Year Round Recipes: Angel Food Cake

With our recent excursions to Aztec-era Mexico and the California crops of today, I thought it was time to return to my Pennsylvanian roots (and our less-than-tropical climate) for this week’s recipe of angel food cake. Thanks to the culinary archeologists who have researched Pennsylvania’s historic cookware and crockery, angel food cake (or as it was known in the early – mid 19th century, “snowdrift cake”) is actually a Pennsylvanian invention, thanks to the overabundance of historic tube pans discovered in early Pennsylvanian towns (tube pans being the smooth bundt-cake style pan that angel food cake is typically made in). But, even with its potentially northern inception, angel food cake truly caught on in the antebellum South because of one horrific practice: slavery.

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

A bowl of egg whites, sugar, and a lot of time and energy

Not unlike the scullery maids who allowed early English land barons to produce bigger and better culinary creations at the expense of their workers’ health and safety, African American slaves supplied the sheer manpower necessary to create the light and fluffy creations desired by southern plantation owners. Angel food cake batter, because of its high egg-white content, must be whipped with consistent, arm-crippling force for ten, fifteen, even twenty or more minutes to turn a veritable puddle of egg into a dense, rich foam. Because of the sheer time and energy requirement behind dishes like angel food, producing these types of desserts for friends, and neighbors became a show of status and wealth. Closing a meal with a plate of angel food in the days before electric mixers told your audience that you not only had the means to pay for a person or team of cooks and kitchen hands, but that you also had enough surplus labor to dedicate one or more slaves to the sole purpose of whipping egg whites. Thankfully, with the abolition of slavery, kitchen scientists stepped in to take away the brute force needed to whip egg whites (first with mechanical egg beaters and now with electric mixers, immersion blenders, and the like).

For our angel food recipe today, we’ll be using a set of instructions geared towards the modern kitchen. However, if you’re interested in making angel food cake traditionally, the 1881 cookbook of Abby Fisher, a former slave, (appropriately titled “What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Southern Cooking“), is still in print and widely available! I encourage you to at least attempt whipping your egg whites with nothing more than a balloon whisk, if only to gain a small sense of what pre-electric cooking was like; and then, after your arm gives out after several minutes like mine did, feel free to switch to your electric mixer with a renewed appreciation for modern food tech!

Angel Food Cake Recipe


The edible cloud

An edible cloud


  • 1 cup cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 12 egg whites (Be careful if you’re planning on using a carton of pre-separated egg whites, as these are generally treated in such a way that the whites will not whip up successfully)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  1. In a small bowl, whisk together the flour and 3/4 cup of granulated sugar. Set aside.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the egg whites, vanilla extract, cream of tartar, and salt. Whip by hand, or with an electric mixture until the mixture turns white and forms medium-stiff peaks. Slowly add in the remaining 3/4 cup of sugar, and continue to whip until the batter forms stiff peaks.
  3. In three additions, fold the flour and sugar mixture into the egg whites, being careful not to overmix.
  4. Preheat your oven to 375°F / 190°C.
  5. Pour the completed batter into a completely clean, dry, and ungreased tube pan (any residue in the pan could interfere with the whites’ ability to expand. Bake in your preheated oven for 30 – 45 minutes (begin checking the cake at 30 minutes to stave off overcooking), or until the top is brown, and the cracks in the top are dry.
  6. To cool, turn the tube pan upside down, balance the pan on top of a bottle, and let cool completely. When cooled, run a knife along the edge of the cake and remove the angel food gently from the pan.
  7. Slice and enjoy with a a topping of fresh fruit, whipped cream, or on its own for a taste of heaven on earth.

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As always, thanks for stopping by! I hope to see you again as we unearth another of humanity’s collective culinary creations!

Keep digging,

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, History, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Year Round Recipes: Crêpes

If you’re from the Eastern US, or have been following the weather for this corner of the world, you’ll know that this week was fraught with an uncharacteristically devastating series of snow and ice storms. During this meteorological event, my typical love for the forest that surrounds our neighborhood was turned to dread, as heavy, ice-laden branches and trees exploded to the ground for much of the past week, taking homes, cars, and power with them. So, if you noticed the lack of activity from the blog on Wednesday, that was due to the dark, chilled state of our home as we weathered yet another display of winter’s power.

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

The crêpe: not just a thin pancake!

But! Power has returned, the roads are at last safe to traverse, and I’m still in the mood for a little French cuisine (my previous French excavations can be found here and here)! Even though the roads have been cleared for a day or two by this point, I still haven’t made it to the store since last week; so, I thought we’d dig up the crêpe, a 12th century French staple that can be made with only a few, basic ingredients typically found in every kitchen! The original crêpe would have been (and still is) made from buckwheat flour (you can check out an excellent buckwheat crêpe recipe here from Buckwheat for your health), which produces a savory dish that makes the perfect foundation for any meal of the day. However, with my pantry devoid of buckwheat flour, we’ll be looking at the sweeter version of the crêpe, made from basic all-purpose wheat flour to conjure a canvas fit for the most decadently simple dessert or breakfast! I happened to have a slightly dodgy apple still rolling around in the fridge, so I’ll show you how to make a quick and easy spiced apple topping to fill your crêpes with; but, keep in mind that this French classic can be paired with anything you have on hand! Peanut butter, ice cream, fruit preserves, you name it, the crêpe can enhance it! And, what better way to surprise that special someone this Valentine’s day than with a homemade breakfast straight out of romantic 12th century France? Without further ado, let’s dig in!

Crêpe Recipe

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.

Just a few simple ingredients combine to create a 900 year old masterpiece of French cuisine.


  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, water, sugar, butter, and vanilla extract.
  2. Add the flour and salt, and stir thoroughly to remove any large lumps (you want as smooth a batter as possible).
  3. Place a greased frying pan over medium high heat, then pour or ladle about 1/4 cup of batter into the pan. Rotate the pan to ensure that the batter is evenly distributed and covers the entire bottom of the pan.
  4. Cook for 1 – 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the crêpe has turned light brown. Flip over the crêpe and repeat.
  5. Top with your favorite fillings, roll, and serve with a dusting of powdered sugar! To make a quick and easy apple cinnamon filling, keep reading below the pictures!

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A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

A flavor heralding from the warmer days of autumn!

Ingredients for Apple Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 apple, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1 Tablespoon powdered sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 Tablespoon butter

Directions for Filling

  1. In a small bowl, toss the apples with the sugar and spices until coated.
  2. Place butter in a small frying pan and melt over medium high heat. Add the coated apples to the pan and fry for about 5 minutes, or until the apples become soft.
  3. Top your hot, fresh crêpes with a spoonful of apples and enjoy!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s recipe! If the weather cooperates this week, I’ll see you again this Wednesday!

Stay warm, and keep digging!

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Cooking, Dessert, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Year Round Recipes: English Muffins

If you stopped by earlier this week, you may have seen that I’ve had to adjust my weekly posting schedule due to my new work schedule. Wrapped up in this time change has been the rather sudden (and not entirely welcomed) need to wake up around 3:00 a.m. each morning to get ready for work (a complete reverse from my previous routine of working at 3:00 p.m.). So, in order to survive the eternal darkness of the early morn, I’ve found myself in dire need of a substantial, yet quick breakfast staple to really get me going. After suffering through a week of instant oatmeal (a far, unsatisfying cry from the hearty baked oatmeal I’d relied on in the past), I knew this next week had to improve. To remedy my dismal breakfast dilemma, I decided to try my hand at making one of my absolute favorite breakfast foods: the English muffin (or “toaster crumpet”)! With its origins stretching all the way back to the original Anglo-Saxons (inventors of the true crumpet – essentially an English muffin with the nooks and crannies on the outside), the modernized English muffin has long proven its worth as a staple at the breakfast table. And, with its soul- (and appetite-) satisfying nooks and crannies making perfect wells for everyone’s favorite spread, butter, or jam, the English muffin is a wonderfully universal answer to the eternal question: “What’s for breakfast?”

English Muffin Recipe

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

A hearty, heart-warming batch of English muffins almost ready to enjoy!

Makes 8 – 10 muffins


  • 1/2 cup warm water (100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 3/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup milk (I used soy)
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons butter (vegan substitute works perfectly, too!)
  • 2 Tablespoons honey
  • 2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Corn meal


  1. In a small container, combine the warm water and yeast; let sit for 10 minutes until the water is cloudy and the yeast has started to foam.
  2. Over medium-low heat, combine the milk, butter, and honey in a small saucepan and cook until the butter has melted. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool for 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Measure 1 1/2 cups of flour into a medium sized bowl and set aside.
  4. Gently stir the yeast mixture into the saucepan, and pour the combined ingredients into the flour. Stir until combined.
  5. Add the remaining 1 cup of flour and the salt to the bowl and stir to form a rough dough. Place the dough on a floured surface and knead for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the dough is springy and lightly sticky (you may need to add some additional flour to eliminate excessive stickiness). Let the dough rest for 5 minutes.
  6. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and dust with corn meal. Set aside.
  7. Flatten your rested dough to a thickness of about 1/2 inch / 1.5 centimeters. Using a biscuit cutter, round cookie cutter, or round implement of your choice (I used a mug), cut out your muffins and transfer them to the prepared baking sheet. Reroll the scraps and continue cutting out as many muffins as possible.
  8. Sprinkle corn meal over the tops of the muffins, cover with a clean towel, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
  9. When your muffins have risen, heat a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Dust any excess corn meal off of your muffins, and gently transfer them to the hot skillet (allow enough space in the pan so that the muffins aren’t touching). Cook for 8 – 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are well browned. Flip and cook for another 8 minutes. Transfer muffins to a wire rack to cool.
  10. Slice, toast, and enjoy with your favorite spread!

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As always, thanks for stopping by!

Keep digging!

Categories: Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Cloved Orange Popovers

Not a hint of green can be found in these woods.

Not a hint of green can be found in these woods.

Over the past few days, central Pennsylvania has undergone a series of highly erratic meteorological mood swings. In only a week we’ve experienced wet, autumnal rains, luxurious, spring-like highs in the sixties; and now, the thermometer is threatening to drop into the single digits. And with the cold weather, there has arrived a flurry of snow, whispering away any thought of spring life or autumnal color. With what appears to be a long winter ahead of us, the thought of weathering several months without seeing much of the sun seems almost too much to bear. However, there does exist a multicultural remedy for winter’s depressing power: oranges!

Cloved oranges: perfect for infusing winter with the aroma and color of summer

With a fiery orange peel bursting with volatile oils, it’s not a stretch to link the Asian orange fruit with our presently absent sun. Perhaps this connection provides some explanation for the tradition of gifting oranges and tangerines to loved ones around the Christmas and Chinese New Year season. In 17th-18th century England, a twist was added to this classic gift. In order to maximize the fragrance and purportedly healing properties of the orange, gift-givers in this time began decoratively studding their gifted fruits with cloves, a tradition that still exists today.

Now, because I have a habit of zesting nearly every orange that enters the kitchen, I haven’t been able to make my own cloved orange this year (a great guide on making one for your home can be found here: Easy-to-Make Pomander); but, I thought I could translate the flavors of this classic gift into a holiday treat that’s equally perfect for sharing with the ones you love! Because cloved oranges seem to originate in England, I thought a fitting pastry pairing would be the popover: an American take on the classic Yorkshire pudding.

Cloved Orange Popovers

Cloved Orange Popovers: Perfect with a spot of jam or honey!

Cloved Orange Popovers: Perfect with a spot of jam or honey!

Yields 12 popovers


  • 3 room-temperature eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of finely grated orange zest
  • 1 1/4 cups milk (non-dairy milk worked very well)
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter + 1 Tablespoon melted butter for coating the pan
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground clove


  1. Preheat your oven to 450 F / 230 C
  2. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, and orange zest together until combined.
  3. Mix the milk and 3 Tablespoons butter into the egg mixture, stirring well.
  4. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and clove.
  5. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and whisk until smooth.
  6. Brush the cups of a muffin tin with the remaining tablespoon of melted butter, and place in the oven for 5 minutes.
  7. Remove tin from the oven and fill each cup halfway with your popover batter. Bake for 30 minutes, or until the tops have risen and are golden brown.
  8. Enjoy immediately! These popovers have a wonderfully crunchy exterior (and creamy interior) that will fade as they cool.

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As always, thanks for stopping by for the excavation! I hope to see you back on Saturday where we’ll be digging up a modern twist on the classic Christmas cookie!

Stay warm and keep digging!


Categories: Baking, Breakfast, History, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Winter Recipes: Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

The Traditional, Twisting Challah

When this tumultuous week first began, I had high hopes of baking a traditional challah bread in recognition of this being the week of Chanukah. However, upon an initially innocuous run to the store for some last minute baking supplies, I had a rather unfortunate (but thankfully painless) run in with a hit-and-run driver. So, with my trip to the store rather forcefully postponed, I’ve finally been able to get back into the kitchen! Now, with the holiday week ending tomorrow, I made a last minute decision to try a wonderfully braided bread recipe that’s inspired by challah, but, after reading up on this ancient loaf, most certainly can not claim to be challah bread. However, keep an eye out for my (most likely woeful) attempt at weaving challah bread in the Spring, nearer to the time of Purim, a celebration that’s main focus is freedom and feasting: two things that are truly near to my heart!

Without further ado, let’s dive back into breakfast with a loaf of braided spinach and ricotta bread!

Braided Spinach and Ricotta Bread Recipe


Challah-inspired, braided bread that's bursting with seasonal flavor!

Challah-inspired, braided bread that’s bursting with seasonal flavor!

Ingredients for Filling:

  • 10 ounces of cooked, drained spinach
  • 3/4 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 Tablespoon dried basil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 2 Tablespoons flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Ingredients for Dough:

  • 2 eggs (save one for an egg wash)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup warm water (between 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour (or white whole wheat)
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 teaspoon active dry yeast (about half of one packet)
  • Sesame seeds to garnish


  1. In an empty frying pan/skillet, toast the 1/4 cup of pine nuts over medium high heat. Toss or stir the nuts every 30 seconds for 3 – 5 minutes, or until the nuts start turning brown and smell toasted. Place toasted pine nuts in a bowl to completely remove them from the heat.
  2. Drain your spinach as much as possible and place in a medium bowl. Add the oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, pine nuts, cheese, and flour to the spinach. Stir to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover your bowl and refrigerate until needed.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together 1 egg, sugar, oil, salt, and warm water.
  4. In a medium bowl, mix together the flours and the yeast. Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients, and mix to form a rough dough.
  5. Place dough on a lightly floured surface and knead until springy, or about five minutes.
  6. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and roll to coat. Cover with a clean towel, place in a warm place, and let rise for 1 hour.
  7. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Transfer your risen dough to the baking sheet, and stretch it diagonally into an oval that reaches both corners of the sheet and is around 6-8 inches wide (see pictures below).
  9. Place your filling in the center of the dough, and shape it into a column that is no more than 2 inches wide and leaves about 1 inch of room at the top and bottom.
  10. Starting at the top, cut uniform strips into the sides of the dough on the diagonal (about 1 inch wide). Fold the top of the dough over the filling.
  11. To braid your bread: fold one strip over the filling, and then overlap with a strip on the other side; repeat until you reach the end of your bread. Before overlapping the final strips, fold the bottom flap of the bread up over the filling, and then cover with the remaining strips.
  12. Beat your remaining egg in a small bowl, and brush the top of the bread with the egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake in your preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
  13. Enjoy a warm slice of beautiful, braided bread, bursting with flavors of the season!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for this week’s (delayed) breakfast recipe! Be sure to stop in this Saturday for a bubbly remedy for all that ails ye!

Keep digging!


Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, Winter Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Autumn Recipes: Apple Cinnamon Rolls

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

Frozen winter rain has finally downed the last bastions of autumn color.

With Thanksgiving but two days away, and tomorrow marking one of the busiest travel days of the year, it seems as though the most pressing news story is the winter storm that’s currently blanketing the eastern United States. So for those of you in the audience that are gearing up to visit friends and family this holiday season, I wish you truly safe travel! For everyone else who, like me, are either staying home for the holidays, or are the destination for your own traveling friends and family, a warm kitchen and a hearty autumn breakfast recipe might be just what you need to keep the winter weather out of sight and mind!

So, as the freezing rain’s plastic hiss washes autumn from the tree line, I thought it was only fitting to use some of the last fresh fruits of autumn for this week’s breakfast recipe. Cinnamon rolls, while wonderful on their own, can be autumnally augmented with just a few ripe apples, which lend their sweet, homey flavor and aroma to this classic dish. And, if you are hosting Thanksgiving this year, this recipe is a fantastic way to greet road- and snow-weary loved ones with a warm taste of autumn!

Apple Cinnamon Rolls


Banish winter (at least for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Banish winter (if only for a moment) with these warm, gooey, autumnal cinnamon rolls!

Ingredients for Dough

  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (or one packet)
  • 2 cups milk (soy, as always, works wonderfully!)
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 6 1/2 cups flour (all-purpose or white whole wheat)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter (room temperature)

Ingredients for Cinnamon Filling

  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon cloves
  • 2 medium apples, peeled, cored, and chopped (I had two Jonagolds on hand, but any baking apple will work!)
  • 1/4 cup melted butter

Ingredients for Glaze (Optional)

  • 1 1/4 cup powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons milk


  1. In a large bowl, mix together 1/3 cup granulated sugar and yeast.
  2. Heat milk in a saucepan until it reaches 100 – 110 F / 37 – 43 C. Stir warm milk into sugar and yeast mixture until dissolved.
  3. Add salt and two cups of flour to the bowl and beat with a stand or hand mixer for two minutes.
  4. Beat in eggs and butter.
  5. Add in remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time, and beat well after each addition. When all flour has been added, knead for five minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic. Place dough in a medium sized bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray. Roll dough to coat in oil, cover bowl with a clean dish towel, and place in a warm spot for 1 hour, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. While the dough is rising, mix together the granulated sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, clove, and apples to prepare the filling.
  7. When your dough has risen, roll out the dough on a floured countertop to form a large rectangle that’s approximately 1/4 inch thick. Brush the top of the dough with about half of the melted butter and coat evenly with the filling mixture. Leave 1 inch of empty space around the edges of the dough.
  8. Tightly roll the rectangle from one of the long sides until it forms a log. Cut off the ends of the log which do not have any filling, and then cut the log into even increments.
  9. Place each piece into the cups of a greased muffin tin (Because my pieces were larger, I had to use a large muffin tin, but smaller slices should fit into a regular muffin tin). Let dough rise once more for thirty minutes.
  10. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C. Brush the tops of the apple cinnamon rolls with remaining melted butter. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. (Optional) Mix powdered sugar and milk together to form a classic white glaze. Drizzle glaze over warm rolls and enjoy a sweet reminder of the autumn harvest!

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As always, thanks for stopping by for some of this year’s final autumn recipes! Be sure to check back throughout the week for a few more Thanksgiving dinner ideas!

Stay warm, safe, and keep digging!

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Breakfast, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Winter Recipes: Hearty Baked Oatmeal

The flames of autumn stand extinguished

The flames of autumn stand extinguished

When the first signs of winter first whispered through our neighborhood a week or so back, my first instinct was to grab some oats and whip up one of my favorite winter recipes: a batch of baked oatmeal. But, because I was still clinging to the excitement of autumn, I pulled out the pumpkin puree and made some peanut butter oatmeal bars instead. Now, however, I’m afraid that I can no longer fool myself into perpetuating the wonder of fall any longer. While the true end of the season is still imminent, the lack of leaves, frosted lawns, and increasingly frequent snow flurries all point to one thing: winter has arrived. And with winter, just as it was with autumn, our appetites seem to mirror the shifting climate. Coffee shops have replaced Pumpkin Spice with Peppermint Mocha, hearty stews and gingerbread no longer seem “out of season,” and apple cider quietly bows out to hot chocolate.

In the midst of these changes, our minds (and hearts) also seem to shift to a stronger sense of tradition, family, and community. As we return to this memory-rich time of holidays, it’s difficult to resist the comforting pull of nostalgia. So today we’ll be taking a look at one of my most nostalgia-laced breakfast recipes. This simply wonderful baked oatmeal recipe was one of the first meals I started making for myself when I started college five years ago. Starting the day with a slice of this oatmeal (and a strong, dark cup of coffee) could get me through even the worst of my early morning classes without fail. And, as the winter semesters turned to spring, and spring to summer, this recipe’s versatility allowed it to adapt to each season of life. While I’ll be using cranberries today for some clove-of-the-season tartness, you can easily switch in whatever ingredient (peaches, apples, chocolate chips) best fits your current harvest!

Hearty Baked Oatmeal


Start your day right with a hearty slice of baked oatmeal!

Start your day right with a hearty slice of baked oatmeal!


  • 3 cups rolled oats (avoid the instant variety)
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (as always, I use soy, but any milk will do)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted butter
  • 1/4 cup applesauce
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • (Optional) 1/2-1 cup dried whole cranberries – adjust to personal preference
  • (Optional) cinnamon sugar


  1. Preheat oven to 350 F / 175 C
  2. In a medium sized bowl, mix together oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, and salt.
  3. Mix in milk, eggs, melted butter, applesauce, and vanilla until evenly combined. If the mixture seems too wet, don’t be afraid to add in some extra oats to absorb the excess moisture.
  4. Stir in cranberries, then sprinkle with cinnamon sugar for an added layer of spiced goodness!
  5. Spread the mixture into a 9×13″ baking dish.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for 40 minutes.
  7. Serve hot or cold – either way will steel you against the approaching winter!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig! Be sure to stop by this Saturday for our next kitchen excavation!

Stay warm and keep digging!

Categories: Baking, Breakfast, Winter Recipes, Year Round Recipes | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Autumn Recipes: Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

The Search for Spinach

After last Saturday’s chard-infused recipe, I was inspired to find a use for spinach, another of my favorite dark green, fall crops for this week’s breakfast excavation. Unfortunately, though, I failed to plant a second crop of spinach in time before the winter frosts began whispering across our lawn. So, I was forced to look elsewhere for my main ingredient!

Local Harvest: An incredible resource for finding truly beneficial produce for your family’s cooking!

Now, what the spinach industry doesn’t want you to know, is that even when refrigerated, spinach only holds its nutritional value for a single week (cooked, frozen spinach, if processed in time sidesteps this timeframe). With modern demand and subsequent shipping requirements, this means that the sparkling green spinach leaves that greet you at your local supermarket are already well on their way to being nutritionally neutral: certainly not bad for you, but not all that great for you either! This dilemma highlights one of the reasons I find local, seasonal eating to be so very important: finding fresh produce from farms near you can guarantee the best nutrition for you and your family. But, like many people I know and talk to, I didn’t know where to find a local market, store, or stand that would have fresh greens for me to use.

You won't find good company like this in your supermarket's produce section!

You won’t find friends like this in your typical produce section!

However, I did come across a website that can help those of us in the US find the closest, freshest produce that’s been harvested seasonally: Using this resource, I was able to locate a farm store that, thankfully, had all of the spinach I needed for this week’s quiche (and, I got to meet a few cows along the way)!

With the ingredients finally sorted, on to our recipe! In the interest of full disclosure, this quiche is missing a few key components (a crust and smoked bacon) to truly be considered a “quiche lorraine,” the French matriarch of modern quiches dating back to 1588. But, I think our interpretation is perfectly acceptable, especially because the origins of quiche (originally “kuchen”) are actually German, not French!

Crustless Spinach and Mushroom Quiche

A modern take on the 16th century classic quiche!

A modern take on the classic, 16th century quiche!


  • 2 lbs fresh spinach (or a 10 ounce box of frozen, cooked spinach, thawed)
  • 8 ounces of fresh mushrooms
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 3/4 cups mozzarella
  • salt and pepper


If you’re using frozen, cooked spinach, skip to step four!

  1. Remove stems from spinach leaves and cut/tear into small pieces. Wash leaves to remove any dirt or debris and pat dry.
  2. Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan on medium heat. Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic to oil and cook for one minute.
  3. Add washed spinach to the pan and toss to coat in oil and garlic. Cover the pan and cook for one minute. Uncover and stir the spinach. Replace the lid on your pan and cook for one more minute. After approximately two minutes of covered cooking, your spinach should be fully wilted.
  4. Transfer cooked spinach (either fresh or frozen) to a small mixing bowl and set aside.
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C.
  6. Rinse the dirt off of your mushrooms and slice thinly. Place your sliced mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and a dash of salt and pepper in the frying pan you used for the spinach. Add the remaining one teaspoon of oil to the pan and mix all ingredients until coated evenly.
  7. Saute the mushrooms on medium-high heat for 5-10 minutes, or until there is no water left at the bottom of the pan. When your mushrooms have finished cooking, add them to the mixing bowl with the cooked spinach.
  8. Stir 1/4 cup of feta cheese into the mushroom and spinach mixture until well distributed.
  9. Grease a pie plate with olive oil and spread the mushroom, spinach, and feta evenly across the bottom of the dish.
  10. In a medium bowl, whisk the four eggs, milk, and grated parmesan cheese together until smooth. Pour this mixture over the spinach and mushrooms and sprinkle the mozzarella cheese over the top of the raw quiche.
  11. Cook quiche in preheated oven for 50 minutes – 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown.
  12. Enjoy your homemade, seasonal quiche hot or cold for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!

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As always, thanks for stopping by the dig site! Be sure to stop by this Saturday for a fireside recipe that can warm even the chilliest soul!

Keep digging!

Categories: Autumn Recipes, Breakfast, Cooking | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Autumn Recipes: Cinnamon Swirl Raisin Bread

The Source of Cinnamon

The Source of Cinnamon

The Source of Cinnamon

With cinnamon always at the ready in our modern kitchens for spicing up coffees, teas, breads, cakes, candies, and potpourris, it’s almost impossible to imagine a world where this commonplace commodity was simply untasted and untouched by the common people. However, in the ancient world (at least 3,000 years ago), cinnamon was only known to grow on the small island nation of Sri Lanka (located off the coast of India). Cinnamon’s isolation in the times before globalized trade caused the price of 12 ounces of cinnamon (current market price: ~$10 USD) to be sold for over five kilograms of silver (current market price: ~$3,370 USD). With such a high price point, the use of cinnamon was limited to a very niche market: Gods and kings.  Cinnamon became prized for its use in religious ceremonies (most notably in Egyptian embalming and mummification rituals and in the Jewish practice of anointing priests with spiced oil and offering consecrated spice mixtures in the Tabernacle).

By the time of the ancient Romans (according to a document from 301 CE), the cost of cinnamon began to fall, now costing only 125 denarii per pound, or roughly the amount made by a farmer in a week. This (relative) drop in price led to cinnamon’s use as an aromatic addition to funeral fires. According to legend, Emperor Nero is said to have used Rome’s entire annual supply of cinnamon to use in the pyre for his wife, either to show his grief and love for his beloved, or to mask the smell of the fire in order to hide his guilt for, allegedly, causing her death.

While cinnamon was used sparingly in food and drink during this time period, most culinary historians point to the 18th century as the true turning point for cinnamon’s role as an ingredient in food instead of religious ritual. By the late 1700’s, the European superpowers had fully annexed the cinnamon shores of Sri Lanka and India, and began growing their own cinnamon groves in their Asian landholdings, providing the common cook access to a near limitless supply of  cinnamon.  And, for better or worse, this unending supply of what just might be the modern world’s favorite spice continues to this day.

Can Cinnamon be Seasonal?

Since our first few excavations, we’ve been digging into recipes and skills that have been heavily reliant on the seasonality of key ingredients (pumpkins, apples, and peanuts, primarily), a practice I cannot help but stand behind.  I find seasonality to be truly important in our modern kitchens because, with so many ingredients forever present in our modern grocery superstores, it’s far too easy to forget that every ingredient still has a season. And it just so happens that we’re in the midst of one of cinnamon’s two harvest times right now! From October to January, and from May to August, the rainy seasons in Sri Lanka provide cinnamon harvesters with the pliable bark necessary to successfully gather the spice. So, with November falling nicely in that window of seasonality, I thought autumn would be the perfect time to make a batch of cinnamon swirl raisin bread, a modern twist on an ancient ingredient!

Cinnamon Raisin Swirl Bread Recipe

Ingredients for Bread

  • 1 cup raisins
  • 1 cup hot water
  • 1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
  • 1 cup milk (I used soy, but any milk will work)
  • 4 Tablespoons butter (I used 2 Tablespoons butter and 2 Tablespoons applesauce)
  •  2 teaspoons salt
  • 5 1/2 cups all purpose flour + 2 Tablespoons (I used white whole wheat for a healthier kick)

Ingredients for Filling

  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons cinnamon (about 4 full cinnamon sticks, if you’re grinding your own)
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 teaspoons water


  1. Place raisins in the cup of hot water to plump up for 10 minutes. Then, drain the raisins and pour the leftover water into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the yeast to the water and stir until dissolved.
  3. Stir in the milk, butter, and salt, followed by the flour. Stir until the mixture forms a rough dough, then knead for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough easily forms a lightly sticky ball (see pictures below). If the dough is very sticky, add another 1/2 cup of flour and continue kneading.
  4. Toss the plump raisins with 2 Tablespoons of flour to absorb any extra moisture. To incorporate the raisins, flatten your dough and cover with half of the raisins. Fold the dough in half from top to bottom (see pictures below), and then repeat. Continue kneading the dough for 3 – 4 minutes so evenly distribute the raisins.
  5. Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
  6. While waiting for the dough to rise, mix the cinnamon and sugar in a small bowl; and mix the egg and water in another bowl.
  7. When the dough has doubled in size, divide it into two equal pieces. Flatten each piece until it is about the width of your bread pans, then stretch it as long as possible (see pictures below). Coat each piece with the egg wash and generously sprinkle the dough with cinnamon sugar.
  8. Starting from the bottom, tightly roll up the dough and pinch the seam closed. Place the rolled loaves in your bread pans and let rise for another 35 minutes (or until the loaves are about 1 inch above the edge of the pans.
  9. Preheat your oven to 375 F / 190 C, and coat the top of the risen loaves with egg wash and cinnamon sugar.
  10. Bake for 40 – 45 minutes, until the loaves are golden brown.
  11. Let cool completely, and enjoy a spicy slice of cinnamon raisin swirl bread!

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Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Bread, Breakfast, History | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Autumn Recipe: Crunchy Peanut Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars

A hearty start to any chilly fall morning!

A hearty start to any chilly fall morning!

For the last few mornings, those of us in central Pennsylvania have awoken to an ever-whitening landscape. Through frosted glass, the first signs of the upcoming winter have become ever more noticeable. Twinkling roofs, crisped leaves, and visible breath greet anyone unlucky enough to step outside before the day melts back into autumn. So, on these chilly mornings, I need something with a heartwarming burst of energy to steel me for the day (besides a press full of fresh coffee). Originally, I had planned to make a batch of peanut butter baked oatmeal this week, a staple that got me through countless chilly mornings back in college; however, I stumbled across a recipe on Averie Cooks that combined my current passion for pumpkin with my desire for warming oatmeal, and I couldn’t pass it up!

Crunchy Peanut Butter Pumpkin Oatmeal Bars


  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (learn how to make your own here)
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree (the process for puréeing pumpkins can be found here)
  • 2 cup oats – rolled, not instant
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon pumpkin pie spice
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  •  (Optional) 1/2 cup chopped peanuts


  1. Preheat your oven to 350 F / 175 C
  2. Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and stir until completely mixed
  3. Pour mixture into a 9×9 baking dish lined with aluminum foil and greased. I had to do a little personal kitchen excavation to unearth our 1970’s era Corning Ware dish: a near indestructible piece of kitchenware that was discovered by military scientists looking to heatproof missiles!
  4. Bake the mixture for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
  5. Let cool completely, slice, and enjoy with a warm cup of coffee!

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Thanks for stopping by the dig for this week’s breakfast excavation! Be sure to tune in this Saturday for another special excavation into autumn!

Keep digging!


Categories: Autumn Recipes, Baking, Breakfast | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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