Category: snacks

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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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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I always feel like somebody’s watchin’ me…

Monster bark! Perfect easy no-bake Halloween treat.

… Even my chocolate!

Isn’t Halloween the best holiday ever? I mean, every holiday has its merits. Christmas is great. Thanksgiving is even awesome- all that food. But HALLOWEEN, YOU GUYS. This is the best time. When else is it acceptable, even expected, that your food either resemble body parts or have eyes? It’s only at Halloween, and it’s basically awesome.

Monster bark for Halloween!

I call this “Monster Bark.” You can call it chocolate bark, Halloween bark, whatever. It depends also on what candy you use on top. Mine has bloodshot eyes, so clearly it has to be monstrous. Yours can be totally different! People usually think of bark as a Christmas thing; peppermint bark. But there’s no reason why you can’t make it for any holiday or occasion.

First you need a bag of chocolate. I prefer to use real chocolate as my base, and if I want more color (i.e. Candy Melts) or other kinds of chocolate I add a little in by swirling it or layering. You can in theory do whatever you want, I just find sometimes the Candy Melts melt a little quicker, so using chocolate as a base helps keep it firm. I used Hershey’s Special Dark for the base of this, and I added a little bit of black food coloring to make it look a bit darker. You can use a mix of white, milk and dark chocolate, or use dark chocolate with orange and/or green Candy Melts swirled in. Or add some white. Use your imagination!

I obviously stuck with one color.

Monster bark for Halloween.

You can use a bag of chips melted, or two large bars of chocolate. Depending on the amount of people or the size of your pan, you can even double that.

Next, you’ll need sprinkles and candies. I went really simple, but you can go crazy. Mine has Wilton candy eyes, candy corn, Wilton orange + black sprinkles, and some green and pink round sprinkles as well as candy pearls. You can use regular old Halloween candy too, and pretzels, and nuts… whatever it is you love.

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Quick maple whiskey pickled carrots.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I have made pickled carrots before, a long time ago. Four years ago; when my food photography was atrocious and my canning skills were n00b level. I made an adapted version of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe from her book A Homemade Life, which was basically spicy pickled carrots with rosemary. They were good and very much enjoyed by everyone who ate them, but for some reason I never again made a pickled carrot.

Until now.

Maple whiskey pickled carrots.

I really don’t know why I never again pickled carrots, really. I always thought of it when I saw beautiful multicolor heirloom carrots at farmer’s markets. I literally would see them and think, “How gorgeous would those be, pickled up in a jar?” And then I’d promptly move on and never actually do it. I’d probably just eat them in a salad or soup and that would be that.

But I recently had this genius idea. While making Jay his whiskey sour/maple whiskey pickles for the zillionth time, I thought, “Hey wait a minute… maple glazed carrots… maple whiskey pickles… what about using this recipe for pickled carrots?!” He looked at me as if I was insane (a normal occurrence) and then nodded slowly and smiled and said, “Sure…” I think he was just humoring me.

And so of course I just had to try it out. I did not have any fancy colored carrots, unfortunately, just plain old skinny organic orange beta-carotene-filled “normal” ones. However, it really would be lovely to fill up a jar with a variety of colors and sizes of carrots for this. Excellent presentation.

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Fresh garden salsa (that you can enjoy in February).

Weighing tomatoes before making fresh garden salsa (canned!)

I got a new kitchen scale, dudes.

This is exciting for me. It took a long time to find one that was what I wanted. I didn’t want digital. I wanted an old-school analog one- vintage styled. Jay and I really wanted an actual vintage one, but we were worried about the calibration of a true vintage scale. We didn’t want to buy one then find out it needed to be overhauled. So then we got some gift cards for Williams-Sonoma (for either our wedding or a late-housewarming gift) and we found this one by Salter for Williams-Sonoma. SCORE!

So we ordered it and it came and it’s lovely. Just what I had in mind. Vintage look, but brand new.

Weighing tomatoes for some fresh garden salsa.

And I’ve got lots of tomatoes, all fresh from my backyard. Yep, the garden is still kickin’! Indigo Apples, Cosmonaut Volkov’s, Globe’s, Amish Paste’s and Super Sweet 100’s. They’ve all gotta be used, and one can only eat so many fresh. Or in a salad. So… naturally, everything I make preserve with tomatoes; i.e. tomato jam or sauce or salsa, I need to weigh them first. Conveniently.

And that leads me to our recipe today:

Canned fresh garden salsa- enjoy your garden in the middle of the winter!

I looooooove salsa. Oh man. I could eat salsa all day, every day. Green, red, I don’t care. Hot salsa, medium salsa, salsa with black beans and corn. I love it all. The only ones I will not eat are peach salsas or mango salsas. I’m a purist, see. Tomatoes & peppers only for me. With loads of cilantro. LOADS. I love it tossed into a fresh salad topped with tortilla strips, shredded cheese and sometimes grilled chicken. I also love it on chips, with guacamole. And who doesn’t love it on burritos?

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Oven roasted tomato deliciousness.

Oven roasted tomatoes with basil, oregano & garlic

Happy September, everyone. Wow, can you believe it’s September already? Where did the time go? Summer really flew by. I’ve had a pretty stressful summer- and I didn’t get to the beach once. Also, my cat of 13 years, Arwyn, had to be put to sleep a few days ago, so this summer has been officially marked as shit. She might have lived with my mom and become my “mother’s” cat, but she was my baby. I see Halloween stuff and back-to-school things in stores and I wanna cry, and I LOVE Halloween. How did the summer go by so fast… and why? It’s still a zillion degrees out, I’m not fully ready to plunge into 100% fall treats yet. Besides- IT’S NOT EVEN LABOR DAY. LEMME KEEP MY TOMATOES AND MY SHORTS AND MY SANDALS AND MY ICED TEA, PLZ. KTHX.

Oh, tomatoes. Tomatoes, you beautiful summer-long-into-September-and-maybe-October delectable morsels of life.

Fresh tomatoes!

I know we just spoke about tomatoes a few days ago, but come on. LOOK AT THESE THINGS. How do you not want to take pictures of them and eat them and cuddle them?

Okay, maybe not that.

In case you’re not a regular reader, we’ve been growing tomatoes in our raised garden beds. I had container gardens for years, and last summer we upgraded to raised beds that Jay built. This year we expanded them, and grew 5 varieties of tomatoes: Indigo Apple, Globe, Amish Paste, Cosmonaut Volkov and Supersweet 100. We also grew three kinds of basil (Cinnamon, Purple Ruffles and regular ol’ Genovese) and two types of oregano (regular and “hot & spicy”).

Tomatoes ready to be oven roasted!

I love tomato season. Unf.

So, I had a few tomatoes that fell off the vine before they were ripe, and I decided to pick a vine of Supersweet 100’s and toss ’em all together in the oven. Of course, what are tomatoes without garlic, basil and oregano?

So I washed and dried the shermaters, cut up the Indigo Apple’s to a smaller size, and grabbed some hot & spicy oregano, a bunch of basil leaves and some regular oregano. I added those to the ‘maters. It already smelled like heaven. Or a pizzeria. Same thing.

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Another year older (and deeper in debt) …plus donuts.

Happy birthday to me! So, I am officially 34 years old! Holy balls. Time fucking flies, man. All you youngin’s out there, take heed. The years begin to move by so quickly you won’t have time to even comprehend it. Yes- another year has passed, and what a year it was! As the song says “Another year (day) older and deeper in debt…”

We faced illness and overcame it. We got married, and we bought a house. Here’s Lola (one of my favorite birthday gifts ever) at home, in her natural habitat: the kitchen.

Lola the mixer, at home.(Painting by the lovely and talented Mrs. Christine Comis-Villareal)


Lots of things can happen in one year, clearly. Lots of good, maybe some bad. But it all balances out in the end. I decided to skip the “Life List” this year, because honestly? After all the bullshit this year I’m just glad to be here- literally and figuratively. I’m thankful for so many things & people, thankful that I’m healthy and here to celebrate another birthday.

I’m also thankful for donuts.

Baked chocolate donuts with pink icing!

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