cranberry hand pies

cranberry hand pies-2

I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year, filled with gratefulness and delicious food. We had a great time with friends and family, reflecting on the last year of our lives and all the incredible blessings we have been given. Not only did we add an amazing little human to our home, but I’ve come to realize that the Lord didn’t just give me a wonderful husband, he gave me an incredible father for my son. Seriously, you should see those two together. There is not a moment when they aren’t absolutely cracking each other up. On top of all of that, our family and close friends have been such a huge support to us in the last 8 months, guiding us through the biggest adventure of our lives. Our hearts are overflowing with gratefulness.

cranberry hand pies-3

We were lucky enough to enjoy three (three!) meals with the ones we love, which means we ate, a lot. Somehow, even with spreading what we made over three meals, we still have a bunch of left overs. Now, everyone knows that the best thing about Thanksgiving is actually the left overs. None of the individual components of the big meal are jaw dropping on their own, but when you put them all together in the days following, magic happens. While there is no substitution for turkey, cranberry sauce and cream cheese smooshed between two slices of pillowy soft bread, there is another way I like to drag out the most delicious holiday of the year, with more pie. The great thing here is, you could go savory, sweet, or do a savory-sweet combo. I envision throwing some roasted squash, goat cheese and turkey (maybe some caramelized onion, too!) into the middle of one of these mini pies and take this whole pie thing in a completely different direction. (more…)

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November 30, 2013. baking, fall, fruit. 2 comments.

going bananas

I still have not returned to the land of the living. It has been 15 weeks today, with at least 12 of those consisting of a very simple routine. Get up for work, go to work, come home from work, put on yoga pants, hit the couch, go to bed, repeat. Last night, I did force myself to cook dinner, particularly because I could not even consider having cereal for dinner even just one more time. I’ve been told that the sicker you are when you’re pregnant, the better. Well, I am certainly glad for that! If this is what I need to get through to have a healthy baby, I am in this 100%. I just hope you’ll bear with me as I share with you the few things I have the energy to make. Let’s just all hope I get my second wind real soon. 

Simple, comforting and quick has become my mantra these days. There have been no marathon cooking events happening in our kitchen, only short and precise dishes that fill our (growing) bellies. This baked banana dish meets all the criteria. Easy, quick, comforting and completely un-fussy, this breakfast treat will satisfy everyone in your family. Pair it with pancakes or waffles or even over ice cream for dessert after a family dinner to add the feeling of fancy.

This post is part of a series cooked from The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham. AimeeClaudieEmily and Natasha have posted their picks from the fruit chapter so be sure to pay them a visit.

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October 17, 2012. breakfast, fruit, quick and easy. 4 comments.

roasted peaches with gluten free crisp and creme fraiche

When I plan a meal, I have several check points I go through. I want to be sure that the meal is comprised of ingredients from the current season, and that on a whole, the meal feels cohesive from start to finish. If we are having friends join us, I also try to plan a dessert of some sort. This is usually my favorite part of the meal and the item I spend the most time thinking about. I’m a self diagnosed sugar fiend, so naturally this area excites me the most.

Most often, I like to dream up desserts that have several elements and can take hours, but when we are planning a meal for the middle of the week that doesn’t always work out very well. Unless we just decide to forgo dinner altogether and serve dessert alone, I better think of something a little more speedy.

During the summer, I tend toward the natural bounty of fruit that needs little done to it, if anything at all. Fresh peaches, while amazing in cobblers and crisps, can be divine all by themselves and as far as I’m concerned, make an excellent dessert. However, roasting them for a bit and then topping them a sprinkle of crisp and a dollop of creme fraiche won’t make anyone I know turn up their nose.

There is a lesson to be learned in this recipe: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. I’m going to repeat that to myself: dessert does not have to take hours to be awesome. This is a great mantra for me to remember. Too often I jump right to something unnecessarily complicated. Maybe after repeating this to myself a few hundred times I’ll think more simply the next time I want to make a dessert that takes three days.

This dish is just as versatile as it is quick. You can use whatever fruit is available at your farmers market, in fact I think apricots would be delicious here, so would plums or nectarines. The crisp topping can be frozen and used to stir into yogurt or crumbled onto pies, I also think it could be a great base for a granola too. (more…)

August 12, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, dessert, fruit, gluten free, quick and easy, summer, vegetarian. 5 comments.

banana bran muffins

Human beings can be grouped into two categories: those who snooze, and those who don’t. For as far back as I can remember, I have always set my alarm ten minutes before the time I actually should get up. After the first alarm sounds, I snuggle up under the covers and drift peacefully back to dreamland for another nine minutes. When the next alarm sounds, there is a subsequent push of the snooze button allowing for an extra few minutes to gradually come around to the idea of planting my bare feet on the cold wood floor. By the time the next alarm sounds, I’m forced to get out from under the soft protection of our duvet by the tangible fear of being late for work. For some people, this method is purely insane. Let’s take my husband for example. When we first got married, he would set his alarm for a certain time each morning and when that thing went off, he rose up out of bed like Frankenstein from the dead, swung his legs over the side, planted his feet on the ground and never looked back. No lingering thoughts of fluffy pillows and sweet dreams, this man was moving on to greet the day. For sometime, it drove him absolutely insane that I would let my alarm go off, snooze, let it go off again, and snooze one last (sweet) time. He could not understand how this was an effective way to start the day. However, as time went on, he started turning off his alarm, only to just roll over. Now, after three years of marriage, he hits snooze, hits it again, and on some days, one more time.

To me, mornings should start off slow and relaxed. I prefer to linger there in the wee hours and enjoy the gray morning light for just a few minutes before I start to consider what the day might throw at me. I always eat breakfast, sometimes something as simple as a bowl of cereal, but never do I pass it up. Since I like to spend most of my morning in bed, I do tend to rely on quick breakfast foods to keep me satisfied for the better part of the morning. These hearty muffins surely fit the bill. They are moist, slightly sweet and wholesome enough to carry you for a few hours. They would be incredible with a bit of greek yogurt and some honey to give you an extra punch of protein.

[This post is part of a Cook the Book project with 5 other incredible bloggers. Take a stroll on over to see Aimee, Samantha, Natasha, Emily and Claudie to see what quick breads they’ve baked up this week. I’ve heard there might be custard filled cornbread, might not want to miss that one!]

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August 7, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . baking, breakfast, fruit, quick and easy, vegetarian. 11 comments.

raisin cinnamon wheat bread

There is something simply beautiful about community. I believe we were built to thrive in relationship with one another, supporting and encouraging those around us through the often tempestuous seas of life. Our joys are never more exciting than those shared with a giggling best friend, and our sorrows rarely felt more true than moments spent sobbing with an empathetic lover. Relationships are designed to, in a sense, complete the equation.

This little blog has allowed me to become a part of a community of men and women who inspire me, challenge and humble me every day.  I am thankful to have met many new people who breathe the same air as I do and seem to be cut from the same mold. Whether we have met in person, or only virtually, I am continually in awe of their strength, creativity and outlook on life. A group of us, whom have come to know one another through various ways, wanted a way to stay in touch while encouraging the craft we all hold so dear, so we concluded we would pick a cook book and do our best to cook through it together. The book we chose is a classic, most notably known for the famous yeasted waffles which lie within. The Breakfast Book by Marion Cunningham boasts 304 pages of breakfast nirvana. Recipes ranging from the standard omelette to custard filled cornbread (Aimee I can’t wait for that one!) keep you coming back to it’s wisdom every morning. Each of us have chosen one recipe from each chapter and will be regularly posting about our efforts. To me, this is more than just working through some undoubtedly exceptional book, it’s about building relationships with friends I have come to admire, and it’s about forming a community here, one in which I hope you will feel a deep connection to and a strong sense of being at home, among friends.

The first chapter of the book covers yeast breads. It’s a fitting place to start since bread is the foundation for so much of our diet. It’s a starting point, a building block we use to jump from. This particular recipe feels like a comfortable place to start for me. It’s familiar. Like many of you I’m sure, I have memories of raisin cinnamon bread with melted butter dripping between the cracks in the bread made by the cinnamon-sugar swirl. It evokes a feeling of family for me, which is exactly how I want this project to feel.

If you want to join us in our endeavors to cover the depths of this wonderful book, please feel free to purchase a copy of the book and cook along with us. Join in our conversation by commenting on our blogs, and be sure to check out the other amazing women involved in this project. Sammy, Aimee, Claudie, Emily and Natasha are all wonderful women, I know you’ll love every one of them. (more…)

July 3, 2012. Tags: , , , , , , . baking, bread, fruit, vegetarian. 14 comments.

cherry tartlets

Remember when you were 13 and the last person on earth you wanted to confide in was your mom? According to my adolescent logic, my mom had no idea what kind of life I had to live or what sort of choices I had to make. She was put on this earth to irritate me and meddle in my very important business. There was no advice, no insight, no knowledge she could offer me that I didn’t already know, after all, I knew everything.

It wasn’t until I became an adult that I began to realize the humanity of my mother. I imagine the vast majority of us, even my own mom, have gone or will go through this very process. As I began to live on my own, do my own dishes, pay my own bills and make real life altering decisions, I realized, I needed my mom. I needed that advice I never took as a teenager and I needed her learned perspective. Finally understanding that she had lived through all of these things years before (not too many years mom, I know) helped me see what a resource she could be in my life, and that maybe we would begin to see each other not on different teams, but on the same one, together.

My husband lost his mom when he was 18, years before we met. I’m not sure if he ever made it to the stage where he appreciated her point of view and began to see her as a friend, but I know that if she were here now, he most certainly would. As we are now on the path to starting a family of our own, I think he would really love to sit down with her and ask what it was like for her to try to get pregnant, and how it felt when she finally did. I’m certain he would like to know if the feelings I have are in fact normal and what ways are best for showing his support of me.

This rolling pin belonged to her. As I was rolling out these small pastry shells I was wondering what it was like for her to feel a similar butter speckled piece of dough under her hands, rolling them out into petit circles. I wondered if we would bake together and if we did, what we might say to one another to pass the time. I’d love to ask her what Jon was like as a small boy, maybe gaining some insight into what our kids might be like one day. Most of all, I would have liked to find in her a friend, a confidant, just like I have in my own mother. From what others have told me, our personalities would have matched perfectly.

I believe every mom looks forward to the day when their children cherish them and their opinions. Though it’s a hard road traveled, I’m sure the destination is a great reward. If you’re a mom, thank you for fighting the good fight and when you’re in the thick of it, remember your children will grow up and one day they will call on you for your advice and will, I hope, find in you a faithful friend. (more…)

May 31, 2012. Tags: , , , , , . baking, dessert, fruit, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. 9 comments.

a collaboration + a wedding cake

There is something so incredibly exhilarating about collaborating with other like-minded creatives. The process is stretching and challenges us to see our talents in new ways and even pushes us further than we would normally go on our own. This past weekend, I headed home to the mountains again, this time for a styled bridal collaborative with some local artists. Joleen from Joleen Willis Photography was the mastermind behind the shoot, birthing the idea and then convincing all of us to come along for the ride. For me, it was a chance to step into some uncharted waters, and although the way was a little bumpy at times, I learned a lot and ultimately contributed something I am very proud of.

Our inspiration was Morocco, which is such a rich culture to draw from. The color and vibrant nature of the landscape was an easy example to follow when I was planning the food and tablescape. I chose to use some fairly traditional items for the table such as mint tea, olives and cous cous. For the main plated dish, I made a carrot salad with black rice, macrona almonds and mint, drizzled with a light harissa vinaigrette. The salad added just the right amount of color and texture to the table.

      (image by Joleen Willis Photography)

     (image by Joleen Willis Photography)

As with most weddings, dessert (most often in the form of cake) is one of the main attractions. Personally, I’ve only liked one wedding cake in all my life. I remember loving it so much that I was trying to figure out how to stuff some in my purse without being noticed. However, on every other occasion it has been something I might as well skip, which if you know me at all, skipping dessert is just something I don’t do. I figured it must be quite difficult to make a wedding cake worth it’s price tag, and ultimately, completely enjoyable, even to the point of wanting a doggy bag. So, when this project came up and I was able to explore what might make a great cake, (in taste AND appearance) I learned a few things. First of all, wedding cakes are difficult. They require a lot of work, hours and hours to be exact. Second, you don’t only have to use white or yellow cake. There are so many options out there, people! Thirdly, wedding cake CAN taste good. Like, I want a whole one to myself good.

Although this cake made me the most proud out of anything I’ve ever made to date, it still wasn’t perfect. If you can see, it leans a little because I was too lazy to get dowels to anchor it in place, not to mention I didn’t even out the cake layers like a real wedding cake baker would. However, even with all it’s faults and its Tower of Pisa qualities, it was still the best darn wedding cake I’ve ever had. Not the prettiest, but the tastiest. I feel a little weird writing this because it feels over the top conceited, but I’m telling you, this cake was really that good.

For the cake layers, I used a carrot cake recipe from Stella Parks, pastry chef at Table 310 in Lexington, Ky. It’s the best recipe for carrot cake out there. I’m in love with it and will continue to use it forever. The opposite layer is a nutmeg cornmeal cake. I used these two together because they have a tendency to stay moist, not to mention I thought they would compliment each other well, and they did. After all the layers were made, I smothered it all in an orange cinnamon cream cheese frosting. It was, in fact, the icing on the cake.

I garnished to top of the cake with candied kumquats and mint. Those sweet little citrus gems are something I’d like to have in my pantry at all times. They would be perfect on ice cream, a cream tart or simply fished out with gooey, sugary fingers.

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May 9, 2012. baking, cake, Candy, dessert, fruit, gluten free, quick and easy, vegetarian. 17 comments.

apricot bars

Do you ever sit down and consider how blessed you are? After a weekend with family and the dearest of friends, the blessedness of my life seems to be as clear as ever. I find it easy to confine myself to the daily distractions, struggles and occasional disappointments that come with living in a city, never leaving room to step outside and view life from a wider angle. Whenever I go home to the mountains, my thoughts grow wider and clearer with all the extra room to breathe. Maybe it’s in part because of all the open space or just the simple joy of fresh pine in the air mingling with smoke billowing from a smoldering wood stove. It might be the slower pace of life or it could be the darkness that falls at night allowing me to gaze at the blanket of stars above, reminding me that I’m smaller than I think I am. Slowing down is easier when I’m in the mountains and spending time on the porch with coffee and a best friend while passing the time chatting about less weighty matters, tends to be a requirement.

I feel very fortunate to live within just a few hours of the rest of my family as well as one of my truest friends. It’s easy to drive up after a busy week and unwind in what feels like the wilderness, comparatively. When I stay with Joleen, in her sweet little cabin in the woods, we often bake together, enjoying the fruit of our labor on the porch swing, in our pajamas, with a tall cup of coffee, admiring the beauty of our surroundings. This time of year, the mornings are still a little brisk, warranting long pants and a light sweater, but warm enough for bare feet. We prop them up on the railing, balancing a plate of frittata or biscotti on our laps, cupping our mugs in our hands as we catch up on life. It’s one of my absolute favorite things to do.

Let me share our view from the porch: Isn’t it lovely?

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April 23, 2012. baking, breakfast, cookie, dessert, fruit, jam, quick and easy, vegetarian. 79 comments.

pear and almond tart

The words I’m about to write are hardly conceivable and make my heart race. We are leaving for Europe in two weeks(!).  I seriously can’t believe it. I feel like we have been planning this trip for years and now it’s right around the corner. We begin our trip in Rome and then we’ll move along to Paris for Christmas and New Years (I know!). It sounds like a dream, and I imagine it will feel that way for the duration of our trip, only to awake as we descend on SFO on New Years day.

In preparation for our time abroad I have been reading books, blogs and just about anything I can find on our destinations. Admittedly, I’m mostly focussed on the food culture, being sure not to miss one succulent morsel. While searching for places to eat in Paris, I’ve read quite a bit from blogger and previous Chez Panisse pastry chef, David Lebovitz. As I was searching around on his blog I came across a peculiar recipe for a pear and almond tart with a very interesting dough as the base. Since I wanted to make something with pears for Thanksgiving this year, I decided I’d give this strange tart a try, and as a bonus, it would get me even more in the mood for all things Parisian. (more…)

December 1, 2011. baking, dessert, fruit, winter. 3 comments.

berry pie with whole wheat crust

When I know that I should do something, every fiber in my being wants to avoid that thing as if my next breath depends upon it. It’s an immediate reaction stemming from somewhere I’m unsure of, but it really tends to get in the way for me. I wish I could get it right on the first try and act out of reason with the end goal in mind but if I’m completely honest, I lack things like reason.

I’ve been offered a great opportunity for a little side project and although I’m super excited about it, I’m also dragging my feet. It could be because the first recipe I tried to develop was a total flop, but it could just as easily be that I feel the pressure to perform and it all feels a little reminiscent of stage fright. Either way, today I finally pulled myself from behind the proverbial curtain, out onto the stage and did the very best I could. My mother always taught me that when you’re on stage, you’re going to get applause no matter what because they’ll either clap to congratulate you or they’ll clap to get you off the stage. I’m happy to report that this performance garnered applause for the former reason, and even summoned an encore, from everyone. I’d say that’s a win.  (more…)

October 24, 2011. baking, dessert, fruit, vegetarian, Whole Wheat. 1 comment.

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