In this life, I firmly believe that there are cake people and then there are pie people. 

Winter time, arguably the annual height of baking season since the chilly months are basically a parade of one holiday after another, always seems to bring this age-old debate to mind. While I have nothing against a fluffy slice of classic vanilla cake or even a hefty, rich chunk of spiced gingerbread cake, I am very passionately what you might call a pie person. Creamy filling packed with ripe fruit, tucked away inside flaky layers of buttery pastry? Sign me up for some of that sweet, sliceable holiday gold every time.

If you're also among the tribe of pie people (or just a cake person looking to experiment a little on the side), consider serving a Cranberry, Pear & Hazelnut Tart this year. Nothing helps make the holidays merry and bright better than a slice or two of such a delicate, yet somehow hearty, little pastry. This elegant tart combines the fragrant sweetness of pear slices with zesty little pockets of cranberries bursting between your teeth, all wrapped cozily in a crackling, rich toasted hazelnut filling. Every single bite of this confection on your holiday table will make winter seem like the most wonderful time of the year!

Cranberry, Pear & Hazelnut Tart

For the tart shell (adapted from Martha Stewart's basic recipe for pâte brisée):

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons sugar
1 cup cold unsalted butter, cubed into small pieces
1/4 cup (up to 1/2 cup) ice water

Pulse flour, salt, and sugar in a food processor (or mix together by hand in a bowl). Add butter, and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with some larger pieces remaining (you can also skip the food processor and mix by hand by rubbing butter into mixture with your fingertips). Pour 1/4 cup water over mixture, reserving the rest. Pulse or mix by hand until mixture just begins to stick together. If your dough is looking too dry to hold together, add up to 1/4 cup more water one tablespoon at a time. Once you can form a ball of dough from your mixture, stop working it immediately or it may toughen up on you.

Divide dough in half and lay each on a piece of plastic wrap, press each ball of dough into a flat disk and wrap tightly. Refrigerate for at least one hour, or up to one day ahead of time (this recipe makes enough for two 9" tart shells, so you'll want to either double the filling recipe and make two tarts at once or save one disk to make another tart later; dough may also be kept frozen for up to two months).

Remove plastic wrap and turn dough out onto a floured countertop or cutting board. Roll into a circle of dough about 1/4" thick, place in 9" tart pan and press down into bottom and sides of pan to shape dough into a shell. Chill for 30 minutes while you prepare the tart filling and preheat your oven.

For the tart filling:

3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon butter, softened to room temperature
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
ripe Bosc pear, thinly sliced
2/3 cup fresh cranberries, whole

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, add both sugars and hazelnuts and pulse until a coarse meal (about the texture of cornmeal) forms. Add butter, eggs and vanilla, continue to process until mixture is well combined and creamy.

Remove chilled tart shell from refrigerator, bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until it just begins to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and lower oven temperature to 325 as you do so, then pour hazelnut filling into shell. Arrange pear slices on top, scatter the cranberries over top, place back in oven. Bake for 60 minutes, remove and let cool to room temperature before slicing and serving. Enjoy!


Imagine strolling in a frosty, pre-dawn landscape, your breath an exhaled puff of steam in the early morning air, russet leaves and brittle, ice-glazed twigs gently crackling under your boots. The scent of woodsmoke might hover in the air. A sweater and a warm, woolen shawl wraps you up tight as you walk with wide strides towards home. Your hands, reddened with the cold, reach out to press open a door and you step inside to find warmth, light and company. What is the best thing that someone could possibly hand you in this scene? If you said 'a steaming hot cup of dark coffee and a tender, buttery scone,' then you're right. But if, for example, you said 'the same cup of coffee, plus a tender buttery scone studded with juicy chunks of sugary dates and rich, salty bacon, lightly brushed with a sweetly tart orange zest,' then you and I can really and truly be best friends for life.

These scones are basically the platonic ideal of breakfast, an absolute dream of a morning pastry (whether or not that morning included a brisk, woodsy pre-dawn walk, or just a mad dash to the train or freeway to make it into the office on time). A great scone can be surprisingly hard to come by. We've all had truly terrible scones often enough, haven't we? We've all suffered through the stodgy, brick-like lumps offered by some coffee shops, or else the soft, crumbly impostors that seem almost overly eager to be cake instead.

This scone is neither of those things, friends.

This is a scone that manages to be hearty yet tender and yielding. Somehow both airy and dense, as the fragile, citrusy glaze yields under your teeth and each bite reveals sweet dried dates or savory bacon, you'll keep coming back for more until you find, suddenly, that the scone you once held is gone. It's going to be a long morning. You might have to reach for another one, after all.

Bacon & Date Scones with Orange Zest Glaze

Makes 16 scones
Total preparation & cooking time: 1 hour, 45 minutes

10 thick bacon slices 
2 cups all purpose flour 
1/2 cup light brown sugar 
2 teaspoons baking powder 
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt 
1 cup coarsely chopped pitted dates (I love great big, juicy Medjools) 
1 stick unsalted butter (very cold, or pre-frozen if possible) 
1 cup buttermilk 
1 large orange (Navel, e.g.)
1 ½ cups confectioner’s sugar

Start by lining a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat, turning occasionally, until it is cooked through but still chewy and just shy of crispy. Transfer bacon to a stack of paper towels to drain and let cool.

Whisk flour, 1/2 cup brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in large bowl. Coarsely chop the cooled bacon into pieces roughly a quarter inch in size. Add bacon and dates to the flour mixture; toss a few times until coated. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, coarsely grate your cold butter directly into the flour mixture. This evenly divides the butter throughout the mixture without melting it, causing tiny buttery pockets that will give your scones a flaky & delicious texture! Using fork, stir in the butter. Add buttermilk; continue to stir with fork until mixture becomes clumpy. 

Using hands, knead the mixture briefly in bowl until a very craggy, rough dough forms. Seriously, even if the word 'craggy' has never entered your vocabulary before this moment, it should be reserved for describing this dough. Over-kneading may lead to tough scones, so only work the dough until it just begins to hold together, then hands off!

Transfer dough to a floured work surface (a clean cutting board, granite slab, marble counter, etc). Pat and shape dough into 8-inch square slab. Slice three times horizontally and three times vertically (into 16 2-inch squares). Transfer scones to lined baking sheet, cover and chill in refrigerator for at least an hour before baking. Don't be tempted to skip this step, it's pretty crucial in terms of allowing the dough to firm up and the flour to absorb as much moisture as possible. While waiting, prepare orange zest glaze by zesting the outside of your whole orange (using the small holes of your cheese grater, or a zester if you have one) until you have gathered about a tablespoon of fresh zest. Then slice the orange in half and squeeze about 3 tablespoons of juice from it. Add both to a bowl with confectioner’s sugar, whisk until smooth and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake scones until very lightly golden, about 16 to 18 minutes. Let cool completely, and brush each with glaze. Serve once glaze has set up after a few minutes, and enjoy!


What do you make for breakfast on a day that revolves around preparing to eat an enormous meal in the early afternoon? 

If you're clever, you make something healthful yet filling, something that will see you through that early morning hike or game of football (our traditions), or just a long and exhausting day of basting and mashing and making smalltalk with extended family members. If you're really, really clever, you make something that can be thrown together the night before and sit in the refrigerator before being quickly baked and served in the morning. Whatever your Thanksgiving Day has in store for you, the best way to begin it is with an individually-portioned spiced baked oatmeal, lightly sweet and topped with a few generous spoonfuls of cranberry sauce (a preview of the meal to come).

Spiced Baked Oatmeal with Cranberry-Bourbon Compote*

Makes 4 servings

2 cups rolled oats
3 cups milk
3 eggs, lightly beaten
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt

Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir until well combined. Portion evenly into four small baking dishes, cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let sit at least one hour or overnight (this is really the best, as it will give you the creamiest oats) in the fridge, then preheat oven to 350. Bake for 20 minutes, until oats have set but are still tender and creamy, remove and let cool slightly. Serve warm or at room temperature, topped with cranberry sauce.

[ *Use a little of the cranberry sauce you're about to serve at the main meal to top off your baked breakfast treats! If for some reason you don't have any cranberry goodness planned (and man, what is wrong with you? RESPECT THE CRANBERRY), here's an excellent recipe that will give you plenty of leftovers.]

1 12 oz. bag of cranberries
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup of brown sugar
3 tablespoons bourbon or brandy
2 tablespoons orange zest

Place all ingredients in a medium saucepan, simmer on medium while stirring occasionally. Remove from heat after about 25-30 minutes, when cranberries have begun to burst and the mixture thickens into a sauce. Let cool slightly, but serve warm


There are a few words and phrases that only ever seem to appear at certain times of the year, do you ever notice that? Like 'sugarplums' at Christmas (does anyone even think about whatever a sugarplum actually is for the entire rest of the year?). Or 'trimmings' (as in 'with all the'), which only ever seems to occur alongside the Thanksgiving turkey. Ever have a lemon souffle, baby arugula salad or softshell crab 'with all the trimmings'? Nope, exactly. Trimmings are for that golden holiday bird and nothing else.

Pumpkin is another seasonal visitor, one that only seems to drop by in autumn. It gets a lot of less-than-friendly criticism, most likely due to the fact that every year there are ten thousand new pumpkin flavored food items including pumpkin beer, pumpkin yogurt, pumpkin candy, pumpkin cocktails, pumpkin waffles, and yes, pumpkin pie flavored sparkling water (it's a real thing. I Googled it. It's horrifying). The most high-profile offender, though, has got to be the pumpkin spice latte. Seriously. John Oliver hates them. Everybody hates them, except Taylor Swift and the legions of people who secretly love them (guilty as charged).

I say let's take a step back from either side of the Great PSL Divide and leave the the heated rhetoric and pumpkin spiced controversy aside for the rest of the season, to focus on pumpkin where it truly hearty, rich, autumnal soup.

Pumpkin & Chorizo Soup with Kale Pesto

I'm not sure if 'hearty' even begins to cover it. This is cold weather comfort food at its finest. This is, basically, a bear hug in a bowl. Don't be fooled by the touch of decadent luxury from the chorizo, though, this soup is actually a nutrient-packed superfood fueled by the hard-working twin engines known as pumpkin and kale. Spoonful after spoonful of this warm, richly spiced pumpkin soup, enlivened by the zesty bite of lemony kale pesto that sits on top, will help you fight the oncoming winter blahs during the colder months with a hefty dose of vitamin A, C, E, potassium and magnesium.

1 T. olive oil
1/4 cup minced yellow onion
1 50 oz. can of pumpkin puree
1 quart chicken stock
6 oz. Mexican-style pork chorizo
salt & pepper

For the kale pesto:

1/2 cup kale, washed 
3 T. olive oil, divided 
1 T. freshly squeezed lemon juice 
1 tsp. honey 
1/4 cup ground almonds
1 clove garlic, minced 
salt & pepper

Optional garnishes: raw pepitas, marigold petals

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook for a few minutes until onions begin to become translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon. Transfer to a large pot, add pumpkin and chicken stock, and stir until well combined. Heat to medium, let simmer for 30 minutes.

Chop your kale roughly until you have about a half cup, then place in a blender or food processor. Drizzle with 2 T. olive oil, 1 T. lemon juice and 1 tsp honey, pulse just until ingredients start to form a coarse puree. Add the ground almonds and minced garlic, pulse a few more times just to blend. Taste pesto at this point, add salt and pepper according to your preference.

Taste soup and add seasoning as necessary. Ladle soup into bowls and top with pesto, adding optional garnishes depending on just how fancy you'd like to be.

If you're really feeling seasonal, you could finish the meal with a nice, controversial scoop of frozen dessert, such as this Pumpkin Spice ice cream by Phoenix's amazing Sweet Republic. Because damn it, y'all, pumpkin spice is delicious. And haters gonna hate. ;)


'There's rosemary, that's for remembrance. Pray you, love, remember.' -- Ophelia, Hamlet, William Shakepeare

So, I believe there are blogs who share nothing more than the bare facts; a dry, fastidious list of ingredients, cooking times, a finished photo, maybe the occasional passing comment on how this is 'so yum' or 'a must-make'. Then there are the blogs to which I'm always drawn, whose words carry melody and sway, whose images are so full of shadow and life and color, so evocative of story and place that I quite forget what I'm doing and dive into a world of someone else's making. There's always a beautiful recipe at the end, sure, but ultimately I'm also in it for that journey through someone else's eyes. The best blogs I've ever read share closely-held feelings, the bitter and the sweet, along with recipes for sour cream coffee cake. The most skilled culinary writers are those who are aware that we can talk about food, about rosemary cookies, let's say, almost without talking about them at all.

This week culminates in the Day of the Dead, and I'm making rosemary-for-remembrance cookies in the shape of calaveras, and feeling haunted. A little sweetness on the tongue may help with that, who knows? It's natural to remember those who have passed at this time of year, something about the changing seasons and the gentle fading of leaves on branches always puts me in that frame of mind, anyway. Picturing the faces and voices of those who are gone. I'm still here, still standing although who can say why, still remembering. The most beautiful thing about cooking is, to me, the ritual of it all. You can mourn a loss with sweetness and a hint of salt, you can mourn a loss excellently well with rosemary pressed into cookies and sweetened with a coat of sugary lemon and feathery flourishes of dark chocolate. Some say it with flowers. I, apparently, say it with herbs. Remembrances of those who have passed are all around, but in this season of lost loved ones and lost childhoods and memory, I'm also catching glimpses of my own past, remembering a little girl with traces of wilderness in her heart and soul. 

Dreamily trailing a stick behind me, hair all leaf-strewn, picking out quartz--the small, clear fragments known as 'Arizona diamonds'--from a muddy riverbed. I loved rocks and crystals, sticks and pods, anything plucked from the ground. I had a bag of stones already at home, and each one had a name, a purpose, a significance. I wanted acres of forest to roam, instead of the flat, grid-shaped concrete acreage of my suburban home. I wanted to brew and to forage, to strip bark and whittle shapes, to cut and carve and leap and roll and name and know. I wanted to eat flowers and drink streams. The stories I loved best were any stories involving clever witches, adventures, talking beasts. My sympathy was always with the witches. Often times, it still is. 

Long car drives tended to hypnotize me, I'd spend hours looking out the window at the high-speed landscape passing away before me, rapt. Imagining figures darting in the trees. I always imagined a wilder me, a twin like the pale watery reflection of myself I could see through the glass, who looked exactly like me but arrayed wildly in skins and loosely woven wool. Padding silently through the underbrush of the forest or the creosote and saguaro of the desert, knowing every root and leaf and berry, and never speaking a word to anyone. The wild me was my twin, a silent and wise copy of myself, alike and yet not at all alike. The other, darker half of a coin. Friend to wolves and witches and more. If that dark twin existed now, as a real living adult, she'd roll out cookies with rosemary in them, I know she would. She'd know the meaning of every herb and the sharp, bitter, piney, clean grassy green flavor of each and every one. She'd pour us a cup of tea, silently, and pour out a bag of assorted crystals and quartz on the table touching each one and smiling benevolently as if to show me the future in a bag of stones. She'd reach her white hands across the table and enfold both of mine into hers, squeezing them reassuringly. Pray you, love, remember.

To the ones who are gone, I don't know why any of you were taken; I don't know why I'm the one still here, still standing. Still so breathlessly in love with life that I'll rise before dawn to handpaint cookies and glue fragile petals to each one with sugar paste, giggling maniacally. Maybe I actually do have a dark twin who has watched over me all these years, standing guard against the evils of the world with a handcarved hunting bow and smelling faintly of rosemary, my straight-backed and eagle-eyed protector. Maybe I've just been one very lucky little girl, to grow into a woman capable of standing where others have fallen. But here I am nonetheless, and this week in the time of souls and spirits and sweets and wolves and witches, I am full of rosemary and remembrance. Remembering faces and voices and names, where I can. Remembering what once was. Remembering the reflected images of one real girl and one imagined, wildling twin.

There's a small, serious-eyed little girl in the backseat of a car, heart beating deerlike with the simultaneous thrill of running headlong through the forest and sitting very safely in the backseat of a car. My small forehead pressed against the glass, thoughts slinking like wolves, racing silently against the side of the road in the ever-dwindling outline of the car’s headlights.

Sweet Rosemary Cookies with Lemon Zest Glaze

There's something very pleasingly witchy and apothecary-like to me about putting herbs in sweet baked goods, and these cookies certainly don't fail to please. Rosemary is an especially good choice here, not only because it pairs so beautifully with the buttery taste of the cookie and the sharpness of the lemon glaze, but because it symbolizes remembrance. Like the marigolds also used to make these ordinary cookies into sweet little calavera sugar skulls, rosemary has long been associated with mourners, making it a perfect choice for Day of the Dead-themed sweets. In case that sounds super-morbid for a cookie recipe, let me hasten to add that it also tastes delicious so there's, you know, that.

The handpainted flourishes in dark chocolate and brilliantly pink, beet-stained icing are thoroughly unnecessary and your cookies will taste just as sweet without them....but they do make me smile. A little extra brightness in a season of growing darkness and reflection is always I good thing, I say, so decorate away! :)

Makes about three dozen cookies

For the cookies:

3 cups all-purpose flour 
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup powdered sugar 
2 tablespoons minced fresh rosemary 
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, chilled in freezer for at least half an hour
1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
ice water, as needed

Combine the first five ingredients in a mixing bowl, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Using the large holes of a cheese grater, grate the chilled butter into the dry mixture, stopping several times to toss & coat the butter with the flour mixture. Add yogurt and stir to combine (I recommend getting in there and mixing with your hands at this stage). Sprinkle in ice water in small amounts, just until mixture begins to hold together as dough.

Separate dough into two equal-sized balls, roll into two equal logs roughly 2" in diameter, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour (dough may be made several days in advance).

Preheat oven to 325 degrees and lightly oil or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Remove plastic wrap and slice logs into equal pieces about 1/4" thick, place on baking sheet. Bake at 325 for about 20-15 minutes, or until edges have just begun to turn a light golden brown. Remove from oven, let cookies cool thoroughly before glazing.

For the the lemon glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Combine in a small bowl, stirring until all lumps have dissolved and the glaze is about the thickness of honey. Apply to tops of thoroughly cooled rosemary cookies, let sit at room temperature for about five minutes until glaze sets.

Extra decoration (optional):

dark chocolate
powdered sugar
ice water
edible marigolds

Place a small amount of dark chocolate in a microwave-proof bowl, heat in microwave until just melted. Using a brand-new, fine-tipped paint brush, decorate the cookies with faces, small dots, swirls and flourishes.

For icing in any shade of pink, place a small amount of powdered sugar in another small bowl, add fresh grated beet and a few drops of ice water, stir until desired consistency and color is achieved. Using the paintbrush, apply pink glaze to create circles on cheeks, decorative dots, or any other shapes you like.

Finally, pull apart a few edible marigolds (I purchased mine in the fresh herb section of my natural food store, you may also want to try farmer's markets for these) into individual petals, then use a small amount of powdered sugar glaze as 'glue' to stick these onto your decorated cookies.


Fall has always been one of my favorite times in the desert. While the days may still be stubbornly hanging on to the last of summer’s flushed heat, the nights are finally beginning to feel the touch of autumn’s cooler fingers. The leaves tremble and seem hesitant on their branches. The sun wheels overhead, hanging a little lower each day. The evenings seem to call out for the warm, silky, comforting embrace of smooth butternut squash soup. Is anything more comforting than soup, really? This soup is one that I just want to fill a large tub with, sink in slowly and bathe in its velvety orange depths. It might be more efficient to just serve it for dinner, though.

This richly orange puree (it gets its color not only from the aforementioned squash, but the sneaky addition of a single carrot which lends sweetness and bright oranginess all in one go) hovers in the bowl like a second sun, captured, dully glowing, autumnal. Swirled lightly with sweet cream made mysterious and smoky by paprika, then spiked with fresh chives....well, I can’t get enough of it, and I have a sneaking suspicion you’ll love it, too.

Butternut Squash Soup with Smoked Paprika Crema & Chive Oil

1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup diced yellow onion
1 carrot, sliced into ½” rounds
2 small butternut squash (about 3 lbs. total)
1 quart chicken stock
¼ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
¼ cup crema (a Mexican staple in my local supermarket, sour cream or crème fraiche will also work nicely if you can’t get your hands on it)
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat, add onions and cook for a few minutes until onions begin to become translucent, stirring with a wooden spoon. Add carrot and continue to stir. Cut away the rind from butternut squash, scoop out seeds from inside & cube the squash into approximately 1” pieces. Add squash cubes to the skillet and continue to stir, cooking for several more minutes to combine flavors. Place all vegetables in a large pot and cover with chicken stock, heat to medium and let simmer for 30 minutes.

Pour olive oil into blender, add chives. Blend until you have a thick, bright green puree.

In a small bowl, combine crema, smoked paprika, and a pinch of salt to taste.

Use an immersion blender (or blend in small batches using a traditional blender) to puree the soup to an even, smooth consistency. Add vinegar and salt, to taste. Remove from heat and ladle into bowls; serve topped with a swirl of spiced crema and a drizzle of chive oil from a spoon.