About Me

Why would a doctor start a food blog?

joanne stekler wearing a toque with a spoon in her mouth.

The Ugly Duckling Bakery isn’t a reality. It’s just a dream that gets me through the workday when the funding is uncertain or the colleagues are fussy.

I’m a lifelong baker, but it wasn’t until 2020, when I was stuck at home with my elementary school kiddo, that I started baking and cooking with a purpose. You’ll find recipes on the Ugly Duckling Bakery blog that I make for my family, ranging from 30 minute weeknight meals to more complicated weekend cooking, baking projects made from scratch, and classic cocktail variations.

About me

I’m an older blogger and older mom who’s pretty no-nonsense. I like 80s music, word games and etymology, and Venn diagrams. No, I love Venn diagrams.

I try keep incredibly active despite my age and aging knees. I’ve done an Ironman triathlon, a few 50 kilometer trail races (including one at Burning Man), cross country ski all winter, and swim in the fast lane.

These are the things I believe:

  • Love is love. You’ll see all sorts of rainbows every Pride from my rainbow bread to my rainbow fruit tart.
  • Harm reduction is better than pushing abstinence. This is true of everything from sex education to substance use to eating cauliflower mac and cheese instead of pasta.
  • Climate change is real, deforestation is a problem, and sometimes you should put walnuts in your pesto recipe instead of pine nuts.
  • Cultural appropriation in food blogging is a problem on the continuum that includes cultural appreciation. If I make something like ube crinkle cookies, I’ll link to other creators with the lived experience I don’t share.
  • I am not always, no never, perfect, and I am always learning and trying to be better and lift up others who don’t share my privilege.

About the Ugly Duckling Bakery blog

I was recently listening to a podcast about the loss of biodiversity in the foods we eat, and I realized that I identify with heirloom tomatoes. My goal isn’t to write recipes that are the equivalent of artificially ripened but tasteless tomatoes we get year-round. We’ll get along if you’d rather eat a tomato that is bursting with summertime flavor but perhaps looks misshapen and imperfect. This tiramisu cake doesn’t look like it came from a commercial bakery, but you won’t complain about how it tastes.

One of the things that I love about my day job is that I get to teach and mentor future doctors and public health nerds. And that’s one thing I’m loving about being a doctor food blogger. My hope is to bring you some of the science and history, tips and tricks to understand how and why recipes work, and enough foundation so that you can start to create your own recipes. You can see an example in these posts about baking ratios and classic cocktail recipes.

My hope is to bring you some of the science and history, tips and tricks to understand how and why recipes work, and enough foundation so that you can start to create your own recipes.

I try to post new recipes about once a week. And lots of things on the site are a work in progress, especially my food photography, so I’m always updating.

You can sign up for my newsletter using the form below. It has a short weekly digest of new and updated posts, tips and tricks, and any recipes I’ve loved from other blogs and cookbooks. I love my cookbooks almost as much as I love my shoes!

Ugly Duckling Bakery FAQs

What is your background?

I’m an infectious disease physician who specializes in HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). I have been cooking and baking all of my life, and I’ve always dreamed about culinary training. Over my 50 plus years, I’ve taken lots of cooking classes in Seattle, WA, where I’ve lived since 1997. And I love to do vacation cooking classes. That photo was taken during the Pie and Pastry Bootcamp at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park. I’ve also done a week of Northern Thai cooking in Chiang Mai during a year of around-the-world travel, a week at the Mexican Home Cooking school in Tlaxcala, and a few days of one on one lessons with Diane Seed in Rome.

Does this blog provide medical or nutritional advice?

That’s a big no. This blog is considered for entertainment purposes only. Calories and other nutritional information are provided as estimates only and cannot be guaranteed to be 100% accurate. Please consult your health team for personal medical and nutritional advice.

What’s the story behind your name?

Whenever I got frustrated with work or I was worried about funding running out, I always said I would open a bakery. One day I was driving in the car with mr. uglyducklingbakery, and we were brainstorming names for this theoretical bakery. We decided on the Ugly Duckling because the things I make taste delicious, but they definitely look homemade. When I started this blog, I wanted to use the name. Maybe there’s a brick and mortar bakery still in my future? I don’t know.

What’s up with the duck jokes?

I started off sprinkling cooking tips throughout the blog and felt strange about calling them “pro tips” since I’m a medical professional, not a culinary professional. So, as a lover of puns, I decided to rename them “Tips from the wise quacker.”

Who designed your logo?

It’s a Brit “Brick” Mendel design. You can reach them here on Instagram.

What recipe should I try?

You can’t go wrong with any of the recipes on My Favorites page. I’m especially proud of these BBQ chicken meatballs. Or click here to see a random recipe from the archives.

I’m looking for a recipe you don’t have. Will you make it for me?

Maybe! Send me an email or message me on Instagram and we can chat.

View some of my favorite recipes

A few promises to you. As a consumer of blogs myself, I promise that I will won’t ever put up those dreadful pop up ads that prevent you from getting to the recipe or whatever you are looking for. And a bigger one. I know I’m just starting out, but I promise that any profit from the blog will be donated to non-profits, and I’ll be documenting that on the blog. Money isn’t what is motivating me here.

So, my dear reader, I hope you find something at the Ugly Duckling Bakery that makes your own life a little more delicious.

Looking for inspiration?

Sign up to get recipes full of kitchen tips and tricks.