During the holidays, it’s hard to stray from the old classics. Besides the Mexican hot chocolate biscotti I fiddled around with, I mostly made the tried and true last year: dark chocolate peanut butter blossoms; mint mocha crinkle cookies; speculoos breakfast buns. But the new year is ripe for experimentation. Gone are the stresses of upholding the traditions of not only your own nostalgia but everyone else’s. You can make the people you love happy not only by helping them relive their childhoods, but engaging them with something new and delicious. “How about some pumpkin walnut ravioli in a brown butter sage sauce for dinner?” I asked the husbo last weekend. He could do nothing but nod soundlessly and enthusiastically in eager anticipation.
Well folks, we made it. 2016 is over and gone, and 2017 is here — of course, as we knew it would be. On the eve of a new year we always proclaim the previous to be “the worst year ever,” willing the next to be better and brighter, because it just has to be, right? Seriously, we do it every year. And while 2016 might have been an exception in crappiness, even in our current era, on the grand scale of politics and the like I’m not betting 2017 will be much better. But a friend posted a thread on Facebook encouraging people to post the good things that happened in 2016 — because on a personal level, I’ll bet there were as many for you as there were for me. I spent much of the year trying to regain my footing, find my place in the world — a miasmic endeavor that left me, often, in tears. And yet, 2016 was the year my sweet nephew Charlie was born, and it was the year I married the love of my life on the most gorgeous day of the year — two huge events that also left me in tears, but happy ones. Watching videos of Charlie laughing over and over again and just looking into the eyes of my new husbo have been a salve to my soul. And as 2016 came to a close and 2017 dawned cold and sunny, I’m stepping closer and more firmly to where I want to be, where I need to be, where I belong. And so, in honor of this awakening, I’m sharing with you these Orange Cranberry Streusel Muffins — as bright and glorious as the cold winter sun, and like a warm hug to welcome you in from the chill of last year.
When people ask me what my favorite dessert is, I usually say, without hesitation, apple pie. Please don’t make me a cake for my birthday — in fact, for our wedding we cut into a small pumpkin cake just for tradition’s sake but had a table of fall fruit pies for all our guests (and us, of course). But guys, I’m at that point in the year when I’m kind of over fruit and I want everything to be chocolate. I want all cookies, all the time. ‘Tis the season, right? And while I am definitely shoving many peanut butter blossoms in my face each day, I also have been craving the more refined variety. There’s nothing better on a cold winter’s day than an afternoon coffee or hot cocoa and a crunchy biscotti — unless it’s these Mexican Hot Chocolate Biscotti. These are biscotti on an even higher plane.
I am firmly of the belief that cinnamon is an anytime-of-the-year spice. But fall and winter, truly, is where it shines. Cinnamon warms you from the inside out. The scent alone feels like a cozy night in front of a fireplace — it’s the culinary equivalent of a firm hug. Last year, with temperatures hovering in the 60s and 70s here in NYC, it hardly seemed necessary. But in 2016, December feels like December, it’s cold and windy and cloudy, and along with all the cheese I want to put on everything, and all the chocolate I want to consume, I want to add cinnamon to every single thing I touch. These cinnamon apple oatmeal scones hit that craving perfectly. Continue reading →
I’m a little new to the pumpkin party, in the grand scheme of things. I knew nothing of pumpkin pies growing up — in my family, it was all apple, all the time. I’m not so sure I’d truly eaten a whole lot of pumpkin before I met the fella, but now, like so many of you, I’m addicted. I would not say obsessed. I don’t drink pumpkin lattes (I take mine straight, thank you very much), and I don’t even have a jar of pumpkin spice in my cabinet. But we did insist on a pumpkin cake with maple cream cheese frosting for our wedding, and when those little orange cans are on sale, hoo boy, I stock up, I make haste, and I make use. And while pumpkin pie is tops in the Thanksgiving dessert department (I love this one), sometimes you just want to rip into a baguette, drench it in a rich, decadent pumpkin custard, and call it a day. This year I’m foregoing pies and making this pumpkin bread pudding with maple cream cheese sauce, and I’m not apologizing — and once you taste it, I think you’ll agree I don’t have to. Continue reading →
When my friend Melanie called wedding planning “traumatic” earlier this fall, I thought she was joking. I must have just been overreacting to the overwhelming pressures of decision-making, I thought, after I had complained about wanting this part of the whole deal to be over. No, she was, indeed, quite serious. And she was right. Don’t get me wrong — our wedding day, the most gorgeous day of October in the New York-metro area, replete with frost on the grass in the morning and abundant, warming sunshine throughout the afternoon and so very much love from so many of our closest and favorite people, was better than I ever could have dreamed. On that day, all the meticulous planning, all the decisions, all the trust that ultimately went into our amazing vendors and our incredible family and bridal party to keep us calm and ensure that everything went smoothly, were worth it. But of course, in the weeks leading up to it, I had given myself an onerous task that I should have known better than to leave ‘til the last minute. There was, of course, no way I was going to bake desserts for my own wedding, but I still wanted to share the love with our friends and family in the form of food made from my own kitchen. I would make our wedding favors. I would learn to make — and preserve — apple butter. Continue reading →
This one goes out to all you marathoners out there. All you celiacs. All you vegans. This is the back-pocket recipe I wish I had over the last two years, when I was training my ass off, hungry all the time and only half-heartedly fooling myself into thinking I could eat whatever I wanted. These vegan, gluten-free chocolate peanut butter banana energy bites have everything I want in a sweet, satisfying treat, and nothing I don’t need. Continue reading →
Raise your hand if you’re ready for fall. The shifting light means it’s coming, as does that breeze from the north that’s sneakily blown in, even on those hottest days. I know summer’s not over, and the heat is about to descend upon us once again, but there’s golden light at the end of this tunnel. The kind that says it’s okay to turn your oven on, it’s okay to come inside early and eat dinner after the sun sets, it’s okay to wear pants and snuggle up under blankets, warm kitties on your lap and a cup of hot, spiced apple cider to your right. It’s coming.
And while we beckon fall ever closer to our embrace, let’s make another seasonal bridge, this time with gorgeous plums, still ubiquitous right now even as apples take the place of peaches and nectarines at farmers markets. A hint of cinnamon says yes, fall, we’re ready. Enter this perfect plum torte from Marian Burros, here to make you swoon a little at this changing of the seasons. Continue reading →
Catharsis: tears fall, a dam breaks. Time is not your enemy, yet it nudges you along its path, regardless of your mistakes or your self-doubt — whether you’re ready for it or not. Fall with your tears, fall into the river time has made in your kitchen. This is the art of bread baking, and it’s why I came to the mountains of North Carolina earlier this month for a three-day intensive, wood-fired baking workshop with the inimitable Tara Jensen of Smoke Signals Bakery. I came for an awakening.
Dear world, I’m sorry for my radio silence. It’s been an exciting and overwhelming few weeks over here, including an amazing, spiritual bread-making experience in North Carolina that I’m dying to tell you about. But I got caught in the Delta mess on my way home, then came back to a weekend of love that was showered upon me by the most incredible friends and family a girl could ever ask for, and it’s go time on prep for this wedding thing and for once I decided to cut myself some slack — no guilt this time — and take a break from blogging for a hot minute. In truth, I had this recipe for caprese pasta salad ready for you before I left for Asheville, intending to have the post up when I got to our Airbnb, but just didn’t get around to it. But this is one of my back-pocket recipes, so simple, so easy to make, and such a perfect way to celebrate a harvest of tomatoes, especially on a hot day, that I can’t wait any longer to share it with you. Continue reading →