Weeknight Baking: Cranberry Crumble Pie

This may not be the most aesthetically pleasing, beautiful pie, but it suuuuure was delicious!  After it almost caused two kitchen fires, I'm thankful it was tasty, as I certainly hoped it would be worth the effort.  

I received Sister Pie, the cookbook as a gift this season. This cookbook shares the same name as the flagship Detroit bakery, which is changing the game and part of the reason for the recent economic flourish in Detroit.  They consider themselves a "triple bottom line business," working to support their employees, environment, and the economy.  Run by two sisters, featuring an all-female staff, it's been on my list of places to visit upon our next trip to see family back in Michigan.   Their cookbook is absolutely gorgeous, heartfelt vignettes and beautiful matte pages of how-tos and mouthwatering recipes.  I mean...Squash Tahini Cardamom, Apricot Raspberry Rose, Sour Cherry Bourbon...one will be baking pies for days after reading this one!  This Christmas, I opted for the Cranberry Crumble Pie - I'm always a sucker for cranberries, as they usually get pegged as being purely a Thanksgiving food, when really their flavor has so much potential.  

The kitchen fires were mostly my fault, turns out when you're baking a butter-rich crust, you ought to have a baking sheet underneath the pie dish.  A lesson I learned when blind baking the crust prior to adding the filling and crumble.  A memo which somehow did not get relayed to my mom when we baked the actual pie at her house.  Hence, almost two kitchen fires.

Thank goodness it was delicious and worth all the hassle, and oven cleanings that ensued.

Quote of the Week

  • Cooking is like love;
    it should be entered into with
    abandon or not at all.
    -Harriet van Horne
    image via prosecco & lemonade

Last Great Book I Read: A Place For Us

This book.  There are very few books that I could say "took my breath away," and this is one of them.  Undoubtedly in my top 5, up there with Gone with the Wind and The Fountainhead.  I listened to the audiobook, which is excellent! It is narrated by Deepti Gupta, who reads Fatima Farheen Mirza's words with a soothing, gentle grace.  Also probably the best audiobook I've ever listened to.  I found excuses to run errands just so I could pop my headphones on and keep listening.

I first learned about this book on this podcast episode, A Place for Us is the first novel from Sarah Jessica Parker's new imprint, SJP for Hogarth.  The story chronicles an Indian-American Muslim family, as they reconnect for the oldest daughter's wedding.  The story is told throughout a series of flashbacks spanning decades and offering perspectives through the lens of different family members.  Perhaps what captured my attention most about this novel was the intimacy of a family Mirza is able to capture.  The thoughts we think but do not say aloud.  The wonderings had after challenging conversations. The worry parents carry for their children and hold close to their chest.  Every nuance of this story is told with such poise and clarity, honoring the devotion parents have toward their children and children toward their siblings.  If there ever was a well told story, this is it. I have nothing but good words.  I can always justify a good book if I'm still thinking about it days, weeks, even months after reading it...which I am.

Read it.  Trust me.

Friday Fun

Countdown to Christmas is on!  What are you up to this weekend?  My sisters are flying home from their respective cities, families in tow, and we're got a Christmas concert on the agenda for tomorrow, and a baking day with friends on Sunday.  Looking forward to enjoying holiday cheer with family and friends.

+ officially obsessed with these two new cookbooks

+ holiday foods I want to try making this season: lefse and latkes - ever made either before?

+ and maybe these brownies...I've mostly dairy-free except holiday sweets are my kryptonite, and who can resist salted caramel?

+ loving these family photos (loved this other photo shoot of theirs from years ago)

+ can't stop thinking about this NY Times article

+ middle school misfortunes, this is a heartbreaking but necessary read

+ love the white on white, hardware, and clean lines of this kitchen

+ ever had pie for dinner?

+ this soup sounds ideal for cold winter nights

+ have you watched the second season of mrs. maisel yet?  the first episode disappointed but the season recovered - p.s. enjoying Zachary Levi as the newest cast addition


Dinner Last Night: Ina Garten's Pasta Fagioli

I've been searching for a delicious pasta fagioli recipe for a while now that's fairly easy, and I think Ina Garten's recipe is just the ticket - partly because she uses Goya's 16 Bean Soup mix which was conveniently available on amazon.

Now truth be told, I didn't follow the recipe to a T.  I usually forgot to preview recipes, and this one suggests soaking the beans overnight to soften.  Whoops.  When you read this at 1:30 pm and dinner's at 6:00, you gotta improvise.  I ended up just cooking the soup for longer on the stove and skipped the step of pureeing 1/3 of the beans, but ultimately, it all worked out, the beans were tender enough for consumption and a dinner crisis was averted. Phew! I also bought pre-diced pancetta to simplify, and basically it was a combine and wait kind of dinner...my favorite!  My kids eat it, though they needed some coaxing.  What is it about soup that scares my children, I tell ya!  Anyway, we licked the bowls clean, and had a few days of leftovers, always a plus.

Dinner Last Night: Pork Ragu

I've been slacking on dinner last night posts lately...sorry about that.  I swear, after the holidays I'll catch up and post all the new recipes I've tried from my steady stream of cookbooks checked out from the library.  After much hype on several blogs, we tried Dinner A Love Story's pork ragu last night.  And it was superb!  It slow cooked all afternoon while my family and I had a Polar Express excursion.  We came home to a house punctuated with a delectable savory aroma, dinner fully cooked, and within minutes, bellies full.  Not sure if it was the hot sauce or the fennel seed, but the flavors were especially on point.  Definitely worth a bookmark for a rainy day.


Sunday Snooze

It's been a busy season for sure- I can hardly believe Christmas is just 9 short days away!  This weekend alone we saw the Nutcracker and did the Polar Express train - joy, smiles, and cheer all around!  What have you been up to?

Here are some notable links I've rounded up from the week...

+ another great week for Beautycounter - #1 trending brand of 2018 and the winner of the corporate social responsibility award

+ totally crushing on this diffuser

+ love this 12 days of cookbooks gift guide

+ break one habit - it takes ten minutes to practice and will change your life forever

+ our local schools have swapped high school and elementary start times - seems to be paying off

+ is it just me, or does this candy sound kind of amazing?

+ love this holiday entertaining spread

+ just started reading this non-fiction book per a few rave reviews

+ have you watched this movie about the Christmas story with your kid? I've heard good things.

+ hoping to make these cookies sometime before Christmas


Book Advent & Little Owl's Snow

This is the third year we’ve celebrated "book advent." It's essentially an advent for holiday literature, beginning December 1st and running through Christmas Eve. Each night, we gather under the twinkling glow of the Christmas tree and unwrap a favorite wintry/holiday book. Our collection is a mish mash of books from my childhood, new titles purchased for my children each year, and library books. It's the perfect opportunity to pull out our favorite, beloved holiday books and read them anew.

If you're interested in starting this tradition in your own home, below is a list of some of the books that we've included in our book advent this holiday season.  Since we are a family who celebrates Christmas, our list includes several books with biblical undertones, but there are also a few non-religious, wintry themed books as well. When adopting this tradition, you could easily tailor your book list to suit your families beliefs or traditions. Here are some suggestions for those celebrating HanukkahLatino winter celebrations, and African American Christmas traditions and Kwanzaa.

Little Robin's Christmas by Jan Fearnley

The Jolly Christmas Postman by Janet and Allan Ahlberg

Mr. Willowby's Christmas by Robert Barry

The Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg

Finding Christmas by Leslie Evans

Star Bright by Alison McGhee

This is the Stable by Cynthia Cotten

The Twelve Days of Christmas by Britta Teckentrup

The Christmas Fox by Anika McGrory

Red & Lulu by Matt Tavares

A Wish To Be A Christmas Tree by Colleen Monroe

Snowmen at Night by Caralyn Buehner

The Berenstain Bears and the Joy of Giving by Jan & Mike Berenstain

The Mitten by Jan Brett

Humphrey's First Christmas by Carol Heyer

This is Christmas by Tom Booth

The Wish Tree by Kyo Maclear

Pick a Pine Tree by Patricia Toht

The Little Reindeer by Nicola Killen

Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney

The Christmas Eve Tree by Emily Sutton

The Gift of Nothing by Patrick McDonnell

The Great Spruce by John Duvall

Twas the Night Before Christmas retold by Jan Brett
Little Owl's Snow by Divya Srinsivasan

And for more in depth reviews of the books listed above, hop on over to Lovely Little Reads, my children's channels including instagram and facebook.
This year, we added a few new titles, including The Christmas Fox, This is the Stable, and Little Owl's Snow.  The last title is especially lovely and will delight young readers, for whom the first appearance of snow provokes curiosity and utter joy.  

Little Owl observant, silently watching at the animals scurry about, preparing for the cold front, his friends abandoning him for the warmth and security of their burrows one by one. When the last leaf falls, a quiet forest is met by the falling of the first silent flakes, much to Little Owl's delight. Quickly, a few crystals glinting in the sky become a white blankets covering the ground. At one point he comments "how strange and wonderful it all was!" Such wise words to encapsulate the mystery and awe of a first snow.

And for more in depth reviews and links to the books listed above, hop on over to my blog, Lovely Little Reads or my instagram channel, @lovely.little.reads.

How about you?  Any book advent favorites this season?

A Star is Born

Have you seen A Star is Born? I saw it last night with friends and was really impressed! First, Bradley Cooper can sing!? And Lady Gaga can act! Who knew? I appreciated Bradley Cooper’s grizzly voice and Lady Gaga’s unbridled authentic charm. Their chemistry together was electric, and the supporting cast rounded out the movie completely. Since seeing the movie, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack on repeat! It’s quite a soundtrack, featuring many songs that weren’t included in the final cut of the movie. My personal favorites were Is That Alright? and I’ll Never Love Again which Ally (Lady Gaga) srings solo in an emotional final scene in the movie.

Truth be told, I only recently became a Bradley Cooper fan. For the longest time, I always thought of him as the jerk, football obsessed intense boyfriend from Wedding Crashers- remember that? However, after seeing Silver Linings Playbook, I became a fan. And I’ve been a longtime fan of Lady Gaga. If you ever have a chance to see her in concert- do it! She is an fantastic entertainer and I’m so happy she took a risk and did this movie. And have a feeling it won’t be her last!

Go see it!

Quote of the Week

“Now and then it’s good to pause in our pursuit of happiness and just be happy.”
- Guillaume Apollinaire


Thoughts & Weekend Baking

This weekend we celebrated my grandma’s life. Aunts and uncles and cousins and friends poured in from many places to remember one wonderful, amazing woman and matriarch of our family. In lieu of a church memorial, one of her final requests was simply to have a “big party.” And party we did. There was plenty of wine, a bagpiper, two makeup artists who beautified all the women in attendance, as my grandma was known to be careful and intentional as she “put her face on.” The food was catered by her favorite restaurant, and in addition to a platter of See’s candy (her favorite sweet indulgence), four homemade apple pies baked by two granddaughters (including yours truly), her daughter, and daughter-in-law. Feeling like we wouldn’t have enough desserts, I also added this old fashioned gingerbread cake to the lineup. It was rich and decandent and prettied up with sugar, I’m sure my grandma would’ve loved it.