Truffles, Two Ways

chocolate truffles & tartufi


Ah, Valentine’s Day, the most polarizing holiday on the calendar. I was tempted to evade the topic. While I no longer mark the holiday in my planner with squiggly red hearts and pink balloons like I did as a child, I can’t say I’m a vehement opponent. I see myself as more of a flip flopper; my feelings vis-à-vis V-Day change from one year to another and are typically dictated by my mood.

Love’s got nothing to do with it. I distinctly remember my first year of college, when all was fresh and new and I found it necessary to celebrate every holiday with naïve gusto with new friends in a new environment. I made up bags of candy and wore black and orange on Halloween. I decked my dorm out in lights, ribbons and intricate, handmade construction paper decorations as soon as I returned from Thanksgiving. And Valentine’s Day followed suit. I handed out thoughtful little, 2×3 inch cards to single friends and dug out a red floral shirt from my otherwise monochrome closet. How spirited I was!

My cynicism has climbed exponentially since then. Another year during college, I had so many exams for which to study that I matched my Valentine’s Day outlook to my mood, donning all black to silently castigate any silly holiday that could possibly break my concentration. I was an intellectual, after all! All I needed was a beret on my head and a poetry slam to attend.

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Let the Fanfare Begin

world peace cookies


Today is December 1st and, for me, the start of the holiday season. Every year through high school and college, I woke up on the Friday after Thanksgiving at 3 am. With the previous evening’s meal barely digested, I threw on my red and black and hightailed it to my job at Staples. There, I was routinely greeted by a line of wide-awake yet far from friendly electronics mavens and eBay aficionados, staring me down as if I had the authority to let all of them in early. There was something very satisfying about locking the door behind me and smiling at the vultures who still had an hour to stew. For some, this tradition ushers in the holiday season, but I subscribe to the Nordstrom philosophy. Can I finish the season of “thanks” before I jump into the season of “give-me?”

Now, I am no Scrooge. When December rolls around, I am ready for holiday cheer. Today, if I walk into a store to find a bell-ringing, velour-suited Santa, I’ll keep my cool. If I hear fa-la-la-la-las on the radio, I’ll turn it up, and I’ll even sing along. And at 22, I will proudly announce that I still enjoy watching “The 25 Days of Christmas” on ABC Family, especially Santa Claus is Coming to Town (it’s a classic!). Judge away. The harvest season is over. My beloved Macouns are becoming mealy. The trees are bare. I can move on.

And I can talk about these cookies.

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Portland Part II: The Knick Knacks

Portland, ME is a Pajama Jean kind of town. It’s a Pajama Jean town, because it’s a bakery town, a specialty food town, a fine dining town, a fresh produce town and a bagel town. You get the idea. It’s a place where you wonder who makes you more angry: that guy who just got the last Sicilian slab at Micucci Grocery or the sadistic jerk who decided to fasten pants with buttons and zippers. Either way, a weekend in Portland is always bound to be a delicious journey. Although my mom and I planned our girls’ weekend around our Fore Street reservation, some of our most memorable bites were enjoyed in-between meals.


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Seasonal Confusion

caramel popcorn with chocolate and peanuts

It’s still fall, right? Good, because the onslaught of cooler weather, the nor’easter that prematurely ripped the colored leaves off the trees, and the Christmas-themed jewelry and department store advertisements that started running on Halloween (yes, October 31st), were starting to confuse me. Like Spring, Fall in New England is woefully short, but this year, forces of both the meteorological and commercial kind seem to be speeding it along even more than is normal. Although Fall is my favorite season, this rush hasn’t bothered me too much in the past. Snapshots of snow and the holidays to come signaled that winter break was not so far away and that I’d be back in my kitchen at home shortly.

This year, though, my mind is in a better place. The pressure of academia hasn’t eclipsed my days, and I have been trying to rekindle old traditions and forge some new ones. I went on an apple orchard crawl, during which I visited eight orchards to make up for my absence in the past few years. I made a treat so cutesy for Halloween, you would think it was the work of someone else. And then I made this caramel corn. Although caramel popcorn can be eaten and gifted any time of the year, I see it as intrinsically autumnal. It reminds me of county fairs and Halloween. It’s indulgent and comforting, so it’s well suited for cooler weather, but it lacks the requisite spice and flavors that would give it winter holiday flair.

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An Impromptu Halloween Treat


I have absolutely no willpower. We’re not talking about food here. In between my baking sprees and food crawls come many a salad, servings of beans, and glugs of olive oil. A true test of my ability to just say “no,” though, comes when I walk into the mecca of home cooking that is Williams-Sonoma, the outlet. It’s a place where signs advertising “50% off all All-Clad cookware” read more like love notes from a secret admirer; where walls of gadgets cry out, “I need you more than you need me;” and where porcelain wares sit empty on shelves, calling to be filled with ladles of soup, slices of cheesy potatoes, and scoops of ice cream. I mean, I almost bought a $50 tagine a couple of months ago that I really can’t afford. But it was so pretty. And hand-made and painted in Tunisia…

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A Liddabit for the Sweet Tooth


Now that I’ve been writing for this blog for over a month, it’s probably time that I get this out in the open. I guess I’m kind of an ingredient snob. Ok, I don’t like the word “snob.” I’m just very conscious of the ingredients present in the foods I buy and make. I grew up eating very fresh food. We skimped on other “less important” things in order to make meals that were, well, real.

When home cooked meals were swapped for dining hall duds (thank God that’s over), I really started paying attention to the quality of all things edible. I’m really not radical or preachy (although, my friends might beg to differ). Sure, I pass on preservative-packed supermarket slices of bread and cheese, but I also haven’t started substituting agave for corn syrup in the few dessert recipes that call for it. By subscribing to this philosophy, I feel like every bite I take is worthwhile and, frankly, more tasty.

For years, my candy consumption was limited to a few delicious goodies: Fran’s sea salt caramels, Green and Black bars, and anything homemade, of course. And when Halloween came around, I rarely indulged in those fun-sized artificial nuggets that I passed out. Then, I heard about Liddabit Sweets, a company, or should I say, a two-woman operation, working out of Brooklyn and selling creative confections and offering new takes on classic candies. Everything is scratch-made by pastry chefs Jen and Liz (along with a VERY small staff), and ingredients are organic when possible. I checked out their website and fell into a sugar comma before even having purchased and tasted anything.

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A Sweet and Salty Surprise (in more ways than one)

A Sweet and Salty Surprise (in more ways than one)

sweet and salty cake

I want to keep this blog current, writing about recipes shortly after they’ve been made and enjoyed. I think writing is more authentic that way. But, you see, this particular cake was so indulgently far from the quotidian dessert that it is most definitely first post worthy, even if it was made in February when I apparently didn’t know how to use a camera.

Sometimes, food can inspire journeys. I fit squarely among the “live to eat-ers,” planning vacations around food destinations since I was twelve. I’d much rather stand in line for two hours to get into a diner in San Francisco than take the ferry to Alcatraz. When I want French toast, informational tours can wait. If any food item can inspire a journey, it’s this cake. This outrageously decadent, time-consuming, sophisticated but playful cake.

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