26 August 11 • MAV

Today is my first nephew’s 3rd birthday.
I love him and his brother more than anything my very best dreams could ever conjure up.

When there’s a birthday I like to make a cake. I’ll make any cake the birthday friend wants. Anything.

Miles requested a “pink cake”.

“A chocolate cake with pink frosting?” I asked. I know how much he loves chocolate.

“A lellow cake with pink frosting.” he answered.
(No I did not misspell yellow. He just says “lellow” instead of “yellow” so I figured I’d be accurate.)

Done.

A few years ago I published my yellow cake recipe in Lines & Shapes, Volume Seven (below). I really like this recipe. It’s just a simple yellow cake with more of a whole grain spin. It’s sweet and has that good buttery yellow cake taste. Miles even liked it and that is saying something! He’s the pickiest eater I’ve met.

My Cake-In-The-House Yellow Cake

2-1/3 C flour
2 t baking powder
scant 1/4 t salt
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1-3/4 C natural cane sugar
2 t vanilla
4 large eggs, room temperature
1 C whole milk, room temperature

NOTE: For the flour I’ve used white whole wheat, spelt, all purpose and pastry in various combinations of measurements and all seem to work quite well. Today I went for 1 cup all purpose and 1-1/3 cups spelt. It was very nice.

Oven temperature = 325ºF / 170ºC

Butter, line bottom with parchment, butter again and flour a 9 x 3 inch round cake pan (or you can use two standard 9 x 1 inch round cake pans if you plan to make a frosted layer cake).

Sift flour, baking powder and salt three times and set aside. In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on the highest speed for 5 minutes until very light and fluffy stopping halfway through to scrape the sides. Add vanilla, beat. Add eggs one at a time beating after each addition. Gently and slowly beat in flour mixture and milk alternating between the two, beginning and ending with flour.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake until the top is golden brown, edges of the cake pull away from the sides and a tester comes out clean. For my 9 x 3 inch cake it took about 80 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes in the pan before turning out onto a wire rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar or frost once cooled.

For “pink frosting” I beat heavy cream, vanilla, sugar and some natural red dye I found at Whole Foods. So easy.

: : :

I call this cake “Cake-In-The-House Yellow Cake” as a tribute to my brother who likes to have a boxed yellow cake in the house on any of your average days of the week. I was shocked by this practice because to me a cake is meant only for special occasions. But I developed this recipe so I could feel good about having a yellow cake sitting around on any day of the week if I was ever so inclined. I’m just not a boxed cake person (not that there is anything wrong with it!). I think this cake works for both the every day and for the special days. It was a pleasure to make this cake today for the most special of occasions.

Miles, je t’aime.

26 August 11 • SCB

We have just one more full week before the school term begins. Summer is not over, but our summer freedom is coming to a close. Everything did not go according to plan, but we have, on reflection, made the best of these months that we could. We gave it our best shot.

We read—a lot. We spent time at the Central Library downtown every week while my daughter volunteered there. We left with more than we could carry each time. I met my goal of reading 52 books this year back in July.

We ate well most of the time, and sometimes we just ate toast. We walked and biked to our neighborhood shops and markets. We tried new things. We picked 18 pounds of berries to freeze, but as of this week, they are already gone—into smoothies and slushies and crisps, but mostly just popped straight from the freezer. We ate out in our neighborhood and in other people’s neighborhoods and at the homes of friends and family.

We were bored. We bickered. We wished for independence.

We made things. I worked with yarn. My son made countless Lego contraptions. My daughter worked on her novel and doodled and crafted. We made sun prints. We knotted friendship bracelets. We built couch forts. We brought home feathers, sticks and pebbles to pile around the house.

We explored. We were stung by stinging nettle and bitten by mosquitoes. Someone got poison oak on their bum. We foraged for salmon berries. We got wet in indoor and outdoor pools, in creeks and rivers, in lakes, in the sound and in the ocean proper. We camped out with old friends and made some new ones. We built roaring fires.  We discovered the joys of the campsite hammock.

It was a very good summer, and it’s not over yet.

19 August 11 • MAV

Sometimes things just don’t go as planned.

On Thursday evening three of us set off in the car on our way to a birthday beach BBQ about an hour away. We were trying to hit the road by 4:15 p.m. but didn’t get in the car till 5 p.m. No worries though. We were feeling excited to celebrate our friend and put our toes in the sand even if we’d only have a few hours before the park closed at sunset. We were suppose to bring food for the grill but figured it was more important to just get there so we packed up what we had: a bottle of rosé and a few beach linens. Beach or bust!!!!

Well, the Portland traffic didn’t think so. What in the world?!

It took us 42 minutes just to try to make our way from our flat to the highway, then through town (trying for a short cut) and back toward the highway, and then back again. I think it was me who said, “when are we going to call it?” at about 5:55 p.m. We knew we were not going to make it seamlessly up to the beach to meet our friends as we had once hoped. We were not going to be able to celebrate the birthday girl. We were bummed.

Thank goodness for Lynsey who suggested, “let’s take this bottle of rosé to the Eastern Prom and calm our nerves.”

Yes!

So we stopped quickly for plastic cups and a few snacks and a small picnic was had.

Shoes off.

Snacking and laughing.

Watching sailboats and letting the day go.

Happy birthday, Chiara. We were thinking of you from our little patch of grass.

19 August 11 • SCB

During the summer break I am with my kids full time which means they accompany me everywhere. You may have seen them slumping and scowling in the line at the post office, dancing and high-kicking in the wide aisles of Home Depot, knocking down frame displays at the film lab or, most certainly, begging for salt & vinegar potato chips at the market.

While I like to engage my kids in all aspects of the sourcing and preparation of our food (and I highly recommend doing so if you have reluctant eaters), their shopping enthusiasm can have an incredibly distracting effect on both my grocery list and our food budget. This week we brought home two different kinds of pickles, flavored rice cakes, dried exotic fruits, smoked salmon, packaged sushi, and seeded rolls. We, however, did not buy the bread, milk and butter for which we had made the trip.

Another of our impulse purchases was red currants. I’m not sure how they ended up in our basket, maybe we were lured by their ruby-red jewel-like appearance. I don’t know. Days later, they were still lovely, but uneaten ( we discovered that they were both tart and full of seeds). They were at risk of going to waste, but we didn’t have enough to warrant jam. A friend recommended baking scones with them, but we had not bought milk and had only a pat of butter. Then I remembered Molly’s Lemon Yogurt Cake which I had paired with another sweet-tart flavor, rhubarb, with great success in the past.

One of the very first Orangette recipes I ever tried, I have adapted this cake just slightly over time by adding some whole wheat flour and a touch of salt (I have also made it with all whole wheat pastry flour). It is always moist and simple (it’s a great cake for kids to bake on their own) and a perfect accompaniment to fruit, fresh or baked within.

Lemon Yogurt Cake with Red Currants
Adapted from Gâteau au Citron by Molly Wizenberg

1 cup red currants
1/2 cup plain yogurt
1 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 cup canola oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Generously butter a 9 inch cake pan. Wash currants and take them off the stems (if you have someone with little fingers to do this—great!). Spread currants across bottom of pan.

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly blend yogurt with sugar and eggs. Add flours, baking powder, salt and zest, stirring to combine. Finally, add oil and incorporate into mixture.

Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until cake is lightly browned and springy to the touch (test with toothpick). Allow to cool for 20 minutes and then gently turn out onto a plate.

12 August 11 • MAV

Let’s pop the champagne!

Welcome everyone.

Stephanie and I have been talking about a new online home for 3191 Miles Apart for quite some time. We knew this would be the year and we are so happy to be here with you in our new space. It feels cozy, doesn’t it?

: : :

Things have changed a little …
• posts are now categorized by titles in our Archives
• our diptychs have a home of their own where they can be viewed all together (Stop back this Sunday for the start of our Year of Sundays project.)
• we have chosen to let you view our posts side by side and week by week (a feature we’ve been desperate to have since the beginning of the project)
• along with weekly posts our new site will also hold info on our books and our collaborations (3191 Miles Apart will be a great place to visit not only for the posts but to find out more about us, what we’ve been up to in our work-lives and what will be coming up in those realms in the future.)

And things have remained the same …
• we will still post once a week on Fridays or on the weekends if we’re running behind
• this is still a quiet and intimate space where comments are not turned on
• you can still send us a letter in the post
• I am still on the left and Stephanie is still on the right

: : :

As we were preparing this site I kept saying over and over again: “I can’t believe we have been doing 3191 Miles Apart for nearly 2-1/2 years.” It seems impossible to me. Didn’t we just finish A Year of Mornings??

When I think of how quickly time is moving I want to stand up and stomp my foot with a loud “NO.” But we all know there is none of that in this world. Life just doesn’t slow down; there is no pause button. And that is why I love being here every week with Stephanie. It’s far too easy to let a week go by without any sort of ritual. It’s easy to let a week go by taking very few moments of personal creative time. It’s easy to let a week go by without connecting with someone you love. I don’t take for granted that this space helps me connect not only with Stephanie but also with myself, my close friends near and far, my family, my Mom and Dad, my sweetheart. 3191 Miles Apart is a record of our lives. It’s a journal that is not private but rather lives and breathes off its interaction with you. It’s a place where I can send postcards out about my life and the things I see in a slow, mindful and thoughtful way. I am so glad to be here.

We have much exciting news to share with you as well. Next week we will tell you about our newest collaboration (which has spawned a soon-to-be-released book). And as August moves on we will start to fill you in on the new year of 3191 Quarterly of which the first issue will be out in early November (subscriptions will be opened up September 30).

: : :

I would like to take one last moment to give three important shout outs of deep thanks. First, to my incredible creative outfit without whom this site would not have happened: guys, tonight’s going to be a good, good night. Second, to our insanely talented assistant: Chloe, you’re our angel and our door is always open to you. And last, to my creative partner: Stephanie, I refuse to imagine a time when I open a web page to find that your heartening life is not standing next to mine, propping it up, making it more full. Thank you for these 5 years of collaboration and friendship.

And of course thank you for joining us in our new space. I am happy to say that we’ll see you here next week.

These film photos were all taken this summer. They are featured on a web project launched by the previously mentioned Chloe. The project is called, appropriately, This Summer and it will be updated daily through the end of August (or so). I have much more to write about this summer, this project and the like but I can’t bring myself to think about the end of summer this week. That’s for another week.

12 August 11 • SCB

Hello! Welcome to our new site!

I love being to the right of MAV again. It just feels right.

Summer came late to Oregon. When everyone else was melting in the heat wave, we were still shuffling around in our wool socks. Eventually, the sun came and the berries ripened and we shed our layers and jumped in the river, but there were a few weeks there when it was all in question. We had to just celebrate what we had which was long days, good sleeping weather, and time together. Time together is the best part of summer for me. (Just as time alone is my favorite part of autumn).

The last few weeks represent the longest break we’ve taken from posting in some form since we started A Year of Mornings in January of 2007. The respite was welcome, and it allowed us some time to create this space and work on some other projects, but, boy, it’s great to be back. 3191 has become part of the rhythm of my life, and I missed it.

I hope that you will enjoy the new format, and that you will be able to more easily find your favorite posts in our newly organized archives. Last month our old site was down for a day and three different folks emailed me desperate for access to favorite recipes—they are all there, don’t worry. We will be continuing our diptych tradition as well with A Year of Sundays starting this week. Those quiet side-by-side moments are still important to MAV and me. They often say what I can’t quite put into words here.

In this space, we will continue to do what we have been doing which is to share a little bit of our lives each week. We will bridge those 3191 miles with access to our kitchens, our bookshelves, our communities and our travels. My hope is that 3191 Miles Apart will always stay as intimate and earnest as those very first photos posted back in 2007. Thank you so much for joining us.

Film snapshots are from our camping trip to Orcas Island, Washington last week. Hammock swinging in the trees, exploring Cascade Lake by paddle boat and kayak—we had a great time. I’ll have more to share from beautiful Orcas at a later date.

26 June 11 • MAV

My Summer Essentials: pretty much stays the same every year.

Let’s start with what you would find in my bag …
~ a linen towel (Never know when you might swim or sit on damp grass with a cool drink.)
~ a water bottle (If you think I drink tons of water in other seasons summer has me drinking like a mad woman.)
~ sunscreen (I’m a real stickler for SPF 30.)
~ sunglasses (Always.)
~ a little camera (Always.)
~ a notebook (Summer is when I think of my best ideas so I have to be on the ready at all times.)

Beyond the bag my Summer Essentials include …

~ fruit (I really don’t eat fruit in the winter or even spring but in the summer it’s all I can think about morning, noon and night.)

~ my nephews (Always love them more than anything ever {as of two weeks ago I now have two!} but in the summer we can play outside … life doesn’t get much better.)

~ swimming in ponds (Can’t get enough swimming and I’m a real sucker for ponds … don’t even mind the murk!)

~ stripes and patterns (I’m not usually one for a lot of pattern but in the summer I like to mix it up. This year in particular I have definitely been feeling the mash-up.)

~ sunsets (Come on now. What else can be said?)

I wish you a wonderful mid-Summer, friends. See you back here very soon.

: : :

Please note: We are now on Summer Holiday. We will be back August 12, 2011. When we return look for some exciting news including a new look for 3191 Miles Apart, new collaborations and an update on the return of our beloved publication ’3191 Quarterly’. See you in August!

26 June 11 • SCB

My Summer Essentials: This motley list includes old stand-bys as well as new favorites, but it’s all summer to me.

1. My cameras. Obviously, I am behind the lens all year long, but summer is my favorite time for photography. The days are long, my home is finally well-lit, and I love to document the full days I get to spend with my kids along with our travels.

2. Fresh herbs. The taste of summer. Eggs, sandwiches, salads, pastas, pizzas, cocktails—all get a handful of fresh herbs tossed on at the end.

3. Shallow baskets. Perfect for berry picking or for holding food to take to a picnic or potluck. Look for them at thrift stores and yard sales.

4. Hammam towel. A new discovery this year. I throw it in my bag when we go on our outdoor adventures. Lightweight, but surprisingly absorbent, it makes a great picnic blanket, a shawl for a cool night, or a way to dry off after a dip in the creek or fountain. I found mine secondhand, but you can search for them on Etsy.

5. Bobby pins. In the heat (which hasn’t quite arrived here, but it will!), I like to keep my hair up all day. You’ll always find a handful of hair pins in my pockets in the summer.

6. Popsicle maker. We make popsicles nearly every day in the summer. As simple as lemonade or as rich as yogurt fudgesicles (find the recipe in the Summer Quarterly). This batch was vanilla yogurt and a raspberry puree sweetened with maple syrup.

7. My Aurora sandals. I first discovered these when I worked at a boutique that sold them 18 years ago, and they have been a summer staple ever since. With their Vibram soles, they are great for everything from canoeing to hiking to crossing rocky creeks to biking. A great alternative to ugly sport sandals. (In the photo above, I am wearing them at our favorite riverside camp spot last summer).

Have an amazing July, everyone!

: : :

Please note: We are now on Summer Holiday. We will be back August 12, 2011. When we return look for some exciting news including a new look for 3191 Miles Apart, new collaborations and an update on the return of our beloved publication ’3191 Quarterly’. See you in August!

19 June 11 • MAV

I think this is the first completely ‘random’ dispatch I’ve posted on 3191 Miles Apart. This week I have been quite scattered and I feel as if I have so many things to tell you! And most especially so since we are about to sign off for a little summer holiday (but we’ll tell you more about that next week).

Anyway … let’s jump into the randomness, shall we?

First, you must know that I’m in love with my new Jen Judd-McGee Tea Towels. I’m a little obsessed actually. When they are dirty I find any excuse to do a load of laundry and get them back out into rotation. They’re so special, aren’t they?

Second, you must know that I have figured out a solution to my herb problem. What herb problem? Well, the basic gist is that I always end up with too many herbs. There are just two of us in my household afterall and I just don’t need a big bunch (if I’m buying them loose) or a huge plant (if I grow them myself). This year I got little pots of herbs and I’m already feeling so much better about it. A little of something is usually a good fit for me … it just feels right.

Third, you must know that this is my fifth birthday Card Society clic pen and it’s red with magenta writing on it and red ink (sorry for the spoiler Card Society members)! I’m just about as excited about this pen as someone can be about a pen. These are the last 10 days to sign up for The Card Society before I close membership forever (my card-of-the-month club ends in December after over five years and 134 cards). Change is good … it really is.

Fourth, you must know that I’m tickled pink about my new (antique) yellow and white striped porch furniture. Bring on the porch-sitting and BBQ-ing, please!

And last (you’ve been very patient with this ‘random’ post), you must know that I made my first cobbler of the season this weekend. I’m a cobbler fanatic! My very favorite recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s book The Kitchen Diaries. Here’s my take on that recipe which you see all made up at the top of this post:

Peach & Blueberry Sour Cream Cobbler

peaches and blueberries (as much as you like to fill your pie dish up)
the juice of one lemon
1 T caster sugar
1 T all purpose flour

1/2 C all purpose flour
3/4 C spelt flour
2 T cornmeal
pinch of salt
2-1/2 t baking powder
1 T caster sugar
6 T butter
5 oz sour cream

Set oven to 400ºF/200ºC. Cut peaches into chunks or wedges and put in a bowl with blueberries. Sprinkle the fruit with your lemon juice, 1 T caster sugar and 1 T flour. Mix together and place that fruit mixture into your pie dish. Take flours, cornmeal, salt, baking powder, 1 T caster sugar and whisk together in a bowl. Cut butter in and use fingers or knives to bring together until it looks like soft breadcrumbs. Add sour cream and use your hands to bring dough together. Take small pieces of the dough (golf ball sized) and flatten them out a bit in your hands and place them over the fruit. Do this over and over until your dough is gone and the fruit is somewhat covered. Sprinkle the top with a little caster sugar (if you like sweet use quite a bit!) and put in the oven for 25–30 minutes or until top is golden brown and fruit is bubbling. Serve warm or room temperature with vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.

: : :

Here’s to randomness.
Hope you enjoyed mine. I know I feel better getting it all out!


19 June 11 • SCB

Because we cannot depend on the weather to signal the arrival of summer in the northwest (I have just slipped on my wool socks, actually), we depend on the berries.

Strawberries = summer is here. They are a few weeks late this year, but we’ll take ‘em when we can get ‘em.

For Father’s Day, I usually make my dad strawberry shortcake. Smitten Kitchen’s shortcakes are perfect (and a great use for the yolks of the hard-boiled eggs of which my son only eats the white). Fresh, local berries only need a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkling of sugar and some time to macerate.

My dad, who grew up in the midwest, eats his short cake buttered with a heap of berries and then smothered in just straight cream. I always set aside some cream for my dad and then whip the rest for everyone else. I think it’s a plate-full of nostalgia for him, and I’m glad I can serve it up.

Happy Father’s Day to all the dads!

11 June 11 • MAV

Don’t put it off any longer!

Find and visit your local farmers market today!

You might search through:
Local Harvest
Farmers Market
Eat Well Guide

I’m such a huge fan of the markets here in Portland, ME.
I find not only the freshest of foods but inspiration everywhere I look …

radishes above (will be sliced in chunks and buttered and salted)

baby kale (will be tossed with olive oil, lemon juice, fresh parmesan) + broccoli (will be roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper)

little squashes (will be marinated in olive oil and vinegar and put straight on the grill)

feta (will be eaten in chunks and if there’s any left will be added to salads)

dill pickles (will sit aside burgers made on the grill) + eggs (6 will be given to my mom who is in town visiting and 6 will be hard boiled for breakfasts)

peony (will be stared at and enjoyed on my kitchen sill)

Happy, happy, farmers market days to you!

11 June 11 • SCB

I do not have a green thumb. In fact, on close inspection, you might find it to be almost black. As much as I love plants and the natural world, I have never really learned to care for and tend them as one should. I figure, however, that if Julia Child could only begin to cook in her forties, I can learn to garden and care for plants in my forties, right?

I found this book, published in the mid-sixties, in the discards at our school library the other day. I originally brought it home because I was charmed by the cover and illustrations, but soon found it was a wealth of information that just might save my crumbly-brown indoor garden.

Along with general instructions on indoor plant care, there is an illustrated guide to specific houseplants, with information on their optimal light and water conditions, along with tips on transplanting and propagating.

A few things I learned while browsing:

—I am most likely way over-watering my aloe and succulents.

—Most house plants benefit from a summer outdoors (in the shade). I am going to give my plants a little summer vacation!

—If you don’t have an outdoor space, move your plants to a shadier spot and give them fresh air through an open window for the summer months.

—Loosen the soil of your plants with a fork every few weeks.

—Prune the dead or wilted leaves of house plants regularly and dispose of them (the book suggests burning them). This keeps pests and disease away as well as keeping them shapely.

At the back are some suggestions for indoor gardens. This one is called Garden of Cool, Quiet Greens. I love that.

If you want to visit some women who do have lovely green thumbs, head over to Tend Collective.

5 June 11 • MAV

I DID IT!!!!!!!!!!!!

Yes yes yes yes yes yes yes! I am doing a dance!

And also … whew whew whew (I’m saying, wiping the sweat away from my brow).

I was so nervous to try my hand at making the Scratch Baking Co. bagels but I DID IT and I feel like a million bucks!

Before going further I think it’s time for a major confession. Probably the biggest I’ve made in this web space. I, MAV, have never made a loaf of bread. There. I said it. I’ve never made bread. Agh! Can you believe it? With the way I wax on on 3191 about baking you’d think I was baking bread every other weekend. Well, no. I am completely intimidated by bread-baking. I just don’t get the rising and fermenting business and I’m not brave enough to just go for it. But here I was this weekend with my first bread experience upon me and it was of all things—bagels!

I’ll cut to the punch line and tell you that I have been beaming and I am quite proud to say that I rather liked my Scratch Baking Co. bagels. I even had a few good reviews from loved ones (the kind of loved ones who would tell you if something was awful so I trust them fairly well). Mind you, they were nowhere near perfect … nowhere near the goodness of the Scratch Baking Co. bagel itself but still … what a blast!

You need 6 hours from start to finish. You need your own sourdough starter. You need quarry tiles or a pizza stone in your oven. You need a scale. And you need a few other basic things but I’m telling you making bagels at home is really quite easy and if you’re like me, you’ll adore it.

: : :

I made my dough and let it rise for the instructed 3 hours. I cut and shaped my bagels. (Note: for this part you’ll want to watch Behind The Counter Episode One because it’s ever so helpful.)

I took my time putting in my holes. I love how misshapen and homemade they start to look at this point.

I let my bagels rise a bit more and then I boiled my bagels. I was surrounded by my very own bagels. It was the best feeling, I’m telling you! I added some salt as well as poppy and fennel seeds and I baked them up till golden!

My very own Scratch Baking Co. bagels. Come on now! This is what life is all about.

What do you think? Are you going to join me and make your own Scratch Bagels From Scratch? You’ll need a copy of Baker’s Notes, Issue No. 1, a bit of courage and you’re on your way. Do let me know if you make your own Scratch bagels. I’d love to hear about it and of course see a photograph. (email: hello {at} iammav.com)

Note: This is part two of a two-part post from last week. See the first part right here.

5 June 11 • SCB

It’s June, and I can hardly believe it! MAV and I spent some time this week talking over our summer plans for 3191, and we’re excited to share what’s in store soon.

Truly summer-like temperatures are rather rare in these parts in June, so when we spotted a hot forecast, we headed to one of our favorite spots in Oregon. It’s a short hike through the woods (and over a bouncy suspension bridge) to the sandy and rocky shore. Best day I’ve spent all year!

Happy almost-summer.

29 May 11 • MAV

I can’t tell you how happy I am to finally be writing today about a project I’ve been working on for some time now. It’s a brand new publication called Baker’s Notes and it has a whole lot of heart … not to mention wonderful recipes, charming stories and gorgeous photographs.

Let me quickly start at the beginning …

This past December I got a random email from Sonja, one of the owners of Scratch Baking Co. here in South Portland, Maine, asking if I would like to chat some time about her idea for a new publication. After some good productive talks, where I could tell right away we were completely meant for each other (I mean come on, it’s a bakery for goodness sake!), my creative team and I became collaborators with Sonja, Allison and Bob (the three owners) and we were on our way.

Beyond the fact that my team and I have felt positively giddy to be working with such a respectable and amazing local small business, we are now happy to call the Scratch family our dear friends. That means a lot to us and really more than I can even express here in words on a computer screen. Creative work, to us, is more than just ‘work’. It’s about connecting, imagining and producing an idea or a something that will be more than just a passing phase or craze. It’s about finding and harnessing love and the spark of life.

Baker’s Notes, Issue No. 1: Foundations released just a few weeks ago and we are so proud of it. In conjunction with the release I’m happy to be bringing you this first of two posts about Scratch Baking Co. and the publication. This week: a little Q&A with the owners (and an awesome recipe) and next week: I will make the famous Scratch Baking Co bagels (a recipe you too can find in Issue No. 1)! Oh boy oh boy!

So, without further adieu … get to know a little more about Scratch Baking Co.. The photographs here were taken this weekend at around 6:50 a.m. just before the doors opened on a very busy Saturday morning.

: : :

When did Scratch open its doors? Were you nervous?
SONJA: We opened 6 a.m. the morning of June 6th 2004. I think I would have been terrified if I hadn’t been so tired! I think I mostly just wanted to get through the first day so I could go back to sleep.

What’s your favorite part of the day in the bakery?
SONJA: My favorite part is in the morning right before we open, everything looks so beautiful and yummy … almost like a still life painting.
ALLISON: Favorite part of the day is pulling bread out of the oven that we have worked really hard on, each phase of the process has come together, each person has put their love into it and it is dark red crust crackling … smelling like wheat chex and light a beautiful expression of itself and all the bakers.

What is something in the bakery that each of you is totally crushing on right now (could be specific wine, coffee, baked goods)? In other words, what are you dreaming about and can’t get enough of?
SONJA: I’m totally in love with the fresh strawberry no-bake cheesecake tart w/ graham cracker shortbread crust, we just debuted it this week and I can be found back in the dish area licking the bowl every single time!
ALLISON: I am loving the tiger milk cookies and the sprouted grain and seed loaves which come out in the afternoon.
BOB: I am totally into the new coffee from Matt’s Wood Roasted Coffee. Its an origin Bolivian from the ASOCAFE coop. As an espresso its sweet, rich with pretty gentle. Its packed with flavors or chocolate, caramel, and a pecan nuttiness. I’m trying to pace my consumption.

What baked goodie have you been making from day one and not really changed or tweaked in any way? Why’s it so good?
SONJA: The muffins! The recipe is from Allison’s mom Nancy, they are perfect … sweet and tender on the inside a bit crispy/toasty on the outside. They are the perfect vehicle for whatever we want to put in them.

What bread goodie have you been making from day one and not really changed or tweaked in any way? Why’s it so good?
ALLISON: All of the bread formulas are in constant flux trying to get them to be the best they can be with the time frame we have to work with. The bagel recipe doesn’t change much except for daily tweaks due to humidity and temperature.

How about a couple good summer wine recommendations for our readers if you please?
BOB: There are a couple whites that we have been getting into recently as the weather is trying to change. My current favorite is the 09 Skylark Pinot Blanc. Its a single vineyard wine from the Orsi Vineyard in Mendocino County. A touch rich on the palate with awesome acidity on the finish. Its very distinctive with only 510 cases made. My other go-to favorite that is awesome from vintage to vintage is the Zenato Lugana ‘San Benedetto’. Its a wonderful chardonnay alternative. All stainless steel fermentation with beautiful expressive fruit. And as the weather warms…we always keep several lightly chilled rose’s around typically from Provence or Bandol.

Any advice for someone trying to start a small neighborhood business?<
SONJA: Start simple and do what you love and share that love with everyone that comes through the door.
ALLISON:  Start out with a few basic things and try to do them well, with love, from the soul … people will feel that and taste it.

What’s the next big thing on the books for Scratch?
SONJA: After almost 7 years of being closed on Mondays we are moving to being open 7 days a week.  Although one day seems small it is changing a lot about how we are running things production wise.

When will we see the next issue of Baker’s Notes?
SONJA: I’m hoping late October!

: : :

Sonja was kind enough to give us a recipe for one of my favorite Scratch Baking Co. treats of late: Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies. I made a batch earlier this week (I used natural PB and it worked just fine; experiment for yourselves and see what you like) and everyone raved. I had three in a row (no big surprise there). Thank you, Sonja! If I were you I’d hop to it and whip up a batch of these as soon as possible. Enjoy!

Scratch Baking Co.
Flourless Peanut Butter Cookies
makes about 1-1/2 dozen cookies
2 cups peanut butter (creamy is best)
1/2 to 3/4 cups brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cups white sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

optional:
salted redskin peanuts 1/2 cup
milk chocolate chunks 1/2 cup

Mix all together in kitchen aid with paddle until it comes together in a cohesive mass. Form into ping pong size balls and flatten slightly with the palm of hand or your fingertips.

We bake them in a 300 convection oven for approx 6 minutes then spin and 6-7 more minutes. You want your oven at 350ºF and timing should be about the same.

Note: you can also make them smaller (roll in walnut size balls) without optional ingredients for sandwich cookies and fill them with ganache, jelly, peanut butter filling or nutella (my personal fave).

: : :

See you next week with my very own homemade Scratch Baking Co. Bagels. Wish me luck!

Note: This is part one of a two-part post. See part two right here.

29 May 11 • SCB

This week we headed out to Bob’s Red Mill to replenish our pantry (we are lucky to have their headquarters nearby, but you can buy their products all over the U.S.). As I was unpacking my haul, I thought it might be fun to share some of our pantry staples. We buy a wide variety of goods in bulk, but I thought I’d concentrate on some of the grains and dried legumes in this post.

A note on storage: I store small portions my grains and legumes in air-tight glass jars. I find that when things are visible, I am much more likely to use them. Anything left over goes into our chest freezer where it stays fresh and free of grain-hungry pests.

1. Millet. We’ve really only added millet to our repertoire this year. It adds a great crunch to baked goods (I recommend the Millet Muffins from Heidi Swanson’s Super Natural Every Day). You could also use it in place of the quinoa in my Sweet and Crunchy Nut and Seed Clusters.

2. Wheat berries. Chewy and nutty, cooked wheat berries are great warm or cold. I have a recipe for a wheat berry salad with asparagus and leeks in the spring issue of 3191Q.

3. Barley. It takes a while to cook, but barley makes for a hearty side. Put the leftovers in soup or in a salad. We love this very simple chicken and barley soup recipe (I usually just make it with the bones and leftover meat of a roast chicken).

4. Rice. Besides the standard brown and white rice, we buy this sweet white rice as a treat. It’s sticky and sweet. Use it for sushi or rice balls or cook it with coconut milk and sweetener and serve with fruit.

5. Pearled (Israeli) couscous. Not so much a grain, but a grain product. This is a real favorite with my kids. They have always called it ‘big balls’ (ahem) to differentiate it from the finer couscous.

6. Polenta/grits. I prefer the southern white grits (I have been to Georgia, North Carolina and Texas in the past few months, but somehow never came home with some good southern grits), but Bob’s Red Mill polenta is second best.

7. Beans. We love all kinds around here. Home cooked beans are truly easy and so much better and more economical than canned. This video has some great bean-cooking tips. I cook up big batches and then freeze them in pint jars. We use them in burritos, soups, stews or to make bean burgers and dips. Beans and rice is my son’s favorite after-school snack.

8. Split peas. Love ‘em. You can find my split pea soup with three variations in the winter issue of 3191Q.

9. Lentils. I love the tender red lentils for dal and soups (this recipe is simply perfect) and the french green lentils when I’m feeling fancy, but these standard brown lentils are a real workhorse in my pantry. They are inexpensive, cook up quickly and can be used in a variety of ways. This time of year, I like to make cold lentil salads with diced vegetables, crumbled cheese and a vinaigrette

(At Bob’s Red Mill)

22 May 11 • MAV

We didn’t mean to take the week off from this space but it turns out we did.
See you next week, friends!

22 May 11 • SCB

We didn’t mean to take the week off from this space but it turns out we did.
See you next week, friends!

13 May 11 • MAV

Our new issue of 3191 Quarterly is out! Yes!

And it’s our last issue of the first year of Quarterlies. Time really does fly.

Some of my favorite spreads from the last year …

Summer: I couldn’t love Stephanie’s friendship bracelets more. Always drawing big hearts around this project.

Autumn: One of the most fun things I’ve done is have some kids over to make art. It was seriously one of the best afternoons I can remember.

Winter: Our winter hikes in Maine don’t look anything like the hike that Stephanie showed us in this issue. It’s so dreamy.

Spring: In this new issue I really dig having a look into Stephanie’s morning routine. If we continue the Quarterly I can see ‘Routine’ becoming a regular feature.

So that is it! One full year of 3191 Quarterly. We have been honored to be in your homes not just on your computer screens but on your coffee tables too. Thank you for a great year! We’ll keep you posted about what’s coming up next!

13 May 11 • SCB

Spring has sprung! I am very excited to share this issue with you. It has already shipped to our subscribers, and is now available in our shop (please note: our shipping department is closed this week, so all new orders will ship May 20th).  Also available is a set of all four seasonal issues, so if you’ve been meaning to order, it’s not too late.

MAV and I thought it would be fun to look back and share some of our favorite spreads from the Quarterly year. Enjoy!

This is my favorite spread from the spring Quarterly. Probably because I am a total sucker for MAV’s blue table, but also because I love rice cakes! (My kids are dying to make those chocolate covered ones).

I loved MAV’s beautiful bloom spread in the inter issue. It brought color to my dreary Oregon winter.

My favorite spread from autumn is this one that features my sweet daughter in her iconic grey beret (she wears it nearly every day).

The blue-green waters, tan legs and sandals in MAV’s field trip from our first issue have me daydreaming about summer. I could stare at it all day.