2012 in Photos & Here’s to the New Year!

2012 will be remembered as the year Matt & I bought a new camera.  And never put it down.

Baby ArtichokesMinnesota

Gargano DonkeyVesuvioPraianoGrand MaraisGrand MaraisRainbow

GardenWeeping WillowMatt CanoeingSnowy TreesCorn Stalks in DecemberFarm in SnowJasmine

Somehow all of that resulted in this…

Strawberries & PlumsThanks for coming along and I wish you a very happy, healthy, and delicious new year!


Rosemary & Aged Provolone Gougères

GougèresGenerous, caring, and nurturing-that’s me.

There was a very big football game for us folks in the Midwest this Sunday (or so I hear) and I was nice enough to make Matt a basket of warm Gougères to munch with his beer while watching the game.

Dream girlfriend, I know.  Totally selfless.

Reality?  I just want something to eat with my Champagne when I get home from work on New Year’s Eve, so I whipped up a batch of Gougères.  Also, I detest watching football so I thought I’d cook up something blog-worthy so I could type the afternoon away instead of being forced to sit in front of the TV, pretending to care about the most painfully boring sport in existence.

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Roasted Kabocha Squash & Sunchoke Soup

Kabocha Squash & Sunchoke Soup

It’s actually embarrassing how little cooking I’ve done the past few weeks.  I might have 2 pizza boxes out waiting for the trash man this very moment.

You can relate though, right?  I mean you spend all this time before the holidays baking and planning the BIG dinner without really thinking about all the little meals in between. You come home, starving, look in the fridge and realize every time you’ve run to the grocery store in the last week it was for butter, heavy cream, another bag of flour, powdered sugar…

…and the pizza man’s phone rings.

But now it’s time.  The Christmas cookies have been baked and (mostly) eaten, the big dinner is over.  It’s time to break the cycle, time to erase the pizza delivery number from your recent call history.  Time to get back to cooking real food.  It’s time for soup.

Today it’s a velvety Kabocha squash and sunchoke soup.  And it’s a good one.  Really, really good even. It’s creamy and comforting with warm spices and a little sweet, nutty, can’t-quite-put-your-finger-on-it-yumminess from the roasted sunchokes.

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Salted Caramel & Espresso Crumb Bars

Salted Caramel & Espresso Crumb Bars

You may have noticed, when it comes to dessert, I deal mainly in not-too-sweet, fruity, nutty, and spiced rather than ooey, gooey, and over-the-top.  Why?  Well, I’m a selfish baker and it’s what I like. Plus it’s easier to rationalize eating a jam-filled cookie at 8 am than it is to explain why you’ve got caramel dripping from your chin and a chocolate mustache first thing in the morning.

Today is different though.  I must’ve been hit upside the head with a bucket of Christmas spirit because I’ve decided to bake for tastes other than my own.  We’re going all chewy and gooey with these Salted Caramel & Espresso Crumb Bars.

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Apricot & Raspberry Jam Turnovers

Jam Turnover Cookies

Being an avid cookbook reader is nothing new for me.  As a kid, I used to pour over cookbooks for hours and hours.  The first half of my year was spent analyzing the loose pages of my mom’s Cut-Up Cake Party Book, trying to decide which cake shape would make for a totally epic July birthday party.  After my birthday had come and gone (and having the perfect cake had not suddenly made me the talk of the town), I got to switch my focus to my other favorite read, Ideals Christmas Cookbook.

This Christmas cookbook has always had a spell over me.  It is full of very fancy, gourmet recipes- “French-Style Appetizer”, “Ham Balls”, “Beef Tingler”.  It’s very, very 1970, but I would look at it and fantasize about the wonderful world of the adult holiday season: a never-ending string of dinner parties, cocktail dresses, waltzing, tiny appetizers, laughter echoing through glamorous ballrooms.

But this is real life and grown-up-dom isn’t exactly what I had imagined.  No waltzing and most of the dinner parties I attend, I’m wearing a long white apron and passing the tiny appetizers.  As for the off-the-shoulder black cocktail dress I bought at 19?  It hangs in the basement, still wearing its price tag.

It’s fine, though.  I probably wouldn’t even like being at the Ideals’ Christmas party anyway.  I’d be grossed out upon realizing “French-Style Appetizer” is actually just a piece of toast with a slice of Spam on top.  And knowing me, I’d probably spill the “Beef Tingler” all over my cute cocktail dress.

It’s fine because I have the one recipe from this book that stands the test of time, that you don’t need a party invite to enjoy.  Tender, warm, buttery jam-filled turnovers will never go out of vogue and will never stop being my favorite Christmas cookie.

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