Favorite holiday tradition: coffee cake

Holiday traditions. I am a bit of a Scrooge. My sister and dad were always so much more into the holidays, and somehow that gene did not find its way into my veins. Call me crazy, or extremely practical, but oftentimes the holidays are just another day in the grand scheme of things. I appreciate them as a day to relax, recharge, and be slow.

So, having said all that what’s your favorite holiday tradition? We both love to sleep in (who does not whenever possible). Maybe it is because we do not have kids yet, but we do not really have many/any holiday traditions. The one thing we often do is make my mom’s coffee cake. I like it, Chris likes it, and it is easy to make. It is nothing fancy, just a Betty Crocker (Picture Cookbook circa 1950) recipe that I doctor and adapt to my own liking, but something about it reminds me of my childhood. Somehow my family (and often my grandma) split a 9 x 9 pan of coffee cake (how did we ever do that!)? We would get up on Thanksgiving or Christmas morning and have it right away (before presents or anything). I have my mother’s Betty Crocker cookbook copy. The hole punched page has ripped out and the page itself is worn and splotched.

Tami’s Adapted Betty Crocker Coffee Cake Nostalgia (Circa 1950), page 82

Stir together thoroughly:
3/4 cup Sugar
1/4 cup unsalted Butter (or shortening):
Note: I only use butter and it should be soft

Stir in:
1 Egg
1/2 cup Milk

Sift together and stir in (I never sift though):
1 1/2 cup Flour
2 teaspoons Baking Powder
1/2 teaspoon Salt

Streusel Mixture:
3/4 cup Brown Sugar
2 teaspoons Cinnamon
2 tablespoons melted unsalted Butter

Set oven to 375 degrees

Spread batter in greased and floured 9″ pan. Sprinkle with desired topping. Bake until wooden pick thrust into center of cake comes out clean. Serve warm, fresh from oven.

Baker note: I go on instinct for the amount of brown sugar, butter, and cinnamon I put together. I sprinkle it on top of the batter and then cut tiny sized chunks of unsalted butter and place them randomly all over the top of the streusel. It makes for more of a crunchy, yummy topping. It is my adaptation. Also, I use the above topping, there are other options for toppings in the cookbook.

Recipe note: Be sure that your “wooden pick thrust into center of cake comes clean” (who uses the word thrust)?

What are your holiday favorites or traditions?


The weeks just fly by…

I can hardly believe it is the beginning of October. Time just keeps flying by.

Each weekend goes by with a flurry of items that need to be checked off the list, happy hours, getting together with friends, yard work, the list is endless. By Sunday night I just want another day off. Life is good, it is full, and there is so much happening. There is also so much to be grateful for each day. I find that in random moments through the day I have visions of something I want to bake, a book I cannot wait to curl up with, or a television show I am behind in and want to know what happens next.

I am happy. I am enjoying life to the fullest. So if I am happy does it matter that I am filling up each day to the brim? Is that a good thing? Or, should I endeavor to carve out chunks of downtime where I do nothing at all? I find that one day spills over into the next, and before I know it my bedtime hour is upon me and I still have so many things left that I want to do. As I crawl into bed, and my head nestles itself into my pillow I quickly fall into la la land, only to find just a few hours later I start all over again. There is definitely never a dull moment.

Now that October is upon us, all things pumpkin come to mind. I want to make pumpkin bread, try our a new chocolate chess pie recipe, decide if I am going to run another 1/2 marathon this fall, work on the painting I started a month ago, and hopefully enjoy a few more sunny days if there are any left in this Portland Fall. Those are the non-task items. The task items like balancing your checkbook, paying bills, cleaning house are the not so fun ones. The list of life to-dos seems to be never-ending. Not all are enjoyable tasks, but they serve a purpose.

What do you want to do now that it is October and Fall is here? Are you living your days to the fullest?

Start with the basics

Some of you that follow my blog know that I have a passion for money management. My passion evolved because I wanted to make sure that I truly understood what we were doing with our money, and that I trusted the information we were using to make our money decisions. I cannot do that in a vacuum. It means I have to read, learn, and ask the right questions. This recent Daily Worth had an idea that resonated with me:

“Money management is like cooking, or fixing a car or anything else you can learn,” says Myers. “But if you tell yourself you’re simply not good at it, you’re less likely to take steps to learn the basics you need to be financially healthy.”

I have to agree. While I am not a cook, I would feel comfortable calling myself a baker. I learned over time how to work with dough and understand why a recipe called for baking soda rather than baking powder. I am still learning new things about baking, and enjoy trying out new recipes. The same goes for money management. As the world changes and evolves fast, we have to shift and adjust with it, and be aware of whether the decisions we have made in the past continue to serve us, or if we need to adjust our financial allocations based on changes in the market, and our lifestyle.

Some individuals work with a financial planner that they trust, others rely on friends and family, and some look to books, the news, and the Internet to help inform them on what decisions they make regarding their money. Whatever step you take, I encourage you to continue to learn. Maybe you are young and a beginner, or you might have a family and are looking now at how to save for your children’s future, wherever you are in life, there is always something to learn that can benefit you today and in the future.

My new weakness: Sourdough English Muffins



English Muffins. Who does not love them? My sister-in-law brought me her sourdough starter when she visited over Easter weekend. I shared my first week with a friend, was pooped the second weekend after my 1/2 marathon so threw some starter out, but this weekend, I baked!

She left me with a recipe to make English Muffins. The photo to the left is what they looked like after done. Who knew that making English Muffins were so easy? Especially if you have a sourdough starter growing in your refrigerator.

We do not eat a ton of bread. We would love to, but it is not what keeps our energy going. We stick more to fruit, vegetables, and proteins, but sometimes you just want fresh-baked goods. Over the weekend, I made these yummy English Muffins. Essentially you prep the starter to raise over night. It takes only a few minutes to prepare it. Let it rise. You can let it rise up to 24 hours. Many of the bread recipes that I follow you have to let it rise for a specific number of hours, so it is great that this recipe has flexibility. An opened ended recipe means you have more flexibility to live your life, and still have bread. Once you are ready to finish the English Muffins, it will only take a little less than 30 minutes to finish. Add a few ingredients, form into the muffins and cook on the stove. Finished. Use, or freeze for the future!

I am also exploring using the starter for other bread recipes. Next week I might make pizza dough!

Erin’s Sourdough English Muffins (recipe from my sister-in-law)

  • 1/2 cup sourdough starter (thick or thin)
  • 1 cup liquid (water*, milk, fermented dairy, coconut milk…)
  • 2 cups flour (your choice)
  • add-ins like seeds, dried fruit, or chopped nuts… (optional)

Next day:

  • 1 tablespoon raw honey (or any other sweetener)
  • 3/4 to 1 teaspoon sea salt of choice
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda

*Note: The English muffins will turn out if you use water instead of full fat or fermented dairy and if you add more flour initially for easier kneading. However, the results will not be as soft on the outside or as tender on the inside once you’ve finished the cooking.

Place 1/2 cup sourdough starter (thick or thin) into a medium size bowl. Pour onto that the 1 cup of liquid. This is the first place where the recipe is very flexible. Your liquid could be water, milk, any fermented dairy, coconut milk. Stir to combine starter and liquid. If your sourdough starter is very stiff, you might need an extra 1/4 cup of liquid.

Once combined, add 2 cups of flour to the mixture. Use any combination of flours, white wheat, whole wheat, and rye. Stir well to combine. Cover and let your dough sit overnight, even up to 24 hours. In the morning, you will be able to tell that your sourdough has been at work.  

On top of your soaked dough, sprinkle 3/4 teaspoon salt (I use 1 teaspoon celtic sea salt), 1 teaspoon baking soda, and 1 tablespoon honey. Use a wooden spoon to push/cut/stir in your newly added ingredients. Don’t worry about incorporating it perfectly; you will be kneading it in just a moment.

Pour about 1 tablespoon of olive oil onto your counter and spread it around with your hand and then rub your hands together. Dump out your dough onto the oiled spot and knead the dough for 2 to 3 minutes. The purpose of this kneading is to incorporate the honey, baking soda, and salt. After this, take a pizza cutter and separate  dough into 8 equal portions. Dust your hands with flour before you shape each muffin.

With dusted hands, pick up a portion and gently shape it into your muffin, usually about 1 finger thick and maybe 2-1/2 inches wide. Place your muffins on a lightly floured or cornmealed (greased might work if you want to stay away from newly added flour) sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. Cover with a dish towel and let rest while preheating griddle or skillet.

About 5 minutes before you want to griddle/skillet your muffins, set the heat to mediumish. You do not want the muffins to brown too quickly because the insides need a chance to cook. Carefully transfer the muffins onto your heat source. Cook the muffins for about five minutes on each side. You can take a little peek every now and again to make sure the bottoms are not getting too brown. When it is time to flip, do this carefully. Your muffins will plump up beautifully, and you do not want to deflate them by being too rough. Cook for the second five minutes. Now, if you find that the outside edge of your muffin is not as done as you like, feel free to pop these into a 350 degree oven for 5-10 minutes.



Does the Internet mean we have more time to bake bread?

We can complain about the Internet and how little privacy we have, and how much it sucks our time each day, but over the weekend I had another view. As I was preparing mentally for the half marathon I ran on Sunday, I did some online searching about what to eat the morning of the race, what to wear, what to expect afterwards, etc.

The thought crossed my mind about how easy it was for me to find information that I needed in a fairly quick timeframe. Now, I do not know how accurate the information is, but I had plenty of it to sift through. What would I have done 15 years ago?

  1. Called many friends or acquaintances and asked about their experience (takes much more time than the Internet)
  2. Gone to the library and taken out a few books or encyclopedia on the subject (even more time)
  3. Consulted a running store, or found a local expert (time depends on how knowledgeable and accessible each are to me)

While we complain about how we spend too much time online, I wonder if we are actually smarter and if there are times when we save time. We do not have to wait long for answers to our questions or leave our homes. We can attain specific information without much effort, allowing us to spend more time making bread or whatever we deem important in life.

What do you think?