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2018-01-21T00:53:40.516Z
0
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A new year, a clean slate. As I welcomed in the new year, I spent time reflecting on the last year, on where I've been and where I'd like to go. In these moments, I have a tendency to focus on my weaknesses, to identify ways I feel I've come up short to my good intentions. Despite my efforts, my lifestyle leans towards the sedentary, the house is in a constant state of needing to be picked up, and my ever-present sweet tooth continues its habit of getting me into trouble. 

This year, instead of fixating on the negative, I intend to look towards the positive, to recognize all the ways I have grown (and can continue to grow). I have no list of resolutions for the new year. Instead, I am working on cultivating a series of intentions—to find the good in stressful situations, to maintain positivity when working with other people, and to push myself to become more skilled at things that I love (like teaching, baking, and woodworking). 

Luckily, practice makes perfect. I anticipate my oven will get plenty of work as...

My family's holiday traditions have evolved throughout the years. While some traditions stay true, others have gone through revisions. Locations have changed and the guest list adapts as we welcome new faces and say goodbye to those we have loved the longest. While some changes may be bittersweet, we know the importance of gathering together to share and show our love, whether catching up over good food and conversation or stopping on each other's doorsteps for a brief hello.  

For the last few years, my family has spent Christmas close to home. On Christmas Eve, we open presents near the fireplace, as A Christmas Story plays quietly in the background. In the spirit of new holiday traditions, I wake up early on Christmas Day to bake something warm from the oven to create a new set of sweet memories. Since I fly home across state lines near Christmas Eve, I look for recipes to bake that are simple and easy to accomplish—there is no time to spend hours in the kitchen. 

This year I have partnered with Dole Sunshine to #SharetheSunshine...

This honey cookie recipe has been passed down through four generations in my family. Shared between mother and daughter, grandmother and granddaughter, and cousin to cousin, this recipe is weaved throughout our family history. The honey cookies are guests at our holiday celebrations, making their appearance when family is gathered.

Growing up, the honey cookies were served out of large vintage yellow Tupperware container, brought in from the cold garage after the evening meal. By this time, the dessert table was already full, arranged with candies and cookies of all flavors and textures on brightly colored holiday plates. Since the honey cookies were a late arrival to the party (we would have certainly spoiled our appetites if they arrived sooner), they were placed on a nearby dining room chair. It didn't matter that the cookies were cold, or that they were not presented just so—everyone knew they were the genuine star of the holiday table.

Memories of holidays past bring up images of family laughing around the table, cousins sneaking extra cookies in pockets and up sleeves, and my grandfather reminding everyone, again,...

Time is fleeting during these December days. The calendar continually grows fuller, as events and errands are penciled in for the evenings and weekends. With shopping to do and friends to meet, the holiday season is passing by too quickly. After realizing earlier this week that there are only two weekends before Christmas, I panicked. How would I be able to fit in everything without being overwhelmed? I stepped back for a minute, took a deep breath, and scheduled in time for myself.

Time is one of the most precious gifts we have to share—with ourselves and others. As an introvert, I enjoy keeping my free time to myself, but I often remind myself the value of sharing time with the people I care about the most. Phone calls and coffee dates often carry more meaning than we anticipate. I'm holding onto those important moments this season.

...

The holiday season is right around the corner. For the past few years I have struggled to find the holiday spirit, but this year I seem to have it in an abundance. The feeling brings a comfort and ease, allowing the stresses of everyday life to fade into the background. Perhaps it is the excitement of having a new home to fill with lights and cheer, but I am grateful to have holiday baking and decorating ranking high on my priority list. 

As with most holiday family gatherings, bringing the dessert falls on my shoulders (and I am only happy to oblige). While classic pies—pumpkin, apple, and chocolate cream—are a Thanksgiving tradition, I also enjoy introducing a new dessert alongside the standard selection. In past years, the flavor combinations of chocolate and ginger and pumpkin and espresso have made appearances. For this Thanksgiving, I am planning for the flavors of pumpkin and caramel to join together with rum and raisin in this bread pudding recipe.

...

At the beginning of summer, my boyfriend and I moved into our first home. We spent the early months dwelling in a near empty rooms, gaining familiarity with the space before taking paint to the walls and opening our wallets for furnishings. While the task of making a house into a home felt initially overwhelming, the choice to step back and pause for breath has made the project enjoyable.

Our house came with its own personality, including a unique blend of blonde wood trim, bronzed hardware, and ornate light fixtures. While the personality may not match our own preference for modern, we are finding a way to blend our disparate styles together. We have made design mistakes along the way—the two coats of "bunglehouse blue" paint in the office was quickly repainted with the original color in a short 24 hours, so grave was the error in judgement—but these failures have only led to a better understanding of the space where we live.   

...

I opened my first can of pumpkin earlier this week. This annual event may be arriving too late in the season for some (especially you, PSL lovers), but the pumpkin and spices are finally starting to feel right for me. After a rough start to the season, I am focused back on the present, living moment by moment in the ups and downs of daily life.

The weather has been unusually warm for this time of year, supporting short-sleeved shirts instead of winter jackets, and long walks on paved park paths instead of treks through ankle-deep snow drifts. While I would normally be snuggling up on the couch and settling in for the long, cold months, I have been out and about instead, enjoying the respite from winter and enjoying the extended autumn warmth. I may be late to the pumpkin party this year, but I believe it's better to show up late than to never arrive. 

...

The rains of spring have arrived with determination, filling the forecast with a week of gray, overcast skies. After a long winter of snow and cold weather, I forget how much I enjoy the sound of the rain drumming against the window panes and sloshing through the gutters. In the last evening downpour, I threw open the windows and turned on the fan, bringing the deep scent of earth into the apartment. I curled up in bed with a book, eventually lulled to sleep by the steady beat of raindrops overhead.

Rainy days are my excuse to set aside the busy schedule and curl up indoors instead. The pace of a slow day is rehabilitating in a dozen small, but significant ways. These heavy gray skies may soon feel monotonous, but for now I am reveling in these moments before the heat descends. 

...

For many years, one of the goals on my recipe checklist has been to find a recipe for a perfect loaf of sandwich bread. I envisioned the bread as an alternative to the many loaves I have purchased from the store over the years, working equally well with a spread of jam as it would as the backbone of a good sandwich. I wanted the recipe to be simple, the bread to be soft, and the crust to be golden and chewy. The task seemed easy enough, but as time has proven again and again, the kitchen staples are the most difficult to get just right. 

I have worked on this task passively since I began developing my own recipes years ago. There were many good loaves along the way, but never a loaf that made me stop in my tracks and proclaim, "This is the one!" Well, that is, until now. This basic sandwich loaf meets all of my requirements. The recipe is simple, only requiring 20 minutes or so of active preparation. The interior is light and soft, with sunflower...

Spring is a time of transition. The long daylight hours and warmth of the sun bring promise of summer, but the chill of the mornings are still reminiscent of winter. The bare branches are beginning, ever so slowly, to gain color. In my personal life, it is also a time of transition. After an exhausting search for a house involving multiple offers and multiple disappointments, an offer was accepted on my dream house. I am still nervous, fearful that somehow even now it will all be too good to be true. There are still compromises, as I knew there would be (mainly being in proximity to a busy, noisy road), but the rest is more beautiful than I dared to imagine.

As the reality of a huge purchase is settling in, I am trying to shake off the anxious energy building within me. The closing date is two months away, so I'm spending my time designing the new space instead of worrying about the decision. The move from an apartment to a home will be an enormous shift in a dozen different ways, but...

I have held an affinity for houses since I was young. Growing up, I had recurring dreams of houses filled with endless rooms. I would explore them, opening door after door, impatient to see what the next one held, disappointed when I finally awoke. Nowadays, my love for houses reveals itself in less subtle manners. Along with a standing date to watch This Old House on Sunday mornings, I regularly go on home tours for no reason other than a curiosity to know what's inside. In the summer, my boyfriend and I go on long walks around the lakes scattering our Minnesotan city. The lake walks are our compromise; he prefers to take in the beauty of nature and I prefer to take in the beauty of the lakefront properties. 

I imagine the lives held within those four walls—what the mothers hope, what the fathers fear, what the children dream.

...

The world is powered through small acts of compassion: a simple text message to say thinking of you to a friend, taking time to truly listen to another person, giving a voice to the needs of others, a genuine smile towards a stranger. Though compassion comes in many different methods and is as varied as people themselves, showing compassion does not come easily to me. I am sometimes awkward with words, the right order often failing to appear. Instead, I channel my feelings and thoughts of goodwill into the food that I bake. I may not be able to speak away the worry or ease the pain, but I can pull up a chair to the table and share burdens and bars alike.

Compassion towards others, in acts both big and small, comes in many forms—even dessert—which is why I wanted to bake up something sweet and special using one of my new favorite flours: sprouted wheat.

...

The romance of winter is fading as we enter the depths of the season. The novelty of the crisp, cold air has worn off; we pay no mind to the fleeting clouds materializing and dissipating in time with our breaths. The white snow has darkened, developing an industrial look to match that of the bustling city in which it lay. This month takes on the color gray for me, a match in both weather and mood.

The color gray is washed out. The vitamin D levels drop. The color gray is exhaustion. The news cycle (and the ensuing emotions) is inescapable. The color gray is fatigue. The days blur together in repetition and familiarity. To step out of these gray surroundings, I spent Saturday at an art museum, enveloping myself in a world of color, choosing to step away from my gray reality for a few hours. The atmosphere in museums carries a certain stillness about it, revealing a rich history with a closer look. It is about finding a new perspective in the unexpected pieces that draw the idea and speak...

I am a creature of routine, embracing my daily schedules as if they were written in stone. Routine builds structure in my life, surrounding me in the familiar. Routine provides a way to form good habits and to keep them. Routine eases the burden of making decisions, something I find paralyzing on the most difficult of days. While I love (and need) routine, the schedule has grown stifling in the last year. My weekdays blur together in a stream of repetitiveness—I eat the same breakfast each morning; I settle in front of the television at the same time each evening; I fill my fridge with the same foods week after week. Lather, rinse, repeat.

In the past year, I have been working towards building spontaneity into the routine (the irony in this arrangement is certainly not lost on me. By definition, spontaneity fits in no schedule). My routine is filled with so many self-imposed rules (no going out on school nights, no eating past 8 pm, no staying up late on the weekend) that I feel like I'm smothering myself with monotony. I know the...

Holiday baking is in full force in my kitchen. It has become a tradition to bake and decorate cut-out cookies for the holiday season while watching utterly cheesy, although delightful, holiday films. This year produced a trio of cutout flavors—classic sugar cookies, chocolate sugar cookies, and gingerbread cookies. The entire process typically takes place over three days (one to mix up the dough, another to cut-out shapes, and a third to decorate). While continuing the cookie tradition seems like such a good idea in the beginning, after six straight hours of decorating, I'm ready to toss in the pastry bag.

Yet, I persevere. The cookies are not for me. Boxed up and wrapped in ribbon, these cookies are shared with friends, family, and coworkers alike—a gift of holiday cheer.

...

When the weather turns cold and the snow starts to fly, I use my oven to fill my home with the scents of the season—warm vanilla, spiced cinnamon, and intoxicating cocoa. The kitchen is my sanctuary, a place of peace and shelter from the stress the holidays can create. Baking is one of the ways I show and share my love towards friends and family. During this time of year, there is a lot of love to go around.

As a holiday tradition, each year I look for a new recipe to serve on Christmas morning. Since the days leading up to the holidays can be busy, the recipe needs to be simple, sweet, and easy to accomplish—there is no time to spend hours in the kitchen. When I found this recipe for Cinnamon Star Bread from King Arthur Flour, I knew it was the perfect fit. Though this twist on the classic cinnamon roll may not suggest simplicity, the reality is that this recipe does come together easily. While the bread takes about three hours from start to finish, only about a half hour of that time is active. While the dough rises, you are free to...

The holiday season has arrived, with lights glowing and bells jingling. I spent the week of Thanksgiving visiting family, enjoying the food, and spending time in each other's company. It felt wonderful to get away from the everyday for awhile, to refresh and unwind in a familiar presence. Now that I am back home, I am finding it difficult to fall back into the daily routine (and even harder to wake up to the morning alarm). However, the excitement of the holiday season is in the air—on television, in stores, and on the faces of my students—which keeps the energy high. 

I haven't caught the holiday spirit yet, but I imagine spending more time in the kitchen baking up holiday classics will make the spirit easier to find.

...

Snow fell from the sky in thick, heavy flakes as the sun slowly dipped below the horizon. I watched the world turn white from my couch, sipping a glass of wine while sifting through the mess of a craft project spread over the coffee table. I was ready for the change, ready to embrace the shift towards slow living that comes with the winter season. The cold weather feels like permission to stay indoors, wrapped in blankets and chunky sweaters, granting time to catch up on the quiet lifestyle that was put on the shelf when the snow melted in the spring. 

Winter is the season of recovery—an interval between life cycles—a pause for reflection and connection.

Out of all the seasons, the autumn kitchen is my personal favorite. With the warm weather a faded memory, the heat of the oven lends a new warmth. Time slows down as the sun falls lower in the sky and the shadows grow long. Weekend mornings are easily lost among the comforting spices and rich smells. The autumn kitchen carries an ease of relaxation. With the cold air settling in around us like a heavy blanket, there is nowhere to be but in our homes, as we watch the last of the leaves change and fall from the trees. 

With several pounds of apples packed away in the garage, the time was right to pull them out and put them to use. Apple desserts are one of my favorites—the sweet, bright flavor reminiscent of my Grandmother's applesauce recipe. Over the years, apples have taken many forms in my baking, including pies, muffins, and crisps. Instead of coming up with a new use this year, I took a page out of an old book and looked...

The moody fog and rains of autumn have arrived. The rich colors of the leaves are dulled by the cloudy skies, producing an nontraditional landscape of beauty. I've been nestled indoors, sitting near the fireplace and curling up in knitted blankets. It's been a quiet autumn so far, with weekends and evenings spent close to home. When the sun appears, I'll head back outdoors, but for now I feel content with a book in hand and a mug of warm cider nearby. 

To bring this cozy feeling into the kitchen, I wanted to create a bread that would incorporate these comforts of the season. I kneaded together a rich dough, made with butter, milk, and egg . After rising, the dough is spread and swirled with warm spices and melted chocolate. The dough is cut, twisted, and sprinkled with raw sugar for sweetness and texture. The bread can be served for breakfast or dessert, but either time of day it is enjoyed, it will carry the warmth of the season through.

...