling with fertility issues and it was seeming like maybe a homemade baby (as opposed to an adopted baby), was potentially not in the cards.  But, the Fates stepped in and decreed that it was TO BE and all of us in their family and friend community are overjoyed for them!  And we can’t wait to meet baby Evan (that’s his name-to-be).

In honor of the blessed event, I am offering a recipe for Peach-Pecan Pie.  Amber is a Texas native, so the theme for the baby shower is “Texas.”  As I was deciding on what kind of recipe to make, I did some research and found out that peaches are a favorite fruit in Texas.  And, because it’s in the South, I thought pecans would be good, too.   As I flipped through one of my favorite cookbooks, Nancie McDermott’s Southern Pies: A Gracious Plenty of Pie Recipes from Lemon Chess to Chocolate Pecan, I saw it—the perfect recipe–for peach-pecan pie.  I knew it was the one.  So, I adapted it to gluten-free.  It is out-of-this-world!  Wowee, this is a good pie.  In fact, one of the yummiest I’ve ever had.  It’s got a traditional pie crust, filled with fresh peaches in a sour cream custard and topped with a pecan streusel.

So, here’s to you, Amber and James (and Evan-to-be)!  I raise a fork of delicious pie to all of you and cannot wait to meet the newest family member in person!

Link List for the Rest of the Baby Shower Participants (pie recipe after list)

Sugarcrafter | Breakfast Tostadas
My Kitchen Addiction | Baby Texan Cookies
My Baking Addiction | Texas Sheet Cake
Simple Bites | Grilled Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn Salsa
Stetted | Queso Mac
Food for My Family | Texas Pepper Barbecue Sauce
Dessert For Two | Frito Chocolate Chip Cookies
Confessions of a Cookbook Queen | Coconut Tres Leches Layer Cake
TidyMom | Pizza Bread Sticks
Miss in the Kitchen | Blackberry Milkshakes
Bon Appetit Hon | Cheddar Ranch Crackers
Food Babbles | Southern Pecan Pie
Jelly Toast | Peach Iced Tea
Sweet Adventures of Sugarbelle | Decorated Elephant Cookies
i am baker | Texas Brownie Cake
The Kitchen Trials | Coca-Cola Cake
Cookies & Cups | Sticky Toffee Pudding Cookies
A Farmgirl’s Dabbles | Peanut Butter Bonbons the Size of Texas
Steph Chows | Fiesta Dip

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We’ve been having a lovely summer!  I can’t remember another summer where it was mostly sunny and warm.  Usually we have stretches of sunny and warm mixed with stretches of cold and rainy.  But it’s been just heavenly.  It’s been a gift for me–I, like many people, do so much better emotionally when it’s sunny.


I love gardenias and they hold a special place in my heart because they were my mom’s favorite flower.  Of course, when I went to my high school prom, my corsage was a gardenia, much to my mom’s delight.  And when dAhub and I got married, I we ordered a corsage or boutonniere of their favorite flower for each of our family members.  It was so fun to see everyone wearing their their favorites.  Of course, my mom had a gardenia.  The florist said she got such a kick out of designing each corsage/boutonniere from of all of the different flowers.  Our wedding theme was “English Country Garden” mixed with Alice in Wonderland, so the idea worked really well.  Anyway, I bought the plant–it has been blooming like crazy all summer.  New blooms open each day.  It’s like magic.  And I put the pot on our front porch so we can smell them as we enter the house.  Girlfriend and I sit out on the porch in the later afternoons and evenings and read, and we can’t get enough of the scent.  It’s perfect.

I made a promise to myself this summer that I would spend at least a little time each day out in our garden.  The past few years I have been busy with book stuff and I kind of ignored the garden.  This has been mostly OK for the several fruit trees and berry bushes that do their thing without much input from me.  In fact, our dwarf apple trees are covered with apples.  They are only about 3 feet tall (they are truly dwarf trees), but they are so covered with apples that they are bent over to the ground.  And my pear tree, which has four different types of pears finally produced a pear.  Just one, but it’s a start.  And the golden and red raspberries are going crazy–they are just about the easiest plants to grow here.  My blueberry bushes produced quite well but, as usual, the wild birds got all of the berries.  I need to covered them with netting or something.  I am reluctant to do this because the one year I did covered them, a baby bird got stuck in the netting and it took forever to get him out.  It was quite traumatic for me and for the bird.  Ack.  And the fig tree is covered with baby figs–maybe we will be able to get some before the squirrels help themselves.

But, I used to keep a vegetable garden each year.  dAhub helped me plan it years and years ago.  It is in a separate section of our garden and is surrounded by a chicken wire fence that I train vines on.  We put in a picket fence gate with an arbor over it.  It’s quite charming. For the first few years, I concentrated on it and veggies grew really well.   But, apparently word got out in the animal and bug world that yummy things were in there, so it turned into be a private restaurant for the squirrels and the slugs. It got to the point where the squirrels took a bite out of every zucchini and pumpkin I grew.  Something else ate all of the onions under the ground.  And, I got demoralized by the endless fights with the slugs–who mow down the baby carrot tops and the lettuces.  I used copper tape to deter the slugs, but then I lost all the tape (I’m kind of a space cadet when it comes to where I put things for storage).  So, I kind of let everything go and instead we grew seeds for plants that were good for the chickens–dAhub got into that for awhile.  That worked well for a few years.  The veggie garden area kind of went to seed (literally) and just stayed mostly bare with various weeds and volunteer raspberry plants for a few years.

This year, though, I decided to try again.  I have been experimenting with growing our veggies in big pots to raise them up and out of the way of the slugs and the under-the-ground bugs (or rats or gophers or whatever eats stuff under there) and also maybe make them a bit less enticing for the squirrels.  Since I have been home this summer and have the time to water and keep an eye on things, this has worked well.  We have several pots of cucumber plants that I am training up an older metal arbor that wasn’t being used.  And I have a couple of zucchini plants growing up a stepladder I set up in a big pot.  I am also growing multi-colored carrots in another big pot.  Everything seems to be doing well and I’ve even made pickles out of some of our cucumbers!

As you know, we have a park at the end of our little block.  And for the past few years, the neighborhood farmer’s market has been held there.  It’s one of the highlights of my week, especially since I don’t really grow enough to sustain us over the entire summer.  It’s held on Wednesdays and I make sure to clear time in the calendar to go over there each week.  There’s always music being played by someone, which creates a festive atmosphere.  Last week, someone was playing a saw(!)  There are folks selling all sorts of things from edibles to things like soaps and jewelry.  Of course, there are veggies and fruits in season. I have my usual round of farmers that I go to each week.  There is a flower person that I buy a bouquet from each week.  There is a grass fed beef guy that I buy our once-a-week beef from (I started to eat beef again after 30 years because my iron continues to be so low).  There’s also an egg person (who also has duck eggs!) and a farm that carries dried beans in addition to fresh produce  They are so fresh that you don’t even have to soak them before you cook them.  I stock up on dried beans for the year.

One of my very favorite booths is the berry booth.  They have a succession of berries in season.  In the beginning of the summer they had strawberries.  And then blueberries and raspberries.  And now blueberries and blackberries.  I buy a half flat of mixed berries from them each week.  This gives us enough to get our fill of fresh berries, as well as some for me to bake with and some to can and freeze.  I also go over to the stone fruit guy and get peaches, apricots, and cherries to eat, can, and freeze.  I love that the same people come each week and we can chat and catch up on the week’s activities.  It’s so convivial and it is just perfect.

I’ve been getting blueberries for the past few weeks.  It’s really hard to choose, but I think blueberries are my favorite berries.  I’m not saying that I don’t like the other berries, but my heart skips a beat every time I have access to really good fresh berries.  As you know, I have something called Oral Allergy Syndrome (OAS) that makes it difficult to eat raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  I have found that my ability to eat raw blueberries has dwindled to being able to each just a few at a time.  But thank goodness I can bake with them!  I also freeze and can them to save them for the times of the year they’re not fresh.

So, today’s recipe is a blueberry crumb bar recipe that is so easy and so good.  It’s a adaptable bar and we’ve been munching on it as a snack in the afternoons, as a dessert after dinner, and as a go-to treat when we traipse over to the nearby lake to swim.  It’s a winner!  I adapted it from a recipe I found on the fabulous Smitten Kitchen website.  And she apparently adapted it from a recipe she found on the AllRecipes site.  And who knows where that person got it.  It doesn’t matter–it’s a great recipe and Girlfriend says it’s now one of her favorites.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe’ve had a lovely summer in Seattle so far.  For the most part, it has been sunny and warm almost every day.  And even if the day starts out overcast, it ends with sun.  This is a miracle—usually we don’t get any sunny or warm days until after July 4th (it’s a joke around here that our summer doesn’t start until July 5th). But this year has been different.

Girlfriend and I have been taking full advantage of the weather.  We have been going to one of our local lakes (we live near 3!) each week. The closest lake to us has a diving platform with 2 diving boards—a high dive and a low dive. When Girlfriend was younger, she would spend hours at the high dive, jumping off, swimming to the platform, and waiting in line to jump off again. We haven’t been to the lake for swimming for a couple of years (although I do walk around it during the winter for exercise), but this year we’ve been going regularly. This summer, since Girlfriend has been taking gymnastics during the school year, she has been doing “front tucks” off of the high dive. A front tuck is a somersault/flip in the air. It’s something that I’ve only seen done on sports shows or by crazy teen age boys. And now Girlfriend is one of those crazy teens. She’s amazing. It’s stunning to watch her use a skill she learned in one context and transfer it to another context.

While she does her flips off of the diving board, I set myself up on the tiny beach with all of the other parents.  We always travel with folding chairs during the summer, so, I sit in my folding chair, in the dappled shade of one of the many trees that line the lake, and read and knit. I look up every so often to make sure Girlfriend is still happily doing her thing. The beach has 4 or 5 lifeguards (the Parks and Rec department makes as sure as possible that the swimmers are as safe as possible), so she is well looked after.  It’s a very nice way to spend a summer afternoon.

I’ve read several books this summer that I’ve really enjoyed. One of my favorites has been The Golem and the Jinni, by Helen Wecker. Ever since I was a kid, I’ve been a fan of golem stories. I’m not entirely sure why. I think part of the appeal is that golems, being part of the Jewish mystic tradition, are created through a combination of magic and spirituality. In The Golem and the Jinni, a female golem, Chava, arrives in 1899 New York City from Poland with no idea where she is or what she is supposed to do. At the same time, a Syrian Jinni is released from a thousand year imprisonment in an old copper flask. They eventually meet and become unlikely friends as life goes on around them. It is a smart, fascinating, fun, and very well-written book.  I wanted it to last longer than it did.

Another book I really enjoyed was The Beautiful Ruins, by Jess Walter.  This book is amazing. It starts in 1960s, in a tiny port town in Italy. The town is so rocky that it is only accessible by boat. To this town arrives a mysterious American woman who is said to be dying. From here, we are on a ride that takes us back and forth between 1960s Italy, the set of the movie Cleopatra, and then to present day Hollywood, Seattle, and Idaho. All of the characters are slowly woven together in a brilliant story that, again, made me want it to go on longer.

In between lake visits and other activities, I’ve also been baking. One of my favorite things to do is to bake with fresh berries in season. We’ve had a lovely strawberry season here, which is just ending. I’ve been trying to get strawberries each time I go to the farmer’s market next door. I get enough for Girlfriend and dAhub to eat fresh, as well as some for me to bake with. I know I already have a Strawberry Cake up on the site, but I thought I’d share another one to give you options. This is a cake that I’ve adapted from the Martha Stewart website. It is simple and delicious—perfect for summer baking. One thing that is a little odd is that it is baked in a 10 inch pie pan. I happen to have a 10 inch pie pan, so this isn’t a problem for me. If you only have a 9 inch pie pan, I would recommend increasing the baking time by 5-10 minutes (because the cake will be more dense).

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI’m guessing it’s probably clear by now that I have a fondness for heirloom recipes.  There is nothing I like better than to comb through old cookbooks, pamphlets, and fundraiser cookbooks.  I don’t have than many heirloom recipes from my own family—unfortunately those were thrown out as each generation passed.  But I love reading other people’s family recipes and hearing about their history.   One of the many reasons I enjoyed writing my book is that I had free rein to delve into the provenance of each recipe and find out why it became beloved and designated as special for the holiday season.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my readers, Linda H. wrote and asked if would take a look at a German coffee cake recipe from her grandmother-in-law, Grandma Hartlaub, and give some thoughts on how to convert it to gluten-free.  Linda’s father-in-law, the son of Grandma Hartlaub, is celebrating his 100th birthday this summer (wowee!) and she wants to make it for the celebration.  How could I say no?

I did a little research and, as it turns out, the recipe is a version of a German cake called a “kuchen” which is usually used to designate a yeasted cake.  Indeed, the word kuchen is German for “cake.”  Further, it is a “streuselkuchen” which means a streusel-topped cake.  As you may know, the word streusel is the German word for “something scattered or sprinkled” and it is the term we use for the butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon mix that is often used as a topping or a filling in cakes like this.   I’ve been wanting to develop a kuchen recipe for years and this gave me the perfect opportunity to do so.   The original recipe made three or four cakes, which makes sense since the Grandma Hartlaub had 10 kids (and was the middle child of a family that had 10 kids!).  Since I have a small family, I reduced it to one cake.  Linda also shared with me that Grandma Hartlaub’s husband, Sylvester, made large quantities of donuts.  Since it was the Depression, the kids often sold them in the neighborhood to supplement the family’s income.  With all of this baking, this sounds like a family I would feel right at home in!

Knowing this history explains, at least in part, why many older baking recipes make a lot of whatever the recipe is for.  I’ve always wondered about this.  It makes sense given that families used to have many more children than they do today.   It wouldn’t do, in a big family, to have recipe that only made a small amount, given that there were many mouths to feed.

I understand why this cake is an heirloom in the Hartlaub family.  It is really good!  I’ve now made it several times for my family and it’s turned into a family favorite.  I think it will be on regular rotation for us.   It’s simple and easy to make (don’t let the fact that it is yeasted deter you), and goes well with my morning tea or as an afternoon snack.

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Welcome to Topsy Turvy House.  Wow.  Our lives are kind of  a mess right now.  I think that’s the theme of things for us these days.  Right before dAhub got laid off a few weeks ago, we had agreed to do a major house reorganization.  We live in a charming 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom bungalow.  Our house is tiny, but we love it.  It was a nice-sized back yard in which we’ve created a little oasis of nature.  And we live a few steps away from a city park in one direction and a block away from the neighborhood business area in the other direction.  And we have amazing neighbors. It is our perfect little slice of heaven.

That’s not to say that we don’t have space issues. I will admit that I would love an extra bathroom. Now that Girlfriend is a teen, she spends a lot of time in the bathroom brushing her hair and experimenting with lip gloss (Or whatever. I’m not really sure what she’s doing in there other than she takes epic showers that seem to take hours).  And it would be nice to be able to get in there every so often so I can brush my own hair and fix my own lip gloss.  Thank goodness, we do have a refinished attic space that runs the length of the house.  Over the years, we’ve crammed a lot of use into that attic space.  dAhub and I have had our office spaces up in this attic.  The attic is also the guest area.  And a storage area.  And it has TV area.  Our TV doesn’t work anymore (ever since they switched over to the new TV system) and we don’t watch TV anyway, so the TV area is kind of just collecting dust.  Whenever we have family movie night, we just watch it on one of our laptops in the living room.

This past winter I finally realized that having my office upstairs wasn’t all that useful to me because I need to be close to the kitchen.  So, I’ve been doing all of my work on my laptop at the dining table.  Which isn’t all that great, because then I have papers all over the dining table that we have to shove over in order to eat.  Which is ridiculous.  So, for Mother’s Day, I asked dAhub if he would be open to moving our bedroom area up into the attic area and moving the office stuff down into our old bedroom space as my Mother’s Day present.  He said yes.  So, we got all ready to do this and then he got laid off.  We went ahead and moved our bed up into the office area and moved our desks into the old bedroom downstairs.  It’s a tiny room, so we’re kind of crammed in there.  Also, our closet is still there (there is no closet upstairs).  And our bureau is supposed to go upstairs, but it’s currently still in the new office area.

Basically, this is all to say that I’m feeling kind of discombobulated these days.  In addition to dAhub being out of work, we’re not really settled upstairs or downstairs.  And if anyone wants to come visit, we have no guest area at the moment.   And half of my baking books are still upstairs and half are now downstairs.  When I feel out of sorts, I go into the kitchen and start experimenting.

This week I’ve been experimenting with sourdough pancakes and waffles.  I’ve had requests for them from my readers and finally got some time to figure out a recipe.  Oddly, I didn’t grow up with sourdough pancakes and waffles even though I did grow up with awesome San Francisco sourdough bread.  For this recipe, I did some research to see what kinds of things sourdough pancakes and waffles contained and the recipe below is a mixture of all the recipes I researched.  I came up with a basic formula that I’ve been tweaking.  The recipe uses my Gluten-Free Sourdough Starter, which has to be created at least a week before it’s used (you can’t make this recipe without the starter).  Also, I found that it’s best to start the sponge the night before so it has time to ferment overnight and develop more flavor.  If you are strapped for time, I have started the sponge 2-4 hours before I made the pancakes/waffles, and that worked OK, too.  Once the batter is mixed, the cooking of the pancakes and waffles are the same as you would use for any other pancake or waffle recipe.

This recipe creates fluffy pancakes and waffles with a sophisticated sourdough taste.  They are excellent with butter and good pure maple syrup.  I’m going to be honest: Girlfriend isn’t that keen on them.  But dAhub and I love them.  There is a depth of flavor to them that you don’t get with regular pancakes and waffles.  I have found that I like them with a little sugar in the batter, while dAhub likes them without sugar–so I’ve made the sugar in the recipe “optional.”  Since this recipe makes a lot, I cool the extras and froze them in Ziploc bags.  I then pop them into the toaster oven to defrost and heat up for breakfast on mornings that I don’t have time to make things from scratch.

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGreetings from House of Sick People! Or maybe the more accurate title should be, House of Exhausted People. dAhub has a respiratory infection and Girlfriend has a fever and is exhausted. We got back late last night from Girlfriend’s final school orchestra performance (she plays violin) and had dinner and didn’t even hit the beds until about 11:00—which is much too late for a family that needs to get up at 6 am. When I came downstairs to wake up Girlfriend she turned over and said, “I’m tired and I have a stomach ache.” I told her to stay in bed and sleep. A day off is what we all need. DAhub, ironically, had to get up early to go to the doc for his infection. It’s been one of those days where I just said, “Enough.” We all need a break.

I don’t know about anyone else, but by this time of the year, I’m wiped out. We are in the big end of year frenzy for Girlfriend’s school, so there are concerts and performances and projects and presentations and emails and surveys and library books to find and, and, and. We can’t wait for summer break and for the relaxation of our schedule. I only have one kid, so I don’t know how people with more than one kid do it.  I can barely keep up with everything my one daughter needs to do and bring and be aware of each day.  I always think that All the Things should happen in February. We’re not doing anything in February except being cold and dreaming of sunny and warm days. I say, do the performances and concerts then.

Today’s coffee cake is a Cardamom Coffee Cake. I made it (after baking cookies for the concert bake sale), thinking I would bring it to the parent coffee hour for Girlfriend’s school. I used to make one every Friday for the coffee hour at Girlfriend’s elementary school, but I’ve been so busy with book stuff that I haven’t gotten it together to do it for her middle school. Then everyone woke up sick and tired this morning, so I decided that I’m going to serve it for our brunch with pals on Sunday (hopefully a rest will help us get well before then).

This coffee cake is one of my favorites. It is decadent and rich and dense and moist. It’s full of fat and sugar. It contains a pound of butter and a pound of sour cream  And four eggs. Oh yes it does. This is why I consider it to be a special occasion coffee cake. I only make it a couple of times a year, but when I make it—wowee! I forget how well the cardamom flavor goes with the brown sugar. The recipe is adapted from the Moosewood Cookbook, by Mollie Katzen, which is still one of my favorite cookbooks. That and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest are two of my “deserted island” cookbooks—i.e., books I would take with me if I was to be stranded on a deserted island that somehow had an oven for me to bake in.

I think the Moosewood was the second cookbook I got when I went to college, right after my mom gave me a copy of the Joy of Cooking. And it has served me very well over the years. I use it almost every week.  I really think it needs to be on everyone’s bookshelf.  Each recipe works well and is delicious.  It has a series of soup recipes that are our favorites. One thing I’ve been trying to do this spring is invite friends over for lunch one day a week. I make a pot of soup and a couple of baguettes. We sit and chat over soup (and often over a glass of wine) and catch up. I’ve been so immersed in my own little world lately that I forget to connect with my pals. This lunch ritual has been wonderful and the soups have all been from the Moosewood. If you have the book, the Gypsy Soup and the Spicy Tomato Soup are in regular rotation over here. If you don’t have the book—get it! You won’t be sorry.

Anyway, the coffee cake. It also has a couple of veins of nut streusel woven through it, so at first glance it seems like your ordinary run-of-the-mill coffee cake. But one bite will let you know that it’s beyond everyday. It’s really good. It’s out of this world good. Be aware that when you bake it, it will probably rise up out of the pan by a quarter of an inch or so. Don’t panic–that OK because the cake is dense enough that it holds its shape. Also, if you don’t want to use the nuts in the streusel filling—that’s OK, too—just leave them out. The nuts are good, but they aren’t required. I use pecans, but walnuts would be excellent, as well.

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