Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens


Let the baking begin!

Even people who use their ovens to store pots and pans most of the year, start pulling out their mixers and baking sheets about now.  It’s cookie time and we’re lucky that an early Thanksgiving gave us a little extra time to fill our freezers with homemade treats for the holidays.

I’m a self-confessed cookie addict.  When I just checked, I found 14 cookie recipes posted here in the four years I’ve been writing this blog.  Still, I’m always on the lookout for simple offerings that deliver irresistible flavor without a lot of fuss, especially during such a busy season.

Bar cookies are one of the best bets.  You spread them in the pan, bake, and slice when cooled.  No rolling, no cutting, no decorating. Continue reading Ladies and gentlemen, start your ovens

Fresh chestnuts reconsidered


One of my best discoveries at Portland’s fabulous downtown farmers market this fall was the glory of fresh chestnuts.

I know, I know. People all over the world adore fresh chestnuts.  But as many times as I’ve prepared with them over the years, they’ve rarely seemed worth the trouble.

Most of the fresh chestnuts in the supermarket are already too old and starchy despite the promise of their glossy shells.  Then cooking them – as in “chestnuts roasting on an open fire” – has always proved a dicey undertaking.  The shells are hard to score with a knife, it’s difficult to decide when they’re done, and I usually burn my fingers trying to peel them. Continue reading Fresh chestnuts reconsidered

In praise of fresh cranberries


Some people absolutely insist their cranberries come out of a can, preferably with the little ridges that serve as cutting guides.   So it only makes sense to put canned cranberry sauce on the Thanksgiving table if that’s what it takes to keep peace in the family.

At our house, though, fresh is the only choice.

These delightfully tart little berries are the perfect counterpoint to the heavy carbs and – let’s admit it – often boring turkey at the heart of a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.  What’s more, they’re loaded with antioxidants and are only in season during the holidays. It would be a shame not to make the most of them when they’re here. Continue reading In praise of fresh cranberries

Winter squash flavor, tender skin

The vegetable selection is rapidly shrinking at local farmers markets with the arrival of a wet and chilly fall here in the Northwest.  One of the compensations, though, is the arrival of beautiful squash in every imaginable shape, size and color.

One of my favorites is the aptly named delicata.  Like many of its cousins, this little squash boasts rich, sweet flesh that’s great in a soup, fabulous in a salad, and terrific in pasta.   Unlike the better known butternut, Hubbard and acorn squashes, though, the delicata has skin that is thin and tender.  For many dishes, you don’t even have to peel it.

This is one winter squash that I can prep for a recipe without worrying that I’m going to take a finger off in the process.  That alone would make it attractive in my book but I also love the way it cooks up quickly and takes to a wide range of flavor combinations. Continue reading Winter squash flavor, tender skin