Cooking + Baking

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I don’t know that I’ve ever told you that I am a gleaner. A spotter and collector of edibles, mostly fruits. Yesterday, while out with the hubster at the hardware store to buy a post hole digger (Oh, yeah! We dig.), I spied a passel of trees heavy with tiny apples. I’d seen them other places, but this was somewhat less conspicuous than collecting them at the library. So, while the hubster shopped, I picked. They were mostly overripe, so I didn’t get as many as I would have liked, but enough to try a batch of jelly. I hadn’t made jelly before, generally preferring jams and other whole fruit preserves. It’s a bit more labor intensive, as I forgot to document the step where I strain what is essentially apple sauce in a drawstring bag dangling (by tying it to a broom handle balanced on dining chairs – fancy!) over a glass bowl. In this case, it was WELL worth the effort. It is as delicious as it is beautiful, slightly tart and fragrant, the skins of the apple turning it that marvelous color! I’m calling it, with a serious nod to my 80s roots, Pretty in Pink.

Grandpa, are you ready for a jar?

I think, perhaps, one of the best things in this life is to rise early and walk or hike or bike, while the world is mostly still and mostly quiet, and the sun hasn’t yet reached its zenith, steam rising, plants dewy, the air redolent of pine and damp earth. This, of course, is made even better if one is accompanied by the dearest of dear friends and kisses and hugs are exchanged, hands held, and exultations are made about beauty and luck and fine art (Patrick Dougherty) and wild scents on the breeze.

Follow this with a trip to the market, small batch jam making, strawberry and the best peach ever, the reading of books while enjoying the gentlest of window breezes, before an early bed-time, and you have, my dear peeps, the makings of a most perfect day. Yes, you do.

Oh, and Happy Birthday America!!


Today is my Grandma’s birthday. I am dancing to Motown and baking Biscochitos, some of her favorite cookies, in between great belly laughs at our shared memories and hearty sobs that she is not alive. Since I cannot call her to say Happy Birthday and am glad she was born, I talk to her in my head. I tell her that I miss her and that I love these pictures, that they capture her spirit and make me glad to have known her for so long. I tell her that I am well and the hubster, too. The neighbors put up their holiday lights, and the block looks so pretty. I tell her that it is raining, and November in Pittsburgh was the warmest since the Hoover Administration. I wonder, how old were you then? A teenager, maybe? Oh, and I’m trying something a little different with the cookies. Hopefully they’ll turn out the way I am anticipating. I’ll let you know. I love you, Grandma. Have a great day…

Happy Cyber Monday, peeps! Say hello to my annual Thanksgiving pecan pie, perhaps the most handsome I’ve ever made, and just as tasty, too. That’s me getting ready to push it (in what look like ginormous Doc Martens – I swear I’m a 6.5!) and our other food and beverage contributions down through Brighton Heights in our wacky wagon, so called because one of the wheels requires an occasional swift kick to remain on the straight and narrow. To those observers who may have thought we were treating a swaddled baby unkindly, you’ve been informed. Kristen, our great friend and hostess extraordinaire, mixes her don’t ask don’t tell gravy, which, along with everything else, was delicious and soul-filling. In true Thanksgiving form, I ate too much and lamented the fact that my waistband was not elasticized. Maybe next year…

Friday morning

broccoli and zucchini roasted with smoked paprika and sea salt

spinach salad topped with my favorite egg, caramelized apple, and fennel

The last of the fallen leaves on our front steps.

Under beautiful skies, the wing beats of a murder of crows, and a mere twenty-four hours after Thanksgiving, we feasted, yet again, at The Penn Brewery. The pretzels and cheese were the mere tip of the German-leaning culinary iceberg…mmmm.

Oh, and in true cyber Monday fashion, the kindly folks at Block Island Organics are having a crazy good sale. Get 30% off your entire purchase through tomorrow by entering the code THANKS30.

Heck ya! A real hodge podge today, huh? Have a great week…


And the hills are kitted out in their beautiful best.  The mood changes with the whim of the wind and scudding clouds, leaving me to shiver or coo, hood up or eyes squinting at the the warmth of the sun. How lucky I am to be wandering this neck of the woods, to traipse loudly through ankle deep leaves, to hear the squawk and chirp and cry of every manner of bird, greeting me from on high, to know a bit more of the world.

And with fall comes the shift from the snap and crunch of giant summer salads to roasted vegetables and hearty soups, the house warmly scented. I am jiving on this combination, as of late: a winter squash and red grapes, dotted with butter and flaked sea salt. On days that I remember, I toss in rosemary from the garden for the last few minutes, and everything is elevated. Mmmm, yes!

How about that smile! Last Sunday’s walking adventure to St. George’s Ukrainian Church in Brighton Heights for their Ethnic Food Festival. We devoured more hearty fall fare, Stroganoff, buttery rolls, borscht (for the hubster, I don’t do beets), mushroom barley soup, pierogies, and sausage with the best cabbage I’ve ever tasted.

The scrape of metal chairs on linoleum and a wall lined with crooked pictures of Jesus and the saints sent me straight back to childhood and the countless hours spent at Our Lady of Grace. The church where my dad was an Altar Boy, and I earned my First Communion. The church where Father Moynihan taught me, with a wink and a smile, how to shake hands properly. The church where I saw my Grandma Frances in her Sunday best, gloved hands, lipstick, and the scent of Aqua Net. Oh, nostalgia, how you blur the tedium and frustration and shine a light on all that is fine.

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