Category: seasonal

Apple-cranberry pie.

(This was originally written for a contributor post on eighteen25, go take a look and see! And look for more posts by me over there soon.)

Apples for apple-cranberry pie.

Peeling apples for apple-cranberry pie.

As a food blogger and someone who just loves to eat in general, there are a few things I hear from people a lot. One is usually something like “How do you stay so skinny?” Now in my mind I am far from skinny, but also do people assume I eat every single thing I make in it’s entirety? And two, which really bothers me: “I don’t have time to do all that!”

Yes, yes you do.

Apple-cranberry pie; like apple pie with cranberry sauce!

I’m busy too. Trust me. I have a lot going on in my life. But it’s a matter of priority. Some people will always choose to drive through a fast food restaurant, others will make homemade hamburgers. That’s just the way it is. Some people won’t ever try to do it, so they won’t realize how it really doesn’t take 6 hours and it isn’t all that difficult. However, if I want something, I want to make sure its the best it can be. Sometimes, yes, I use shortcuts like frozen pie crust, and that’s okay. That is TOTALLY OKAY. But Jay can sniff out a frozen crust from a mile away- and he prefers homemade. So if I know I’m making a pie ahead of time (and not at 3 a.m. when I can’t sleep), I try to put aside extra time to make a homemade pie crust. Especially if it’s for a holiday dinner.

This pie was new for me, and I wanted to share it with you because it’s a great Thanksgiving pie. And Christmas pie, too, really. It’s like cranberry sauce and apple pie rolled into one. It’s dessert and a side dish. It’s totally unexpected. And it’s also adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, which I happen to trust immensely when it comes to recipes.

Apple-cranberry pie.

I hope you’ll try it this year for the holidays. Maybe you’ll come to love it so much, you’ll never buy a frozen crust or store-bought pie ever again. And yes… I continue my tradition of being horrible at folding pie crust.

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Simple scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Simple scones, vanilla butter and caramel ginger pear jam. Click through for all three recipes!

It’s cold! On weekends this time of year, I wake up hungry. Hungry and chilly, I wander bleary eyed into the kitchen. Indy sits next to me some mornings, on “his” kitchen rug patiently waiting for the back door to open so he can take care of his… *ahem* daily constitutional. I put the Keurig on and stand there waiting for coffee in my pajamas, fuzzy socks or slippers, rubbing my eyes thinking, “God I wish I had something to shove in my pie hole.” Usually… I also wake up lazy; too lazy to make something. But if I’m lucky I already have made something! For example, scones with caramel ginger pear jam & vanilla butter.

Jay is a huge fan of scones. So am I really, and for some reason I never make them. I should really make them more often. They’re ridiculously easy and delicious- requiring no mixing other than by hand, no special equipment. And also? They go with everything. Like the recipes I’m giving you today: caramel pear jam and vanilla butter.

Yes, I said vanilla butter. I’ll get to that in a sec.

And… caramel ginger pear jam. It is pear season, you know. Go getchu some gorgeous pears and do something. Ginger is so warming, and it gives an exotic kind of scent to the jam. But you can feel free to omit it and keep it just caramel pear, if you want. YES- YOU GUYS GET THREE RECIPES IN ONE POST TODAY. OMG AREN’T YOU LUCKY.

Caramel ginger pear jam.

By the way- these scones are NOT just a vehicle to get vanilla butter and jam into your face hole. They’re buttery, flaky, and delicious. Totally great on their own. But also great with: marmalade, plain butter, clotted cream, crème fraîche, and just about any kind of jam or jelly you can imagine. They also can be totally changed up to suit you.

They really are easy too. I swear.

Simple scones.

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Dutch apple-pumpkin crisp.

One particularly nasty, cold, and quite rainy afternoon in late October, I decided to use the remainder of my leftover pumpkin puree and the apples I had left (that were barreling straight towards being “too soft to use”). I knew I had to use up both of these things sooner rather than later, and I couldn’t imagine in what way I’d do it. Two apples aren’t really enough for a pie, and these weren’t pie apples anyway. And one scant cup of pumpkin puree is probably enough for muffins or cupcakes, but… been there, done that, yanno? How many pumpkin muffins can one person eat!?!?

I contemplated pumpkin-applesauce, but two small apples aren’t really enough for a good amount of sauce. I didn’t think it was worth the effort.

Dutch apple-pumpkin crisp.

Thankfully, Google is our friend. I found this recipe by Betty Crocker and adapted it to suit my needs (I do not currently own a microwave). It’s a great way to use up leftover pumpkin puree that may or may not be on the verge of tossing, and maybe a few straggler  “soft spotted” apples, too.

I love making these “crisps” or “breakfast thingies.” I’ve made summer stone fruit versions, and berry varieties that were more cake-y. The addition of oats not only makes it heartier but makes it versatile; it almost screams HAVE ME FOR BREAKFAST, TOO! And it’s so cool and autumn-y out. The leaves are all pretty reds and yellows. Ya just need somethin’ like this to eat on a November morn.


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Orange rind & apple brandy cranberry sauce, and a remembrance of things past.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

When I think of past Thanksgivings, there’s a blur in my mind. Particularly the childhood ones. I do remember some very clearly- like the year I was probably around 7, and I was making paper dolls on the living room floor after watching the parade. Or the year directly after that when I was creating some kind of model of Plimoth Plantation (purchased the previous summer while on vacation at Plimoth, obviously). Or the year I was about 14 and after dinner, we left the plates on the table & my father drove us in to see the Christmas windows in Manhattan. I even remember the knit hat and the vintage Levi’s I wore. And the year that I was maybe 18 or 19 and we had dinner at my aunt & uncle’s house, and there’s a picture of me floating around somewhere, an actual tangible photograph, of me wearing a lace apron & blue Doc Martens. And of course I remember last year at my in-laws house, when Jay and I cooked everything for both families all by ourselves. And the year before that, and the year before. But other years, they just blur together to create one large Thanksgiving. One large dinner. One pan of lasagna. One turkey. One memory comprised of all the memories.

And I cannot say I remember any one dish, really. I don’t remember any specific stand-out side dishes, except for the one year I made broccoli and cauliflower au gratin (and I’ve been craving it ever since). However this… this is a stand-out side dish if ever there was one.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

Okay. So, Thanksgiving. If there is one thing I can convince you of concerning Thanksgiving, let it be that you DO NOT NEED TO BUY CRANBERRY SAUCE. I know I say a lot of things about how my recipes are “easy” and how you should be making your own pickles or what have you (and that is all 100% true) but cranberry sauce is THE EASIEST THING EVER. I am not lying to you. There is no need to buy stuff chock full of high fructose corn syrup and additives when it’s so easy to make your own. Plus, this time of year cranberries are everywhere, and they’re usually on sale. Stock up and make some homemade cranberry sauce now, enjoy it later.

Orange rind and apple brandy cranberry sauce.

It doesn’t have to be “canned” or processed either, I just prefer to do so because I make a couple of half-pints (or pints) and I would rather keep them in a cupboard than in the fridge, open. That way, throughout the entire season I have fresh cranberry sauce. From Thanksgiving to Christmas and throughout the winter. For all those roast chicken Sunday dinners, I can pop open a new jar. Cranberries cook themselves, really. And they have so much natural pectin that they just gel together like a dream. It’s a beginners dream sauce!

I used Black Dirt “Apple Jack” apple brandy in mine, because brandy reminds me of my Nana and apple brandy is the only kind I had on hand. But you could use a regular brandy too. Or bourbon, or whiskey. Or you can leave it out completely.

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Spiced ginger walnut pumpkin cake with vanilla maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting.

Readers of my blog will remember when I said a few weeks ago that it was pumpkin time. Well, it definitely is. Pumpkin, pumpkin everywhere. As far as the eye can see! Pumpkin is the universal symbol- and flavor- of autumn. Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin pie, pumpkin Oreos… the thought of it makes me want to pull out my fuzzy knit socks and my favorite sweats and read a book. Because fall.

That’s how I feel about ginger too. It’s a fall and winter thing, for me.

Spiced ginger pumpkin cake with maple frosting.

Spiced pumpkin ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

I saw the original form of this cake in an e-mail from one of my favorite stores, Sur La Table. I decided to switch it up a bit, tweak it and bake it in a different way. The frosting I also changed completely, because I don’t like cream cheese frosting. So I made a vanilla maple buttercream-ish frosting instead.

I know it sounds like a lot going on- just like that apple pie, but I promise you it works beautifully and it is not “too much.” It’s a gorgeous cake that works perfectly for any fall Sunday dinner, or even Thanksgiving, but also just for your average cold fall weekend.

I made this cake twice. The first time I used a 1 1/2 qt. vintage glass Fire King baking dish  (this one actually) that was about 10″ x 6.” I just greased it lightly and skipped the parchment. The second time, I used this vintage loaf pan, but you can use any baking dish or pan that’s roughly the same size. It can be a little wider and shallower, square instead of rectangle, or even a little deeper… but regardless, you shouldn’t have to change the temperature. Just watch the time. You don’t want the cake to burn! Baking it as a loaf, it will take around 40 minutes to bake.

But both times it came out perfect- so don’t stress what kind of pan you use.

Pumpkin spice ginger cake with maple frosting and toasted walnuts.

The cake can also very easily be made vegan: just take out the eggs and substitute with an egg replacer, flax seed or tofu. And you can use a vegan frosting option too. Although you can definitely serve it without frosting and it’s awesome, too.

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Ossi di Morto and Day of the Dead.

Feliz Día de Los Muertos, everybody! And if you’re a person of faith, Happy All Souls Day. Today is a date on the calendar that holds a lot of tradition and meaning, in many cultures.

Ossi di Morto cookies, aka bones of the dead.

Traditionally, these cookies are Italian cookies used to celebrate All Souls Day, which is today. The name is Ossi di Morto or Ossa de Mordere, and that means “bones of the dead.” Because of the tie-ins between Día De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead) and All Saints Day/All Souls Day, my idea was that they’d be a fantastic way to celebrate both days and both celebrations together, as one. They are so similar it seems only right… and we’ll get to that in a sec.

OSSI DI MORTO, aka bones of the dead cookies.

Growing up, my nana told me all about All Souls Day. My nana was 100% Irish, born to a mother who was a first-generation American, and her mother in turn was right off the boat so to speak. The tales and superstitions were a plenty. I grew up hearing all about them, and all about the reverence and respect for the dead this time of year is about. Traditionally, today is a Christian day to remember the souls of the departed, which to Catholics is known as the Commemoration of The Faithful Departed. Its a day to pray for those who’ve passed on, to remember them. You may be thinking, “Uhm, thats the same thing that the Day of the Dead is.” And you’re right. But you might not know that originally, the Day of the Dead was celebrated in summertime.  During the 16th century Spanish colonization, Mexicans moved their celebrations of Día de Los Muertos to October 31, November 1 and 2 to coincide with the triduum of All Saint’s Eve, All Saints Day and All Souls Day. November 1st is All Saints Day, however in Mexico it’s known as Día de Los Inocentes (Day of the Innocents) or Día de Los Angelitos (Day of the Little Angels) and is primarily honoring deceased infants and children. The prayers were traditionally posed to the goddess known as Lady of the Dead, now known as La Calaveras Catrina– the popular skeleton woman we see in drawings and depictions.

Of course, the Mexican way of “celebrating” these days are actual celebrations; food- yes, those sugar skulls too, parties, parades, decorating ancestors graves and of course prayer too. The Catholic version of All Souls Day is more somber, however in Italy they do light candles in the streets and have a bigger, louder celebration of today than perhaps most other Europeans. Brazilians also have a similar way of celebrating today, they call it Dia de Finados and it’s a public holiday.

I did grow up loosely Catholic- so I’m well aware of the ins and outs of these days and I prefer the Mexican version myself, even though I am not of Mexican heritage.

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Roasted pears with a whole bunch of good shit.

Maple brown sugar roasted pears with bourbon whipped cream!

Usually this time of year is filled with Halloween-themed posts. I don’t usually do many non-Halloween things, because I love Halloween and for the entire month of October my life is ruled by all things Hallows Eve. But this year, I found my inspiration lacking. I had a lot of other ideas- like that apple pie– and I wanted to do those. So pardon me for deviating from my norm. I promise you won’t be mad, though, cause these recipes are FIRE.

Yes, I did just say that. But how can you go wrong with maple & brown sugar ANYTHING??


This all started when I bought a bunch of pears and had no clue what I was going to do wth them. I ended up making some small-batch jam (which you’ll see in a few weeks or so) and then I left the rest until they were getting mushy. I kept saying, “I’m gonna make a pear cake.” I swore up and down I was making a cake with them. I felt them every day, said to myself “Ugh, they’re getting too soft…” then laziness took over and I never did anything with them.

Peeling pears to roast with maple syrup & brown sugar.

Indy loves pears, and he had some major oral surgery, so I promised him one of the softest ones. But that left me with two more. So I said, “Self, we’re finally gonna do something with these pears!” I mean, I can’t let the fruit flies have them. And so I did this. Roasted pears. Maple & brown sugar roasted pears. With bourbon whipped cream. Made with a lil brown butter of course.

And the whipped cream, because I mean, why not? I love bourbon whipped cream.

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