Pumpkin gnocchi, The Awakening, and unexpected experiences

Today is all about the unexpected, which, actually, seems broad because much of life is unexpected. <insert thinking hard with hand on chin emoji guy>

ANYWAY, what could possibly make homemade pasta better? Two things, guys: one, adding pumpkin because tis the freaking season, and two: not having to roll it out, which is the only slightly less than perfect part of the pasta making experience. While adding pumpkin to pasta dough is kind of an unexpected use of that orange ingredient we all love to scorn, it actually helps take the gnocchi from light, pillowy pasta to light, pillowy, chewy, perfectly balanced pasta that pairs well with just about any kind of assortment of fall toppings there are: pine nuts, bacon, kale, arugula, heck, even hazelnuts. It's a beauty of a recipe, and if the wine pairing class at wineHouse taught me anything, it's that it pairs beautifully with Tornatore Etna Rosso. If you're jealous about how I learned that, sign up for the next one on November 13 by emailing me at pageandplateblog@gmail.com. 

Pumpkin Gnocchi and The Awakening

Also unexpected was how enjoyable I found my reading of The Awakening, which I've had on my shelf since I bought it at a garage sale for $1 ages ago. It's a quick read and a powerful one, and you should check out the review here before grabbing a copy and knocking it out in a day. 

Lastly, I am generally not a fan of horror. However, Shirley Jackson's The Haunting of Hill House on Netflix has me positively riveted. Check it out and feel free to yell at me when you can't sleep for a week. 

Donut cake, Broken Monsters, and what you should pay attention to this weekend

Folks, it is officially fall in Chicago. I will pause here for your appreciative applause.

And now, I present you with the ultimate guide for the first fall weekend in the Windy City, where just 48 hours ago, it was something like 85 degrees. I don’t know; I just live here.

First up: make a donut cake that pairs perfectly with spiked, warm cider, hot coffee, or some other warm and likely alcoholic beverage. It’s baked in a bundt tin, which I am usually strongly opposed to, but in this case, I’m really okay with. It’s full of nutmeg and cinnamon and buttermilk, and you’ll probably have no interest in leftovers, but just in case you do, they’re amazing and even more donut-y than I thought was possible. Y. u. m.

Second: read a spooky book about a supernatural murder mystery. Wow, you say, that sounds so specific. However will I find a book that fulfills those criteria? Oh, honey. I got you. Click here to read the review of Broken Monsters, and then realize that it’s the perfect book for this weekend.

Donut Cake and Broken Monsters

Lastly: pay attention to at least two things this weekend. One is, appropriately, also donut (or, in this case, doughnut) content. My friend from my high school journalism days has started a doughnut bakery in Pittsburgh called Fight Sized Doughnuts. If you live in Pittsburgh, as I know some of you do, run, don’t walk, to his website and give him a follow on Instagram. Tasty things await you.

You should also pay attention to Samin Nosrat (aka my girl Samin, my goddess of cooking, my imaginary best friend who I chat with even though she’s not there in the kitchen) and her brand-new Netflix show Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, which is based on her most illustrious cookbook that has been reviewed right here on Page & Plate. I started the first episode last night, and honestly, I had to stop because it was just way too exciting and wonderful and I started crying when she made pesto with a nonna.

Corn muffins, Hope Never Dies, and a whole lotta corn

The amount of corn that’s about to happen in this post is very high, both in literal corn amounts and a good, old fashioned corny read. And also some things that I am super excited about and am highly likely to make corny puns as a result.

Corn Muffins

But first! The muffins. The OG corn babies that provide our literal corn. The beautiful, golden nuggets of goodness. I mean, just look at how beautiful they look in the late-in-the-day sunlight on a beautiful, hand-made plate. They are delicious and good, and if you can get your hands on fresh corn, you should use it to make these gorgeous muffins before it’s too late! This is a scare tactic.

As long as you’re in the business of corn (and being depressed about current events), you should probably read Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer. A fictionalized and adorable alternate universe Joe Biden who probably treated Anita Hill better than his IRL equivalent narrates a murder mystery / drug bust that he heroically solves alongside (who else?) Barack Obama. It’s exactly the corny, dad joke-filled, over-dramatic book you expect, and it’s a delight.

Hope Never Dies and Corn Muffins

And now, a virtual drumroll to announce UPCOMING EVENTS, which is a huge and very exciting development in Page & Plate posts. I’m so excited to let you know that I have two very exciting events coming up in the Chicagoland area, and that you, yes, you! can register today for them.

Pie's NOT the Limit: Pumpkin Recipes for Everything from Appetizers to Dessert

This cooking demonstration AND wine tasting will take place at wineHouse Chicago in Lakeview. I’ll be making a bunch of pumpkin recipes that are not pie because I don’t like pie and that’s that. Join us to discover the many ways to use pumpkin and the wines that compliment those recipes.

Watercolor Cookie Workshop with CJB Creations

My dear friend CJB is an artist, creative, and all around talented human, and I’m so pumped to be offering a watercolor cookie workshop in which you’ll learn to paint on cookies! Mind. Blown. This class will take place at Shop 1021 in Logan Square. Best of all? While you’re learning to paint, you can enjoy small bites courtesy of moi.

Buckwheat pancakes, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, and getting old

This week I’ve had quite a reckoning. (It also just took me forever to spell that word?) I finished the novel that I’ve been saving as a reward for finishing a challenging non-fiction read on the future of food (look for that next week), and I felt … different. Usually, when I dive back into the world of fiction after a slog through a technical, intense couple hundred of pages, I feel a kind of sick relief. Like “OH THANK GOD, FAKE THINGS.” But this time was different.

This time, as I finished Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, I felt kind of empty. More dissatisfied than I usually do with the fact that it was a fiction book I had just read. More .. bored. More like you do when you accidentally eat half the bag of chips. You know what I mean. “Well, I just consumed a bunch of potato and salt flavored air. Now what?” What does this mean? Does it mean I’m getting old? Does it mean that soon I’ll forget what I ever loved about fiction and be ten episodes deep in Planet Earth?

I wouldn’t feel so panicked about this if I hadn’t opened my big mouth and said “What if we made buckwheat pancakes instead?” when Colin suggested a big pancake breakfast the other morning. I mean come on. Buckwheat. At breakfast. In pancake form! Who am I turning into? AH!

Buckwheat Pancakes and Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore

To make myself feel a little bit younger and hipper (if that’s even what the youths are calling it these days), I made a nice toasted oat and almond crumble for the pancakes too, and that made me feel a little bit better. Until I realized that I’m basically eating oatmeal for breakfast. Sigh. Stay tuned.

Smoked veggie tacos, Sharp Objects, and hype

When I was little, I had a paralyzing fear that if I got too excited for something, it would inevitably turn out to be the worst thing ever. I'm fairly certain that this was a result of some totally innocent and well-meaning advice my father gave me about how sometimes, the things we are least excited for turn out to be amazing. Clearly, I was a difficult child to advise. Sorry, Dad. It was great advice. I just ruined it.

The point I'm trying to get to here is that since then, I've kept that sneaking suspicion in the back of my head. If I'm really looking forward to something, I have an irrational fear that it might be disappointing. And if I'm really not looking forward to something, I have a feeling that the universe is going to pull a fast one on me and make it a genuinely great experience. I'm not superstitious, I'm a little-stitious. 

Okay, point made. So when I got home the other day dreading what I was going to try to pull out of my back pocket to make a great dinner, veggie tacos kind of sounded lame. And, if we're being completely honest, disgusto-gross. But, lucky me, my stitious-self was right, and my veggie tacos that I really wasn't looking forward to turned out to be just plain yummy. And gorgeous.

Smoked Veggie Tacos and Sharp Objects

Conversely, I was really pumped to read another Gillian Flynn novel. I flew through Gone Girl when it was a thing, and so the prospect of Sharp Objects was exciting for me. I was, in fact, looking forward to it so much that I decided to postpone my reading until I got through a few other less exciting-sounding books. Well, guess what? Joke's on me. I hated it. 

As always, check out the review, check out the recipe, and let me know what you think of both. If you think Sharp Objects was the best book you read this year, I want to hear about it because I love a good argument. If you think that the cilantro I reference might be parsley, you're totally right and there's no argument to be had. 

Herb Spiral Tart, The Female Persuasion, and Some Plugs

I KNOW. I missed a post last week. I was doing so well. I was on such a roll (that's foreshadowing for today's recipe by the way). BUT, I'm also not going to apologize because life gets busy, I'm not perfect, and I can't hold myself to unreasonable standards. I am zen, calm, and totally excited to share what I meant to share on Thursday with you TODAY, which is Tuesday.

Plugs of color are important in every day life (especially when it's summer), and that's why I'm so excited to show you today's recipe for herb spiral tart and the absolutely gorgeous cover for The Female Persuasionboth of which are excellent choices for summery days that feel like the depths of fall and kind of look like it too with all of this fog, hem hem CHICAGO, get it together.

In other plug news, I've been really into the newest section of the New York Times's daily newsletter, called What We're Reading, and so I'm going to hop on that band wagon and tell you what I'm consuming (therefore covering food, books, articles, television, etc., how clever) at the moment that I think you should consume too:

  • Laurnie Wilson's piece on Life After Anthony Bourdain, which hits hard and hits home. (And really, anything else on her blog, which is worth your subscription.)
  • Haley Bryant's piece on The Humanity in Data, a brilliant exploration of data, how we collect it, and what it means to us as humans in this moment. 
  • Surfing Merms, a new project by CJB, where feminist mermaids come to life.
  • Faces Places, a documentary on Netflix that made me cry for no reason other than it was very sweet and in French.

COOL. See ya Thursday. Promise.

Apricot Ginger Cake and The Reservoir Tapes

This week I did two things with incredibly impressive speed: bake a SUCCESSFUL and non-traumatic cake and breeze through Jon McGregor's upcoming book, The Reservoir Tapes.

The Reservoir Tapes and Apricot Ginger Cake

I was pretty pleased with myself -- not going to lie, mostly because I baked a cake without crying into the icing. As you may recall from my birthday cake, layer cakes are ... iffy at best for me for no other reason than I struggle with patience. It's fine. I'm learning. BUT with this cake, it went so smoothly I almost wondered if my guardian baking angel was like "GIRL, ENOUGH ALREADY" and swooped down to ice it for me. I think it was helpful for me to have company while baking / assembling in the form of Cait, the face of a fabulous style blog and Oeil Jewelry. Whatever the case, this cake turned out to be the best I've ever made, so go run and get the recipe. Another bonus, by the way? The ginger liqueur that gives this cake a kick of flavor was made by Chicago's own Koval Distillery. Win-win-win-win-cake.

I was surprised at how fast I made it through The Reservoir Tapes because I've been reading a lot of dark thrillers lately and thought I was going to take a bit of a break. After I opened the package from Catapult Books, I went to put this book on the bookshelf, looked up, and realized I had gotten halfway through. Yep. That good. Check out the review, then head over to pre-order it from Catapult.

Note: Catapult Books provided a pre-release copy of The Reservoir Tapes to Page & Plate for the purposes of this independent review.

Smoked Maple Scones, The Power, and Packing a Punch

When I walked out of the Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square after picking up the spice samples they had set aside for me, I was looking at two small-ish bags of sugar crystals thinking about what recipe I had that only needed a teaspoon of sugar and how that could possibly do this spice a justice. 

Smoked Maple Scones featuring Savory Spice Shop
 Here is a picture of me explaining to Colin that just because I am eating a scone with bacon in it does not mean I am a disappointment to vegetarians everywhere. There is an 80% chance that I was saying "I'm telling you..."

Here is a picture of me explaining to Colin that just because I am eating a scone with bacon in it does not mean I am a disappointment to vegetarians everywhere. There is an 80% chance that I was saying "I'm telling you..."

Because I am the patron saint of impatience, I opened the bags when I got to the car and took a sniff and was basically knocked on my butt by how powerful that little bag of sugar smelled. I mean WOW. And then, of course, I wanted to dump some in my coffee because whiskey, sugar, and coffee all sound like things that belong together, and again, lots of impatience. But I managed to resist the impulse, bake the sugar into smoked maple scones, and then promptly devoured those instead. See? It all worked out. And lemme tell you, that sugar packs a punch on those scones. They're like little left hooks that you want to eat for brunch. So cute! AND, I made a video so yeah, worth your time.

Also, I read The Power by Naomi Alderman on a train in Ireland and it was so engrossing that I basically didn't even care we were driving past castles. Almost. But still: it was a book that slams you with realness and then walks away into the distance to leave you with your thoughts. I'm not going to be like "feminist dystopian fiction is the new beach read!" but it kind of is.

Read the review, read the recipe, and check out the Savory Spice Shop. They have some seriously awesome spice blends that I'm dying for you to try, and they were kind enough to give me some for free, so look for more recipes with their stuff coming your way!

Smoked Maple Scones and The Power by Naomi Alderman

Nutella Banana Bread, Friendship Bread, and Building Foundations

My understanding of buildings, construction, and even sandcastles is limited at best, but I've had a hand in too many failed cakes not to understand the importance of a solid foundation. (See the near disaster that was my birthday cake this year as exhibit one.) But today, we're all about those solid foundations.

 Just so much drool.

Just so much drool.

The recipe of the day is an updated take on Mammaw's classic, constant banana bread recipe: Nutella banana bread. DROOL FACE EMOJI. Also, real talk: Mammaw is a goddess, and if you had tried to tell me that this recipe could be improved simply by adding such an extra, millennial ingredient, I would have slapped you. But having eaten probably about half of this loaf since it came out of the oven, my stance has softened. Do stances soften? I don't even know, but the point stands: there's nothing wrong with building on the solid foundation of a classic recipe to make a sexy, updated fave.

I actually got the idea from today's book, Friendship Bread by Darien Gee. In the book, her characters use the original recipes to make a bunch of crazy loaves, and I was very about it. I was also about how everything really worked out for everyone in a way that was so relieving it was almost shocking. (I'm experiencing Game of Thrones again as Colin watches for the first time, and it's traumatizing me.) Check out the review, and let me know what you think! 

The moral of today's post is that as long as you have a good foundation, you can add Nutella for anything. Right? Right.

Page & Plate Note: Darien Gee provided a copy of Friendship Bread to me for the purposes of this independently written review. The views expressed here are mine and mine alone. Want to see your name and book here? Email me at pageandplateblog@gmail.com to talk shop!

Spicy Polenta Plate, The Nix, and Other Things That Are Stuffed

I'm a big fan of the simple things in life. Plain chocolate. A straightforward novel about a journey. Macaroni and cheese. Kids' movies. But there are times in life that call for something a little more complicated than that, and folks, today's post caters to those moments. 

When I picked up The NixI did so with zero idea of what it was about, whether it was a popular book, or even who Nathan Hill was (still unsure on that last part, TBH). My only lead was the kind of political cover that may or may not have led me to believe it was a biography of Nixon. Thank god I was wrong. (I mean, obviously I was wrong.) Instead, I found a book that portrayed a young woman determined to make a difference, her son trying to make sense of the world, and the spirit that followed their family from Norway.

There's a lot here: politics (but no Nixon), family drama, employment struggles, you name it. But instead of making for a fuzzy focus, it all builds to craft a novel that will hold your interest and capture your feels.

Similarly, so will this spicy polenta plate, which is somewhere in between soup, sauce, and gumbo. And if it's as disgusting as it is in Chicago where you are now, you'll need a dish that's comforting yet exciting, spicy yet creamy, and healthy yet just a little bad for you tonight. 

Macarons, Infinite Jest, and Other Things TBD

I am about to make a post about a recipe I haven't yet perfected and a book I haven't finished. While some of you might be scratching your heads or picking up your phone to furiously text me about the indignity of it all, please, allow me to explain. 

macarons and infinite jest.JPG

Reading and cooking are alike in that they are two activities some people consider a chore and others consider a pleasant past time. (Then there are those of us weirdos who consider them plain out fun, but we don't need to go into that right now.) When doing something you love, or even remotely find tolerable, there are going to be times that you don't quite measure up to what you had imagined for yourself. For me, nothing perfectly encapsulates this battle more than Infinite Jest.

I have nothing against this book. I have nothing against David Foster Wallace. In fact, from what I've read of the book, I find it challenging and well-written. But for some reason, I cannot bring myself to chew through this book the way I have with so many others. But that's okay! Because taking my time with this one is fine. I'm allowed to say I'm still reading it, and I'm allowed to take ten years to read it if I want to (but I won't! I swear!). 

The other thing that's okay, as much as it pains me to admit, is that I have not yet made a perfect batch of macarons. I've made three batches that tasted delicious and ranged in looks from passable to plain yuck. Yes, my eye is twitching as I write this.

The point is that life is too short to worry about doing things perfectly and finishing every book you start in three days. Go forth, read what you want, and bake your best life.

Mushroom and Swiss Chard Galette, The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, and Packaging

First of all, longest post title ever. Whew. 

Second of all, let's talk about packaging! And no, I don't mean the typical explosion of bubble wrap or the lethally sharp plastic fasteners. I'm talking about the perfect pie crust. Or book cover. Don't you just love how my two topics of discussion meld so seamlessly together for discussion every single time? Me too. 

 So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

So tasty, yet so sad. SO SAD.

I struggle with aesthetics, particularly in baked goods. Though I'm getting better with dishes I cook, baking is still a struggle. (For context, I will include a picture of my disastrous macarons from this weekend.) My inability to cope with these less than perfect desserts is also why Colin has put a moratorium on baked goods when I'm overtired. That is another story for another day.

This is just one of the reasons I love a good galette. All of its imperfections aren't even imperfections! They're part of what makes it rustic and quaint, all things that a galette must be to be more than a messy pie. Not to mention that they do a great job of hiding all of the ugly things inside of them (sorry, mushrooms).

I also struggle with judging things hastily, and I am definitely not improving in that department. But it always when something comes along and upturns all of your judgement on its head just to prove you wrong and remind you of your own shortcomings. This week, that something was The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, which I recently really enjoyed thanks to the recommendation of a fellow book lover over beers at Old Town Ale House. 

galette and 7 husbands.jpg

Arcadia (Again), Ramen (Finally), and Weather

I just want to warn you that you're about to read a post that mostly focuses on weather. If you don't want to hear about my old-man-like obsession, skip to the links and be gone with you.

I love checking the weather. I pride myself on knowing how many inches of rain we're going to get and when it's going to come and how likely it is that I need my umbrella buried on the bottom of my bag, and there's no greater pleasure in my meteorological career than asking Alexa what the weather is today and scoffing when I know more than her. 

I also love most weather in general. Rain is great, snow is better, and sunshine is happiness. Where I have issues though, is with all of this wishy-washy back and forth. This weekend, it was sunny and warm enough that I could run outside (!). Last night, it was sleeting sideways and covering everything with ice. Today, it's raining and in the high 30s. 


What's a girl to cook in weather like that? Certainly not pot pie or stew, because those are things for winter, and it's basically spring (right?). And serving up some fish tacos with margaritas seems a bit aggressive while there's still a snowflake on my weather map. Solution: ramen. Warm and comforting enough to get you through the cold spells and fresh and light enough to feel like a spring indulgence, ramen sits happily on the fence between seasonal eating trends and makes for the perfect March meal. 

Accompanying it in evergreen status is another book called Arcadia, this time by Fates and Furies author Lauren Groff, which I got for sale at the absolutely incredible Unabridged Books. Pro tip: there is never a wrong weather in which to buy books. Check both out, and let me know what you're reading and eating in this strange, limbo weather.

Chocolate Souffle, The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, and Spontaneity

A wise woman once said "The best things in life are not planned." That woman was actually a Dove Milk Chocolate Wrapper. Mind. Blown. 

I love planning, as previously discussed, but recently I've been trying to embrace spontaneity more because sometimes,  as many to do lists and meal plans as you make, there are some nights when you really need a chocolate cake and you're going to do anything necessary to make sure that you acquire one. And sometimes, that means realizing you don't have time to make a cake, trudging to the closest World Market after work, buying a mismatched set of ramekins and a bar of dark chocolate, and whipping up chocolate souffles just five minutes before your guest is due for dinner (more on that later -- Friday probs?).

souffle and 12 lives of samuel hawley.jpg

Sometimes it means stopping with a car full of groceries at your favorite neighborhood book store (@ Roscoe Books, lookin' at you) and grabbing The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley, which you promised yourself you were going to wait and get out of the library and that you definitely didn't plan on buying. Oops.

"Now, spontaneously hop on over to the review and recipe to get the updated spur of the moment plan for your evening together!" Dove Milk Chocolate Wrapper out.

SOUPer Bowl Week, Part II

Yay for more soup! Because you know what soup goes well with? Snow. And you know what we are about to get dumped on our heads, here in the Windy City? Somewhere between 9-12 inches of snow. Also, coincidentally, guess what else snow and soup go with? YES, YOU GUESSED IT: reading!

Here for all of your snow storm needs are two standouts from this month's wintery chill: lentil coconut soup and Fates and Furies. The soup was a huge hit with everyone. The book not so much. Check both out, and let me know what you think! 

If you're feeling sad because football is over, I really can't relate to you. But if you're excited for the Olympics, send me some Olympic watching party recipes. IDK if they're a thing, but I'm here to do my best to make them one. 

 I mean look at those colors.

I mean look at those colors.

SOUPer Bowl Week, Part I

If the Steelers aren't playing, I could care less about the Super Bowl. My one caveat to that is that I HATE the Patriots. And seeing them lose on Sunday preeeettty much made my week. My petty hatred aside, that is not the kind of Super Bowl we are discussing here on Page & Plate this week. This week, we're talking about soup, because guys it was -5 this morning, we're getting more snow tonight, and soup is all I want to eat while I curl up with a book and watch the blizzard unfold (and Tom Brady lose -- ok, I'm done, really).

Soup number one of the week is this beautiful, vibrant leek green soup. Did I get made fun of when I brought it in for work? You betcha. Did that stop me from eating it three days in a row? Nope. Here's what I have to say about the color of this soup: the color comes from fresh vegetables and brings with it a punch of flavor and, dare I say, spring. If I have to eat something green to get some super tasty nutrients in my body while living in a frozen tundra, I'm going to do it. And really, honestly, it's just so, so good.

You should make a batch while you sink into the equally vibrant and beautiful Little Fires Everywhere by verified genius Celeste Ng. I'm talking a life-changing read here, people. Also, for the official record, I'm angry that I got this far without being forced to read it. If something this good is out in the universe, I need it. Read it, eat, enjoy. Souper Bowl Part I = accomplished.

leek green soup and little fires everywhere.jpg

The Publican's Cauliflower, The Goldfinch, and Masterpieces

I am a sucker for two things: a book I can really lose myself in and a vegetable heavy dish that lives up to my expectations. Wow, how perfectly does that set up today's book and recipe combo? It's almost like it was intentional. Swoosh.

 Two masterpieces, side by side.

Two masterpieces, side by side.

I read The Secret History in college, and I LOVED it. It's the kind of classic book you read, then you read again, then you put down for a year, then you pick back up and fall right back in love. Then I read The Goldfinch, and WOW, it was just as good. How could one woman possibly be so talented in her writing?! Easy answer: she is Donna Tartt. Not-so-easy answer: she is Donna Tartt, and she takes between eight and ten years to write these masterpieces. It's enough to make you want to cry into the pages of your well-loved copies of her books as you read and marvel over them in jealousy and awe for the umpteenth time.

But enough about me. Let's talk cauliflower. More specifically, let's talk about the work. of. art. that is the cauliflower dish on the dinner menu at The Publican right now. It's crunchy, it's fresh, it's satisfying, it hits every one of Samin Nosrat's qualities of a good dish, and it is VEGETARIAN, people. The only reason I didn't wolf it down in two minutes flat was because every time I took a bite, I had to stop to say "oh my god, Colin, this is so good" and compliment the waitress, who, by the way was also our bartender and rocked. I tried my best to get you as close to the dish I had there, and I think you should probably go make this right now and check it out, because I got pretty close.

I hesitate to call today's post a masterpiece because I'm comparing it to the best dish I've had this year and one of my all-time favorite books, but if you want to go there, I'll support it 100%. Enjoy your masterpieces. 

Holidaze Part I: Holiday Sparkle Bark and The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming

I am a pro list maker. I make grocery lists that are organized by store layout, meal, and day of the week. I make gift-giving lists starting in October. I have a color-coded list for packing up apartments and moving. I am basically a human list. 

On my 'do this at some point before December flies by faster than an episode of The Office' list this year: find an easy recipe to share with friends and family besides limoncello, i.e., PURE VODKA which is not acceptable for everyone. Lucky for me, I stumbled upon a beautiful confectionery cookbook of my sister's, read through a recipe for tempered chocolate, was aghast at the time and effort it takes to temper chocolate, and decided to find another way to make candy.

holiday sparkle bark and the latke who couldn't stop screaming.jpg

Cue this easy recipe, which turns out beautiful dark chocolate-orange-hazelnut bark that I have called Holiday Sparkle Bark because I believe in fun. Other things I believe in (now) include the fact that Lemony Snicket could write a charming, quirky, off-beat holiday tale about latkes and the fact that you can get low-key carpal tunnel at age 23 from writing messages on Christmas cards for eight hours. 'TIS THE SEASON, WRIST BRACE. Oo, how cute would that look with tinsel on it? Anyway, time to go make another list of things to accomplish in the next five days. Items include finding and purchasing a fresh turkey from a local farmer, so suggestions are welcome! 

Curried Acorn Squash, Skippy Dies, and Getting Things Over With

I've had two acorn squashes sitting on my counter, staring me in the face every time I walked in the kitchen, wobbling in my way as I tried to wipe down the counter, and taunting me with lack of inspiration. Every Sunday as I set up my grocery list and meal plan for the week, I've kind of half-heartedly googled "what do I do with sassy acorn squash," scrolling through endless pages of nothing, and giving up. I came very, very close to throwing them in the microwave and smothering them in butter and brown sugar like the good old days, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. 

I had all but resigned myself to making a dinner I wouldn't like, even with a weird recipe from a little place I like to call the New York Times Cooking Section involving the curry powder I bought at the Savory Spice Shop. Then, this dish happened

Curried Acorn Squash.jpg

And I can confidently say that acorn squash has been redeemed in my eyes. No longer are they the dweeby, useless little brother of the butternut. No longer will they be shoved into decorative baskets to slowly rot as December trudges on. No longer will I bowl them down my mother's backyard, pretending to be feeding the deer but really wishing I could get the kind of oomph I do with a squash in a bowling alley.

This dish is bold, flavorful, and full of all sorts of textures and flavors that you wouldn't expect from a simple squash. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I'm glad I decided to sauce that squash. My taste buds have been forever changed, and my garbage can at work will never smell the same. I got it over with, and I got got. 

I also got reading Skippy Dies by Paul Murray over with, and I'm all the happier for having crossed it off my list and for having read it, of course. 

Now if only I get in that mindset for Infinite Jest, my to do list would be perfectly empty.

Croissants, Everything is Illuminated, and the Great British Baking Show

Since high school, I've loved reality cooking shows. Trust me: the best medicine for your self-esteem after failing a test is watching Gordon Ramsay call someone something that the censors have to bleep out so much it's barely comprehensible over bad risotto. It puts things in perspective, to put it lightly. I watched more episodes of Chopped than I care to admit through college, scaring freshman out of the newspaper offices so I could scoff at the noobs trying to use the ice cream machine (which for the record, NEVER WORKS). My latest obsession has resulted in the recipes for this week: The Great British Baking Show

 Paul Hollywood, one of the two judges, often advises bakers to be patient, at which point I snort and go back to whatever shortcut I'm attempting to take at that very moment.&nbsp;

Paul Hollywood, one of the two judges, often advises bakers to be patient, at which point I snort and go back to whatever shortcut I'm attempting to take at that very moment. 

If you thought you loved American cooking shows for the petty drama, you're wrong, because this show is just as compelling if not more so while being completely drama free. The contestants in the tent are sweet, polite, and caring with one another, all while turning out the most beautiful of pastries, pies, and obscure British desserts you've never heard of. Colin and I have been burning through the seasons, and I've accepted that I'm totally okay with re-watching this show because I'm learning so much. 

One of the biggest things I've learned is patience. When people make the mistakes that send them home (albeit after being smothered in compliments and hugs from their equally teary-eyed competitors who are genuinely sorry to see them go), it's often because they didn't take their time to do things right. Determined to exercise that which I possess very little of (just ask anyone who's ever been in the passenger's seat when I'm stuck in traffic), I set off on a croissant adventure armed with Paul Hollywood's advice and a recipe I knew to be successful thanks to Kevin's testing. It's worth every minute of time you'll put into it, and so is the weird and beautiful Everything is IlluminatedTake a preventative deep breath, clear your evening, and get working on both.

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