crunchy granola with oats, nuts and seeds

crunchy granola with oats, nuts and seeds | Heather Bursch |

Anyone else feel like you’re cooking, cleaning and repeating right now? I’m foggy as to what was happening pre-COVID-19 quarantine. Did we even cook around here? What were we eating? Did the dishes load themselves? Did we really eat out THAT much? While I prefer to understand the why when I am confused and fix it, I am letting the lack of clarity go in hopes for more insight (and hindsight!) in the future. Until then, I’m making things like this granola and soaking up all the ways it makes us feel like being home.

Once upon a time in 2019, we made this recipe from Bon Appetit with most of the ingredients on hand. We liked the crunch and nut combo (not so much the chia pudding situation), and we’ve continued to let the recipe evolve. Which is exactly the kind of recipes we need in this current moment, right? Ones that can change successfully with what we have on hand. Trust me, this one is delicious however you might mix it up!  

crunchy granola with oats, nuts and seeds | Heather Bursch |

The total amount of nuts and seeds equals 2 cups, which means you should play with it. I love almonds and pecans the best + I usually throw in both raw pepitas and sunflower seeds if we have them on hand. Last year I tried Barùkas nuts and wrote about them here. I subbed out almonds for these crunchy and superfood Barùkas you see above. So good!

Most recently, I’ve been ordering nuts from because they have almost any nut or flour I want, and they can tell me what’s certified gluten-free, which for nuts is nearly impossible to find. 

Here’s the recipe, now go search your cupboards!

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crunchy granola with oats, nuts and seeds

  • Author: Heather Bursch
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 30 minutes
  • Total Time: 45 minutes
  • Yield: 10 servings 1x
  • Category: Breakfast
  • Method: Baking


Slightly sweet and toasty granola with oats, pecans, almonds, pepitas and sunflower seeds. 


  • 3 cups of old-fashioned oats
  • 1 cup of raw pecans
  • 1/2 cup skin-on raw almonds
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1/2 cup raw pepitas or sunflower seeds 
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 cup liquid honey or maple syrup or combination
  • 1/4 cup melted butter (or unrefined virgin coconut oil)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla
  • pinch of salt


  1. Preheat oven to 300°. 
  2. Prepare a baking sheet with a layer of parchment paper or brush pan with melted butter or coconut oil. 
  3. Mix oats, nuts, coconut, and seeds together in a large bowl. Sprinkle cinnamon and nutmeg on top of the mixture and stir until fully incorporated.
  4. In a saucepan or microwave-safe bowl, melt butter and syrup or honey until just melted and whisk to combine. Add vanilla and whisk again. Drizzle liquid over granola mixture and stir until all dry ingredients and spices are incorporated. Sprinkle lightly with salt (2 pinches) and stir.
  5. Tip granola out onto the baking sheet scraping all ingredients and spices with a spatula and spread mixture in an even layer. 
  6. Bake at 300° for 15 minutes. Stir and bake for another 10-15 minutes until pecans are lightly browned and toasted but not too dark. The granola gets more crunchy as it cools and dries.
  7. Stir granola and let cool on the cookie sheet.
  8. When cooled, break up and store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. 

We make our granola bowls with a generous smear of whole milk plain yogurt, a drizzle of honey or maple syrup, a scoop of this crunchy granola and some berries or bananas. Yum!

crunchy granola with oats, nuts and seeds | Heather Bursch |

Let me know when you come up with your favorite nut and seed combo. And if you prefer fewer nuts and more grains in your granola, check out another family favorite Ella started making a few years ago.


how to turn dinner into a cooking lesson

Last week Cole and Ev were home at the same time, the kale and cucumbers were overflowing in the garden, I had a story to finish for W.E.L.L. Insiders, and we needed a salad to go with dinner. Dinner time, cooking lesson, story inspo and pictures needed? Grab available kids and do all the things!

How to hold a knife safely? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

As with any cooking class I teach, impromptu or scheduled, it doesn’t matter your age or skill as there is always something to learn. Read Cooking WELL With Kids: How to Make the Best Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette for the first post in a series I’m doing for W.E.L.L Insiders. Keep reading for the actual questions I asked and how we made a salad which led to a cooking lesson for Cole and Ev with these questions:

  • Is this veggie ready?
  • Can you de-stem the kale, please?
  • How do you hold and cut with a knife SAFELY?
  • What’s an emulsion?
  • Have you ever tasted a purple carrot? Thyme? Mint?

Is this veggie ready?

I ask myself this every time I walk by the garden. Googling garden questions has become my everyday practice, as I’ve mentioned I can’t pay friends to share what they know when it comes to gardening!

Cooking with kids! #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable

How do I know kale is ready? Here are a few things I do that may or may not be in the garden books, but they’ve worked for me, and I’ve shared them with my kids.

  • Pinch off a piece and taste it!
  • Harvest outer leaves when they are the size of your parent’s hand.
  • Keep inner and top leaves intact for the plant to keep growing.
  • If kale is bitter, I’ve read about reversing the order to what you or I usually do which is first wash then cut, to instead, massage leaves to soften, then cut, then rinse to remove some of the activated bitter taste.
  • Still bitter? I have found most kale and chard very edible by sauteeing with a little butter and balsamic. You’re welcome.

Can you de-stem the kale, please?

This job is perfect and fascinating for all the ages. Me! While some (eh hem, Whole Foods) don’t bother, I like a salad better without the chewy, fibrous stem. We love to do it this way:

How do you hold and cut with a knife SAFELY?

How to hold a knife safely? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

  • Notice that Cole knows how to hold something he’s cutting with his fingertips down and his knuckles in front, creating a safe place for a knife to line up (safely bump), preventing any cutting of fingers. Eek.
  • Cole holds his knife in the grip of his hand, keeping pointer finger wrapped around the handle. While some find it easier to put pointer finger on top of the blade to guide it is an easy way to cause the knife to slip off balance and cut fingers.

How to hold a knife safely? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

Evie uses a butter knife that is sharp enough to cut softer foods. She’s not alone in the tendency to want to use that pointer finger to guide the blade.

Once she heard me notice and compliment Cole’s knife skills, she changed it up below after observing.

How to hold a knife safely? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

What’s an emulsion?

The science of food is something I’ve grown to appreciate and understand with age and context. Kids pick up on this right away of course. An emulsion is the mixture of two liquids that would not usually mix, like oil and water.

How to make a simple vinaigrette? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

While vinaigrette is a temporary emulsion (after an hour or more it will separate again), there are more semi-permanent emulsions like hollandaise sauce and even more permanent like mayonnaise. Both of the latter requires a third ingredient like eggs or even honey and mustard can help bind the two together. In a vinaigrette, the oil droplets disperse into the vinegar and temporarily create an emulsion. It’s a perfect two kid job so one can whisk and the other slowly pour in the oil.

How to make a simple vinaigrette? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

Have you ever tasted a purple carrot? A piece of fresh mint or thyme?

  • Try it!
  • Touch it, smell it, taste it!
  • Never say never (my golden food rule) and try it again next time.

How to make a simple vinaigrette? #ontheblog #shemadeit #recipe #lemons #vinaigrette #mealprep #mealprepping #sald #eatinghealthy #eattherainbow #chopping #whisking #teaching #cookinglesson #whatsfordinner #onthetable #knifeskills #cuttingveggies

I’ve often heard parents say, “My child doesn’t eat ______.” Food rejection IS a part of the developmental process of learning to eat, and some struggle more with this than others. I wonder what happens though when we definitively decide for a little person who they are and what they’ll do long-term when it comes to food, and then we say it aloud on repeat or remove the particular food from their diet for good? Keep at it, give it time. My 2 cents. 🙂

And that goes for me and my lifelong dislike of lima beans too? Ha. While I don’t need to like this legume, I won’t, however, turn down anything YOU think is worth trying again. So bring it on you lima bean lovers? (Is there even such a thing?) Never say never.

For more cooking lessons, check out the full series on cooking with Cole called Before He Goes.



how to make scrambled eggs in an All-Clad pan

This one was initially for Cole, cooking lesson #3 and scrambled eggs.

how to make scrambled eggs | cooking lesson # 3 | | #shemadeit #cookinglesson #howtomakescrambledeggs #allcladpans #cooklikeachef #offtocollege #hemadeit #cookingwithkids #beforehegoes

Even if he doesn’t make eggs during dorm life next year, he will eventually. They’re a staple, right? Breakfast, lunch, snacks and dinner. They are also economical. (And I’m talking about organic free-range, vegetarian eggs. Still so cheap!) One day he will need all these things – kitchen skills and inexpensive meals, right?  But beyond all this, Cole likes eggs even though he complains about making them sometimes.

how to make scrambled eggs | cooking lesson # 3 | | #shemadeit #cookinglesson #howtomakescrambledeggs #allcladpans #cooklikeachef #offtocollege #hemadeit #cookingwithkids #beforehegoes

I realized this winter we had an egg situation going on with the whole family. Everyone wanted or needed them but no one wanted to make them, and when they did, there was a messy trail left behind.

how to make scrambled eggs | cooking lesson # 3 | | #shemadeit #cookinglesson #howtomakescrambledeggs #allcladpans #cooklikeachef #offtocollege #hemadeit #cookingwithkids #beforehegoes

But hey parents, do you ever find yourself doing something you never intended to keep doing but you’re either not aware that you are hustling or the work seems easier than A, B, or C? Well, eggs were one of those things. Without intention, Tim or I were making the eggs for the kids and ourselves at different wake-up times. One of us was also cleaning up after it was all said and done or using multiple pans all morning long. If we weren’t making or cleaning it, no one was making eggs for themselves and egg-less children were hungry by 9 a.m. On approximately December 2017, I had ENOUGH.

I invited the whole fam damily into the kitchen for an egg refresher to get us all on the same page, and we implemented a new kitchen practice for living at the Bursches:

Everyone (except the 6-year-old) will make their own eggs in our All-Clad pans daily, and they shall clean all dishes involved.

Sound simple?

Well, anybody living with another human knows, nothing is that seamless. Cooking and community necessitate empathy, respect, common courtesy and in my opinion, a parent who doesn’t do everything for their children.

And some of you will say, “For crying out loud why doesn’t this family have a non-stick pan though?!”

Well, I’m not going to rant to you about what non-stick pans are or aren’t, how they leach crap into your food, flake off and become part of your omelet, okay? Enough said. You can look up the research and decide for yourself. Or how they don’t allow for browned bits, deglazing or the perfect crusts to develop when cooking everything else besides eggs. Truth.

How I ended up not having non-stick pans was not by reading an article that scared the $%&* out of me. It’s less glamorous. My last non-stick pan died (as they always do) about ten years ago, I couldn’t afford a new one, and someone said to me something like, “Well, you have to have a non-stick pan for eggs don’t you?”  And because I’m stubborn like this, I didn’t buy one. Ha. Instead, I figured out how to use what I had which was a previously bought set of All-Clad pans. Hello.

how to make scrambled eggs | cooking lesson # 3 | | #shemadeit #cookinglesson #howtomakescrambledeggs #allcladpans #cooklikeachef #offtocollege #hemadeit #cookingwithkids #beforehegoes

When this beautiful pan and a little clarified butter can give you the most beautiful and delicious eggs along with anything and everything else a chef/cook needs, why even bother with the flaking and replacing. Cooking eggs in a metal pan actually taught me how to lock-down the basics of cooking (like egg making) as well as gain high performance skills with heat and timing, how to adjust and learn what is good or even better, about smoking points and different oils, and how having a pan along with the right utensil for every use is annoying when one kind is all you really need. We never went back.

Here’s our recipe. And what to do when it goes awry.

perfect scrambled eggs in an All-Clad pan
  • 2 teaspoons of clarified butter (see videos for options)
  • 2 eggs whisked well
  • small to medium metal pan
  • salt & pepper to taste
  1. Heat pan on high for 1 minute (make sure it's fully heated!), then add clarified butter or oil. Set the timer for 1 minute while butter melts, heats, and easily covers the pan surface. This time can vary but as you learn your pan works with your stove, make sure your pan is hot and that your butter/oil is fully warmed up and ready for eggs to sizzle. Do not let your fat get to the point of smoking. When butter or oil moves around your pan quickly and easily when you use your wrist to tip the pan in a circular motion, your pan is ready. Visa verse, if the oil or butter moves slowly and doesn't coat your pan, wait a little longer as your fat is not hot enough to create a non-stick surface. This will take practice to know, use the 1 minute above as a guide.
  2. When pan and fat are hot and about to bubble, pour in eggs and working quickly with a firm spatula or spoon, scrape eggs toward the middle, so the oil or butter follows your swipe and recoats the pan.
  3. Fold and slightly break apart eggs as needed to maintain fluffy folds but also cook insides as much as you like. Again, learn the kind of eggs you prefer. I prefer mine slightly wet and one last fold to cook the wet layer, then I'm done.
  4. When ready, remove from heat to stop eggs from frying and drying.
  5. Pan should remain clean if the pan and your butter/oil were hot enough.
See problem shooting below the recipe!


  • If there is a layer of egg film cooked on the bottom of your pan, try to adjust next time. To quickly remove the film when you are done, immediately put water in your pan and return to high heat, scraping as if you were cooking or deglazing a pan. This habit will remove all egg film in seconds rather than trying to wash it off now or later.

how to make scrambled eggs | cooking lesson # 3 | | #shemadeit #cookinglesson #howtomakescrambledeggs #allcladpans #cooklikeachef #offtocollege #hemadeit #cookingwithkids #beforehegoes

  • If you notice oil or butter smoking, your heat is too high, or it’s been left on the heat for too long.
  • If eggs are too wet, trying breaking them up more next time and flipping them once or twice rather than just folding.
  • If eggs are too dry, try less breaking and more folding or less time on the heat.
  • If eggs are burning, try a little bit more fat in your pan before you decide to turn down your heat. In a metal pan, even if you cook with more fat, it doesn’t just get stirred into the eggs. If the pan is hot enough, some fat will stay in the pan when you are done if you let it. See video part 2 below.

And that’s a wrap on Cole’s cooking lesson # 3. He says 3 out of 5 times a week his pan is clean when eggs are done and believe me this ratio I can live with. As for Cole’s cooking lessons? We now have cake, queso and eggs. I mean, what else does the boy need? Snacks! He always wants another snack. Stay tuned!

Check out these old posts on hard-boiled eggs and that time I decided to nail down how to make an over-easy egg, using the All-Clad of course.

~Heather (& Cole)

queso fundido with roasted poblanos and chorizo verde

Trying to fit in a cooking lesson, a photo shoot and a blog post with a senior in high school is like cooking from scratch without making a mess. Impossible. I did get this boy in the kitchen since the crazy-cake day and cooking lesson #1, just not on video or in a pic until now.

queso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

The first few times Cole and I tried recipes for an ATX Cucina inspired queso was for post-game snacks last fall. His high school team was on fire and seemed headed for the playoffs. But the Hawks lost by one point, one game before they made it to the state tournament.

queso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

Our latest melting cheese experiment happened this month when, Cole, the only true Viking’s fan in the house, watched the Vike’s lose one game away from the Super Bowl.

queso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

But sports and loss have been something this kid knows. He was often on the team that came oh-so-close but not quite.

I’m not a sports fan, but I grew up in a household full of them and with the movie Hoosiers on repeat. I love a great play or an unexpected win; I just could never commit to fan status with sports.

That is until I saw Cole play anything.

I remember the hill I was sitting on when that ball went high and long for his first home run. And that year when his football coach played him as the quarterback, and he ran that ball himself for a couple of touchdowns when the passing game didn’t come together for those 12-year-olds. The screams!!

But for three straight years, Cole’s football team lost every single game. And the first time his baseball coach put him in as the pitcher they were down by a few runs already. I was begging heaven for a strike, just 1, for the love of all things, please. He walked the first 5-6 batters, but he did not give up. I asked him later, what he was thinking and how did he do that? He said, “What choice did I have, Mom, but to keep going?” I could think of a few options.

First tries and repeat losses. Home runs and touchdowns. I can’t name it all and know what each thing meant, but somehow it all does add up to a childhood of life lessons and experiences that grew him and go with him. I feel a good weight. While I’m not going to tie this to the meaning of queso, I will take all these memories and celebrate how they built courage and created resilience.

And about that queso. If you love cheese, this one is for you.

queso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree | shemadeitshemight.comqueso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree | shemadeitshemight.comqueso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree | shemadeitshemight.comqueso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

The good news is you can’t lose with queso unless you leave it in the oven for too long or forget to eat it right away. For a more blended gooey mixture, increase your melting cheese and decrease the crumbling cheese in the recipe below. Play with what your favorite cheese combinations, we liked everything we tried. Win!

Queso Fundido with Poblanos and Chorizo Verde
Makes: 6-8
  • ½ pound of green chorizo, recipe below. Store-bought fresh chorizo not cured works as well.
  • 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil
  • 1 poblano pepper
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • ¾ pound Mexican melting cheese like quesadilla or Oaxaca, shredded or cut into small pieces
  • ¼ pound Mexican melting cheese like Chihuahua cheese which is more like a cheddar, shredded
  • ¼ pound fresh cheese like queso fresco or an aged crumbly cheese like cotija, crumbled
Substitute 2½ pounds of any cheese combination you like making sure you have a good melting cheese as the base.
Optional: jalapeno and cilantro slices to top
Serve with tortilla chips
  1. Preheat oven to broil.
  2. Roast 1 poblano pepper for 1-2 minutes a side under the broiler, about 6 inches from the top. Keep turning until all sides are blackened. Remove roasted pepper and put into a paper bag rolled down or a bowl covered with a towel for 15 minutes to create a steamy environment.
  3. Turn oven to 400°.
  4. To remove blackened pepper skin, run under cold water while you rub off the skin and remove inside seeds and stem.
  5. Cut roasted pepper into strips and dice into small pieces.
  6. Heat olive oil in a cast iron or oven proof pan over medium-high heat and saute onion for 5 minutes until starting to soften. Add poblano pieces and saute for 2 minutes or so.
  7. Next, add ½ of the recipe for green chorizo or ½ pound of fresh chorizo to the pan and sauté until lightly brown and starting to crisp.
  8. When meat is ready, salt and pepper to taste keeping in mind the cheese will be salty as well.
  9. Add all 3 kinds of cheese on medium heat, stirring for about 1 minute to melt and combine all the ingredients.
  10. Put skillet into the oven until cheese is bubbling and melted, 5-7 minutes should be just right depending on your cheese selection.
  11. Top queso with fresh jalapenos and cilantro if you like. Serve immediately with chips.

The first time we made the recipe above we used fresh store bought chorizo, and it was good. I knew the dish I had in Austin was with Chorizo Verde and I wanted a similar green chile and cilantro flavor with the salty cheeses. This chorizo recipe makes double and would be great with scrambled eggs, hash, or breakfast tacos!

Chorizo Verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

Chorizo Verde
Makes: 1 pound of chorizo
  • 1 pound ground turkey or pork. I use ½ white and ½ dark organic turkey. Ground pork is traditional.
  • 1 roasted poblano, skin and seeds removed, diced (See roasting instructions above in queso recipe.)
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 5 garlic cloves crushed
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  1. In the bowl of a food processor combine roasted poblano pieces, black pepper, ground coriander, cumin, oregano, salt, and garlic until finely chopped and mixed. Add apple cider vinegar and cilantro, puree until combined.
  2. Place your meat into a large bowl and add your chile spice mixture. Using two forks gently combine your meat and spices.
  3. Divide meat into two parts, saving one portion to freeze or refrigerate and use later.

queso fundido with roasted poblano and chorizo verde | Melty warm cheese dip with chips, what more could you want? The perfect party food! #shemadeit #hemadeit #queso #chorizoverde #Mexicanfood #appetizers #cheese #chipsanddip #tortillachips #chipsandsalsa #glutenfree |

Stay tuned for Cooking Lesson #3 and eggs, our entire family and a few friends are getting in on this lesson. 😘

~Heather (& Cole)

Cole’s crazy chocolate cake

Well, there it went, the first month of the last school year that my son will officially live in the house before he launches somewhere. Most of the time I don’t see myself as mature enough to have an adult child, but I do. Huh, what has happened?! Said every parent on the planet at this point. Inside I’m screaming stop and simultaneously trying to let things be what they need to be. Most cliches ring true; it did go as fast as everyone said it would, and it’s a giant bag of mixed feelings most of the time.  

As soon as Cole could stand and hang onto a chair, he would climb up next to the counter, and we would bake and chat. My trick to cooking together was to stay one step ahead, and all would be well. Not mess-free, but all would be well. He taught me how incredibly fun (and successful) cooking with kids could be. I would hand him the teaspoons and ask him a question, or give him a direction while I measured the next ingredient in front of me. (I’d almost say this was my parenting strategy at least 50% of the time . . . trying to stay a step ahead.)

While getting in front of Cole is nearly impossible these days, every once in awhile a little mom energy has me wondering about things in his future that he hasn’t thought of yet. Like, how will this kid eat when it’s entirely up to him? Eek. Instead of freaking out about all the ways I have not prepared him for life’s realities and shoving more words into his already very full head, I started thinking about what we could do together before he leaves and the ways we all learn to eat well. The question just led to the obvious; we have to practice. 

Many say they didn’t learn how to cook growing up and eat what’s convenient because they don’t know where to start. And I get it. Eating well and intuitively takes both time and resources, and perhaps an interest to make it seem worth it. Even though Cole’s been in the kitchen from a young age and loves a wide range of foods, something did happen along the way with his involvement in sports, activities, work, and school, which more than ever don’t allow for as much time to plan what he’s eating and when.

So, I asked him if there was anything he wanted to learn in the kitchen and if he’d want to hang out with me and practice. He said yes. ☺ And this is Cooking Lesson #1.

Cole’s request? Chocolate Crazy Cake.  

This summer, Cole was throwing a last-minute birthday gathering for a friend and wanted to make that one chocolate cake, he said. “The one in an actual cake pan and has that caramelly coconut frosting on it?” I knew which cake he meant as it was one of the first cakes I made as a child. (How did this all come full circle in lesson one? 😭) I had to dig out my mom’s old Covenant Church Kitchen Treasures cookbook published in 1986 for this recipe. (All the feels.)

Crazy Chocolate Cake
Makes: 9x13 inch cake
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 cups sugar
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 3 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • ¾ cup oil, we used coconut oil (liquid not solid)
  • 2 cups water
  1. Preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Combine flour, sugar, cocoa, soda, and salt in a 9x13 inch baking pan and stir with a fork until mixed well.
  3. Make 3 wells in your flour mixture and pour in vinegar, vanilla, coconut oil, and then water to cover all.
  4. Stir dry and wet ingredients with a fork, crushing the lumps, and stirring until smooth. Make sure to get corners and sides.
  5. Bake at 350° for 30-35 minutes until a toothpick in the center comes out clean.
Frost with Ina's German Chocolate Frosting or Cole's Chocolate Ganache.


While Cole loves Ina’s German Chocolate Frosting, I also know not every kid will eat a mouth full of pecans and coconut (yet!), so we opted for this easy ganache as a 2nd choice.

Cole's Coconut Ganache
Makes: 1 cup
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 8 ounces good chocolate finely chopped, we like bittersweet.
  • (If you want a thinner glaze, double the milk. If you want a thicker filling, add more chocolate.)
  1. Bring coconut cream to a boil and remove from heat, pour over chocolate in a bowl and let it sit for a couple of minutes to melt the chocolate.
  2. Whisk chocolate and cream until all melted and glossy.


This cake from the 80s happens to be vegan, and if you make the ganache with coconut milk like Cole, it becomes the most inclusive cake for any crowd in 2017. While you might not make this in a dorm room, it requires less than five pieces of equipment – a pan, measuring utensils, and a fork. 

And just so Cole can say he’s been there and done that, we made his favorite coconut frosting, so he has single-handedly whipped raw eggs into a caramel sauce at least once before he flies this coop. 🙌

Here’s what Cole claims he learned and my thoughts to follow:

  1. Always look at the expiration date for ingredients. (Ha, yes. Be resourceful! Use up the oldest first.)
  2. To turn coconut oil to liquid put jar in a small amount of hot water, so it melts. (Strategies for keeping your feet and coconut oil warm in MN 9 months a year!)
  3. Don’t pack flour. (Or you’ll likely eat dry, chewy, and crumbly cake.)
  4. Be careful and precise. (So everything you bake isn’t an experiment!)
  5. Enjoy the process. (Awww, brownie points. Cooking together does bring up all the family dynamics.)
  6. How-to Ganache! (Easiest sauce ever for future ice cream, strawberries, and brownies!)

This past month we celebrated 18 years with Cole. As our family sat around him that birthday night, making him look at us in the face, the reality of this last year together came into focus for us all. I told him he’d led me back to myself time and time again, speaking profound truths and inevitably pointing me to what was next for me (and him) as I lived out being his mom. When he was 4 and asked me why in the world I had signed him up for preschool to asking jaw-dropping questions about relationships and the world, his life has changed me forever. I’m beyond grateful and all the memories just flood. Ugh. But I also told him this shift we are in is ok, that it was time for me to let him go in new (big) ways, a (little) bit at a time. 

So that is what we’ll do, one month at a time, count it and cook it and see where it all leads before he goes. 

Next up? We have a few thoughts that start with breakfast and end with midnight snacks. 

~Heather (& Cole)

PS This month’s He Made It playlist addition from Cole:  Nessun Dorma! By Pavarotti