sweet and salty brownie cookies

The first time I made these cookies, Joy the Baker’s chocolate brownie cookies with white chocolate and roasted macadamia nuts, I couldn’t taste them. I was into third week of a month of Whole 30, and taking it so seriously that when I almost absentmindedly licked some chocolate batter off of my finger I squealed and jumped backwards. Despite not being able to take a tester bite, I had a hunch these cookies were the business. For starters, Joy the Baker really knows her way around a delicious sweet. Secondly, the star ingredients–two kinds of chocolate and salted roasted macadamia nuts–are pretty hard to argue with. And finally, there was the smell. Holy heck, did sniffing these cookies while they were baking test every bit of my Whole 30 resolve. I decided right then to make them as soon as I could eat sweets again.

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birthday meringues 

Having a birthday right smack between Christmas and New Years (December 28th, if you’re curious) can feel like a mixed bag, especially as a little kid. On the one and less fun hand, Christmas will of course always overshadow a birthday, and the window for bday excitement is pretty small. But on the other hand and particularly if you have a Christmas elf for a mother who is happy to keep the joyful vibe of the holiday going, you get the fun of getting your birthday presents under the tree. And if you’re very lucky, when you sneak down in the morning to inspect your presents (because yes, my sweet mother put them out overnight just like she did at Christmas) you’ll find an especially special cookie waiting in the oven, having set up and “cooked” overnight: chocolate chip meringues.


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holiday cake break: cranberry torte

Around the holidays, I like to have cake on hand at all times. Cookies are great, too, but it’s cake that really feels festive to me. I like admiring a pretty cake under a dome and I like serving slices of sweetness on Santa Claus plates. As much as I love sinking hours into an elaborate cake project like a Bûche de Noël, the cakes I enjoy most this time of year are the simplest ones. This cranberry torte has been a favorite of mine for a couple of years. It’s a breeze to make, it’s decked out with merry pops of red, and it’s a balanced, sweet-tart treat that feels appropriate at any time of day.

cranberry torte with santa

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chocolate dipped chips

Other than popcorn–which is a necessary and always stocked staple–Hal and I don’t really keep snacks in the house. This is a departure from how I grew up, when we almost always had chips and cookies and probably half a bag of peanut M+Ms in the kitchen cupboards. My mother had the kind of willpower that allows a person to eat half a single serving bag of candy and put the rest away (she also had a wonderful habit of having a teeny dish with just one or two dainty little spoonfuls of Breyers chocolate ice cream before bed)…something I did not exactly inherit from her. So, in my own home, I tend to mostly stay away from having snacks hanging around. But sometimes and on some occasions, a really snacky snack is called for. Say, for example, when you’re getting ready to watch the second debate in an increasingly horrifying presidential election, and need comforting treats to get you through. Times like that call for the snacking big guns: chocolate dipped potato chips.

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back of the bottle key lime pie

When I’m looking for a recipe for a particular dish, it usually takes me a while to find the one that I want. I’ll flip through my cookbooks, Google, read reviews, Google some more, and then settle on something. This key lime pie is the exception that makes the rule. I’ve always made it the same way and the recipe came from the most basic of places: the back of the key lime juice bottle.

key lime pie

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the joy of cobbler

I loved absolutely everything about my visit with Laura and Ed in Springfield–getting a glimpse of their everyday, reuniting with their sweet pup Tenley, tasting some fave local tastes (a super slim burger, a Route 66 diner club sandwich, a perfect chocolate+vanilla swirl cone that I got all over myself, and a peach bruschetta I’m still thinking about especially stand out), finally seeing their gorgeous house, eating dessert twice before dinner, tagging along for La’s weekly trip to the farmers market, talking and talking and talking, watching the carefully DVR-ed premier of Bachelor in Paradise, and laughing til I cried at least once a day. But one of the very best parts of the visit was cooking together. And if I do say so myself, we put together one heck of a dinner. Laura boiled perfect little fingerling potatoes with thyme and butter, Ed grilled deelish steaks, and Laura and I tried a really knock your socks off new to us salad (that she’ll blog about soon!) and put our own blackberry spin on my very favorite peach cobbler.

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only the best chefs match their desserts to their centerpieces.

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bitter + sweet: campari granita

I’m home in Virginia with my sister this week, for the wedding of one of our dearest friends. We were tasked with making cupcakes for the reception (best task!), and were happily invited to make them in our aunt Carolyn’s kitchen, where we could take advantage of her double ovens and awesome collection of professional baker gear. While we cupcaked, she made two frozen strawberry treats: sorbet and sherbet, to see which recipe she likes best. Both were delicious–I favoured the sherbet, which had tangy buttermilk–but both also required an ice cream maker. Not exactly a deal breaker, but also not the easiest implement to use, especially if you don’t have the freezer room to always have the base chilling away. Unlike the absolute easiest frozen dessert I’ve ever made, Campari granita.

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