Love letter #10, roasted chicken over bread

Comfort food is so important to me. It makes you feel good, both physically and mentally. I don’t pretend that I like a lot of typical comfort food—lots of crockpot recipes with cream cheese, cheap cheese, bacon, etc. added. It’s uninspiring and so heavy. Easy, yes, and I understand why people make those dishes, but to me, it’s a no and honestly really unappetizing.

Comfort food to me is an entire roasted chicken with root vegetables, it’s slow-braised ragu that’s been in the oven for hours, it’s chicken cacciatore with polenta, it’s coq au vin with hearty vegetables and a to-die-for wine sauce. Comfort food should be simple, but so elegant and so tasty. It’s not a complicated dish with a thousand ingredients. Comfort food uses ingredients you already have at home, and within a few hours can have dinner on the table. It’s going to bed with a full stomach while you’re wrapped up in cozy blankets. Comfort food is bliss.

My favorite elegant comfort dish is a spin on Ina’s “Roasted chicken over bread with arugula salad”. You can find the recipe here or in her book “Barefoot Contessa: Make It Ahead”.

I’ve done many variations of this dish, including her recipe to a T. I’ve spatchcocked the chicken, switched up the salad, used different breads, etc. Ina’s original recipe is amazing, but I have made a couple of tweaks so that Alex and I enjoy it immensely.

Liberally season your chicken. You need lots of flavor!

Add your minced garlic underneath the skin of the chicken, and very liberally salt and pepper the bird. Chicken has great flavor, but it needs to be heavily seasoned to not be bland. Leave it in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Once ready to use, let the chicken come to room temperature before cooking.

In this instance, I use bone-in, skin-on split chicken breasts. I like to use spatchcocked chicken, as well, but the truth is, it’s just Alex and me and that can be a waste. I love dark meat, but usually only eat the breast because of calories, and Alex will eat a breast and thigh. We’ll have a ton of leftovers that we normally will not eat, so I found using chicken breasts to be the best option.

Chicken thighs would be absolutely wonderful with this, but because I am calorie-conscious, breasts it is in our house. Use whatever you’d prefer, and if you don’t use a whole chicken then you need to be sure to use bone-in and skin-on meat.


Cut your hearty bread into pieces. This is another area where I differ from Ina’s recipe as she says to put the whole slices down. I find that I like to go ahead and cube the bread, it adds some more crisp ends.

I use a nice sourdough which holds up to being in the hot oven. The bottom of the bread will be dark, almost burnt, and the top part will be moist and full of chicken flavor that has dripped down in the cooking process. I’ve used softer breads before and they turned into a mushy mess. You definitely need something that can withstand the heat and moisture.

Arrange the bread on your cast iron pan and then put the chicken breasts on top. Brush the chicken with olive oil and then, because I’m using white meat, I drizzle olive oil over the bread that is not directly under the chicken. It helps it crisp up that way.


My cast iron used to be so pretty and white. It’s a mess on the outside now, but it’s seasoned well and I just can’t part with it. I’ve had it for years.

Cook in a hot oven, 450 degrees, for around 35 minutes or so. The breasts I used are very large, so it takes some time to cook. The skin should be brown and crispy, but as always, your food thermometer is your best option. Take the chicken out when it is between 150-153 degrees. Add aluminum foil on top, and let rest for ten minutes.


I like to make the salad in advance. Ina’s calls for arugula and currants, while I do a mixture of arugula and spinach. I never have champagne vinegar, so I use white wine vinegar. I’ve been tempted to (and have done!) add parmesan shavings to this salad. While good, the chicken is so heavily seasoned and the croutons are so rich that the cheese was unnecessary. The dressing is tangy, the arugula is spicy and fresh, so no cheese needs to be added. Occasionally I will add halved cherry tomatoes if we have in-season ones.


I change the dressing slightly, using dijon, white wine vinegar, olive oil, honey, salt, pepper, two tablespoons minced shallot, and one tablespoon minced garlic.

I keep the greens in a bowl in the refrigerator, along with the dressing. I want the salad to be super cold when I add the croutons and the chicken. The cool salad with the hot chicken is an amazing combination.


It is not possible to describe how good the bread is when it comes out. It is soft on one side, filled with chicken drippings and salty from the seasonings. Almost burnt at the bottom to add some texture. It is out of this world and the most divine thing you will eat all week. I promise.


Even though it’s chicken breast, leaving the skin and bone on adds flavor. Taking it out of the oven at 150 degrees instead of 165 degrees allows it to remain juicy and tender. If you let it rest for ten minutes, it is perfectly fine to take your chicken out between 150-155 degrees. Residual heat will cook the rest.

This is an amazingly simple meal, hardly any prep goes into it. Season the chicken and cut the bread. Whisk the salad dressing together. It is one of the most comforting dishes you will ever eat, guaranteed. Alex requests it so much that it’s turned into a weekly meal and we always look forward to this day. Comfort food doesn’t mean that you have to use a slow cooker and add all the dairy products, bacon, and fat that you want. It can be simple, good ingredients that come together in ways that just produce happiness. Now that winter is on it’s way, try this as a staple comfort food menu, you’ll be putting that crockpot away in no time.

Absolutely no leftovers with this meal.

Ina’s Version

Hannah’s version

For the chicken

  • 2-3 split whole chicken breasts, bone-in and skin-on
  • Garlic, one tbsp minced
  • Shallot, two tbsp minced
  • Olive oil
  • Sourdough bread, three slices, sliced thickly, then cubed

Liberally season the chicken and add minced garlic under the skin and set aside in the fridge for at least two hours. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Let chicken come to room temperature before cooking. Slice the bread into small squares and arrange on cast iron pan. Add chicken to the top of the bread. With a pastry brush, brush the chicken all over with olive oil. Drizzle olive oil over any bread not covered by chicken. Once chicken has reached internal temperature of 150-155 degrees, remove from oven and cover with aluminum foil. Let rest for ten minutes.

For the salad 

  • Arugula, 4 cups
  • Spinach, 2 cups

For the dressing

For your desired tastes, whisk together white wine vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, olive oil, the shallots (2 tbsp minced), and the garlic (1 tbsp minced). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Whisk until emulsified.

Add dressing to salad and toss. Add a heaping portion of the salad to a plate, along with croutons and chicken. Enjoy.


Love letter #9, date night pretzels

Soft pretzels have always held a special place in my heart. I can remember when I was little and had a cookbook for kids, my dad and I made soft pretzels one weekend. We made one for every person in the house and shaped them into the initial of their first name.

On mine and Alex’s first date (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1, about seven years ago), I ordered a soft pretzel with cheese and I remember Alex looking at me like, “What?! A pretzel at the movies?” I may be pretentious about most pre-made or packaged foods, but you can’t come between me and my stadium nacho cheese.

Alex and I don’t go to movies that often—he prefers to stay at home and watch (and save money!) and I hate that I have to get there 30 minutes early to ensure I have the perfect seat. Over countless weekends I’ve began to perfect our date night movie treats. Yummy popcorn and these soft pretzels with beer cheese.

Unlike cooking which has always come somewhat naturally to me, baking is hard. I don’t like it, but I do it because of how thrilled I am with the final product. Baking and cooking are just science, but baking is much more exact. But when you start to understand how each individual ingredients reacts with each other and why, it makes it seem less intimidating.



The first time I made homemade soft pretzels and Alex and I tried them at the same time, we both just looked at each other in amazement. They tasted like soft pretzels! There are so few ingredients and the ingredients are so similar to other breads and bagels I’ve made, I didn’t understand how they could have that distinct pretzel flavor.

They’re totally decadent and a total pub treat. They’re also very easy. So few ingredients and your Kitchen-Aid does all the work. You just have to twist, boil, and bake.


I twist the pretzels because I prefer the super fluffy inside dough. When twist them into a traditional pretzel shape, they have more of the crust, and less of the dough. You can do whatever you prefer.


Use a fish spatula to easily drop and take them out of boiling water. 

Mustard or mustard powder is the secret ingredient in many gourmet macaroni and cheese dishes. The mustard enhances the cheese flavor and adds a little something special. You can add more mustard to this depending on your tastes.

Grate your cheese in a food processor. You do not want pre-shredded cheese for this. It’ll never melt and the texture will be grainy. 



Stay in next Saturday night. Grab your coziest blankets, put on your softest pajamas, blast the A/C, turn off all the nights, and settle in with these pretzels and cheese and a good movie. You’ll want to do this every weekend. Enjoy.

Soft pretzels here

Beer cheese

  • 4 tbsp butter
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tbsp flour
  • 18 oz beer
  • 1 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp ground red pepper
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • 8 oz cream cheese




Melt butter in large sauce pan. Add onions and sauté until translucent. Add garlic, cook for one minute. Add flour, whisk vigorously until incorporated, two minutes. Add beer, Worcestershire sauce, and mustard. Bring to a boil then simmer for four minutes. Add seasonings. On low heat, add 1/3 of all of the cheeses and whisk until incorporated. Repeat until cheese is gone. Serve warm.

Love letter #8, herbs

Growing up, I wasn’t surrounded by cooks, and that’s okay. I learned many other valuable lessons from my family that don’t involve cooking. I’ve always have known that I’ve wanted to cook and cook well, however. I remember watching old dubbed “Iron Chef” episodes or “Two Fat Ladies” and knowing that’s what I wanted to do.

When I moved out of my parent’s house and into an apartment, I wanted to cook for myself, but was slightly lost and misguided. All that Food Network watching didn’t prepare me in the way that I had hoped. I considered myself a cook. I made spaghetti and jarred sauce! Bagged Caesar salad! Mashed potatoes! Chili from a can! I look back on that time with both nostalgia and embarrassment. But that’s okay, that’s the point—you have to learn.

I remember making chicken tortilla soup and adding lots of sour cream while it was still boiling away. I was left with soup with completely curdled sour cream. And I had no idea. I happily ate it and went on my way. I’ve had my fair share of “Pinterest Meals”. That site is definitely keeping the crock-pot and cream cheese business alive. It’s very attractive to people. Throw three different types of dairy products, chicken breast, and potatoes in and you’ve got a creamy, unappetizing-looking dinner ready in six hours.


That’s the reality of cooking though; it can be as easy or as complicated as you want. Just because those Pinterest meals are unappealing to me, doesn’t mean they aren’t meeting someone else’s dinner needs. Cooking is always a learning process.

All of that being said, the turning point for me was when I started using fresh herbs. It was such a foreign concept to me, but once I started, it made total sense and completely changed my cooking game.

Adding herbs creates flavor that no other seasonings can. They can add depth of flavor, brightness, acidity, etc. It’s very rare that I cook something without adding fresh herbs.

What’s also so amazing about herbs is that they are so easy to grow! In an apartment or house, large garden or no garden, you can grow just about any kind you’d like. They are easy to maintain, and you never have to worry about your store being out of basil when you’re making your marinara.


Besides Alex, caprese salads are what I love most. Last week when we were driving home from vacation, we even stopped out of our way to a waterfront restaurant so I could indulge my craving. They are quintessentially summer. Fresh, homegrown tomatoes, sweet basil, tangy balsamic, creamy mozzarella. It all comes together into a beautiful, simple, yet complex dish.


Sometimes I like to use cherry tomatoes and swap out mozzarella for feta.

IMG_2264Adding prosciutto and a touch of olive oil makes it a complete meal and the perfect beach picnic.

My morning breakfast always consists of herbs, namely chives and dill. Lots of herbs piled high on avocado, with or without a sunny side up egg, and some sriracha to add some heat. It’s easy, comforting, and so fresh. Chives add classic yet mild onion flavor and dill is always perfect with eggs and salmon.

I use a lot of dill in this. It may be way too much for some people. Just add it to taste. 

A great method of sunny side up egg cooking can be found here at the Serious Eats website.


Thyme is piney, peppery, and a touch lemony. It reminds me of a milder version of rosemary. It’s perfect in sauces, in a roasted chicken, or a creamy dish. It’s the perfect addition to this Onion and Fontina Galette.


Fontina is an Italian cheese. It’s soft, creamy, and buttery. It’s similar to mild gruyere or provolone cheese.


Make a piecrust using this recipe of mine here.

IMG_6744Make a roux with flour and heavy cream

IMG_6745IMG_6746Add cheese, then onion mixture, and the rest of the cheese mixture.

IMG_6752Bake, then serve immediately, garnished with more thyme leaves.

Mint, like basil, is good in dessert or heartier meals. I love Ina’s Couscous with Pine Nuts and Mint.


Ina’s Deconstructed Strawberry Shortcake is divine, and made even better with torn mint leaves on top. Homemade whipped cream, strawberries with liqueur, and fresh mint from the garden. There is no better dessert.

Alex’s favorite dish with herbs is simple Herbed Basmati Rice. He requests it for lunch very often! And I make it because it is simple for me, flavorful for him, and I add lots of chopped spinach to up the nutrition factor. It’s a rice dish I don’t feel guilty giving him.

The bottom line is whether you’re just starting to branch out of Pinterest-style crock-pot cooking, or have been cooking for decades, herbs will almost always improve your meal. Growing your own herbs, much like cooking, will reward you with a sense of accomplishment. You’ll save money, too. If you’re trying to up your elegance level, challenge yourself to use fresh herbs in every dinner you make this week. You’ll be convinced in no time.

Hannah’s Pinterest

Caprese salad

  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Mozzarella, sliced or pulled off
  • Fresh basil, julienned
  • Good, aged balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • Prosciutto, optional

Chop or slice tomatoes. Toss with mozzarella and basil. Add balsamic, salt and pepper to taste.

Thyme and Fontina Galette

Link here

Avocado toast

  • Slice of sourdough
  • 1/2 avocado, mashed
  • 1 egg
  • Handful of dill, roughly chopped
  • Chives, chopped
  • Sriracha to taste
  • Salt, pepper, red pepper flakes

Lightly toast the bread. Mash the avocado onto the toast. Cook the egg sunny side up and season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Add dill and chives. Finish with sriracha.




Love letter #7, cinnamon rolls

Mornings are my favorite part of any day. There’s something calming about each day beginning and the thought that anything can happen. Though mornings usually lead into normal days, the idea that each day could bring something different is what I love. Fittingly, breakfast is mine and Alex’s favorite meal. I love any kind of breakfast food, but generally during the week we have a heartier meal. Alex has full-fat Greek yogurt with granola, and I have a slice of toast with avocado, arugula, egg, and lots of dill.

Processed with VSCO with s2 preset

I enjoy my breakfast every day, but weekend breakfasts are what I look forward to throughout the week. I’m a pastry fiend. To me, there is something so comforting about waking up late, staying in bed, and eating a warm, sweet pastry. Alex isn’t much for sweets, but anytime I make these cinnamon rolls, he’s up earlier than normal.

The truth is, I love store-bought pastries. From farmer’s markets to vacations, my trips all revolve around them. However, buying pastries at the store does not make your house smell amazing and buying macarons doesn’t have the same feeling of accomplishment as making them. So, on weekends, I make them. These cinnamon rolls in particular are easy, you do all the steps the night before, so the morning of you can just bake them and enjoy a stress-free morning.

When a recipe calls for warm milk or water for your yeast to be added, that’s generally between 110-115 degrees F.


Make sure the melted/softened butter is not too hot when you add it, you don’t want that temperature to affect the yeast.


The best place to leave your dough to rise is in your oven with the light on. The oven light helps bring the oven to around 70 degrees. Cover with a damp towel. It usually takes about an hour for dough to double in size.


Your counters are your best tools with this. Just make sure they are very clean. Flour them and roll the dough out. Be careful when using a knife to not scratch the surface when you’re slicing.

IMG_6101Make sure there is plenty of flour on your surface, so when you roll the dough it doesn’t stick.

Add butter and cinnamon sugar mixture all around the dough and up to the borders. It needs to be completely covered.


Roll it up carefully, going back and forth like you are playing the piano from one end to the other.


You can use a knife or dental floss to cut through the dough. If you use a knife, which I did, just make sure it is very sharp.


After being in the fridge over night.

If the rolls start to get too brown before the insides are cooked, add aluminum foil to the top. I generally do this with five minutes left to spare.


Add the icing when the rolls are just out of the oven, so it melts and flows into the crevices.


Weekends are a big deal at our house because we do nothing–and that is what makes them special. Stay in bed on Sunday with your french pressed coffee, these cinnamon rolls, and a good book. Push Monday out of your mind for a little while longer. Enjoy.

Hannah’s Cinnamon Rolls


  •             4 cups flour
  •             1 tbsp active dry yeast
  •             1 cup warm milk
  •             2 eggs
  •             1 stick butter, melted
  •             1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  •             ¼ tsp salt


  •             2 oz cream cheese
  •             ¼ cup heaving whipping cream
  •             1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
  •             1 tbsp vanilla

Cinnamon filling

  •             1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  •             3 tbsp plus 1 tsp cinnamon
  •             1/3 stick melted butter

Add yeast to milk. Let proof for five minutes. Combine all dough ingredients together and mix with wooden spoon or spatula. Don’t over mix. Allow to rise until a little over double in size, an hour.

Mix all cinnamon filling ingredients together and set aside.

Beat icing ingredients together. Add powdered sugar in slowly. Add more or less heavy whipping cream depending on desired consistency. Refrigerate overnight, take out of fridge 30 minutes before icing.

Once risen, roll out dough onto floured surface. Roll out into rectangle-ish shape. Brush on butter with pastry brush, then spread filling over entire surface. Roll up into a cylinder, cut into 9-12 rolls. Add to a greased casserole dish. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge over night.

Take rolls out in morning an hour before cooking to rise. Bake in a 400 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Add aluminum foil on top 15 minutes through to prevent over-browning. Spread icing on immediately after coming out of the oven.




Love letter # 6, roasted vegetables

Vegetables are a favorite in our house. The majority of our meals are vegetables with a little meat or starch on the side. Whenever I hear someone complain that they hate vegetables, I have to think that they just have not had properly prepared veggies. In reality, they are packed with flavor and add depth to any meal.

I love all vegetables—raw, steamed, canned, even those mushy, stinky, overly cooked brussel sprouts on Thanksgiving. However, roasting vegetables is by far the best way to cook and eat them.


Before you read any further, you must make this recipe of Ina’s. It’s the most amazing roasted broccoli recipe, and Alex’s absolute favorite side dish that I cook. It’s lemony, it’s cheesy, and it’s slightly charred. It’s perfect. That recipe will turn any veggie-hater into a broccoli fiend. We have it three times a week.


Roasting veggies makes them tender, sweeter, and with a slightly crunchy outside. Heating them in a high temperature oven allows the sugars in the veg to caramelize, removing some of the bitter notes that many do not like.

Most olive oils you find in grocery stores are not real olive oil, or they’ve been cut with some other type. There are many resources online about which olive oils are real and which ones are not. Generally the ones that say “imported from Italy” are not 100% pure olive oil. You’ll notice this with many dressings. If you make a dressing with real olive oil, it’ll solidify in the fridge. Usually fake olive oil will not.

We have two favorites. This one from California Olive Ranch, and the Kalamata Olive Oil pictured below from Trader Joe’s. The best way to pick an olive oil you like is simply by tasting them by themselves. I used to not understand all the differences in each oil, but once you taste them side by side, you can really pick out different flavor notes in each one. It’s like wine tasting, except with olives!


It’s easier to throw all your veg into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil and seasonings. I have found that is the best way to ensure every bit of each vegetable is covered.


It’s very important to spread your veggies out in a single layer on the baking sheet. If they are too crowded then they will steam, not roast. I usually use two baking sheets depending on the dish, and sometimes have to use three.

Big sheet pans are your best friend when roasting vegetables. Buy three and use them forever.

Zucchini, eggplant, onions, and red peppers have a higher water content than other vegetables. They can hold up to being cooked at a higher temperature for longer than say broccoli or cauliflower.


This mix of veg went in the oven at 400 degrees for 50 minutes, occasionally stirring.

Roasting garlic is easy. You don’t want to chop or mince it; it’ll burn in minutes. What you should do is cut off the bottom of the head, brush with oil, then roast at a high temperature for 30-35 minutes. You’ll get beautiful roasted garlic that is sweet and tender. It’s hard to not just eat the garlic by itself, but if you can resist, then serve it on crusty bread with salt and pepper.


Bacon-wrapped everything is popular at the moment, but I find most of those recipes too Pinterest-esque and as Alex would say, totally “egregious”. It’s too much. Too much bacon just overpowers a dish. The bacon is usually too thick to cook with whatever it’s wrapped around, so you usually have to slightly precook it, then wrap it around whatever your making. No thanks. Not for me.

What I really enjoy, however, are things that are wrapped in prosciutto. Prosciutto is dry-cured ham that is very thinly sliced. It’s very delicate and has great, salty flavor.


IMG_5733I take half of a slice of prosciutto and wrap it around a piece of asparagus. Do that for a handful of them. Put them on the baking sheet with the rest of the asparagus, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. The prosciutto is so thin that it will crisp up in no time, and finish cooking at the same time as the asparagus. Serve two to three prosciutto-wrapped asparagus along with the plain ones to each dish. You don’t want too much of the prosciutto. A little goes a long way.

Sweet potatoes and rosemary go hand in hand with each other. Often times I find rosemary to be overpowering, but the sweet potatoes can stand up to the fragrant herb. Cut into cubes, heat at a high temp, stir/flip once, and you’re done.

Roasting vegetables is about a simple of a side as you can get. The wonderful combination of flavors from the oil, veggies, and seasonings make for a hard to resist final product. If you have someone in your life that is not thrilled with the idea of eating vegetables, roast them, and I’m sure you’ll change their mind. Feeding the people you care about roasted vegetables is the ultimate act of love. It’s good for their soul and body. They’re hearty and good for you. It’s a unique way of saying “I love you”.




I used the zucchini, eggplant, fennel, onion, mushroom, and pepper mixture in Ina’s Vegetable Paella which you can find here or in her book, “Barefoot Contessa: Cooking for Jeffrey”. I added shrimp for protein for Alex. It was wonderful.



Roasted vegetable mix

  • 2 zucchinis, largely sliced into circles
  • 1 eggplant, largely sliced into circles
  • 3 red bell peppers, sliced in one inch strips
  • 1 red onion, sliced in one inch strips
  • 16 oz shittake mushrooms, stems removed
  • 2 fennel bulbs, core removed, sliced in one inch strips
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Add all cut vegetables minus the mushrooms to a large bowl; add in salt, pepper, and three tablespoons good olive oil. Spread onto 2-3 baking sheets. Cook for 45-50 minutes, flipping vegetables after 25 minutes. Add mushrooms after 25 minutes of baking.

Prosciutto-wrapped asparagus

  • 5 slices prosciutto
  • 1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut each prosciutto slice in half. Wrap ten or so asparagus with prosciutto. Add to baking sheet. Drizzle olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook for 20 minutes.

Rosemary roasted sweet potatoes

  • 3 large sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1 tbsp plus 1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Add all ingredients to a large bowl and stir. Spread onto baking sheet in even layer. Cook for 30 minutes, flipping the sweet potatoes after 15 minutes.

Love letter #5, lots of loaves

I have to admit, unlike my past and future posts, this letter is not inspired by Alex. It’s inspired from my time when I was in high school working at Starbucks with some of my best friends. Though at the time I hated working evenings and weekends (who wouldn’t?), I can look back on that time fondly. This post is an homage to them and that time of my life.

Though not baked in-house, there is something so nostalgic to me about the various pastries that Starbucks sells. Almost a decade later and every time I walk into a café it reminds me of high school. The smell of the coffee, the roar of the blenders, and the rhythmic noise of the iced teas being shaken flood me with memories.

My tastes have matured as I’ve gotten older, so I don’t order the pastries or sweets from Starbucks anymore. However, I do enjoy baking the pastries I used to love so much at home. My favorites in particular were the loaves—lemon, banana walnut, and pumpkin. Anytime I make any of these breads I am reminded of that first job and sneaking a pastry to eat on my break.

Adding parchment paper to the loaf pan is an easy way to get your bread out when it’s finished. 
These recipes fall into the “quick-bread” category. There’s no rising, the steps are simple, and the end result is relatively foolproof.


It’s very important for all your ingredients to be room temperature.

You can use a hand mixer, but the butter and sugar needs to be creamed together, so it is slightly tedious.

Always zest your lemons before you juice them.
Most glazes are simply powdered sugar with some type of liquid or butter, or both. In this case, it’s with freshly squeezed lemon juice.

Like I’ve said in prior posts, always use freshly squeezed lemon juice. You already need the zest, don’t skimp and use the store-bought juice.

It’s very important to let the loaf cool almost completely before you add the glaze. You want the glaze to stick to the top, not slide completely down the sides.

Make sure your bananas are very ripe. Often times this means buying bananas and waiting for them to turn brown. If you go to the grocery store the day you are planning on making the bread, you may find yourself with non-ripe bananas.

Bananas both flavor the bread and sweeten it, and the walnuts add a satisfying crunch.

Sifting ensures no lumps in the batter and that the dry ingredients are mixed well together.
Pumpkin loaf is a favorite fall treat of mine. I like to make it in the summer to remind myself that autumn is not so far away.

I like to use purée real pumpkin when they are in season. When they are not, canned works just fine.


“Pumpkin spice” generally refers to a blend of nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and all-spice.

The flavor is much better from freshly ground nutmeg than what you would find in the spice aisle.

Lemon loaf

Banana walnut bread

Pumpkin loaf
There are some pastries that are just better bought at a bakery or pastry store. But these loaves are not one of them. They are simple, fresh, and taste better homemade. I love lemon loaf in the summer because of the bright, citrus notes. Pumpkin loaf in the fall because of those traditional flavors. And banana nut loaf in the winter, warmed with butter. I love seasonal dishes, but pastries especially. There’s something magical about seasonal pastries, making them yourself, and letting those you care about reminisce about old times while sharing a cup of coffee or glass of wine. I hope this inspires you to bake a nostalgic treat.


A slice of cold lemon loaf with a sweet glaze is the perfect summertime treat. Pair with strawberries, a glass of rosé, and eat it outside on a warm evening after dinner.


A slice of warm banana nut bread with a pat of butter and a black cup of coffee is a perfect way to start your weekend.

When it comes to baking, I like to use classic recipes. Why change what is already perfect? The spice ratio on the pumpkin loaf I did change slightly. I like a spicier bread, so I add more nutmeg and ginger, and a touch less brown sugar.

Lemon loaf

Banana walnut bread

Pumpkin loaf

Love letter #4, tex-mex

Besides the fresh produce and herbs that are available at Farmer’s Markets this time of year, I am not fond of summer. I love snow and the crispness of the later months of the year. That being said, a Tex-Mex inspired meal can make even winter girls appreciate the season.

My favorite part of Tex-Mex is the freshness. Tomatoes, onions, cilantro, avocados, limes…everything is so gorgeous and full of flavor. There’s so many ingredients that add a “wow” factor. In addition to that, the gorgeous deep red, purple, and green colors of the fresh produce make me question just why I don’t do a southwestern inspired meal more often.


This meal was a large one for the two of us, but sometimes that’s just what you need. A little bit of everything, not a lot of one thing. Good for the soul. A folded burrito, black bean soup, fresh roasted tomatillo salsa, guacamole, and chicken tacos with sautéed onions and peppers make a meal that is both inspired and practical. It’s comfortable. We all know and love the warm flavors of cumin, the spiciness of chili powder, the bite of of a jalapeño, but making almost everything from scratch ups the elegant factor. This isn’t a fast food restaurant, this is your home and a meal you made that you are providing for your loved ones.

Traditional “taco” seasoning that you buy at the store is just ingredients that you already have in your spice drawer. Cumin, chili powder, red pepper powder, garlic powder, salt, and onion flakes. The benefit of making your own spice mixes at home is that you control what go into them. I prefer much spicier than what is store-bought, so I can add extra chili and red pepper powder. Like pre-shredded cheese, spice mixes also come with extra add-ins to prevent clumping. Making your own at home doesn’t need any unnecessary products.

I never buy pre-shredded cheese. It doesn’t taste as good. Use a food processor to shred your cheese using the shred blade, and save your arm strength from grating.

Onions are my favorite food. They are so versatile. I used them in each dish I made today. From sautéing peppers with onions, to soup, to guacamole, to salsa verde, to the garnish for tacos, or in my burrito wrap. Nothing can replace the flavor of an onion.

My black bean soup starts with a traditional mirepoix–carrots, celery, and onion. After that I add garlic, black beans, chicken stock, some white wine, cumin, chili powder, and salt. It’s simple, but absolutely divine. Add a lime wedge, avocado, sour cream, and some cilantro to top it all off. Use an immersion blender to blend 1/3 of the soup to add a creamy texture.

I love the bright citrus notes in fresh Tex-Mex. Add lime juice, lime zest, orange juice, orange zest, and beer to your shredded chicken with Anaheim peppers.


Garnish with onion, cilantro, and a squeeze of lime juice.

My favorite salsa is salsa verde, or tomatillo salsa. Broiling the ingredients before pureeing them together gives them a charred, yet slightly sweet flavor. Of course, your food processor is your best friend for this recipe.


For guacamole, I like it simple. Avocado, red onion, lime juice, and salt and pepper. Use a fork to keep a chunkier texture.


Though unusual for Alex and I, we both agree that our favorite part of this meal was the more processed one of all of them (!!). A burrito wrap with both jarred cheese sauce and taco sauce. Not something I tend to keep at home, I did have to go out of my way at the grocery store to pick up some of these items.

Start with your favorite cheese sauce and let it act as a glue between the tostada and burrito. IMG_5207

Next, add your beans and meat. Then your favorite hot sauce. With the recipe we like the Taco Bell brand. IMG_5214

Add your extra toppings.


Then fold as if it were a galette. IMG_5219IMG_5221

Fry in pan then enjoy.

I’m always craving grapefruit in the summertime, so a grapefruit spiked seltzer water hit the spot. Though there is much added heat in all of the dishes, the addition of cilantro, lime juice, and avocado keeps you cool for the summer. We’ll be eating these dishes over the next couple of days and they are just as good reheated as they are from when they are first served.

I hope this post inspires those winter girls who prefer a chill over the heat. By bringing together the warm flavors of the various spices I used, it’s comfortable, it’s simple and fresh, and it’s inviting. Make this for your boyfriend, your children, or your friends, and they’ll know you love them without so many words.

Taco Seasoning

  • 2 tsps chili powder
  • 2 tsps cumin
  • 1 1/2 tsps garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion flakes
  • 1 tsp red pepper powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper

Mix well.

Shredded chicken for tacos

  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 4 limes, juice and zest
  • 1/2 orange, juice and zest
  • 1/2 can light beer
  • 3 Anaheim peppers
  • Taco Seasoning
  • 3 tbsp refined avocado oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub spice mix over chicken breasts until thoroughly seasoned. Brush avocado oil on breasts. Cook for 30 minutes or until chicken registers 150 degrees on a meat thermometer. Let cool. Shred chicken with fork, hands, or a food processor.

Heat oil in sauté pan over medium high heat. Add peppers. Cook until tender. Add chicken, lime juice and zest, orange juice and zest, and beer. Add more seasoning to taste. Let simmer over low heat.

Black bean soup

  • 2 medium carrots, diced
  • 2 stalks of celery, diced
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 cans of black beans
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 1 cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
  • Cumin, chili powder, salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp olive oil

Heat olive oil in medium dutch oven. Fry spices. Add carrots, celery, onion, and bell pepper and sauté  until tender, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and stir for one minute, until fragrant. Add drained black beans, chicken broth, and wine. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Season to taste. Take off heat and with an immersion blender blend about 1/3 of soup. Simmer another ten minutes. Serve with lime wedge, cilantro, sour cream, and avocado.


  • 3 avocados
  • 1/3 red onion, diced finely
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Add all ingredients to a bowl and mash with fork.

Salsa verde

  • 4 tomatillos
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 jalepeños
  • 1 serrano chile
  • 1 Anaheim pepper
  • 3 garlic gloves
  • Bunch of cilantro
  • Salt

Add all ingredients except cilantro to a sheet pan. Broil each side for 5 minutes, until charred. Add all ingredients to food processor. Season to taste.

Burrito wraps

Each individual wrap contains:

  • 1 large flour tortilla
  • 1 tostada
  • Nacho cheese
  • Refried beans
  • Taco seasoned ground beef
  • Hot sauce
  • Shredded lettuce
  • White onion, diced
  • Shredded cheese

See above pictures.