Meal Plan This Week.

Monday – Flank Steak, roast brussels & crispy potatoes. My husband makes the best flank steak marinade. I dream about it! Doing Labor Day right and wrapping up summer with all the good stuff.

Tuesday – Chicken Enchiladas. We don’t really follow a recipe for this one. Put the chicken in the crock pot in the morning with taco seasoning, and use canned enchilada sauce for ease. All you have to do is shred the chicken and heat up some black beans on the side. To assemble – shred the chicken, spread a bit of enchilada sauce in the bottom of a casserole dish, into each tortilla shell put chicken and some shredded cheese (we like either Monterey Jack which melts really well, or taco cheese here), roll up and place seam side down into the dish, top with more enchilada sauce and shredded cheese. Bake at 425 for 10-15 minutes. Serve with sour cream, sliced avocado, tajin seasoning, cilantro, and a side of black beans.

Wednesday Harvest Skillet. But with chicken sausage instead of bacon! But also looking at this recipe that I think I’ve used before, my recipe is actually not all that similar to this one. 😂 I usually do Brussels sprouts, bite size potatoes sliced in half, sweet potatoes diced, chicken sausage all cooked up in the cast iron skillet. Top with fresh parm and serve with a side of sourdough.

Thursday – Leftovers always!

Friday – Pizza night! Plus family movie after.

Saturday – Pulled Pork Tot-Cho’s for husband and I, pulled pork sandwiches for the boys.

Sunday – Whole roast onions, pork chops and mashed potatoes. Excited about this one. I’ve been thinking about those onions since I found them on Pinterest.

Bake – Salted Maple Pie. My mouth is watering just thinking about it.

Treat – Apple Chips. The boys will love these! They’ll be the perfect after school snack.

Cocktail – September Heatwave. Feels appropriate.

Make anything good lately? Please share with everyone in the comments!

Meal Plan This Week.

Monday – Beef ragú over egg noodles. We’re having this today over parmesan polenta with Caesar salad and garlic bread. We’ll have the leftovers on Monday with egg noodles and more bread for the boys.

Tuesday – Taco Soup. A recipe from my mother-in-law. I’ll post the recipe this week on Instagram, but the recipe I’m linking to looks identical! Liz (my mother-in-law says “It is very forgiving…. can substitute anything…. I just give it a shake or two of ranch powder… I use 2 fire roasted tomatoes and 1 stewed… and I add about a can of water. It’s so easy. The hardest part is opening cans!”

Wednesday – Sheet pan salmon and tons of veggies (zucchini, squash, broccoli, onion). Mixed with lemon pepper seasoning, garlic, oil and lots of butter. Spread in a single layer and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes.

Thursday – leftovers always!

Friday – Pizza night! I’ve confessed that we’ve been picking pizza up from our favorite local spot lately and I have zero regrets as we’re still getting into the swing of being back in school!

Saturday – Date Night! Our anniversary is the 30th, so we’re hitting the town and the boys will most likely have hot dogs or chickens nuggets.

Sunday – Spaghetti Bolognese. A Sunday favorite, and the perfect weekend cooking project. It’s not hard, but it takes a long time.

Bake – Sourdough. It’s happening! I’m getting my poor languishing starter revived this week. I use Tartine’s country bread recipe and it’s not the fastest, nor easiest, but it’s easily the best.

Treat – Molasses Cookies. Feels very end of August-y. A follower shared this recipe with me and I have to try it! I have so many cookie suggestions from a story chat the other day, so I’m going to share a blog post with all of the links because I need to try them all.

Cocktail – Coffee Old Fashioned. Can you tell I’m already easing into September?

Make anything good lately? Please share with everyone in the comments!

Meal Plan This Week.

This week’s meal plan for the curious!

Monday – BLTs with tater tots and salad – I always try to keep Monday nights easy, so I’ll make the bacon in the oven (at 400 on a foil lined pan for about 20 minutes), slice up some heirloom tomatoes, add iceberg lettuce because it has the best crunch, husband will put a fried egg on his, I’ll throw a quick salad together and there will be clementines and tots with ketchup for the kids. If I have a little extra time, I’ll make this very yummy herb mayonnaise, or maybe I’ll just sit back with a drink and a book with that extra time instead.

TuesdaySweet Potato Tacos with black beans, quick slaw and pickled onions – I buy frozen chopped sweet potatoes and this is basically the easiest taco Tuesday ever.

WednesdayLemon Ricotta Pasta – I’ve wanted to make lemon ricotta pasta since reading One Italian Summer (which wasn’t all that good, but the food descriptions took me there!) and I searched high and low for a recipe that seemed worthy. This one has great reviews. I’ll probably add some pan fried chicken for my husband and some pillsbury rolls with jam for my little guys.

Thursday – Leftovers. Always!

FridayPizza! (Of course.)

Saturday – Cheeseburgers on the grill with sliced veggies & dip (we usually mix one container of cottage cheese with a packet of ranch seasoning) and oven fries (just slice up potatoes to the size you like best, roll around in olive oil and seasonings – we either use steak seasoning or garlic salt with Parmesan, place in a single layer on a sheet pan and bake at 400 for 20-30 minutes, mixing around half way through.).

SundayPork Shoulder Ragu with Parmesan Polenta and a green salad with apples, candied walnuts, crumbled goat cheese, and a simple vinaigrette.

BakeBlackberry Mascarpone Hand Pies. I do believe these will be pretty enough to post on Instagram.

CocktailBasil Peach Shrub. Excited about this one. Will make to pair with Sunday’s Supper.

TreatMini Dutch Babies. Can I find mini skillets somewhere?? Tbd. If not, my muffin tin will do.

Bon appetit, friends!

All this talk of food has made me hungry. I need to go track down one of those fluffernutter cookies sitting in the cookie jar.

A Small Blackberry Cake.

I love a big old layer cake for a birthday or big party, but for a special little weekend treat or a mid-week pick me up, make it tiny. I don’t need a big cake lingering around my kitchen tempting me (and my children) for too long. Just big enough for a Sunday dessert and a snack during the week (and ok, maybe enough so that I can have breakfast cake one day, because leftover cake does make the best breakfast, as I’m sure you well know.)

I adapted this recipe from the Very Vanilla Cake from Simple Cake by Odette Williams. It almost feels more like a muffin than cake. Muffin Cake! I love it. It was yummy, and I recommend you make it. I used a six inch by 3 inch cake pan, but I think you could use an 8 inch cake pan if you only have that. It will just be thinner, and you’ll want to adjust your baking time!

Blackberry Cake with Blackberry Glaze

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup blackberries, chopped if very large
3 T mild-flavored oil, such as canola

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Prepare pan by greasing a 6 by 3-inch cake pan with butter, line the bottom with parchment paper, and grease the paper.

Add the lemon juice to the milk to sour it. Set aside for 5 to 10 minutes or until curdled.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs together. Set aside.

Place a large sifter or a sieve in a large mixing bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt and sift.

Using an electric mixer with beaters or a paddle attachment, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium speed and then gradually add the sugar. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on medium speed for another 4 minutes or until light in color and fluffy.

With the mixer still on medium speed, gradually add the eggs. If the batter curdles, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the flour to bind it back together.

On low speed, add the flour mixture and then the oil and milk; mix until just combined. Don’t overbeat. Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl. Add blackberries and fold in with a rubber spatula.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake in the center of the oven for 50 to 55 minutes. When a wooden skewer inserted into the center comes out clean, and the cake bounces back when lightly pressed, remove the cake from the oven and let it stand to cool. Run a butter knife around the cake to gently release. Invert the cake, peel off the bottom piece of parchment, and cool on a wire rack.

When completely cool, pour glaze onto center of cake and let it run down the sides. Decorate if you choose to with extra blackberries, cut, and watch disappear!

For the Glaze:
1 cup (115g) confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon butter
2-4 tablespoons very hot blackberry juice

Sift the sugar into a small bowl and make a well in the middle. Add the butter to the well. On the stove combine about 1/2 cup water with 1 cup blackberries. Bring to boil and mash the blackberries. Strain into a measuring cup, discard pulp or you could mix that in with the cake. Start with 2 tablespoons and pour into your small bowl into the well of butter. Mix and add a bit more until you get the right drippy consistency. It should be thin enough to drip off your spoon slowly, but not so thin that it will just run off of your cake.

Your Favorite Cookbooks.

A few months ago, I put a little question box on Instagram and asked for cookbook suggestions from you guys. I’d like to build up my little cookbook collection, but I’d rather not have cookbooks sitting on my shelf that I don’t use. I knew you guys would have the best suggestions, and wow. You all came through. I had hundreds of responses of books you all say you use over and over again. I had to get all of this crowdsourced cookbook knowledge down here. I’ve separated by Baking, Weeknight cooking, Weekend/Date Night Cooking, Cooking Basics, and special dietary cookbooks. Each cookbook is listed by title, author, and then if you click on it, it will take you to amazon to look at the description. They are affiliate links so if you choose to purchase, I will get a little kickback (like 10 cents. just trying to put dinner on the table here. lolol.) This list makes my librarian heart sing! I’m going to start requesting one from the library every week and I’ll browse through, pick a couple recipes to try and see if it’s worth purchasing to have and to hold forever and ever. I thought you guys might like to see the list if you too are looking to beef up your collections! As always, I’ll share reviews on Instagram, and I’ll share any I decide to buy too. Side note: can’t believe the number of vegetarian cookbooks suggested!


Sister pie, Lisa Ludwinski
The Book on Pie, Erin Jeanne McDowell (This is my suggestion! I very much love this cookbook!)
Tate’s Bake Shop Cookbook, Kathleen King
Bake the Seasons, Marcella DiLonardo
Flour Water Salt Yeast, Ken Forkish
Flour and Grace, Valerie Kuhns
Tartine Bread, Chad Robertson (I have and love this book. It’s my sourdough bible!)
Midwest Made, Shauna Sever
100 cookies, Sarah Kieffer
Flour, Joanne Chang
Bread Toast Crumbs, Alexandra Stafford
Dessert Person, Claire Saffitz
Sweet, Yotam Ottolenghi 
Sally’s Baking Addiction, Sally McKenney

Cooking Basics

Betty Crocker Cookbook
Fat Salt Acid Heat, Samin Nosrat
How to Cook Without A Book, Pam Anderson
Americas Test Kitchen Cookbook
Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Julia Child
The Art of Simple Food, Alice Waters
Small Victories, Valerie Turshen
The Joy of Cooking, Irma Rombauer
Minimalist Kitchen, Melissa Coleman

Simple, Everyday Dinners

Skinnytaste One and Done, Gina Homolka
Half Baked Harvest Super Simple, Tieghan Gerard
Half Baked Harvest Every Day, Tieghan Gerard
Jamie Deen’s Good Food, Jamie Deen
Feeding a Family, Sarah Waldman
All About Dinner, Molly Stevens
The Modern Proper, Holly Erickson
Dinner, Melissa Clark
Vietnamese Food Any Day, Andrea Nguyen
Local Dirt and Dishing up the Dirt by Andrea Bemis
Taste of Home Cast Iron Cookbook
Let Me Feed You, Rosie Daykin
Magnolia Table, Joanna Gaines
100 Days of Real Food, Lisa Leake
Everyday Dinners, Jessica Merchant
Huckle & Goose, Anca Toderic
It’s All Easy, Gwyneth Paltrow
Everyday Dinners, Jessica Merchant
Hope’s Table, Hope Helmuth
Pioneer Woman Cooks, Ree Drumond
Ottolenghi’s Simple, Yotam Ottolenghi
Dinner: A Love Story, Jenny Rosenstrach
Grains for Every Season, Joshua McFadden
The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook, Deb Perlman
Scrumptious, Christy Denney
Comfortable Kitchen, Alex Snodgrass
A Year of Simple Family Food, Julia Busuttil Nishimura
The Complete Slow Cooker, America’s Test Kitchen
Once Upon a Chef, Jennifer Segal
Milk Street Tuesday Night, Christopher Kimball
Prairie Homestead Cookbook, Jill Winger

Date Night/Weekend Cooking

Cravings, Chrissy Teigan
Jerusalem, Yotam Ottolenghi
The Little House Cookbook, Barbara M. Walker
Cook Beautiful, Athena Calderone
Tangy Tart Hot and Sweet, Padma Lakshmi
Nothing Fancy, Alison Roman
Ina Garten cookbooks
How Easy Is That Is
Eating Out Loud, Eden Grinshpan
Giada’s Italy, Giada Di Laurentiis
A Love of Eating: Recipes from Tart London
Cook this Book, Molly Baz
Williams Sonoma Brunch and Breakfast, Norman Kolpas
Simply Julia, Julia Turshen
Williams Sonoma Comfort Food
The Lost Kitchen, Erin French
The picnic, Marnie Hanel ( I NEED this book)
Cooking With Nonna, Rossella Rago
Molly on the Range, Molly Yeh
Sprouted Kitchen, Sara Forte
Let’s Stay In, Ashley Rodriguez
Dishing Up Maine, Brooke Dojny

Special Dietary

My New Roots, Sarah Britton (vegetarian)
Cook Once, Eat All Week, Cassy Joy Garcia (gluten free)
The Nourished Kitchen, Jennifer McGruther (traditional foods lifestyle)
Ruffage, Abra Berens (vegetarian)
Love and Lemons, Jeanine Donofrio (vegetarian)
The Forest Feast, Erin Gleeson (vegetarian)
My Darling Lemon Thyme, Emma Galloway (vegetarian, gluten free)
Little Green Kitchen, David Frenkiel (vegetarian)
Run Fast, Eat Slow, Shalane Flanagan (for athletes)
Love Real Food, by Kathryne Taylor (vegetarian)
Nourishing Traditions, Sally Fallon (traditional foods)
Lexi’s Clean Kitchen, Alexis Kornblum (paleo)
Mostly Plants, Tracy Pollan (vegetarian)
Simple Green Suppers, Susie Middleton (vegetarian)
Whole by Natural Harry (vegetarian)
Oh She Glows, Angela Liddon (vegan)
Elsa’s Wholesome Life, Ellie B (vegetarian)
No Crumbs Left, Teri Turner (whole30)

The ones I’ve requested from the library – Half Baked Harvest Super Simple, The Modern Proper, Sister Pie, Hope’s Table

Meal Plan This Week.

Something about the school year starting just turns me into this kitchen monster. It’s like I have to spend time in the kitchen. I think it’s being out of the house all day, and the fact that our kitchen is one of my favorite places on earth and cooking and baking is one way that I say “I love you” to my family. Anyway, lots of good things happening in the kitchen. Here’s this week’s meal plan just in case it might inspire your meals this week!

MondayCrock Pot Gyros – crock pot Mondays are truly a gift during the school week. I come home to dinner being pretty much made. I’ll buy tzatziki from the store to make it easy, and if I’m especially productive, I’ll chop up the veggies on Sunday night.

Tuesday – Taco Salad (I don’t really use a recipe for this – just crushed Doritos, taco meat, lettuce, and a whole bunch of toppings) – served with an ice cold margarita with salt on the rim for me, and no salt for my husband. I’ll have the boys cut up the iceberg lettuce for our after school transition activity while I brown the meat and Lukey terrorizes us all.

Wednesday – Grilled Chicken with Tomato Tart or possibly this tomato tart recipe that I also bookmarked!

Thursday – Leftovers

FridayPizza! (Of course)

SaturdayChurrasco Skirt Steak with Chimichurri Sauce – served with roasted fingerling potatoes, a big green salad and that rosé punch you see below. Throw in a board game after the boys go to bed and it’s basically a date night at home.

SundayStreet Corn Chowder – served with crusty sourdough and all the mix-ins. Do not skip the cream sauce in the recipe. Amazing.

BakePeach Pound Cake – I think that I’ll make this in a Bundt pan with a glaze on top. Yum.

CocktailRosé Punch

TreatFluffernutter Cookies – we usually make a treat on Thursdays as it’s leftovers night, so the time spent in the kitchen for dinner is low. This recipe will be a great one for the boys. I have a bag full of stale marshmallows and I think I’ll put them in charge of wrapping the marshmallow up with the dough.

Bon appetit, friends!

What are you making this week? Anything I need to know about? You know I’m already thinking about my next meal plan!

Our Family Recipe Book.

A couple of years ago, my mom made everyone in our family beautiful bound books with recipes from the whole family. Grandma’s sugar cookies are in there, a whole bunch of my mom’s recipes (cheesecake, meatballs, crab dip, spice cake, etc etc etc.) my dad’s buckeyes & golden cadillacs (wait until the holidays roll around and I’ll talk more about those), my sister’s shepherd’s pie, my banana bread, my cousin’s mexican layer dip, my aunt’s bourbon slush. You get the idea. If it’s a recipe from the Brown family – it’s in the book. She handwrote all of the recipes, had them copied and gave each one of us kids one. A rather beautiful heirloom sort of gift if you ask me. It’s cherished and I pull it out more than several times a year. Especially on the holidays where we can’t make it home to Indiana – I just need those recipes from home.

Well, having that recipe book (my sister and I refer to it as “The Family Bible”), made me start thinking about my own family and the recipes that I make over and over again. You guys know I love to try new recipes, but there’s nothing like making a food your family knows and loves. Well, I decided to start our own family food bible. Calling it a cookbook just sounds too official, doesn’t it? And it’s not as if I’ve made these recipes up. They’re just ones we love. When I find myself reaching for a recipe more than once, or if my family especially loved it, into the book it goes. My favorite vanilla birthday cake recipe is there, my favorite biscuits, dinner rolls, chocolate chip cookies, and the like. It’s largely full of baked goods. I should probably start jotting down some of our dinners too. I’ll get there eventually!

I’ve mentioned my little recipe book several times on Instagram – usually a comment like “This is so good it’s going in the recipe book!” and I always get questions. “Tell us more!” “Where is your book from?” “What’s the recipe book?” Well, I’m sorry to break the news to you that it’s nothing very pretty or fancy at all, it’s just a blank sketchbook from Michaels. You can probably get them anywhere art supplies are sold, or any type of office supply store, but over the years, I have a feeling it’s going to be one of those precious “grab in a fire” items for our family. There’s something about a handwritten recipe, isn’t there? I use a smaller sketchbook as my gardening book too – I jot down what I’ve planted, dates, outlines, notes on how things are growing.

Do you have something like this? My sister has a binder where she prints off recipes and puts them in, and I know lots of people have little recipe boxes with cards inside. I do love this book though. Over time, I’ll tweak recipes and include notes or maybe put in some little memories. I can imagine jotting down what Charlie first bakes on his own, or Ben’s favorite pizza toppings, or that Luke would only eat yeast rolls when he was two. The cover will get worn over time and years of being pulled out for the Birthday Cake recipe and the Christmas Cinnamon Rolls, and the First Day of School Blueberry Muffins, and I think that will make it even more precious to me. Watch my boys not care at all about it when they get older. HA! Maybe their wives will. Or maybe we need to go for just ONE MORE baby, perhaps a girl?? (insert a heart attack from my husband.)

Recipes inside the Metroka Family Cookbook (so far)

  • Mascarpone Icing
  • Yeast Rolls
  • Lemon Poppyseed Bread
  • Christmas Cinnamon Rolls
  • Banana Bread
  • Favorite Granola
  • Homemade Ice Cream
  • Friday Pizza Dough
  • Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Pie Dough
  • Cut Out Sugar Cookies
  • Shortbread
  • Sourdough
  • Biscuits
  • Sandwich Bread
  • Mrs. Whitney’s Chocolate Peanut Butter Candy
  • No Bake Cookies
  • Peanut Butter Cookies
  • First Day of School Blueberry Muffins
  • Grandmama’s Blueberry Buckle

An August To Do List.

You guys, I was looking through my blog this morning as my first *School Year Is Starting, But I’m Not Working Yet* order of business, and I really thought I had more on here than I do. Ha! It’s a bit bare bones isn’t it? I have pages and pages full of post ideas. One of my goals for the school year is to get this little spot up and running with regular posts each week. I do still love Instagram, but I know there are mixed feelings on it. This could be a really cool spot with a little more time dedicated to it, couldn’t it? On to this August to do list though!

If you’ve been following me for a while, then you know that every month, I make a list of things to do in certain (favorite! fun! exciting! whimsical!) categories (Bake, Treats, Cocktails, Meals, and Home). Typically, I do four things under each category and then I pick one from each category every week. So every week I’m crossing something off from each little list. I find that if I list everything out like this at the beginning of the month, I automatically eliminate the need to make any crippling decisions during the month. I do it all at once, and then I’m just left with time to actually do those things on my list! It works, trust me. I’m much more productive since I’ve starting planning my months out like this. You could obviously make the categories anything you’re into. And maybe you could just do a couple under each category if you think it’s unlikely that you’ll do something every single week. This is just what works for me. Make it your own!

So (drumroll please) the August LIST! Just click on the text for a link to the recipes!


  1. Tomato Tart
  2. Blackberry Thyme Cake (with a frosting of my own making)
  3. Peach Pound Cake
  4. Blackberry Mascarpone Hand Pies

Treats (We usually make these on Thursdays after school)

  1. First Day of School Blueberry Muffins
  2. Ice Cream Sandwiches
  3. Peanut Butter Marshmallow Cookies
  4. Mini Dutch Babies

Meals (I typically add more than four in here because well…I have to make dinner every night)

  1. Hamburger Pie – I shared this recipe in stories the other day and it’s saved under my “dinner” highlight!
  2. Street Corn Chowder
  3. Chicken Parm Sandwiches
  4. Churrasco Steak with Chimichurri
  5. Charcuterie Board Dinner
  6. Crock Pot Chicken Gyros
  7. Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches


  1. Coffee Old Fashioned
  2. Bourbon Peach Lemonade
  3. Rosé Punch
  4. Peach Basil Shrub

Home – No links for these! Just things I’m planning to do that will maybe inspire you too!

  1. Back Hallway Beadboard and Peg Rack
  2. Apple Garland Craft
  3. Fall Vegetable Garden
  4. Start Knitting Cardigan

How to Make Letter Donuts.

Way back in April, I started planning out my May bakes. I’ve talked about my monthly planning process before, but if you missed it – I usually plan the entire month of bakes all at once. Usually one or two things a week – something dessert-y and something breakfast-y/afterschool snack-y. It keeps me on track and help reduce decision fatigue throughout the month. Having too many options isn’t always a good thing, for me at least.

Anyway, I knew that I wanted to do something super fun for the last day of school for the boys (and for me! lol). Cake? (Did that last year for the last day of school, so meh.) Pie? (A possibility, but I make a lot of pie during the summer, so I didn’t want to overdo it right off the bat.) Donuts? Now here, we had a real possibility. I’ve only made homemade yeast donuts one other time and they were gooooood, but I wanted to do something kind of wild. I wanted to make donuts in the shape of letters. Donuts with a message!! Please don’t give me all the credit for this idea though. It’s not that original. I’ve seen donut shops make letter donuts, and I’m sure I saw it on Pinterest long ago. And when I was researching how to do it, I watched a few helpful YouTube video tutorials. But could I do it? Well, obviously, I gave it a shot and they turned out SO CUTE. You guys, the possibilities are endless here!! You could make any message you wanted! What a cute centerpiece for a baby shower, a birthday party, anniversary, graduation party, etc. I mean like I said…endless. I wanted to jot down a few notes here for future reference for you (and for me) if you ever decide you want to give letter donuts a try.

If you’d like to read the full recipe from the original source at Delish click here. I used the “how to make donuts at home” recipe and it did not disappoint. The recipe comments were especially helpful when thinking through how to make the dough the best it could be.

I will jot the recipe down here too, just in case it ever disappears from their website. I also plan to add this recipe to my family cookbook (I just write all of our “keeper” recipes in one notebook to have all together.). This is one I will make again. I’m including my edits to the recipe here (less flour in the dough, more milk in the glaze) so if you want the original, go to their site!

Yeast Donuts

1 cup whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups plus 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for rolling
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter, melted
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Canola or vegetable oil, for frying

1/3 cup whole milk
2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Grease a large bowl with cooking spray and set aside. In a small, microwave-safe bowl add the milk. Microwave until lukewarm, 40 seconds. Add a teaspoon of sugar and stir to dissolve, then sprinkle over yeast and let sit until frothy, about 8 minutes.

In a medium bowl, whisk together 4 cups of the flour and the salt.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat together remaining sugar, butter, eggs, and vanilla.

Pour in yeast mixture, mix to combine, then add in dry ingredients, stirring until a shaggy dough forms.

Turn out onto to a lightly floured surface and knead until elastic and only slightly tacky, adding more flour a teaspoon at a time if needed, about 5 minutes.

Form into a tight ball then place dough in oiled bowl and cover with a clean dish towel. Let dough rise in a warm spot in your kitchen until doubled in size, about 1 hour.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment. Alternatively if making letters: make sure that the donuts don’t lose their shape when moving them to the Dutch oven to fry, you can put donuts on individual squares of parchment paper and just gently tip them into the pot when you’re ready to fry.

Punch down dough, then turn onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out into a ½” thick rectangle. Using a donut cutter or 3” and 1” biscuit cutters OR letter cookie cutters, punch out your donut. Re-knead scraps together and punch out as well.

**To make letters, I just rolled out the dough a little thinner than 1/2″ and I used medium sized letter cookie cutters. The dough was a little tricky to get through all the way through cleanly with my plastic cookie cutters, so if you roll the rolling pin on top of the cookie cutters it forces it through and was so easy to get off. I think metal cookie cutters would probably work a little better if you need to buy some, but the plastic did work fine!

Place donuts and holes onto baking sheets, cover with dish towel, and let rise again, about 40 minutes more.

Make glaze: In a large bowl, whisk together milk, powdered sugar, and vanilla until smooth. Set aside.

Line a large baking sheet with paper towels. In a large dutch oven over medium heat, heat 2” oil to 350°. Cook donuts, in batches, until deeply golden on both sides, about 1 minute per side. Holes and small shapes will cook even faster!

Transfer donuts to paper towel-lined baking sheet to drain and cool slightly. Dip into glaze, then place onto a cooling rack (or eat immediately!).

I hope you guys try these!! In the shape of letters or not! They were declared delicious in our house.

Sources for the curious:
My beloved enamel Dutch oven.
– I would like to be buried with my kitchen aid mixer.
Best cookie sheets ever. I like the extra large size, but be forewarned that they are truly huge. If you’re short on space, look for this medium size.
This candy thermometer has never done me wrong. This is one recipe you truly do need a thermometer for.
– Alphabet cookie cutters. Metal. Or plastic.
– We store all of our dry goods in jars. The gallon cracker size is great for bulk things like flour, sugar, pasta, rice. We use the half gallon size for whole wheat flour, snacks, cereal, etc. and then, these small latching jars are great for dry beans, lentils, quinoa, nuts, cocoa powder, etc.
– I always use this yeast brand.
– I use these enamelware mixing bowls every single day.
– The best cooking rack.
– I want these sweet plates for serving little treats.
– I don’t usually wear an apron when I bake, but maybe I should?! Well, on second thought, maybe I’ll just make my own.
– I’ve been looking for a cute storage solution for muffins, and other small baked goods (like donuts!) this is a good one.

Please also note this terrifying surprise I found in the cookie cutters. Life with three little boys is never dull!

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe.

We have gone through many, many chocolate chip cookies. I just feel like a home with three little boys and two adults should have homemade cookies on the counter at (nearly) all times. And let’s agree that of the multitude of cookie options in the world – chocolate chip cookies are the best. Sure, I love peanut butter, and oatmeal, and sugar, and and and, but chocolate chip cookies just scream HOME. But I don’t want any old chocolate cookie. I expect Greatness.

So, let’s talk recipes – I’ve tried many. Many many. I should probably be embarrassed by the number of recipes I’ve tried. I’ve tried the Levain Bakery Recipe, the world’s best recipe on nytimes, Joanna Gaines’ recipe from her cookbook, like three different recipes from the 100 cookies cookbook, the one on the tollhouse chocolate chip bag, the one on the Ghiradelli bag, a few random ones that have really great reviews on, a whole bunch of others that aren’t worth talking about, and finally, finally, I have this one. My favorite. It’s from Everyday Reading‘s blog, which is…not a cooking blog and honestly it’s not one that I even follow closely, but I was so sold by her description when I read it a few years ago that I had to try it. If you haven’t noticed – it doesn’t take much to convince me to try something. I quickly declared it my favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe of all time.

But then after a few batches of Greatness, I decided that I had better keep trying others just in case because everyone else also says that they have the best recipe. And what if a better cookie is out there, but I haven’t tried it because I was so into this one?? But I’ve been underwhelmed by all others. This one is still it for me. Not gonna say I won’t keep trying others (just in case!), but these are the cookies I make when we have guests or when I’m bringing cookies to a party, or when I just want a really good cookie. When baked correctly, they’re done one the outside, but still perfectly soft on the inside. Not crunchy, not underdone – just perfect texture on the outside and inside. They’re beautiful. Beautiful! I know that it shouldn’t matter if a cookie is pretty or not if it tastes good, but these are PRETTY. And that means something to me. They’re what you want your cookies to look like when you’re sharing them with the world. And the taste – they’re just so dang good. Make them. Just try it. Tell me what you think! Are they really as good as I think they are? Do you have a better recipe? Because if you do – I need to try that one too. Just to make sure that this one really truly is THE best.

Chocolate Chip Cookies

2/3 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups semi-sweet or milk chocolate chips
1 3/4 cups purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
coarse salt for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 375.

In a stand mixer, beat butter for about a minute. Add sugars and beat another minute or two. Scrape down sides of mixer with a rubber spatula. Add vanilla and egg. Beat again.

Add the flour, soda, and salt. Mix JUST until combined. It will look over-floured for a few seconds, but should come together fairly quickly.

Mix in the chocolate chips.

Scoop golf-ball size spoonfuls of dough onto cookie sheet, sprinkle each ball with a pinch of kosher or sea salt and bake for 9-11 minutes. They should be light-colored and puffed when they come out of the oven, but dry-looking (not shiny or wet). I often give them a little squish out of the oven on all the sides with a spatula to get that extra crinkly look on top. Then, let cool on the pan for about 3 minutes then transfer to cooling rack.

**Notes: For the cookies you truly deserve – use Ghiradelli 60% Cacao. It really does make a difference.

And if you know me at all, you know that I am partial to King Arthur’s unbleached all purpose flour in all things baking.

For perfectly sized cookies, I use this cookie scoop and I honestly don’t know how I lived without one before.