feeding my family bread with stories

January 8, 2015 § Leave a comment

sourdough saturday1

I am the main cook in my family. I am self-taught cook and I cook everyday. Storytelling is my fuel, my inspiration. Most of the time our home meals are pretty straight forward. I try to prepare food that has a connection, a story. A simple bread recipe can teach us about tradition, history, culture, and much more. I like to think that tonight’s dinner has been in the making for thousands of years. A stocked pantry, planning and practice are the ingredients that help me make these meals happen. I take pictures, make videos, journal what and how I cook and I look for ways to share and learn. This is also how I have fun while cooking. I am thankful to my parents and friends who share their stories and methods — their voices are always with me.

At home, I often ask my husband and kids what they want to eat because they inspire me to think of food in different ways. Today a friend asked me if I had a whole grain sandwich bread recipe. Yes we do because I few months back, my girls said that the sourdough or the boule breads I make are not as great for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. They wanted a soft bread. I am happy to make that for them. I am happy when they eat their food too. I like a challenge. One time they came home asking if they could have fruit roll up. Off I went to learn how to make fruit leather. In return they eat my experiments – fermented vegetables, beans of all kinds and even liver. So if you have not met a person that cooks everyday, here I am. I decided to show you what we eat on Instagram under the hashtag #storycooking (you can see some of the photos on the right of this page) and weekly blog posts . There are classes and events coming up. If you have cooking questions we can look for answers together, let me know. Have a Blessed New Year.


Whole Wheat Sandwich Bread, makes one loaf great for PB&J

1 cup liquid + 1egg
1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp oil,
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp salt
3 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour.
Mix all ingredients for about 2-3 minutes. Let the dough double. Shape into 8″ log and place on a lightly greased loaf pan or make a ball. Let it rise again. Bake 350F for 35-40 minutes. Bread is done internal temperature of about 190F.

honey bread

January 5, 2015 § Leave a comment

One more Holiday treat. This is not something I will make often because I can’t stop eating them. They are delicious Brazilian cakes even though they are called bread.


Pão de Mel (honey bread) is a Brazilian holiday spicy cake filled with dulce de leche and covered in chocolate. They remind me of Petit Fours. When I saw this recipe on a book a friend gave to me, I had to try. I made very little changes to the recipe from My Rio de Janeiro: A Cookbook by Leticia Moreinos Schwartz. Mostly, I made into a one mixing bowl cake, added more spices and coconut oil! They were delicious! They are made to be shared! This recipe made 20 cakes and the leftover cake, I made 20 chocolate balls.

For the cake, I mixed by hand:
1/2 cup of honey
2 eggs
2 tablespoons of sugar
seeds from 1 vanilla bean
3/4 cup of coconut oil or vegetable oil
1/2 cup of condensed milk plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup of whole milk
mix until well combine
2 1/4 cups flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon grated cloves
1/4 cup of ground walnuts
Preheat oven 350F
Mix well and bake on a sprayed and parchment paper lined 9×13 baking pan. Bake the cake for 35-40 minutes. Let it cool completely. I waited to the next day to cut into layers and then into rounds.

I used cookie cutters to make rounds
For the filling: 1 cup of dulce de leche. I used about 1 tablespoon on one side and then closed firmly.
For the glaze: I melted 2 pounds of semisweet baking chocolate chips with 2 teaspoon of coconut oil in a double boiler
pao doce3
The leftover filling and cake, I crumbled together and made into cake balls. Rolled them in the leftover melted chocolate and rolled them one more time in coconut flakes and chocolate! Enjoy




year of stories

December 31, 2014 § 1 Comment

Happy New Year! Where did the year go? As I sit here archiving thousands of photographs from 2014, I enjoy reflecting where I went in 2014. Each photo, a story. I taught cooking and photo classes, helped at community dinners, food demos, and took people on farm tours.  I am thankful for two new projects that kept me focused on storytelling this year. As an outreach coordinator for Agricultural Stewardship Association (ASA), I was thrilled to work with Katie Jilek to capture images of Rensselaer and Washington counties for their “Photo of the Day” project on Facebook and Instagram. I also produced the “ASA Minute”, an ongoing series on voices of ASA members, farmers and those who participate in their programs. I hope their stories will inspire you to support ASA’s work.


baked rabanada

December 24, 2014 § 2 Comments


Feliz Natal! Merry Christmas! In our home in New York, we started celebrating with Rabanada, a traditional recipe served during Christmas in Brazil. It is usually fried. My mom asked me on the phone last night to make her recipe for the girls, which is baked. You should look for day-old bread, similar to a baguette, a crunchier exterior and a soft interior. I did use half of the condensed milk. It will look like a lot of liquid, but the bread will soak it all up. Rabanada shows up on the beautiful celebration tables around the world. Some variations of this recipe are French Toast and Egg Bread. When my oldest daughter was born in France, a friend gave us a recipe book and marked the page “pain perdu” with the note “make this for her to taste”.  I think Santa would not mind tasting this mid-night snack, dessert or breakfast.


Rabanada Assada da Celeste

In the blender:
2 eggs (I used 1 egg and 2 yolks)
1 can condensed milk (I used half) or you could also use cream and sugar
1tsp vanilla
1TBSP corn starch
stale bread cut in rounds (I used whole grain)
use the can and measure the milk (about 14 ounces)
2 tsp ground cinnamon to serve
oven save rectangle dish
layer 1: liquid from the blender
layer 2: old bread cut in rounds
lager 3: liquid
layer 4: ripe banana (optional)
layer 5: rest of liquid

Bake in a 200F oven for 15-20 minutes
take out of the oven and drizzle honey, cinnamon or crystal sugar



Gingerbread, Pizzeles and robot de cuisine

December 20, 2014 § 4 Comments

gingerbreadcookies star2014

“I love baking more than cooking,” I used to say. Maybe it is still a little true. What brings me to the kitchen are the connections with people and food. When those ingredients are there, I can’t stay away. I find time and energy.  My camera is always there too. I like to cut and mix by hand. I like to taste and smell as I go, even the raw eggs. My recipes have been getting larger though.  Some of my food adventures are sometimes events for hundreds.
I am very happy to get appliances for Christmas. They are as “personal gifts” as it gets for me. My husband knows my needs and wants — that makes it special. Thank you hubby. One Christmas I got a Pizzelle iron and 2 years ago my first stand mixer. I sometimes resist adding new appliances to my life, but they have been great help and fun.
I have been happy to use my mortar and pestle, box grater and blenders for over 20 years but I am really excited about this year’s gift – a “robot de cuisine,” (food processor). I always liked hearing the chefs on cooking shows calling it a robot when I lived in France.

Here recipes for a couple of our favorites: Pizzelles, traditional Italian waffle cookies and Gingerbread Cookies, varieties found in many cultures.


For the Pizzelles, I adapted the recipe from the Pizzelle iron box and advice from my friend Dawn Graham.

pizelle iron

The dough looks like cookie batter and it is “baked” or should I say made on a stove top or electric iron. I like to decorate them with fruit sweetened sugars or a dust of powdered sugar.

3 eggs
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup butter, melted at room temperature
1tsp anise extract
2 teaspoons baking powder

Beat eggs and sugar by hand until just combined. Sift flour and baking powder into the bowl. Mix by hand. Add melted butter, stir to combine.
Place dough on the bottom part, I use an ice cream scoop and drop about 1 tablespoon of batter. Cook on low for 10-15 seconds on each side. Carefully remove cookies from the iron, using a fork to full them out from the iron if needed. Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. Pizzeles freeze very well.
This recipe can be made with Gluten Free flour.

pizzelle iron2


gingerbread cookies2014

For the Gingerbread Cookies
adapted from Joy of Baking

1.5 cups all purpose flour
1.5 cups of rye flour
1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground ginger, or 1 TBSP fresh ginger, minced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1/3 cup unsulphured molasses
Royal Icing Using Egg Whites:
2 large egg whites
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice or more as needed
3 to 4 cups confectioners (powdered or icing) sugar, sifted.

Gingerbread Cookies: In a large bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, salt, baking soda, and spices.
In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and molasses and beat until well combined. Gradually add the flour mixture beating until incorporated.
Divide the dough in half, and wrap each half in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (177 degrees C) and place rack in center of oven.  Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside while you roll out the dough.

gingerbreadcookiesLinaLaracookies made by my children
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch.  Use a floured cookie cutter to cut out the cookies.  With an offset spatula lift the cut out cookies onto the baking sheet, placing the cookies about 1 inch (2.54 cm) apart.
Bake for about 8 – 12 minutes depending on the size of the cookies.  Small ones will take about 8 minutes, larger cookies will take about 12 minutes.  They are done when they are firm and the edges are just beginning to brown.
Remove the cookies from the oven and cool on the baking sheet for about 1 minutes.  When they are firm enough to move, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter used.
For Royal Icing with Egg Whites:  In the bowl of your electric mixer (or with a hand mixer), beat the egg whites with the lemon juice.  Add the sifted powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined and smooth.  Tint portions of frosting with desired food color.. The icing needs to be used immediately or transferred to an airtight container as royal icing hardens when exposed to air.  Cover with plastic wrap when not in use.

From my kitchen to little hands for decorating during the North Troy Holiday Celebration at the Sanctuary for Independent Media

IMG_3507e IMG_3509eIMG_3515eIMG_3548e

Me with Lina and Santa — good times!


Black Bean Chocolate Soup

December 3, 2014 § Leave a comment

IMG_2647blackbeanChocolate soup

This Black Bean Chocolate Soup is not my mother’s recipe. But it started as a Brazilian blended soup. A caldo for a celebration day. Congratulations to Capital Roots for the Grand Opening of the Urban Grow Center, a regional food hub with the goal to nourish 300,000 people with 1,000,000 pounds of fresh food each year. It was my pleasure to join fellow Chefs Consortium members Renee Panetta and Lecco Morris and serve this soup.

blackbeanchocolate soup

Several years back, when I met Chefs Consortium Noah Sheets, I learned that New York grows black beans and I could get it at Honest Weight Food Co-op. Since then, I have learned so much about local food in New York. Recently I felt in love with local ginger from Little Seed Gardens and that I could get that at Troy Farmer’s Market. The Urban Grow Center will help more people have access to local and fresh food. Local food tastes better for so many reasons. The stories and connections make the taste unforgettable.


If you would like to try:

Ellie’s Black Bean Chocolate Soup

for a large crowd

2 pounds of dried NY black beans, cooked with 1 TBSP of salt and 2 bay leaves in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes. Or you can soak the beans overnight in salt, drain and cook in fresh water on a slow cook for 8 hours on low or boil for a couple hours until tender on stove top.
Set aside half of the liquid to be blended back into the soup as needed
Add 1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced or more to taste
1 bunch of cilantro
1 TBSP smoked paprika
1 TBSP ground cumin
1/4 cup of vinegar
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup 100% cocoa powder
Blend the soup, adding reserved liquid as needed
Adjust salt and black pepper to taste
Simmer for 10 minutes.
Garnish with chives, if desired
Serve hot with orange slices.



little hands love hand pies

November 27, 2014 § 1 Comment

sweet potato handpie

I wonder if my girls will remember making sweet potato hand pies with me when they grow up. They wrote the Thanksgiving menu and made their requests. They remembered we had them last year.  I love hand pies because it takes time to make; precious time in the kitchen with my girls. Making hand pies with them are a gift to me. I hope not to forget how their sleeves get caught in the dough and the sweet potato with doce de leche filling land in the floor as they negotiate spoons and forks. They stop to sing and dance. They run outside to eat snow and come back in arguing who gets the pies on the left or the ones on the right. Outside, I spot a heart shape on a tree branch. The snow slows down the pace of the day and makes the kitchen warmer. Happy Thanksgiving.

snow heart

thanksgiving menu2014

Today we used the pie crust recipe from ‘‘America’s Test Kitchen,’’ referred  as ‘‘Foolproof Pie Dough.’’ We used only butter on ours and rolled and folded the dough several times. For the filling, I cooked sweet potatoes and mixed them with doce de leche.

sweet potato hand pie

We baked on a 375 oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.

sweet potato handpies

handpie crust

A week earlier, I made similar recipe, empanadas, but replaced the unbleached all-purpose flour with a mix of Bob’s Red Mill Glutten Free flour and masa harina and I was really happy with the flavor. We are not glutten free, but I am happy to make this with and for friends who are. It tasted so good that I will use this recipe for savor empanadas again. The flour base of GF mix is chickpea four and it tasted great with the masa and pepper vodka.

gf hand pies2

For the filling we used potatoes, sun dried tomatoes, capers, venison and spices

gf hand pies4

Baked at 425 for 20-25 minutes

gf hand pies3

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

  • Archives

  • #flanksteak rosemary garlic #farmtotable #homecooking #eatinginseason #storycooking #dill #asaphotooftheday Celeriac potato #latkes #castiron #eatinginseason #storycooking Steamed #beets salad #sprouts #eggs #kombuchavinagrette #beetlove #homecooking #eatinginseason #storycooking The ugly loaf #nokneadsourdoughbread #baking #storycooking #oatmealwednesdays #pearbutter preserve walnuts maple syrup #eatinginseason #storycooking Four legumes chili #feijao #gardenromanobeans #eatinginseason #storycooking Breakfast #sourdough #breadbutterjam #foodphotography using diy light box #nofilter  #storycooking Homemade za'atar spice blend backyard #sumac #eatinginseason #storycooking New York winter sunset #asaphotooftheday #nofilter #wintersunset Winter #windowgardening #growfood #lentilsproutsinajar #eatinginseason #storycooking Short outing for much needed fresh air #asaphotooftheday #upstateny Homemade #fruitleather #lunchbox  #eatinginseason #storycooking #canja #ricesoup #congee for tummy ache. Kids still mending ... Exhausted #storycooking #beju de tapioca our home super #comfortfood #storycooking #brazilianfood

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 551 other followers