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Dunn Brothers Coffee

**This post is sponsored by Dunn Brothers Coffee. As usual, all opinions are my own.**

Coffee is a lot more than just a drink; it’s something happening. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second cup. – Gertrude Stein, Selected Writings

Spending time at a coffeehouse for hours on end has been a huge part of my life. My first introduction was at age eighteen; my friend Laurie picked me up in her sparkly white Saturn and drove me out of the suburbs into South Minneapolis, where we sunk into beat-up old couches in a grungy-but-rad neighborhood shop, sipping granitas. It was a smoke-riddled, Johnny Cash playing-by-day, Sound Garden-playing-by-night kind of place, where the locals sat around talking, chain-smoking, and drinking java until they were kindly kicked out each night. I was instantly hooked.

Sure, I drank some kind of slushy, sugary brew that made the coffee go down easier, but I loved tucking away in a corner and studying all afternoon during the winter months, or else chatting into the evening hours with people who I had nothing in common with, but somehow our coffee connection made us fast friends all summer long. (Also, I may have had a few months where I drove there each afternoon after work to ‘spend some time on my poetry’, sitting in a quiet corner feeling artsy and hip, but let’s pretend that didn’t happen.)

But now it is 2017 and I don’t have to drive far to get my coffee fix, as there is literally a coffeehouse on every corner, in the city and suburbs alike. So the question becomes: where should I purchase my coffee? There are many factors that are important to me when I go to answer this question. Taste and consistency is needed and valuable, but I also care a great deal about ethical sourcing practices (having friends who own a washing station in Burundi has made me even more acutely aware of how important this is).

Which brings me to Dunn Brothers Coffee. I honestly had overlooked Dunn Brothers back in my coffeehouse studying days; I had already established my routine elsewhere and change has always been hard for me to deal with. So when Dunn Brothers reached out, asking me to learn more about their shops and celebrate 30 years of business, I was eager to see what I had been missing. I knew there were quite a few Dunn Brothers in Minnesota, but didn’t realize they were scattered across Texas, Tennessee, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa as well. And while some people may view them as ‘just another chain’, I was happy to discover that they are so much more than that.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

I recently sat down with one of Dunn Brother’s owners, Skip Fay, who got me up to speed on the history and mission of the coffee company. Dunn Brothers started in 1987, and Skip opened his store (along with Chris Eilers) in 1992, with the intent of straying from the trendy shops on the scene; instead of cigarette smoke and alternative jams it would have a calmer vibe with clean air. People loved the atmosphere, and Dunn Brothers took off.

There are a few key factors that set these stores apart. Unlike chain stores, each is locally owned and operated. Another way Dunn Brothers strays from coffee chains is that individual stores roasts small batches of coffee beans on site daily. Much care and expertise is required here, so there is a master roaster at each location trained to make sure the beans are roasted properly and consistently.

Also, Dunn Brothers still relies on their baristas to make quality drinks; there are no super-automatic espresso machines or computer-actuated foamed milk extruders. There is attention to craft and pride in one’s work, as well as high standards for each drink prepared.

A final important emphasis is on community. Skip Fay highlighted this point in our conversation together, asserting that their mission was not to simply set up shop, but to become a trusted neighbor in the communities Dunn Brother resides in. He notes that “if we treat people right and serve them right, the experience touches their soul. In today’s time-starved, data-driven, mass-produced culture, Dunn Brothers offers food and beverages prepared in real time, by genuine people who enjoy sharing their craft with other people.

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers Coffee

I spent some time hanging out in a few different Dunn Brother’s stores (I especially liked the one in Uptown, on Hennepin, and the Downtown store), each with a completely different feel, but with drinks that tasted the same throughout.

I fell in love with their nitro-brew, which is dreamy and creamy and perfect. Someone mixed me one with vanilla and a little cream (its official name the is the Iced Vanilla Nirvana), and it was honestly the best sweetened cold coffee drink I’ve had, ever.

I also took a bottle of their cold press with me (I drink cold press year round, and often make it myself at home), and it was deliciously smooth and deep. I see myself headed back soon to work and read, especially at the Uptown location (which has wine and beer! and a patio!). (Also I can’t stop thinking about that iced vanilla drink.)

Dunn Brothers cold press

Dunn Brothers

Dunn Brothers

Dunn Brothers Coffee

Dunn Brothers coffee

One last thing I was really impressed with is Dunn Brother’s partnership with the American Refugee Committee. Dunn Brothers launched the Changemaker Collection, a selection of coffee beans sourced from the very same communities around the world where ARC works with refugees.

Last year marked the arrival of the second bean in the Changemaker Collection, from Uganda. Sales from the Changemaker Collection Uganda bean helped the ARC team in Uganda provide things like clean water and protection to refugees living in places like Nakivale refugee settlement – a refugee camp established 60 years ago. (You can read more about it here). This year Dunn Brothers committed an additional $10,000 to ARC and the first of the two Changemaker Collection beans will be from the Congo. They will be available in late March/early April and can be purchased in Dunn Brother’s stores.

Coffee is a luxury purchase, and I like knowing the money I spend on it is going towards helping others in need. I appreciate forward-thinking businesses that look to give back to both their community and the world at large, looking beyond cash registers and bank accounts and trying to make a difference as much as they can. I’m happy to see Dunn Brothers doing just that, and doing it well.

So if you are looking for quality coffee that is ethically sourced and carefully prepared, don’t overlook your local Dunn Brothers. You will find me there as well, sipping and reading and thankful for the simple joy of coffee.

“Dunn Brothers has successfully proven to its customers and competitors that, even in the crowded coffee category, great-tasting coffee that is carefully brewed from hand-selected, freshly roasted beans boldly stands out in a class of its own. This Minneapolis-based, award-winning coffee company was founded on the principle that premium coffee customers deserve coffee that adheres to higher standards of quality every step of the way, from cultivation to cup. From sustainable, ethical sourcing practices to daily, on-site roasting, artisan hand-made premium beverages and community-connected local ownership – Dunn Brothers Coffee takes every possible measure to ensure quality coffee experiences at each of its 82 retail locations across the country.”

(I have a little coffeehouse mix for you over on Spotify! It’s a playlist I would have on if I was still a barista. You’ll find I’m a bit stick in the late 90’s with my electro-jazz selections, but there is some other good stuff in there as well. You can find it here.)

**All text in italics (excluding the Stein quote) taken from the Dunn Brothers page.


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A few weeks ago the lovely people at the Blue Heron Coffeehouse had a book signing and dinner to celebrate the release of The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. It was a wonderful afternoon and evening. I saw familiar faces I used to wait on in my barista days; I met new friends, and celebrated with old ones. If you’ve read through my book you know the Blue Heron is mentioned frequently, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without the guidance and encouragement of Larry and Colleen.  (Once again, thank you, thank you, for everything.)

I’ve been quiet here. The past few weeks have been filled with word searches, as I’ve been trying to articulate my thoughts on the whirlwind of activity in our country. One never knows what one’s in for when one starts thinking.* More soon. I’ll have a recipe for you in a few days.

Here are a few things, book related, and around the internets.

I had an interview with Rick Nelson from the Star Tribune you can read here.

I also had an interview with the National Post.

Laura’s post really resonated with me. (Psst. You can also pre-order her book here.)

Aran from Cannelle et Vanille has a gorgeous new video series, A Cook’s Remedy, on her website. Also, just check out her amazing photographs.

Haley Bonar, Tiny Desk Concert. Also digging The Secret Sisters.

Currently on my nightstand: Still reading this. And rereading this. Started this with my kids. This came in the mail today.

*CS Lewis, The Collected Letters, Vol. 2


Part two of my gift guide! But first, a ***fabulous giveaway from Minted!*** Enter to win one of three $100 credits to the Minted store. Just follow this link and fill out the form. Winners will be picked on 12/8.  Minted sells all kinds of beautiful things – from photo cards and personalized wrapping paper to fine art prints and home decor. Open to US residents only.

There are a lot of kitchen items that are my favorites. Too many items, probably. But here’s a little list of some things I love – some practical, some just because.

Goldtouch Pans – Williams-Sonoma’s goldtouch line is my favorite for baking. Falling somewhere between light and dark metal, they keep baked good from over baking, while still giving them some browning.  I love them especially for layer cakes (8-inch pans) and brownies (9×13).

Copper Sugar Saucepan – Maybe not a necessity, but this gorgeous pan by Mauviel is sure nice to have on hand. I use it for making Italian buttercream, mostly.

Walnut Wood Bowl – I’ve known Araya, owner of Willful, for awhile now, and have always been obsessed with her beautiful wood bowls. This one is a particular favorite. I use them as serving dishes, and in the kitchen baking. She also has lovely smaller ones here.

‘This Is Just To Say’ Tea Towel – William Carlos Willams on a tea towel? Yes, I want that hanging in my kitchen always.

Le Creuset Cast-Iron Braiser – I have expressed my love for this braiser pan many times, but it really is my most loved, most used pan. I highly recommend it. I have one in white, but I think this grey is beautiful, too.

White Marble Slab – If you don’t have a good surface for rolling out dough, I highly recommend getting a marble slab. I use mine all the time. It keeps the dough chilled longer, and cleans up easily. Also, it’s much, much cheaper than installing marble counter tops.

Silo Canisters – I really love these canisters. They look great, they are stackable, and they keep food fresh. I have flour, sugar, oats, chocolate chips, and all kinds of other goodness in mine.

Aheirloom Cake Stand – I have two of these cake stands, and use them all the time. They come in all different sizes and base shapes, and make a decorated cake look even more gorgeous.

Cakebox – I love all the wooden carrying boxes from this company. And who doesn’t want to be gifted a big, beautiful box filled with chocolate cake?


Lists of Note by Shaun Usher – A fun and interesting collection of… lists. But not just any lists, lists by Albert Einstein and F. Scott Fitzgerald and JFK’s secretary. Usher also wrote Letters of Note, which is another great book, and both make perfect gifts for just about anyone.

Complete Poems by e.e. cummings – I fell in love with poetry in 9th grade, after reading a section on Mr. cummings in my English text book. His poems are thoughtful, playful, and fun, but also serious and unafraid at times, too. Here are all his poems, in one volume.

The Chef’s Library by Jenny Linford – Ever wonder what cookbooks line the shelves of your favorite chef’s kitchen? Now you can get a glimpse. A great coffee table book, and after paging through it, I’ve added too many cookbooks to my wish list.

In Winter’s Kitchen by Beth Dooley – A thoughtful look at the food movement in the Heartland. ‘Using the story of one thanksgiving meal, Dooley discovers that a locally-sourced winter diet is more than a possibility: it can be delicious.’ This book inspires one to not only think, but to also get in the kitchen and cook.

The Lord of the Rings Reader Companion by Wayne G. Hammond and Christina Scull – This book is amazing – a detailed look at the ‘literary and historical influences on the development of The Lord of the Rings, connections between that work and other writings by Tolkien, errors and inconsistencies, significant changes to the text during its fifty years of publication, archaic and unusual words used by Tolkien, and words and passages in his invented languages of Middle-earth.’ Complete nerdery. And I mean that as a compliment.

Vivian Maier: Self-Portraits – I love Vivian Maier’s photography – her street photography and self-portraits are incredible. This book is a beautiful collection, and paging through it always inspires me to pick up my camera. If you don’t know of her work, I highly recommend checking out the documentary about her work.

A Cozy Coloring Book by Adrianna Adarme – Have you ever wanted to color in your food photography? Well, now you can. Adrianna’s lovely coloring book is the perfect way to spend snowy winter afternoons by the fire. Both my daughter and I are smitten with it.

All The Odes by Pablo Neruda – Another lovely poetry collection. Neruda’s Odes are my favorite – everything has an ode,  from lemons and cats and socks to aging and common things and the present. The table is already set, | and we know the truth | as soon as we are called: | whether we’re called to war or to dinner | we will have to choose sides, | have to know | how we’ll dress | to sit | at the long table, | whether we’ll wear the pants of hate | or the shirt of love, freshly laundered. – Ode to the Table

The Oxford Companion to Sugar and Sweets by Darra Goldstein – A must-have for any food lover, and especially one partial to sweets. ‘The Companion takes readers around the globe and throughout time, affording glimpses deep into the brain as well as stratospheric flights into the world of sugar-crafted fantasies. More than just a compendium of pastries, candies, ices, preserves, and confections, this reference work reveals how the human proclivity for sweet has brought richness to our language, our art, and, of course, our gastronomy.’ I’m always reading it.


Portable Record Player – I acquired this portable record player recently, and my kids have loved listening to music and stories on it. I pick up old vintage records at the thrift store here and there, and they have a little collection of favorites. We move it around a lot – in the summer, it stays on the porch and in the winter, we have it tucked away by the Christmas tree. This model is pretty but pricey; there are plenty of cheaper ones out there, too.

Julia, Child by Kyo Maclear – One of my favorite kids books. The illustrations are done by Julie Morstad, and, like everything else she illustrates, they are gorgeous. The book imagines Julia Child and her dear friend, Simca, as children in the kitchen.

The Mermaid and the Shoe by K.G. Campbell – Another beautiful book. about Minnow the mermaid, who is trying to figure out what sets her apart from all her super-talented sisters.

The Black Apple’s Paper Doll Primer by Emily Martin – The loveliest paper dolls you ever saw, all tucked away in this little book. You might want to buy two copies – one for cutting, and one for looking through on quiet afternoons with your littles.

Kids Tent from Minted – Imagine the loveliest spot to curl up in? Piled high with blankets and pillows and all your favorite books? As a child I would have gone crazy over a space like this, and I’m planning on surprising my kids with one this holiday season. We’ll snuggle in and and read our favorite books from above, as well as to take time to read about Native Americans and what it was like to live in our own state of Minnesota before white settlers appeared. This book looks like a good starting point. (Please note: the cut off for ordering a pre-styled tent is December 21st.)

Usbourne Book of Famous Paintings – Usbourne has some fantastic educational books, and this is one of my daughter’s favorite past times. She loves to paint and draw, and often pages through this book for inspiration. The paintings are shown in full, along with information on the artist, the paint/mediums/techniques used, and any historical context that is important. I love reading it with her because I learn something new every time.

The Complete Calvin and Hobbes by Bill Watterson – My husband recently bought this collection for my kids – he was an avid Calvin and Hobbes fan as a child, and wanted the comics to be a part of their world. They spend hours pouring over the books – a lot of it still goes over their heads, but the drawings are engaging, and it’s sparked a lot of interesting conversation about what people believe and how the world works. I’ve enjoyed rereading them again, too.

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien – I couldn’t not include a Tolkien book. Plus, I am reading this for the first time to my children, and they are enjoying it so much, I had to encourage all of you to do the same if you haven’t yet. A classic.

Classic Legos – My son is obsessed with legos, and spends much of his free time building anything and everything. For a few years it’s been impossible to find anything but sets for a specific line (star wars, ninjago, etc)- and while those are fun, often my kids just want to free build. My daughter pointed this huge box out to me recently – it even contains pink and purple legos, and it might just end up under the tree.

Also, don’t forget about my Holiday playlist over on Spotify!

Every year, I have good intentions of putting together a gift guide here of all my favorite cookbooks and kitchen items and whatnot, and every year, I never get around to it. So this holiday season to make up for lost time! I have quite the list for you.

Today’s gift guides are all books, so if you are not into that I apologize. However, I think books are the best gift to give and get, and so I can’t not make a big long list of all my favorites. But stay tuned: I will have kitchen items, non-cookbooks, and a kids’ guide for you soon. And! I’ve been working on a Holiday playlist over on Spotify, which you can find here. I’ll be adding to it a little more here and there.

First up, my favorite category: NEW BAKING BOOKS! Here we go…

Sweeter Off The Vine by Yossy Arafi – Here are beautiful photographs, recipes that always work, and a unique perspective on baking. I absolutely love Yossy’s book, and turn to it often. Favorite recipes: Yossy is known for her pies, so anything involving pie crust is a winner (see Cherry and Rhubarb Slab Pie, Pear Pie With Creme Fraiche and Caramel, and Tangerine Cream Pie),  I also love her Old-Fashioned Blood Orange Donuts and Apricot and Berry Galette With Saffron Sugar.

Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft – The first time I paged through this book I couldn’t stop whispering gorgeous at each and every photograph. The book succeeds at revitalizing ‘traditional recipes to suit modern tastes’. It is beautifully photographed, and includes helpful process shots for complicated recipes. On my to-do list: Marzipan Challah, Ricotta Streusel Babka, Sufganiyot (similar to a Boston cream doughnut), and Sticky Cinnamon Challah Snails (there are plenty of savory bread recipes, too, but I always gravitate towards the sweet).

Marbled, Swirled, and Layered by Irvin Lin – Irvin’s book came out one week before mine, and it’s packed full of really great recipes with some serious twists on classics. Everything from cookies and bars, cakes and cobblers are covered in this book. I honestly can’t stop thinking about the Pumpkin S’mores with Maple Brown Sugar Marshmallows and Dark Chocolate (dang!), and can’t wait to try the Seville Orange Bars With Salted Shortbread and Gin Meringue.

Classic German Baking by Luisa Weiss – I haven’t had a chance to start baking from this book yet, but have started reading it cover to cover, inspired by both Luisa’s writing and recipes. I’m starting with the Franzbrotchen (cinnamon-sugar buns) because they are the prettiest little buns I’ve ever seen, and I think they will become best friends with my tummy. Also the Brezeln (soft pretzels) are gorgeous, and I’ve always wanted to make Apfelstrudel but never have attempted, so this winter it’s on.

Golden by Itamar Srulovich & Sarit Packer – Golden comes from the ovens of London’s Honey & Co, which I have sadly never been to (one day, London, one day), and it is another book that I have a major to-do list for. Again, I’m drawn to the sweet (although there is savory here, too): Pistachio, Rose, & Strawberry Buns, Sweet Cheese Buns, Lemon Drizzle Cake with Elderflower and Marcarpone Icing, and Baked Apricots with Marzipan Filling and Almond Crumble are good starting points.

Panetteria by Gennaro Contaldo – Another gorgeous book, featuring Italian baking. I am smitten with the process shots featuring Gennaro Contaldo himself; they capture so beautifully the artist giving his life over his work: knowledge and pleasure and grace are in all the movements of his hands. I’m starting with the Focaccia Al Sale (Basic Focaccia with Sea Salt), then moving to mini pizzas with mushrooms and the Plum Cake Di Anna (chocolate chip and ricotta loaf cake).

The New Healthy Bread in Five Minutes A Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois – If you’ve been following along here for awhile, you probably already know that I contribute to Jeff and Zoe’s Bread in Five site quite frequently (in fact, they have a giveaway going on right now for my book). I worked on this latest book with them as well – a week long photo shoot with lots of baking and food styling and washing dishes and fighting over music. It was a blast. This edition is revised and updated with new recipes. I love the Whole Wheat Brioche, Whole Grain Doughnuts (covered in cardamom-ginger-cinnamon sugar, of course), and the Whole Wheat Christmas Stollen is a must this year.

Elements of Pizza by Ken Forkish – I was lucky enough to visit Ken Forkish’s bakery this summer, but I sadly didn’t make it into his pizza shop. Luckily, there is this book. The beginning chapter of this book ‘The Soul of Pizza’, is moving, highlighting famous pizza bakers and shops all over the world. I wanted to fly to each one, eat pizza forever, and then come home and try to recreate it. As that is not an option, luckily Mr. Forkish got to do that for me. I’ve made Grandma’s Pie (a sheet pan pizza) more times than I can count, and it is a family favorite every Friday night.

The Art of Pie by Kate McDermott – A wonderful book about making and baking pies. Ms. McDermott has been baking pies for years and years, and even has a pie camp (which sounds totally dreamy). The book is filled with practical tips and helpful information on making great pies, and whole chapters on making the crust, thickeners, and the Quintessential Apple Pie. Sounds like the perfect way to spend Christmas break to me.

Other baking books to check out: Bread Illustrated by Test Kitchen has some great recipes (like kolaches!), The Alternative Baker by Alana Taylor-Tobin for the gluten-free bakers in your life, Layered by Tessa Huff for baking, building and styling cakes, and The Everyday Baker by Abby Dodge won both an IACP award and a James Beard award, making it a total winner.



Molly On The Range by Molly Yeh – Molly’s new book is just as lovely and funny and fabulous as Molly herself. The photos are gorgeous, the illustrations lovely (there is even a page to color!) and the writing engaging. I’ve made the Dark Chocolate Scone Loaf, my kids are obsessed with the Chicken Pot Tot Hotdish, and there are so many things on my must-make list: Honey Ricotta Blintzes with Caramelized Onions, Scallion Pancake Challah, Rosewater Marshmallows, and Ginger Snow Cones.

Martha Stewart’s Vegetables by the Editors of Martha Stewart Living – This might be my favorite Martha cookbook (although, the Baking Handbook is pretty great). It is a beautiful collection of recipes, with simple yet lovely photographs for almost every recipe. Most recipes are savory, with a few sweet mixed in. I’ve made the Parsnip Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting, and will soon try the Cornmeal Shortcakes with Corn Ice Cream and Blueberry Compote, Braised Chicken and Brussels Sprouts, Beet Risotto with Beet Greens, and Skillet Pizza with Greens and Eggplant.

Modern Potluck by Kristin Donnelly – I grew up in potluck culture, so I was excited to see a modern take on something that scared me as a child (there are some pretty funky hotdishes that get brought to a church picnic, let me tell you). Kristin’s book does not disappoint, with plenty of delicious and un-scary meals to share with friends and family: Late-Summer Enchilada Pie, Smoky Squash Mac & Cheese, Grilled Corn Salad with Lime Mayo, and Greek Expat Potato Salad. And, since we were the family that only brought dessert to potlucks (bars, of course), I was happy to see plenty in the ‘Sweets’ chapter – Potato Chip-Crusted Magic Bars, Lemon-Olive Oil Zucchini Bread, Peach-Blueberry-Slab Pie, and Cranberry Jam Streusel Bars with Walnuts all sound good to me.

Simple by Diana Henry – I only discovered Diana Henry a year ago, although she’s been writing books for quite awhile. Sometimes I’m not hip to the scene. I was instantly smitten with her prose; her books are the kind to curl up by a fire with, with hot coffee and something sweet for nibbling within arms length.’ You know the scenario. You’re home late. You’re tired and worn out. You could murder a bag of potato chips and a gin and tonic (and consider  pouring yourself a glass, even though the tonic has gone flat.) This is the kind of night when you need a treat. Self-control has no place here. The key thing, though, is to give yourself a treat worth having: a slightly luxurious meal, but one you can make quickly’ (my favorite lines, from her book, A Bird in the Hand). Coffee-Brined Pork Chops with Hot Sweet Potatoes sound right up my alley, as well as Roast Citrus, Ginger, and Honey Chicken. The Lemon and Lavender Cake looks perfectly lovely, but Bitter Flourless Chocolate Cake with Coffee Cream might be where I start things off. Also, when Yotam Ottolenghi writes on the back of your book that ‘Everything Diana Henry cooks I want to eat’, you know it’s going to be amazing.

Love & Lemons Cookbook by Jeanine Donofrio – This cookbook is what I aspire to in my everyday eating life: simple, clean recipes that bring healthy to my mind and body. In reality, there is too much butter and sugar in my way to make this a reality, but I do try. The photography throughout the book is gorgeous, and you will want to make everything: Strawberry Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts, Roasted Cauliflower and Red Pepper Soup, Spring Onion Pizzas, and Swiss Chard and White Bean Tacos are on my current list. A great cookbook to give on Christmas to help someone jump-start the New Year with good eating.

The Farmette Cookbook by Imen McDonnell – I had the pleasure of meeting Imen this summer, and have so enjoyed her beautiful book. ‘Recipes and Adventures From My Life on an Irish Farm’ is the subtitle, and as you can imagine, the book is filled with gorgeous photos and unique recipes from her life in Ireland. I swooned over the Hazelnut and Vanilla Slice, and have so many items up next to make: Queen of Puddings (jammy cake covered in piles of meringue), Smoky Dark Chocolate Porter Cake, Irish Pancakes, and Sweet Farmer Cheese Danish with Elderflower Glaze. There are plenty of savory recipes, too.

Mad Hungry Family by Lucinda Scala Quinn – 120 Essential Recipes to Feed The Whole Crew is the tagline here, and the book follows through. There are Double-Decker Pork Tacos, HamJam Cheddar Puffs, Chicken and Black Been Nachos, Nesting Noodle Rice Pilaf, Open-Faced Vegetable Omelet as perfect mains, plus chapters on potatoes, salads, breakfast, and sweets (Chocolate Hazelnut Orange Potstickers? Yes please.)

The Vegetable Butcher by Cara Mangini – I really like this book. As someone who grew up all meat and potatoes, cooking with a huge variety of vegetables is not my forte. Not because I don’t like how they taste, but often because I don’t exactly know how to cook them best (ask my husband about disasters with eggplants part 1 and 2). This book is incredibly helpful – it shows how to cut vegetables properly, gives the author’s favorite cooking methods for simple, straight-up cooking, and then highlights favorite recipes for each vegetable. There are also plenty of butcher’s tips and butchery essentials. So simple, yet so genius. It’s a great gift for a new cook, or someone (like me) who isn’t always quite sure the best way to roast an eggplant.

Phoenix Claws and Jade Trees by Kian Lam Kho – I am determined to learn how to cook Chinese food well this year. Both my kids go to a Chinese Immersion school, and as they are constantly surrounded by Chinese culture, they often want to eat Chinese food (although, I don’t speak Chinese, and always want to eat Chinese food, too). But, in all honesty, I’m not great at making it in my own kitchen. Enter this beautiful, beautiful book by Kian Lam Kho. I’m completely smitten with it, and have been reading it like a novel, unwilling to put it down. Chapters include ‘Harnessing the Breath of a Wok,’ ‘The Virtues of Slow Cooking’, and ‘Enriching With Smoke’; all focusing on mastering techniques while providing references to history and culture. If you are even the teeniest bit interested in cooking Chinese cuisine, this book should be in your cookbook library.

Other cooking books to check out: Small Victories by Julia Turshen is beautiful and so well-written, The Gourmet Kitchen by Jennifer Farley: a great collection of recipes ranging from breakfast to dinner, and of course, dessert, Adventures in Chicken by Eva Kosmas Flores, a book of chicken recipes sure to please everyone.



SaraBeth’s Bakery: From My Hands to Yours by SaraBeth Levine – This might just be my favorite baking book. It’s definitely the one that made me fall in love with laminated doughs. The photographs are quiet and beautiful, there are process shots to help with complicated recipes, and everything I’ve made has turned out perfectly. I’m especially smitten with the puff pastry dough as well as the danish dough. It’s a gorgeous book, and a good addition to any baker’s library.

Handmade Baking by Kamran Siddiqi – Another really great baking book. Kamran’s Quick Puff Pastry recipe is fantastic, and his Everyday Chocolate Cake is A++. The photographs in this one are stunning, and the recipes are classy but approachable, which sort of reminds me of Kamran. (We’ve never met, but he comes across online as kind and classy and thoughtful.) Another book I use all the time.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich – Alice Medrich is the baking cookbook queen. I appreciate all her books, they are so well done: flawless recipes, and solid writing and research. Pure Dessert is the first Medrich cookbook I ever owned – all the rest had been checked out time and time again at the library, when I couldn’t afford my cookbook habit. This one is special, and helped pave the way for baking with alternative flours as flavor flours. The Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies are holiday favorites.

Tartine Bread by Chad Robertson – Want to make the best sourdough bread ever? Chad Robertson will teach you how. I have made the Basic Country Bread, starting from the beginning and making my own starter, feeding it every day for two weeks, and then then making the leaven and mixing the dough. It was work, but worth all the time. The loaves turned out lovely and delicious, and when I have the time, they are a favorite to make. This is a great gift for anyone interested in making bread.

Seven Spoons by Tara O’Brady – I’ve had a crush on the Seven Spoons blog for a long time – Tara’s writing and photographs are captivating – evoking both thoughtfulness and stillness to one’s soul. Her recipes have always been winners, so when she put out her own book, I knew it would be well-loved in my kitchen. This book is worth every cent for her biscuit recipe alone, and also for the Vietnamese-Inspired Sausage rolls (which I made once at a party and they disappeared in 4 minutes flat), but there are so many other good ones as well: Bostocks, Caramel Apple Pie, Twangy Blueberry Sauce, Bee-Stung Fried Chicken, and Chicken and Couscous with A Punch Relish just to name a few.

How To Eat by Nigella Lawson – The recipes are great, but I love this book for the head notes alone. Witty, honest, thoughtful, and evocative, Ms. Lawson appears to effortlessly express how she feels about food. There are no photographs, just endless word pictures.

Good To The Grain by Kim Boyce – Another cookbook celebrating flavor flours, and another book with A+ recipes. I’ve made a lot of sweets from this book, and they all have been stellar. Chocolate chip cookies made with only whole wheat flour, Pumpkin Pancakes, Pear and Buckwheat Pancakes, Iced Oatmeal Cookies, Banana Walnut Cake, Spelt Pie Dough, Olive Oil Cake, Grahams, Ginger-Peach Muffins, and Onion Jam have all been wonderful.

Ripe by Nigel Slater – Another beautiful book, and one I read over and over. Mr. Slater’s prose is almost poetry. Like a snowflake, the perfectly ripe pear is a fleeting thing. Something to be caught, held tenderly, briefly marveled at, before it is gone forever…An apple is about a loud crunch, a quick hit, a fruit to be enjoyed on the run. The pear is of a more gentle nature, something to take our time over. At its point of perfections, an apple shouts, a pear whispers (from Ripe). I mean, couldn’t it be:

Like a snowflake,
the perfectly ripe pear is a

Something to be caught,
(held tenderly)
briefly marveled at
before it is gone

An apple is about a loud crunch,
a quick hit

the pear is more of a gentle nature,
something to take our time over.
an apple shouts!
a pear


*(And the photographs! Absolutely dreamy. It’s basically a perfect book.)

The Flavor Bible by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg – I use The Flavor Bible constantly. It’s a guide to modern flavor pairings, and an invaluable resource. Making something with peaches but not sure what flavors to use? Just open your Flavor Bible, and in alphabetical order, you’ll have a list of everything: allspice, almonds, basil, brandy, creme fraiche, ginger, hazelnuts, lavender… the list goes on and on. There are also notes from well-know chefs giving their favorite flavor recommendations as well. It’s a great book for anyone who loves to cook and bake.

So there is part one! If you are hesitant to buy books, don’t forget Mr. Darcy’s words: ‘I cannot comprehend the neglect of a family library in such days as these.’

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

My little brother Daniel, who is exactly 9 years younger than me (to the day), just got hitched. We are so happy to welcome his wife, Cassie, to our family. I didn’t photograph their wedding, but I did sneak around and got a few shots, anyway.

I have a couple more links to posts from my book, as well.
*Melissa from The FauxMartha made my Honey Bundt Cake.
*Billy from Wit & Vinegar made my Orange Pie.

Part two of our Oregon trip in picture form: our adventures in Portland. We had a great time eating so much good food, checking out parks and gardens and downtown and quaint neighborhoods and hanging out with family and friends.

Highlights included getting lost in the amazingness of Powell’s City of Books, eating the best cream cheese Danish I ever had at Grand Central Bakery, quite a few ice cream stops at Salt & Straw, dinner at Pok Pok, day trip to Multnomah Falls, impromptu picnic lunch at the Rose Gardens, meeting up with old friends, and Uncle Buddy playing saxophone for us.
Blue Star Doughnuts

Revival Drum Shop

Ken Forkish Artisan Bread

Waterfall, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

Portland, Oregon

portland CollageA

Portland, Oregon

Grand Central Bakery

Buddy Jay Jamican Jazz Band

PicMonkey Image

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oregon coast

“It is said by the Eldar that in water there lives yet the echo of the Music of the Ainur more than in any substance that is in this Earth; and many of the Children of Ilúvatar hearken still unsated to the voices of the Sea, and yet know not for what they listen.” – Tolkien, The Silmarillion

I just got back from the West Coast (where I had this song in my head all week). We spent 8 days traveling up and down the coast on our first family airplane trip (thank you, frequent flyer miles!). It was a beautiful adventure, filled with high highs (my first time visiting Oregon, my littles first experience with the ocean) and low lows (homesickness, long car rides, same room sleeping), as all family vacations are.
Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Canoon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR

Cannon Beach, Oregon

Cannon Beach, OR

oregon 2


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abby dodge and zoe francois

zoe francois

zoe francois

abby dodge

trustone cold press

ice box cake

zoe francois

sparkling coffee cake

everyday baker by Abby Dodge
Baker extraordinaire Abby Dodge is in town this weekend, and Zoe Francois had a little get together at her house to welcome her and celebrate her latest book, The Everyday Baker, which just won both a James Beard Award and an IACP award. We hung out on Zoe’s fabulous porch all afternoon, and spent lots of time laughing and eating treats made from Abby’s book.

I also snapped this photo of Abby taking a peek at my book (I have a black and white preview copy), but I can’t quite show you the cover yet, which is why the smiley face is over it. I’ll show you soon!
zoe francois and abby dodge

The recipe for the Salted Caramel-Toffee Ice Box Cake pictured is over on Bakepedia.

The cold press pictured is from True Stone Coffee Roasters, a local roaster that we used when I worked at Bordertown Coffee. It was so dang good.


sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

sarah kieffer

It’s been awhile since I’ve done a family session; I photographed this family a few years ago, and it was great to have another shoot with them.

A few links to spend your Sunday on:

A literary quiz to keep you on your toes.

I’ve been enjoying Hello Poetry. Both classic and contemporary poems, and you can search by words to find just the right poem.

This video on how to boil water correctly was pretty amusing.

Still sad about ATK, but I’ve always been a fan of Bridget and Julia.

I’m looking forward to this album. And this one.

This litfest in Ireland looked pretty epic. Maybe next year?

Emily Dickinson: gardener.

Purchase my cookbook!

Amazon / Barnes & Noble / BAM / IndieBound