As we continue to navigate through this frightening and uneasy time, we’ve also loved to see people cooking more, sharing photos, and sending one another recipes over social media. A community of people who have long turned to fast solutions are embracing their home kitchens and finding new ways to use ingredients. This is a perfect example of the #TogetherApart way of living to which we are now adjusting. As we have all long known, food is nourishment for both the body and the soul.

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Longtime friend and chef Lisa Donovan published an article in Food & Wine recently that significantly warmed our spirits. Notebooks and journals comfort many of us and document a personal history. Our writings give us an outlet for expressing feelings we might otherwise keep inside; they are a time capsule of a moment in time. Lisa’s story has nourished our souls, and her notebooks are a reminder that our journeys can affect others in ways we may never know. Lisa’s writings have also inspired us to begin our own #TogetherApart challenge with you. We will be making her Sweet Potato Yeast Rolls. Bake along with us and share your results with us via social media using #TogetherApart.

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Lisa has also been using her voice to highlight the perilous position that many restaurants find themselves in during this time – as we previously wrote about. According to the New York Times, analysts estimate that 75% of independent restaurants that have closed in respond to the COVID-19 pandemic will not make it. The National Restaurant Association estimated this week that the industry would lost $225 billion in the next three months and over 5 million employees will lose their jobs. Hugh Acheson has been appearing on national media promoting the campaign #toosmalltofail, urging customers to lobby on behalf of independent restaurants. Both Lisa and Ashley Christensen have been encouraging their friends to visit Save Local Restaurants to help in the effort.

During this time, keep others in your heart. Use your kitchen as an outlet for expression. We know that this challenge will not last forever and, when we can all share a table again, you may have some new dishes to give to those you love.

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Sweet Potato Yeast Rolls

Makes 30 rolls


2 medium-size sweet potatoes (about 1 1/2 pounds)
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon cane sugar, divided
5 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 1/2 ounces), melted, divided
1/4 cup warm water (100°F to 110°F)
1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast
2 large eggs, divided
4 cups all-purpose flour (about 17 ounces), plus more for work surface
1 tablespoon kosher salt
Cooking spray
2 teaspoons ajowan, cumin, or caraway seeds

How to Make It:
Step 1    

Prick sweet potatoes all over using a fork; place on a microwavable plate. Microwave on high, turning every 4 minutes, until softened, 8 to 12 minutes total. Let cool 10 minutes. Peel and discard skins. Mash sweet potatoes in a medium bowl using a fork until mostly smooth.

Step 2    

Cook milk, 3 tablespoons sugar, and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan over medium-low, stirring often, until sugar just dissolves, about 5 minutes. Let cool slightly, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, stir together 1/4 cup warm water, yeast, and remaining 1 teaspoon sugar in a small bowl. Let stand at room temperature until foamy, about 5 minutes.

Step 3    

Place milk mixture, yeast mixture, 1 cup (8 ounces) mashed sweet potatoes (reserve remaining sweet potatoes for another use), and 1 egg in bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Beat on low speed until combined, about 30 seconds. Increase mixer speed to medium-low; gradually add flour and salt, beating until combined, about 1 minute. Increase mixer speed to medium; beat until dough is smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky, 6 to 8 minutes. (Dough should stick to bottom of bowl but pull away from sides.) Transfer dough to a large bowl lightly greased with cooking spray. Cover with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until almost doubled in volume, 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Step 4    

Turn out dough onto a lightly floured work surface, and divide into 30 (about 1-ounce) pieces. Shape into balls. Arrange dough balls in 6 rows of 5 balls each on a rimmed 13- x 9-inch baking sheet lightly greased with cooking spray, spacing about ½ inch apart. Cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let stand at room temperature until dough balls have almost doubled in size, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375°F.

Step 5    

Whisk remaining egg in a small bowl until lightly beaten. Uncover rolls; brush lightly with beaten egg. Sprinkle rolls evenly with ajowan seeds. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown and puffy, 14 to 18 minutes. Brush hot rolls with remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Serve rolls warm, or transfer to a wire rack, and let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Find ajowan seeds at your local Asian or Indian market, or order from

Reprinted with permission from Lisa Donovan.


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