A few weekends ago, I hopped in the car and drove and hour and a half south, just across the Mason Dixon, to spend warm fall Saturday with my grandma in Frederick, MD. We’ve fallen into a little bit of routine when we decide to traipse up down Market Street. There’s our go-to shops, like Relish, and of course, our go-to restaurant, La Paz. Our go-to order appetizer is queso, my go-to entrée is Marcie’s Choice salad and our go-to drink is obviously a margarita, hold my salt, please. But this time, we had no agenda, no timeframe. We still hit our usuals, but we had the whole day to wander, and that’s exactly what we did. At one point, we walked by a local chocolatier, Perfect Truffle. We headed inside, both ordering one dark chocolate salted caramel. Then we walked outside, across the street, and directly into another chocolatier, The Candy Kitchen. We both ordered one milk chocolate salted caramel. We turned it into a little competition – who on Market had the best salted caramel? To be honest, both were delicious, but wildly different. One was the oozy caramel. When I bit through the hard chocolate exterior, the caramel inside just melted on my tongue. The other was chewy, almost hard. The kind that gives your jaw a workout as you eat it.
The past week and a half has been kind of a lot. It’s been emotional and trying and hectic, which in turn has just drained me (a serious introvert) of all my (very extroverted) energy. But then Sunday came around, and I had a bit of respite.
Skyler woke up early and headed out to hunting camp with a few of his buddies, leaving me at home with our three snuggly little pets and no plans of any kind. And although I gave him a hard time about leaving, if I’m being honest, it was just what I needed. An entire day to be at home, with myself, and just be. I needed to press pause on life, enjoy the quiet and recharge. That reset button looks different for everyone, but for me, it meant spending a whole lot of time in our kitchen.
After a quick trip to the grocery store (in my pajamas, because it was my day and who cares), I whipped up a batch of cappuccino biscotti, and then I set my sights on dinner: sweet potato gnocchi with brown butter and sage.
I’ve never been one to wait until Thanksgiving has passed to begin spreading Christmas cheer. In fact, I started my Christmas shopping in September. Last weekend, I pulled out the boxes of holiday decor from the basement and started sprinkling bits of red, green and gold around the house. And let’s be honest, Hallmark’s Christmas movies have been playing on my TV for a solid month. I love Christmas almost as much as I love Octobers.
When the temperatures begin to dip and the leaves float from the tree tops to the earth’s floor. When the floral sundresses are traded in for plaids and oversized knit sweaters. When pool parties on Saturdays turn into football get-togethers on Sundays. When I start ordering my coffee hot, rather than iced. That is my favorite time. Fall.
And when the cooler weather forces me inside, rather than allows me to soak up every possible sun ray, I embrace the opportunity to spend some of that time in the kitchen, a place that often gets ignored in the summertime.
Today’s baking adventure came in the form of banana bread. Pure and simple, homemade and comforting. (Side note: A really cool thing about being an adult is already having all of the ingredients you need to whip up some baked goods. Including extra brown bananas.)
Like most Fridays this summer, I woke up slowly. The sun slowly crept through the windows with the sounds of the world (and my little family) coming to life outside. It’s my favorite thing about mornings – the calm and quiet that permeates the early hours.
But I also woke up really excited. I planned to treat myself to a manicure and pedicure, knock out a few to-dos from our seemingly never-ending list and head to the rehearsal dinner of two of our favorite people at one of my favorite restaurants. And… I was going to make my very first galette.
I can’t say if it’s the crisp cool that has been slowly invading the foggy mornings around here, or if it’s just because fall has been on my mind a lot lately, but it’s definitely something. I can’t put my finger on why, but I have been completely consumed with the idea of baking a galette. (Truth be told, I’ve never even tasted a single bite of a galette, but still, I’ve been hellbent on making one of my own.)
The defining factor of a galette is that it’s a free-form pastry, baked without the stability of a pie pan or tart ring. The dough is rolled out flat, then folded around the filling. But the true appeal of a galette lies in its unsophistication. It can be anything you want, but as long as you’ve used good fruit or vegetables for the filling and real butter for the dough, it will bake up into something golden brown and utterly gorgeous, the kind of pastry you’re excited to whip up anytime.
Have you ever watched House Hunters or Fixer Upper or any other house hunting/home renovation show? (Of course you have, let’s be honest.) My favorite thing about these shows, aside from the interior design and my overrated love of shiplap, is the way that these home owners/house hunters walk into this process with a seemingly impossible laundry list of must-haves, and somehow, end up with everything that they wanted.
And yesterday, that’s exactly how I felt about lunch.
Sports and I don’t really go hand in hand. In high school, I played field hockey and I really enjoyed it. But I was terrible. I also tried my hand at track and field, and even basketball (and gymnastics and figure skating) when I was young. Again, terrible.
If you asked me, I’d tell you that we don’t have a dishwasher. If you asked Skyler, he’d point to me and say, “We sure do!” But the fact remains that we are dishwasher-less. While I certainly don’t mind cleaning our dishes by hand, to minimize the daily mess in our kitchen, I’ve recently been seeking out recipes that will allow me to make flavorful meals, while using as few pots and pans as possible.
When I think about Christmas cookies, I think of the magnificent and decorative almond-flavored cookie-press cookies my great-grandmother used to make. Shaped like trees or candy canes, in one color or many, they were tradition. Every Christmas. Cookie-press cookies. It was like clockwork. Admittedly, I’ve tried a few times over the years to recreate her infamous treats, but to no avail. I just can’t seem to mimic her recipe.
Since we’ve moved into our new home two months ago, we’ve rarely had a moment to sit down and soak in this feeling of being homeowners. Together, we’ve traveled to Philadelphia, Nashville, Maryland and Las Vegas. Separately, we’ve covered 1500 miles across the state of Texas, and some time in State College. We’ve been busy, to say the least. Don’t get me wrong, being busy is something I love – I’m happy to see as much of this world as I can. But as someone who is innately and extraordinarily introverted, I need some time to be relaxed and unwind. Some time to be home.
From the time I was little, I’ve enjoyed being in the kitchen. I remember making cookies in various holiday shapes and dousing them in a sickeningly sweet icing. The first dish I ever really mastered was a simple salmon dinner, and I made it as often as I could. During every family gathering my family has ever held in Maryland, I’ve been recruited to add my special touch to the overflowing pot of mashed potatoes on the stove. Just a few years ago, I made one heck of a blueberry pie, and I still daydream about it sometimes.
So, when I found myself with a few plan-free hours, and after all of my cookware had finally been unpacked, I headed into the kitchen, armed with a recipe for homemade pecan sandies. (At least Facebook was good for something during this tumultuous and drama-filled election week, right?)
Ingredients: 2 c. flour / 2 sticks salted butter, room temperature / 1 egg / 1/2 c. sugar / 2 tsp. vanilla / 1 tsp. salt / 1 tsp. baking soda / 1 c. pecans, chopped (plus a few whole to top each cookie)
Directions: Preheat oven to 350˚F, and line cookie sheets with parchment paper. / Mix together sugar, egg, butter and vanilla until creamy. / Separately, combine flour, salt and baking soda. / Slowly add dry ingredients to wet mixture until combined. / Fold chopped pecans into batter. / Scoop dough onto cookie sheet, topping with a whole pecan. / Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until golden. / Serve immediately with a cup of piping hot coffee. If that’s your thing.