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Cooking Life Recipe

Julie and Julia, and potato leek soup

November 18, 2015

I’m several years late to this party, but I just picked up a copy of Julie and Julia by Julie Powell at a used bookstore upstate a few weeks ago. I’ve seen snippets of the movie, enough to know it looked amusing, but not enough to actually have any grasp on the story.

I’ve been reading at night after Little Miss falls asleep but before I’m relaxed enough for sleep to become a possibility, propped up in bed with my little green booklight clipped awkwardly onto the back of my paperback. I’m 116 pages in and hooked. The book is well written, witty and amusing  with lots of “hey, other people think crazy things like that?” moments for me. Having grown up in Brooklyn and Long Island, the setting is familiar and I can appreciate some of the nuances that come with knowing the location and population the narrator describes.

The story, of course, follows Julie Powell’s adventure of preparing all 524 recipes in Julia Child’s classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking and blogging about it, while also detailing Julia Child’s own entry into the world of cooking. Julie describes many of the recipes she cooks, which led me to comment to my mother, “French cooking is gross.”

Now of course, I know French cooking isn’t gross. French cooking is precise, an art and a science that takes skill and effort. If nothing else, my husband watches Food Network and I unfortunately, wind up watching a lot of Chopped. Plus I saw Ratatouille, and that rat had some fantastic ideas. So I know that French cooking isn’t all gross.

But the recipes in the book are not doing it for me. The mere thought of making a sauce from beef marrow makes my stomach turn and my head swim like I’m in the midst of a terrible sinus infection. The notion of poaching eggs in red wine seems like a tragic waste of wine. Even the artichoke recipes aren’t appealing to me, and I love artichokes in all of their weird, spiny, we-make-everything-else-taste-funny glory.

There was one recipe however, that stuck with me. The very first that Julie tried, the potage parmentier, potato leek soup. When I read about it, I had no idea how offensive I would find the upcoming recipes, but I thought “this one, I need to remember.” So I dog eared the bottom corner of the page, and when I ran into the grocery store a few days later, grabbed a 5 pound bag of potatoes and a single giant leek.

The recipe, as described in the book, is ultimately simple. Wash and dice the potatoes and leeks (wash those leeks well, they tend to be sandy), then let them boil for about an hour with water, salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher, drop in a pat of butter and you’re good to go. What could be easier?

I admit, I made my soup slightly differently. I have no doubt that Julia Child knows what she’s talking about, but I learned to cook watching not a French chef but an Italian mother, so I departed from the official method a bit. About 5 potatoes and my giant leek were washed and chopped, and went into the pot with a little olive oil. I sauteed them for a few minutes just to soften them up, then added a full tea kettle of boiling water, plus a little extra. I sprinkled in some cracked black pepper and pink sea salt, put the lid on and let it boil away – I purposely left the heat a little high as I had started cooking later than was ideal.

Once everything was cooked and soft, I fished out some cooked potatoes and leeks for my toddler, then went after the pot with my silicone meat masher (cleaned very very well because I’m neurotic about meat contamination), as my potato masher had gone missing. Sure, you could use an immersion blender but then you’d lose the chunky texture that the masher allows. No matter how amazing the flavor of blended soups are, I find them utterly dull and monotonous, so I can really appreciate the thick broth and delightful chunks that result from this method.

A taste revealed a pleasant, but very simple soup. I added a sprinkle more salt and pepper, a shake of garlic powder and a pinch of dried chives, dill, basil, tarragon, chervil and white pepper (the aptly named Parisien Bonnes Herbes mix from Penzey’s, a recent favorite). Then, a generous scoop of Earth Balance non-dairy spread, as a pat of butter would spell certain death for my husband (or at least an unpleasant evening).

The soup was simple to make, so simple. The flavor was good – not overpowering, but very pleasant. The texture was a nice mix between a chunky and creamy soup, and the non-dairy butter spread gave it a lovely richness. Little Miss enjoyed her chunks of potato and leeks, and my husband was moderately impressed. I should note that this is a man who does not consider soup a meal, only an appetizer or side dish. I can make the heartiest soup ever to be created, and I’ll be rewarded by an unenthusiastic snort and perhaps a grudging compliment. So his saying it was good is worth something, but don’t forget, “soup is not a meal”.

So fine, next time I’ll make the potato leek soup with a grilled meat and a loaf of bread. After a full day including a group playdate, cleaning up from said playdate and taking a weighty business call, with a toddler who only slept 20 minutes total, I’d say I did alright. Regardless, there will be a next time. This soup was so lovely and easy to make, and honestly, I think the leftover may have benefited from sitting together overnight, as I think it was even better today!

I’ll continue reading Julie and Julia, with high hopes of finding more recipe inspiration. And if I do? I’ll let you know.

Baking Recipe

Autumn quick bread – er, cake

November 14, 2015

My family has issues.

Gluten free spiced apple quick bread. Old Fashioned Modern Living.No, I mean, food issues. With one person non-dairy, another gluten free, and a third low sugar, I joke around that my baking consists of oil and sand. I’ve largely gotten used to substituting coconut oil and cashew milk for butter and milk, and using different flours to make my recipes gluten free. The low sugar thing has thrown me for a loop though. Some ingredients just need sugar. Have you ever had something with unsweetened cocoa powder and very little sweetness? It’s not much of a dessert.

I’ve found that by lowering the actual sugar content and utilizing maple syrup and sweet mix ins like dried fruit, I can bring the sugar down a little without the flavor suffering. And if I can’t dramatically bring down the sugar level, I bump up the protein so it metabolizes better.

Earlier this week myself, the man and Little Miss went to visit my parents and my grandfather, and I wanted to bring a little something along for dessert. I grabbed a couple of prickly pears and persimmons at the supermarket, knowing they’re both favorites, and then set out to find a recipe that was fast and simple, wouldn’t require dirtying the whole kitchen, didn’t require gluten or dairy, and wasn’t super sweet.

Did I forget to mention that grandpa can’t have coconut? I’m always at a loss when I can’t use coconut oil. So I weighed my alternatives. Applesauce would have worked, had I remembered to buy it. But hey, I did still have some apples from when we went picking! I settled on a basic quick bread recipe, with modifications to make it gluten free, dairy free, and a little lower in sugar and higher in protein.

It should be noted that the name “quick bread” is a bit misleading. It doesn’t bake that fast, and it’s more of a cake than a bread – think about the consistency of zucchini or banana bread and you’ve just about got it. It’s not light and fluffy and crusty, it’s moist, dense and cakey.

This cake is sweet, but not too sweet, with a nice little kick from chocolate chips and cranberries with lovely, moist apple chunks – this is a liquidy batter by the way, so don’t be surprised if your heavier dried fruits sink to the bottom and your lighter chocolate chips stay up top! The apple and spices are warm and homey, and the cranberries are tart, giving it a nice contrast. I’m a big fan of apples all year round, but especially in the fall when everything is PUMPKIN PUMPKIN PUMPKIN, I think it’s nice to let apples shine.

If you’re not a fanatic about Penzey’s Spices like I am, and don’t happen to have Cake Spice on hand, just add a little more cinnamon and if you have, a dash of nutmeg, clove, anise, allspice and ginger.

Yes, it’s gluten free, it’s dairy free, it’s coconut free, and it has a little extra protein to balance things out. I think a little less sugar and it could make a very decent morning treat as well as a dessert.

One last note before the recipe. You can buy oat flour, or you can make it. My husband’s Ninja blender came with individual serving smoothie cups which are perfect for quickly grinding some organic rolled oats into flour. Other blenders or food processors should do the trick as well.

Gluten free spiced apple quick bread. Old Fashioned Modern Living.Spiced Autumn Quick Bread

  • 1/2 cup gluten free flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour (or ground rolled oats)
  • 1/2 cup almond meal
  • 1 tbsp ground flax/chia seed mix (optional)
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp Cake Spice
  • 1 apple, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup cashew milk (or your preferred milk substitute)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil (I like grapeseed or sunflower)
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4-1/2 cup dried cranberries
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F, and lightly oil a loaf pan (I like to line mine with parchment paper for easy removal).
  2. In a large bowl, stir together the gluten free flour, oat flour and almond meal, then mix in the baking powder, cinnamon, Cake Spice, brown sugar and chopped apple.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix together the eggs, oil, vanilla, cashew milk and maple syrup, then pour over the dry ingredients and mix until combined. Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries.
  4. Pour into the prepared pan and bake for about 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean from the middle.

Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Homemade Applesauce

October 29, 2015

apple-featureWhat I have noticed about canning fruits and veggies in large batches is that it sounds like a wonderful idea, until you are tired and overwhelmed and your kitchen is a sticky mess! Then, finally, when you see your mason jars filled to the brim, sealed, and lined up nicely on your shelves, you think, “That wasn’t so bad!” It is a pretty predictable cycle in our household. Last year, we made about a 1/2 bushel of apples into applesauce, and by Christmas, it was nearly gone! I was really excited to see my siblings enjoying it on Thanksgiving! We decided to double our batch this year- well almost. By the time we got around to canning, a few apples had made their way into our tummies and into an apple crumble. My husband was a life saver and pitched in to help. We split our batches into two days so as not to get too overwhelmed, and because we only have one large pot!

When it comes to making applesauce, you have several different options. You can make it on the stove, for a decidedly quick process, or you can put it in the crockpot and then move on with your day. When I taught preschool, my class loved making crockpot applesauce, and it made the classroom smell fantastic…which is not always the case in a preschool classroom during potty training time!  Once your apples are cooked, you can mash them with a potato masher, or you can let them cool a bit and then blend them for even smoother results. Once you’ve made applesauce once, you know how to do it and can make it according to your taste.

You can also use your applesauce within a few days, can the applesauce and seal the jars in a hot water bath, or you can freeze the applesauce in a small, airtight container.

I’m going to share how we made a smaller batch of our applesauce, because I realize not everyone has the time or inclination to can a bushel of applesauce! However, if you are feeling extra ambitious, you can use the ratio and increase the recipe.  Also feel free to season your applesauce according to your taste!

Applesauce (yields 1 and 1/2 pints)

You’ll need:

10 Apples, peeled and cut up

1/4 cup lemon juice

2 Tablespoons of sugar

2 Teaspoons of cinnamon

Add all of your ingredients to a pot and cook, covered, on medium heat for about 25 minutes or until the apples are soft. I think they may have been done sooner but I was too busy watching The Walking Dead to notice. If you saw Sunday night’s episode: How could they???

Once your apples are soft, mash them with a potato masher for a slightly chunky applesauce.




You’ll need:

A large pot

Canning jar lifter

If you are interested in making a larger batch and canning- we basically tripled our recipe, which yielded about 5 pints. Its a little frustrating how much apples cook down! While you are cooking the applesauce, heat enough water to cover the jars by one inch.

Add your apple sauce to the jars, and run a knife or chopstick along the inside of the jars to break up air bubbles. Make sure the rims are clean and carefully put on the tops (use an oven-mitt  because the applesauce is hot!) Once the water in your big pot is boiling, add your jars to the hot water bath. Leave them in there for 15 minutes. Using a canning jar lifter, remove the jars and let them cool.

I hope you make and enjoy some delicious applesauce this fall season!


Baking Life Recipe Uncategorized

Why I Write and a Pumpkin Muffin Recipe

October 22, 2015

Hello Friends. Kristen here. I haven’t been feeling good recently, so I have not done any baking or crafting. In fact, I have two big bags of apples sitting in the kitchen, calling my name that need to be turned into applesauce like, yesterday. So that will be my big project tomorrow- hopefully made easier by the cool apple peeler/corer/slicer I got from Pampered Chef! I am completely at ease with the idea that my house will smell like cooking apples and cinnamon tomorrow.

As my daily life has not been terribly interesting lately, I’ve kind of been at a loss as to what to post. Ilana pointed out that October 20th was Why I Write day. Although I am a few days late to the party, I thought I’d share what writing has meant to me throughout my life.

My first memory of me writing is not really me writing at all. I am really little, maybe 3 or 4, sitting at my parent’s wooden kitchen table, trying to make a dog book out of construction paper. I think I was trying to copy pictures from a book about Jack Russells and I remember feeling a little disappointed that my scribbles did not look anything like the pictures inside the book. My parents kindly stapled all of my construction paper together. I think it was blue.

My next memory of writing is sitting at my parents’ first Mac computer with my dad. It was a little gray box with a tiny rainbow apple on it. Does anyone remember those? We had that computer for a long time. My dad was helping me write a story and I was thrilled to hear the computer read my story back to me.

I think as a child, I loved making books and trying to write stories because I loved hearing stories so much. Every night before bed, I’d be tucked in with stuffed animals and a yellow lab draped across the foot of my bed and my parents would tell me long stories. There were a few recurring characters, but they always featured me and some friends going on adventures.

My parents took me to the library a lot when I was little. I would be allowed to check out a bunch of picture books that they would read to me over and over throughout the week. My favorite was Maggie’s Moon, by Martha Alexander. Sadly, her books are out of print right now, but you may get lucky and find them at the Library or on Amazon. I think many of us would agree that there is almost nothing more enchanting than a really well written children’s book with beautiful pictures. I am growing my little collection nicely.

Although I struggled to read as a kindergartener and first grader, my parents were always there to help me, and to make sure I had independent reading time each day. It was not a big formal thing, it was just part of our routine. Thankfully, due to my parents’ dedication, I did not struggle for long. I grew to love reading more than doing almost anything else. Jo March, Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennett, Betsy Ray, and Anne Shirley- these characters all became good friends of mine. Interestingly enough, many of them liked to write as well. Writing was always just something I did as an extension of a love of reading. My parents have done a lot of stapling of construction paper, and computer paper over the years.

In elementary school, I used to love to journal. That started in a little marble notebook in school. The teacher posted a silly or thoughtful writing prompt on the board, and invited the class to respond. These assignments were the perfect experience for capturing the imagination of creative young minds, although now that I’ve taught, I know that these were also a lot of fun for the teachers to read. I recently read my little brother’s fourth grade journal. It involved defeating Freddy Krueger with his own sharp nail, and it is the best.  Teachers, please never get rid of journaling. Sometimes, we’d share our journals with the rest of the class. I love how unselfconscious we all were with sharing. I used to be nervous about speaking in class, but never nervous about the sharing my journal part. I sometimes wish we could all share our creativity just as boldly as adults.

I also journaled at home. I think I have one  of them up in my attic, as well as a two notebooks filled with poems. I remember writing about daily life, as well as my  inner life and worries.  I wish I kept all of my journals. I think I felt embarrassed by them once I was a little older. If I could go back I’d say, “Young Kristen, keep your journals. The only thing you should be embarrassed about is your AOL away message right now.”

So as I grew up, writing was always just something I did. What I wrote changed as I got older. Less stories and more essays for school and love letters to my now husband. Every now and then, I’d write a story or part of a short story. My husband sometimes finds little descriptions or story parts written on scraps  around the house now.  I also write down some of my prayers and letters I may not send. They are not for anybody, just me.  It’s all very fragmented. It is hard to finish a story, isn’t it? I think I am still figuring out what to say. If you put all of those fragmented bits together though, I think you’ll find they make up a girl who loves to read, and can’t help but write.

I will leave you with a muffin recipe. This fantastic recipe is from Table for Two and is a fall tradition for me. I just changed the recipe to make the muffins nondairy and I add as many chocolate chips as I want!  I’ll be making these once I feel completely better.

Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk Muffins

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour

1 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp. pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs

1 cup pumpkin puree

1/2 cup of soft (not liquid) coconut oil

Chocolate Chips- the recipe calls for 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, rough chopped. I use chocolate chips and add them until the batter looks chocolatey enough.

Mix the dry ingredients together in one bowl, and the wet in another bowl. Combine the two, and bake your batter at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.






Baking Recipe

Warm fall cookies, and they’re vegan too!

October 1, 2015
Vegan cherry, chocolate, oatmeal cookie recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Happy October!

I love fall. I’m an October baby, so I guess it’s sort of my birthright. My favorite is when the temperature is hovering in the 60s; jeans and t-shirt weather. No bulky jackets, just a light sweatshirt if it gets chilly. Perfect. Then there’s the leaves changing color, the apple and pumpkin picking, apple cider…and my Uggs. Sorry, don’t care if you think they’re ugly, they’re comfortable.

And just for the record, I think Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes are kind of gross. Whoooops.

Anyway, it’s been a dismal, rainy week. Goody goody gumdrops, there’s a hurricane heading up the east coast sending plenty of raindrops ahead, scouting the area out before its arrival. Little Miss and I have run a few errands, but overall we’ve been hunkered down in the house. We’ve done some housework, some playing and practice walking up and down the hallway, and my favorite when it’s getting chilly, some baking!

Now I’m not actually vegan, but these cookies are. Because my husband can’t handle dairy, we always have cashew milk in the house instead and I happened to run out of eggs (Little Miss has taken to having a scrambled egg with parmesan each morning), so straight vegan seemed like the way to go. I started out with The BEST Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies from Daily Rebecca and made some tweaks. Tweaking “the best”?! Crazy, I know, but stay with me. I actually made them once following the original recipe and they were good, but the general consensus around here was that they just needed…something more. So in the second batch I made some additions and changed a few quantities and the final product was good. Like, really good. They came out of the oven soft and stayed soft. 2 days in zip lock bags and they were still soft and lovely.

Ready for the recipe? Make sure to buy vegan chocolate chips for these cookies to be truly vegan. No eggs. No dairy. You can substitute the cashew milk for another similar substance, I just tend to have cashew milk in the house.

I used my KitchenAid to mix, but you can easily do this by hand. And hey look, this recipe stars coconut oil! Remember that coconut oil is solid when it’s cooler, but it’ll melt down as it warms up.

Vegan Cherry, Chocolate Chip, Oatmeal Cookies

Cook time: 14 minutes, makes 27 cookies

Vegan Cookie Recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup cashew milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup organic rolled oats
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup mini chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup dried cherries, roughly chopped


  1.  Pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees
  2. Cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar, then add the cashew milk and vanilla
  3. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and cinnamon
  4. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and mix well, then fold in your oatmeal, mini chocolate chips and roughly chopped dried cherries
  5. Use a tablespoon or approximate; scoop balls of dough and place them onto your parchment paper or silpat, flatten slightly
  6. Bake for about 14 minutes, checking periodically. When done there should be a slight browning around the edges and the tops should be set
  7. Let cool on the pan for up to 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling

And that’s it! Easy, vegan and super yummy. I think the cinnamon just gives it a subtle extra warmth which is really nice. Try mixing in cranberries instead of cherries for a more autumnal kick. Enjoy!

Edited to add: I made these cookies again with expeller pressed coconut oil rather than cold press because it was what was in the house I was at. The cookies still came super yummy, but much flatter and crispier. Be prepared for variations based on your ingredients!

Cooking Life Recipe

Adventures in Canning: Salsa, Roasted Peppers, and Hot Sauce

September 24, 2015

I hope everyone had a fabulous weekend! I spent mine on my parents’ couch watching the new Cinderella and Malificent, and snuggling my sister’s  birthday puppy. My brothers also brought me a Seven Layer Burrito and my sister gave me a manicure. Yes, I know that it wasn’t my birthday, but I was super pampered and loved on. It was just what my burned out little heart needed. I’m home now, and I already miss everyone. I’m counting down the days until my next visit!
Back to the grind, which means not letting the remainder of our tomatoes and peppers go bad. Every time canning season rolls around in our household, I look forward to gazing proudly upon my fully stocked pantry. I imagine it to be a sight that Ma from Little House on the Prairie would be proud to behold. Before that satisfaction however, comes hard work and a kitchen that looks like crime scene out of Dexter, only with tomatoes. It is fun trying to remove the hardened yellow tomato seeds that have attached themselves to all surrounding surfaces! However, my house smelled amazing during this entire process.

My husband brought home one bushel of tomatoes, and half bushels of sweet peppers and hot peppers from Barber’s Farm – for only $16! We spread out our canning extravaganza over the course of about a week and a half. We figured that this would break things up a bit and keep the experience relatively fun. I also recommend trying to clean as you go along, and that you take turns DJing on Spotify. Make room in your life, and your kitchen for an impromptu dance party. You won’t be sorry. Anyway, I have to say that we are totally those people who cook according to taste and say things like, “use a splash” of this or a “pinch” of that. Isn’t that obnoxious? I am afraid all I can provide for the salsa are vague descriptions. However, for your convenience, we remembered to write down an exact recipe for our hot sauce! Plus, the roasted red peppers are very nearly a recipe. So maybe that makes up for our negligence in other areas?


Last year, we merely diced up all of our ingredients and cooked them on the stove to create a chunky salsa. This year, we decided we wanted a tomato puree base to add diced veggies to. We found that the easiest way to do this was to reserve two quarts of unseasoned tomato puree from our batch of tomato sauce. We quartered our tomatoes and cooked them down on the stove until they were soft. Once they were soft, we strained the excess liquid. We wanted to remove the skins and seeds, so we used the food mill attachment on our kitchen aide stand mixture. We ran the tomatoes through the mill twice. We then chopped up enough onions, sweet peppers and hot peppers to fill up an aluminum tray. These ingredients were all mixed together and simmered on the stove for about an hour. We added a few generous glugs of lime juice, two minced bunches of cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. We decided to use a hot water bath to seal our jars, just because we have a pot big enough, and just to be safe. Salsa is cool because there really is no right way to make it. Adding fruit or eliminating the base would both be acceptable options. Make the salsa that you want to eat.


Roasted Peppers
We put our outdoor gas grill on high, and roasted 10 whole peppers, turning them over when one side looked blackened. Once the peppers were fully roasted and both sides were blackened,  we put the hot peppers into a big pot and replaced the lid. Once the peppers were cool enough to touch, the skins were steamed and easy to peel off. We also removed the stem and seeds. The peppers were all sliced into thin strips. While we sliced, we simmered a mixture of about half a cup of white vinegar, half a cup of apple cider vinegar, and a mixture of lemon and lime juice that equaled about a quarter cup. We minced a few cloves of garlic, and added in those as well. We filled a few jars almost to the top with roasted peppers, and poured in the liquid, leaving about a quarter of an inch of space at the top. We used a chopstick to remove air bubbles from the cans. Because we had a little too much space on top, we topped each off with a little olive oil.  These cans were sealed in a hot water bath.

Hot Sauce 

We used seven large tomatoes and twenty-five hot peppers for our hot sauce.


We sliced the tomatoes into about eight pieces each and removed the stems from the peppers. The peppers were cuts into three pieces each. If you need to adjust this recipe- when everything is cut up, there should be an equal pile of peppers and tomatoes. We placed the peppers and tomatoes  in a big pot and cooked them on medium heat for about fifteen minutes. That is when they began to look soft. Once they were soft, we turned down the heat and put the lid back on so that the mixture could stew for one hour.


Once the hour was up, the pot was removed from heat and allowed to cool a bit. Once the mixture was cool enough to be handled,  we strained only the very thin liquid from the top. We fed the tomatoes and peppers into the food mill twice to create a very thin sauce. Next, we simmered the sauce on the stove and added a quarter cup and two table spoons of white vinegar, two tablespoons of lime juice, and two teaspoons of salt. The sauce was simmered to bring everything back up to temperature, and then we used a funnel to pour our sauce into jars. We got a little over six half pint jars of sauce out of this recipe.

Once again- we used a hot water bath to seal the jars. Here’s how it’s done:

We made sure the rims of our jars were clean, and then placed the lids on them. We filled a large pot with enough boiling water so that the jars were covered by at least an inch of water, and let them boil covered for 20 minutes. The time that you keep jars in a hot water bath varies according to the size of your jars. If you are ever unsure about how long your jars need, refer to a canning book such as the Complete Book of Home Preservingor look it up online.

I hope that you were able to learn a little bit about the canning process and that you feel inspired to try it for yourself sometime! We are done canning for now…until it’s time to make applesauce!


Baking Recipe

The Famous Banana Bread

September 16, 2015
Gluten free dairy free banana bread recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living,

My husband likes to buy bananas for smoothies. Sometimes they get used for their intended purpose, but often they’re forgotten for days and rediscovered at peak ripeness, brown skinned and tip-toeing into overripe territory. To be honest, I think he does it on purpose. I think he calculates how many bananas he’ll use, and how many will slip his mind so that I have no choice but to make banana bread.

I used to joke around about my “famous banana bread” – sure, it’s a favorite around here, but there’s only two of us (okay, three, I do let the toddler have a bite). Then I made it for Little Miss’ first birthday party and it was a hit. An open house style party to accommodate a large number of people and their differing schedules, I set the desserts out on the kitchen table as decoration throughout the day. By the time dinner rolled around, the cupcakes were untouched, the cake was intact, the cookies were missing a few, and the banana bread was nearly gone. Gluten free, dairy free, and nearly gone already. The reviews were surprisingly enthusiastic, and I was asked by no fewer than 5 people to type up the recipe and email it to them. I’d say that’s pretty successful.

About a month later, I made the banana bread for company, a friend who had recently left his job as a barista at Starbucks and his girlfriend who still works there. My husband jokingly told them that this recipe was based on the Starbucks banana bread and asked them how it stacked up. “Better”, they agreed, “this is better than the Starbucks banana bread.”

I was so excited I could hardly contain myself. That’s pretty high praise!

So here are the details. The original recipe was from A Basic Foodie, a blog that no longer seems to exist – I’m glad I printed it when I did! It was titled “Starbucks Banana Walnut Bread”, and right off the bat I eliminated the walnuts because my husband is not a fan. Over time I started making small tweaks and adjusting the recipe to make it suit my needs.

I have made this recipe dairy free in two different ways with good results, as well and gluten free AND dairy free. Yes, you heard me right – gluten free banana bread that is dairy free also, and is still moist and rich and delicious, and doesn’t taste at all “off”. The texture created by the bananas and the mix of gluten free flour and almond meal saves it from feeling gummy or gritty.

It doesn’t take that long to prepare. It’s easy to make. It’s wonderful – my absolute go to dessert recipe. I even made french toast out of the leftover banana bread recently! Talk about decadent.

Without further ado, here is the recipe. See my notes for tweaks at the bottom.

Gluten free, dairy free banana bread recipe

Gluten free dairy free banana bread recipe. Old Fashioned Modern Living.

Just mix it up to make the streusel layer!


  • 3 ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 1/4 cup gluten free all purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup almond meal
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons cashew milk (or other non-dairy milk)

Streusel layer:

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees and grease one loaf pan.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, egg, vanilla, milk and bananas in a mixing bowl. Combine completely.
  3. Add in flour, baking soda and salt.
  4. Pour a thin layer into the pan, then mix together and sprinkle the streusel so you have a nice layer over the batter. Cover with the rest of the batter and bake for 60-75 minutes, checking at 60 minutes. The loaf will turn golden brown and a toothpick in the center will come out clean when it’s ready.

To make it “normal, with gluten”: instead of the gluten free flour and almond meal, use 2 cups of regular unbleached all purpose flour. If dairy isn’t an issue for you and your family either (lucky you!), feel free to use 2 teaspoons of regular milk or buttermilk.

To avoid nuts: I recently made the gluten version to bring to a meeting, but remembered that a friend was allergic to nuts – no cashew milk allowed! I substituted 1/4 cup of unsweetened applesauce for the cashew milk and found the batter slightly thicker than usual, but the bread still baked up as lovely as ever. I think it browned slightly less, but the taste and texture were still spot on.

What do you do when you need dairy free and nut free, and you’re out of applesauce? I just used water instead of milk/cashew milk, the 2 teaspoons the recipe called for, plus a little extra splash to thin out the batter a little. Guess what, it worked!


Look at that streusel layer!

So you can go gluten or gluten free, and non-dairy with a milk alternative or applesauce. You could add walnuts. Or go crazy and drop in a handful of chocolate chips. This recipe makes such a beautiful, popular banana bread, and it’s so versatile!

Now go bake! Hope you enjoy my very favorite, famous banana bread recipe.

Baking Cooking Recipe Uncategorized

Dairy Free Plum Skillet Cake

September 10, 2015

Somehow, a paper bag full of tiny red and purple plums lay forgotten in the back of the refrigerator. I bought them from a stand at the Schenectady Green Market last Sunday, and by some carelessness they did not end up with the nectarines and donut peaches in the wooden bowl that lives on the counter. Those were already gone and replaced with our most recent bounty. Only just resurfaced and a week old, I pondered what to do with these little beauties.

I suddenly remembered a cake that I made a couple of times last summer. Roasted plums, nestled into a buttermilk skillet cake sounded about the height of perfection just then, and it was only 9 am.
“Better make it soon,” my husband advised, “before it gets hot.” We were due for another 90 degree day.
I had no buttermilk in the house, nor did I have the inclination to run out to Price Chopper. I was also trying to reduce the amount of dairy in my diet, as too much sadly gives me a stomach ache. I decided to make this cake free of any dairy, for better or worse. I scoured the internet for advice, and discovered that lemon juice or vinegar can be added to dairy free milk, just as it can to cow’s milk, to make a suitable substitute. I made up my own ratio, and happily, my “buttermilk” added just the tang that the cake needed.

Before I share this cake recipe, I must give credit where credit is due. This cake would not be possible without the wonderful Joy the Baker’s original skillet cake recipe (Strawberry Buttermilk Cake), and Rebekka Seale’s (Camellia Fiber Company) directions for roasting the plums. She also came up up with the idea to put them into this cake! I have Rebekka’s recipe because I printed it out, but sadly can no longer find it on the internet.

Bourbon Roasted Plums
(adapted from Rebecca Seale’s recipe)
Cut 8 tiny plums in half, and remove the pits (I used all of the plums that I had on hand, but feel free to add more if you have them).
Toss plums in a quarter cup of sugar.
Add a splash of bourbon (my husband kindly let me have some of his Jim Beam), and a splash of lemon juice.
Once the plums seem coated, roast them in a small plan (lined with tinfoil for an easier cleanup) for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.

Dairy Free Skillet Cake
(Joy the Baker’s recipe, made dairy free)
2 1/2 cups of flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 eggs
1 teaspoon of almond extract
1 1/2 cups of almond milk
3 tablespoons of lemon juice
1/4 cup of liquidized coconut oil (plus more to grease the skillet)

Once your plums are out of the oven, put them aside to cool off. Grease your cast iron skillet with coconut oil. Now you can start to mix together the cake batter.
Mix together the flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the almond milk and lemon juice together- you’ve just made your own dairy free “buttermilk”! Add two eggs, the coconut oil and almond extract to your dairy free buttermilk.

Mix together the wet and dry ingredients, until there are no lumps. Pour the batter into your cast iron skillet. Now for the fun part. Carefully place your plums into the batter, so that they are fairly evenly spread throughout. Drizzle all of the juices from the plums over the cake batter. Bake the cake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees.

I am happy to report that this dairy free recipe is just as good as the original buttermilk cake! Eat it after dinner for dessert, and then maybe have some for breakfast tomorrow with a cup of coffee.

Cooking Recipe

Make Ahead Breakfast: Frittata

August 31, 2015
make ahead breakfast frittata recipe

We have an awesome Saturday breakfast routine at our house. There’s the leisurely brewing of coffee or espresso, which my sweet husband often brings to me in bed, and then we’ll make some sort of diner style breakfast together. Usually, there’s bacon or sausage involved, and of course, we make home fries. But alas, the weekend is fleeting, and soon the blaring of my alarm signals that another  week has begun.

Our Saturday morning routine stands in stark contrast to our weekday routine. I don’t know about you, but on a busy weekday morning, the last thing I feel like doing is getting out of bed early to make a rushed breakfast. However, I often end up waking up at 5:30 am with my husband to make him a quick fried egg on toast, so he doesn’t have to buy fast food on his way to work. As for me, I’ll skip breakfast altogether (unless there is left over thai take-out in the fridge – is that weird?) and gulp a giant cup of coffee. Later, I’ll absentmindedly wonder why I feel weird and have the shakes. It took me longer than it should have to figure out why, folks. Not the brightest when it comes to self care over here.

I came to realize that I am much more likely to eat breakfast on a week day when I have something prepared ahead of time. It’s definitely not something I do all the time, although there are some weeks that I am better at meal prep than others. Eating a breakfast that you prepared ahead is a more pleasant start to your morning, and a great way to reduce weekday morning stress.  One of our go-to make ahead breakfasts is a frittata. While a frittata is a lovely weekend or brunch meal, it’s also extremely convenient to cut a slice and pack it up to eat later. I usually cut a slice for my husband, maybe throw in a piece of fruit and some toast, and he has a nice breakfast to bring to work. Or, even better, I pack this the night before and I stay in bed until the dogs bark in my face and demand to go out.

Anyway, back to breakfast. Another great thing about a frittata is that it’s an excellent way to clean out  your fridge. You can chop up some extra sausage from last night’s dinner, or slice a zucchini that needs to be used before it goes bad. Nobody likes throwing away food, especially organic produce from the farmer’s market that you neglected to use last week! On this particular day, as I cleaned out my fridge, I found a lone potato, a partially sliced tomato, a small onion and a clove of garlic. I also had some small basil leaves from the drooping plant on my front stoop. It all went in to my frittata. Once you understand the basics of making a frittata, you won’t need a recipe. You can add whatever you want, and you won’t need to worry about breakfast for a few days!

What you’ll need:

  • A cast iron skillet (This is a must have for any kitchen. Ilana is thinking about writing an ode to or a love story about hers.)
  • Olive oil
  • 5 Eggs
  • One small onion
  • A small clove of garlic
  • Half a medium zucchini
  • One small potato
  • A quarter of a large tomato
  • A few leaves of fresh basil
  • Dried Seasonings, such as oregano and parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper

easy gluten free frittata recipe

Start by assembling your ingredients and chopping them up. A trick to making your potato cook faster is to slice it thin, put it in a microwave safe bowl, toss the slices in olive oil, cover the bowl with a paper towel, and microwave it for 3 minutes. You can test the potatoes with a fork after and microwave it a little bit longer if you need to.
Near the end of your chopping, heat your skillet on your stove top’s medium setting. Do not put anything in your skillet while it heats. This way, your eggs will not end up stuck to the skillet at the end. My mother-in-law taught me the hot pan, cool oil trick, and it works every time! Say it to yourself and remember it always. At this time, you’ll also want to put your oven on the broil setting.

Once your pan is heated, drizzle in some olive oil and add your onions and garlic. Once the onions seem to be getting soft, add your zucchini and microwaved potatoes. Add a few scattered pinches of oregano and parsley. My oregano has a convenient sprinkle top!




While your veggies are cooking, crack five eggs into a bowl and beat them together.
Make sure your veggies are spread evenly throughout your skillet, and then pour the egg mixture on top.
Sprinkle on the salt sparingly, and the pepper generously.
Once the eggs start to cook and pull away from the sides of the skillet, nestle in your thinly sliced tomatoes evenly throughout the pan, and cut a few leaves of basil into ribbons over the eggs and veggies.

Next, put your cast iron skillet in the oven for 3-5 minutes. You can check to see if the top looks slightly browned, and if the eggs look cooked.

Once your skillet is out of the oven and cools a little bit, you can either loosen the sides with a knife and invert your frittata onto a plate, or cut it into slices and package it up ahead of time. That is the exciting thing about hot pan, cool oil. Anything is possible.

Enjoy your yummy frittata and cleaned out fridge!


Baking Recipe

Easy Chocolate Chip Cookies

August 30, 2015
easy chocolate chip cookie recipe

This morning when I woke up early to let the dogs out, there was a slight chill in the air. The sky was not quite light as I stood on the deck shivering in my tank top and shorts. The end of summer always reminds me of the wheel from the story Tuck Everlasting. The author, Natalie Babbitt, compares the first week of August to the top of a ferris wheel that is poised to drop, but is stagnant for that one magical week. She states that all the weeks after are a “drop to the chill of Autumn.” The fall is when things seem to get moving again.

Although the true beginning of a new calendar year is in January, I tend to unofficially mark my years by autumns. Maybe it is the former student in me, or perhaps it is the fact that this is the first time in a few years that I am not shopping for classroom supplies and preparing for a new school year, but I am feeling that end of summer/ beginning of fall restlessness. What better way to counter this feeling and take advantage of the cooler weather than to bake? (Especially since I know that these cool days can immediately revert back to 90 degrees and humid for summer’s last hurrah that will leave me sweating in my Ugg boots).

Let’s talk cookies, more specifically chocolate chip cookies- the ultimate dear to my heart comfort food. I think they are the first thing I ever learned to bake, carefully poring over the back of the Tollhouse Nestle Semi-sweet Chocolate Chip bag like I was some sort of chemist. Over the years, my mother and I have used that recipe – only to achieve inconsistent results. Maybe we both have unsteady hands when it comes to measuring our ingredients, or maybe the butter was too melty or the baking soda was old, but sometimes we’d get the fluffy delights of television commercials, and sometimes we’d get these sad flat crisps.  I am sure that there was some type of rhyme or reason to it, but we never did figure out what the problem was. What my mom did figure out however, is her own adaption of the recipe with slightly different sugar and flour ratios. I also haphazardly throw in as many chocolate chips as my heart desires and cook them at a slightly lower temperature.

I know everyone has their own opinion about what makes the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but this is ours. This recipe has yielded consistent results over the course of several years of being made by various members of my family. It is a fluffy, “cakey” cookie, with no crunch. If that is not how you like your cookie, thats fine, you do you, and we can still be friends.

This recipe also yields a smaller amount of cookies that is perfect for a small family (about 3 cups of dough). I usually whip up the dough at the beginning of the week, and we “put on” a few cookies at a time the way some people put on the kettle. This way, my husband and I have warm cookies for dessert all week. I wouldn’t keep the dough in the fridge for longer than five days. It also never lasts longer than that in our house!

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Here’s what you’ll need:

1 egg

1/2 tspn vanilla extract

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1 softened stick of butter

1 1/4 cups flour

1/2 tspn baking soda

1/2 tspn salt

1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Use your largest mixing bowl or just the bowl from your stand mixer. One of the easiest parts of this recipe is that it does not require you to separate your wet and dry ingredients into different bowls. Less cleanup is always welcome around here, because I do not have a dishwasher!

Beat together your butter and both types of sugar until fully combined, then add the egg and vanilla extract and mix that as well. Next, add your flour to the bowl and sprinkle your baking soda and salt over the flour. To me, this makes up for not mixing your dry ingredients separately. Beat the mixture until there are no lumps and then add your chocolate chips. You can add more or less, according to your taste.

photo 2

Once the dough is assembled, I usually refrigerate the it for about half an hour, because I find that this makes the dough easier to work with and the cookies just a little bit more fluffy. However, I have also neglected to do this before, and the cookies turned out fine. It is hard to mess this recipe up! I use a cookie scoop to place my cookie dough on the pan, just because it makes the job easier and ensures that my cookies are about the same size. If you don’t have one, use a spoon and your hands to plop a small ball of dough onto your cookie sheet. Bake them for 12-15 minutes at 350 degrees, or until they are golden brown.