And … It’s Christmas

November 30, 2008

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During our Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday afternoon, somewhere between the ooh’s and ahh’s and mmm’s and chatter and laughter, a silence settled over the table. Maybe it was turkey coma or maybe the frenetic holiday pace was taking its toll. Whatever the case, the silence didn’t last long. Soon, a cheerful Christmas carol wafted into the dining room from a stereo in the next room. I put down my fork and said, “And … it’s Christmas!”

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I was only partly kidding. The holiday season is in full swing and I’ve been whisked up in it. Thanksgiving has melted into Christmastime and that means one thing: it’s time to bake. Candies, cookies, caramel corn, sweet-and-spicy nuts. Really, anything that can be slipped into a glassine bag, tied with a shiny ribbon and bestowed upon your favorite someones.

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Still too full to talk. And here’s why:

The barbecue, ready for the dry-brined turkey:

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Thanksgiving Eve

November 26, 2008

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Hello! I’ve got things to bake and cook and eat and drink, but I wanted to take a quick second to say hi, Happy Thanksgiving, safe travels, and all that. I hope you’re enjoying the holiday preparations as much as I am! What stage are you at? Baking? Shopping? Still planning the menu? Closing your eyes tight and hoping it will all just go away? Here’s a little glimpse of Thanksgiving Eve where I’m at:

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A Virtual Thanksgiving Feast

November 24, 2008

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It’s Thanksgiving week—and, this year, it will include a mere two days of work, my birthday, my blogiversary, a trip to Minnesota, a chance to see my sister again for the first time since she moved, and a whole lot of cooking and baking.  It’s going to be a good week, I can tell already.  And, while I wouldn’t trade it for the world, there’s a part of me that’s itching to don my favorite apron and create a Thanksgiving dinner right in my very own kitchen.  Just thinking about the menu planning, lists, schedules, trips to the grocery store, cooking and baking gets me downright giddy.  But seeing as though we can barely fit six people around our dining table (and, even then, we have to get creative with the chairs), I will have to put off this Thanksgiving hostess fantasy for at least a couple years.

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Which is why I’m thrilled to be able to (co-)host a Thanksgiving feast of sorts today.  I’ve teamed up with the ladies you might remember from our Halloween post (and one more who’s joined the group) to bring you a virtual feast.  It’s got a beautiful turkey, an abundant array of side dishes, and not one but two desserts.  In other words, it’s my kind of Thanksgiving.  Check out the delicious line up:

  • Amy’s Celery Root, Parsnip & Apple Puree
  • Tiffany’s Fennel, Apple & Cranberry Stuffing
  • Tiffany’s Brussel Sprouts with Virginia Ham
  • Sue’s Turkey
  • Amy’s Squash and Apple Bake
  • My Apple and Pecan Tart
  • Grace’s Sweet Potato Cake with Praline Pecan Topping

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Bite-Sized Bliss

November 20, 2008

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I’ve been intrigued by almond butter for a while and within about five seconds of screwing off the lid of the jar I bought for this recipe, I was half-a-spoonful in and ready for more. That stuff is absolutely delicious. Where have I been? It’s grown-up peanut butter, basically, but I think you’d be hard-pressed to find a kid who would turn the stuff away. And it’s addictive, too, so I’m glad I had a recipe to fold almost the whole jar right into. I am fully aware of the holiday-induced caloric uptick in my near future; no need for a head start by way of almond butter straight from the jar.

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Just like almond butter is a more grown-up take on peanut butter, these bars are very similar to—but a bit more sophisticated than—the peanut butter-chocolate chunk blondies that I completely love and previously thought could never be rivaled.

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It Led Me On

November 18, 2008

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It’s been a while since I’ve posted a disappointing recipe, and this one was a real heart breaker. It’s not that there haven’t been less-than-stellar results in my kitchen lately. Oh, no, there have been more of those than I care to share. There have even been good recipes gone bad (just ask my friend Gena about my fairly disastrous take on this recipe which ended in one u.g.l.y. birthday cake). And there have been bad recipes that I can’t fix. I’m not sure which camp this recipe, for cranberry coffeecake, falls into, but I can tell you that it takes the cake (pun intended).

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You see, this recipe led me on. I had been looking for a good holiday breakfast recipe (I don’t know why; I can bet my bottom dollar that my parents’ pantry will be bursting with an astonishing array of Woulette’s delectable pastries when I’m home for both Thanksgiving and Christmas) and this one had so much promise. It enticed me with visions of a holiday morning, mug of coffee in one hand and a thick slice of this garnet-swirled cake in the other, fat snow flakes drifting down outside. And, well, I fell for it.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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On Cast Iron and Strata

November 16, 2008

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I’m bone tired right now, but in the best possible way. It was a jam-packed weekend that included about 18 hours in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and also a very, very busy day back here in Chicago today. But this is the kind of exhausted that I love: I had people to see, things to do—and see and do I did. And, of course, I cooked too.

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Our visit to Ann Arbor was tightly edited (we were visiting Kevin’s sister, who’s a surgery resident, and we wedged our stay between her shifts): in less than a day, we caught the football game, which is truly the show in town (but, sorry Ms. Arbor: Go Cats!); sampled beers at two breweries; ate a great dinner; took a spin around campus; talked politics and celebrity gossip and music and wine and food; and skipped down memory lane. Oh, and I managed to ferret out the best kitchen store in town.

(Click “more” for the rest of the story, more photos & the recipe.)

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