It took me weeks to figure out why I am almost always somewhat disappointed by fresh, hot apple cider.  Months, even.  I greedily snap up jugs of the stuff as soon as it shows up in our grocery store.  One jug lives in the fridge (sometimes a depressingly short life, truth be told) while its backup dancers keep a juicy vigil over the rest of the dry storage in the laundry room.  It’s not that I don’t end up drinking it; I can polish off a half gallon during an episode of House if I put my mind to it.  I just prefer it cold.

And yet I want to love it as a hot beverage.  Is there anything more intrinsically blessed with your mind’s perfect image of fall?  Hot apple cider screams fall and winter, the very words on a page conjure images of orchard donuts and bales of hay, or Dickensian Christmas scenes with cherry-cheeked children scampering around a cozy living room in their socks while the dog barks with joy.  Right?

So every year, I approach my first mug of hot cider with unforgivably poetic expectations.  Like, over the top.  The kind that would make Norman Rockwell roll his eyes and say “girl, pull yourself together and drink the damned apple juice.”  And every year I am slightly disappointed.  Every year, that is, until this one.


My friend Josh was kind enough to share his favorite wassail recipe on his blog, and at the very mention I knew what was missing from my cider.  I didn’t want hot cider at all.  When fall clicks its heels on my doorstep and ushers a biting crispness into the air, I want wassail.  The sweet acidity of the orange juice and lemon juice bring something lively to the cup. And oh, the spices.  As they mull together with each other, the juices, the maple syrup, they reach the perfect storm of spicy complexity that I’ve been missing in all those mugs of plain hot cider.  Beautiful.

It’s a rather Christmassy drink, I’ll give you that.  But I maintain that it’s never too late to indulge yourself in something so wonderful.  Enjoy yourself; it’s a brand new year.

(Keep reading Wintry Wassail…)


Oh lovelies. It feels like it’s been a while, probably because it has.  I was out of town for several days this past week, working like a madwoman on a case.  Though the work was kind of exciting and allowed me to keep the most delightful company all week, I was very glad to come home – to my own bed, my house, my sweet husband, my cats, and my kitchen.

I wrote up this recipe before I left but didn’t have time to post while I was on the road.  This is a perfect dinner for a night when you come home late, weary from the day but with a ravenous belly.  It’s quick, satisfying, and falls squarely in that tiny space in my mind where I turn when I say “it’s either this or chips and salsa.”  Bear with me, friends, and more regular posts will resume soon.  In the meantime, go bake some bread!

(Keep reading Skillet Potatoes with Chickpeas and Salsa Verde…)


This is one of those recipes that neatly achieves a little fanciness without requiring much in the way of special ingredients or prep time.  I can’t remember when I first tasted spicy hot chocolate, but I definitely fell in love.  Smooth, earthy chocolate is punctuated beautifully by the power twins of cinnamon and cayenne.  You can certainly exclude the Drambouie if you wish, but know that you are missing out (unless you are pregnant or otherwise medically excluded from alcoholic beverages, in which case hit the whipped cream with gusto and carry on with your spicy, chocolatey self).

I recommend Dagoba Hot Chocolate here, though you can use any hot chocolate powder.  Stop, go back, read that again.  I’m taking you through a shortcut by using a hot chocolate powder, rather than unsweetened chocolate that you sugar up yourself.  Do not try to make this with plain old Hershey’s, and definitely do not send me a nasty email after doing so wherein you tell me how yucky your drink turned out.  Hot chocolate powders have sugar already blended in.  I like Dagoba because it’s sweet, but not overly so.  I’ve made hot chocolate from absolute scratch, and wasn’t happy enough with the results to be interested in the extra steps.