So do you ever get sort of obsessed with a certain website, enchanted by how it just ‘gets you’? And you find yourself wholly relating to every post and wanting to invent a device that would allow you to sort of live inside said website? Well, that’s me and Camille Styles’ lovely online digs. Love the content–the interviews, the recipes, the decor ideas, the whole lot. It may sometimes make me feel like I’m living in the slums because it’s so fabulous, but hey, that’s the risk you take falling in love with a website, I guess.
I’ve shared a few recipes with Camille’s audience in the past, and the other day I helped her kick off her sure-to-be-swoon-worthy Valentine’s Day content with a sweet idea for an edible gift. Bounce on over to Camille’s site for more photos and the recipe, a modern, Frenchy twist on the kitschy Valentine’s Day combo of chocolate-covered cherries.
Well. THAT hiatus lasted a little longer than I’d intended. Let’s just say that the holidays plus my website kind of going haywire for a bit plus entering my third trimester made for a perfect storm of procrastination. That’s not to say that I haven’t been occupied around here, because when I’ve not been busy pounding Tums from a gallon-sized container while wearing compression socks, I have indeed been writing and cooking and baking, and would you believe that much of it has been of Whole Grain and Greens sort? I know, it’s kind of disappointing–I thought that my sweet tooth might rage again like it did at the end of my first pregnancy, but after a gestational diabetes scare and a general “meh” feeling towards sweets lately, I’m not taking down pounds of Twizzlers at this stage in the game like I did with Little C. (Although, full disclosure, I did eat two spoonfuls of confectioners’ sugar the other day in a fit of “I want something intensely sweet and starchy and oh! Maybe with a hint of chalk”, and it was the best thing ever–Pregnant Lady Bizarro Cravings, I salute you).
So what else have I been doing lately, aside from shoveling powdered sugar into my face straight from the box? Well, bracing for Baby 2.0 big time, for one thing. I’ve been to Ikea and Target about 27 times each in the past two months. I’m not sure how it is for other second time moms, but this time around, I’m focusing on preparing the barracks in such a way that might seem completely trivial from the outset, but as any husband who has lived with a crazy post-partum wife will tell you, sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference, and those little things are often completely unrelated to the actual baby that’s been birthed.
It’s a chilly, dreary, rainy day here in San Francisco (the California way of ushering in winter).
I’m getting more pregnant by the minute (now firmly in my third trimester, and by the looks of yesterday’s ultrasound, all is good with Sir Baby, thank you).
I have also been hit with some ungodly cold-ish virus that I know I caught from Little C, who was sick earlier this week (so dirty, little kids, I tell ya).
I’ve just dropped my precious offspring off at school for the last time this year, and am now back in bed, surrounded by pillows and tissues and hot water, which seems to be the only freaking thing with which they let sick pregnant people medicate other than the occasional Tylenol, which is a liar and a complete joke when what I really need is, like, 12 DayQuil capsules and a nebulizer full of Xanax to quell my holiday to-do list anxiety.
But! Despite all this doom and gloom and wahhhh, my life is so harrrrd…, yesterday was glorious. Glorious, I say! We were a fine-tuned baking operation, me and Little C, cranking out cookies, brownies, and an extra special holiday confection to add to the tins of goodies we assembled for her teachers. These Candy Cane Nougat Bites are sweet, minty, melt-in-your-mouth pillows of heaven and I encourage you to try making them as your One Last Thing to do before Christmas, which I’m sure you don’t have enough of already, right?
While I hesitate to call it an all-out phobia, I will say that my, um, reticent nature towards baking with yeast has been well-documented in the past. I know I’m not the only one out there who suffers from this fear, and let’s face it–yeast is a funny thing. I mean, it’s ALIVE, for cry-yi. Unpredictable, with a mind of its own! And how do you choose the right type of yeast? What if you only have active dry and the recipe calls for instant? How can you really know for sure if the dough has doubled? The world could explode with such Oprah-esque Life Questions.
Well. Recently I’ve tried to tackle that fear for good, experimenting with different breads, rolls, even cakes that use yeast as their puffing (and flavor) agent. I’ve been inching closer to becoming One With the Yeast. Baby steps.
Let’s get down to it, friends. What are your Cookie Tin Contenders this year? Are you sticking to the classics? Going on on a limb with all new recipes? A little mix of both? For me, it’s about the third category, excitedly baking up those treats that make their appearance just once per year, and adding a few new selections for sport (read: satisfy rabid Pregnant Lady Cravings).
The other night I had my last scheduled book event for the year at the fabulous Omnivore Books here in San Francisco, and got to talking to a friend and fellow blogger about an old recipe from this site’s archives that she’d riffed on in the most delightful way (tahini was involved–genius!). Fast forward to 10 a.m. the next morning, and clearly, something baked and peanut buttery was in order (it doesn’t take much suggestion to get me set on an idea, food-related or otherwise, in my delicate condition).
Just bizarre enough of a word to require an exclamation point, wouldn’t you say? Like, Eureka! Or Xanadu! (Maybe I’m going solo on always having to say Xanadu nice and loud, but that is neither here nor there.) So what exactly is speculoos (or speculaas) about, anyway? If you’ve been following the food-related internets, you’ve probably seen store-bought versions of speculoos raved about often, whether it be in spread or biscuit form, and some might argue that it’s the best reason for flying certain commercial airlines.
But to me, speculoos have always been one of the most craveworthy cookies out there: buttery, crisp, and perfectly spiced (but not overpoweringly so) for the holidays with hits of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves. And as it turns out, making your own is dead simple and even better than the factory-made kind. Plus, they sort of cry out to be decorated in a jaunty, Pinterest-y type way, and really, isn’t that what the holidays are all about? (I kid.) (Sort of.)
Now that we’ve all got our holiday baking pantry essentials assembled (right? RIGHT?), it’s go time. I always kind of like to ease into the holiday baking season with what I like to the call The Gateway Cookie. Something simple, easy on ingredients and time, totally craveworthy and guaranteed to blow minds so you get the push you need to crank out the next recipe. It’s a life philosophy, friends.
Sometimes I start with Heirloom Sugar Cookies, because they’re the quintessential holiday cookie of my youth and get me thinking of the Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer TV special and Bing Crosby and just give me a general fa-la-la-la-la! sensation. But I’m tired this year, folks. I’m at the point in my pregnancy where I need to make decisions like, do I shave my legs or vacuum the living room? Because seriously, you’re not getting me to do both. So this year, The Gateway Cookie needed to be simple, but totally delicious. And it doesn’t get much easier than a bar cookie. No scooping, no rotating baking sheets. Also, chewy plus sweet-salty plus chocolate AND pecans? Come at me, bro.
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