Category Archives: Recipe

Grandma Rita’s Jewish Coffee Cake

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

Food and family are a perfect combination; like peanut butter and jelly on white bread at midnight or mozzarella and tomato in a Caprese salad in summer. To me, family means a blend of recipes, fit for five or fifty, passed down through generations and adapted along the way.

My mom has seven siblings, so growing up in Ohio mealtime was not about the food itself, but the social event and being with the entire family. My Grandma Rita raised eight kids and while she was a simple cook, she proudly fed her large family with a limited budget every night. My mom once told me how grandma used to cut peanut butter with butter to make it go further. This kind of fight, creativity, and undying love is what my family is known for. We all get it from Rita.

Grandma Rita didn’t have a ton of regular family recipes. Some of my fondest memories with her were eating Kraft Mac & Cheese while watching Wheel of Fortune. She once made ambrosia cups for my 3rd grade class and we found out that most other nine year olds much prefer chocolate cupcakes. I recently realized while watching a Hellmann’s commercial that the parmesan chicken bake she regularly made probably came from a recipe on the back of the mayo jar.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

However, for holidays and even some weekends while both my mom and her siblings and me and my cousins and brothers were growing up, Grandma Rita would make Jewish Coffee Cake. This is Rita’s recipe and everyone in my family knows it and loves it.

This coffee cake is simple. It has three sticks of butter. Pecans, walnuts, brown sugar, and cinnamon make it sweet and coffee cake-y. This topping is layered throughout and creates a crispy crust that this cake is known for. It’s baked in a bundt pan, because I assume that’s how many cakes were made in in 50’s. It’s super moist because it has sour cream in it. Which is also how it got its name.  When asked why she called it Jewish Coffee Cake, she didn’t know why, except “Because there’s sour cream in it.” But before she met my dad, my grandma had never met a Jew before.

That was the best answer she could come up with, and though it didn’t make much sense, that’s what Jewish meant to her: a particular infamous and unfamiliar-to-her ingredient. I never identified with any one religion or just one heritage, but to me, Jewish (and Italian and Irish) means food and family. And this simple recipe represents the melding of my backgrounds in a cake (which happens to be my favorite food).

Grandma Rita passed this weekend but her legacy lives on in all her children, her grandchildren, and even this cake. It’s one of my all-time favorite recipes and I look forward to making it and thinking of her for many years to come. For my family, here is the recipe and I hope you will make it often and think of our wonderful family often. For everyone else, this recipe is truly delicious so I do hope you try it. And when you do, I hope you make your own memories over it and share with people you love. That’s what Rita would have wanted.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

Grandma Rita’s Jewish Coffee Cake

Cake Ingredients:
3 cups flour
15 oz sour cream
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cup butter (3 sticks), softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
4 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

Topping:
3/4 cup chopped nuts (walnuts + pecans)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons flour

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan with butter very well.
  2. Make the batter: In a medium bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir in sour cream.
  3. In a bowl of an electric mixer, beat butter, white sugar, eggs, and vanilla. Slowly incorporate flour mixture into sugar mix.
  4. Make the topping: In a small bowl, combine nuts, sugar, flour, cinnamon.
  5. Sprinkle topping at the bottom of the bundt pan, layer with half of the batter, the rest of the topping, then the rest of the batter.
  6. Bake for 1 hour. Let cool in pan for 10 minutes, then invert and let cool on wire rack.

Grandma Rita's Jewish Coffee Cake

 

Sunday Pasta: Uncomplicated Bolognese

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese

A simple bolognese comes with many food memories for me. Mostly involving boys. Boys like meat sauce. It’s just a given. It’s hearty and manly, yet also comforting like something mom would make to feed them while they were growing kids. See? It’s all about the memories.

I made my first bolognese when I was 14 for Aaron, my high school boyfriend. I shopped for all the ingredients myself – especially confused that you’d put carrots in tomato sauce. I studied my mom’s Joy of Cooking recipe with each step: the chopping, sautéeing, sweating, browning, simmering, stirring. I was on my own on this cooking endeavor. I was so anxious about doing it right and if he would like it. I learned so much that afternoon.

I didn’t know I would want to become very familiar with this kind of adventure as an adult. It’s still a treat to me when I learn in the kitchen. I really should do this more. In addition to the joy I get from cooking, there’s also a zen that comes with it. Life isn’t complicated in here. Men aren’t confusing. Work isn’t overwhelming. It’s ok that I’m not doing something more or making more plans. I crave these moments of uncomplicated. Thank you, food.

This bolognese is not a challenge. It’s uncomplicated. At least I hope it’s not for you if you would like to try it. I threw this together within in hour when I made impromptu plans to have guest over for dinner. Running to the market for supplies (don’t forget a crusty baguette for garlic bread), swiftly getting the ingredients into the pot, cleaning as I’m going (I rarely do this, but when I do I love myself), teeing up the pasta to cook and the dishes for serving, saving a minute to check your hair isn’t a complete mess. Brush off your shoulder. Damn nice work.

It doesn’t take much to impress me or bring me joy. I’d like to think this bolognese is the same way. A simple way to impress and bring joy. We ate comfortably on the couch with a bottle of pale rosé. With a salad of torn local lettuces and heirloom tomatoe slices. We sopped up the sauce with thick pieces of garlic bread. Casual. Easy. Memorable. Uncomplicated.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese

Sunday Pasta – Uncomplicated Bolognese

In a heavy sauce pan, heat about 1/4 cup olive oil. Sauté onion (about one whole, chopped) and a few cloves of chopped garlic. Once onions are soft, add carrot (about 2 whole, shredded) and stir. Add ground beef, break up pieces, and stir until browned. Once the beef is browned, add a can of whole peeled tomatoes (squish tomatoes in your hand to break up before adding) and a can of crushed tomatoes. Simmer on low for a while. If needed, add some tomato paste to thicken. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil. Spoon over thick pasta & sprinkle with Parm.

For garlic bread – melt butter and a few chopped cloves of garlic in a small sauce pan. Pour over bread that’s halved lengthwise. Bake for about 10 minutes in a 400° oven or until browned.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Sunday Pasta Bolognese

Sunday Pasta: Rigatoni, Spinach, Goat Cheese, Pistachio

Sunday Pasta: Rigatoni, Spinach, Goat Cheese, Pistachio Green Weekend Moments – Sunday PastaSome of my favorite moments with Sunday. Nothing drastically new here, although things do feel a little different since last summer. I like the repetition and routine still. Getting to the farmer’s market early and experimenting with produce; wandering Dupont feels pretty much the same; trying new coffee beans and trying to remember what I like and why; reading…sometimes fiction [The Interestings], sometimes for work [Creating Magic], sometimes stacks of food magazines; repeating playlists with favorite songs from Urban Cone, Smallpools, CHVRCHES, Tanlines, James Bay, Of Monsters and Men; then ending with cooking some pasta for dinner. Mostly I eat alone while making to-do lists for the week ahead. Every so often I let someone in on this, which probably means much more to me than to them. My roof is a lovely alternative setting than my couch if weather permits. Soaking up the final moments of calm, collecting creativity for later in the week.

This was one of my most favorite pasta recently: leafy farmer’s market spinach, creamy goat cheese, crunchy pistachios, bright lemony flavor.

Sunday Pasta: Rigatoni with Spinach, Goat Cheese, Pistachios

Satuée spinach with garlic in olive oil til wilted. Add cooked pasta and a little reserved pasta water. Stir in goat cheese til pasta is coated evenly. Squeeze in a little lemon juice if you’d like. Top with crushed pistachios and cracked pepper.

Eat this outside. With Urban Cone “Weekends” playing. Read the Vacationers. Snapchat a pasta pic your crush to make them jealous. A glass of rosé is necessary too. Enjoy dinner, this time…it’s all yours.

Sunday Pasta: with hot pepper oil, egg, parm, pistachio

Sunday Pasta: with hot pepper oil, egg, parm, pistachio

Sunday Pasta and a perfect weekend | Cupcakes for Breakfast

This is what a good weekend looks like. Pasta and wine out with friends at Cashion’s. Lazy mornings in bed. Fresh fragrant roses. Reading a great quick book with a cup of hot chocolate in hand. Eating more pasta while watching a movie. This time: capellini with hot pepper oil, egg, parmesan, crushed pistachio.

This is my idea of a perfect weekend. Something that doesn’t happen enough. But I love how it transports me. To a quiet place of reflection. To Paris – books and movies that allow me to be there. To the kitchen where I can experiment with simple ingredients to make something new. These are my favorite places for my mind to go. Wandering, dreaming, creating. And I so appreciate these small weekend moments to get there.

Sunday Pasta: with hot pepper oil, egg, parm, pistachio

Capellini with Hot Pepper Oil, Egg, Parmesan, Crushed Pistachio

Cook olive oil in a hot pan with red pepper flakes and minced garlic. Toss with hot cooked pasta, an egg yolk, and pepper. Top with grated fresh parm and crushed pistachios. Eat in heapfulls.

Sunday Pasta: with hot pepper oil, egg, parm, pistachio

Cookie Dough Truffles

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Cookie Dough Truffles

I spent several hours this weekend making these truffle cookies. Saturday night making the dough balls while watching Bridget Jones’s Diary, Sunday morning dancing in my kitchen listening to Christmas music. Maybe I’m a bit slow getting back to baking which is why it took me so long, but I didn’t mind. It felt calming and creative to work with my hands again. Others noticed and asked me “What’s the occasion?” “Who are you making these for?” “Oh, you’re giving these away as gifts?”

Nope. Just baking. Or non-baking really with this recipe. It’s been a long time since I’ve heard questions like those. I used to bake cakes just to see how many layers I could stack. Or because I was craving fudge frosting. That has certainly been rare recently.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Cookie Dough Truffles

I knew in my own time I would get back to this place. It’s funny, this recipe was actually posted on my blog two years ago but I never made them. They were a fabulous guest post by a blogger friend. I was sad to realize she no longer posts and has left twitter…even sadder that I didn’t notice.

But it’s the end of December so it’s time to celebrate. So cheers to finding a piece of you that you felt like you’ve forgotten. Cheers to all the bloggers, the creators, who have inspired me for over five years. Cheers to the holidays and celebrating all things sweet and joyful. Cheers to making cookie dough covered in chocolate and dusted in gold.

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Cookie Dough Truffles

Cookie Dough Truffles

  • 1 cup butter or margarine, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips for dough
  • 2 cups any chocolate for melting (I used a combo of milk and dark)
  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with an electric mixer) cream together butter and sugars on low speed until fluffy. Add in milk and vanilla extract. Slowly incorporate flour, salt, and baking soda until fully combined. Add in chocolate chips.
  2. Cover dough and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Once dough is firm, form 1″ balls and place on a wax/parchment paper lined baking sheet. (I used a 1″ ice cream scooper at this step so all the truffles would be close in size. A tablespoon would work fine too). Place in the freezer until firm, about 30 minutes.
  3. In a glass or microwave safe bowl, melt any dipping chocolate (or extra chocolate chips) according to package directions.
  4. Using a spoon, dip frozen dough balls into chocolate and roll until fully covered. Place dipped truffles on a lined baking sheet to cool.
  5. Sprinkle with toppings like nuts, colored sprinkles, shredded coconut, crumbled oreo

Cupcakes for Breakfast: Cookie Dough Truffles