Well, winter is in full swing in these parts. I can’t complain since we had such a beautiful, long fall this year, and I also managed to sell my car before the first snowfall (a fact that gives me ridiculous pleasure. Cars + winter don’t mix). And the first permanent snowfall of the year always seems to usher in the Christmas season, whether we’re ready or not. Is eight weeks of Christmastime excessive? Maybe. But it’s also full of lots of things I love… I mean, now I have a reason to bake dozens and dozens and dozens of cookies, and no one will question it. I haven’t gone full-tilt tinsel crazy yet, but in the meantime, here are a few things that I just can’t get enough of:
1. Pomegranates are everywhere all of a sudden. I remember getting them around this time of year as a special treat when we were kids, and we’d make a mess trying to gnaw out all the juicy seeds. These weird and magical fruits are not only fun to eat, they’re also rich in antioxidants and are thought to lower cholesterol, among other things. I’ve been harvesting the seeds right away and storing them in sealed containers in the fridge, and then sprinkling them on cereal, yogurt, and salads. And if you pass by pomegranates in the store because you can’t be bothered with the finicky fruit, take a look at this how-to video for clean and easy cutting.
2. I’ve been doing a lot of blanket snuggling, coffee sipping, baby-it’s-cold-outside reading lately. I finished Gone Girl and was a little shaken, so I found Doppler by Erlend Loe on our bookshelf and thought the story about a man and his moose sounded like a nice change of pace. So far it’s exactly that – cute and funny and touching. Like a palette cleanser for the brain.
3. Last month I traded in my old, broken Blackberry for an iPhone 6. Welcome to 2014, I know. I’ve been like a kid with a new toy, running down my battery pretty much daily on Instagram. The novelty has not worn off. I’ve downloaded a handful of cool apps, and one that I’m particularly excited about is Vivino. All you do is snap a photo of any wine label, and Vivino pulls up a profile for that wine – descriptions, reviews, food pairings, info about the winery its from – so I can look a little less clueless when shopping for pinot gris. Once you start rating wines yourself, the app generates a personal flavour profile for you, which it then uses to make recommendations. It’s a miraculous age we’re living in, friends.
4. Like I said earlier, one of the best things about Christmas is the fact that I can bake up a storm and not worry about where it’ll all go – there’s always a potluck or family gathering of some kind this time of year, plus homemade treats make really nice gifts. Christmas baking also gives me a good excuse to peruse stacks of cookbooks, which is one of the best activities ever. As always, please hit me up with your favourite holiday recipes… got any tried and true crowd-pleasers? Tell me about them!
5. I recently reorganized our spice cupboard and remembered I had bought a big bag of garam masala, a spice mix used in a lot of Indian cooking (as well as other Southeast Asian cuisines), and I’ve been using it a lot lately. It gives curries a real depth of flavour without any one spice overpowering the dish. I use it in laksa or, I’m slightly embarrassed to admit, I’ll add it to store-bought curry pastes (like rogan josh or korma) to amp up the flavour. You can find it in the Indian section of most supermarkets, or you can make your own blend. Basically turns a one-note dish into a whole symphony, if you know what I mean.
6. When I want a break from the cuteness of Doppler, I’ve been reading the real/funny/gross memoir of Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl. And there appears to be pomegranate juice and/or jam and/or strawberry Nutrigrain bar filling on my copy, so yeah. I’m that kind of girl.
7. Living in England gave me a taste for milky Earl Grey – floral and citrusy and usually with a spoonful of sugar – but sometimes I crave a more down-to-earth, no-nonsense tea. Darjeeling is just that – served clear in all its spicy, woodsy glory. I went through a big Darjeeling kick 7-ish years ago when it was still hard to find in these parts, but with the proliferation of DAVIDsTea locations in recent years, a bag of Darjeeling is never more than a 10 minute walk away. Sweet and fruity are fine, but sometimes you just need a tea that isn’t messing around.
8. I can’t stop ogling Laura’s lush, gorgeous photography at The First Mess. This fabulous food blog focuses on seasonal, wholesome recipes (mostly vegan and/or gluten free), with show-stopping photos and Laura’s fun and intimate writing style. I highly recommend you check it out. I mean… stuffed acorn squash with pine nuts, sour cherries and sage? I WANT IT.
9. On top of pumping out huge volumes of mind-blowing pastries and confections, the good people at Duchess Bake Shop also find time to make preserves and mixes for their supply shop, Provisions. I scored a jar of their raspberry rose jam at the cookbook launch, and it’s amazing. I’ve never tried the fruit/rose combo before, but it really works – somehow the delicate rose flavour speaks for itself while also complementing the raspberries. Probably the most elegant thing you’re ever going to spread on toast. I dolloped some on a pancake for lunch the other day – total fruity/florally luxury.
10. Did I mention that November is also our anniversary month and my birthday month? So… it’s pretty much the best.
It’s the little things (and the big things, too) that really brighten up the winter, so please share your recipes, links, and recommendations! The winter is long, people!