sweet & savory candied walnuts

As my plane touched down at JFK on Friday morning, I wasn’t sure if I’d really just spent 27 hours in Sacramento, or dreamed it. That’s what happens when you get on a plane to the west coast at 11:30am on a Wednesday, and find yourself back at your starting point less than two full days later. Standing under the walnut trees at Norene Ranches, though, I looked at the hundreds of acres before me, and realized it was worth the effort I made to get there. Continue reading »

a birthday, and on being thankful {coconut custard pie}

I looked in the mirror a few days ago and thought “holy shit” you’re going to turn 39 any day now. Then I glanced back, this time with a smile, and reminded myself I have survived 39 years on this planet. Sometimes the canvas of our lives seems like a Jackson Pollock painting. A spattering of events that require careful introspection so as to not miss the meaning in all those moments.

Yes, my 39 years thus far have had their share of doubt, uncertainty, and sadness. But, they have also been filled with more love than some people experience in a lifetime (and I’m counting on being here for at least 39 more, fingers crossed). The tough times etch their way into our souls like a branding iron fresh from the flames. At moments, I have felt tired and weary, quite sure I was ready to throw in the towel. The last 16 months have been particularly exhausting. It has felt like dog years in terms of my growing process, but I am still standing. I wake each morning with resolve, ready to do it all over again…ready to keep this promise to myself. Continue reading »

The First Thanksgiving {chocolate chess pie}

It's funny how I can feel so alone in a crowded room these days. This little place here in cyberspace, though—I never feel alone here. The sincere comments, emails and well-wishes over the last week have only reaffirmed what I've always believed—there are more good people in this world than we sometimes realize.

When I wrote a post asking friends to make a peanut butter pie to celebrate Mikey's life and the love for everyone in their own lives, I never expected the amazing domino effect that would follow. One woman wrote to tell me she has a peanut butter chocolate cupcake on the menu at her cafe in Buenos Aires in honor of Mikey, with the proceedings going to a charity that helps kids in need.

It reminded me of Eric Carle's story the The Tiny Seed, the way the love Mikey and I shared made it's way through the borders of Argentina into the heart of a woman neither of us knew. There are many more stories like this, and they make my heart swell with hope.

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spiced scented cranberry sauce {day 106}

Thanksgiving preparation has officially started, and I wasn't sure what to expect as I set out to make the cranberry sauce. I'd bought the cranberries last week, and there they sat in the fruit drawer of my fridge. I'd stare at them each time I opened the door, and think "maybe tomorrow the mood will strike to make it".

Well, Thanksgiving is only three days away, and this year I'm blinking in disbelief at how fast this fall has gone by. I go to bed each night thinking of how I found him when I heard he had collapsed. I replay this scene over in my mind before I go to sleep to remind myself that this is really my life, my reality.

I've written about being thankful, and I encourage the girls every day to remember how fortunate we are in spite of this sad truth. For now, my goal is a short term one—get through Thanksgiving. A reader who has also suffered this kind of loss, commented that the anticipation leading up to the "day", be it an anniversary, birthday, or holiday is sometimes harder than the day itself. I've hit two big "days" so far, and I believe that to be true too.

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day 104 {brown butter apple pie}

It's the seemingly little things that throttle me back into the harshness of my reality. Tonight I was folding laundry, and when I came to the dinner napkins there were only three of each pattern. Everything about a meal at home makes me ache for him, but the napkin thing especially tugs at my sense of balance.

I always bought napkins in sets of four.

Now I only need three on normal evenings.

That fourth, lonely napkin sits cast aside in the drawer until it is needed every third day. By the third day there are three mismatched napkins, longingly waiting to be put to good use.

Those mismatched napkins remind me everyday that there is a piece of our family missing. They gather in the draw, and seem to scream at me every time I open it—"he is never coming back".

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instant turkey pot pie

Last night, after the final dishes were washed, the floors cleaned and leftovers stowed away, I settled in with the Sunday Times. Yes, I’m quite behind in reading, considering this was a Thursday evening and we’re talking about the past Sunday’s paper.

In the real estate section was an article about high-end assisted living communities for retirees. Watching your parents age is one of the toughest parts of growing up. It has weighed very heavily on the Mr., being an only-child, as to how we can help, considering his parents don’t have the means to spend thousands of dollars a month on a retirement community. We have our own financial future to ponder and college for two to plan for, as well.

This leaves the Mr. and I are at a crossroads. In their early 80s and hearing-impaired, they are legally deaf, we realized earlier this year that they are reaching a point at which they can’t live on their own much longer. Thankfully a caring neighbor set them up with a social worker, who in turn got them signed up for City Meals on Wheels. Cooking was always something done out of necessity, and the fact that my mother-in-law's arthritis now makes it difficult for her to even lift a pot, this has been a vital service. One puzzle piece in place.

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crepes + a twist on apple pie

After my birthday breakfast at Clinton St. Baking Company, I wandered through the streets of Chinatown, Little Italy, Soho and Chelsea. The Mr. asked if he could take the day off to spend with me. My girlfriends asked what I would be up to, as well.

Thankfully, they all understood the best gift I could give myself was a day untethered, alone with my thoughts. Wandering, somewhat aimlessly, has always been something I enjoy doing in New York City—below 23rd street that is. Anything further uptown is too frenzied for me.

Perhaps it's because my parents spent a lot of time downtown. One side job I forgot to mention was blowing up balloons as a kid for the dart games at the San Gennaro feast. Strolling down Grand Street, those memories came flooding back.

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smashed brown potatoes + weekend brunch picks

Now that the Thanksgiving dishes are done, I have a few minutes to let you know my brunch picks for the weekend. The picture you’re looking at above is my version of hash browns using leftover mashed potatoes. Next week I’ll share my recipe for the best cranberry sauce ever. If you think the garnet-hued stuff is just for turkey day, this recipe will change your mind. I’m stocking up on cranberries and plan on canning some to give as holiday gifts this year.

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thanksgiving countdown

Today I found myself strolling through the Union Square Greenmarket after finally meeting Julia. It thrills me to meet twitter friends in real life, and is even more rewarding when they turn out to be as wonderful in person. I’d made note on my pass through the market before we met of a bread stand, Buon Pane. The sourdough baguettes looked beautiful and they were my back up plan if I didn’t feel up to walking to Balthazar to get the very necessary ingredient for my stuffing.

I got home, baguette in hand from Buon Pane (it was too cold and windy to walk to Soho) and diced it into cubes after cleaning up dinner (beef stew over hand-cut pappardelle if you’re interested). This will probably be my last post this week so I have ample time to finish up work and get started on the rest of my Thanksgiving prep work. Curious about the menu? Yeah, I thought so. The main course is turkey…of course (ha, get it, course? Imagine the poor Mr. who has to laugh at my jokes).

I don’t brine and I’m not into fancy glazes. Frankly, I’ve never had a dry bird by stuffing a heart attack’s load of butter under the skin and roasting on high heat for about 30 minutes, then reducing 75 degrees or so for the rest of the roasting time. I know you want exact temperatures but in all honesty in changes every year. I usually pull my Fannie Farmer cookbook off the shelf to gauge roasting temps and times. The turkey is just one thing I refuse to stress about and maybe that’s why it always comes out looking gorgeous and tasting phenomenal. As for the rest of the menu, there’ll be an antipasto platter, broccoli, smoky creamed kale, apple pie, candied nuts if I have time, and the rest of the edible cast goes something like this:

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caramel pecan pumpkin pie

Last week, I got it in my head that I wanted to a make a no-bake pumpkin pie. And I wanted one lighter and on the creamy side. Well, a few pies later and more time than any no-bake recipe should require, I learned an hour in the oven is well worth it and requires much less effort. Now, where do I begin? Should we talk about the flaky pie crust? The smooth, light as air creamy filling? Maybe the thin layer of caramel that makes my toes wiggle with excitement just typing the words?


I’ve searched years for the perfect pie crust recipe and posted my favorite one by Dorie Greenspan over the summer. The recipe for this pie is pretty much the same except I substituted rendered leaf lard for half the butter. I’ve been in love with the stuff ever since Melissa Clark wrote about it three years ago in the New York Times. Vegetarians beware, and same goes for the faint of heart when reading Clark’s description of the process for making it. My babysitter asked one day, and the poor thing nearly fainted when I told her. Once you get past that, though, you’re in for a treat. It really does make for the best piecrust. And Clark is right about that porky flavor. It’s a crazy taste sensation but for a girl who loves swine, mix it with caramel, pecans and pumpkin…I almost fell off the chair just thinking about it. In fact, there’s a bit of drool hanging from the corners of my mouth.

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