Cardamom Orange Cake

On Sundays we often drive into the city to have dinner with my parents.  They still live in my childhood home in the charming neighborhood where I grew up.  I love that my children now play in my old bedroom and in the garden where I once planted flowers.   My brother selects the wine for our dinners, and I always bring dessert.  I’m lucky to have this outlet with which to dispense and disperse all of the sweets I like to make, otherwise my husband and I would be terribly fat!  This past Sunday morning we woke very late.  The sunlight that normally streams through our bedroom window and falls in a band of warmth across the bed was completely eclipsed by thick, cold November storm clouds. Continue reading “Cardamom Orange Cake”

Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes

The feasts before the feast

Happy November!  I love these few weeks between Halloween and Thanksgiving when the anticipation of the holidays begins to build from a mild hum to a full-blown roar.  November is, quite possibly, the month in which I spend the most time in the kitchen, and that couldn’t make me happier.  My thoughts of food start to shift from pumpkin-spice everything in October, to warm and wintery and extravagant meals, fit for a king.  In our house, Thanksgiving recipe-testing begins and the menu starts to take shape.  Over the next few weeks, we’ll have many “mini-feasts” as I test and try out new recipes and new combinations before finalizing the Thanksgiving menu.  November is the month of feast after feast. Continue reading “Brown Butter Carrot Cupcakes”

Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes

L’opéra d’automne

The lake is changing quickly these days.  Fall has stepped firmly into the spotlight .  I always say, Fall arrives as a whisper.  She is the Prima Donna of a grand opera.  She arrives quietly through the back door and slips into her dressing room with nothing more than the rustle of her petticoats.  In the theatre there’s a whisper of her presence, a rumor, an electricity in the air, and though no one has seen her, she is felt by everyone.  She keeps it that way for a while, perhaps only for her own vain amusement, as Prima Donnas are known to do.   She works on her own time, at her own pace, primping and prepping behind the scenes, and everyone follows suit.  No one dares to question her punctuality as she waits in hushed wings, keeping her presence secret until she, and only she, is ready to step onto the stage.  Her grand entrance is a crescendo of gold and bronze and brilliance and luster as she arranges herself in the centre of everything and all eyes fall upon her.  Though she had been there all along, the audience watches in awe and stunned silence as the music begins to swell.   Continue reading “Maple-Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes”

Pots de Crème au Chocolat

A homesick American

On a dim side street that cut through the buildings like a crack in a rock there was a nondescript little candy shop.  It wasn’t too far from our apartment on Viale Italia, in Livorno, and I passed it frequently on my way to the market. You could easily  have walked right by without noticing but for the aromas that slipped beneath the door – apparitions of caramelized sugar and bittersweet cocoa.  Though I didn’t often stop in to buy anything (willpower, you know), just knowing it was there was reassuring.  I was quite homesick during that first winter abroad and everyone knows that a little chocolate is the best cure for homesickness.   Continue reading “Pots de Crème au Chocolat”

Mushroom Risotto

Food as art

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that the kitchen is a world-class art gallery.  The exhibits change with the seasons, but one thing remains the same – each dish is reminiscent of a work from one of history’s most influential artists.  We could say that there are dishes that resemble the cubism of Picasso – those meticulously constructed fusions with ingredients whose union seems surprisingly controversial, yet somehow work together perfectly (think Kimchi Tacos).  There are the Michelangelos – well thought out Renaissance masterpieces.  They don’t overstep the boundaries of artistic license or realism, and their refined elements take time and a steady hand to prepare (Christmas dinner?).  There are the Jackson Pollocks – abstract impressionist dishes that evoke all the feels (butternut mac & cheese?).  And then there is Risotto. Continue reading “Mushroom Risotto”

Harvest Chicken

The kids went back to school last week.  To me, it feels a bit like sacrilege to begin in the middle of the sacred month of August.  But, over the last few days a cool fog has rolled in off the mountains and I’ve had to put extra blankets on the beds.  It’s like nature is saying, “It’s time,” and it truly feels like fall is nearly here, a little earlier than normal, as well, but who am I to argue with Mother Nature.  At night I still throw the windows open wide and by morning the house is blissfully cool – almost cold, even – and I wake, finding I’ve been dreaming of damp autumn leaves and the scent of cinnamon dancing through the kitchen air. Continue reading “Harvest Chicken”

Calvados Martini

Normandy is famous for many of the world’s most delicious delicacies: Camembert, apples, oysters, and the most luscious cream and butter, cidre and of course, Calvados -the apple brandy that has been distilled there for over five centuries.  Calvados, in a way, is made like a fine perfume, with producers meticulously combining upwards of 200 different varieties of apples ranging from sweet to tart to bittersweet and bitter into their eau de vie.  In one appellation, pears are also used in the formula.  Bitter and tart apples must make up the majority of the composition (70%), while the remainder is comprised Continue reading “Calvados Martini”

An Après-Ski Boozy Hot Cocoa Bar

In Colorado skiing is not just a sport, it’s life, and people approach it with a zeal akin to that of a religious institution.  Here in the city, ski shops line the streets and you’d be hard pressed to find a car that doesn’t have a ski rack on the roof or a bumper sticker that says something like, “White powder is my drug of choice.”  Starting around September, the meteorologists begin their daily weather forecasts with a report of the snow accumulations at the popular ski resorts, and everyone waits with baited breath for Continue reading “An Après-Ski Boozy Hot Cocoa Bar”

A French-Inspired Fall Feast

We live just on the edge of a forested wetland comprised of several little lakes and ponds that extend out from the main river like leaves from a branch.  I like to start my day there in that quiet oasis, walking among the trees and along the shores of the lakes.  For me it’s a form of “Forest Bathing” which, if you’re not familiar with traditional Japanese medicine, is a therapy based on the principle that the beneficial organic compounds released by the trees and vegetation are absorbed into our bodies when we walk through the forest.  The benefits of literally “taking in the forest” include Continue reading “A French-Inspired Fall Feast”

Beef Stroganoff with Brown-Buttered Noodles

A few days ago I heard a local meteorologist describing the future forecast as “Sweater Weather,” and I thought how nice it is that we’ve started describing the weather by what’s appropriate to wear.  But he was right!  Yesterday was, by far, the coldest day of the season.  I knew the temperature was going to drop because the normally calm afternoon winds took a turn and started swirling about harshly from the north, sending dried leaves and tumble weeds flying in all directions.  Our house happens to face north and, as much as I love its odd, old quirks, it’s very drafty.  In winter, the wind whistles and moans on the eaves above the front door and the cold air always manages to find its way inside, probably using the same hidden cracks and holes that the spiders and crickets use to find shelter from the rain. Continue reading “Beef Stroganoff with Brown-Buttered Noodles”