The Best Pumpkin Bread You’ll Ever Have

Remember what I said before about pumpkin being the kind of fall you could eat? Well, it’s still true---only, OK, listen: this hasn’t just been any fall. This year in Chicago, fall’s gone above and beyond. Literally. Yesterday was the third day in a row where temps soared into the 70s. Yes, you read that right: 70s! In late October! While the trees are already ten shades of orange and red! I went somewhere last night and had to take my sweater off, that’s how warm I was. It’s the kind of thing people talk about wherever you go---church, the grocery store, chatting on the phone---as if, no matter what your feelings or indifference about this crazy gorgeous season that transitions from the long daylight of summer into the snow and frost of winter, one thing remains, at least this year, at least where I live: autumn’s got your attention. I guess the same could be said of many things, from football to TV shows to the pleasure of reading a good book: the die-hard lovers will … [Read more...]

Seattle Recap! (+ Pumpkin Muffins)

Fresh from four days in Seattle, I can tell you the city was both everything and nothing like I expected, the way most things we envision tend to be, the way you could also describe a certain pumpkin recipe I’d tried before I left. I mean, I liked Seattle. But before I went, I envisioned thick forests, days of rain, majestic mountains, lots of coffee, something called a Space Needle---and, I don't know, people wearing lots of flannel or North Face jackets. In fact, it was all of those things. Despite our trip’s unending sunshine, the effects of rain were all around us: in the canopies of green over city streets, the fall leaves scattered on street corners, the fresh and wet smell throughout beautiful Bainbridge Island. We saw mountain peaks off in the distance, we ate soup with a view of the Space Needle, we passed more Starbucks coffee shops than I could count. Indeed, Seattle is Pikes Place Market and the smell of the sea and a need for a jacket everywhere you … [Read more...]

and here we are, with babka

I'm not going to ask where the time went. That's what everyone says, halfway through summer, after the fireworks and before back-to-school, when we're finally settled into the heat and humidity, when our arms are bronzed and our long-daylight days have begun to seem commonplace, when we're looking at the calendar and saying, July 20? July 20! More than halfway through 2010? I am just getting used to it not being 2009! and we think of all the things we still want to do and we think of all the people we want to do them with, and our hearts start to race a little bit. OK, hang on. How about instead of rushing ahead we just stop, right here and now, and take a look at this day, this July 20, this Tuesday we have and will never get again, and appreciate what's brought us here? I'll start. With chocolate babka. … [Read more...]

how we spend our days (+ announcement!)

"How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives" (Annie Dillard) I read the above quote a few years ago, back when I was compiling a 25th anniversary scrapbook for my parents in which people wrote and told of gifts and memories and experiences they’d had with my mom and my dad, and I was reflecting then the way I’ve been reflecting lately, about what are the most meaningful things we do, about what we really want. I've been asking myself: How am I spending my days, since that’s how I’m spending my life? And then, is the way I am spending them good? Of course the easy way to define our days is by our full-time gigs, be it school or work or motherhood or something else that requires most of our time, and I’ve done that before: I’ve sat down to dinner with friends and explained my class load. I’ve called myself a copywriter. I’ve mentally calculated some kind of personal net worth. But the older I get, the more I see those things---while important---are not the only … [Read more...]

oh, spring

All week, you have been fascinating me with your comments on the giveaway post (where there's still time to enter!), as you've shared who inspires you to cook and/or some teachable kitchen moments you've experienced. With the inspiration answers especially, I find myself mentally nodding my head with you, because it's so true that I get pulled towards cooking via a myriad of sources---my family, other food bloggers, magazines, commercials, TV, something random someone says in the middle of the afternoon. And I think all these things are good to think about, especially so we can remember them on those days when we're not so eager to cook. But the inspiration for today's recipes is something I hadn't really thought about before, something that several of you said strikes you the same way: this beautiful time of year we call spring. Oh, spring. I have been marveling at spring this year: the buds on branches, the evening thunderstorms, the colorful flowers everywhere you turn. … [Read more...]

to bring across state lines (homemade graham crackers)

The night before we left for Nashville, just as I was throwing clothes into my suitcase and packing up a bag of snacks that included carrot sticks, blueberries, strawberries and granola (I know, right? party animal that I am), I got a hankering for graham crackers and then, when I clicked over to Twitter just to check in for a second, there was a link to a new post at Roost for, what else, exactly that. I enjoy that kind of serendipity in life. It's like when Becky and I went to Margot Saturday night after being told on the phone there were no openings and then, wouldn't you know it, someone canceled and we got seated in 10 minutes. Or like a year ago when my car kept putting out smoke and smelling like burnt metal but finally the mechanics saw it was the catalytic converter! all along!, just weeks before my warranty expired, which paid for the entire replacement. You have to embrace these things, these providences, so that's what I did last Thursday. … [Read more...]

because it’s April

As I sit at my computer tonight, I hear the rain outside, hitting the window, sloshing on pavement as cars drive by. It smells fresh, earthy, like your hands deep in soil when you're working in the garden, yet clean, like the glassy drops of dew on grass in the morning. It reminds me this is the time of year when things green, when they begin to grow. All the storms and pounding rain bring us tulips and lilies, leaves on trees, buds on branches. And it's funny how, a few months ago, when I scraped ice off my car and skidded down the expressway, I didn't believe this time would come again. At its darkest, winter was unending, hopeless---in that way, a little like life, sometimes. Maybe it's because I've been thinking about dreams lately---the big ones we make as children, unashamedly, be they astronaut or firefighter or surgeon. Everything's sunshine and rainstorms and possibility, then. But as we get older and things seem more difficult, it becomes easier to lose yourself to … [Read more...]