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Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies

Studded with candied ginger and rolled in chunky sugar these chewy ginger molasses cookies taste like your favorite Christmas memory. Not like that first Christmas after your started college when your mom pointed out you gained the freshman 25. We don’t talk about that Christmas.

It’s me. Back again after an extended blog vacation. I’d like to tell you I’ve been incredibly productive and have spent these last few months fighting to make the world a better place. But honestly I got pregnant and have mostly been sleeping and eating cheese. As I contemplate what bringing a new life into this world in the midst of a pandemic will be like I’ve been thinking a lot about holiday traditions.

I grew up in a pretty “anything goes” American household. With no real ethnic background or connection to any countries of our ancestors my family was free to celebrate the holidays as we pleased with no regard for tradition. Sometimes we went on vacations for the holidays so we could get in the same fights in new locations. Occasionally we’d trek across the state to my paternal grandparents home were I was told at age 13 I’d be allowed to join the adult table for dinner. At age 13 I was not permitted to join the adult table at dinner citing a lack of space and spent the meal sulking at the kids table listening to the latest *NSYNC album on my bright blue CD Walkman pushing the jellied cranberry sauce back and forth across my plate. Sometimes we had parties and decorated cookies with friends from school that resulted in sprinkles being embedded into the carpet for the next decade. Sometimes my mother sought to break some sort of world record for how many Thanksgiving dishes you can add craisins to. Our house was always filled with interesting new baked goods at the holidays and a variety of recipe testing. Some hits and some misses, I’m talking to you pumpkin stuffed shells with salsa. Gross! Sometimes we pretended we were Catholic and went to holiday church services only to lament over how 1 hour could feel like 6 hours. Sometimes we had cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning and sometimes we had to watch as my mother encouraged the dogs to unwrap a dozen of their gifts under the tree with more enthusiasm for any other holiday activity than you can imagine. Sometimes my maternal grandmother would bring over one of those jello salads studded with canned fruit and marshmallows and packed in an old cool whip container. These salads could have been prepared fresh or may have been found in the back of her freezer originally made during the First Bush presidency. As children, my sister and I would alternate the yearly honor of being precariously hoisted up by my father to put the angel on the tree. This trust exercise always ended in tears and ultimately my father would put the angel on the tree himself. In my teens I practiced the tradition of disinterest and most holiday meals ended with me declaring I was no longer a member of our family. But ultimately I would shuffle out of my room in my pajamas to quietly join the dinner table. So rarely would my histrionics get in the way of me actually missing a meal.

After moving out of my parents house and going to college I worked in kitchens and in hospitality for over a decade. Often I was working on the holidays people usually spent with their families. The holidays were something for other people, for families in movies who wore matching sweaters and worked jobs where they got vacation time. For families that did the dishes together after meals and played touch football. Not for people like me.

Once I met my husband and his seemingly normal midwestern family I realized that there’s something comforting in creating traditions to share with the people you love each holiday. I’m still capable of a full Christmas meltdown but I’ve mellowed a bit. Now each holiday season my husband and I make a variety of seasonal cookies and sweets together to eat throughout the thanksgiving to Christmas stretch and also share with friends and family. He has some family recipes he’s been making for years and I’ve slowly created some of my own favorites. This year I’ve been working on the ultimate chewy ginger cookie to add to the mix. Crisp edges, chewy center, a Scandinavian inspired spice mixture, rolled in sparkly raw sugar, and with an absolute punch of ginger flavor. These are my new favorite cookie for the holiday season. I can’t wait until the little tadpole that’s been doing gymnastics inside my uterus for the last 14 weeks is old enough to enjoy these holiday traditions with us.

I hope you enjoy these cookies. Whether you’re banished to the kids table or home alone in sweatpants, they’re sure to add to the memories of your holiday season. Also, call your mother. She tried her best and she’s been able to block out all of your childhood holiday trauma. Just don’t call me if you add craisins to the cookies. I don’t want to know.

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Who You Calling “Cherry Frangipane” Tarte?

A little sweet. A little sour. And definitely a bit cheeky. This timeless combination of tart cherries and toasty almonds shines in this buttery and chewy simple to make tart.

So maybe life hasn’t been a bowl of cherries lately. Some of us are returning to work while some of us are muddling through our third month in quarantine. The world feels incredibly different that it did a few months ago. I am still, as always finding comfort in cooking. I like to think we’re pretty good at cooking “seasonally” in our house. But honestly I think with everything going on we may have missed spring. Usually in the spring I’d be blanching peas and roasting asparagus or sautéing morels. Instead I’ve been playing Punxsutawney Phil and have mostly lived on potatoes for the last few months while avoiding my widening shadow. As stone fruit season marches towards us and summer is on the horizon I feel my tastes shifting. As cherries and warm weather produce began appearing in the grocery stores I’m excited for the food season ahead. I love the combination of cherries and almonds and set off to make a frangipane tart that would satisfy a craving while not taking too long to make. Frangipane is a French word for a sugar, egg, and almond filling originally created in the 16th century and rumored to once have been scented with flower blossoms also named after an Italian aristocrat Marquis Frangipani. The more your know! You can find similar fillings in desserts like pithivier, king cakes, and almond croissants. This tart does have a few components but lucky for us I’m a lazy baker who hates dishes so we’re going to make the crust and filling in THE FOOD PROCESSOR!!!!!!! (Pretend I yelled that last line like Oprah.) Feel free to sub cherries for blueberries, apricots, or poached pears based on your tastes and seasonality. This tart is great warm or cold and wouldn’t mind if you served it with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a shot of amaretto. Cheers to this tart, Frangipani flowers, Italian aristocracy of the 16th century, and to the hopes this human groundhog will eventually emerge from its wintery hole (my bedroom).

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Buttermilk Vanilla Pound Cake

This rich buttery cake is a classic summer staple that pairs perfectly with seasonal fruit.

As a pastry chef sometimes I take the basics for granted. I’ve worked in kitchens that are always looking to reinvent the wheel with crazy techniques and unexpected flavors. With all that innovation the classics can get pushed to the wayside. Recently I’ve been revisiting baking basics with a new found appreciate for simple and delicious recipes. I’m really enjoying focusing on a few high quality ingredients and just letting the flavors shine. This pound cake has been a favorite of mine lately. Sturdy enough to slice and grill or cube and dip in chocolate fondue, but still incredibly moist. It mixes together in minutes and bakes in about an hour. A great base for strawberry shortcake, top this cake with macerated berries and a dollop of whipped cream. Wanna your dessert to be totally extra? Sure you do! Throw slices of this cake on the grill with halved peaches and apricots, then top everything with a drizzle of honey, pinch of Maldon salt, and serve with a really good quality vanilla ice cream. The main flavors in this cake are butter and eggs so definitely don’t scrimp on the good stuff. Have fun and remember when in doubt, eat dessert first.

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B*tchin’ Bolognese

No, I couldn’t think of a better name for this recipe. There are already 50,000 “Best Ever” or “Classic” bolognese recipes on the internet and I was feeling creatively lacking. But now that I have your attention.

If you’re still reading after my worst named recipe ever I applaud you. Your loyalty will soon be rewarded. With the sauce! What’s Bolognese you say? Bolognese is a hearty meat ragu originally from the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. Now you know. I’ve been making this bolognese for the better part of a decade. Some of the details have been tweaked over the years but its spirit remains the same. Sautéed mirepoix, ground meat, a little wine, tomato paste, stock, and a few herbs/spices. That and time is all it takes to make a fantastic bolognese. I am not Italian, and if you are don’t come for me. I know this isn’t the most authentic recipe in the world but if you say a few “Our Father’s” over the pot and add just a drop of tears from the pope I think it tastes pretty close. And strangely like guilt. Maybe I should rename this “Blasphemy Bolognese”. Maybe not. I prefer to make this recipe in a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven and let it simmer for a few hours on the stove. If you don’t have the time to stand vigil with a pot of sauce for 4+ hours that’s ok. You can make this recipe in an instant pot. After adding the liquid and herbs place the lid on and select the slow cook on low setting for 6 hours or until you say it’s ready. That’s the thing about bolognese and time. Technically it’s cooked after the meat isn’t raw anymore. You can simmer it on low for 8 hours, adding water occasionally if it evaporators too much and the texture will be so soft and flavorful. It’ll cling to your pasta like it’s giving it a warm hug. Or you can cook it for 2 hours until it looks like a typical canned ragu and it’s still really good. Much like soups and chili I think bolognese is actually best the day after it’s been made so get ready for leftovers. You can also freeze a quart of leftover sauce for another day. Have fun making this recipe your own. Best of luck. “Pasta be with you.”

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Pillowy Potato Rolls

Reminiscent of those nostalgic little rolls you’d find in a certain orange bag this recipe for pillowy-soft bread pulls apart like cotton candy and tastes like what I imagine bread is heaven does. You can lay your head down and take a carby nap on their surface, but really I recommend eating them.

Civilizations have been built on bread, gone to war for bread, and have survived because of access to bread. I truly believe there’s something imprinted on human DNA that longs for and is comforted by this ancient staple. Smelling fresh baking bread triggers and excitement in me that is completely unrivaled. It’s better than getting a surprise package in the mail, better than a perfect 72 degree day with warm sunshine but not enough to burn you, it’s better than wearing a new cardigan for the first time when it still smells like the expensive store you bought it from. It’s the stuff on which the most holy of foods, the sandwich is built upon. And so I offer up to you my most prized bread recipe. (Sorry sourdough lovers, we’re using dry yeast in it. Because it’s just more consistent and these puppies need stability and a strong father figure.) This recipe is amazingly versatile. You can use plain boiled potatoes that have been mashed up, the inside of baked potatoes, sweet potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, and of course leftover mashed potatoes riddled with butter and sour cream. You can use cooled starchy potato water for hydration, tap water, milk, and even buttermilk. I’ve made this recipe so many times and have tweaked it until it’s absolutely fail-proof. This dough can be used to make cinnamon rolls, garlic knots, hamburger buns, or shaped into a loaf. I hope you enjoy shoving these rolls into your mouth until your vision blurs and you’re breathing so heavy you begin to perspire. And I hope when you do, your sweat smells of sweet sweet bread so that you can attract a mate who enjoys bread as much as I do.

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Citrusy Cereal Cake Donuts

These easy to make baked donuts are bursting with so much citrus flavor they’ll brighten even the gloomiest of breakfasts.

I once worked at a donut shop for a grand total of five hours. It was an absolute nightmare on multiple levels and took a week to wash the fryer smell out of my hair. Luckily these donuts are baked and not fried and are made with love instead of health code violations. I didn’t want to look at another donut after that, let alone eat one. But time has passed and I’ve softened to the idea. Honesty I’m all about cake for breakfast, why was I punishing my taste buds by not eating donuts? During quarantine all rules about diets have been thrown out the window. But hey, with a punch of vitamin C you can avoid scurvy while munching on breakfast cakes right? Maybe? Don’t quote me on that. This recipe comes together in minutes and is totally kid friendly with the bulk of the work in the whisking. Your tiny tots or tiny terrorists will have a great time dipping donuts in creamy icing and topping them with their favorite cereal. Have fun and be creative. You can use different cereals or top these babies with sprinkles, coconut flakes, or whatever your heart desires. I clearly disagree with Apu from the Simpsons sprinkle philosophy; a mounds bar could be a sprinkle, a twizzler could be a sprinkle, a jolly rancher could be a sprinkle. This is Shangri-la and anything can be a sprinkle. Go forth Homers of this world and decorate your donuts!

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Stimulus Check Cheesecake

With 32 ounces of cream cheese and 7 eggs this recipe might just break the bank. But it’s so rich and creamy I promise it’s worth it the splurge!

Let me begin by explaining that like many women I have a serious cheesecake obsession. I like cheap freezer cheesecake, giant chain restaurant cheesecake, those cheesecake sampler platters, and of course real deal rich and creamy homemade cheesecake. Making a good cheesecake at home is no joke and with all the steps and the water bath most of the time we just don’t want to bother. I’m telling you this is the easiest/best tasting cheesecake that I’ve ever made and I did not use a water bath. I’ve had great luck with this recipe and it’s definitely my go-to from here on out. This cheesecake is so rich I prefer serving it plain rather that globing on a million toppings, but I’m not here to judge. The cooking method helps prevent cracking but honestly a cracked cheesecake is just as delicious so no worries if you don’t have the same luck every time. My secret weapon for making such a great tall cheesecake is definitely this pan. It’s not required but it’s my absolute favorite. I hope you enjoy this cheesecake as much as I do and that you get to share it with friends and family or enjoy eating it alone in your pajamas right from the pan.

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Eggs in Purgatory

Quarantine got you feeling like you’re in your own version of purgatory? This Italian breakfast or late night snack is a comfort food favorite and oh-so-easy to make!

I have been making a version of this dish for years and always referred to it as Shakshouka. Shakshouka being eggs cooked in a spicy tomato sauce with Middle Eastern flavors of cumin, paprika, and harissa. With a little digging I realized I had been making the Napoleon version of this dish called Uova in Purgatorio or Eggs in Purgatory. Both versions are great but I prefer the Italian one and find it’s easy to use an already Italian seasoned leftover pasta sauce to make this. One of my favorite things about Italian cooking is the ingenuity of using what you have and not sweating the small stuff when making a dish. Wanna add capers or sprinkle with crispy breadcrumbs? Do it! Don’t eat dairy or want to use Parmesan instead of goat cheese? Do it! This dish is perfect after an evening of drinking or a morning hangover cure-all if you’re having “that kind” of quarantine. This recipe is great for two but multiplies like a dream. Simply use a larger skillet, a bit more sauce, or drop in a few more eggs depending on your needs. If you’re a maverick just heat up some tomato sauce in a skillet, drop a few eggs in the pan, top with a lid, and cook for a few minutes until the egg whites set. Really it’s that simple. If you need a little hand holding and recipe romance I’m here for you with all the steps to success below. Ciao!

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Sourdough Cornmeal Waffles with Blueberry & Whiskey Compote

Top them with butter and syrup or drown them along with your quarantine sorrows in a whiskey laden blueberry sauce. These cornmeal waffles will be the talk of the table at your next breakfast.

Since everyone in the universe has been stress baking sourdough bread and dry yeast is worth its weight in gold we’re all trying to find creative ways to use our discarded sourdough after a feeding. Crispy, lacy, and slightly tangy these waffles are the perfect use for your discarded sourdough starter. The blueberry compote complements the nutty notes of the corn but is also fantastic poured over a bowl of vanilla ice cream. If you’re feeling extra ambitious or have picky eaters I love setting up a waffle bar with a variety of fun toppings like fruit, sauces, nuts, whipped cream, and chocolate chips in little bowls. It’s an easy way to customize your breakfast experience. With only a minimal amount of sugar in the recipe these are also the perfect waffle to pair with chicken and waffles. Want to go that extra step to make a savory waffle? Add 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese and a hand full of chopped chives to the batter. Have fun creating these in your home!

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Punjabi-Style Potato Samosas

If you’re interested in spending the day making a delicious fried snack that tastes as good fresh from the pot as it does when you inevitable eat a handful from the refrigerator in your underwear as a late night snack then let me introduce you to the samosa!

I am by no means an expert on Indian cooking. I’m a white girl from a Florida beach town. If anything I should be an expert on what flavor Mountain Dew to pair with your belly button piercing. But I was lucky to be shown how to make Samosas from someone with much more credibility than I. This is not her recipe but it definitely has her spirit. India is an incredibly food diverse country with different geographical regions, climates, and over 22 official languages spoken. This means the food varies a lot by region. These samosas are in the Punjabi-style (Punjabi being a northern state of India that boarders Pakistan.) Samosas are definitely a bit of a labor intensive treat but they’re totally worth it. Samosas can be stuffed with all types of filling including meat, but my favorite are the vegetarian ones. These tasty little pockets of gold are filled with spiced potatoes and peas and fried until golden. Pair them with your favorite chutney or dip them in raita. This recipe has a few specialty ingredients including ajwain seeds and amchur powder. The ingredients give the samosas great flavor but if you can’t find them I’ve listed some modifications below.

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