From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Cupcake Wars

Cupcake Wars Connect Co--Workers

Cupcake Wars
Connect Co–Workers

It is with great pride, and little humility, that I announce that I am the reigning Cupcake Wars Queen of Presentation at work! I even have a cupcake tiara as proof, although I only wore it for a quick photo op so as not to rub it in with my co-workers. I may lack humility, but I do have empathy.

Let me set the stage and give you a bit of history of Cupcake Wars at my workplace.  A year ago, my co-workers and I were walking the picket line. After 18 months of negotiations, mediators, and a cooling-off period we were at an impasse. With heavy hearts and great emotion, the employees went on strike.  It was a heartbreaking decision, as many important decisions are, and I was deeply saddened that the workplace I once dearly loved had reached this level of conflict with no apparent middle ground or resolution. My colleagues and I walked that picket line with signs perched on our shoulders for eight days, but the aftermath of lost trust and betrayal still lingers a year later.

Knowing there was much healing to be done, the administration made attempts at bringing us back together with team-building exercises. I know, I know, just the mention of team-building exercises makes you sigh and shutter. Me too! I’ve experienced many over the years, but one that sticks out in my mind is when everyone chooses a coin and is invited to look at the date, and tell something significant that happened in their life that year.  That’s usually the point when the youngest member of the team righteously pipes up and shouts, “I wasn’t even born in 1990!”  So much for team building.

And, of course, I’ll never forget trying to emulate Pike’s Place Fish Market by wearing trash bags and throwing slippery dead fish to one another. My big aha and realization from that experience is that you can’t mandate what matters. You can’t force trust and connection. It is organic. The Fish Philosophy was successful for that workplace because it was spontaneously started by employees and was a creative way to have fun together and enjoy work. It wasn’t a top-down contrived team-building exercise created by middle management in an attempt to bring people together.

Post strike, my colleagues and I decided to heal from the inside out. We started our own grassroots campaign and formed a Fun Committee. Inspired by Food Network’s Cupcake Wars, we decided to have a cupcake competition. Participants were given the theme “Summer is Coming” and entries were judged by the entire staff on taste and presentation. Not everyone made cupcakes, but everyone participated by tasting and judging.

My first entry, Limoncello Cupcakes, was a big hit! I purchased a bottle of Crema di Limon in Sorrento, Italy and it had been in my freezer waiting for just such an occasion. If you are a lemon lover you must try this yummy recipe that I found on the Brown Eyed Baker blog. You won’t be disappointed!


A sweet taste of Italy

A sweet taste of Italy
Limoncello Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling


My second entry, and winner for presentation, was S’more Cupcakes. When thinking of presentation, I consider each element, from the appeal of the cupcake, to the props, to the baking cups.  I was actually pulling out of my driveway when I was inspired to jump out of the car and grab a log and some pinecones.  It’s a good thing I did, and what a great reminder to follow sudden inspiration.

Need I say S'more?

Need I say S’more?


For elegant, fun or whimsical baking cups, I turn to Simply Baked.  They can also be used for dips, nuts, ice cream or other party snacks.

The recipe comes from Jennifer Shea of Seattle’s Trophy Cupcakes & Party. Watch Jennifer make these decadent chocolate cupcakes with Martha Stewart and you’ll be running to the store to buy the ingredients.

What great ideas do you have for creating connection in the workplace? Share them with us!


From the Kitchen of heygoodcookin

Valentine’s Day a.k.a Single Awareness Day


Assortment of different Valentine Day gifts

Happy Valentine’s Day…or is it?

A dear friend of mine hates Valentine’s Day. She refers to it as Single Awareness Day a.k.a SAD. It’s a day about love, connection and romance, yet for some single people it shines a spotlight on something they deeply desire, but don’t currently have. It’s a day to be ignored or endured.

I used to feel this way. I cringed when the card and candy aisle transitioned from Christmas decorations to candy hearts and cupids. All the jewelry commercials brought up insecurities about the possibility of being alone forever. Every February 15th I would breathe a big sigh of relief knowing that SAD was over.

Then one year, during a particularly soul-searching time in my life, I decided that I was no longer willing to give in to fear and waste one more moment of my precious life feeling alone and lonely. I decided to shift my experience and use Valentine’s Day as evidence that love and connection do exist and to deepen my resolve to create a mutually treasured and abiding love in the future. I committed to preparing myself to be the woman I would need to be in order to have the kind of love I wanted to have. Instead of sadness, I felt exhilarated and motivated!

Here are five commitments I made to shift my experience:

1. Love myself the way I want to be loved. I know you’re probably thinking if one more person talks about self-love and says you have to love yourself first, you’re going to be physically ill. This is different. This was an exploration into the possibility that perhaps I was expecting someone else to give me what I was not willing to give myself. I started asking myself hard questions such as, “Where in my life have I been respectful and disrespectful to myself? Do I keep commitments to myself? Am I faithful to myself? How honest have I been to myself?” It was a huge aha for me. I decided to start giving myself what I wanted others to give to me.

2. Be comfortable with uncertainty. This was a hard one…I’m a control freak! I want a plan and a road map. I’m sure if I work hard enough I can change the outcome of anything. I frequently take on too much and do everything myself because I know other people will screw it up. Sound familiar? If so, this one is for you! My mantra became, “I don’t know what the future holds, but I trust that life is unfolding in the most blessed way for me.” It took me awhile, but I went from thinking, “Yeah, right” every time I said it to one day believing it.

3. Look for evidence of great love. I realized I have been walking through my life collecting evidence of my beliefs about life, love and men. It was easy to see evidence of men being dishonest or leaving, because I was looking for it to support my beliefs. I decided to collect evidence that men are loving, generous and faithful. Miracle of miracles, as soon as I started looking for new evidence, I saw it and started thinking that life and love were on my side.

4. Push back on the bully. For years I had my own internal bully and it whispered scary lies to me. It sounded like, “You’ll never find someone; all the good men are taken; you’re too old to find love.” I’m sure you can fill in the blank with your own lie. I decided to stand up to my bully and tell the truth…The world is a big place, and there are good men. You don’t know what will happen. People find love at all ages.

5. Above all, hold the high watch. Stand strong in the belief that you can create the extraordinary life and love that you so desire. And, on the days where your belief wavers, ask yourself, “If I were a person that believed life and love are on my side, how would I be walking through the world and relating to others?” Then do it!

Posted By: heygoodcookin

The Hey Good Cookin' Kitchen has become a place of food inspiration and savory discovery to share with our cookin' singles community. We search out new recipes or sometimes just adapt familiar ones to test, taste, photograph and share in the triumphs and mishaps of creating new dishes.

See heygoodcookin's Latest Posts

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Humanity at its Best

Soba noodles plated with a dipping sauce

Soba Noodles with Dipping Sauce


In March 2011, as the world watched a powerful tsunami rage through Japan, I sat glued to my TV. As a swirl of emotion rose up in me, much like the images of the tumultuous sea devouring everything in its path, I watched in disbelief. Unlike other tragic situations where I’ve felt empathy mixed with a sense of disconnection, this was personal. Japan is a part of me, and I am a part of Japan.

My thoughts began to rewind twenty years to the 1990’s when I lived in the city of Amagasaki. I remembered the sights and smells of the market I passed each day, the sound of trains whirring by and the taste of shabu-shabu, a one-pot broth dish I’d grown to love. Japan is where I discovered all the best parts of myself.

For days after the tsunami, more and more images from the media and my own recollections cluttered my mind. On one particular day when I felt overloaded with all the sadness and helplessness, I received an email about a man who owned a noodle shop. With the massive destruction shining a spotlight on how truly small we all really are, and in the face of overwhelm of all that needed to be done, one man decided to do something. He made noodles. He offered a bowl of comfort and nourishment to anyone who needed it.

I wept when I read his story. The simplicity of his generosity touched me. Noodles, a seemingly insignificant contribution, was his vehicle to connect people and help heal his country.

Fortunately, this is not an isolated incident. There is evidence in every community of people reaching out to others from food drives to soup kitchens. At first it may appear that it is about providing a basic need, but I have a hunch it’s more about connection. I hope the example of the noodle man will inspire others to offer assistance, or better yet, share a meal and get to know one another. What a positive contribution that would be.

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Being Neighborly Is Still Alive!


Apples bringing neighbors together

Last year, on the first day of fall my doorbell rang. I live on a quiet street and rarely have spontaneous visitors, so I expected to either find a child nervously waiting to entice me into buying chocolate for a school fundraiser or discover a leaflet attached to my doorknob trying to convince me to vote for a candidate in the upcoming election. I was surprised to see a new neighbor standing at the door with her grandmother. She’s not someone I know well; our previous connection consisted of a brief introduction over a bargain table at a yard sale. She explained that from her upstairs window, she had noticed that my tree was brimming with apples rapidly transitioning from green to red. She was wondering if I would have any apples to spare and brought some bags for picking just in case. I was thrilled to share and equally excited to not have to pick them up off my lawn.

A couple days later I noticed a jar on my front porch. The hand-stamped label read APPLE BUTTER followed by a note, “Thanks for sharing your apples! Have a happy fall. I like it on wheat pancakes or buttered toast…or just by the spoonful!” I was touched that she had thought of me and put such care and attention into her gift. As I unscrewed the lid to a blast of cinnamon, it dawned on me that this was the first time I had ever had anything made from my apples. Each year for the last decade, I’ve made myself a broken promise to harvest my apples and create some yummy, sweet and gooey concoction perfect for a crisp fall night. Then each fall turned to winter, and I plant the seed in my mind for next year.

I’m grateful for my neighbor’s knock on the door that day. This experience reminded me that life can be so completely simple and satisfying.

I love how food can be the great connector bringing people together. I love that generosity and being neighborly is still alive, and we only have to give it to receive it. I love that the simple act of picking apples and making apple butter deepened a bond between a grandmother and her granddaughter. I love that I’m truly inspired to keep my promise to myself this year.

As summer is drawing to a close and I gaze out the window at my apple tree, I’m making a public vow to get up one lazy Saturday morning, pull on some faded jeans, put my hair in a sloppy ponytail, pluck apples off my tree, and create something yummy, sweet and gooey to share with someone. I challenge you to grab your apron, dust off that rolling pin and make something to share with someone in your life. Better yet, make something for someone you want to get to know better.

Apple Butter Oven Style

This recipe is adapted from the 1959 Farm Journal’s Country Cookbook.

  • 2 quarts water
  • 2 tbsp. salt
  • 6 lbs. apples, cored, peeled and sliced
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • 3 ½ – 4 cups sugar
  • 2 tsp. freshly ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp. cloves
  • ½ tsp. allspice
  • Pinch of nutmeg


1. Combine water and salt. Add apples then drain, but do not rinse the apple slices.

2. Process in a food processor until the apple slices turn to pulp. There should be about 2 quarts of pulp and juice.

3. Combine the pulp and juice with the cider in a large baking dish. Place in a 350 degree oven and let it simmer about 3-3 ½ hours, stirring thoroughly every half hour, until the mixture is cooked down about half and is thick and mushy.

4. Return mixture to food processor and blend until smooth.

5. Combine sugar and spices, add to the apple butter and return to the oven. Continue simmering for approximately 1 ½ hours, stirring every 30 minutes.

Yields 2 quarts

For canning: Pour into hot jars, adjust the lids and process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

From the Kitchen of heygoodcookin

The D Word


Guy eating a salad at the tableI recently visited with my Dad whom I have not seen for about a year. I was working in the area, so it worked out well to stay with him. He shared some news that came as a  big surprise to me, knowing our family history: the D word. Diabetes. Although it runs in my family, most of the cases were diet related. I mentioned that a cooking show host, Paula Deen, AKA “the butter queen” was also recently diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes.  She happens to be in the news right now, so my Dad recognized the name right away after seeing her on CNN, the station that is rarely changed from his flat screen. This led to conversations about carbohydrate grams, and I assumed he would be heading right to dietitian for help. Nope. He informed me he was in the process of studying up first and had many books around to show for it. Although I was pleased that he was taking so much initiative, I realized that he was cheating himself out of foods that he could eat, and in quantities that allowed for his needed weight loss as well as blood sugar management. I picked up one of the books he had laying around and actually picked up a few tips.  Now I understand why the diabetic diet is also an ideal weight loss diet.  Here is what I learned:

1.  If you are diabetic, 40% of your calories should come from carbohydrates.  So, if you are eating 1600 calories for weight loss or management, that would be 640 calories for the day.

2.  Carbohydrates are measured in grams.  Gram “allowances” are determined for your age, weight, and sex, and should be fairly even in number for all 3 main meals.  This keeps the blood sugar more evenly stable. So, if you are a woman, your gram count is going to be somewhere between 30-45 carb grams per meal.

3. A fistful is the best rule of thumb. A complex carbohydrate like pasta can rack up the gram count quick!  While looking at all the pasta dishes I had just bought, I realized that eating the equivalent of pasta to the size of my fist would likely keep someone within their gram count.  Also a good portion control for dieting.

4.  Pay attention to that glycemic index. For diabetics, this is a very useful measure of the foods they eat.  Why?  Because a  glycemic index indicates how quickly a particular food will raise the blood sugar.  The lower the index, the slower that food will raise the blood sugar.

5.  Avoid the simple carbohydrates. Simple carbohydrates are your sugars such as fructose, cane sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  Diabetics have to watch the simple carbs carefully, but I did learn that sweeteners such as stevia (glycemic index is “0”) and light agave (glycemic index is between 15-30) are the best natural sweetener alternatives to cane sugar and fructose.

6.  There are foods that actually help lower blood sugar.  Cinnamon is such a food.  What? I love that! A number of places such as Costco even carry cinnamon in a pill. Other foods that can be helpful are  lima beans, rolled oats, almond butter, grapefruit and spinach.

Disclaimer: As with everything you read here on Hey Good Cookin’, we are expressing opinions and thoughts and not giving advice.  See your doctor, nutritionist or diabetic counselor to manage your diabetes or pre-diabetic condition.  

Posted By: heygoodcookin

The Hey Good Cookin' Kitchen has become a place of food inspiration and savory discovery to share with our cookin' singles community. We search out new recipes or sometimes just adapt familiar ones to test, taste, photograph and share in the triumphs and mishaps of creating new dishes.

See heygoodcookin's Latest Posts

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

The Language of Being Single


Sticks and stone may break my bones, but words may never hurt me. I’m not buying it! On one hand, I agree that I am responsible for my thoughts, feelings, and responses, and I know I interpret situations through my own filter based on previous life experiences and beliefs. I also know that words are powerful and impactful. Words have energy; words have life. They can be used to uplift or destroy. Words can offer loving support or be used as a sharp weapon.

I recently had an experience of dining alone. As I walked in, the hostess asked, “Just one?” I’m sure she didn’t mean anything by it, but I immediately felt myself shift to a place of embarrassment and slight shame. I almost wanted to apologize and explain the reason I was eating alone. I wanted to reassure her that even though I was alone I am a good tipper. Anything to avoid being seated in Loserville, the noisy table next to the kitchen, or the table next to the front door. You know the one I’m referring to, the one that receives an Arctic blast of cold air every time someone enters.

I was surprised by my reaction. This was an old story, a ridiculous lie I used to tell myself when I was much younger. Yet here it was, a little twinge of something is wrong with me because I’m single. Luckily, with maturity I am able to push back on that internal bully!

Yet, it got me thinking about the power of words and society’s subtle, subconscious (and sometimes blatant) regard of single people. It’s been passed through our collective lineage. I hear it when people say, “You’ve NEVER been married?” I see it in advertisements for events and special offers, “1 person $30 or 2 people $50.”

I don’t bring this up as a complaint; I mention it as a “noticing.” I believe noticing and being aware of something is the first step to impacting and changing it. My commitment is to be mindful of my own language and hope others will follow.

I’m curious about what you’re noticing about the language of being single, and I invite you post your observations here. It starts with us. Together we can influence the collective thought about being single in today’s world.

From the Kitchen of barb0812

When Food and Community Come Together


Singles connecting over a progressive dinner

What ever happened to Progressive Dinners?

I was pondering this question as I thought about what people must do nowadays in place of the usual restaurant gathering with friends. With disposable income more prudently guarded, cooking at home has become a necessity for some, while I imagine others take advantage of timed specials or events offered at some social gathering eateries. Still, I suppose progressive dinners are still popular in some communities and regions.

What’s their purpose?

For those unfamiliar with them, they are a dinner in which a group of neighbors act as hosts and prepare a course such as appetizers, main course, dessert, etc. Everyone involved travels from home to home for each course of the dinner that is made. Usually 6 or 7 neighbors participate.

However, I always felt they represented a form of community; a gathering of friends and neighbors who share a great meal, maybe a glass of wine, and lots of conversation.  Food can bring people together in many ways and in circumstances that might be unwelcome, such as disaster, tragedy or loss. But food also brings comfort, celebration and nourishment. It’s the celebration of community that most highlights the idea of progressive dinners.

There is something comforting about embracing community in this way. I live in an area where people tend to “mind their own,” avoid eye contact, and embrace self-interests—some even using pseudo names so as not to be identifiable in their own neighborhood. I admire towns where everyone depends on each other to weather winters until the first hint of spring approaches. It must be reassuring to know that neighbors have your back.

Progressive dinners are really more than just eating  food courses hosted at different homes. They engage people to contribute, participate, and invite people into their homes, their cultures, and their lives. They challenge us to do for others and allow others to do for us.

I look forward to experiencing a sense of community again, but I also look forward to stepping out and putting vulnerabilities aside to cook alongside my neighbors and enjoy the unity good food and company brings.

Posted By: barb0812

My dogs consider me the "greatest chef of all time"...I am lover of all foods vegetarian and advocate for growing your own veggies--no matter the size! I am one of the Co-founders of Hey Good Cookin' and a believer in cooking for yourself because everyone deserves it!

See barb0812's Latest Posts

From the Kitchen of oregonwingnut

Specialty Foods


On a recent cross-country trek, while attempting to savor every last minute of my rapidly-fleeting summer vacation, I had the opportunity to explore a variety of places and cuisines. Whether it was in a large urban location or a rural Illinois town surrounded by cornfields, I noticed a reoccurring theme. In every place I stayed, someone boastfully proclaimed that I must try their specialty dish. It dawned on me that people take pride in the food that is unique to their city, culture, or even their personal version of Grandma’s spaghetti sauce.

In Toronto, I experienced poutine, a dish with french fries, gravy and cheese curds. I smiled as I passed the roadside burger joints, each claiming to have the best poutine. At Uncle Franky’s restaurant in St. Paul, Minnesota, I had the famous Italian beef with sweet peppers, and I had a Chicago Dog in the Windy City. I had my heart set on some sweet corn in Herscher, Illinois, but I was informed that I had missed the sweet corn season by a couple weeks. I heard people say there is no corn like the sweet corn of Illinois, and it seemed somewhat sacrilegious to partake in any post-season offerings, so it remains on my Living Fully List. Like locations, events also have traditions and specialties, so of course I eagerly devoured a ballpark dog on my first visit to Fenway Park.

I like that people want others to experience a piece of their world and life, a part of what makes them who they are through the food they share. What a great way of connecting. I began pondering my own relationship with certain foods and came up with my signature dish, my specialty, the one that people rave about and request for at parties and gatherings.

The Rosemary Shortbread recipe was given to me by a dear friend, and it quickly became a hit with my family and female friends. Served with a glass of red wine, there is nothing more delicate and scrumptious. I was a little apprehensive taking them to a Memorial Day party, thinking maybe I should take something heartier.

I knew I had made the right choice as I watched a group of fifty-something men reliving their youth playing football in the backyard with cigars in one hand and my delicate rosemary shortbread in the other. As I was leaving, one of them asked if the guys could take the rest of cookies on their fishing trip the next day. Delicate yes, but manly too!

So, pour a glass of wine, sample some of my signature Rosemary Shortbread, and ponder a specialty dish that you would like to share.

From the Kitchen of barb0812

Through the Pyrex Glass


Looking through a pyrex baking dish as a symbolic gesture

“The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” Julia Child

I was never much of a cook. I am probably not much better even years later, but I have learned to practice this craft and appreciate the result of my efforts.

Ok, I do enjoy eating.

My taste buds have evolved over the years from my days of microwave dependency. Eating out of a box, can, or anything I could throw on a tortilla and nuke for 30 seconds eventually lost its appeal, but my interest in cooking was still pretty limited. I didn’t find any inspiration in the kitchen—especially since it was just cooking for one.

I never thought I needed to learn to cook for myself. It was just something I imagined doing out of necessity—because I would have a family to feed. I also grew up with the image of cooking being a “chore,” because I had a mother who didn’t much care to be in the kitchen.

I eventually began a relationship with someone who was a natural in front of the stove. Home-cooked meals with fresh whole foods became a regular ritual rather than a holiday event. I actually began to see the enjoyment in planning and preparing a meal.

Once I discovered I could actually make more than just mashed potatoes for the family Thanksgiving dinner, I felt a sense of accomplishment. Cooking took on a whole new meaning for me, and the more dishes I sampled, the more I wanted to dive in and experiment myself. It was both frustrating and satisfying for me. I made a lot of mistakes but still I plowed through. What could I try next? What could I “reinvent,” and so on. This became my inspiration, and I learned that the dishes I prepared reflected my own creativity.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.”― Craig Claiborne

Cooking is trial and error but it’s also about practice and timing. It’s stepping out of your comfort zone at times and being willing to try something new and different even at the price of an overcooked meal or forgotten ingredient. I enjoy the challenges and appreciate the times when it feels easy and relaxing.

I will always be a student in the kitchen, but I don’t feel as awkward as I used to. There are still many recipes that feel too daunting to attempt. I confess that I still nervously walk past the spring load pans at Bed Bath and Beyond, but when I muster enough courage, I will add one to my kitchen and attempt that cheesecake!

No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” ― Laurie Colwin

How do you find your inspiration in the kitchen?


Posted By: barb0812

My dogs consider me the "greatest chef of all time"...I am lover of all foods vegetarian and advocate for growing your own veggies--no matter the size! I am one of the Co-founders of Hey Good Cookin' and a believer in cooking for yourself because everyone deserves it!

See barb0812's Latest Posts