“I spent the afternoon in the drawing-room of the flat. I read a little – there were some very serious American magazines, not like the ones Miss Marcy had. But most of the time, I just thought. And what I thought about most was luxury. I had never realized before that it is more than just having things; it makes the very air feel different. And I felt different, breathing that air: relaxed, lazy, still sad but with the edge taken off the sadness. Perhaps the effect wears off in time, or perhaps you don’t notice it if you are born into it, but it does seem to me that the climate of richness must always be a little dulling to the senses. Perhaps it takes the edge off joy as well as off sorrow.” – Dodie Smith, I Capture the Castle


I cruised through reading I Capture the Castle this week – it was charming and quirky, and I highly recommend it. The above lines from the book have been haunting me the last two days, as I ponder joy and sorrow, too much and not enough. Does convinience and comfort take away from the real pleasures and purposes of life? This has absolutely nothing to do with sparkling amethyst granitas, so I will clumsily tie together my inner musings with this delicious, slushy drink that I also made this week. It is from the pages of Pretty Simple Cooking, a new cookbook from Alex and Sonja Overhiser (or, otherwise known as A Couple Cooks). I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Sonja and Alex for awhile now – they visit Minneapolis a few times a year, and we’ve had some epic get togethers (seven hour brunches and Faux Martha pizza parties, to name a few). Their new book is lovely, filled with recipes that ‘balance beautiful, creative recipes with accessible concepts.” I highly recommend checking it out.

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I was recently on Twin Cities Live and made the chocolate bars pictured. They are based on a recipe from my cookbook: chocolate brownie base, buttercream filling, then topped off with chocolate ganache. Indulgent, but delicious. I made them for Valentine’s day with edible rose petals, which made them pretty and terribly precious, but if you’re not into that sort of thing, plain tops will work just fine. You can watch the video of me making them here.

I’ll have some chocolate hazelnut bars for you later this week, and hopefully the lemon pull-apart bread I had on Instagram that so many of you asked about. I’m still tweaking that recipe just a bit. And the rectangle cake, too! So many recipes, so little time.

I hope your weekend is full of good things. I am currently watching the snow fall down and trying not to think of my parents headed to the east coast for weeks on end while I pine for spring. I did start reading I Capture the Castle yesterday and can’t put it down; it’s delightful. xx

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It took me a long time to feel confident making pies. I never actually made one until my late twenties, as they had seemed so daunting and time consuming; so much work for something that had such a high percentage of not turning out right. My first attempt actually was incredible: I made a perfect apple pie. The crust was flaky and golden brown, the filling perfectly cooked, with apples soft but not mushy. I remember bringing it to my Grandma’s house, and she raved and raved about it (she may have mentioned it was better than the pie my mom made) and I’m pretty sure she ate the rest of it for dinner that night. Brimming with confidence, I made another pie the next day: same recipe, same apples, same kitchen equipment, and alas, it was a total disaster.

I’ve discovered I often have beginners luck with baking, only to completely mess up whatever I am making the next time I go to bake it. I think it’s the grace of the kitchen gods: they know of my love and need for baking, but also my lack of patience and follow through. I’m notorious on giving up on something if I don’t get it right away. They let me succeed once, giving me false confidence of my abilities, and then the next several times I just can’t get it right. I know I can make a pie, and make it well, but now I have to work for it. This then triggers my OCD and anxiety (both of which I’ve been diagnosed with), and now I cannot rest until I get it right again. It’s actually maddening, but after weeks and months of testing a recipe, I walk away pleased with my outcome, and confident about sharing it with others. It’s rather a daunting process (I should have just gone to pastry school?) but I’ve always learn best from my mistakes, and also repeating something over and over until I really understand it.

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‘I’m all over the place, up and down, scattered, withdrawing, trying to find some elusive sense of serenity.’
‘The world can’t give that serenity. The world can’t give us peace. We can only find it in our hearts.’
‘I hate that.’
‘I know. But the good news is that by the same token, the world can’t take it away.’
Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird

I come to you with a recipe for turnovers filled with jam and cream cheese filling. I love puff pastry filled with fresh fruit, but, well, it’s January.

I often turn to jam when all my summer berries are not in season. I have mixed feelings about jam in baked goods; often it’s just too sweet, and then I regret using it. Here I’ve paired it with a tangy cream cheese filling, which balances the sweetness. I also try to use jams with a bitter or tart edge; orange marmalade and blackberry jam are two favorites. The combination of the flaky, buttery pastry, tart-but-sweet jam, tangy cream cheese, and a crunchy, sugary top is a great idea on a bitter, cold winter morning.

(Also, I couldn’t quite find words this morning to how I was feeling, but then remembered I already had said them here.)

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So far, I’ve spent most of January freezing. It’s not that unusual for me to be constantly cold, but here in Minnesota we’ve had a long string of below zero days, which means I’m wearing several pairs of socks and shivering under blankets. I’ve done quite a bit of baking this month, and hope to have more recipes for you soon. In the meantime, here’s a list of things I’ve been enjoying.

Elizabeth by Sarah Bradford – I often make a quick stop at my local thrift store and browse the books; there’s usually a treasure or two tucked away in there. I picked up this book last week and have been reading it before bed (trying to stay away from Twitter after 9pm) and have been enjoying it.

Ella and Louis Again – Somehow I missed this! I am in love with their first duet album, and have spent countless hours singing along to it. I’ve been listening to this all week.

I’m working my way through Parks and Rec again, and have been laughing so much. Here’s the best of Ron Swanson.

It was just Martin Luther King Jr. day. It’s still not too late to read his leader from Birmingham Jail.

The greatest dance number ever filmed (according to Fred Astaire).

The Onion’s food videos are rather funny.

Why you should care about Bob Newhart.

How the 25 greatest stories ever told would be ruined by technology.

The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins, sung by Leonard Nimoy

Spatula City

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A month ago I got to take a quick trip to New York City, and hang out at the FeedFeed studio. They had a cookie exchange (sponsored by Bob’s Red Mill) and I brought a long some of my pan-banging chocolate chip cookies to share. I had a great time – there were a lot of other food bloggers there that I had wanted to meet forever and finally got to, and also met a lot of lovely bloggers that were new to me. Everyone brought cookies to exchange, and there were several demonstrations (including my pan-banging technique), a cookie decorating station, a wreath making station, and tons of great food. My husband got to tag along as well (yay, frequent flyer miles!) and we spent a total of 40 hours in NYC – mostly just walking around neighborhoods and eating great food.

Thank you so much FeedFeed and Bob’s Red Mill! You can find the recipe to my cookies here.

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Somehow we are already on the front steps of 2018. The door is open, and another January welcomes us in with a glorious smile, reassuring those waiting out in the cold that right inside, just through that open door, things will be better. The new year will bring hope, and change. So we resolve to evolve, and put our faith in the dropping of a ball, a countdown from ten, and then number one. Two weeks in, however, we realize it’s still all the same, January is December, minus the Christmas tree. The list of resolutions gets shoved in a drawer, we turn on the news and are still groaning, trying to find our voice. There was no wizardry to wash away the sins of the previous year. We remember about the importance of time, and hard work, and continuing to keep at something even though no one is watching.

But although the New Year doesn’t contain magic, it’s a good idea to make a cake at the end of it all anyway. We can still celebrate the previous twelve months: observe how far we’ve come, make plans for the coming days, or just share time, enjoying ice cream, with those we spend our days. And while I walk into this next month knowing everything is not new and fresh, I will still look around for hope, and change, and progress, and help propel those things forward as best I can.


I’ve teamed up with Land O’Lakes for a few posts over the rest of the year. I’ve been a big fan of their butter for years; I love how my baked goods turn out with it, and as they are a Minnesota-based company, it seemed like a natural fit. I’m happy to report that the Land O Lakes® Heavy Whipping Cream is delicious, too – here it’s used in the chocolate no-churn ice cream, but I also use it in whipped cream, cheesecake, and any other application, both sweet and savory, where I need heavy cream.

I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.

-Neil Gaiman

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(The text for this post is taken from an old post with no recipe. I was feeling similar this year, and decided to share it again, along with a recipe.)

I spent ten Christmas Eves in a row working various retail jobs, everything from barista to Barnes and Noble. The holiday season started the day after Thanksgiving, with mile long lines continuing to Christmas Eve at 4pm, when the store gates finally clanged shut and stayed that way for one whole day. Work shifts in December were spent answering the constantly ringing phone, running around the store trying to find would-be presents, standing at the cash register hour upon hour swiping credit cards, dreading every 30 minutes when Paul McCartney’s Wonderful Christmastime would come on again, and cleaning up gigantic messes left by frantic customers. Then, at last, the night before Christmas, when the store gate was shut (although often people were begging outside it: please, can I buy just 1 pound of coffee? I just need one more book for my sister-in-law, will you let me in?) all the employees would feel that smack of exhaustion, the same one that comes at the end of finals week, when you are finally driving home for spring break. It would take hours to clean the store, and almost everyone could feel a serious cold coming on. Someone would order a pizza, and we’d munch in silence before taking off to our various celebrations, usually arriving sneezing and crazy-eyed, just wanting to crash into a bed.

I’ve now had ten years off on Christmas Eve. It is spent at home, quietly listening to holiday music, baking a batch of cookies, snuggling with my little ones watching White Christmas, and heading to my parent’s house early for festivities. I have a no-shopping on Christmas Eve rule for myself, but I must admit I feel something lacking each year without the craziness. The month of December doesn’t feel as sparkly and exciting to me without all the noise, the crowds of people, Mariah Carey singing Christmas songs through loud speakers all day long, racing up and down stairs trying to find books for exasperated customers. The thing I didn’t want to make the holiday about has now ended up defining the holiday to me. Those formative years of my teens and twenties, working hard all December long now shape how I need Christmas to feel to me as an adult. I can’t escape that, somehow.

I remind myself each year that just because something feels a certain way, it doesn’t mean that’s how it actually is. This is usually easier said than done. As a parent, I now determine how the holiday will look for my children. I start traditions and routine both for enjoyment and for recognition. I see my kids feeling so many things, and getting swept up in what makes Christmas so exciting. But my mission as a caretaker is more than that. It’s to teach what the reason behind this month long, money-spending, jingle-belling really is. At the very core, it’s to look to others, to give with no expectation of getting anything in return, and to remember that we all belong to each other, all of us, across this spinning round snow globe that’s so easily shaken. No matter how the actual days of December end up shaping my two little ones, I want them to still always be able reach past how they feel, and know, deep down, the joy and hope of Christmas, and their capacity to bring it everywhere they go. “If the world seems cold to you, kindle fires to warm it.” —Lucy Larcom

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If you follow along on Instagram, you know I’ve been working on a ginger-molasses version of my pan-banging cookies. I finally have the recipe for you, although I’m going to be completely honest – I’m so nervous to share it! I’m terrified you won’t love them as much as the chocolate chip version, so I’ve been obsessively  making them trying to get everything just right. I also know that most everyone has a strong opinion on how they want their molasses cookie to be (soft! hard! chewy! dense! coated in sugar! no sugar! fresh ginger! just ground spices!) and this cookie will not appeal to everyone. I did make my dear friend Zoë test them out and she gave them her approval, so I’m going to go ahead and put the recipe out into the world.

Some good news: this particular version doesn’t need to be refrigerated. The molasses and butter in this cookie helps them to spread just fine without the added chill. I also make these a little bit smaller – 2 ounces, instead of 3 ounces. A few things to note: these taste best when the centers are under baked, just like the chocolate chip cookies. Because they are smaller, I bang the pan only 3-4 times instead of 5-6. If you do cook the centers, the outside will be slightly tough when they cool, and they don’t taste as good on the second day. If you get things just right, the outside will be crispy, the centers soft and slightly chewy, and they will still taste great the next day. If you try them, let me know how they turn out for you!

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I have a two-part gift guide for you. Today is favorite baking books and favorite kitchen items, next week is more cookbooks and Holiday music. So let’s get to it. First up, the baking books I use all the time in my kitchen.

***(Also: Holiday Playlists! My Holiday Mix from last year is here. My Classic Christmas Mix is here. And my Quiet Christmas Mix is here.)***


The Village Baker’s Wife  by Joe Ortiz and Gayle Ortiz – This book is a classic, and you can only find it used, but there are so many great recipes among it’s pages. I highly recommend seeking it out. From the Library Journal: Here are recipes for the croissants and Danish pastries, pies and tarts, cookies, muffins, and other delicious delicacies sold at Gayle’s Bakery in Capitola, California. The recipes are well written and thorough, and techniques are often illustrated with whimsical but very clear line drawings. Highly recommended.

The Vanilla Bean Baking Book by Sarah Kieffer – Yes, I snuck my own book in here. But, it does contain all my favorite recipes, and I use them all the time in my own kitchen. You can find my Pan-Banging Chocolate Chip Cookies in here, but my other favorites are Pumpkin Scones, Burnt Honey Buttercream, Quick Danish Dough, and Peach Caramel Pie.

Pure Dessert by Alice Medrich – Alice Medrich is the baking cookbook queen. I appreciate all her books, they are so well done: flawless recipes, and solid writing and research. Pure Dessert is the first Medrich cookbook I ever owned – all the rest had been checked out time and time again at the library, when I couldn’t afford my cookbook habit. This one is special, and helped pave the way for baking with alternative flours as flavor flours. The Nibby Buckwheat Butter Cookies are holiday favorites.

Sweeter Off the Vine by Yossy Arefi  – Here are beautiful photographs, recipes that always work, and a unique perspective on baking. I absolutely love Yossy’s book, and turn to it often. Favorite recipes: Yossy is known for her pies, so anything involving pie crust is a winner (see Cherry and Rhubarb Slab Pie, Pear Pie With Creme Fraiche and Caramel, and Tangerine Cream Pie),  I also love her Old-Fashioned Blood Orange Donuts and Apricot and Berry Galette With Saffron Sugar.

Sarabeth’s Bakery by Sarabeth Levine – This might just be my favorite baking book. It’s definitely the one that made me fall in love with laminated doughs. The photographs are quiet and beautiful, there are process shots to help with complicated recipes, and everything I’ve made has turned out perfectly. I’m especially smitten with the puff pastry dough as well as the danish dough. It’s a gorgeous book, and a good addition to any baker’s library.

Handmade Baking by Kamran Siddiqi – Another really great baking book. Kamran’s Quick Puff Pastry recipe is fantastic, and his Everyday Chocolate Cake is A++. The photographs in this one are stunning, and the recipes are classy but approachable, which sort of reminds me of Kamran. (We’ve never met, but he comes across online as kind and classy and thoughtful.) Another book I use all the time.

New Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe Francois – If you’ve been following along here for awhile, you probably already know that I contribute to Jeff and Zoe’s Bread in Five site quite frequently. I worked on this book with them as well – a week long photo shoot in Zoe’s house with lots of baking and food styling and washing dishes and laughing hysterically. It was a blast. This edition is revised and updated with new recipes. I use this book all the time, and am obsessed with the Challah dough – it’s perfect.

Cook’s Illustrated Baking Book – I appreciate Cook’s Illustrated and all the rigourous testing they do to make sure a recipe is fool proof. I turn to this book often when trying something for the first time or if I’m stuck on a recipe in another book. There is good advice and helpful hints among the pages, as well as recipes for all the classics.

Bouchon Bakery by Thomas Keller – I’m slowly working my way through this book. It’s gorgeous, and inspirational, and can double as a coffee table book.

Mauviel 10.2-inch Round Copper Pan  – This pan by Mauviel is gorgeous, and I use it for everything – baking, cooking, serving. I’ve made buns, cinnamon rolls, gratins, crisps, and all kinds of other goodness in it.

Nordic Ware for Amazon Kitchen – I’ve been using Nordic Ware Bundt pans for years and years (and love that they are a Minnesota-based company!). They just came out with these pretty colored Bundts – blush pink, champagne, and metallic blue. I have two pans in this series and my pound cakes have turned out perfectly every time I use them.

Kitchen Aid Pro Line Copper Mixer – This is the Queen of mixers. I recently upgraded to this beauty, and have found it to be worth the extra price. It is much quieter than the 5-quart (which I had previously), the the 7-quart bowl fits everything nicely. Also, the copper finish looks amazing in any kitchen space.

Linen apron from Enrich & Endure – Aprons handmade in Northern Ireland, made with quality materials, longevity, local craftsmanship and top-class design. The colors are gorgeous and vibrant (I have one in lava).

Bake Tea Towel – I love tea towels, and baking, so this is a perfect addition to my kitchen.

Le Creuset Oval Dutch Oven – A good Dutch oven is a great tool to have in the kitchen; I use mine several times a week. If you haven’t invested in one yet, I highly recommend doing so.

The Weekender from Blue Bottle Coffee – This is the perfect gift for any coffee lover – neatly packed in this custom Timbuk2 bag is everything you need to make delicious coffee during any weekend getaway.

Star Wars spatulas  – I have a lot of spatulas from Williams-Sonoma, and use them on a daily basis. This Star Wars edition with Princess Leia is on my wish list – I’ve got a family full of Star Wars fans who are all eagerly awaiting episode 8 .

Breville Ice Cream Maker – An ice cream maker may not be a necessity, but it sure is a nice piece of equipment to own. This fancy machine is a welcome addition to my kitchen – it produces velvety frozen treats with no prefrozen bowls required. If you love making your own ice cream, this is for you. (Pair it with David Lebovitz’s The Perfect Scoop or Hello, My Name Is Ice Cream by Dana Cree).