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i think we’re all done with 2017

Maybe we can just forget about 2017, too. Give us a few more years and we can completely erase 2016 and 2017 from memory, perhaps.

It’s been a long and busy year. A lot of goals made, met, failed, or exceeded. A lot of food made, eaten, or completely screwed up and thrown away. Some ups, quite a few downs, and just a lot of days (365 of them, to be exact.)

But tomorrow morning is a new month and a new year, and while I’ll pretend that tomorrow’s goals are new and fresh, the truth is that I make my resolutions in advance, and I start on them in advance, too (if I have the time and energy and this year I had neither.) The goals are stale, then, but the attempts will be fresh and new…as soon as I recover from my impending hangover.

Let’s look back at what I did this year:

  • I got a promotion at work and have been a manager since early April
  • I got a raise (right before the promotion…so two raises in one week)


  • I unofficially put my freelance writing on hold (school and work got in the way)
  • I got my own healthcare (why is it so expensive??)



  • I made my second solo road trip, this time to Atlanta
  • I saw an eclipse, which was just coincidentally occurring while I was in Atlanta



  • I got stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic all the way from Atlanta to Charlotte and ended up driving all the hell over South Carolina to get out of it because apparently eclipse traffic is the worst traffic
  • I flew back out to Los Angeles for the first time since graduation



  • I saw Regina Spektor in concert, thus crossing off another of my top 5 favorite artists live (3 down, 2 to go!)
  • I went to my first football game as an alumnus



  • I made gravlax (dill-cured salmon) for the first time!! And the second time!!!
  • I made roast beef…also for the first and second time!!!



  • I cooked pork chops for the first time! And the second time! And maybe the third, fourth, and fifth time but I don’t remember.
  • I finished at least 20 books (I didn’t keep track)



  • I moved again (into a new house in the same neighborhood)
  • I lost a pet, and gained a cousin (fair trade-off)



  • I interred and memorialized my grandparents
  • I bought a knife…and then I bought another one. And then I bought some more knives as gifts to family members.



  • I bought my first ever roasting pan
  • I fell in love with my first ever roasting pan



  • I made my own jam for the first time ever
  • I made Thanksgiving dinner (with some help)



  • I made Christmas dinner…but not Christmas Eve dinner.
  • I made Fourth of July dinner and watched as my family pretended to enjoy it because it really wasn’t that good…


What an action-packed year.

Did I keep up with my resolutions? Most likely not.

Resolution 1: Get a new paid writing job.

Well, I went in completely the opposite direction and gave up all of my paid writing jobs AND asked for less work from my unpaid writing gig.

Resolution 2: Work out, expand and improve on my routine, and establish a more consistent work out habit.

Also, completely different direction. I haven’t been to the gym since April. I don’t even have a membership anymore (and hardly enough money to get a new one.) We’re two for two so far!

Resolution 3: Publish at least 4 savory recipes.

Finally, something positive! If we don’t count breads, then I got exactly four:

  1. Beer-braised chicken
  2. Chicken piccata
  3. Garlic rosemary roasted potatoes
  4. Mashed potatoes with caramelized shallots and chives

And technically, it should be five, but in the chaos of moving in September, I forgot to post a savory summer recipe and now it’s out of season, so that’ll just have to wait until next summer.


So maybe it hasn’t been my year, per se, but everyone gets a mulligan, right?


What about 2018?

I can take what I learned this year and use it to my advantage in the new year. If I don’t meet all of my goals and resolutions, it won’t be the end of the world (that’ll be caused by a certain someone else we all know and love…)

Food resolutions:

  1. Publish more savory recipes (more than four…significantly more than four)
  2. Fill out some of the smaller sections of my recipe list: Bars, Dips, Meats, Soups, etc.
  3. Learn about cooking with mushrooms (I’ve already started compiling recipes)
  4. Publish some pork recipes (I already have 5 planned and one mastered and ready for publishing in January.)

Non-food resolutions:

  1. Get back to the gym and start working out again
  2. Get my credit card paid down as much as possible
  3. Finish at least another 20 books
  4. Start studying Spanish again (I also gave up on all of that this year…)


The ball is almost dropped, the year is almost over, and I think we could all use a group bear hug.

Let’s hug it out, y’all.

See you next year!

Nick P.

Categories: about me, photography

muffin of the month, december 2017: maple pecan muffins

previous monthly muffins:

11/17, pumpkin cranberry white chocolate muffins | | 10/17, vegan apple cider muffins | | 6/17, balsamic roasted strawberry muffins | | 4/17, cinnamon raisin english muffins | | 2/17, glazed lemon poppyseed muffins



This time of year makes me wish I lived in Canada…or Vermont.

I bought my first ever flannel last autumn…and lost it this autumn when we moved houses. So I bought my second ever flannel this autumn and it’s not as good as the first, but I guess that’s always the case, isn’t it?

I’ve gotten really into using maple syrup in vegan and gluten-free pastries. I can’t remember at this point why, because granulated sugar has neither gluten nor any animal products, but for some reason maple syrup has been my saving grace in such recipes as my vegan snickerdoodles and gluten-free sweet potato muffins.

Like using coconut oil or milk, when you use maple syrup but don’t want to end product to taste like maple, it doesn’t. It’s magical. Maybe there’s a science to the madness, but this is like my Santa Claus so let me believe in the magic of coconuts and maple trees, please.



When starting on this recipe, though, I admit I was worried about whether the maple syrup alone would be enough. I looked up how to make maple sugar (no time or energy for that, and also I don’t trust myself to successfully manipulate any type of sugar after my two months making crappy honeycomb candy in a professional restaurant), where to buy it (which I did and immediately regretted because it is way too expensive), and what else to use to enhance maple flavor (not much useful information there and I can’t be bothered to reduce the maple syrup before adding it to the muffin batter.)

Fortunately, I didn’t need anything else, though I did end up adding maple extract to the recipe for an extra boost. You could do without the extract and the maple will still come through, especially if you use it in the streusel crumb topping in addition to the muffin batter.

Warning: these will taste and smell like pancakes for the obvious reason (hint: maple syrup.)



maple pecan muffins with maple streusel

makes 1 dozen

loosely based on my blackberry almond muffins recipe


Note: You can (should) make the streusel in advance in a larger batch and keep it frozen unbaked until ready to use. You can even keep it frozen, unbaked, for months (six is probably enough), and then just pull out whatever you need whenever you need it. Or, if you have zero willpower like I do, you could just fill up a baking sheet with streusel and bake it without the muffins, then snack on that (see: gorge yourself on that.)



7 oz (200 g) all-purpose flour

2.8 oz (80 g) whole-wheat flour

2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

6.3 oz (180 g) milk or buttermilk

2 large eggs

3.5 oz (100 g) granulated sugar (or maple sugar for a more intense flavor)

2.8 oz (80 g) maple syrup

1 tsp almond or maple extract

4 oz (1/2 c, 8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature

4 oz (1 c) pecans, coarsely chopped



1.5 oz unsalted butter, softened

4 oz all-purpose flour

1.5 oz maple syrup

dash of salt

1 tsp ground cinnamon


Make the streusel

Beat together the butter and flour until crumbs form, then beat in the maple syrup, salt, and cinnamon. Don’t let it become pasty or too dough-y, because you want dry crumbs so you can sprinkle them easily on top of the muffins. If the mixture starts really clumping together, don’t worry: chill or freeze it for a few minutes, then break up the big clumps with a fork or pastry blender.

Chill/freeze the streusel until the muffin batter has been scooped into the muffin pan.


Make the muffins

Preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C, and line a muffin pan with paper muffin liners.

In a small bowl, whisk together flours, baking powder, and salt. Into another smaller bowl, break the pecans into pieces (break them in half or into quarters, roughly.)

In a large bowl, whisk together milk/buttermilk, eggs, sugar, maple syrup, and extract until smooth. Pour the melted and cooled butter into the mixture while whisking, and using a rubber spatula, scrape out any melted butter still clinging to the bowl/cup into the wet mixture. Whisk until smooth.

Dump the dry mixture into the wet and quickly mix together until almost fully combined. Fold in the pecans.

Using a large cookie scoop, measuring cup, or spoon, fill the muffin cups about 2/3 – 3/4 full and sprinkle liberally with unbaked streusel crumbs.

Bake the muffins 20 – 25 minutes until springy to the touch like a foam ball, or until a wooden toothpick inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean.


They look delicious, eh?

Nick P.


Categories: Breads, muffins

holiday cookies, 2017: pfeffernüsse (german molasses cookies)

When I was in my last year in college, I bought a full bottle of Jim Bean bourbon for myself, even though I had only had bourbon, whiskey, and scotch once each. I wanted to see if I could make myself develop a taste for it.



2016 holiday cookies: cranberry orange cookies

2015 holiday cookies: vegan snickerdoodles and vegan peanut butter cookies

2014 holiday cookies: cardamom molasses cookies


Fortunately, I could, or else I would have wasted a whole bottle of bourbon (I found some really good recipes for winter bourbon cocktails, all of which have since gotten lost in the sands of the internet.)


This year, I bought as much anise and fennel as I could get my hands on, to see if I could learn to appreciate those flavors. It took more than a year for me to finally be able to tolerate either flavor, but keep the licorice to yourself, please, and if you wouldn’t mind, keep it out of my sight, as well.

In light of my feelings towards anise and fennel, one might wonder why I have an anise star tatted on my back. The answer would be that cardamom pods have a less distinctive look and cardamom is what I really wanted, but I also wanted people to be able to recognize what the tattoo was.

Last December, I started becoming really interested in German and Scandinavian food (I vowed to find bakeries in my area that make kugelhof and stollen and never even made the attempt), and I tried pepper nuts for the first time. I bought a box from Trader Joe’s, snuck them into my bedroom so my parents wouldn’t steal them, poured myself a glass of CabSauv, and took a bite…and I wasn’t into it. Those ones were heavily anise-d and fennel-ed and I was just about completely turned off from the first bite. Cut to eleven months later and I find them at Harris Teeter (my standards are low and I’m not ashamed): I scurry on home, hide away in plain sight in the dining room because at this point who cares if my parents want some, pour myself a glass of Chardonnay that tastes like Gorgonzola (does all Chardonnay taste like Gorgonzola or is it just me?), and take a bite.



Molasses cookies. That’s it.

Of course, I should be using a real German bakery as my standard, but by now I have an idea of what these are meant to be: a little crispy on the outside, coated in powdered sugar, soft on the inside, and just lightly spiced. They’re like snack cookies.

At first I wanted to see if I could do them gluten-free for my uncle and for some coworkers, but that was an utter failure (I may never nail down this gluten-free thing), so after countless frustrating attempts, I decided just to go with the gluten-y recipes, and I found myself – *gasp* – craving fennel and anise.

Never mind that all I could find at the grocery store were anise seeds. I infused those into the butter for the pepper nuts, and for the first time in a year and a half, I finally began to appreciate the spicy star permanently inked onto my shoulderblade (nestled among Italian basil leaves, Persian limes, and a scattering of whole cloves because all of those things make complete sense together.)

On the one hand, there is pepper in these cookies, at least in most recipes. By default, though, there are no nuts. I ended up not putting any nuts in mine at all. The name, however, refers to the way they look: like nuts. Some recipes use almond flour, and some actually put pieces of nuts in the dough, while others use citrus peel. I keep mine simple with no add-ins.

Obviously, they’re vastly similar to my cardamom molasses cookies, but those cookies are heavy on the ginger, cardamom, and sugar, while these are soft, subtle, and, the way I make them, heavy on the anise.

Oh, and they’re coated with powdered sugar. They’re like delightful little bon-bons.



german pfeffernüsse with anise

makes 2 dozen small cookies

adapted from The Perfect Cookie, by America’s Test Kitchen


4 Tbsp (2 oz) unsalted butter

1 tsp ground cardamom

1 tsp anise seeds or ground anise

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground allspice

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

1/3 c (4 oz) molasses

1/4 c (1.75 oz) dark brown sugar

2 c (8.5 oz) all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 large egg

1/2 c powdered sugar


Melt the butter in a small sauce pan over medium-low heat. Don’t let it brown or bubble too much.

Once the butter is melted, add the cardamom, anise, fennel, cinnamon, allspice, and black pepper, and whisk until smooth. cook for another couple of seconds, until fragrant. Remove from heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt.

Transfer the butter-spice mix to a large bowl and whisk in the molasses and brown sugar. Add the egg and whisk until smooth.

Using a wooden spoon or electric mixer with paddle attachments (like the whip/beater but with fewer loops), mix the dry ingredients into the wet until it forms a homogenous dough with no lumps of flour remaining. It may be a little bit sticky, but after you chill the dough, it’ll be easy to handle.

Form a rectangle with the dough and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill for at least an hour.

While the dough is chilling, preheat the oven to 350 F/175 C and line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the dough rectangle in half and keep one half chilled while working with the other.

Cut the other half into 12 equal pieces, roll the pieces into spheres, and place on the baking sheets about 1-2 inches apart. Put the first sheet in the oven while preparing the other half of the cookies.

Repeat the previous step with the other half of the dough, baking each batch for 10 – 12 minutes until the tops are completely dry and the cookies are slightly lighter in color, but still a little soft.

Let the cookies cool on the pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely (about 15 minutes or more) before tossing in the powdered sugar.

Once fully cooled, add the powdered sugar to a bowl and toss the cookies a few at a time to coat completely.


Auf Wiedersehen und Frohe Weihnachten!

St. Nicholas 😉

Categories: cookies