Create: Raise a glass to 2014!

Our pals Sara and Andrew never roll up to any event empty-handed. In fact, they are too generous with their gifts of homemade marmalade, sugary cakes and my favorite of their specialties – cranberry shrub. It’s a refreshing way to toast the new year, and here are five ways they suggest to mix up your shrub.

* Pour over ice and top with club soda.
* Mix with sparkling white wine.
* Muddle with an orange slice Then add ice, bourbon and top with club soda.
* Mix equal parts orange juice, tequila and shrub.
* Shake with ice and equal parts shrub, gin, sweet vermouth and strain into a glass.

Oh, and cheers!

Create: Holiday cheer

We’re having ourselves a busy little Christmas season here. How about you? But we did get in a visit with the man in red, and returned to Santa’s Village in Brooklyn, put on by the very crafty elves at My Brooklyn Baby. At three, Soren is at that sweet age where Christmas is still all about magic and fantastic tales of elves and flying reindeer, and not yet tied to stuff (well, save for candy canes).

Wishing all peace and a good bit of magic, too.

Gift: Post-feast treats

Last year, a friend who had hosted a giant Thanksgiving dinner tipped me off to the most thoughtful hostess gift: breakfast for the next morning. As a host, what could be better following the days of cooking and hours of cleaning involved in these epic holiday feasts than having someone else plan a meal for you?

And as a guest, it’s pretty simple to pick up a dozen bagels, bake muffins, make a quiche, whip up a batch of Jane Lerner’s granola or, if staying overnight, wake the house up with a pan of Adam Miller’s chilaquiles. You will surely score yourself a return invite every holiday. And that’s certainly something to be grateful for. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Pass the stuffing… tip the turkey to me… and wishing heaping helpings of love and gratitude to all.

Create: Saucepan Brownies

I met my best friend in the first grade. So I’ve probably gobbled up dozens of her mom’s brownies over the years. But I didn’t fully appreciate them until last summer when I sat, with my son in my lap, watching as this mom from my childhood stirred and mixed her specialty cocoa confections. Could you imagine finding one of these packed into your lunch box? You’d never put that up for grabs.

Beyond appreciate, I have declared Mrs. Gatti’s saucepan brownies the best straightforward chocolate brownie around. According to a very informal (and unsolicited) taste test, these easy-to-make little squares of bliss have turned even those who aren’t much for brownies into believers too.

Next dinner invite you’ve got dessert covered.

Saucepan Brownies

  • 4 squares unsweetened chocolate
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • (optional: 1 cup chocolate chips)

Grease a 9×13 pan. Preheat oven to 325° for glass pan or 350° for metal pan. In a medium size pot over medium-high heat, melt together the chocolate and butter. Stir continually and watch the heat to avoid burning. Remove from heat. Once cooled slightly, stir in sugar and vanilla. Beat in eggs one at a time. Add salt. Gradually stir in flour until blended. (Optional: stir in chocolate chips). Pour evenly into prepared pan. Bake for 25 minutes. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and watch them disappear. (I like to serve with berries or a scoop of vanilla ice cream).