Pumpkin Pancakes

I'm sincerely touched by all of the kind emails I received after my last post. Today marks the seventh anniversary for Pro Bono Baker (!) and I'm grateful for all of the friends and opportunities this little blog has introduced me to over the years.

Champaign Prairie Grass

I'm still without a camera and expect to be for at least a few more months (student debt is my priority now that I have graduated and, thankfully, found a job). My camera rarely left my side and it's been an adjustment to be without it. My first impulse when enjoying a well-plated brunch or seeing a beautiful sunset is to reach for it. Luckily, I have a few posts saved up to share with you. These shots are from November and December in Champaign just before I moved.

Part of me still feels like I'll be heading back to Champaign after winter break. I'm getting settled in Chicago and it has been wonderful to reconnect with old friends, restaurants, and neighborhoods. But, I know I will miss many people and the easy pace of central Illinois when the semester starts again.


It's hard to believe that seven years have past since I started this blog. I am truly grateful to have had the opportunity to share this part of my life with so many of you. I wish you all the very best in the new year!

Roommate Brunch

Pumpkin Pancakes

Adapted from Chef Kenny Shopsin


1 3⁄4 C flour
3 Tbl sugar
1 Tbl ground cinnamon
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground ginger
1⁄2 tsp kosher salt
1⁄4 tsp ground allspice
1 C canned pumpkin purée
1 C heavy cream
1⁄2 C milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten
6 Tbl canola oil
Butter and maple syrup, for serving


Whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, ginger, salt, and allspice. Add the pumpkin purée, cream, milk, and eggs and whisk everything until the batter is fairly smooth (don't go too crazy though).

Heat one tablespoon of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Pour a quarter-cup of batter into the skillet for each pancake, cooking two to four at a time depending on the size of your pan. Cook the pancakes until bubbles begin to form on the edges, about two minutes. Flip and cook for another one to two minutes on the other side.

Repeat with the remaining oil and pancake batter. Serve hot with butter and syrup.

Green Milkshake Recipe

For those of you in the United States, the words "green milkshake" might conjure thoughts of the seasonal shamrock-variety. Other than the hue, this recipe has little in common with the fast-food version. Sunshine, bike rides, and outdoor runs have me craving refreshing foods. This green milkshake is a wonderful way to start the day full of energy. 

I grew up with blenders that couldn't chop ice any better than a hand mixer, and perhaps as a result I have long coveted fancy blenders like Vitamix. But, working within my grad student budget, I recently began to look into lower-end models. I decided to try my luck with a $15 model from Hamilton Beach and I couldn't be happier. Now I just hope the motor lasts more than a season. 

Green Milkshake

Green Milkshake


1 Tbl chia seeds
1 Tbl organic flaxseed oil*
1/2 Tbl organic wheat grass powder*
1 handful of organic spinach leaves (no need to trim thick stems)
1 banana
1/2 C hormone-free milk


Add the ingredients in the order they appear above. Blend until smooth. Serve immediately. I like to use organic products for this recipe, but I generally don't go out of my way to buy organic bananas. 

*These ingredients are optional. For flaxseed oil, I use Barlean's. For wheat grass powder, I use Amazing Grass. These items are a pricey initial investment, but they will last you quite a while.  

Savory Florentine Cake Recipe

It's hard to believe that my first semester of graduate school is nearing an end. After one more class and two more papers, I'll be in Chicago working at a soon-to-be-finalized internship and falling back into familiar habits. I'm looking forward to having a bit of time to focus on a few personal projects and to running on the Chicago lakefront as I train for the Illinois Marathon in April. 


A few months ago, I received a review copy of Silvana Nardone's Cooking for Isaiah in the mail; a cookbook of gluten-free and dairy-free meals and the antithesis of my typical diet. I have a few friends with a gluten or dairy intolerance and I was drawn to some of the simpler recipes in the book. This Florentine Cake is quick, delicious, and it doesn't require any special ingredients. 

December at the University of Illinois 3

You are probably wondering why I'm posting a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes in December. When I visited the winter farmer's market in Urbana this past weekend, one farm had some very nice greenhouse tomatoes. I bought a few with this recipe in mind. However, the dish would be great with oil-packed sun-dried tomato halves or even thin slices of winter squash.

Florentine Cake with Tomato-Garlic Gratin

Adapted from Cooking for Isaiah

(The original recipe called for 8 eggs and 1 clove of garlic)


1/2 C rice cereal crumbs
3 cloves garlic, grated
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 Tbl olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
6 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
10 ounces frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and pressed dry
2 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick


Preheat oven to 350F

In a small bowl, combine the first four ingredients and set aside.

In a medium ovenproof skillet, heat the oil over medium-low heat. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, spinach, and 1 tsp of salt. Pour the egg mixture into the hot skillet, shake to even out, and place the tomatoes on top. Cook without stirring for about 4 minutes, or until the edges are set and the center is beginning to set. 

Top with the garlic crumbs and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for ten minutes or until golden and set in the center. Serve warm.