After being in league with a bountiful table of meat and more meat, vegetables glistening with butter and seven types of starchy carbohydrates, holiday desserts should probably be an exercise in balance. Then again, holidays like these are really the only time that one can legitimately have dessert with their dessert. But something lighter, cleansing, after the first dessert course. A "side dessert", if you will. Pumpkin pie is a must in most circles, but even the most delicious wedge topped with a bulb of whipped cream can seem one-dimensional after consuming so many different flavors during the main part of the meal. Since I volunteered for dessert duty this holiday season, I opted to serve my pumpkin pie with a side of lemon bar.
Hi! Welcome to my refreshed online home. It was high time for a new coat of paint.
Every recipe from before is still in the archives—look for recipes by category in the Recipe Box, or search for something specific with the little magnifying glass icon in the upper right of the screen. I hope you’ll have a look around, and bear with me as I work out any kinks in the system as I get used to my new digs.
Equal parts pleasure and pain, food on the internet is a sticky business to get involved with. These days, the field is so crowded, I can’t hear myself think (says the old lady who started a food blog in 2007, shaking her cane and spilling her Sanka all over the lawn). But! The beauty of this journey is how I, and so many food friends, have evolved and found our rightful places within all the crazy. Even if I now describe myself as “a lapsed food blogger” I’ll never not be grateful for the way my career grew with the simple decision to open a Blogspot account so many years ago, and has twisted and turned ever since. These days, one of my favorite things to do is chat with cookbook author friends I’ve made on this journey and say, “So how the hell did you get here?”, because it is never, ever a boring answer.
Oh, hello! I'm hoping you are either visiting because you've always visited and listened to me talk about all manner of life and baking, or that you've landed here after watching the Today show. Welcome!
As soon as I get back from New York, I'll be diving into the fall and holiday chapters of the new book, and testing lots of great recipes to share with you. One of the best things about creating this new book is that the timeline of developing the manuscript is allowing me to bake my way through the year--we just finished a season of light cakes, ice creams, summer fruit pies, cobblers, dessert salads, and way more. And now, after a solid week of unwavering, sweaty, snappy-retort-causing 90-degree-plus temps in Chicago--the heat seems to have finally broken, and from beneath it I can feel some great baking inspiration rising.
Like so many wholly unrelated things in life, I tend to liken this utterly habit-forming snack mix to parenting. Hear me out.
So here's me at my desk in my little "office" in a corner of the attic, right? The space that has a door that I can use to close myself away from my children so I don't even care that it's just an alcove and not a real office. Now don't get me wrong, people. I love my children. They are delicious and precious and I love them even more since the third week of August when they were dispatched to their separate schools and are no longer finding themselves inexplicably and repeatedly drawn to my ONE, NICE, ONLY, NICE, sitting room sofa trying to kill each other for sport all summer long. Because I give my all to my children, really I do. I'm not the very best parent on the planet, but I can confidently say that I do the very best I can. I caress them, listen to their needs and their stories, tell them they are wonderful and look at their stick drawings with Monet-observing awe. I really try to not lose my shit on them every single day, tell them fascinating things about art and music and culture, feed them nutritious food so they can grow and thrive and leave their unique, never-to-be-replicated mark on this big, beautiful, uncertain world.
So hey! First, some news: as you might have guessed from the past several months of posts on Instagram, book #4 is officially in the works. I couldn't be more excited to be sharing the recipes and stories of my journey home to the great Midwest, and doing so with the fine folks from Running Press, purveyor of gorgeous cookbooks. It will be packed with not only great Heartland-inspired recipes, but also bits of food history, snapshots of the immigrant cultures that have influenced our baking for centuries, and conversations with some of the Midwest's most influential bakers. It will be my most personal book yet, which is at once terrifying and yet oddly comfortable. Going home after a long time away will do that to a person, I suppose.
Well, hey! I figure now that it's April and we've all clearly gotten over carb-banning early months of the new year, that we can get real once again and talk about the good stuff in life. Like bread. And let's just go all in here and talk white bread. YOLOOOOOOO.
Every once in a while, it occurs to me that it's been a long time since I first started this here blog (July 2007, to be exact, whaaaaat). I've not always been the most, er, consistent of bloggers, but it's kind of amazing to have a record of life both in and out of the kitchen nonetheless. It's most fascinating for me to look back through the archives and see the recipes I was drawn to at certain points along the way, what I had time for or interest in learning and discovering throughout the years. And much like my life from about 1994-2000, there's plenty of cringeworthy moments among the entries (although any regrets here don't involve ill-fitting plaid or intentional visible bra straps).
Hi! Just a quick pop-in today, and I've got an A+ reason. With just a handful of days left to legitimately spend a whole day baking, eating, and sharing cookies, I realized that I've never shared one of my very favorite recipes. Last night I had the pleasure of teaching a super fun baking class at Give Me Some Sugar here in Chicago. The focus was edible gifts, and as the world solidified into a frozen tundra outside, the ovens were roaring and laughs were coming easy in the cozy shop. So good.
We have now officially entered High Baking Season, and can balm ourselves in butter and sugar. We can surround ourselves with our favorite cookbooks, and tune out the crazy. That’s my new personal strategy, anyway. And just in time for its implementation, I received Sarah Kieffer’s new cookbook, The Vanilla Bean Baking Book. Which is perfect, because it’s packed with enough crave-worthy recipes to keep me avoiding American reality until February, at least. Excellent!
Here we are, another October all over again. Can you believe it? It's been a busy couple of seasons around here--some TV and video projects, contributing for The Splendid Table (hi, dream job), and developing book #4. Oh, and that not-so-small detail of mothering a a third-grader (!) and a finally potty-trained (!!!) 3 1/2-year-old whose personality is basically Male Sybil on Steroids. There's a lot to take in. I'm sure a lot of you feel me. In fact, can we all just go somewhere? Like a retreat in Big Sur where we all have our own private, sparkling clean bedrooms and bathrooms and we just breathe deep all day, and then convene in the evening over a case of wine and our favorite new cookbooks? Excellent. I'm bringing that one, up top, and seeing if the author wants to come with us.
DON'T YOU DARE TOUCH THAT CAKE IT'S FOR COMPANY I MEAN IT.
Does that remind anyone else of childhood?
Whether it was made from scratch, a boxed Entemann's, or something more stepped-up, like say a coffee cake from the local bakery, I think most of us knew to approach a cake on the countertop with caution. Because clearly it was something special, right? And like getting one of those flouride treatments as a kid and being told you couldn't eat for 30 minutes, nothing makes you want to eat something more than being told you can't. Counter cakes are magical that way. The pull of a counter cake on a kid is vortex-like.