Like everyone else, the pandemic has changed the way we operate.
It’s no secret to those who know me that I’ve never strived to be great in the kitchen. I have always loved eating my husband’s cooking, and prefer going to restaurants or, when I actually DO cook, I like making easy, convenient (mostly healthy) things. I grew up with a dad who cooked, and a mom who didn’t care for it, so I took after my mom in that way. It’s strange because I could be classified as a “foodie” but have never cared to create lots of delicious food from scratch myself.
As for baking, before the pandemic, I did even less of that than I did cooking! Neither of my parents baked growing up, but I had a great grandmother and my Nanny (my grandma) who were awesome at it, and I always reaped the benefits of their talents. Ian and I have been married for almost ten years now, and prior to COVID, I think I had used our KitchenAid mixer a max of 3 times. I have a couple friends who are amazing bakers and I’ve always preferred to eat their beautiful, delicious treats instead. Preciseness in the kitchen was not my forte…at least I thought it wasn’t. Baking requires a patience and precision I didn’t know I had until now. Maybe I took to it because it was a soothing learning activity to do with my oldest son during all the lockdowns, or maybe we were just aching to try something new to keep us busy and somewhat sane; but no matter the reason, we learned to bake together.
That being said, baking and cooking are two things that my now five-year-old LOVES and they are great ways to keep him busy and learning! Plus, we get to try out lots of yummy treats, and we get to pass them along to our friends and neighbours too, returning the favor a lot of the time. (BIG shoutout to all my neighbours, as well as Steveo and Lina especially for all of the amazing baked good drop-offs over the last year!)
I decided to compile some of the recipes we have tried over the past year in case any of you are like me and aren’t super baking-savvy, or even if you are and are looking for new recipes. (I also wanted a curated place I could access them all easily!) If I can make these recipes, you definitely can too. Also, you now know that they are tried and tested by me and my food connoisseur five-year-old, so hopefully this list can help limit the amount of recipe research you need to do too! And to be honest, I don’t dislike baking anymore. I actually like it. In fact, sometimes I just whip up a loaf of soda bread, or some cookies when I need a soothing activity or Xavier wants to do something fun on a rainy day indoors. And, dare I say, we have become okay at it!
I’ll be updating this post as physical distancing undoubtably continues (although there is hope on the horizon as the race against the vaccine continues!), so check back for more deliciousness and follow my personal instagram @kelfurgalicious for insta stories to see what new recipes we are attempting!
Milk Chocolate and Reese Pieces Cookies: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/chewy-chocolate-chip-cookies/ This was one of our favourites! We added Reese Pieces to this recipe and made them for our neighbour’s birthday. WOW, were there a hit! We will definitely be making them again – there are a few extra steps in this one, like chilling the dough (which I have since learned is the key to most amazing cookies) and separating the yolk (to a non-baker like me this was definitely extra work the first time we did it!), but it was well worth it.
Cream Cheese Cookies: https://preppykitchen.com/cream-cheese-cookies/ These surpassed my expectations! They were fluffy and delicious, and took no time to bake! They were almost mini cake-like. We have made these twice already, and the second time my son and I made them we doubled the ingredients to make more since they were so well-received by our neighbours.
Mini M&M Cookies: https://www.twopeasandtheirpod.com/mini-mms-cookies/ These mini cookies with mini M&Ms were such a hit with everyone we delivered them to! We will definitely be making these again, and the recipe made so many bite-sized little cookies for sharing or a quick, sweet snack!
Double Chocolate Cookies: https://preppykitchen.com/double-chocolate-chip-cookies/ These were also a massive hit with everyone we delivered them to! I am allergic to tree nuts, so we didn’t follow that part of the recipe, and we also substituted the regular chocolate chips for salted caramel ones and it was a great decision!
Gooey Double Chocolate Cookies: https://www.crazyforcrust.com/double-chocolate-chip-cookies/ We made these for our neighbour’s birthday and substituted some of the chocolate chips for salted caramel ones! I will say, I have now learned that if you have time, chilling the dough in the fridge makes a difference. These cookies were great if you want to do everything all at once, but if you have more time, I would select a recipe where dough chilling is required.
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies: I was searching for a peanut butter chip cookie recipe, and ended up finding this one. It isn’t labeled as a peanut butter-related recipe at all, but I just substituted some of the chocolate chips in the recipe for peanut butter and butterscotch (my son’s request) and also included the hunks of chocolate! The results were outstanding! I would definitely suggest this recipe and will surely make it again.
Mini Chocolate Chip Cookies: https://www.averiecooks.com/mini-chocolate-chip-cookies/ The thing I love about baking mini cookies is that you get so much bank for your buck from the batter, and there is so much more to share! My son wanted to add butterscotch chips to this recipe (can you tell he is super into that flavour?), so we did and, let’s be honest: butterscotch never disappoints! I even froze some of the dough since when we made these we were in a 14-day isolation period, and I definitely didn’t want a bunch of fresh-baked cookies around. (They would obviously get eaten…. by me). I will say that I think I prefer the Mini M&M Cookie Recipe (a couple recipes above) to this one, but would recommend this one as well!
Drop Sugar Cookies: This was our first time making sugar cookies and they turned out really well! I definitely recommend this recipe. https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/drop-sugar-cookies/
Pumpkin Cookies: These were a fluffy hit and it was fun to use pumpkin for a change! https://lovelylittlekitchen.com/soft-pumpkin-cookies/
Our Christmas Cookies 2020: My Great Grandma Doan used to make the best molasses cookies and M&M/Smarties cookies. This was my first time making molasses cookies and they were AMAZING. https://whatsgabycooking.com/butterscotch-and-chocolate-chip-molasses-cookies/ I could see this becoming a Christmas tradition for us.
Birthday Shortbread 2021: We made shortbread for my mom for her birthday this January 2021, and the Preppy Kitchen’s recipe was fantastic and easy! (Minus the strange shape we didn’t seem to get right, haha) https://preppykitchen.com/shortbread-cookies-recipe/ The taste was perfection and we have made this buttery treat a few times since!
Gooey Chocolate Brownies: https://gimmedelicious.com/easy-one-bowl-fudgy-cocoa-brownies/ We made these for another neighbour’s birthday- it was our first time making brownies from scratch! I wanted to find an easy recipe and these ones were a hit. They were extra gooey- in fact, I would have personally kept them in the oven a little longer than the recipe indicates and will do so next time. We substituted some of the chocolate chips for butterscotch ones, and the neighbours gave us “brownie points” for that! (Bad joke, but hey, I stick by it).
S’More Peanut Butter Pretzel Brownies: This is a delicious recipe from my super talented friend Steveo’s self-published cookbook, Hurricane Steve. If you want the recipe, DM me as the book is now out of print and this recipe is divine! (I’ll also have to make sure it is okay with Steveo to share!) We were out of peanut butter chips for this one and substituted with butterscotch instead and it was quite tasty! This was probably the most time-intensive recipe we have tried so far and was worth every bite!
Easy, Fast Gooey Brownies: I made these while on the phone and doing about three other things at once. They were super fast, super easy. https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/9599/quick-and-easy-brownies/
Blueberry and Raspberry Oatmeal Muffins: https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/blueberry-oatmeal-muffins/ These muffins were a huge win! It was the most elaborate I had gotten with muffins so far (that isn’t saying much) and it was well-worth it! This recipe was for blueberry oatmeal muffins, but I actually made them blueberry-raspberry and they were delicious and a tad tart, which we liked! I also substituted the honey for agave. There was no added sugar in this recipe, so that was also refreshing; we highly recommend this one. We made them again with raspberries and blackberries and we liked the first version better.
Peanut Butter Muffins: I have a weird dislike of muffins that have a “sticky” top. I don’t know how else to describe it, but these ones had it. Xavier really liked them, but I found that they were overly peanut buttery and they weren’t my favorite! https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/232385/aunt-bs-peanut-butter-muffins/
Zucchini + Chocolate Chip Muffins: https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/222601/zucchini-chocolate-chip-muffins/ These were so tasty, we made them twice!
Carrot Cake Muffins: https://chocolatechocolateandmore.com/carrot-cake-muffins/ I am a big fan of carrot muffins, so I was excited to make these! I was a bit disappointed with this recipe though, I have to admit. We didn’t make the icing as we wanted them to be more muffin than cake, so maybe that was part of the problem. I also didn’t include the walnuts because of my allergy. Xavier thought they were little dry, and I think these were the least exciting recipe we have made so far.
Peach and Blueberry Cobbler: My nanny (what we call my grandmother) used to make the best peach cobbler. Every August she would bring home Ontario peaches from the store and I would sit in her kitchen and watch her make it. This year, I wanted to make make her some peach cobbler and bring it to her in her retirement home. My sister located my nanny’s recipe, but I had already started on the cobbler recipe I found online: https://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/easy-peach-cobbler. It is labeled as easy and since I have never made it before, I definitely wanted to start with easy.
I looked at the ingredient list and the recipe and got a little cocky. ‘I have made many more difficult things than this’, I thought to myself. And then I proceeded to forget the baking soda like the rookie of all rookies. Well, at least now I know first-hand the importance of baking soda and it’s job. (Insert head-slapping emoji here).
The second attempt at the cobbler turned out great, I may add.
My New Go-To….Artisan No-Knead Bread: No one is more shocked than I am that I made bread. And this bread is AWESOME. I have never attempted anything like bread before, and I had never baked with yeast. Our local ice cream shop owner recommended this easy recipe, and also suggested adding rosemary to it: https://www.recipetineats.com/easy-yeast-bread-recipe-no-knead/. I now bake this “soda bread” weekly, sometimes with rosemary and most recently with green food colouring (for St. Paddy’s!). If I can make bread, you can definitely make bread.
Blueberry Vanilla Goat Cheese Scones: I was dead set on making these when the What’s Gaby Cooking email arrived in my inbox with them featured! They didn’t disappoint- AND I couldn’t find vanilla paste anywhere so ended up making my own for this recipe, and the recipe is in the non-baking section if you was to check it out. Haha, I was dedicated. https://whatsgabycooking.com/blueberry-vanilla-goat-cheese-scones/
Pumpkin Pie: I didn’t get to eat pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving this year, so I took it upon myself to make my own (not the crust- are you nuts? I am still a novice over here). I was looking for something easy and this did the trick! https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/229932/simple-pumpkin-pie/
One Bowl Chocolate Cake: We finally make a cake and this was our first attempt! Xavier asked to make a raspberry chocolate cake, but we went to the bodega around the corner to buy the raspberries, and by that evening they were moldy. So, we just made a chocolate cake. The recipes filled two square pans so we decided “go big or go home” (and we already were home- so win-win) and made a double layer cake. Here is a great link on how to easily do it! (And if you forgot to grease the pans like I did, there is a tip for that too! Like I said, it has been four months and I am still not a baker). And then we went one step further and made chocolate buttercream icing! https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/17981/one-bowl-chocolate-cake-iii/
Chocolate Buttercream Icing: https://www.livewellbakeoften.com/chocolate-buttercream-frosting/ I accidentally only put in 1/2 cup butter initially instead of one cup. I thought I had ruined everything but I added it after the cocoa step and it still turned out!
Vanilla Buttercream Frosting: I was searching for an easy, yummy basic- b*atch frosting and this one takes the cake! (See what I did there? Another bad joke. Thank you for sticking around to read them all and apologies in advance if any others are peppered throughout the rest of this post) https://www.wilton.com/buttercream-frosting/WLRECIP-41.html Truthfully though, one of our neighbours loved this icing and our vanilla cupcakes (a few recipes down) so much, that she asked for the recipe to give to her sister, who has a baking company!
Vanilla Cake and DIY Buttermilk: We seriously enjoyed this recipe, and I made my youngest son’s 1st birthday cake with this one (I’m almost positive it was this one, haha, if not it was the Sally’s Baking Addiction recipe below). I have used both recipes and can’t remember which one is which! But I know they were both good! I actually called Steveo in a state of distress as I used his rotating cake stand for the first time… I thought the “crumb layer” was going to cause me to crumble! He was very supportive, as was Ian, lol. And, as it turns out, having an abundance of icing can help any distressed cake! https://livforcake.com/vanilla-cake/
Layered Vanilla Cake: Sally know’s what’s up! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/vanilla-cake/
Vanilla Cupcakes: We got some serious compliments on these fluffy, moist, seemingly simple cupcakes. Was it the homemade buttermilk? Who knows? Whatever the reason, we have now made them a few times and we’re super happy with this go-to recipe. https://natashaskitchen.com/perfect-vanilla-cupcake-recipe/
Snickerdoodle Cupcakes: These cupcakes were the most difficult we had attempted! But the directions were great and they turned out incredible! We made them for our friend Steveo’s birthday (a porch drop off- what else? We are nothing if not rule-followers) and they were super soft and moist and looked so cute with the snickerdoodle cookie on top! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/snickerdoodle-cupcakes-cinnamon-swirl-frosting/
Peanut Butter Cupcakes with Peanut Butter and Chocolate Frosting: We made these for our dear friend Gavin’s birthday! (Again, a porch drop-off, don’t worry!) He is a peanut butter lover, so we made sure these were full of the sticky condiment! They were moist, delicious and the PB was not over-powering! We will definitely be making these again. I will say that it wasn’t as easy to pipe with this frosting compared to the Snickerdoodle cupcakes listed above, but I think that is because in addition to there being peanut butter in the frosting and making it stickier, Xavi and I are also novice pipers (this was one of our first attempts at it)! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/peanut-butter-cupcakes/
Christmas 2020 Breakfast Cake: I made this breakfast cake for Christmas morning and it was a hit and stayed moist for days afterwards. I definitely plan on making it again. https://whatsgabycooking.com/chocolate-chip-streusel-skillet-breakfast-cake/
Butterscotch Cake + Butterscotch Frosting: My son loves butterscotch (as previously mentioned) so we made a butterscotch cake and it was fantastic! If you don’t have a sweet tooth, it may have been too much but we all loved it! https://julieblanner.com/incredible-butterscotch-cake/
Skor Bits Bars: This is an old, easy and very high-calorie dessert I got from an old coworker, but I wanted to include it here so I have it with all my other baking go-to’s. It’s always a hit with kids (but a warning: Skor bars contain almonds, so maybe not the best idea for a kids birthday party, whenever we are allowed to have those again). The recipe is as-follows:
Ingredients: 1 box of mini ritz crackers, 1 can of condensed milk, 1 bag of Skor bit pieces, vanilla icing. (I don’t find the vanilla icing necessary because these squares are already sweet, but they look more appealing with it!)
Directions: preheat oven to 350. Mash up the ritz crackers and pour them on the bottom of a square oven-safe dish. Bake it for 5 -10 min to let the bottom set, and then pour on the condensed milk. Then sprinkle on the entire bag of Skor pieces. Bake in oven for 10-15 minutes. Let cool and then spread the vanilla icing on top and cut into squares.
Leprechaun Treats: This is where it all started, guys and gals! We made these for St. Patrick’s Day 2020 and it was the first stop on our Quarantine Baking Adventure! The difference with our version is we made them with half Rice Krispies, and half Lucky Charms, and we added green food colouring! I think we’ll make them again this year 🙂 https://showmetheyummy.com/lucky-charms-marshmallow-treats-recipe/
Rice Krispie Treats: I never made these growing up, so the Leprechaun Treats mentioned above was the first time I had ever made a Rice Krispie-esqe dessert! A year later, we made another batch and loved this recipe! https://sallysbakingaddiction.com/rice-krispie-treats/
Julia Childs Clafoutis: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/12688-julia-childs-berry-clafoutis Our friend Steveo is an excellent chef and baker (he’s the one I referenced above who has his own cookbook!) and he taught us how to make Clafoutis during our Friday night zoom chat- it was so much fun, we used minimal ingredients, and was really easy. Ian and I used shaved coconut and chocolate chips as our filling instead of berries and it was a success!
Pizza Dough: My friend Jane is a big advocate of pizza dough making, and had been encouraging me for months to make our own with the kids. The first time I bought our dough from a local bakery and realized that it was a great thing to do with the kids. Xavi loved putting on his own toppings! And when we finally did make the dough ourselves, it turned out so well! We will definitely be doing it again. (and I am so glad we registered for the pizza stone for our wedding 100 years ago… it’s coming in handy now, just like our KitchenAid mixer!)
Here are the recipes Jane sent through (We made the first one, but by ‘we’ I mostly mean Ian and Xavi- I let them handle this one!):
As far as cooking goes, we have been doing Hello Fresh every other week for weekday dinners and I have really been loving it! It has taught me so much about the basics of cooking and recipe-following and I would highly recommend, especially for busy worker bees and parents! That being said, cooking is still a passion of Ian’s, so he does a lot of the cooking on weekends and has a ton of his own resources he uses. None of those recipes are included here because I cannot take credit for cooking them!
My cookbook go-to? Both of Chrissy Teigen’s and most recently this Fresh cookbook. However, there have been a few things in addition to the Chrissy’s go-to’s I have tried myself and I have included them below:
Avocado and Scallion Salsa: https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/flatbread-with-avocado-and-scallion-salsa I didn’t make the dough (I was not that adventurous at this point in the pandemic) but have seen people raving about it on Instagram. My son and I used tortilla wraps and toasted them with olive oil instead, and the salsa was super easy! <We also used the leftover salsa in our charcuterie spread the following night and it was a hit!>
Kimchi Pancakes: As many of you know, Ian and I lived in Korea, and Korean food holds a special place in our heart, and in our pantry! (More on our love of South Korea here). I love Korean BapSang’s food blog, and everything we have made from her site has turned out really well! I highly recommend these easy pancakes and dipping sauce: https://www.koreanbapsang.com/kimchi-jeon-kimchi-pancake/ I have made them a few times now, and they are authenic and delicious . I also recommend using her tip of supplementing some of the flour for corn starch- it makes them nice and crispy!
K + Kale Salad: https://www.toneitup.com/recipe/k-kale-salad-2/ LOVED the freshness of this salad with the cilantro addition (something I had never thought of adding to my salads) and the lemon dressing. Because of my tree nut allergy, I substituted the pine nuts for pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and also added avocado, dried cranberries, bell peppers and feta to make it a meal. Will definitely be making this one again! For one of my fave go-to salad recipe that is still a staple in our house, click here.
Garlic Crack Pasta: https://whatsgabycooking.com/garlic-crack-sauce-pasta/ I made this for dinner for the boys one night and it was super easy, with minimal ingredients. Would highly recommend, especially with fresh mozzarella!
Soup Dumplings: Ian and I did an Airbnb Experience class with an expert soup dumpling maker in China. It was such a fun experience! I knew soup dumplings were challenging to make, but it was SO fun to try. There was a lot of prep pre-class as well as during, but if you are interested in the recipe, drop me a line and I can send it your way!
Vanilla Bean Paste: I made homemade vanilla paste for the Goat Cheese and Scone recipe I mention above. It was not as intimidating as it initially looked, and now I have a mason jar full in my refrigerator! https://dessertswithbenefits.com/homemade-vanilla-bean-paste/ & https://veenaazmanov.com/homemade-vanilla-bean-paste-baking-basic/ For those bakers and aspiring bakers in Toronto, Madame Gateaux usually has some in stock too.
Dill Pickle Chip Dip: This is a recipe that I received from someone many years ago and remains an awesome party dip… for whenever we are allowed to have parties again. But in the meantime, you can serve it to yourself while watching the Super Bowl… or Bridgerton. I wanted to include it here so I always have it as a backup, and it’s easy to pull up 🙂
Ingredients: 1 cup mayo, 1 cup sour cream, 2 tsp dry onion flakes, 2 tsp dry parsley flakes, 2 tsp dry dill weed, 1 tsp seasoned salt.
Directions: Mix all ingredients together and chill. Best to make the day before so flavours blend. Serve it with veggies and/or chips.
Peanut Butter Overnight Oats: This isn’t something I discovered during the pandemic, so this recipe doesn’t really count! (Same with the dill pickle chip dip above, but hey, I wanted to share these recipes and have them live somewhere accessible, so, you’re welcome! LOL) My friend Lily shared this recipe with me a few years back, and I wanted to save it here for quick access: https://minimalistbaker.com/peanut-butter-overnight-oats/ It is one of the best overnight oats recipes I have tried!
No Bake Protein Bars: You can’t send the kids to school with these ones (peanut butter!) but I was thrilled to see that they are only 8 ingredients and tree nut free! And every single ingredient I already had at home. Super easy and surprisingly tasty: https://www.erinliveswhole.com/copycat-homemade-perfect-bars/
Matcha Balls: I found these on instagram and had to change some of the ingredients because of my allergies, so the texture was a little off, but they were super tasty! The photo above doesn’t show the dark chocolate but they were dipped in it! I also used David’s Tea mint matcha and it was a nice added flavour. https://www.instagram.com/p/CEkDQi-n62N/?igshid=d8merbokf8dx
Peanut Butter Oat Protein Balls: I love that these have chia seeds in them, and I replaced the almond milk with oat milk. They were super easy, minimal prep and no-bake. https://www.erinliveswhole.com/peanut-butter-protein-balls-video/
Quinoa Salad: I’m linking to my old quinoa salad recipe post here, so I have everything together. Years later, this is still a staple in our house! Kel’s Quinoa Salad Recipe
I never dreamt I would enjoy baking, and I certainly never thought it would be an activity that Xavier and I could learn and grow with together. This past year has been a year of so many things, but our time baking together is definitely a positive that came out of the pandemic year for our family. I am by no means an excellent baker, but I can feel more confident in what we have learned now, and love baking things for others! It also connects me to those who came before me in my family, to anyone interested in baking that I can commiserate with, and those we deliver our treats to 🙂
If you have tried any of these recipes or have any that you want to send my way that you think my son and I will enjoy baking together, please share! Thanks for reading and I hope you have found a newfound stress strategy or a silver lining during this past year as well ❤