Cranberry-Pecan Bundt Cake

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Every year for Thanksgiving, we go to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving dinner– and every year, I bring some kind of baked good to share. Over the years, I’ve developed some criteria to maximize people’s enjoyment of my creation: It has to keep well at room temperature, because the fridge is full already. It has to be easy and neat to eat, so people don’t have to get out plates or forks to get a piece. And it has to be a cake or loaf of some kind (rather than individually-portioned cookies, etc.) because while people are sometimes reluctant to grab an entire cookie or cupcake between meals, they’re always happy to slice off just a teeny-weeny bit to snack on as they pass by.

This bundt cake is perfect for the occasion– it’s got a dense, fine crumb that lets it hold together well when people pick up a slice, it’s not so sweet or decadent that people feel guilty about grabbing some, and it’s appropriately festive, being chock-full of cranberries and pecans. And yes, the flavor combination may sound familiar from my Cranberry-Orange Walnut Muffin recipe, but this cake is a lot richer and denser than the light, fluffy muffins, making it just the right dessert for a family event.

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Brown Butter Breakfast Puffs

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You know how sometimes you wake up in the morning, with a long day of doing nothing in front of you, and you feel like having an indulgent breakfast? It doesn’t happen very often for me (at least not the “doing nothing” part), but recently I found myself with just such a day, and decided to take advantage of it. But what to make? Pancakes weren’t special enough, I didn’t have any good bread to make french toast, and we didn’t have any good omelette fillings in the fridge. I scrolled through my list of bookmarked breakfast ideas when I came across a recipe for “breakfast puffs.”

Breakfast puffs (also referred to as “french breakfast puffs” or “doughnut muffins”) are basically nutmeg-scented muffins, dipped in melted butter and rolled in cinnamon-sugar while still warm. They supposedly taste just like warm doughnuts, but without the frying. Sounded perfect.

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Bacon Fat Biscuits

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I fried up a bunch of bacon last week to make a savory bread pudding (for the record, it was kale/bacon/onion bread pudding and it was amazing), and found myself with almost half a cup of leftover bacon fat. I poured it into a ramekin to chill in the fridge, and set about trying to figure out what I could use it in.

With the advent of chillier weather, biscuits seemed to fit the bill nicely. I decided to substitute chilled bacon fat for butter, and to punch up the flavor with some wilting green onions and some cheddar cheese I found in the fridge. Basically these biscuits were a delicious way to use my leftovers, and they turned out wonderfully!

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Easy Apple-Cinnamon Biscuits

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Last weekend I woke up before everyone else in the house (except for the cats, they were bugging me for food), and decided on a whim that I wanted to bake something for breakfast. Biscuits seemed just the thing, but they sounded kind of boring, so I tried to figure out a way to spice things up a bit. I considered jam– in college I used to whip up a jam scone-type thing that was always well-received– but didn’t have enough of any one flavor of jam in the refrigerator to make it worthwhile.

Instead I decided to go with cinnamon sugar, and to evoke the classic cinnamon roll I ended up doing a cinnamon swirl rather than just a topping. At the last minute, I added one small apple, chopped, which I think added both flavor and textural interest. All in all, a pretty decent result that took less than an hour from start to finish, though in all honestly it wasn’t so incredibly delicious that I’ll be crowing about it to all of my friends. Will I make it again? Perhaps, if I’m ever in the mood for something sweet at breakfast and have limited time to make it in.

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Chocolate-Orange Ricotta Cupcakes

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I can’t believe I haven’t posted about these before– these are some of my very favorite cupcakes. Cupcakes that are soft and warm and full of chocolate; cupcakes that contrast the rich creaminess of ricotta with the slight bitterness of good marmalade; cupcakes that one of my coworkers has dubbed “the best cupcakes in the world.” And you can have them out of the oven and ready to eat in an hour.

The base of the recipe is from a lovely blog I read, Orangette, but I’ve tweaked it just a bit to make it a little more decadent (though you’ll still need to go out and buy ricotta). The result is fantastic– if you’ve ever daydreamed about crossing a fresh cannoli with warm chocolate cake, this is what you’d get. They’re wonderful as-is, but if you ever wanted to gild the lily, you could top them with a thin drizzle of chocolate ganache, and watch your dinner guests go into a chocolate coma!

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Tahini Swirl Brownies

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I was invited to a last-minute barbecue the other day, and with nothing in the house to contribute I was forced to scramble for a dessert idea! A quick survey of my fridge revealed a mostly-used can of tahini, and as luck would have it I had a decent-sized chunk left from a Trader Joe’s Pound Plus bar of dark chocolate. Clearly, brownies were in order.

I did a search online and found a frequently-lauded recipe for tahini-swirled brownies from Milk Street Magazine. I lifted the recipe in its entirety, though I admit to making a careless error and accidentally using 4 oz. of butter rather than 4 tablespoons of butter! Oops! Luckily it didn’t seem to hurt the recipe any– the interior of the brownie was moist and plushy in a way I’ve never seen in brownies before, and I really liked it. I’m tempted to keep the revision, but I’ve printed the recipe below as written so you can try the original. You’ll have to tell me how it turns out for you!

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Cheesy Eggplant Pasta Bake

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When I was a kid my dad would occasionally make eggplant for dinner– he’d slice it lengthwise, put some kind of seasoning on the cut side, and roast it in the oven until the insides went all brown and mushy. I thought it looked disgusting. This was not aided by the fact that Dad would tell us that the brown part in the middle was actually a giant worm that lived inside every eggplant and was extra tasty when cooked. Ugh!

That story put me off eggplant for a while, honestly, and while I eventually recovered enough to enjoy eggplant parmesan and Chinese-style eggplant with spicy bean sauce and pork, I never really felt the urge to make eggplant myself.

That being said, when my local farmer’s market had a $1/lb. deal on eggplant, I decided it would be worth a shot to get myself a bagful. After a little digging online, I found this recipe, originally from Giada de Laurentiis but re-blogged by Smitten Kitchen. I tried making it with a few substitutions (canned tomatoes instead of the more expensive freshly roasted cherry tomatoes, omitting the pine nuts because I didn’t have any in my pantry), and it was pretty darned good! I decided to tweak it a little more to make it amazing, and the resulting recipe is something I’m definitely going to put into the rotation.

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