24th November 2015


I hosted my first Thanksgiving when I was just a junior in college. My grandparents, parents, cousins, and more all gathered at my little ramshackle rental house in Austin’s historic Hyde Park and my dad and I planned the menu down to the last detail. Helping cook whole holiday meals was nothing new, but working in my new kitchen was. Thankfully it was the best – and biggest – part of the house. I had acquired bits and pieces of what I considered a “grown up’s kitchen” over the years and made it my mission to put my measly pay checks towards quality spices rather than sub par mixed drinks downtown – it helped that I didn’t turn 21 until the next year anyways.

My dad and I woke up early that Thanksgiving morning, put the turkey in the oven with the hopes of eating around noon, and left for a long walk. Most everything else had been prepared the day before – the pies were nestled in the belly of my kayak that I kept in the laundry room next to the kitchen – the turkey was one of the last items on our to-do list. We came back from our walk and decided to peek in on our turkey, expecting to tuck it back in for at least another hour or so, when we realized it was perfectly done. The house was still fast asleep as the scent of sage-stuffed bird filled the space. We snuck a few bites, covered up the evidence with a well placed lemon slice, and covered the whole thing with foil to keep warm. We still aren’t sure what happened that year: perhaps my rental kitchen oven was much better quality than originally thought or maybe my grandmother questioned our roasting skills and replaced the bird with a fully cooked one while we were out. We will never know. One thing’s for sure, we definitely could have served Thanksgiving breakfast that year instead of dinner.

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Plenty of people have warned me about an unavoidable inability or sheer apathy towards cooking after having a baby. And while I’ve not been baking fresh biscuits every morning since bringing Avery home, I’ve certainly eased my way back into a normal kitchen routine. Some people swore that Thanksgiving would be the last thing on my mind at this point, and, while I’m perfectly content to stare at Avery’s little toes all day, I also can’t get cranberries and mashed potatoes out of my head. I have a feeling Avery will forgive me once she has her own first taste of roasted turkey.

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Since I knew this Thanksgiving would be a bit different, I decided to cure my turkey cravings early and easily with a pared down version of the holiday all baked into a single skillet: the Thanksgiving leftovers pot pie. The beauty of this pot pie is that it can be made with actual Thanksgiving leftovers and a few other quickly prepped ingredients or it can be made from scratch. But I think we can all agree that leftovers are the way to win this dish.

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The recipe is quite easy: where it calls for turkey, just use leftover roast turkey. If you are making it from scratch, simply cook a smaller amount of turkey – such as the juicy tenderloin – and cut into pieces. Green beans can be spooned straight from the casserole dish and the mashed sweet potatoes easily fold into the biscuit dough – be sure to leave those cloying marshmallows behind though. And if you go scratch, simply blanch the beans and bake the potatoes. A bit more work in the end, but it’ll taste just like the holidays all over again.


Thanksgiving leftovers pot pie with sweet potato biscuit crust
serves 4 to 6

olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
1 large stalk celery, finely chopped
1/2 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
1 big sprig fresh sage, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon flour
1 1/2 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 1/2 cups cooked turkey, shredded or cut into small pieces — or 10 oz. turkey tenderloin, baked until cooked through and cut into small pieces
1 1/2 cups cooked green beans, cut into small pieces — or 2 cups fresh green beans, blanched and cut into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

1 3/4 cup flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
6 tablespoons butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
3/4 cup mashed sweet potatos — or 2 medium sweet potatoes, roasted, peeled, and mashed
1/3 cup milk

Set the oven to 425.

Set a large cast-iron skillet set over medium-high heat and add a few tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic, carrot, celery, and onion and saute for a few minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the sage and white pepper cook for a minute more. Add the pat of butter to the middle of the pan and stir to coat the vegetables. Working quickly, sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and stir to create a roux, cooking until the flour is completely coated in butter and begins to smell toasted. While continuously whisking or stirring, add the stock. Continue to stir until a thick gravy forms and coats the back of a spoon. Remove the skillet from the heat. Add the turkey and green beans and stir to combine. Salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

In a large bowl, add the flour, baking powder, salt, and soda, stirring to combine. Add the butter, cutting it into the flour with your finger tips until the pieces are no larger than small peas. Make a well in the mixture, add the sweet potato puree, and fold together with a wooden spoon. Add the milk, stirring until a smooth dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Using your fingers, gingerly pat the dough flat to about 1/2-inch thick. Cut biscuits from the dough using a biscuit-cutter or the open end of a Mason jar. Gather, pat, and cut dough again as needed. Arrange a layer of biscuit dough circles over the top of the filling in the skillet, leaving a little bit of room in between each. Place the skillet in the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes or until the biscuits have risen and browned and the filling bubbles. Serve immediately.



Happy Thanksgiving, y’all.


20th November 2015


You know those smells that make you feel like the holidays are really here? The spices, the spruce, the sugar. Well for me, it’s hot cast-iron. The big cauldron burning away on the stove means soups, mulled cider, and most excitedly, fresh pumpkin. Oh of course, you can smell the pumpkin cooking down, too, but that tell-tale metallic twang instantly makes me think of the holiday season. In our house that smell starts long before Halloween, extends into Thanksgiving, and on past Christmas, with pie after pie, bread loaf after bread loaf, and whatever other pumpkin-laced recipe we try each year. This season, my Dad flew up to New England to see the leaves change, hand out Halloween candy, and to – hopefully – meet the new little one. We all had high hopes that the smell of simmering pumpkin might draw her out a bit early – we really wanted a Halloween baby – but she decided to stay put. Dad had to leave before she was born, but left us with a freezer full of pumpkin puree to keep us fed through the New Year. Her first solid food just might be local pumpkin pureed by grandpa.

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Instead of a week early, the little one – who we’ve named Avery Walden – decided to arrive exactly one week late on Friday, November 13th at 4:49 in the evening. I think she just wanted to make sure we had time to prep all the pumpkin. So in the downtime since her arrival, we’ve been making good use of that pumpkin, starting with these simple pumpkin quesadillas stuffed with fresh puree, salty goat cheese, and flecked with crushed red pepper. A rich toasted garlic and pepita guacamole goes alongside for good measure. Too bad Avery only has eyes for milk, but then again I don’t have to share my guacamole with her just yet.

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If you don’t have a surplus of fresh pumpkin in your freezer, the packaged stuff works just as well. Just be sure to get the puree and not the pie filling. Pumpkin spice is a wonderful thing, but it certainly has no place near guacamole.


pumpkin quesadillas & garlic pepita guacamole
serves two

12 small corn tortillas
1 cup fresh pumpkin puree
4 ounces plain goat cheese (I prefer Vermont Creamery), crumbled
crushed red pepper
sea salt
vegetable oil for frying
2 ripe avocados
juice from half a lemon
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
1/4 cup pepitas, roughly chopped
pumpkin seed oil (or other light oil)
salt and pepper

Spread half the tortillas with a few tablespoons of pumpkin puree. Top with a generous sprinkle of goat cheese. Add crushed red pepper and sea salt to taste then top with another tortilla. Repeat with remaining tortillas and filling.

Heat a thin layer of oil in a skillet or cast-iron griddle over medium high heat. Carefully add one quesadilla and fry in the oil until it begins to brown and crisp along the edges, about one minute. Flip and fry on the other side. Remove from the skillet and drain on a paper-towel lined plate. Repeat with remaining quesadillas.

In a big bowl, mash the avocado with the back of a fork. Drizzle lemon juice over the avocado and mix to combine.

In the same skillet used for the quesadillas, add a bit more oil and fry the garlic until it just begins to crisp. Turn off the heat and add the pepitas, toasting until they just begin to become fragrant. Spoon the garlic and pepitas over the mashed avocado. Drizzle with a bit of pumpkin seed oil and top with salt and pepper. Serve alongside the pumpkin quesadillas.



More pumpkin and more about the new little pumpkin, Avery, to come soon.


2nd November 2015


Early one autumn morning, before the sun was even awake, we dragged ourselves out of our respective warm beds, bundled up in the car, and headed west away from the winking dawn light. Around curves and bends, foggy patches that begged to be stopped and sighed over, and past falling leaves that crunched in that lovely crisp way. We made it to a little old farm with a cranberry bog barely big enough to supply Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving table, unloaded our gear, and set off for the foggiest corner we could find. There were wood ducks and gliding geese, cattail puffs and milkweed floating in the air, and a few local pups came winding round the bog levees stopping for hasty head scratches. Warm leather Bean boots made quick work of the shallowest part of the bog, cranberries floating around the ankles, until little bog frogs hastened us back to the nearby shore. The sun rose, the golden hour waned, and our picaresque morning was at an end. Until we saw the sign pointing towards freshly picked bog cranberries just up the road. And another adventure began.

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My dear friend Briana is a wonder with a camera. To be completely honest, I have never felt lovelier than in these photos. Resembling a giant cranberry myself – round and red and perhaps a bit bouncy according to some of the hilarious outtakes she shared with me – a cranberry bog was perhaps the most appropriate place to set this little scene. It was the most sigh-worthy morning for a photo shoot and when we found the fresh cranberries just down the road, we knew the pre-dawn wake up call was all worth it. A very New England start for my little New England-born babe.

We brainstormed recipes on the drive home – mostly baked goods – until we made ourselves too hungry to keep talking. Later, I took home my precious little bag of cranberries, froze half, and allotted the remaining for a batch of my favorite soft cookie, the Newton. Although some associate the original Fig Newton with the town of Newton, Massachusetts, they are not, in fact, related at all. Nevertheless, the connection remains and so it only makes sense to make the cookie even more New England themed with the addition of locally grown cranberries. And there you have the cranberry newton.

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cranberry newtons
makes about one dozen 1-inch cookies

for the cranberry filling
1 1/2 cups dried cranberries
1/2 pint water
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of salt

for the dough
8 ounces flour
3 ounces butter, chilled and cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 plus 2 tablespoons milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

In a small saucepan set over medium-low heat, combine the cranberries, water, sugar, lemon juice, cinnamon and salt. Simmer over a low flame until the cranberries are plump, the sugar dissolves, and most of the water evaporates or is soaked up by the dried fruit, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let the mixture cool slightly. Transfer to a food processor or blender and pulse until a smooth paste forms. Pour into a small bowl, cover, and refrigerate until set and ready to use.

In a large bowl or in the bowl of a food processor, blend together the flour, butter, sugar, and baking powder until the butter is broken into pieces no larger than a small pea. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, egg yolk, and vanilla. Add the wet to the dry and blend until a damp dough forms. Form the dough into a rough rectangle, wrap in plastic wrap or a zip-top bag, and chill in the refrigerator for at least one hour.

Set the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Remove the dough from the refrigerator and place onto a piece of parchment or wax paper. Top with another piece of parchment paper. Gently roll out the dough into a long rectangle – about 12 inches long, 4 or 5 inches wide, and 1/4-inch thick – trimming the edges to make a clean line. Remove the top piece of parchment and discard. Spoon the chilled cranberry filling in a thin, vertical line down the middle of the rectangle. Using the bottom piece of parchment, roll one side of the dough over the filling in the middle followed by the second side. This will resemble a flat, tri-fold brochure and seal in the cranberry filling. Gently pinch the seams of the dough to close.

Using a sharp knife cut the dough log into 12 or so even pieces and place on a lined baking sheet seam side down. Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 to 25 minutes – rotating the pan as necessary – until the cookies are set and just barely begin to brown on top. Let cool to room temperature before serving.


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All the above photos of me or the cranberry bog were shot by Briana Moore .

See more of Briana’s lovely work on her website and check out her Instagram full of equally wonderful snaps of her everyday adventures.


22nd October 2015


There are officially 14 days left until my due date. While that means essentially nothing since the little one could arrive any time she pleases, I’m focused, prepared, and feeling like the boyscout I was raised to be (thanks Dad). I have extra water and blankets tucked in random corners of the house and car, an emergency plan for arriving to the hospital after hours, and I can start a fire from scratch or tie a dozen different safety knots if necessary. Those last two might be less helpful though. More practically, I’ve been stocking the freezer, fridge, and pantry with all manner of healthy (and a few less-than-healthy treats) for whenever this little lady decides to make her debut. I might not be able to control much of anything when the time arrives, but I can ensure that we will not starve. But in all my prep I kept thinking of baked goods, spiced thises and thats, the oh-so-telling smell of fall that seeps from an ever-busy autumnal oven. The black bean, squash, and kale burritos I made and stashed in the freezer simply didn’t satisfy that fix. And I realized I can’t welcome my future little baker into the world with a baked good-less house. So until she arrives – and perhaps right up until I am forced to head to the hospital – I will be baking, baking, baking.

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I’m still working on my to-bake list, but I started with a little something that reminded me of home: pan dulce. When we visited my grandparents in the Rio Grande Valley or hopped across the border to Progreso, Mexico, these little sweet buns were a traditional little treat. Also known as conchas due to their shell-like shape an design, pan dulce is a lightly sweetened yeast bun topped with a sugary paste and baked until slightly crisp. They are best served warm with morning coffee or an afternoon cup of tea. And in this house, they are laced with pumpkin spice and topped with cocoa powder spiked sugar. Fall, Mexican cooking, pumpkin spice. All my favorite things in one.

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pumpkin pan dulce
makes about 16 buns

Recipe inspired by Joy the Baker’s pretty pan dulce.

for the dough
1 package instant yeast
1/2 cup warm water (105-115 degrees)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon pumpkin spice (I like King Arthur’s blend)
4 cups flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fixed with a whisk attachment, add the warm water and a pinch of sugar. Sprinkle the yeast over the water and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes, until the the mixture begins to foam and bubble. Add the milk, pumpkin, sugar, butter, salt, egg, and pumpkin spice and mix together on low. Once combined, switch to a dough hook. Add the flour a cup at a time, until a smooth and slightly sticky dough forms. Transfer dough to a lightly greased large bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set in a warm place to rise, about 1 1/2 hours. Meanwhile, make the sugar paste topping.

for the sugar paste tops
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar
5 tablespoons shortening
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

In a medium-sized bowl, cream together the sugars and the shortening. Add the flour and vanilla and continue to mix until a smooth paste forms. Cut the paste into two equal portions. Form one into a small disc, wrap in plastic, and store in the refrigerator. Leave the second half in the bowl, sprinkle with cocoa powder, and blend together until fully incorporated. Wrap the second piece in plastic and store in the refrigerator until ready to use.

make the buns…

Set the oven to 350 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down, and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour and shape with your hands or a rolling pin into a rough 12- by 18-inch rectangle. Using a sharp knife, cut into 16 equal portions. Form each piece into a rounded bun by folding the edges under until a smooth round shape takes form. Transfer to a lined baking sheet and continue with remaining pieces of dough.

Take the sugar paste out of the refrigerator and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Pinch off a quarter sized portion and roll out into a thin round, about 1/8-inch thick. Using a sharp knife or a biscuit cutter, cut a clean circle – about 3 inches wide – and discard the trimmings. Using the knife or biscuit cutter, cut little curves or lines in the paste. Or make little jack-o-lantern faces. Use a spatula to gently transfer the sugar paste design to the top of a piece of dough. If the paste has trouble sticking, lightly dot the top of the dough with water. Repeat with remaining paste until all the buns are topped. Set the buns in a warm place and let rise again for another 30 to 40 minutes.

Bake the buns for 18 to 20 minutes or until the sugar tops are set and the bottom of the buns just barely begin to brown. Remove from the oven and transfer to a cooling rack. Serve warm with spiced coffee or tea.


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9th October 2015


Ahh the snickerdoodle, the sourdough bread of the cookie genus. Okay, so it doesn’t actually involve any dough starter or yeast, but you have to agree that snickerdoodles have a bit of that je ne sais quoi like a good loaf of sourdough does. I chalk it up to the cream of tartar, an integral part of the snickerdoodle identity. Without it, it’s just another boring sugar cookie. Much like the underrated sourdough, the snickerdoodle is versatile, adaptable, reliable, accommodating new flavors and additions, but still just as good the old-fashioned way. And the fact that it is coated in sugar definitely helps.


My favorite snickerdoodle – and I’ve tasted plenty – is an oversized sweet studded with little currants and dusted with cardamom and comes from one of my favorite local cafes called Crema in Harvard Square. It’s perfectly sour and tangy, and the spiced sugar settles into all the craggy corners of the cookie. It is reason enough to venture to the square for the afternoon. But since I can’t be loitering in cafes all day, at least not until this baby arrives and we need to have mother-daughter coffee dates, I made a little replica at home.

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All the flavors of a snickerdoodle mimic those of a coffee cake: the sour, the sweet, and the sandy sugar. And coffee cakes bake splendidly in cast-iron skillets, which is my go-to cooking vessel forever and always. So a skillet snickerdoodle just made a whole heap of sense. And then you can serve it up in dainty slices and pair it with your morning tea for breakfast. As in, you can have cookies for breakfast. You’re welcome.

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cardamom & currant skillet snickerdoodle

makes 1 8-inch skillet

3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cinnamon
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), room temperature
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons currants

Set the oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, and 3/4 teaspoon cardamom. Sprinkle half on the bottom of a 8-inch cast-iron skillet and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer, cream together the butter and remaining sugars. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla. Add the flour, cream of tartar, remaining cardamom, soda, and salt and blend until incorporated. Turn the mixer to low and fold in the currants. Transfer the dough to the cast-iron skillet and gently press into an even layer, trying to keep the spiced sugar on the bottom of the skillet. Evenly sprinkle the remaining spiced sugar over the top of the dough. Place the skillet in the middle of the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes.

– Remember, cast-iron will continue to cook its contents even after it is removed from the oven.
– If the top of the snickerdoodle browns too quickly, simply cover the skillet with a sheet of tin foil.