Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

I haven’t baked much since I spent four days in early October creating two massive cakes for Sierra’s wedding. So it might seem rather surprising that the first time I pull out my cake pans after such a project, it’s to reprise the very recipes I used for the largest tier of the wedding cake. I, however, am not surprised, as I have been wanting to share this recipe in a normal, human-sized dessert that you can make for you and your family instead of a full wedding guest list.

Before autumn wanes completely, I urge you to make this cake. This cake is rich, moist, and full of pumpkin flavor. This maple cream is studded with these sugared pecans (easily my favorite discovery of the season) and compliments the spicy cake perfectly. And for layer cake, this is pretty easy! No icing to smooth, no crumbs to worry about, no delicate folding dry ingredients into the batter, no piping. You can totally do this.

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ATTENTION STORES EVERYWHERE:

I love Christmas, I really do. But I’m not ready for it. Not for candy canes and glittery pine cones and red ribbons on the ends of the aisle. I’m not ready for the ghost and goblin decor to be heaped haphazardly on a clearance rack by the checkout while pine boughs and Santa hats flood in from the back room. It’s Halloween this week, thank you very much, it’s Thanksgiving in a month, and there are several beautiful weeks of autumn between now and then.

And for you big-budget stores, I’m really not ready for jingle bells and dancing elves to adorn your circulars & commercials.

So in defiance of the ever-earlier Christmas season, I offer these treats that scream “Halloween!” loudly enough to drown out the dancing elves, at least for the next few days.

I speak, of course, of caramel apples. It’s no wonder this treat is a classic: a tart, crisp apple enrobed in a sheen of chewy honey caramel is one of the greatest joys of fall. These apples are Pink Ladies, my favorite variety, and they hail from this year’s annual apple-picking trip, which has become a cornerstone of every fall for me (my little blog is named after it!)

Photo from Monica B.

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The various food blogs and aggregates I browse are alight with red, white, and blue this week. And it’s no surprise! What better way to celebrate America’s Independence Day than with some desserts that feature fresh fruit that coordinates so well with Old Glory? You probably already have your plans in place for whatever festivities await you today, but if you don’t, get out your baking gear and try this one.

These little desserts are based on a recipe out of the Joy the Baker Cookbook. I’ve mentioned before that the blog of the same name is one of my favorites to follow, and I was thrilled to finally get my hands on her cookbook. I find it inspiring that someone who is not classically trained in culinary technique, photography, or writing has created such a mind-blowingly successful blog and now has a published book to show for it.

It’s the first of many recipes in the book I’m eager to try.

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

March 17 is a day of much celebration in my family. Twenty-eight years ago today, my parents tied the knot at an old stone church in my Colorado hometown.

And as if adding a wedding anniversary to an already festive holiday, four years later, my fabulous little sister was born on St. Paddy’s, as well. Needless to say, she’s been given more shamrock paraphernalia than any other person I know.

I over-compensate by wearing copious amounts of green.

As has been the case for several years, I rarely get to celebrate these festivities with my family… I live 2 hours from the Atlantic Ocean, my sister is even closer to the Pacific, and my parents live in our mountain paradise somewhere in between. I’m actually pretty sure this shot from my senior year of high school (Kelli’s sweet sixteen!) was the last time I had that opportunity.

But geographic separation is no reason not to bake cake.

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January.

Generally quiet, cold, and frugal, it’s never been my favorite month. The anticipation of the holidays has passed, and the next break seems distant. But I’m still juuuuuuuuust close enough to December that I am still savoring the memories of a holiday baking project conducted in my parents’ kitchen.

Potica (pronounced po-tee-tza) is one of those recipes that my grandma made rarely but talked of often as a favorite family treat. It apparently is known by many names and varies dramatically depending on which eastern European recipe you happen to be following. To create this spiral nut bread, a sweet dough is rolled extremely thin and slathered with a mixture of butter, pecans, and sugar before it bakes into lovely loaves, fitting for a simple breakfast or a stunning gift.

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You might think that since Christmas has passed the holiday party recipes will be over. You would be incorrect.

I love the build-up to Christmas, and must confess, have never enjoyed the week between Christmas and New Years as much as the week prior. But! I have several days in Oklahoma with my mom’s side of the family, and it’s not really Oklahoma unless there are 15-20 people in my Grandma’s house cooking, eating, talking, and laughing for several days straight.


Party mix has been a holiday treat at my house and my grandma’s for as long as I can remember. Yes, I know that there are a gazillion recipes for this, many of which can be found on the sides of any Chex cereal box. (I assume that Chex stays in business entirely due to holiday party-goers and their demand for handfuls of this salty, toasted treat.)

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I promise, I don’t only make miniature pies. I made a full-size cheesecake just a few weeks ago, in fact. But Christmas cheesecakes must be mini.

As you can probably deduce from some recent posts, holiday baking is sort of a big deal at my house. Not cookies, so much, as is the case for many families, but there are certainly quite a few recipes that make their way down from the cupboard only in December and then hide away for the rest of the year. Toffee is mom’s signature project, and mini cheesecakes are dad’s.

So with a few modifications, I make them exactly the same way I remember them. Including the shunning of my food processor and using a trusty old bag and rolling pin to mash up cookies into crust.

It works just as well, plus it’s always sort of fun to mash things up with a wooden stick, right??

Anyone else?

No? Okay moving on.

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Since the day I decided to start this blog, I’ve wanted to share this recipe. But it turns out I only make it at Christmas, and making it at other times o year would feel like, I don’t know, cheating? I’ve been patient, but halfway through December, it’s FINALLY time.

In fact, I want to share it soooo much that I’m giving away one pound of this, my favorite holiday treat, to one of you! Yay contest!

We’ll get there. Promise. But first, some background.

My Grandma Emma has been making toffee now for decades. She taught my mom early in my parents’ marriage, and now mom has been making it ever since. I watched in awe, all through my childhood as my mom cooked batch after batch of toffee, broke it up into pieces, and carefully placed it in tins to give to our friends and family. And many a neighbor has been to our house so she could teach them to make this decadent candy.

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I haven’t really addressed the food-elephant in the room of this time of year.

Thanksgiving!

This year, the gathering around our Thanksgiving table was rather small, just little old Brad and me, in fact. But that didn’t stop us from preparing a full-scale Thanksgiving feast. There was cornbread stuffing (well, dressing), broccoli casserole, warm cream biscuits, mashed potatoes, a three-legged turkey with no wings, smooth brown gravy, mini pumpkin cream pies

and cranberry sauce.

For me, cranberry sauce as a kid was one of two things: a can-shaped block of cranberry plopped on a small serving dish, or my grandma’s favorite cranberry salad. I was never a particularly big fan of either. But as usual, Deb over at Smitten Kitchen piqued my curiosity to try a homemade, incredibly simple cranberry sauce, and I doubt I’ll ever go back. It’s tart and lovely and full of little orange peel surprises all the way through.

Cranberry and orange are two of my favorite holiday flavors, and when combined, they only improve one another. So instead of making a teeny tiny batch for our teeny tiny guest list, I opted for the full batch so that I could play with the leftovers.

But what to make?

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Get ready. This pie is about to rock your face off.

It may not topple King Pumpkin Pie at your Thanksgiving dinner this year.

But it might.

It was certainly the most coveted item at my Halloween party a few weeks ago (I told you I’d post recipes!), and it’s taking over dessert at my Thanksgiving, too.

My guilty secret is that I’m not really a big fan of pumpkin pie (don’t tell, um, anyone) and my preference for an autumn dessert typically involves apples and crisp and vanilla ice cream. I want to like it, but I also don’t want to put a whole bunch of effort into something that, well, doesn’t really thrill. But then I found this recipe, which seemed both lighter and fluffier than the standard Thanksgiving fare.

Instead of making a full size pie, I opted for 24 extremely small ones, each complete with crust and fresh whipped cream topping. They walk a line right between too little pie and promises to never eat pie again. Which would be a foolish promise.

And they make gorgeous little crusts. To be sure, this is THE longest part of this process, so if you’re short on time, perhaps a full size pie or those little graham cracker crusts are the answer for you. The gingersnap crust, however, is well worth the effort.

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