Christmas in a Shoebox

Do you remember cookiepalooza from last year? It didn’t land as well with the people I gave the cookies to as it has in years past. Too many of the people in my life now are gluten free, vegan, or on a diet. So this year, I made a bunch of Christmas cards. Hopefully folks will like them better. But what is Christmas without a slew of cookies? I wouldn’t know because I didn’t manage it. I still made a bunch of cookies and Brett and I ate most of them.


Brett and I live in the cutest little shoebox of an apartment. It has crown molding, a fireplace, and an awesome layout. It is also teeny, tiny. We have been excited to move out since we moved in. The idea of cramming a full length tree into our apartment gave me pause. Instead, we got a teeny, tiny tree that sits very adorably on the mantle of our fireplace.

I was really excited to show you just how small our tiny and adorable our tree is by stacking sugar cookies taller than the tree. As it turns out, I couldn’t get the cookies to stack tall enough. Our tree is taller than a stack of sugar cookies. The tree grew! At least in my own estimation of it. Let us chalk that up to the magic of Christmas, yes?


I like this sugar cookie recipe because it is very easy and it produces sugar cookies that are a bit chewy. I omitted the lemon because I wanted sugar cookies not lemon sugar cookies.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

I am not pregnant.  This may not come as a surprise because I am not 1) trying to get pregnant 2) married or 3) 100% sure I want kids someday.  However, after a year of reading food blogs I have realized that we really like the “bun in the oven” metaphor.  See here and, more recently, here.  Now, whenever I see a recipe for cinnamon buns on a blog, I wait in anticipation for the good news and cute baby pictures to come.

But, like I said, none of that here today.  Today, I have really, really stellar cinnamon buns with a pumpkin spice filling.  These are great for brunch the morning before Thanksgiving.  They say, “I know that traveling on the day before Thanksgiving sucks and I really appreciate that you got up at 4 in the morning so that you could be here in time for brunch.”  Serve with a Kaluhua and Bailey’s spiked coffee to ensure a happy start to the Thanksgiving festivities.

Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns

Dough and Glaze adapted from The Smitten Kitchen’s adaptation of Molly Wizenberg’s recipe in Bon Appetit, March 2008

Makes 18 buns.


1 cup whole milk

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 1/2 cups (or more) unbleached all purpose flour, divided

1/2 cup sugar

1 large egg

2 1/4 teaspoons rapid-rise or instant yeast (1 package yeast)

1 teaspoon salt

Nonstick vegetable oil spray



4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For dough: Combine milk and butter in glass measuring cup. Microwave on high until butter melts and mixture is just warmed. Pour into bowl of stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment. Add 1 cup flour, sugar, egg, yeast, and salt. Beat on low speed 3 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of bowl. Add additional 2 1/2 cups flour. Beat on low until flour is absorbed and dough is sticky, scraping down sides of bowl. If dough is very sticky, add more flour by tablespoonfuls until dough begins to form ball and pulls away from sides of bowl. Use a KitchenAid’s dough hook for this process to knead for 8 minutes.  Add more flour if dough is too sticky.   Form into ball.   Lightly oil large bowl with nonstick spray. Transfer dough to bowl, turning to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375

Press down dough. Transfer to floured work surface. Roll out to 15×11-inch rectangle. Spread filling mixture over dough, leaving 1/2-inch border. Starting at the longer side, roll dough into log, pinching gently to keep it rolled up. Cut dough crosswise with thin sharp knife into 18 equal slices (each about 1/2 to 3/4 inch wide).   Spray two 9-inch square glass baking dishes with nonstick spray. Divide rolls between baking dishes, arranging cut side up (there will be almost no space between rolls). Cover baking dishes with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel. Let dough rise in warm draft-free area until almost doubled in volume, 40 to 45 minutes.  Don’t skimp on the double-rising time.  Exchange plastic wrap and towel for alumninum foil covering the baking pans.  Bake rolls until cooked through, 20-25 minutes.  Check the center of the pan before removing from the oven.  The pumpkin filling can make it easy to miss a not fully cooked bun.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then glaze

For glaze: Combine cream cheese, powdered sugar, butter, and vanilla in medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat until smooth. Spread glaze on rolls. Serve warm or at room temperature.

The Smitten Kitchen note: These buns were best the day they were baked. However, I would have no idea because although I have made them twice in two weeks, they have never made it to the second day.

Turkey Bowling

Kelly Williams Brown writes Adulting a blog about how to become an adult in 468 easy(ish).  Her advice is spot on, she never seems like she’s talking down to her readers and she lives in Oregon.  Needless to say, her blog is one of my absolute favorites. Step 248  suggests creating your own traditions.  As we head into the holiday season, creating my own traditions has been on my mind.

This year, I hosted my second annual Turkey Bowling Party.  Turkey bowling is the great art of taking a frozen turkey and chucking it a group of 2 liter bottles arranged like pins.  It is loud and seasonal and awesome.  I spend Thanksgiving with my parents (not the turkey bowling type) so I hosted a pre-Thanksgiving cocktail party.

And what to serve alongside a few rounds of Turkey Bowling?  Turkey meatballs, of course.  These Asian influenced Turkey Meatballs are perfect because they are flavorful, don’t need a drippy sauce, and serve as a lower carb potsticker substitute for the caveman in my life.  Also, they are super easy to make which is so important when I am running around like a turkey with its head cut off before a party.

Turkey Meatballs adapted from Catherine Newman


1 pound ground turkey
1/8 of an onion, very finely chopped
1/2 cup very finely chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 cup fine, dry bread
crumbs (unseasoned)
1 egg, lightly beaten

Nonstick spray

Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Mix all of the ingredients thoroughly.

Roll into walnut sized balls.

Spray cookie sheet with non-stick spray.

Place meatballs on the cookie sheet with at least an inch between each.

Cook untill cooked through, about 10 minutes.


September here is such an interesting time of transition. Summer produce is still available but the chill in the air makes a Panzanella salad not quite as satisfying as it had been in late July. Squash and other fall produce are starting to appear but I am not ready to accept the change in the season. As far as I’m concerned, if I don’t have to wear an overcoat, it is still summer. So, I made corn chowder. It allows me to squeeze every drop out of summer and still quietly acknowledge that, yes, it is almost over.

For my corn chowder, I wanted something hearty enough to serve as a meal that didn’t require meat or cream. The process of layering flavors in soup was fascinating. If you haven’t yet, I really encourage you to make a soup without a recipe. For me, it was drama filled but I learned about flavor.

I’ve included not a recipe but notes about what I did, why, and what happened. Like I said, I encourage you to experiment with soup.


Corn Chowder Tasting Notes

6 ears of corn
1/2 onion
2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 jalapeno
2 tablespoons butter
unsweetened, plain soy yogurt

Cook onions on low heat untill soft and brown.
Chop cherry tomatoes in half and jalapeno into similarly sized pieces.
Bake tomatoes and jalapeno at 350 check every 10 minutes. Remove when browned.
I browned all of my veggies because I wanted a smokey depth to the flavor.
Steam corn.
Remove kernels from cobb.
Blend kernels from 3 and 1/2 ears of corn and onion with enough broth to allow the blender to work. Add salt to taste.
I didn’t add all of the corn because I wanted a cream soup but I hate drinking my meal. I need something to chew to feel like I am eating. This ended up being a great decision but will explain that more in a bit. At this point my soup was a nice thicker consistency but fairly bland.
Add about 2/3s of the tomatoes and jalapeno mixture in small batches, tasting after each addition. I did not and boy do I regret it. I tasted my soup only after adding the full 2/3s of tomato and jalapeno and it was way too spicy for me to eat
Add yogurt to taste. I added too much jalapeno so I added more yogurt than I wanted to balance out. It made the flavors a bit muddier than I wanted but my it saved my soup! I was so relieved.
Add about 1/2 the head of cilantro Oh my, cilantro is magical. It added such a lovely freshness to the soup. Sadly, at this point, my soup had stopped tasting like corn but. . .
Add the whole corn kernels back into the soup. Do not blend At the end, my soup tasted darn close to what I had hoped. Hearty, full of summer flavor, a little spicy, and a little creamy. There was more yogurt than I wanted but I was so pleased that I hadn’t just ruined the whole time that I was willing to forgive the soup.

So, a roller coaster of emotion and some darn tasty soup. Try making soup without a recipe. Taste as you go and know that you can fix whatever happens mid process.

Twenty minutes from Beaverton exists an island with sand beaches and pick your own produce.   Brett and I were lucky enough to arrive on a warm and sunny day.  I suspect you aren’t as excited by this as I am.  It was sunny and there was sand.  Last time I went to the beach here in Oregon, it snowed.  I didn’t even know it could snow on a beach.

I wanted wrap it all up, stick it in my pocket, and save it for January.  So I did, kinda.  I took lots of pictures and made strawberry jam.  In January, I will be able to crank up my heater, drizzle some strawberry jam on ice cream, and look back on the post.


Dear January version of Me,

It will get warm again.  The sun does shine in Oregon sometimes.  Brett is wonderful and he was totally worth moving to Oregon for.  Go eat some strawberry jam.



I love lazy Saturday mornings.

9 am: Quiet apartment with Earl Grey tea and Cheddar, the cat.

10 am: A beautiful day for brunch at Mireilles Bistro.

11 am: Portugese Sausage Hash and Conor, my friend.

“Smart cooks realize that the easiest cookbook to use is the Yellow Pages and the handiest appliance in the kitchen is the telephone.” ~ Miss Piggy

Despite Miss Piggy’s wisdom, I want more from my food than easy.  I want to be mindful of my budget, eat healthy, and still have enough time to do something on a weekday evening.  So, I cook at home.  Lemon caper butter fish with broccoli and cucumber salad is tasty, cheap, relatively heathy, and takes about 20 minutes.

Start water to boil. Wash and slice the brocoli into bite size pieces.

Once water starts to boil, put steamer basket with brocoli into the pot. Steam untill the brocoli is bright green.

Coat the fish in flour. Add to pan on medium heat with a bit of oil. Cover and cook for 5 minutes. Turn fish over and cook until solid white rather than opaque. I use the 9 pack of fish fillets sold for $4. Which is to say, the following lemon butter is lovely no matter what you put it on.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter over low heat. Add the juice of half a lemon and several spoonfuls of capers. Taste for balance. Drizzle over the fish.