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.
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 →
The first time we drove to Indiana, it was the day before Thanksgiving, and we spent 12 exhausting hours pushing ourselves past state lines. When we arrived at Ray’s parents’ house, late at night, his mom had a feast waiting for us: delicious, hearty lasagna, and sweet, spiced, perfect pumpkin roll — two of Ray’s favorites. After the hugs and the smiles and the warmth of the house, it was the perfect end to a very, very long day. It’s been four years since that pumpkin roll came into my life, and many, many unanswered requests later, I’ve reached past the fear of rolling a cake and I’ve finally done it. I’ve made pumpkin roll — with maple cream cheese filling.
When a marathon door closes, another one — vast and wide and inviting — opens. So many times, we feel empty in the days or weeks after we cross the finish line, so used to the schedule and the goals that without them an aimless restlessness takes hold. Me? Not this year. I am thrilled to have my mornings, my evenings, my weekends back. A week after finishing the 2015 TCS New York City Marathon, I felt a spark of inspiration. I felt clarity after months of cloudiness. I was back in the kitchen. After whipping up some old favorites (apple cider donuts, oatmeal muffins), I wandered the aisles of my local green grocer, cozied up in a sweater in the brisk weather I wished we had had for those 26.2 warm, humid miles the week before, dreaming of comfort, of fall flavors. And thus was born this creamy, sophisticated Pumpkin Butternut Squash Mac and Cheese.
On Sunday I had the honor of meeting the amazing Joy Wilson of joythebaker.com, who was in New York to promote her new book, Homemade Decadence. Filled with simple and elegant recipes, with a twist on the nostalgic, it’s a masterpiece of sweet. That’s sort of a lot of what Joy the Baker is, really, on her site, in her recipes, and in person. Disarmingly funny, she wants us all to eat, to enjoy. The best way to do that, without being directly in her kitchen? Make her recipes. I’d be fooling you all if I didn’t say that Joy was a huge inspiration for me when I started this blog. Her food and her writing are, unequivocally, her. There is no high-brow or low-brow. It’s just fabulous deliciousness that can be created equally by all.
Before heading to The Brooklyn Kitchen for the event, I had been keen on working on a pumpkin recipe for the ImaginariYUM. ‘Tis the season, after all. Last year, Joy posted a recipe for pumpkin pecan scones with brown butter glaze. This was during the time that I was convinced that my fella, Ray, hated scones — they’re too dry, too crumbly, he’d tell me. I had even saved him some of my nutella scone from Dean and Deluca three years ago, believing that he would fall over himself with glee when he tasted the glorious swirls of his favorite condiment embedded in such a tender crumb. I was wrong. So I kept the pumpkin scone recipe from my repertoire, but bookmarked it just the same. And since my love of scones hasn’t abated, I would have to make him love them, too. Over these last several years I’ve started wearing him down, creating scones with a more moist interior to please his palate. He’s started to ooh and ahh. After meeting Joy, I knew that the time was ripe for pumpkin scones.
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