A few tasty reasons why sugar cones aren’t just for summer…

Sugar Cone and Caramel Bars

Sticky Sugar Cone and Caramel Bars

So my husband bought a case (yes, a 200-count case) of sugar cones earlier this year. Most of them were used at Wild About Game where he served up scoops of his ridiculously delicious foie gras ice cream. But he ran out of ice cream before he ran out of cones and so for the past few months I have been shuffling the box around our kitchen.

Finally I figured if he wasn’t going to do something with the leftovers, I would. My first creation was a chocolate toffee bark. I didn’t have the silvered almonds that the recipe asked for so I used crushed sugar cones instead. I added a bit of sea salt as well and called the whole thing a success.

Toffee & dark chocolate bark with sugar cones

Toffee & dark chocolate bark with sugar cones

After that I did some digging online and found a recipe that actually called for sugar cones, these caramel-date and ice cream cone bar cookies. And since I found them on a post titled “The 12 Cookies of Christmas” I could even claim they were seasonally appropriate! (This year Christmas approached so quickly my holiday baking suffered some serious set backs.)

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Gingerbread “Truffles”

Gingerbread "truffles" with lemon icing and candied orange peels

Gingerbread “truffles” with lemon icing and candied orange peels

Even though I have yet to buy a single Christmas gift (eek!), I have already immersed myself in holiday baking projects. With the rate the holiday season is approaching, I had to start early or it’d be January before I knew it!

These little guys were one of the easiest creations I’ve made this season and I pretty much love them. The recipe is very easy to follow and you don’t even have to turn on your oven!

Basically they are bite-sized “truffles” made from oats, pecans, dates, flax seed, molasses and spices. Somehow something so relatively healthy (when compared to the decadence of other holiday treats) still manages to taste like a sweetly chewy gingersnap cookie.

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The Obsession Continues: Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

Apple Cider Caramels

I have been on cider bender the past few months. Since early October my fridge has contained no less than one half-gallon of fresh apple cider, purchased anywhere from Farmer’s Markets to the grocery store. I’ve drank it straight, mulled with Applejack and used it for various cooking endeavors, like this brined pork roast.

However, the best creation I made are these apple cider caramels from an old issue of Food & Wine magazine. They tasted (depending on which friend of mine you asked) like caramel apple pops, apple fritters or candied apples. To me they were just as I imagined,  a perfect combination of the spiced cider flavor — cloves, cinnamon and tart apple — and creamy decadent caramel.

They were also luxuriously soft. While they’d hold their shape in the refrigerator, once popped in your mouth, they would melt almost instantly. They were so good I had to fight my natural instinct to hoard them and instead manged to share them with co-workers, friends and even some of my favorite customers in Seattle.

My friend Ariel loved them so much I think I have to make a batch just for her and her husband to enjoy. I gave her a few to take home and got this hilarious text message later that night: “Holy sheep shit, Batman” is what Eric said after trying a bite of one of your caramels. Now that’s a compliment, people!

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Winter Slaw — helping me stay sane, sated and satisfied

Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and Parmesan

“Get ready for the holidays” salad: Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, pomegranate seeds and Parmesan

While I like to think it’s still technically fall (it is, right?), this salad has “winter holidays” written all over it. I’m already envisioning it as a staple for my December menu planning. It’s both red and green, the unofficial colors of December, and it uses pomegranate which is a fruit I always forget about until this time of year.

Sorry pomegranate -- it's not you, it's me!

Sorry pomegranate — it’s not you, it’s me!

Anyways I came across this salad while digging through my giant stack of “things to make someday” — pages and pages of recipes liberated from various culinary magazines. I was a bit stressed out because the past few weeks have been so busy I haven’t had time to make real meals. While I’ve managed to whip up several different desserts (just wait for the apple cider caramel post!), my savory cooking has suffered. I’ve been surviving on my favorite ramen and Amy’s frozen “light and healthy” entrees. *sigh

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Harvest Party: Winning at Wining & Dining in Autumn

Acorn Doughnut Hole Party Favors

It’s a known fact I love nothing more than to throw a party. Give me any reason whatsoever and I will come up with a theme, research recipes and try my hardest to make my house as adorable as possible. So when some of the favorite ladies in my life and I decided to plan a little drinking dinner party, I quickly volunteered to host. We decided on the seasonally appropriate theme of “Autumn Harvest” and decided to do it as a pot-luck style sit-down dinner.

I got into the spirit by decorating my house:

An autumn-inspired wreath helps corral the wine glasses

Autumn potpurri and hors d’oeuvre plates

And as always, a touch of class

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Sparkles and Shines…

I really meant to take down all of my holiday decorations last weekend. Isn’t that what you’re supposed to do after the first of January? You take down all the sparkling lights and stockings and stash them away again until next December. I know that’s the way it works — I do it faithfully every year. But this January I’m having trouble. I look at the strings of lights glimmering, the lit-up stars twinkling lazily below them, and  just can’t bear to do it.

I don’t know what’s making it so much harder this year. Maybe it’s because last summer came and went too quickly, and with this gray and dismal weather, it’s nice to have some cheerfulness around. The lights brighten up the house and make the long dark nights a little cozier.

Maybe I can compromise…I’ll pack away the wreaths and my little wooden Santas, and even all of my cinnamon-scented pine cones, but I’m keeping the lights up. They will be my winter night lights — helping me believe that even though I’ve got months to go until summer, I’m pretty sure I can make it.