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 →
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 →
There are, in the great encyclopedias of cooking and baking, very few things that require as little written embellishment as the humble cinnamon raisin swirl bread. It is perfect the way it is: sliced fresh, toasted with butter. The aroma wafting from a toaster as it crisps it up smells like childhood, like home. Never complacent to buy a loaf of something that’s been packaged in plastic, when I saw a recipe for it on the Tasting Table, I had to get it in my oven. Continue reading →
If you’re anything like me, you will go into a Trader Joe’s with a list of a handful of necessary things — light enough to truck two subway lines home — but end up with a heavy basketful and a wandering eye on the long, long checkout line. The last time I was there, just before Christmas, I spotted a bag of candied ginger while we were meandering closer to the registers, picked it up, and dropped it in our basket, convinced there was something I wanted it for. There wasn’t. Well, not that I knew of. But I knew people were pairing ginger with pears all over the place, and with the new year approaching, I also knew I wanted a new, healthy-ish muffin recipe in my arsenal. And what better form with which to experiment? These Ginger Pear Muffins are everything I never knew I wanted. Continue reading →
When you’re training for a marathon, time is no longer time alone. Time is measured in miles. Days, weeks pass by in distance. Four-hundred-meter repeats. Eight-mile tempo run. Twenty-mile long run. Forty-mile week. Monday is no longer Monday. Monday is hill repeats incorporated into 4, 5, 7 miles. Two hundred more miles until November 1st. Time — the distance — passes quickly, until the moment you dread waking up the next morning. Until all you want is for it to be over, to cross that finish line in Central Park, and reclaim the ability to sleep in without your internal clock waking you up at 5 or 6 in the morning. Return to lazier weekends. Reclaim time as time alone.
And yet — marathon training is, essentially, a selfish thing. There are a lot of “sorry”s. “Sorry, I can’t make your birthday party. I have to get up at 4:30 the next morning for an 18-mile race.” “Sorry I can’t plan a visit that weekend — that’s the weekend of my 22-miler.” “Sorry, I can’t meet for happy hour. I have to get up for a track workout the next morning.” And even, “Sorry I’m falling asleep so early. Can you please do all the dishes, clean the litter box, and give the cat his medicine tonight? Again?”
It’s valiant to run a marathon a first time. Is it unfair to try it again? This is the question I’ve been asking myself often the last few weeks. But I try, whenever possible, to maintain some semblance of normalcy around here. I’m pretty proud of the fact that the weekend tradition of my childhood — bagels on Saturdays, pancakes on Sundays — is alive and well. And pancakes scream lazy; they scream a bit of breakfast indulgence.
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What grounds you? For me it’s the gentle purr of a cat. The peaceful fall of snow against lamplight. A warm, firm embrace. And cinnamon. No matter where my mind is, whether it be under stress or on the high of a possible opportunity — an electrical current coursing — they bring me back down to earth. They give me a moment to pause, to breathe, to close my eyes and smile.
So when it snowed on the first day of spring, my brain frustrated from staring at research and trying to edit on an 11-inch screen, I stepped into my kitchen and watched our one tree being blanketed swiftly with white as the sky became greyer and greyer, then darkened towards nightfall, pink and purple in the cloudy city sky, and knew that I also needed to inhale the aroma of butter and chocolate and oatmeal and cinnamon. The frustration of technology, and not having a printer, required a double dose of grounding. I needed oatmeal chocolate chunk cookies to connect me back with the earth, my sanity, myself.
I might actually have the worst time-management skills in the world. At 1:00 am last night, I was in my kitchen preheating my oven and seasoning my brand new cast-iron skillet. In my mind, the 1:00 am-to-2:00 am seasoning adventure was a time-saving initiative for today, when I would christen my beautiful new piece of cookery with this gorgeous, fluffy, delicious apple buckle. In reality, it happened because I baked up a dud in the test kitchen last night; spent a good deal of time wondering if this 12-inch skillet, which I bought at a discount home goods store thinking it was 10-inch, would serve my purposes long-term (I decided yes — worth the $15); thinking about whether I should season it tonight or in the morning; and researching, for maybe the third time this week, how one actually seasons cast-iron. Where in the baking gods’ name does the time go??
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I might be the only person in New York City who likes winter. And not just light snowfalls, pristine white flakes floating down onto quiet sidewalks, silhouetted against lamplight and curtainless windows. Not just chilly temperatures, asking for sweaters and scarves and woolen coats and boots. No, I like extended frozen landscapes. Last winter? The polar vortex? The frozen Hudson? I loved it. I may have been the only person who didn’t complain when it felt like spring would never come — well, until it did, for a day, and then got cold again. Then I was ready. Because cold winters mean glorious springs, and it was. I may shiver and it may take courage to go out for a training run when it gets below 20 degrees, but this week’s sub-zero wind chills just make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside — because when it gets like this, I fill my insides with warm bread and hot soup. But not just any hot soup — Moroccan chickpea soup.
This beautiful concoction melds the flavors of cinnamon and cumin, paprika and cayenne, to build a slightly sweet, slightly spicy base from which the chickpeas can make their case for a hearty alternative to meat. Baby spinach adds vitamins, a pop of color, and a hint of bitterness, which compliments the handful of slightly acidic tomatoes here wonderfully, and I’ve added diced carrots for an additional boost of mellow sweetness (and something else to chew on). Some of the chickpeas are mashed at the end, so that the soup isn’t just chunky, it’s thick, too. Continue reading →
Raindrops on fir trees and whiskers on kittens, bright copper kettles and…t-shirts and shorts? It was a warm Christmas this year, which, my fella reminds me, should be the only day of the year that it actually ever snows. Regardless, along with all the gifts and all the love we shared here in our Astoria apartment, we pretended that baby, it was cold outside, and ‘twas the morning of heartwarming and bone-warming breakfast treats: scrambled eggs with cheese, crispy bacon, mint mocha coffee swirled with cream, and, of course, homemade cinnamon rolls.
I was one of those kids who grew up eating Pillsbury, popped open from a wacky cardboard can, baked until puffed, and schmeared with a hearty glopping of sugary sweet goo. We didn’t have them often, but they were certainly a treat. I had the occasional Cinnabon, too, of course, probably as a teenager, at the mall. One time, on a roadtrip, probably more recently than I would like to admit, I even bought some cinnamon bun sticks that one would dip into said pre-made sugary sweet goo, making for a slightly less messy eating experience. Pretty clever. Eating such a thing in a car, however, when one is incredibly prone to motion sickness, is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. It’s more like one of those things that six-year-old Sarah would have done. In the car or on the couch, half a roll or a stick or two later and hello nausea and sugar headache. And have you seen the ingredient lists?? Partially hydrogenated soybean oil? Monoglycerides? Are you kidding? Continue reading →