I have always baked for comfort. I remember making up recipes with my sister: brownies with butterscotch chips,  rocky road cookies, peanut-butter banana bread. Half of the time they were disasters, but sometimes we found a hit. My mother tolerated it well, and when I bake with Sally I try to remember this. 

I do almost all my baking with Sally these days. She likes to eat the dry mix, which is a little weird since it's usually some combination of plain whole wheat flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and yeast. The other day when we were making lunch, she drank a combination of milk and drained tuna juice. But she's a good little helper, particularly when you need someone to clean out a yogurt container or use a whisk. 

Still, it's nice sometimes to be in the kitchen without her. The other night Alex had a meeting and Sally went to bed early, and I found myself with an unexpected moment. I was tidying up, and I found a book Sally had pulled off the shelf: The Country Art of Blueberry Cookery by "The Blueberry Lady," Mrs. Clifford David Morrison. I paged through it and got excited about a recipe for Nona's Blueberry Muffins, and then realized Sally had eaten the last frozen berries for breakfast. Still, we had cranberries. And flour and eggs and milk. I turned on the oven and pulled out a muffin pan. 

The version I made was probably not much like Nona's. She called for all-purpose flour and I used whole wheat, and the cranberries made the muffins more sweet-tart than sweet. They are nothing like the treats Anna and I made as kids. But to my grown-up self, they are much better. They tucked me into bed that night with butter and a glass of milk, and I had no qualms the next morning about packing two in Alex's lunch and letting Sally devour another for breakfast. 


You could add any berry to these muffins and get a keeper—I'd especially like to try a blackberry version. The recipe comes originally from Nancy Nona Phillips in Greenfield, MA, and makes enough batter to fill a standard 12-cup muffin tin.

2 cups whole wheat flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons sugar (brown or white are both fine)
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/4 cup olive or vegetable oil
1 cup cranberries

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat together the egg, milk, and oil. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ones, then fold them together with about 12 stirs. Add the berries, stir once more, and pour the batter into a greased muffin tin. Each cup should be level full. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown. Carefully remove the muffins from the tin and place them on a rack so that the steam can escape. 



As you might guess, our family has been sorely in need of comfort food recently. We’ve needed dishes that are easy and quick to make—dishes that can nourish us both in body and spirit. When I was a little girl growing up in Ohio, my mother had just the thing. Whether you had a strep throat (I had lots), a busted knee (my brother), or what we used to call “the mulligrumps,” it wouldn’t be long before Mom was sitting on your bed with a cup of baked custard. She didn’t just make it when we were sick, but it always tasted especially good then. It slips right down, even when you think you aren’t hungry. And with the milk and eggs, it’s an excellent way of getting some nutritious food into you. Did I mention that it’s also delicious? I think Sally’s going to love it!

The recipe couldn’t be simpler or easier to make. It’s the one my mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother all made when they were raising their families. OK, confession: my great-grandmother, Gransy, didn’t actually make it; her maid did. But I'm told that Gransy loved eating it. I used to make it too, when Elspeth and Anna were younger, but not as often as I should have. That’s going to change—the batch you see here has totally revived my love of this childhood favorite.


Here it is—a recipe that with little Sally now links six generations of mothers and daughters. In our family, there’s comfort in that alone.

2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
dash salt
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
nutmeg to sprinkle on top 

Combine the milk, sugar, and salt in a sauce pan.  Turn the heat to medium-high, and stir well until milk begins to scald but not boil.  When milk is steaming, turn off heat and set aside.  

Beat eggs in a large bowl.  Gradually pour the hot milk into the beaten eggs, whisking as you go.  Stir in the vanilla.

Place custard cups in a larger pan filled with half an inch of water.  Pour the milk and egg mixture into the custard cups.  Sprinkle each cup with a dash of nutmeg (my mom says it doesn't matter if you do this before or after baking.  "Just don't put too much on," she says).  

Bake at 345 degrees for about 45 minutes, until the tops are nicely browned.  



I like to keep this a happy place. I try not to talk about the dark stuff here, because I think there's enough of it in the world already. But three weeks ago, I told you we were expecting a baby, and today I need to tell you that we are not. 

The baby I was carrying had a rare chromosome abnormality called triploidy. You can read more about it over here, but what it means is that she had 69 chromosomes instead of the usual 46. It is a deviation considered incompatible with life, and most triploidy babies are lost in early miscarriages in the first trimester. Ours was stillborn at 21 weeks. 

It is hard to talk about, but even harder not to talk about. The past two weeks have been full of tears and uncertainty, and a nagging feeling of emptiness. We are still sad, and I have a feeling we'll be overcome with waves of grief for weeks to come. But we're also ready to start the work of moving on. We feel incredibly lucky to have such wonderful, kind, supportive doctors, families, and friends, and to have arrived home from the hospital to find not one but three beautiful trees in our yard, a jar of asparagus soup on our stoop, and a roasted chicken in our fridge. 

This has been a terrible week for so many people in Massachusetts. When we were in the worst of it, my sister sent this link from the Onion, and it was a good reminder of how important it is to be able to laugh. So we're here, picking ourselves up. We're counting our blessings—our health, our home, our community, our families—and most of all our sweet little Sal. She is, without a doubt, the person getting us through this. 

Thank you for listening, and for being here. It means a lot. Anna will be around later this week—thank you so much for her warm reception!—and I'll be back soon. 



Happy Monday!  I tried to get this recipe to you on Friday, when it was snowing/raining/hailing and we desperately needed some heat, but the day slipped away from me.  Anyways, this recipe is still perfect for today because it's got some heat and lots of spice and it will give you a kick in the pants which, if you're like me, you need on Mondays.

I came across this recipe a few weeks ago when my mom gave me Plenty. Both Elspeth and my mom have been raving about Jerusalem, the sister cookbook to Plenty, so I knew I was in for a treat.  I sat down to flip through and bookmark the recipes I wanted to try immediately.  Apparently I need to try  all of them.

Plenty is filled with page after page of beautiful photography and mouth-watering recipes, all vegetarian.  I finally settled on black pepper tofu as a jumping off point, and I'm glad I did.  It was simple and delicious, especially served over wilted greens and rice, and it has a warmth to it that is perfect for spring evenings.

While the original recipe calls for crispy fried tofu, my tofu-frying skills are not up to par and I opted to use shrimp instead.  I'm sure it would be fabulous with tofu as well, or really any protein.  Feel free to add more or less spice, depending on your preference.  I toned the original recipe down a bit, as my taste buds can't handle the heat of eight chiles.


The Maine shrimp season is over now, but many places still sell it frozen.  This dish is delicious with rice and wilted greens - I used kale and spinach, but whatever you have on hand will work.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound raw shrimp, shelled
5 to 6 tablespoons butter
3 fresh red chiles, thinly sliced
6 large garlic cloves, diced or crushed
2 medium shallots, diced
3 tablespoons diced fresh ginger
9 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
2 tablespoons sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons crushed black pepper (I used a spice grinder)
1 bunch green onions, cut into 1 to 2 inch segments

Heat olive oil in a large frying pan.  Add shrimp and cook until pink on both sides.  When shrimp are cooked, remove them from the frying pan and set them aside.

Add butter to frying pan and melt it.  Add chiles, garlic, shallots, and ginger.  Cook on medium-low heat for 10 to 15 minutes, until ingredients are soft.  Stir in soy sauce, sugar, and black pepper.  Add green onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, covered, allowing them to soften a bit.

Add the cooked shrimp to the butter and soy mixture, mixing well so all pieces are covered in sauce.

Happy eating!


ON DUTY // anna

When you arrive at your sister's house for a week-long stay only to find that she is close to bedridden with a sinus infection, you have a duty to fill.  You help get Sally off to day care and, when she comes home, you bake zucchini bread with her and help her tuck her baby doll into bed.  You take Fisher out and make sure he doesn't run away or eat the compost.  You queue up the Glee episodes on Netflix (shhh…don't tell Alex) and you empty the dishwasher when it's done.  When dinner rolls around and you haven't given it a second thought all day, you make quiche.

Quiche is the perfect meal for those days when there's nothing planned for dinner.  If all else fails, you probably have eggs, milk, flour and butter.  You may also have leftovers or sorry-looking veggies that you aren't sure what to do with.  Quiche is kind of like the dinner version of those compost cookies bakeries make to use up extra ingredients - whatever you have on hand will work.  

On this particular day in Wellfleet, I didn't find much in the fridge: a bunch of kale, some sharp cheddar, and some leftover butternut squash from these enchiladas we had made earlier in the week (pssst: MAKE THEM! They are delicious, especially with shrimp added).  I made a quick pie crust, sautéed the veggies together, topped it all off with eggs, dotted it with cheese, and within an hour we had a meal.


This is really more of a loose guideline than a recipe, and it can be tweaked depending on your filling and the size of your pie pan.  I used three cups of filling for a 9-inch pie pan.

1 pie crust
1 1/2 cups butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 onion, diced
1 small bunch kale, cut into 1/4-inch ribbons
5-6 large eggs
1 cup milk (optional - I've also made this without milk, just expect the final product to be eggier)
Sharp cheddar cheese for topping

Make the pie crust and press it into a pie pan.  

Place the butternut squash in a medium pot and cover with water.  Bring water to a boil and cook squash until soft.  While the squash is cooking, begin to sauté the onion in olive oil over medium heat.  Add the kale to the onion mixture and stir until it begins to soften.  When the squash is soft, drain the water from it and add it to the kale and onion mixture.  Stir well, so the squash begins to get mashed into the rest of the veggies.  

Once the veggies are cooked, pour them into the pie crust.  Lightly beat the eggs together with the milk, and pour this mixture over the veggies.  Dot the whole thing with chunks of cheddar cheese.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes or until the center of the quiche no longer jiggles when moved.  If you're daring, turn on the broiler for 30 to 60 seconds to get the cheese all gooey.  (Note: Do not take your eyes off it while the broiler is on!  It will burn.  I know this from experience.)

This would also be delicious with mushrooms, leeks, crab, potatoes, sweet potatoes, any greens you have on hand.  Really, the possibilities are endless.  Enjoy! 


ED'S SPELT BREAD // the local food report

My friend Ed makes a mean loaf of bread.

It's spelt bread, adapted from the no-knead white bread recipe from Mark Bittman that made the rounds back in 2006. Ed was making that bread regularly—mixing and waiting and pouring and baking—when he and his wife Teresa took a trip up to Vermont to visit a couple of friends. Their friend Josie had made a spelt bread with flour from Beidler Family Farm just down the road, and it was delicious. He wanted in. He didn't want to lose his no-knead recipe, though, and so he slowly started combining the two.

What you see up there is the result. It couldn't be much easier. Essentially, you take two cups of spelt flour, two cups of white flour, 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/4 teaspoon of yeast, and 1 and 1/3 cups of cold water, and mix them into bread. The dough sits overnight in a bowl, then gets punched down and rises another two hours, and then you bake it in a preheated Dutch oven for 30 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered. What emerges is a crusty, airy loaf—a bread with a sweet, nutty flavor, plenty of moisture, and excellent mouth feel.

I got interested in it for two reasons. The first of course is that it is delicious. Ed brings it over whenever we all have dinner, and I've also had it during early morning writing sessions with Teresa. It is equally good at room temperature slathered in butter and toasted and topped with homemade strawberry jam.

The second reason is that we have spelt coming out of our ears. For the past four years now, we've been part of the Pioneer Valley Heritage Grains CSA. I like a lot of things about it—we're supporting local farmers, we get a top quality product from close to home, and we get to try a lot of grains we probably wouldn't be baking and cooking with otherwise. Spelt has been one of these.

I do have a few trusty spelt recipes—this Rosemary, Dark Chocolate & Spelt Cake, to name one—but I'm always looking for more. So when I tasted Ed's bread—crusty, chewy, moist—I knew I needed to learn to bake my own loaves. I finally went over the other day for a tutorial. You can hear the live version on the Local Food Report this week, and here's the recipe for those of you inspired to try it at home. If you don't have a ready source of local spelt (not unlikely!), check out our grain and bean CSA, Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater Maine, and Beidler Family Farm in Vermont.

Happy baking!


2 cups organic spelt flour
2 cups organic bread or all-purpose flour
1 and 1/2 teaspoons Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon active dry yeast
1 and 1/3 cups cold water
olive oil
coarse cornmeal

Combine flour, salt, yeast, and water in a large bowl and mix until flour is well-incorporated in the dough. (The dough will be fairly dry, not sticky.) Shape the dough into a ball and drizzle a little olive oil over it. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a tea towel and let rise overnight (12 to 16 hours) in a warm, draft-free spot. The dough should double in size.

The next day knead the dough just a little to make sure it's smooth throughout and let rise again in the covered bowl for two more hours. Half an hour before you're ready to bake it, turn the oven on to 450 degrees F and put a heavy covered dutch oven (like a Le Creuset) inside to heat up. When the dough has finished its second rising, sprinkle about a tablespoon of coarse corn meal into the pot and transfer the dough into the pot. Cover and bake at 450 for 30 minutes. Then take off the lid and bake for about 10 more minutes, until the bread is nicely browned.

Remove to a cooling rack. (And be careful not to burn yourself on the hot pot or the lid.)



I hope you've been out enjoying the sun today. Spring! In that spirit, I want to bring your attention to a few things. First off, you have probably noticed some layout changes. You can now pin photos, follow the blog on Facebook, Twitter, Bloglovin, and/or Instagram, email us directly, and browse the newly organized archives for the Local Food Report and recipes. These updates are thanks to three days with my sister on the couch, coding HTML. Thanks, Anna! We hope you like them. If there's anything terribly wrong or if you find a dropped link, please let us know.

The second is that there are going to be some changes around here in the next few months. First off, Alex and I are expecting another (!) baby. He or she is due to arrive at the end of August or in early September, which is very exciting. And also slightly terrifying.

I'm going to keep posting on Mondays and Thursdays, like usual. That won't change. 

But my mom and my sister are going to be joining me. We've been talking about this for a while, and it seems like the time is right. I could use some help, and some new inspiration, and the three of us email recipes back and forth all the time. Many of the dishes you've seen here have been inspired by what they're making, and I know more than a few of you already have favorites from their repertoires. The photo below was taken on a visit to my grandmother two years ago, and it's the way we spend most of our time together—at the table. We grew up cooking together, and we want to be closer again in the kitchen, at least in spirit. 

My mom and my sister both live in Maine. My mom, Liz, lives in Brunswick, where I grew up. My sister, Anna, lives in Portland, about 45 minutes south, down the coast. My mom has access to an amazing farmers' market, with most of the same seasonal ingredients we have here. Anna is lucky enough to live in a city with a year round market, not to mention numerous seafood markets and green grocers. In short, the recipes they're cooking follow the same seasonality that we do here. 

The focus of the blog will still be on eating locally on Cape Cod. Eating locally in Maine isn't terribly different, however, and from Anna in particular you may see some posts about broader New England topics—like the best local beers. We're really excited about this. If there's anything you want to suggest or if you have any feedback, we'd love to hear it. And in the meantime, please give Anna and Liz a warm welcome, and keep an eye out for their first posts. We'll see you soon.


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All text, photographs, and other original material copyright 2008-2010 by Elspeth Hay unless otherwise noted.