In my last post, I raved about my love of the one-pan wonder at dinnertime. Which, of course, immediately got me thinking about one-bowl/one-dish wonders when it comes to baking. As much as I love pulling out every crazy baking pan and gadget and really getting into it in the kitchen, after months and months of recipe development and testing (and an appalling amount of dishwashing), there’s nothing better than the feeling of a throwing together a recipe that feels as easy-breezy and dump-and-stir as a boxed cake mix, but isn’t…a boxed cake mix.
There are a few one-bowl, minimal dish-dirtying favorites in my arsenal that I go back to time and time again, like these brownies, or this banana bread, that are so simple and satisfying, it’s as though you can feel your all the scraggly edges of your weary soul fusing back together as you stir. In a busy life that sometimes make you want to punch yourself in the face from all its pressures, that’s the good stuff, right there. They’re the kind of recipes that remind me why I love to bake. I just dump everything in and stir, stir, stir my way back to sanity.
It’s come to this, friends: I’m so neck-deep in cookbook manuscript writing that I’m showing you one, single Instagram photo of last night’s dinner just so we have an excuse to catch up. Nothing sweet or cakey today. But sweet cracker sandwich, this meal was so superb that I think just one photo and my ramblings might do us fine? (Lie to me.)
At the risk of sounding like a citrus-loving Joan Rivers, can we talk about clementines? I feel like they’re everywhere right now–great, big cardboard flats of them for, like, five dollars a box or something crazy, calling from across the produce section with the promise of sweetness and light and sunshine, even though as I understand it, most of the country has been in a never-ending winter.
(I say “as I understand it”, because here in California, an occasional rainstorm is as close to we get to anything resembling winter weather, and we mostly just, you know, ride our bikes around in t-shirts to go eat kale salad outside and “LOL” and “OMG” over all the banaaanaaazzz weather we’ve been hearing about online.)
(As it happened, I was actually stranded in New York for a week because of a snowstorm last month, so I guess Mother Nature sensed my meterological la-la-la-ness and decided to show me how soft I’ve become during my 10 years on the West Coast. Touché, fair lady.)
But even in a mild-weathered place like California, we really do appreciate citrus during our “winter”. It’s a burst of happy food no matter where you live, all these clementines in bulk. Every year I succumb to buying at least one flat, intent on being all virtuous and snacking on them instead of spoonfuls of peanut butter or cookies, tucking them into lunchboxes and all that jazz. But even after countless little orbs eaten out of hand and a dozen packed lunches, the pile of clementines never seems to shrink. Not one bit. How many clementines does a person have to eat to make a dent in one of those boxes, for real? My fingertips are permanently stained from all the e-z peeling. Forget this noise. Let’s make doughnuts. (And share a little news with you, while we’re at it.)
Maybe it’s because I’m a late February baby, but I’ve always had a thing for Valentine’s Day. Abundance of twee notwithstanding, I just sort of love the idea of a Love Day. Granted, there have been years when I was Valentine-less, but even then I guess it was the hope that one day I would have a Permanent Valentine that buoyed me, along with a legit excuse to get chocolate wasted. These days, I still get chocolate wasted on Valentine’s Day, and this year in particular I’m pretty excited about celebrating some Big Love with our Little Family. There’s a lot that’s happened in the past several months, plenty of ups and downs and stressing until I think I might lose it (and on a couple of occasions I totally have). But we might (maybe? Please, universe?) be entering a bit of sweet spot right now, a little calm before the next inevitable storm. And so I say, bust out the chocolate. Turn dessert into breakfast, or vice versa. And good grief, don’t forget the Champagne.
People, my cabinets are an unholy disaster. And I don’t mean that in a humblebraggy, Pinterest-y “Oh, my kitchen is so MESSY! Look at how crooked my Weck jars are on my sparkling clean refrigerator shelves!” kind of way. I’m talking about half-opened boxes and bags of every ingredient imaginable, shoved haphazardly into any available square inch of real estate. Pulling anything out is like a game of Cellophane Wraps and Cardboard Box Jenga. It’s not cute. I mean, I do actually own Weck jars, purchased long ago with the intention of having a Pinterest-worthy pantry situation going on, but now they’re shoved into the back of the hoarder’s lair, probably surrounded by some spilled jasmine rice from that week in 2011 when I was very into trying to cook more exotic dinners, and then realized I had a kid who wouldn’t eat anything but buttered noodles. Gah.
The situation kind of reached a new level of insanity after the holidays, though. With all the new recipe development I’ve had going on, plus holiday baking, the amount of edible odds and ends has multiplied at an alarming rate. Every time I step into the kitchen I get very Joan Crawford, flapping my arms and shouting things like, “I simply cannot WORK under these conditions!!” and then pouring myself a Weck jar full of vodka before retiring to my chaise lounge.
It’s New Year’s Eve, y’all! Wowza. As I type this, I have a huge, almost 10-month-old baby in my lap and a 5-year-old in the living room, who is on (a rather unnecessarily long, really) winter break from Big Kid School. Unreal! 2013, you were a crazy one. I’m not even going to get into the ups and downs and utter confusion that marked this year for me–does the internet really need more year-end oversharing? So I’ll just say that like a lot of you, I’m looking forward to a new year, new projects, and an all-around new attitude. Not to mention more full nights of sleep, which I finally started getting around here during the past week. (Hey, it only took 10 months! Blergh.)
I hope everyone has lovely plan to ring in 2014, whether that means some fancy gala that calls for hair and makeup and something sparkly to wear (Ooh! Tell me, what is that like?) or if you’re doing something more our speed, which is to say a celebration involving comfy pants, (spiked) hot chocolate, popcorn, and the East Coast feed of the ball drop because seriously, I can’t do midnight anymore. Whatever you do, I hope it’s full of fun and love and hope and promise. Really, truly. We all deserve a great 2014. Can you hear me, universe?!
But first, priorities. Brunch planning! New Year’s Brunch, to be specific. Let’s do this year up right by starting with some epic eats. And I don’t mean a whole homemade spread, although if you’re doing that, I’d love to come over. For me, it’s about one great dish or a special side thing to make the first day of the year a little extra special. Bonus points if said thing has make-ahead elements to gently massage you into the morning. No need to be bursting out of a cannon on Day One and making the rest of us look bad. Let’s save that action for some especially warm, sunny day in early June.
First up? Bacon and Caramelized Onion Tart. (See top photo) Because if you’re going to have bacon and eggs, why not repackage the whole thing and blow minds?
Is anyone else feeling like a total Grown Up Cliche this holiday season? I don’t know if it’s because I’m actually older, or that I have two kids now and they’ve sucked everything from me including my brain cells and my metabolism or WHAT, but I don’t think I’ve ever felt the craziness of the holidays quite like this year. Oof. And who has two thumbs and hasn’t even started thinking about shopping for gifts? This lady. Fa-la-la-la-la!!!
Top of the Grown Up Cliche list is three holiday parties in the same weekend, and no idea how we’re going to fit them all in. You too? Excellent. So let’s talk hostess gifts. Maybe my Midwestern-ness is showing, but I do think it’s nice to show up with a little something for folks insane enough to throw a big holiday gathering, especially considering how much effort that entails–shopping, running, organizing, obsessing, cleaning, and then re-cleaning once its all over. I’d say that kind of effort calls something thoughtful, festive, and preferably edible, so that the host/hostess doesn’t have to find a place to put another freaking scented candle that they’ll probably never use, in addition to having to re-scrub the bathroom once all the guests leave. So how about a big bag of Gingerbread Caramel Corn? Oh, and bourbon. Lots.
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