Gingerbread is strange.

Not the actual gingerbread itself but what people do with it. I can’t think of any baked good that people insist on making other things out of. We don’t make little eclair men with mischievous smiles, or build chocolate chip houses or hang brownies on trees as ornaments.

A number of people claim that they don’t like gingerbread when they’ve mostly had it as a flavor of tea, or an ingredient in ice cream, or baked hard and served as a cookie. I won’t say that everybody loves warm, moist gingerbread fresh from the oven, because we all know that there are people in the world with questionable taste, but I do question whether people who don’t like proper gingerbread are entirely trustworthy.

Here is a recipe adapted from King Arthur (


Dry ingredients:

  • 2 cups (240 grams) whole-wheat flour
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda – this will react with the acidic molasses and buttermilk
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon nutmeg – it’s much better if you grind your own
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon black or cayenne pepper – Penzeys makes a blend called Black & Red that I like
  • ¾ cup (138 g) diced crystalized ginger

Wet ingredients:

  • 8 Tablespoons (one stick) butter, melted
  • ¾ cup (113 g) molasses
  • ¼ ginger beer – many recipes will call for cold, black coffee, but the extra kick of ginger brings more zing to the party
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup (227) buttermilk

Preheat your oven to 350º. Line either a 9×9” or a 9×13” baking pan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine all the dry ingredients.

In another bowl, combine all the wet ingredients.

Mix the contents of the two bowls together.

Pour into the prepped baking pan, then bake. If you are using a square baking pan, it will probably take 50 minutes or so to bake to the point where a toothpick comes out clean. The larger pan will probably take 30 to 35 minutes.

Let the gingerbread cool for half an hour before cutting and serving. It is excellent with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or butter. If you are adventurous, try it smashed up in a bowl, topped with eggnog; you won’t be sorry.

Gingerbread is a cake that you don’t want to be too sweet. This version gets a little sweetness from the sugar, the crystalized ginger and the ginger beer, but mostly from the molasses. That adds a dark muskiness and a slightly bitter quality that complements the spices. This isn’t a celebration cake. It is a comfort cake to eat late in the afternoon, in the gathering dark, as the snow starts to fall. Eating it will bring a cat to sit in your lap, even if you don’t own a cat.

Featured photo: Gingerbread. Photo by John Fladd.

The useful gift

Kitchen presents you can buy

One or two labor-intensive sincere gifts are doable in a holiday season, but if you’re trying to come up with something nice for each night of Hanukkah, or good stocking stuffers for an entire family — who has time to knit all that? Plus, sometimes it’s just nice to get good stuff.

The following are some gifts you might consider for the serious cooks or drink-makers in your life. Most of them are reasonably priced stocking stuffers. At least one is a blowout extravagant gift. All of them are genuinely, how-did-I-ever-get-by-without-this, useful in the kitchen. Prices are approximate..

Microplane grater, about $1

If you’ve ever wondered how TV chefs manage to zest an orange without making their kitchen look like a war zone, or put fancy chocolate shavings on a cake, this is ho. This is a wood rasp that has been adapted for kitchen use. It is ideal for grating fresh nutmeg.

Silicone baking sheet, $10 to $15/pair

How would you like to never grease a baking sheet again? Silicone baking mats used to be imported from France and were mostly for Very Fancy People. Now they are really inexpensive and — dare I say it? — life-changing. Nothing sticks to these bad boys — not cookie dough or granola or even homemade peanut brittle. They last for years and are tough enough to stand up to any heat an oven can put out, though sadly not a charcoal grill, which I found out the hard way.

Oxo Steel Angled Measuring Jigger, $10

I own about a dozen jiggers for measuring ingredients for cocktails. It was only over time that I realized consciously that I have one that I keep coming back to, over and over. I’ll find myself interrupting a dishwasher cycle to fish it out, rather than use a different, perfectly fine jigger in the cabinet in front of me. This Oxo jigger is angled to allow you to see exactly how much you are measuring to within a fraction of a fluid ounce, without having to crouch down to eye level. And it has a spout. It adds a little element of precision and elegance to your drink making.

Reconditioned blender — Vitamix, BlendTec, etc., around $300

By far, the most useful kitchen tool I use on a weekly or often daily basis is a good blender. It makes smoothies and shakes of course, but also hummus, whipped cream, pie fillings and even ice cream. A top-of-the-line blender can set you back $700 to $800, but the high-end manufacturers often sell reconditioned used models. Mine is a reconditioned red Vitamix named Steve, who is pretty frustrated at how seldom I use his very highest setting, which I suspect could turn a chair leg into bark mulch.

2 in 1 stainless steel whisk egg beater & instant thermometer, $15 to $20

I don’t know if you’ve ever been stirring something on the stove, waiting for it to hit a very particular temperature. For several years I found myself thinking that someone should invent a whisk with an integrated thermometer, before I actually thought to check online to see if anyone had. They had.

Digital kitchen scale, $25 to $30

Every time I save a recipe I convert the amounts from cups to grams. It makes my baking more accurate, and I can add ingredients directly to the pan or bowl and tare (zero) out how much weight I already have in it. An inexpensive digital scale will measure in several different units — grams, ounces, etc. — and is accurate to a tenth of a gram. It will last for years of robust cooking and make you look like a badass in the kitchen.

Featured photo: Silicone baking sheets

Homemade, delicious

Gifts for when you’ve run out of gift ideas

Not to blow my own horn, but I am an excellent gift-giver. I am thoughtful, I listen carefully when people tell me what kind of things they like and what their favorite memories are. I’m creative. Probably eight out of 10 times, I knock it out of the park.

I realize this makes me something of an outlier; most people have one or possibly two solid gift ideas in a given holiday season, then they find themselves emotionally exhausted. If you are feeling a little gassed-out creativity-wise this holiday season, here are two suggestions for food and drink gifts that are affordable and quirky and probably won’t be put into a closet somewhere.

Geographic cookies

You have probably never thought too much about cookie cutters, but you can buy them in almost any shape, including any state or province you can name.

Manitoba? Boom! Six dollars on Etsy. West Virginia? Shazam! $7.99 on Amazon.

You know that lady at work who’s really nice, but you don’t really know anything about her, except that she grew up in Toledo? Give her a plate of Ohio sugar cookies, with a mini-M&Ms glued more or less in the area of Toledo with melted chocolate. Did your family go on vacation in Chicago this summer? You can get the state of Illinois, or the skyline of the city.

Thoughtful, edible, and you’ll only be out a couple of hours of your time and maybe $10.

Roll-Out Sugar Cookies

Based on the King Arthur Roll-Out Sugar Cookies recipe, available at, which they credit to blogger Amanda Rettke. (As opposed to the several other sugar cookie and sugar cookie-adjacent recipes they have; baking for someone gluten-free or paleo? They have that too). It’s a very large recipe — three sticks of butter, five cups of flour — and I like that it has many of the ingredients listed in grams as well as cups. I halved it, made a batch of cookies to share at work and still have dough in reserve. The original recipe calls for 2 teaspoons of almond extract, but I have replaced that with Fiori di Sicilia, a King Arthur flavoring they describe as having bright citrus and warm vanilla flavors and that makes the cookies taste like a creamsicle. Be careful with the measuring; I spoke to a King Arthur recipe developer months back and she said too heavy a hand with Fiori Di Sicilia will make everything taste like perfume.

  • 12 Tablespoons (170 grams) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup (198.5 grams) of granulated sugar
  • 1 large egg plus 1 egg yolk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon King Arthur Fiori di Sicilia
  • 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder

Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg and yolk one at a time, beating after each addition.

Slowly add the extracts (with the mixer on low) and mix until combined, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl.

Sift together flour, salt and baking powder.

With the mixer on low, slowly add to the butter mixture and mix until just combined.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours (or overnight).

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment.

Roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick and cut out cookies. Place on parchment-lined baking sheet.

Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until they start to turn golden on the edges and the center doesn’t look moist.

Bottle of pre-mixed cocktails

Depending on whom you’re giving it to, booze is always a good call.

Find a nice bottle. It could even be an empty liquor bottle that you were about to put in the recycling. Wash it out and remove the label.

If it’s a paper label, soak the bottle in hot water and scrape the label off with the back of a butter knife. If there’s any glue residue left behind, a citrus-based cleaner like Goof-Off will take care of it. Martha Stewart suggests using a hair dryer to soften the glue. Once, I had a really nice bottle but the label had actually been painted on. I soaked it in vinegar overnight, and it came right off. I imagine nail-polish remover would do the same thing.

Before you remove the label, write down how big the bottle is ― how many fluid ounces or milliliters.

Find a cocktail recipe that you think your friend would like ― A Peanut Butter and Jelly Sour, for instance:

  • 2 ounces Skrewball Peanut Butter Whiskey
  • 3 ounces Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine
  • 1 ounces fresh squeezed lemon juice

Normally you would shake this over ice, then pour it into a glass and drink it. But this time we’re going to do some math. (Don’t worry ― there aren’t any exponents or variables involved.)

How many ounces of ingredients go into one drink? 3+3+1=5. Five ounces.

Remember your empty liquor bottle? How much did it hold? I’ll bet it was 750 milliliters, wasn’t it? That’s equal to about 25 fluid ounces, or five PB&J Sours. Multiply everything by five (10 ounces, 15 ounces and 5 ounces) and use a funnel to pour it into your nice bottle. Screw the cap on ― or put a cork in it, if you’re fancy ― give it a shake, and you’re off the hook present-wise for another year. You don’t even have to wrap it ― just write a tag and tie it on with rough twine, and you’ll look classy.

Ideally the recipient will ask you to stay and drink it with them. And maybe eat some cookies.

Featured photo: NH sugar cookies. Photo by John Fladd.

Character Reference

I’m not certain what’s been going on with my dreams lately.

I’m generally a heavy dreamer — most nights will have two or three — but I tend to have a particular menu:

• The one where I’m late for something and it takes me a distressingly long time to pack my suitcase. The longer I look, the more laundry is spread across the floor, most of it mismatched socks.

• The one where I break into the house of somebody I used to know 20 years ago and look for someplace to take a nap.

• The restaurant with a dishwashing area the size of a warehouse, and they start turning the lights off before I’m done with the dishes.

• The one in the world’s largest hotel, with a fantastic view of the ocean.

But for the past week or so, I’ve been having a whopper at some point during the night that is unusually crisp and to the point. It’s almost like one of those TV shows where people accidentally have each other’s dreams.

Last Wednesday, apparently Dream Me got blackout drunk and behaved very badly. The whole dream was different friends and acquaintances filling me in on how much I had disgraced myself. Interestingly, my Dream Friends were not much more responsible than I was:

“You let me DRIVE!!?”

“Well, we weren’t going to miss this!”

Normally I would probably be bothered by this and wonder what was going on with my subconscious, but the night before, I had led a revolution in Polynesia against a supernatural regime, armed with a bar of soap. Soap might not seem like a very effective tool for social change, but my followers were very inspired by it.

Last night, I was involved in a competition between superhero colleges. Students from competing schools kept asking what my superpower was. I’d tell them to slap me as hard as they could, and they’d start to, but something huge and distracting would happen. Finally, one of the other students put together that my superpower was Dodging Fate.

Which is to say, the more I try to figure out what message my brain is trying to send me, the more I need a drink.

Here is a seasonal one that is delicious and fairly straightforward. I wrote a story a few years ago about a girl who was trying to scam her way into a Cranberry Queen beauty pageant. It is called:

The Character Reference

As we all know, character references are, by their nature, deceptive. So is this drink.

  • 2 ounces vodka – this is a good job for Tito’s
  • 1½ ounces triple sec
  • 3 ounces unsweetened cranberry juice
  • seltzer to top, ~3 ounces

Shake the vodka, triple sec and cranberry juice with ice, and strain into a tall glass.

Top with seltzer, and stir gently.

Garnish with an orange wedge and a straw.

This is a lovely, light-tasting highball that, like most character references, neglects to tell you its whole story. Cranberry and orange are another classic combination. The vodka plays its part behind the scenes and will look over its shoulder saying, “Who? Me?” if you go looking for it. Keep in mind, though, that this has three and a half ounces of alcohol in it.

This is an excellent holiday party drink — it looks so lovely that other party guests are likely to ask for a sip, then ask for one of their own. After several people have had several of these, the conversations will get significantly more interesting.

As will your dreams

Featured photo: Character reference. Photo by John Fladd.

Spice cookies

Things you probably didn’t know about your spices:

(1) They probably taste like sawdust. Did you know you’re supposed to replace them? Whole spices like whole nutmeg or cinnamon sticks can probably last a year or two, but ground spices have a shelf life of about six months. Baking powder and baking soda should be replaced twice a year, too. Date all these when you buy them, so you remember how old they are.

(2) Most spices are way better when you grind them yourself. Buy a very cheap coffee grinder and set it aside for things like cumin, cloves, coriander and allspice. Use a micro- plane grater or the tiny-hole side of your box grater for nutmeg. (Seriously, grate some fresh nutmeg and smell it. It will be a revelation.)

(3) Some spices would probably be better if you ground them yourself, but are too much trouble: cinnamon, cardamom seeds, dried ginger and cayenne pepper.

(4) Small containers of spices at the supermarket are startlingly expensive, but if you buy them from an Indian market, a two-pound bag will cost less than the coffee you bought on your drive there. But then you end up with way more cumin or poppy seeds than you can possibly use before they hit that one-year mark.

(5) If at all possible, store your spices on their sides in a drawer, instead of a cabinet. They have a way of migrating to the back of a cabinet, and if you’ve put them on a high shelf, you will forget that you ever bought them. They’ll hang out with that bottle of vegan Worcestershire sauce and the dip mix you bought at that gift shop that time, having sad conversations in a sort of all-spice production of The Velveteen Rabbit.

(6) Every once in a while, bake something that uses a lot of different spices.

  • 2 cups (212 grams) rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • ¾ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper – ½ teaspoon if you are stout of heart
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
  • ¾ cup (149 grams) white sugar
  • ½ cup (99 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 egg
  • ¼ cup (85 grams) molasses
  • About 1/3 cup of sugar to coat the cookies

Heat the oven to 325º.

Combine all the dry ingredients — the rye flour, salt, spices and baking soda. I don’t know why sugar is treated as a wet ingredient, but it is. It’s just one of those unanswerable mysteries.

Whisk the oil and sugar together, then add the egg. It should pull together into a rough batter.

Mix in the molasses, then the dry ingredients.

Using a tiny ice cream scoop or a spoon, roll the dough into 1½-inch balls, then roll them around in the sugar.

Place them on a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or a piece of parchment paper, about 2 inches apart. This will probably take two baking sheets.

Bake for about 15 minutes. If your oven runs hot, it might take a little less time, and longer if it runs a little cool. If it’s like mine, you can never be certain what it will do, so you should probably start checking on the cookies at 12 minutes.

Let the cookies cool on the tray.

Not only do these spice cookies taste good; they are a confidence-booster. They come out very round and crinkly. These might be the most professional-looking cookies you bake this year. The rye flour and the molasses deepen the flavor and provide a bass note to the spices.

Could you play around and replace some of the spices? Probably. I’ve made these with smoked cinnamon and they were pretty good. Ground cloves might be another way to add some zing.

You’d be rolling the dust by grinding caraway seeds and using them, but now that I just thought of it, I’m going to try it.

This is a good dress rehearsal for the holidays and makes you inventory your spice drawer.

Featured photo: Spice cookies. Photo by John Fladd.

El Diablo

This is a classic tequila drink.

This time, I’ve substituted mezcal for tequila, because I have a really nice bottle of Siete Misterios that is making me very happy. Mezcal is in the same family as tequila and works nicely in this particular cocktail. In place of the traditional crème de cassis, I’ve used sloe gin. All of this is slightly beside the point, because the star player here, the lynchpin that holds everything together and keeps it from dissolving into a puddle of entropy, is the ginger beer.

If you are new to the world of ginger beer, you could be forgiven for supposing that it is more or less the same as ginger ale. “Beer/ale,” you might say to yourself, “Tomato/tomahto.”

This would be a mistake.

Ginger ale is what your mom brought you when you were sick, to help calm your stomach. It’s what you drink when you want a soda that doesn’t make any demands on you. It might be lovely, but it will always be mild and unassuming. That’s sort of its whole point.

A good ginger beer, on the other hand, is anything but mild. If you ever popped open a bottle of ginger beer thinking it was ginger ale and took a big gulp of it to cure your hiccups, you’d definitely get rid of them, and maybe make your heart seize up for a second.

Ginger beer is all about the ginger.

“OK,” I hear you say, “I like ginger snaps and gingerbread; I really don’t think this is a big deal.”

All right, the next time you go to a juice bar, ask the juice barista (or whatever the technical name for a juice jockey is) to give you a straight shot of ginger juice. She will raise her eyebrow but will do her thing behind the counter and hand you a shot glass with a milky, beige liquid in it. Don’t sip it. Throw that baby down your throat.

It will change your point of view so profoundly that you might quit your job and become a matador. (It’s delicious and very spicy.)

Really good Caribbean ginger beers will often add a little cayenne to intensify the experience a little bit. Do yourself a favor and go to a bodega and pick up a couple bottles of the good stuff for this drink. You’ll be glad you did.

1½ ounces good tequila or mezcal – right now I’m really enjoying Siete Misterios

½ ounce sloe gin

½ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice

3 to 4 ounces excellent ginger beer

Mix the mezcal, lime juice and sloe gin in a cocktail shaker with ice.

Shake for about 30 seconds, then strain into a Collins glass, over fresh ice.

Top off with excellent, just opened ginger beer. Stir with a chopstick.

The ginger beer really is the star of this show, with the mezcal or tequila playing a strong supporting role. The spiciness of the ginger stands up to the smokiness and bite of the tequila. The lime juice brings the acidity that this combination needs. The sloe gin adds color and the faintest hint of fruitiness.

This is the drink that you would be drinking all the time, if you had made some different life choices at a couple of critical times in your youth.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: El Diablo. Photo by John Fladd.

54 recipes

Ooh, that recipe looks good; I wonder what’s in it.


OK, this looks like the right recipe.

Uh, huh. Yes, I’m sure your Uncle Oswald was very fond of this recipe. I might like to make it myself.

scroll, scroll

Yes, that’s a very nice photo of the finished dish—

scroll, scroll

and of your Uncle Oswald.

scroll, scroll

No, I don’t want to buy all the ingredients for the recipe. You haven’t even told me what they are yet.

scroll, scroll

Yes, I’m glad your family likes it, too. Especially your picky 8-year-old.

scroll, scroll

Yes, I’m sure he’s very precious to you, and I’m glad he’s gotten over his night terrors.

scroll, scroll


This has happened to all of us. We want a recipe and end up having to wade through a lot of non-recipe exposition to get to it. It’s very frustrating.

Because it’s a couple of weeks before the holidays (possibly the most recipe-intensive time of year) here are 54 recipes — for breads, desserts, main dishes, feed-a-crowd food, tastiness for when you in this season just need tastiness — with virtually no (additional) exposition.

1) Sesame Crunch Ice Cream

  • 1½ cups (190 grams) tahini paste. I like Krinos brand.
  • 1 scant cup (180 grams) white sugar
  • 3 cups (660 grams) half-and-half, or non-dairy cream
  • large pinch coarse sea salt
  • 1 Tablespoon dark sesame oil

Blend all ingredients in your blender.

Chill the mixture for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

This is excellent and very sesame-y, but even better when you mix in:

2) Sesame Brittle

  • ¾ cup (160 grams) white sugar
  • ¼ cup (85 grams) rose jam
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground sumac
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 ¾ cups (125 grams) sesame seeds
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon rose water

Cook the sugar, jam, salt, sumac, water and sesame seeds over medium heat, stirring often. Everything should melt together. Cook until it reaches 305ºF.

Quickly stir in the remaining ingredients — the oil, baking soda and rose water.

Pour onto an oiled silicone baking mat or parchment paper. Smooth out so it’s very thin.

Let cool, then break into small pieces.

This is a delicious, nutty and floral hard candy that will last about one week in an airtight container. If you have one of those little “Do Not Eat” dehydration envelopes, put it in the container with the sesame brittle. It will help keep it from getting too sticky. Even better, break it into smaller pieces and mix it in with your sesame ice cream before hardening it in your freezer.

3) Totally Delicious, Yes-I’m-Serious, Cilantro Ice Cream for the Brave of Heart

  • ¾ cup (188 grams) whole milk
  • 1¾ cups (113 grams) white sugar
  • 1½ cups (376 grams) heavy cream
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 bunch (about 90 grams) cilantro leaves and stems, roughly chopped
  • 4 egg yolks

Heat the milk, salt, sugar and half the cream (¾ cup/188 grams) to just below boiling, about 175ºF.

Remove from heat. Steep the cilantro, covered, for 1 hour.

Strain to remove the spent cilantro.

Add the egg yolks to the now green mixture and, stirring constantly, bring back to 175º.

Or — Bring the mixture back to 175º, then temper in the egg yolks.

Strain the mixture into the remaining cream. Stir, then chill for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

4) Fortune Cookie Brickle for Topping Ice Cream With

  • 2 cups (106 grams) lightly crushed fortune cookies with the wrappers and fortunes removed
  • 3 Tablespoons melted butter
  • ¼ cup sugar

Mix all ingredients together.

Bake on a baking sheet for 20 to 25 minutes at 275º F.

Cool, and store in an airtight container for several days.

triangular piece of cheesecake on green plate, more cheesecake
Rustic Basque Cheesecake. Photo by John Fladd.

5) Rustic Basque Cheesecake

  • 3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese, or 24 ounces of soft goat cheese
  • 1 cup (200 grams) white sugar
  • 5 whole eggs (minus, you know, the shells)
  • ¾ cup (170 grams) heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat your oven to 500ºF.

Line a springform pan with parchment paper.

Blend all the ingredients in your blender for 5 minutes.

Pour into your lined springform pan, and bake for 45 to 50 minutes. It will be very brown. Don’t let that shake you.

Remove from oven and cool thoroughly before de-panning.

This is delicious, rustic and not too sweet. It is excellent with a large glass of very cold milk.

6) Marzipan Sorbet

  • ⅔ cup (180 grams) almond butter
  • ⅗ cup (180 grams) white sugar
  • 3 cups (660 grams) unsweetened almond creamer. You could use half-and-half for this, but the almond-based creamer will make this even almondier.
  • 4 Tablespoons/2 ounces (72 grams) orgeat (almond syrup)
  • ½ loaf (99 grams) marzipan, cubed. (Marzipan is a sweetened almond paste. You can find it in the baking section of your supermarket, or online.)

Blend all the ingredients except the marzipan.

Chill for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

During the final minute of churning, add the cubes of marzipan.

If you are not yet a fan of marzipan, you will be after trying this. It is especially good with a slice of banana bread.

7) Apple Bundt Cake

  • 3 Granny Smith apples, peeled and diced (about 440 grams)
  • 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg. If you’ve never grated your own nutmeg, try it. You’ll never go back to pre-ground again.
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1½ cups (360 grams) sour cream
  • 1½ cups (275 grams) white sugar
  • ½ cup (64 grams) brown sugar
  • 3 eggs

Heat your oven to 325ºF.

Butter and flour your Bundt pan.

Whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt.

In another bowl, mix the sugars and sour cream. Mix in eggs, one at a time.

Mix in the diced apples by hand.

Pour mixture into your pre-gunked Bundt pan. Lift the pan and bonk it on your counter 10 times.

Bake for 70 minutes or until it reaches an internal temperature of 200º F.

Remove from the oven. Let it cool for 20 minutes, then remove from the pan.

This is an outstanding Bundt cake. The apples are tart and still a tiny bit crunchy. The cake itself is rich but not too sweet. The nutmeg and cinnamon shine through. This is especially good with Custard Sauce.

8) Custard Sauce

  • 1½ cups (340 grams) half-and-half
  • 1/3 cup (56 grams) white sugar
  • 7 egg yolks
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Combine the cream and sugar, then heat over medium heat until just before boiling (175ºF/80ºC), then temper in the egg yolks.

Or — Heat the cream, sugar and egg yolks to 175ºF, whisking constantly.

Strain, to make sure there aren’t any bits of cooked egg, then add the vanilla and chill.

This is delicious on anything British, or on Apple Bundt Cake.

9) Orange Crinkle Cookies (18 vegan cookies)

six cookies, bright color inside, covered in powdered sugar, one baking sheet
Orange Crinkle Cookies. Photo by John Fladd.

These are excellent, and especially good if you are baking for a classroom, Girl Scout troop, etc., and don’t know who is dairy-intolerant or allergic to eggs.

  • 1 Tablespoon flax meal or egg replacer, mixed with 3 Tablespoons water
  • 1 box orange cake mix
  • ½ teaspoon orange extract
  • ½ cup orange soda
  • ½ cup (70 grams) chopped, candied orange slices. Trader Joe’s has excellent ones.
  • powdered sugar

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Prepare the egg substitute.

Mix all ingredients together.

Chill in the freezer for 30 minutes.

Roll 1-Tablespoon balls of dough in powdered sugar, and place six to a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper.

Bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

Cool briefly, then transfer to a cooling rack.

Delicious. Orangey. Crinkly.

10) Cheese Crumb Pudding from an Obscure Antique Cookbook

  • 2 cups (110 grams) bread crumbs (I feel like you could blitz Triscuits in the food processor in lieu of fresh bread crumbs)
  • 2 cups (250 grams) shredded, smoked cheddar – I went with an Australian brand called Old Croc, and I was not disappointed
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 Tablespoon jarred salsa (this is playing pinch hitter for pimientos)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup (225 grams) whole milk
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika

Heat oven to 375º.

Generously butter a 9×9” baking dish.

Mix the mustard, pepper and paprika together in a small dish.

Spread 1/3 of your crumbs over the bottom of the baking dish. Look at them critically. Do they look cold and lonely?

Cover them with a blanket of cheddar — half the cheddar. Sprinkle half the seasoning on top of the blanket. You know, like a blessing.

Repeat with another layer of crumbs, the rest of the cheddar and the rest of the seasoning. Top with a final layer of crumbs.

Mix the milk, eggs and salsa; gently pour over the top of the guys you already have in the baking dish.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Imagine very good macaroni and cheese, intensified, and with the macaroni mysteriously absent. This is extremely decadent, one of the few dishes that will satisfy everyone, including picky children and fathers-in-law.

11) Crumpets – Sort of Like a Cross Between English Muffins and Buttered Toast

  • 1 cup + 1 Tablespoon (235 grams) warm water
  • 1½ teaspoons (6 grams) white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon (4 grams) yeast
  • 1½ cups (180 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon (4 grams) baking powder
  • lots of butter

Combine the water, sugar and yeast. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes to give the yeast a head start.

Combine flour, salt and baking powder in a medium-sized bowl, preferably a metal one.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ones and whisk thoroughly to combine.

Leave the batter to rise in a warm-water bath for 45 minutes.

Heat a frying pan or skillet to about 375º — about as hot as you would for pancakes.

Butter the inside of a pastry ring or a small can with the top and bottom removed. Place it on the hot skillet.

Add a dollop of butter, then three large spoonfuls of batter into the ring/can.

Using pancake-making skills, fry the proto-crumpet in the browning butter, until it is ready to flip over. I usually wait until there are a few non-popping bubbles on the surface.

Remove the ring/can — if you buttered it liberally enough, it should slide right off.

Flip your crumpet and cook in more butter, until it is golden brown on the other side.

Remove to a plate and cover with a tea towel, then rebutter your ring/can and make another. Once you have gotten good at this, you might cook two or more crumpets at a time, but because this recipe only makes six, you might want to focus on them individually.

These are buttery and salty and chewy. They make excellent Sunday morning treats, or housewarming gifts. Everyone you give them to will insist on putting butter and or jam on them, and they are delicious that way, but also a treat as is.

12) Sourdough Starter – Yes, for Sourdough Bread, But We’ll Worry About That Another Time

  • Equal amounts, by weight or volume, of flour and yeast

In a large container — I use a 1-quart plastic takeout container — thoroughly mix the flour and water.

Cover it and set it aside for 24 hours.

As you do this, tiny yeast cells from the air in your kitchen and clinging to tiny flour particles will start to wake up and do what they do best: give off gas and multiply.

The mixture won’t look much different than it did the day before.

Pour out half the mixture, then add the same amount of flour and water as the previous day.

Stir thoroughly, then set aside for another day.

Repeat this every day for a week or so. You will start to notice a yeastiness to the mixture. At that point you can use it in sourdough-y recipes, like sourdough biscuits. The longer you keep your starter — feeding it regularly — the more sour and delicious it will get. Once it is thoroughly established, you can reduce the feedings to three per week. If you are going away on vacation, you can store it without feeding for several weeks in the refrigerator.

13) Sourdough Biscuits

  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • ¾ cup (130 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1½ teaspoons (7 grams) baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 1 cup (264 grams) sourdough starter

Freeze the butter in your freezer for at least 1 hour.

Preheat your oven to 425º.

Combine the sugar, flour, salt and baking powder.

Using a box grater, grate the butter into the flour mixture. If it starts getting melty on your hands, roll it around in the flour.

With your hands, toss the butter in the flour mixture until it is thoroughly combined. (This is the technique I’ve been using for my pie crusts lately, and it works very nicely.)

Add the sourdough starter, and mix to combine. You will end up with a very shaggy dough. Turn it out onto a floured countertop.

Pat the dough into a 5×7” rectangle, about the same size as a postcard. Flip it over so that both sides are floury and not too sticky.

Fold the dough in half, then pat it out to postcard-size. Flip it around in the flour as necessary.

Fold, pat and flip the dough a total of eight times. As you do this, you are building up layers in the dough. Each time you do this, it will become a little smoother and biscuit-doughy.

Pat the dough out into a 7×9” rectangle. Using a large knife or a bench scraper, cut the edges off. As you’ve been patting the dough out, you’ve been pinching the edges a little. Cutting the edges off will allow the biscuits to rise, with lots of layers.

Cut the dough to make six biscuits. Use the off-cuts to make spiral-shaped, wonky biscuits. These will not rise as well or look as pretty, but they will also be delicious.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. This will vary, depending on how accurate your oven is. Watch very carefully the first time you do this to get your specific time. In my kitchen, it is 17 minutes.

Nobody from the South will believe you, but these might be the best biscuits you ever have.

14) Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 2⅔ cups (450 grams) frozen strawberries, thawed (The freezing makes the berries give up more juice. Plus, the frozen ones are less expensive than fresh.)
  • ½ cup (175 grams) strawberry preserves
  • 1 generous cup (240 grams) heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon (18 grams) lemon juice
  • More strawberry preserves for layering in

Blend all the ingredients in your blender.

Strain — otherwise the ice cream might be a little too seedy.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

Layer the soft ice cream with more strawberry preserves before freezing.

This is extra strawberry-y and not too sweet. It’s totally worth making once per week, especially in the winter, when you are feeling sun-deprived.

15) Potatoes au Gratin

  • 12-ounce can evaporated milk
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 1½ pounds (700 grams) potatoes – waxy red potatoes would work well for this, but there really are no wrong potatoes for this dish – peeled and sliced thin
  • 2 cups (200 grams) grated cheese – I like the pre-grated, bagged cheese from the supermarket, but again, there really is no wrong cheese for this
  • salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 425º.

Warm the evaporated milk and one crushed clove of garlic, and leave it to steep for 30 minutes.

Rub the inside of a casserole dish with the other clove of garlic, then butter it thoroughly with 2 Tablespoons of the butter.

Put down the potatoes and cheese in three layers, salting and peppering each one.

Strain the warm milk mixture over the potatoes. Dot the top with the remaining Tablespoon butter.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes. The top should be golden brown.

You’ve got your french fries, your Tater Tots, even your mashed potatoes, but this may be the prince of potato dishes.

16) Coffee Ice Cream

  • 2 cups (454 grams) heavy cream
  • 1½ cups (375 grams) half-and-half
  • ½ cup (100 grams) white sugar
  • pinch of coarse sea salt
  • ¾ cup (50 grams) ground coffee
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla

Set aside 1¼ cups of heavy cream, and the vanilla.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a small saucepan, and heat to hot-but-not-boiling (about 150º).

Remove from heat and let it steep, covered, for about an hour.

Strain the coffee mixture into the rest of the cream. Add the vanilla.

Chill for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

This is outstanding coffee ice cream, but be warned that two scoops of it before bed kept me awake until 4 a.m.

17) Corn Chowder

  • 1 stick (8 ounces) butter
  • 1 small or ½ large white or yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 ears sweet corn, cut from the cob; alternatively, one small bag of frozen corn
  • 1 hatch/poblano chili, chopped
  • ½ gallon milk
  • 1 large baking potato, peeled and diced
  • salt, pepper and smoked paprika to taste

Melt the butter in a large soup pan. (If you are a bacon-eater, half a package of bacon, chopped, fried and rendered, will work well too.)

Add the onion and corn. Sauté until they have some color.

Add the pepper, potatoes and smoked paprika. If you are using bacon, you can skip the paprika at your discretion. You really want a rich, smoky flavor in the background, though. Cook for another five minutes or so.

Add the milk. If you are using fresh sweet corn, chop the cobs in half and use them, too. They will make the chowder extra-corny.

Bring to a simmer, then cook on low heat for 60 minutes.

Season to taste and serve with bread and butter.

This is probably the easiest soup you will ever make from scratch. If you wanted, you could make this entirely from frozen vegetables and still impress picky chowder purists.

18) Scallion Pancakes

  • ½ cup (170 grams) sourdough starter
  • 2 Tablespoons (28 grams) water
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 or 3 scallions, finely chopped
  • a large handful of fresh herbs, chopped – I like chives and basil; cilantro is always good
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • oil for frying

Heat the oil in a frying pan until shimmering.

Combine all the ingredients, reserving half the scallions.

Fry the batter in 3 to 5 batches, sprinkling the reserved scallions on top.

Fry on both sides, drain and serve.

The more quickly you eat these, the crisper they will be.

19) Paneer – Fresh Indian Cheese

  • 1 gallon whole milk
  • ⅓ cup vinegar

Heat the milk in a large soup pot, stirring occasionally to keep it from bonding too firmly to the bottom.

Bring to a boil. Remove from heat immediately.

Stir in the vinegar. Stir for another minute or so, until the milk solids separate from the watery liquid. (This is whey, as in “Little Miss Muffet sat on a tuffet.”)

Line a large colander with a tea towel. Strain the clumpy milk mixture into the towel.

After a minute or so, squeeze some of the moisture out of the towel. Set the towel aside to drain for another hour or so.

You just made cheese. Cut it into cubes, and store it in your refrigerator to make curries with, like a Paneer-Pistachio Curry.

20) Paneer-Pistachio Curry

  • ½ cup (75 grams) cashews
  • 1 bag frozen onions and peppers
  • 8 to 10 cardamom pods, crushed and placed in a tea strainer
  • 2 or 3 serrano chilies, stemmed, seeded and chopped
  • 1½ teaspoons coarse sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • ½ cup (75 grams) salted, roasted, shelled pistachios
  • 8 ounces paneer cubes
  • 1 bunch of cilantro leaves and stems, rinsed and chopped

Boil the cashews, peppers/onions, serranos and cardamom in 2 cups of water for 10 minutes.

Remove the tea strainer, then puree the mixture with an immersion blender or in your regular blender. Return to the pot.

Stir in the pistachios, paneer, salt and cayenne. Warm for five minutes.

Stir in the cilantro and serve with naan.

This is spicy, nutty, hearty curry. If you think you don’t like curries because you don’t like curry powder, this may change your mind. This is a gateway drug to Indian cooking.

21) Granola

  • 2½ cups (225 grams) rolled oats
  • ¼ to ½ cup (75 grams) coarsely chopped nuts
  • ¼ to ½ cup (70 grams) poppy seeds, sesame seeds, or a mixture of both
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) vegetable oil
  • ⅓ cup (112 grams) honey
  • 2 Tablespoons vanilla

Preheat your oven to 305º.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl.

Add the wet ingredients and mix thoroughly. You might be able to do this with a spatula; you will probably end up using your hands.

Drop the mixture onto a silicone sheet or parchment paper on a large baking sheet.

Bake for 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and stir with a wooden spoon or spatula. Press the mixture down, especially in the corners of the pan.

Return to oven and bake for another 15 minutes.

Remove from oven and let cool before breaking into clumps.

This is a salty, spicy, lightly sweet granola that will make itself remembered.

22) Peppermint Stick Ice Cream

wide bowl shaped glass with stem, on table surrounded by colored pencils and markers, pink ice cream with spoon
Peppermint Stick Ice Cream. Photo by John Fladd.
  • 3 cups (680 grams) half-and-half
  • pinch of salt
  • ⅓ cup (65 grams) white sugar
  • 4 crushed candy canes (about 70 grams)
  • 1 Tablespoons cornstarch
  • Another 4 (70 grams) crushed candy canes

Combine cream, salt, sugar, the first batch of candy canes, and cornstarch in a medium saucepan. Heat until the candy canes have completely melted and the mixture has thickened. It should look like pink hot chocolate.

Chill for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

About five minutes before the mixture is done churning, add the second batch of peppermint candy.

This is an outstandingly pepperminty ice cream and an excellent way to use up late-season leftover candy canes.

23) Peanut Butter and Jelly Bundt Cake

Butter for generously greasing your Bundt pan

  • ⅓ cup (75 grams) finely chopped dry-roasted peanuts
  • ½ cup (114 grams) sour cream
  • 1¼ cup (213 grams) brown sugar
  • ½ cup (135 grams) peanut butter
  • 1¾ cup (210 grams) all-purpose flour
  • ¾ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon baking soda
  • 3 eggs
  • ⅓ cup (76 grams) half-and-half
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • ¾ cup (255 grams) strawberry jam
  • 11 (60 grams) maraschino cherries, stems removed

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Prepare a Bundt pan — lavishly butter the inside surface with butter, then dust it with crushed peanuts.

Measure or weigh out the sour cream, brown sugar and peanut butter in the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bowl that you’re going to finish the cake batter in. Now leave it alone until you are ready for it.

Combine all your dry ingredients in a separate bowl. If you worry about such things, go ahead and sift them together; otherwise just stir them together with a spoon.

Beat the sour cream, sugar and peanut butter together into a fine goop.

When your goop is as light and fluffy as it is going to get, continue beating, adding the eggs one at a time, followed by a glug of vanilla.

At this point your mixture is pretty soupy. You’ll be happy to know that it’s time to add the dry ingredients, alternating with the half-and-half.

Scrape the sides of your bowl down to make sure that everything has gotten mixed together, then pour a little more than half of your batter into your Bundt pan.

Bonk the Bundt pan firmly on the top of the counter twice. This is to make sure that there are no air pockets. If you want to, you could wait until you’ve added all the ingredients. In this particular recipe it might also drive your jam and cherries downward, to what will be the top of the cake, and make visible jam inclusions. In any other cake this would be a bug. In this cake it would be a feature.

Gently spoon the jam in a ring around the Bundt pan, on top of the batter you just poured in. Place the cherries in a ring on top of the jam.

Pour the rest of the batter into your pan, making sure to cover the jam and cherries. Don’t worry about being particularly neat; the batter will level itself out.

Bake at 350° for about half an hour. If you are worried about whether it is completely baked, stab it with a probe thermometer. If it reads over 200° F, you’re fine. Don’t worry about it being overbaked; that’s what the sour cream is there for. It has your back.

Let the cake cool in the pan for 10 to 20 minutes, then invert it onto a plate. I find that I rise up onto my toes as I make the flip, then come down hard on my heels. I don’t know if that does anything productive, but I like to think that it lets the finished cake know that I mean business.

This is a moist, not too sweet snack cake, ideal for sharing with a special friend over coffee.

24) Roasted Banana Sorbet

  • 3 tired bananas, the type you might find in the sale rack at a supermarket or by the cash register at a convenience store, the type that has seen too much of life – these are the sweet, flavorful ones
  • ⅓ cup (70 grams) brown sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1⅔ cups (375 grams) non-dairy half-and-half
  • 2 Tablespoons white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon créme de banana
  • 1½ teaspoons lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon coarse sea salt

Preheat your oven to 400º.

Slice your bananas, and mix with brown sugar and coconut oil.

Transfer to an oven-proof pan or dish, and roast for 40 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Combine all ingredients, including the banana mixture, in your blender and blend thoroughly.

Chill for several hours or overnight.

Churn according to your ice cream machine’s manufacturer’s instructions.

Your kitchen will smell amazing while you roast the bananas. If you have a child who complains about not liking bananas, sympathize with them and eat it all yourself.

25) Blackberry Syrup

  • 1 bag frozen blackberries
  • An equal amount (by weight) of white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice

Combine the sugar and frozen berries in a medium saucepan over medium heat. At this point you will be extremely skeptical: This mixture looks far too dry to ever turn into syrup. Have patience.

Keep stirring the mixture occasionally. As the berries thaw, they are going to give up a surprising amount of liquid. When they froze, ice crystals pierced all the cell walls, and now you get all that juice, with very little work.

Keep stirring, crushing berries wherever possible. Bring to a boil.

Let the syrup boil for five or six seconds to make sure that the sugar has all been dissolved, then remove from the heat.

Pour the hot syrup through a fine-mesh strainer to remove all the seeds. There will be a lot of them.

Stir in the lemon juice.

Let the syrup cool, bottle it and store it in your refrigerator for a month or so.

This is an excellent topping for ice cream or pancakes, but also a surprisingly wonderful ingredient for cocktails.

26) Rich and Decadent Peanut Butter Soufflé

  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • ½ cup + 1 Tablespoon (120 grams) brown sugar
  • ¼ cup minus 1 teaspoon (55 grams) peanut butter
  • Small glug of vanilla, about 1 teaspoon
  • pinch of salt

Preheat your oven to 350°.

Separate your eggs. Do this over the bowl of your stand mixer, or the bowl you will be beating the egg whites in. Everyone has their own method for separating eggs. My preference is to break the shell on a flat surface, like a countertop. (This pretty much eliminates small pieces of shell in the bowl that I have to fish out.) I crack the egg open and pour it into my open hand. I keep my fingers just far apart enough that the egg white will eventually release its hold on the yolk and slip through them into the bowl. Remember to wash your hands before and after doing this.

Place the egg yolks in a separate large bowl. Add the brown sugar and peanut butter. Mix well with a spoon. The mixture will be really stiff, so it will be more a matter of mashing than mixing.

Add the salt and vanilla to the egg whites, then whisk them to medium peaks. Have you ever seen a cooking show or competition where a baker beats their egg whites, then holds the bowl over their (or a competitor’s) head to show that they are stiff enough? This is what bakers call stiff peaks. That’s a little stiffer than we want for this recipe. We want them to be the consistency where the TV baker starts giggling and it is just enough to make the egg whites slowly glop onto somebody’s head.

With a silicone spatula, scoop out about a third of your egg whites and mix them into the peanut butter mixture. This is what professionals call loosening up a stiff base. Go ahead and mix everything together. As the mixture becomes more liquidy and stir-able, the doubt you’ve been feeling about your ability to pull this whole soufflé off will ease up by about 15 percent.

This next step is the closest thing to tricky. Use the spatula to scoop out about half the remaining egg whites and put them in the peanut butter bowl. Run the edge of the spatula through the middle of the mess, then sweep it around the edge of the bowl. A tiny bit of the whites will mix together with the base. This is called folding in the egg whites. Even though you can’t see it easily with the naked eye, beaten egg whites are made up of a gazillion tiny bubbles, held together by the sticky proteins in the egg white itself. Remember when your hands felt sticky and gross after separating the eggs? That stickiness is what’s holding those tiny bubbles together. Those bubbles are what’s going to lighten your soufflé and give it lift. By folding the egg whites into the mixture, instead of just stirring it, you are preserving as many of the bubbles as possible. Keep folding until the whites are mostly incorporated with the base.

At this point, your peanut butter mixture should be looking a lot lighter. Your soufflé stress will also lighten up, probably another 15 percent. Fold the rest of the egg whites into the mixture.

Gently spoon the mixture into two large ramekins and put them into your preheated oven.

Bake for approximately 30 minutes. Your oven and mine are probably different by a few degrees, so you might have to make this recipe a couple of times before you perfect the timing. The good news is that even sub-optimal soufflés are awfully good.

Pull the puffed-up soufflés from the oven and serve immediately. The now-baked bubble matrix is proud and puffy, but it will collapse within the next 10 minutes. Serve with something fruity, like Rhubarb Compote.

27) Rhubarb Compote and Rhubarb Syrup

This recipe is very much like the one for Blackberry Syrup, but at the end of the process you get syrup and compote.

  • rhubarb – cleaned and chopped
  • the same amount of white sugar, by weight
  • juice of half a lemon

Freeze the chopped rhubarb for several hours or overnight. This will allow ice crystals to pierce all the cell walls.

Heat the frozen rhubarb and sugar in a saucepan. As it thaws, the rhubarb will give off quite a bit of liquid. If you want to help the process along, you can crush the rhubarb with a potato masher.

Bring the mixture to a boil to ensure that the sugar has dissolved completely.

Remove from heat. Stir in the lemon juice.

Strain the mixture with a fine-meshed strainer.

The liquid is your rhubarb syrup, which makes a delightful Rhubarb Margarita, and the solids are a very nice compote that is delicious on toast or with a Peanut Butter Soufflé. Both will last for two or three weeks in your refrigerator.

28) Rhubarb Margarita

  • 2 ounces blanco tequila – I like Hornitos
  • 1 ounce rhubarb syrup
  • ¾ ounce fresh squeezed lime juice
  • Combine all three ingredients with ice in a cocktail shaker.
  • Shake until the shaker becomes painful to hold.
  • Strain into a cocktail glass, and drink while listening to flamenco music.
  • 29) Carrot Pie
  • purée of two large carrots – about 1½ cups, or 300 grams
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (99 grams) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • ½ cups (1 can) evaporated milk
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 pie crust

Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour into the pie crust. Much as with a pumpkin pie, the crust does not need to be blind-baked.

Bake at 450º for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325º and bake for a further 50 to 55 minutes or until the blade of a knife comes out more or less clean.

30) Sweet Lemon Buns

  • 1 cup (227 grams) whole milk
  • 1½ Tablespoons butter
  • ¼ cup (50 grams) white sugar
  • 1 Tablespoon yeast
  • zest of 2 lemons (about 7 grams)
  • juice of ½ lemon (40 grams)
  • ½ cup (85 grams) golden raisins
  • 1 egg
  • 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a small saucepan, heat the milk, butter and sugar, until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from heat.

Stir in the yeast, then leave the mixture to proof for 10 to 15 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the yeast mixture, lemon rind, lemon juice, raisins and egg. This will make a gloppy mess.

Add the flour and salt. Knead with the bread hook on your stand mixer, or by hand for five to 10 minutes.

Pull the still-sticky dough into a tight ball, then place in an oiled bowl to rise.

Let the dough rise for one to two hours, until it has doubled in size.

Preheat your oven to 350º.

With a large knife or bench scraper, divide the dough into 12 portions.

Form the portions into proto-buns and leave to rise a second time on parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet, about 20 minutes.

Bake for 20 minutes.

Eat, warm from the oven, with too much butter, or with Egg Foo Yung Salad.

31) Egg Foo Yung Salad

I am passionately fond of eggs, but not hard-boiled ones, or, as I like to call them, “sulfur-flavored Jell-O.” This is an excellent work-around egg salad.

  • 1 order takeout egg foo yung, minus the sauce
  • mayonnaise
  • pickled red onion
  • pickled jalapeños
  • canned water chestnuts
  • roasted, salted pecans
  • a tiny amount of sesame oil
  • salt and pepper

Chop the egg, onion, jalapeños and water chestnuts. Place in a medium-sized bowl.

Add the mayo, sesame oil and pecans to taste.

Season to taste.

There are no specific amounts of any ingredient in this recipe, because egg salad, like tuna or potato salad, is entirely dependent on individual preferences. About once per month I stop for takeout egg foo yung just to make this.

32) Boston Brown Bread

rectangular loaf of dense brown break on cutting board, one piece cut and slathered in butter
Boston Brown Bread. Photo by John Fladd.
  • generous ½ cup (60 grams) whole wheat flour
  • generous ½ cup (67 grams) rye flour
  • generous ½ cup (75 grams) fine corn flour or masa harina
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon ground allspice
  • ½ cup (85 grams) golden raisins or dried blueberries
  • 1 cup (227 grams) buttermilk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ cup (170 grams) molasses

Heat your oven to 325º.

Generously butter a loaf pan or large coffee can.

Combine all dry ingredients in one bowl, and the wet ingredients in another.

Combine the contents of the two bowls.

Pour the batter into the loaf pan or coffee can. Cover the top with foil and tie it with twine.

Put the pan or can in a large roasting pan or Dutch oven, and fill 1/3 of the way up with boiling water.

Cover the roasting pan or Dutch oven, and bake for two hours and 15 minutes. Check in on the water level from time to time, and refill as necessary. The bread will be ready when a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes before serving with a truly inordinate amount of butter.

Use any leftovers the next day for Brown Bread French Toast.

33) Boston Brown Bread French Toast

Make French toast from your leftover Boston Brown Bread.

34) Flame-Grilled Vegetables

cooking tray with chopped vegetables sitting on grill, smoke rising
Flame-Grilled Vegetables. Photo by John Fladd.
  • 2 red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 yellow or red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 can artichoke bottoms, diced – artichoke hearts are fine, but if you can find the bottoms, they will be a revelation; they taste the same, but with a meaty texture
  • 1 can jumbo black olives, strained
  • 1 package haloumi cheese, diced
  • ½ bottle balsamic vinaigrette salad dressing
  • salt and pepper

Several hours before you want to eat, boil the potatoes until they are just al dente — maybe five minutes from being perfectly cooked.

Add the potatoes and all the other ingredients to a gallon-sized zip-lock bag. Squeeze as much air out as possible. Leave the bag on the kitchen counter to let the vegetables marinate for two to three hours.

Half an hour before dinner, start the charcoal in your grill.

When you have a good set of coals, march outside with a determined expression, a grill pan, a pair of tongs and a cold beer.

Place the grill pan — it looks like a metal basket with a lot of holes in it — over the coals, then pour the contents of the bag into it.

There will be a huge hiss, but don’t worry, the coals have not gone out.

Grill the vegetables until the onions and haloumi have some good color. Move them around with the tongs from time to time. You will probably have to change position from time to time to escape the worst of the smoke. This is the price you pay for delicious grilled vegetables.

Sneak a piece of potato or pepper occasionally. You will know when everything has cooked.

Finish your beer, then make way too big a production of bringing the hot grill pan back into the kitchen for service.

35) Homemade Hummus

  • 2 15.5-ounce cans of chickpeas, sometimes labeled as garbanzo beans
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 clove fresh garlic
  • ½ cup (117 grams) tahini paste, sort of like a peanut butter made from sesame seeds
  • 1 lemon, squeezed
  • olive oil and paprika to garnish (optional)

Using a colander, drain and rinse the chickpeas to wash away any metallic taste from the cans.

In a blender or food processor, combine the chickpeas, salt, garlic and a generous cup of water. Blend or process on low speed for two minutes or so. The mixture will be a tan color and look a little grainy.

Add the tahini and lemon juice, then blend or process again for three to four minutes.

Pour into a serving dish. Garnish with a splash of olive oil and a sprinkling of paprika, then surround the bowl with olives, pickled turnips and torn or sliced pieces of flatbread.

36) Homemade Chocolates

You’ve probably watched a cooking competition and been scared off from ever trying to mold your own chocolates because the judges kept going on about properly “tempering” your chocolate and made it seem like glass-blowing or something.

Buy some silicone chocolate molds, or soap molds, or even ice cube trays from a craft store, or online.


  • chocolate

That’s it. You can, of course add pretzel pieces or crushed peppermint, or white chocolate chips, but all you really need is chocolate. Dark chocolate chips do very nicely.

Fill a small, microwave-safe bowl with chunks of chocolate. Microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.

Stir. At this point the chunks are probably just a little melted around the edges.

Microwave for 15 more seconds. Stir. More melty…

Let’s go 10 more seconds, then really stir. The warm chocolate will melt the rest of the pieces.

When you have a bowlful of melted chocolate, pour it into the molds. Make sure that you jab at it with your spoon or craft stick a little to get into any crevices.

Cool for an hour or so in your refrigerator, then de-mold.

Bask in the admiration of friends and co-workers.

And as long as you’re melting chocolate, you might as well make some Chocolate-Covered Cherries.

37) Chocolate-Covered Cherries

  • melted chocolate (see above)
  • maraschino cherries, stems removed.

One at a time, drop cherries into the melted chocolate, and roll them around with a fork until they are completely covered.

Transfer to wax paper or parchment paper to set.

Eat them, or use them to woo an attractive, dark-eyed stranger.

38) World’s Greatest Breakfast Sandwich

  • 1 slice of ordinary sandwich bread (seriously, don’t try to get fancy with this), toasted
  • peanut butter
  • pickled jalapeños
  • 1 egg, scrambled (I cook mine in the microwave oven for 67 seconds)
  • salt and pepper to taste

OK, go ahead. Be skeptical, but once you’ve tried this you will make it again: Toast, peanut butter, jalapeños, scrambled egg, salt and pepper.

39) Taco Variations – Which Absolutely Should Be the Title of a Piece of Classical Music

So, the key to an extended family get-together, like on Christmas Eve, or Eid al Fitr, is feeding everyone generously, and keeping grumbling to a minimum. One of the best ways to do that is with tacos. Everyone likes some sort of tacos, so set up a taco bar in the kitchen with crispy shells, traditional grilled tortillas, and a variety of different ingredients. Here are a few ingredients that you probably haven’t thought of:

Pan-Fried Hominy – Drain a couple cans of hominy (alkali-treated corn that you can find in the canned vegetable section of the supermarket, near the beans), and fry them in butter until they are golden brown. They have a chewy texture and carb-y flavor that adds a whole new dimension to a taco.

Pulled Chicken – Buy a rotisserie chicken at the supermarket and pull it apart into taco-sized chunks. Half the work, all the flavor. You can set some golden-brown skin aside for a relative you actually like.

Plant-Based Hamburger Substitute – It is highly likely that you have at least one member of your extended family who is vegetarian or vegan and generally sulky about being left out at family gatherings. It is just as easy to make hamburger taco filling from Impossible or Beyond Burger. You wouldn’t even need to tell any of the huffier members of the family; just whisper in the ear of your relative-arian, and let them know that you have their back.

40) Another Cocktail – A Cranberry Cobra, Made with Cranberry Syrup

The Cranberry Cobra

  • ½ ounce lemon juice
  • ¾ ounce golden rum
  • ½ serrano chile
  • 1½ ounces blisteringly cold vodka
  • 1 ounce cranberry syrup (see below)
  • ½ ounce unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 1 bottle Fever Tree Aromatic Tonic

Muddle the serrano in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

Add the rum and vodka, and dry-shake (without ice). Capsaicin, the fiery chemical in chiles, is alcohol-soluble, so dry-shaking it will allow the rum and vodka to strip out more heat and flavor from the serrano.

Add the lemon juice, cranberry syrup, cranberry juice and ice, then shake again, as vigorously as you see fit.

Strain into a tall Collins glass, over fresh ice.

Top with tonic and stir gently.

41) Cranberry Syrup

  • 1 part sugar
  • 1 part 100% cranberry juice – NOT cranberry juice cocktail

Bring both ingredients to a boil in a small saucepan and cook until the sugar dissolves completely, about two minutes.

Actually that’s it. You will probably want to let it cool before actually using it in a cocktail.

So, right now, if you are a thoughtful reader, you are asking why you can’t just use cranberry juice and simple syrup in the Cranberry Cobra and skip the syrup-making altogether. Seven words for you: Apple. Pie. Ala. Mode. With. Cranberry. Syrup.

42) Thumbprint Cookies

  • 1½ cups (3 sticks) butter, softened
  • 1 cup (198 grams) white sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3½ cups (163 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup fruit preserves, any flavor – the key here is to find some sort of really unusual jam that people won’t be expecting: ginger preserves, hot pepper jelly, rose jam, lime marmalade — these are all excellent choices

Preheat your oven to 350º

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, white sugar, then the eggs.

Mix in flour a little bit at a time until a soft dough forms.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.

Use your finger or an instrument of similar size to make a well in the center of each cookie. Fill the hole with 1/2 teaspoon of jam.

Bake for 14 minutes in the preheated oven, until golden brown on the bottom. Remove from cookie sheets to cool on wire racks.

43) Failure Cookies, aka Blank Canvas Cookies

This recipe was adapted from another 100-year-old newspaper clipping, and something was definitely lost in the translation. The filling burned and the dough turned out to be impossible to roll out. And yet — think of this as a Blank Canvas cookie. It has a mild, shortcake-like flavor that lends itself to modification. Add some peppermint oil? It would work beautifully. Lemon zest and lemon oil? Please. Bourbon? Why not?

1 cup (227 grams) whole milk

  • 1 cup (198 grams) sugar
  • ½ cup (1 stick) butter
  • 3½ cups (420 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 egg
  • pinch salt
  • 1 Tablespoon baking powder

Preheat your oven to 375º

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, salt and baking powder together. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in your stand mixer until light and fluffy.

Add the milk and the egg.

Gradually add the flour mixture and mix until it has been incorporated.

Drop 1-Tablespoon dollops of the batter onto parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet, six at a time.

Bake for 10 minutes. Cool briefly before eating, or making a Trifle.

44) Failure Cookie Trifle

glass bowl filled with layers of broken cookies and whipped cream, on talbe with striped table cloth, spoons lying beside
Failure Cookie Trifle. Photo by John Fladd.

The amount of each ingredient will be determined by the size of your trifle dish.

  • Failure Cookies
  • heavy cream
  • maple syrup
  • frozen cherries
  • amaretto

Thaw and drain frozen cherries. Soak overnight in amaretto.

Whip the cream until stiff with maple syrup as a sweetener.

In a large, or whatever size you have, glass dish, layer Failure Cookies, maple whipped cream, and marinated cherries.

Repeat as many times as you have ingredients and room in the bowl.

Dust the top with nutmeg or chocolate shavings.

45) Chocolate-Orange Cookies, Also From a 1923 Newspaper Clipping

  • 2 egg whites
  • 1 cup (114 grams) powdered sugar
  • 6 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 4 teaspoons melted butter
  • ¾ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 cup (about 1½ slices, 68 grams) fresh soft bread crumbs – a food processor or blender will crumb bread very nicely
  • ½ cup (85 grams) chopped candied orange slices – Trader Joe’s has very good ones
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla

Mix the cocoa and butter into a stiff paste. Set aside.

Beat the egg whites to medium peaks.

Slowly mix in the powdered sugar…

Then the salt and cocoa paste…

Mix in the cinnamon, bread crumbs, chopped orange pieces and vanilla, until combined.

Chill the dough for 30 minutes.

Heat your oven to 350º.

Bake 1-Tablespoon balls for 10 minutes.

Cool and eat.

46) Browned Butter Cookie Bars

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup (213 grams) packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup (99 grams) white sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup (76 grams) whole milk
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2½ cups (300 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup (170 grams) chocolate chips
  • 4 ounces (about 1 large bar) dark chocolate, chopped
  • 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 2 teaspoons light corn syrup
  • sea salt flakes

Grease and line a 13×9” baking pan with parchment paper.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter, and cook until it turns light brown and smells nutty. Pour into a bowl to cool.

Add both sugars and the salt to the browned butter until completely combined.

Beat in the milk and vanilla, then the flour and chocolate chips.

When this has turned into cookie dough, transfer it to the baking dish and smash it down flat with a spatula, making sure to fill the corners. Put this in the refrigerator to chill while you play with melted chocolate.

In a small saucepan, maybe the one you used to brown the butter, heat the dark chocolate, cream and corn syrup. When it has turned to a melted saucy consistency, take the cookie dough from the refrigerator and pour the chocolate onto it. Tilt the pan to completely cover the dough. Sprinkle the top with sea salt.

Chill overnight, then cut into bars.

47) Gooey Butter Rum Bars

  • ¾ cup (1½ sticks) butter
  • ½ cup (99 grams) white sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 Tablespoons dark rum
  • 1¼ cups (150 grams) all-purpose flour
  • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 2½ cups (284 grams) powdered sugar

Heat your oven to 350º.

Grease and line a 9×13” baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat ½ cup (1 stick) of the butter with your mixer. Add the white sugar, baking powder, and half the salt. Beat until light and fluffy.

Add one egg and 1 Tablespoon of the rum. Keep mixing.

Beat in the flour until everything is combined.

Smush this dough into the bottom of the baking pan. Make an even layer, including the corners.

Clean out the mixing bowl, then beat the remaining butter and the cream cheese until light and fluffy.

Add the rest of the ingredients, being careful to add the eggs one at a time.

Pour the batter on top of the crust in the baking pan.

Bake 30 to 35 minutes.

Cool, cut and eat gleefully.

48) 1970s-era Nuts & Bolts (Chex Mix)

  • ½ cup salted butter (1 stick)
  • 2 Tablespoons full-sodium soy sauce
  • 1¼ teaspoons seasoned salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic salt (if there was any way to cram more salt into this, we didn’t know about it in the ’70s)
  • 2¾ cups Corn Chex
  • 2¾ cups Rice Chex
  • 2¾ cups Wheat Chex
  • 1½ cups cocktail peanuts (oh, wait – apparently there is a way)
  • 1½ cups sesame sticks

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F.

Melt butter in a shallow pan. Stir in soy sauce, seasoned salt and garlic salt.

Add cereal, peanuts and sesame sticks. Mix until all pieces are coated.

Place on a shallow baking pan with sides.

Bake for 40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.

49) Switches and Coal, a Krampus-Themed Holiday Drink

tall dark glass of cocktail, smaller glass beside, on counter with pine needles and cork, ipad showing image of krampus in background
Switches and Coal. Photo by John Fladd.

This is a take on a classic drink called a Black Satin, but boilermaker-y:

  • 3 ounces very dark beer – stout or porter
  • 3 ounces Brut Champagne
  • 2 ounces of the darkest rum you can get your hands on – I like Cruzan Black Strap

Gently pour the very dark beer into a tall glass.

Float the Champagne on top of it. Pour it over the back of a spoon. It will not make visibly separate layers, but it makes a difference.

Pour a shot of very dark rum, then drop it into the mixture.

Drink, while complaining to your husband about your day.

50) Greyhound – A Retro Cocktail that Will Make You Feel Better About Things in General

  • 2 2-inch slices of grapefruit rind (just the thin outer layer – the grapefruit will bring enough bitterness without using any of the white pith under the surface)
  • 1½ ounces good gin – I like Death’s Door
  • 1 ounce St. Germain, an elderflower liqueur
  • 2 ounces unsweetened ruby grapefruit juice

Muddle the grapefruit peel thoroughly in the bottom of a cocktail shaker. This will release citrus oil and add an extra layer of grapefruitiness to the finished drink. Feel free to really smash the peel.

Add the other ingredients and four or five ice cubes to the shaker, and shake thoroughly.

Strain over ice in a rocks glass.

Sip while thinking about that one time when you met that guy with that crazy idea. What would have happened if you’d thrown caution into the wind?

51) Lady In Blue – A Classic Cocktail With a Touch of Sophistication

  • 1½ ounces very cold gin
  • ¼ ounce créme de violette
  • ¾ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ½ ounce simple syrup
  • 3 drops orange blossom water

A “slip” of blue curaçao

Combine all ingredients except the blue curaçao with ice in a cocktail shaker.

Shake until frost forms on the shaker and your hands become uncomfortably cold.

Strain into a martini glass. This is one occasion where you should not frost the glass first; you will want to show this cocktail off. The frosted glass would mess with that.

Pour a small slip of blue curaçao down one side of the glass. It is denser than the rest of the drink and will pool in the bottom of the glass.

52) Existential Luau – A Tiki Drink That Brings Up Difficult Questions

  • 1 ounce lime syrup (see below)
  • 1 ounce Campari
  • 2 ounces gin (I like Death’s Door)
  • 4 ounces pineapple juice

cracked ice or tiny ice cubes

Fill a tall glass — a pint glass or a Collins glass — with ice.

Add lime syrup, Campari and gin.

Top off with pineapple juice.

Stir with a bar spoon.

Drink while thinking what you would name your boat, and then the bar you would run when you got to a tropical island, sold the boat and opened a bar.

53) Lime Syrup

  • juice of 3 or 4 limes
  • An equal amount (by weight) of white sugar
  • zest of 2 limes

In a small saucepan, bring the lime juice and sugar to a boil. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved, about 10 to 15 seconds, once it’s boiling.

Remove from heat and add lime zest. Let it steep for 30 minutes.

Strain the zest from the syrup, so it doesn’t get bitter.

Label your jar so you won’t have an awkward moment a week from now, when your wife wants to know what’s in that jar in the door of the fridge.

54) Navy Grog

  • 1 ounce black rum, the darker the better – I like Cruzan’s Black Strap for this
  • 1 ounce golden rum – I’ve got a bottle of Kirk and Sweeney that I save for special occasions like this
  • 1 ounce white rum – Bacardi is fine for this; the white rum in this recipe is like the friend who is seriously underdressed to get into a club but is able to brazen her way through because of her fancy friends
  • 1 ounce honey syrup
  • ¾ ounce grapefruit juice
  • ¾ ounce fresh-squeezed lime juice, plus half a lime for garnish
  • 1 ounce aggressively bubbly seltzer – I like Topo Chico
  • 1 sprig fresh mint for garnish

Fill the large half of a cocktail shaker to the top with ice.

Pour the ice into a clean tea towel. Wrap the ice in the towel, then beat it brutally with something heavy (I use the billy-club-sized pestle from my largest mortar and pestle for this). Beat the towel until you have a variety of ice shards, from half cubes to pebbles to legitimate snow. Pour this ice back into your cocktail shaker. It will take up significantly less room than before.

Add the rums, honey syrup and citrus juices to the shaker, and shake thoroughly.

Add the carbonated water, then stir gently with a bar spoon.

Pour the entire contents into a glass. Does it have to be a Tiki mug? It could be; again, who’s going to judge you? But frankly, any large-ish glass, mug or mason jar will do.

Squeeze the remaining half lime into the glass, then drop the carcass in to class the joint up a little. Finish it off with the fresh mint.

Featured Photo: Courtesy photo.

November Sunset

A year or so ago, I splurged on some fancy party-wear — a burgundy velvet smoking jacket, a silk ascot and a fez. I couldn’t tell you why. I just wanted something fancy to wear if I ever got invited to a fancy party, or threw a fancy party.

There would be jazz music and cocktails and elegant women, who smelled like roses, in caftans, and I would be ready for it in a smoking jacket, ascot and fez. A woman in pearls and elbow-length gloves would make excuses to talk to me and ask for tips about how to start a houseplant from an avocado pit.

A British man with a pipe, and patches on the elbows of his jacket, would raise his eyebrows and mutter, “Well, played, old man.”

A bow-tied waitress would bring me an amuse bouche on a silver tray and say, “A little something from the chef, sir.”

There would be antique rugs on the floor, and goldfish in the fountain, and a bookcase full of 100-year-old travel guides with old, yellowing photographs for bookmarks.

I wouldn’t be better dressed than the other Very Fancy People, but I would fit right in.

I haven’t been to this party yet, and my smoking jacket remains securely in the back of my closet, but I live in hope. No matter how casual and down-to-earth any of us are, every once in a while we all feel the call of fanciness.

A Fancy Cocktail – The November Sunset

This is a fancy cocktail that requires a bit of preparation, but it is the time of the year when we start to make our peace with fanciness. In this case we need to caramelize some oranges.

Caramelized Oranges

  • 2 large ripe oranges, cut into ¼-inch slices
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons hot honey
  • ½ teaspoon coarse sea salt
  • fresh rosemary

Preheat your oven to 500º, with the top rack 6 inches from the top of the oven.

In a large bowl, toss the orange slices with the olive oil and honey.

Lay the orange slices out on a piece of parchment paper or a silicon baking sheet, and sprinkle with salt.

Caramelize the oranges in the oven, until they turn dark and moody-looking. This might take 20 minutes or so, but keep a sharp eye on them after 15, to make sure they don’t burn.

Sprinkle the orange slices with rosemary, then roast for another 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from the oven and cool.

The Fancy Cocktail

  • 3 caramelized orange slices
  • 2 ounces dry gin
  • 2 ounces unsweetened cranberry juice
  • 5 to 6 ounces tonic water
  • sprig of rosemary
  • ice

Muddle three slices of the caramelized orange in the bottom of a Collins glass.

Add ice, then gin and cranberry juice. Stir to combine.

Top with tonic water, almost to the top of the glass.

Stir again. Make sure you bring the orange slices up to the side of the glass, where they can be seen, so everyone knows that this is a fancy drink.

Garnish with the rosemary sprig.

Sip while listening to Cole Porter and — as my grandfather often expressed — wonder aloud what the poor people are doing tonight.

This is one of those drinks where if you concentrate hard enough you can taste each individual element. The roasted orange tastes a little smoky and bitter but also very fruity and floral. The gin hides very discreetly in the background but is there if you look hard enough for it. The cranberry juice plays beautifully with the bitterness of the tonic water.

All in all, it tastes a lot like a fancy party.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: The November Sunset. Photo by John Fladd.

Carrot Pie

Carrot Pie. Photo by John Fladd.

In the 1920s there seems to have been a vibrant analog online community of housewives in the Boston Globe’s cooking section. At first glance, it seems as if it was a simple exchange of recipes, but there was clearly a lot more than that going on under the surface. In this column, Winding Trails starts by thanking her virtual friend for a recipe, then offers one of her own. It seems straightforward enough. The last line is somewhat arresting, though; she doesn’t so much close out her small letter politely as plead for some form of human contact.

This was the 1920s. It had not been so many years since politicians and ministers had blasted an evil new invention, the bicycle. Without a (male) chaperone, they ranted, who knew what sorts of deviant mischief women could get up to, traveling all over the countryside? It’s easy to imagine Mrs. Trails almost trapped in an apartment in Southie or a triple-decker in Nashua, surrounded by crying children and dirty dishes, desperate for some form of adult companionship.

Some more research reveals that Skin Hincks (and wow, do I want to know the story behind her name) was a frequent, almost obsessive correspondent to the Globe’s cooking pages. It’s very easy to see her modern counterpart having a very active social media presence. There might be a very credible master’s or Ph.D. thesis comparing the two communities.

But for now, let’s look at Mrs. Trail’s Carrot Pie:

Carrot Pie

  • The purée of two large carrots – about 1½ cups, or 300 grams
  • ½ teaspoon ground ginger
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ cup (99 grams) sugar
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1½ cups (1 can) evaporated milk
  • zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 pie crust

Preheat the oven to 450º F.

Whisk all ingredients together in a medium-sized bowl.

Pour into the pie crust. Much as with a pumpkin pie, the crust does not need to be blind-baked.

Bake at 450º for 15 minutes, then lower the temperature to 325º and bake for a further 50 to 55 minutes, or until the blade of a knife comes out more or less clean.

At first glance, this seems like a bright orange pumpkin pie, and the taste is not completely dissimilar, but the sweetness of the carrot and the brightness of the orange zest lift the flavor to something different. The spices are more subdued than in a pumpkin pie, and the custard is not so much sweeter as fruitier. Carrots and ginger are a classic pairing, and the orange zest adds a zing that makes this more of a “Yes, please, another slice would be delightful” experience.

This is a good pie to eat with a cup of tea, while hand-writing a letter to an old friend.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: Carrot Pie. Photo by John Fladd.

Gin Punch

We’ve all done it. We’ve all planned our ideal dinner party — what we’d serve, how we’d dress, and most importantly, who we’d invite.

The guest list is the most intriguing part of this mental exercise.

We’d have to limit the guest list to eight people — four men and four women. Fewer than that, and you can’t fit in all your “must-invites”; more than that, and there won’t be one conversation, there will be four or five. All must be alive, as of this week, and no family members are allowed. It’s like a wedding — by the time you invite all the people you should invite, there isn’t room for the people you really want to invite.

So here’s my provisional list.

The Men

Me – I know I said no relatives, but I think I can make an exception for myself.

Robert Krulwich – Science reporter and former host of RadioLab. A charming guy.

Cheech Marin – Comedian and well-respected art collector. Brilliant and allegedly very nice.

Carlos Santana – Genius guitarist. He makes a point of collaborating with radically different artists.

The Women

Naziyah Mahmood – Martial artist model and astrophysicist. I imagine everything she says, down to her morning coffee order, is fascinating.

Lucy Worsley – British historian and famously nice lady.

Esperanza Spalding – Jazz genius, and probably the best bassist alive today.

Salima Ikram – Archaeologist and Egyptologist. Again, staggeringly fascinating.

So far, so good. All but one of these people are brilliant. They are all personable and fascinating.

But is that enough?

A good dinner party guest should have interesting things to say, but the very best ones are also excellent, dynamic listeners. How well do they play with others?

I have the feeling that Robert Krulwich would be fascinated by Naziyah Mahmood, who would charm Esperanza Spalding. She, in turn, would have Cheech Marin hypnotized by her beauty and, well, hipness. I would love to hear the conversation that he would have with Salima Ikram. I would just try very hard not to embarrass myself.

The point being, it’s not about who is brilliant on their own as much as it is what kind of chemistry they have together.

Which brings us to gin punch.

A good punch is supposed to be made of fantastic ingredients — also eight, in this case — that each add something to the whole but don’t dominate it. A fantasy dinner party of a cocktail, if you will.

Gin Punch

  • Peel of half a lemon – just the outside yellow part, not the bitter white part underneath.
  • Large teaspoonful of your favorite jam. Raspberry is a popular choice, but I like rose.
  • 2½ ounces dry gin
  • ¼ ounce triple sec
  • ¼ ounce ginger brandy
  • ½ ounce fresh squeezed lemon juice
  • ¼ ounce grenadine or simple syrup, depending on how pink you want this punch to be.
  • Dash of celery bitters

Muddle the lemon peel thoroughly in the bottom of a cocktail shaker.

Add the jam and muddle it again.

Add the rest of the ingredients, then use the muddler to stir everything, thereby rinsing the last of the jam off the muddler.

Add ice, and shake until very cold.

Strain over fresh ice in a coupe glass. Sip while listening to Esperanza Spalding; you won’t be sorry.

As with our imaginary dinner party, this punch is greater than its parts. The gin and lemon juice give it authority and keep it from becoming too sweet. The ginger is just barely detectable, as are the celery bitters. The jam doesn’t dominate the conversation but has something nice to say about your shoes.

This might actually be a good drink to serve at your next dinner party.

John Fladd is a veteran Hippo writer, a father, writer and cocktail enthusiast, living in New Hampshire.

Featured photo: Parmentier. Photo by John Fladd.

Stay in the loop!

Get FREE weekly briefs on local food, music,

arts, and more across southern New Hampshire!