A Fire Within

Hello, hello again, to whoever is reading.

I’m still not sure what to do with this little old space I created some six years ago. When I initially started this blog, I didn’t set out to profit from it. I didn’t troll other blogs and leave 50+ comments a day, in hopes to accrue a reader base. I didn’t track analytics, or try to form brand partnerships, and I didn’t advertise on social media channels. I didn’t blog every week, or even every month. I didn’t even get my own domain. I suppose I should have done some of these things, because I don’t know that I have much of a reader base (not trying, and blogging so infrequently won’t get you one), and my site is pretty darn dated. But I guess you should know that I started this blog for me. Just so I could have a little space on the inter web where I could share my thoughts and get to writing again. And I’m still not interested, nor am I really able, at this juncture in my life, to strive for a for-profit blog.

So much has changed over the years, and I find it harder and harder to come back here, and I don’t really like that. The majority of the work I do is centered upon helping other people with their food blogs. I write a lot of cute, punchy bits — which, don’t get me wrong, I love — but sometimes I miss writing for myself. After all, the women who inspired me to start this blog in the first place, the women whose writing was so beautiful, so full of imagery, and their blogs so basic, so minimalistic — are the types of writers I myself aspire to be. I remember first reading Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette, back in ’07, and it sparked a fire within me. That woman can write, so effortlessly it seems. Same with Luisa Weiss, and her blog The Wednesday ChefI just finished reading her food memoir, My Berlin Kitchen, and literally each page was so beautiful, so simply honest and elegant, that I savored each word from cover to cover, dreading the day I’d have to put it down. When I read both of Molly’s books, I felt the same way, especially in reading A Homemade Life — a book I hold close to my heart. These women and their words continue to inspire me. I consider them to be pioneers of the food blog world, and thankfully they are both still at it, their blogs still refreshingly the same — bell and whistle-free.

In doing the kind of work I’ve been doing, I find it harder to carve out the time for my own blog. I kind of feel like it’s been on life support for the past couple of years. For so long, I kept wrestling with whether or not to sustain it. Things have gotten stale. I wanted to give the site a face lift like four years ago. I wanted to blog more regularly. Even fairly recently, I thought I was finished, and that if I were going to start blogging again, it would have to be a clean slate. New everything. But I just couldn’t seem, still can’t seem, to pull the plug. So I’ve decided (for now), that those excuses aren’t good enough, and shouldn’t hold me back from having this outlet when I feel like I need it. I’d still like to give this blog a face lift, I’d still like to blog more regularly (as in once a week, rather than once or twice a year). I still have things to say. I’d still like to share recipes, like the one I’m going to share with you today.

I’ve never been a good “clean out the fridge” sort of cook. Oh how I’d like to be, especially considering I hate waste (especially wasted food). My mom is this sort of cook, and I’m trying to be. The other day, I needed to rustle some things up for lunch. I bought a butternut squash, with the intention of roasting it and making a warm salad of Tuscan kale, dried cranberries, goat cheese and pine nuts, like I did many times last year. But I forgot the pine nuts and the cranberries. I remembered I had some wild rice in the fridge, some leftover thyme and orange-scented goat cheese and some maple-cider vinaigrette that I’d recently made in the fridge. The wild rice had some stray remnants of caramelized shallots and plump tart dried cherries in it, from a salad I’d made even further back. So I massaged some torn kale in the vinaigrette, spooned the warm wild rice and butternut squash overtop, and added some dollops of orange-thyme goat cheese I had leftover. I also had some leftover roasted sticky pecans (with agave and Chinese Five Spice) that I added in the mix. This salad ended up being even better than the one I made last year. It sounds complex, but was really easy since I already had most of these things made. It’s colorful, citrusy, vaguely spicy and exotic and comforting (surprising for a salad). It’s a good salad to eat this time of year.

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries, Kale and Goat Cheese | hayleygolightly.wordpress.com

Roasted Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad with Cherries, Kale, and Goat Cheese

Makes 1 salad

  • Roughly 2 cups of torn dinosaur/tuscan/lacinato kale (or more, if you’d like)
  • About 2 Tablespoons maple-cider vinaigrette (recipe below)
  • 1/3 cup of cooked wild rice (I like to cook mine with chicken stock)
  • 1/8 cup of dried tart cherries (I like to plump mine up in a little bit of boiling water, with a dash of red wine vinegar)
  • 1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed (you will have some left over)
  • Olive oil
  • 1/2 cup Goat Cheese, softened, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh orange zest (depending on how citrusy you’d like the goat cheese to be)
  • salt & pepper
  • Chinese Five Spice Agave Roasted Pecans (I found that there was quite a bit of excess liquid, so I think you could probably get by with using just shy of 1/4 cup of agave, if not less). I also add some freshly ground black pepper.

Maple-Cider Vinaigrette (adapted from My Recipes)

  • 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tablespoons maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt (I just do this to taste, you may want to add a bit more)
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper (”)
  • 2-3 sprinkles of ground cinnamon
  • 2 sprinkles of cayenne

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a bowl, until well emulsified. You will have plenty of vinaigrette left over, and it should keep in the refrigerator for at least two weeks.

For the Goat Cheese:

With a spoon or spatula, stir in the fresh thyme and orange zest, along with a sprinkle of salt and some pepper to taste.

For the Salad:

Preheat your oven to 400. In a bowl, toss your cubed butternut squash with a good drizzle of olive oil (about 2 Tablespoons or so), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread out on a baking sheet and roast for about 25-30 minutes, turning a couple times throughout. The squash should be tender, but not mushy. With your hands or with tongs, massage the kale with the vinaigrette for about 3-5 minutes. The kale should turn a darker green and soften up a bit. Spoon the wild rice, 1/2 cup of butternut squash and the cherries on top. Add however many pecans you like (I do about 8), and dollop some goat cheese on top.


Filed under Entrees, Salad

Still Here

Well look here, it’s been a year. And what a year it’s been. I’ve been itching to come back to this space for awhile now, but kept holding myself back. You know how you let too much time pass before giving that old friend a call, and you think, well now it would just be weird to call, so much time’s gone by? That’s how I’ve felt about my blog. There’s still so much I wanted to do with this blog, and life just got in the way. I’ve been busy, writing elsewhere, and helping people with their blogs. I feel very fortunate to have crafted sustainable work out of multiple jobs, but I miss having an outlet of my own. So I’m not making any promises, but I want to really strive to carve out time to keep coming back here.

Around this time last year I was neck-deep in wedding planning (which I actually found to be a lot of fun), albeit incredibly time-consuming. Last year incidentally turned out to be the year for weddings. Ours was magical, and is a day I’d like to relive in my mind forever and ever. We had stunning weather (thankfully, since our wedding was outside), and most of all, it was a lot. of. fun.

We feel incredibly fortunate to have had so many incredible, talented, generous people be a part of our wedding. From the gorgeous, ridiculously talented Stephanie Trippe, who made me the most comfy wedding dress of my dreams, to our dear friends Caitlin and Jess, who serenaded us with their ethereal voices, to our adorable, energetic, tiny photographer Casey who captured so many precious moments of the day and night, to our generous, artistic friend Masha who embroidered our names and wedding date onto a vintage hankerchief that bound my bouquet — the list is endless. We had so many special details woven into this wedding, and it wouldn’t have been possible without every single one of these amazing people. We truly  couldn’t have been luckier to have had such a beautiful, memorable day, shared with all the ones we love.

It’s amazing how much has changed in a year. Here it is spring again, my favorite (all-too fleeting) season, and I’m feeling excited for the possibilities lingering in the air. I’m eagerly (and impatiently) awaiting the arrival of rhubarb, asparagus, radishes, and peas, and I am looking forward to a trip to NYC in less than two weeks. It’s been a year since I was there as well, and I miss it in my bones.

It’s been a Mazzy Star-listening, banana bread-making, puppy dog cuddles, reflective kind of morning.

So this is just a little “hello,” to say I’m still here.


Filed under Uncategorized

List Love

Well I meant to post this on Friday…oops. I was hoping by the next time I was ready to write again it would finally be spring. This weather has been so bipolar lately. Warm and beautiful one day, then bitterly cold and wet the next. Every time we catch a glimpse of spring, stubborn old winter swoops back in and reminds us it won’t relenquish its grip without a good fight. The other afternoon, the sun made a brief appearance after a day of drear, and then we had a bizarre, fleeting  fit of rain and snow at the same time. It was like spring and winter were having a quarrel. Well winter, I shall shake my fist at you (yet again), and dutifully return to the stove to make (yet again) another pot of soup. Hopefully by our last bowl, you will be out the door (for good this time). And now, as I’m revisiting this post (and finishing it), it looks like spring has granted our request. It’s going to be 70 today! 70! Hip hip hooray!

Kitchen Flowers

Kitchen Flowers

Playing around with wedding flowers in tiny old bottles...

Playing around with wedding flowers in tiny old bottles…

I’ve been in the kitchen a lot lately. I made chocolate chip cookies with all whole wheat flour and quinoa. No that is not a typo. I was bemused by this recipe, and had to give it a whirl. They were pretty good, warm from the oven, but they don’t hold up as well, and nothing well ever be as good as cookies made with good old fashioned all-purpose flour and a lot of butter. I also made my first ever gluten-free muffins (banana with chocolate chip). They also weren’t half bad, but again… But the real winner of my heart is the Irish Whiskey & Brown Bread Ice Cream I made, courtesy of ice cream king and dessert wizard, David Lebovitz . Caramelized bread crumbs from the leftover loaf of Irish Brown Bread I made (to accompany the equally awesome Shepherd’s Pie I made—recipe to come), were folded into a luxurious custard that was spiked with a wee bit of Irish Whiskey. Who are we kidding, I may have doubled it. It might be one of the best ice creams I’ve made so far. The only thing I didn’t do was add an entire block of cream cheese to the already decadent custard. I simply figured it didn’t need it, and I was right.

Shepherd in a Cottage Pie

Shepherd in a Cottage Pie

Irish Brown Bread

Irish Brown Bread

Anyhow, let’s get to it, shall we? Here are some things I’m enjoying right now…

  • I’ve been reading Stephen King’s memoir, “Stephen King, on Writing” and oddly enough, it’s the first Stephen King book I’ve ever read. I’ve really been enjoying it.
  • I want to do this to cauliflower.
  • I’d be lying if I said this article doesn’t make me feel extremely happy and validated. I want to shout it from the mountains in the land o’ lakes, “long live butterrrrrr!”
  • We made these potatoes with some walnut pesto, a grilled spatchcocked chicken under a brick, and some grilled asparagus and they were EPIC. The whole meal was.
  • I can’t get enough of this (sorta healthy) quinoa granola. The first time I tried this recipe, I tried to make them into bars, but they mostly crumbled apart. At first I was irked, but then I realized it just made some really awesome granola, so that’s how I do it now.
  • I’m not enjoying this but I would really really like to, and we’ll be in NYC in May! Very tempting…
  • Wes Anderson is such a hipster magnet. I’ve never been a particularly huge fan, but I just saw this last night and absolutely loved it. It was hysterical, and entertaining, it transports you into this wintry European storybook world, and I loved everything that fell out of Ralph Fiennes’ mouth. The one thing I will say I have always appreciated about Wes Anderson films is his knack for such flawless color palettes and the theatrical symmetry and composure of every single frame. This film makes perfect use of that. Highly recommended (even if you’re not typically a fan).

We have one of these lovely trees in our front yard, and I’ve been anxiously awaiting its bloom. Much to my elation, it bloomed just the other day! The robins and I are rejoicing. Hello spring, it’s good to see you.

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Filed under List Love

Turn Loose

Sometimes you just have to have your power go out for two days (and counting) to motivate yourself to finally sit down and blog. Sometimes you have to wait until noon for coffee, and trudge out in nasty winter slosh for homefries and a biscuit the size of your head, and get your socks drenched and crash at friends’ houses. And sometimes you have to reconcile that those bananas you were waiting ever so patiently for to gracefully reach the perfect ripening point for making banana bread are probably gonna have to be tossed out. Espresso banana bread, you are still on my horizon, even if I am getting the runaround.

2014 has been a cold one so far, as winter just seems to refuse to release its stubborn grip on us, repeatedly (and inconveniently) giving us the proverbial middle finger. Turn us loose, winter! Several winter advisory warnings, one painful and embarrassing fall resulting in one big bruised elbow, lots of House of Cards episodes, and two days of cafe hopping and wifi mooching later, here I finally am. Blogging for the first time this year…and for myself no less! Between wedding planning and multiple jobs, it’s been a cold (albeit productive) new year! I’ve been contributing more regularly to FoodieCrush, which I love, and I’ve been continuing to blog for a sweet local restaurant and a couple wonderful local hotels. I like being busy, and I am excited for what the upcoming year holds. A lot of change, a lot of travels, new friends, and new opportunities. You can see some of the latest stuff I’ve done for Foodiecrush here and here.

Can I just say I’m kind of jealous of this little Union Square Green Market party going on right now (via Instagram), with Deb and Mimi and Nicole? So much beautiful creativity in such a concentrated location!

So for now, as I will away this winter, I will dream of wildflowers, open windows, rhubarb, asparagus, and sundresses, NYC in the springtime, and this strawberry supreme cake that I can’t stop thinking about. Oh, and I will certainly try to be a more devoted blogger. I promise. Here’s a little peek of what I’ve been up to so far this year…

A few of my favorite things…


Filed under Uncategorized


This season is so transient, its left my head spinning as to how we’ve already reached December. This time last year I was experiencing New York City during the holidays for the first time. I remember stopping to marvel over the ornate Christmas window displays outside the Macy’s at Herald Square, on my way to my internship one day. Louisa and I kept trying to plan an ice skating date but the one night we finally got it together, it went and rained on us. I perused some of the holiday markets and found myself getting trapped in the maze of the one at Union Square. I loved the smell of Frasier firs for sale on so many sidewalks and witnessing NYC blanketed with snow (real snow, like more than two inches).

We spent Thanksgiving in New York, outside the city in Jay’s aunt and uncle’s house in the woods on China Pond. It’s beautiful there, though we hardly ventured outside (it was cold)! Plus we had a full house of people to talk to, games to play, food to eat and things to read. I drank an entire bottle of cider and we played Cards Against Humanity. It was awesome. I flew up a few days before to have some city time. I got to visit almost all of my regular old haunts, plus some new ones. I visited Shea at The Blue Stove, visited my favorite bookstore (McNally Jackson), as well as my favorite card shop (Greenwich Letterpress) and my favorite vintage/thrift shops. The weather was fiercely cold, rainy and windy just about the whole time I was there. And I lost/had my wallet stolen on the 3 headed downtown, but I still managed to have a good time. It was good just to be there. I also got to see one of my favorite people in the world, John Cariani. We never call him John, always John Cariani. I became buddies with him through Jay, who has collaborated with him on some of the plays he’s written. He’s one of the easiest people to be around; excited, funny, curious and genuine. We met at our favorite Polish joint in Greenpoint (full of kitschy decor, like mounted deer heads and year-round Christmas lighots), for some delicious Polish food to warm our bellies.


IMG_4057John with his “Oh my God, I love this dessert!” expression. The waiter who is also the owner was kind enough to let us enjoy the desserts I brought for us to share (we did ask for permission first). Only us would do such a thing. John shares my affinity for baked goods and visiting all the best bakeries we can possibly get to. I brought us chocolate macaroons (pictured) from Bklyn Larder (one of my favorite places, which happens to smell AMAZING all the time), a killer sweet potato doughnut with marshmallow filling, and a chocolate rose (both from Zucker Bakery)—a lovely little nook in the East Village. You can see some of the unabashed doughnut porn on their website. Also not pictured, was a delectable salted caramel apple galette from Bakeri (a.k.a. the tiniest, most adorable bakery I’ve ever seen).

IMG_4056 IMG_4046

A beautiful cortado and an apple cider cake that I got from Bluebird Coffee, in the East Village. It’s one of my new favorite discoveries. The staff was friendly, they serve Counter Culture coffee, the baked goods were awesome and plentiful, and they had a homemade tomato soup  and 1/2 grilled cheese that rescued me from the rainy blues.

IMG_4048I ducked in from the rain while wondering around Williamsburg one afternoon and had breakfast for lunch at Cafe Mogador. I had these poached eggs over grilled haloumi cheese, with salad and za’atar pita and it also saved me from the rainy blues. Yes it was as good as it looks.





Jay made me a delicious malt birthday cake with chocolate icing for my birthday and I was serenaded by his wonderful family. We then went into the city the actual day of my birthday and the weather was cold but beautiful. I took Jay to the Flea/Smorgasburg which had just move into it’s new indoor location in Williamsburg—in an old parking garage! Such a cool space. I was in heaven and Jay loved it. We were starving so Jay got a chicken parm from Sunday Gravy and a malt ball milkshake from Milk Truck, and I got a hot dog from Asia Dog (which was probably the best hot dog I’ve ever eaten), and an “all in one” cookie from S’mores Bakery, which was fantastic—chewy but with crisp, caramelized edges, which I love.

We surprised my former vendor neighbor Cornelius at his booth and it filled my heart to the brim getting to see him after a year, and to introduce him to Jay. He is such a beautiful soul.

We had birthday cocktails at The Manhattan Inn and then dinner at Five Leaves. It’s our favorite place and we always go there for breakfast when we’re in Brooklyn and when Jay used to visit me there, but neither one of us had been there for dinner. It’s always bustling in there, as it’s the heart of the neighborhood. Inside it’s warm and nautical and there’s always a good record spinning. It seemed perfect on my birthday and perfect it was. We shared the chopped black kale salad with spicy anchovy dressing, toasted hazelnuts and finely shaved aged gouda, the mussels with saffron-coconut broth, chilies and grilled sourdough (phenomenal), and the beetroot and ricotta ravioli with sage-brown butter sauce. We had Sticky Toffee Pudding (my favorite) with some vanilla gelato from Il Laboratorio del gelato (best gelato ever) for dessert, and it really couldn’t have been any better than that.

Before the real Thanksgiving, we had our annual “Turkey Before Turkey” (a.k.a. “Friendsgiving”) and it was exhausting but a blast, as usual. We had 20 something people in our house, babies, kids, dogs. Lots of food. Jay and I love nothing more than a full house of fun and food with people we love, and we love entertaining. I made brussels sprouts for the first time—I caramelized them in a skillet with some olive oil and a little brown sugar and bacon. I made a bourbon chocolate pecan pie with bourbon whipped cream and a sweet potato cheesecake with bourbon caramel. I just couldn’t help myself with the bourbon. It always seems to make its way in my desserts. The cheesecake in particular was quite the hit, so it’s only fitting I post the recipe.

Bourbon Sweet Potato Cheesecake with Bourbon Caramel and Pecans adapted from Bon Appetit

Roast Sweet Potatoes:

Preheat the oven to 400. With a fork, pierce little holes all over two medium-sized sweet potatoes. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast in the oven for about 45 minutes or until they are both tender. Remove from the oven and cool for about 10 minutes or so. Cut the potatoes open and scoop the flesh out of the skin and into a food processor. Puree until smooth. Remove from the food processor and set aside.

For the Crust (this is my mom’s recipe and is my favorite. I prefer it hands down to any Graham cracker crust):

  • 1 bag of Pepperidge Farm Bordeaux Cookies
  • 1  cup pecans plus 1/4 cup for decorating
  • 3 TBS melted unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt

Turn the oven down to 350. Toast the pecans on a baking sheet for about 10-15 minutes. Reserve 1/4 cup for decorating the cheesecake. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a food processor until well blended. Add the melted butter, pulsing to combine. Dump the crust mixture into the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan, making sure the bottom is flat and even and the crust is pushed up all the way up the sides of the pan. (You can use the bottom of a measuring cup and your hands to to this). Bake for about 10-12 minutes.

For the Cheesecake Filling:

  • 4 8-ounce packages (full-fat) cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup (full-fat) sour cream
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (add more to taste depending on how spicy you’d like it)
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg (add more to taste if desired)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3 Tablespoons flour
  • 2 1/2-3 Tablespoons bourbon (this can also be done to taste, depending on how strong you want it to be)

In a mixer with a paddle attachment (or using an electric mixer in a large bowl), beat the cream cheese and sugar until light and fluffy (about 5 minutes), scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the sweet potato puree. With the mixer on low, add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides. Add the flour, spices and salt and beat just until blended. Add the bourbon and beat just until combined.

Pour the filling on top of the cooled crust, being sure to fill as much of the pan as you can without it overflowing (you may have some left over, if so, you can make another, smaller cheesecake if you’d like). Place the cheesecake on the middle rack in the oven and put a baking sheet on the rack below (in case any overflows later on). Bake for about 1 hour and 20-30 minutes or until the edges are starting to crack and the filling is set in the center. (It should jiggle a little when you shake the pan).

Cool on a wired rack for at least an hour before refrigerating overnight. Don’t be upset if the cheesecake has cracked on the top and it looks like an earthquake hit. You are going to cover the top with luscious caramel. No one will be the wiser! *Note: This can be done a day ahead*

For the Bourbon Caramel (I like Ashley Christensen’s recipe, which I’ve copied below)

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon corn syrup
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons bourbon, divided
  • 1/4 cup cream
  • 3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into little cubes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, use a wooden spoon to stir the sugar, 1 Tablespoon of bourbon, corn syrup, and 1 Tablespoon of water until the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat to a boil, without stirring, occasionally shaking the pan and brushing down the sides with a wet pastry brush. Cook until the sugar has turned a deep amber color (about 6-10 minutes)—watch it like a hawk because it can burn fast. Remove the caramel from heat and whisk in the cream, butter and salt (mixture will bubble vigorously). Let cool for about 5 minutes; whisk in the 1/2 Tablespoon of bourbon (I may have used a tad more than that) ; ) and the vanilla. Let the caramel cool slightly.

To assemble:

Drizzle the caramel over the top of the cheesecake (however you’d like). Top with the reserved 1/4 cup of toasted pecans (arranging and decorating to your preference).

If all goes well, it should look a little somethin’ like this…



Filed under Cakes & Breads

How to Halloween

*Cue the menacing evil cackles,  thunder sound effects and organ music!*

Halloween has always been one of my favorite holidays. Over the years I’ve been everything from a witch, to Minnie Mouse, and a southern belle, to Little Mermaid (with a ridiculous wig and a turtleneck, despite my fervent objection), to a battered Stepford Wife (really wish I had a picture of this one), and a zombie child, to probably the most frightening of all, Sarah Palin. My crafty mom and grandma would piece, sew, and gather costumes together for us when we were little, and we’d tend to order pizza for dinner on Halloween night, which became a fun tradition. I was that kid who dumped the contents of her pumpkin on the living room floor at the end of the night, counting each piece and organizing it into piles, by category… Also, one year when I was passing out candy, feeling too old to go trick or treating but bitter about it, as a last minute whim, I slathered peanut butter on half my face, to create a “Two-Face” look. The peanut butter melted off and I’m sure I didn’t scare any of the trick or treaters.

I’m particularly excited for Halloween this year, because it marks my first Halloween with Jay! We’re going on five years of dating, but every single year (with the exception of me being in NY last year), he’s had rehearsal, so we couldn’t do anything together. Not this year! He’s going to be in a production of Into the Woods and while he’s not playing the Wolf, he’s always loved that role. So, in the spirit of the play, we’re going as the big bad wolf and little red riding hood, and I’m very much looking forward to it!

Here are a few looks into Halloweens pasts…


Last year, I spent Halloween gearing up for Frankenstorm (luckily we were unscathed, even though parts of our neighborhood did get flooded). Molly and I went to a serial killer haunted house on the lower east side, and Caitlin and I went to see a band called Morricone Youth perform their own score of Nosferatu, at Nitehawk Cinema. I remember seeing so many great costumes last year, including a women dressed as Annie Hall, who was a deadringer for a young Diane Keaton (it was uncanny, she resembled her to a t), and a guy with a red hoodie, riding a bike with an ET stuffed into his front basket. There were also some seriously scary Halloween decorations in the city…



Part of the fun of Halloween is the scary movies. Slasher movies don’t do it for me, but here are some of my favorite suspenseful films that never fail to send shivers down my spine:

  • Watcher in the Woods: I’ve been watching this obscure movie since I was little, and to this day, it’s still probably the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. My dad would always watch it with us, get this terrified look on his face and pretend he saw something out the window, scaring my sister and me every single time. Surprisingly, it’s a Disney movie, and has that chick from Ice Castles in it, alongside Betty Davis at her creepiest. Sure there’s some cheesy special effects and cringe-worthy acting (after all, it is an 80s movie), but its disturbing theme music alone is enough to give me chills and I still l find it just as scary today, at 26, as I did at six. Narek! (Just watch the movie).


  • What Lies BeneathUnfortunately this movie has never been as scary as it was the first time I saw it, but I just think it’s so well done. It’s a classic suspenseful mystery with a great twist (although a little predictable), and it’s pretty darn creepy.
  • VertigoThis is my favorite Alfred Hitchcock movie and the one I find to be the scariest, as well as one of his more brilliant films. I love the complexity and unpredictability of it, as well as  Kim Novak’s mysteriousness against the breathtaking, eery scenery of the Bay Area and the Redwoods.
  • The Sixth SenseI’ll never forget seeing this in the theater for the first time and having my mind completely blown by that famous end-reveal. I’ve always found movies about ghosts to be the scariest, and I thought the ghosts in this film were very realistic looking. There are so many suspenseful scenes in this movie and even years and multiple watchings later, it still has the ability to scare me.
  • The DescentI watched this in college and I don’t know if it’s because it plays on one of my biggest  fears (claustrophobia) and I found the ending incredibly disturbing. Plus I love that it’s an all-female cast!
  • Whatever Happened to Baby JaneAnother movie where Bette Davis is purely terrifying. It’s twisted, and won’t look at a caged bird in the same way again.
  • Practical MagicOkay this one isn’t so creepy anymore,  as it is a guilty pleasure. I am kind of obsessed with this movie. I love Nicole Kidman and Sandra Bullock and they’re in their prime in this movie. It’s just a lot of fun.

And if you’re in the mood for a scary read, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s classic, The Yellow Wallpaper—a short story from the 1800s, about a woman’s journey into madness, is a must. It’s one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read. It’s a quick read too.

Halloween is also special because it’s an excuse to consume more candy than is considered socially acceptable. I’m not a big candy freak but I definitely eat more than candy than usual the week of Halloween, and here are some of my favorites:

  • Pink Strawbursts: Seriously, why are they so good? All of the others might as well be useless because these are the only ones I care about, and I will furiously and tediously unwrap every single duo packet until I uncover one. But just for Halloween of course.
  • M&M’s and Peanut M&M’s: These are easily my favorite.  I normally opt for the peanut ones because otherwise, I could just chain-eat the plain ones.
  • Krackel Bar: While I’m not a fan of Hershey’s chocolate and I prefer dark chocolate over milk, this under-appreciated mini candy bar is an exception (along with real Cadbury Dairy Milk), and I’ve loved it as long as I can remember.
  • Candy Corn: But only about four pieces and then I’m done.

Whether you go to a party or not on Halloween, you should definitely have something fun to drink. There a lot of great bottles of wine with fun, “spooky” names and labels, perfect for Halloween. I’m excited to try this shiraz-durif blend, 19 Crimes (a modest $11.99), which comes in a black frosted bottle with a vintage sepia photo-label of an ex-con and a depiction of the particular crime they committed. I also think this cocktail titled “The Blackbeard” looks incredibly fun and creative.

Whatever you do and however you celebrate, have fun and be safe, and don’t get lost on the way to granny’s!


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Bluegrass and Bourbon


We just returned from a week long road tripping adventure to Asheville and Kentucky, where we visited my grandparents, who live outside of Lexington. We gorged ourselves with southern food, toured Woodford Reserve (I may have eaten four bourbon balls), and spent a day in Louisville—what a quirky little city. We went vintage shopping on Bardstown Road, marveled over the classy Brown Hotel and drove through the scenic Cherokee Park (designed by Frederick Olmsted, who also designed Prospect Park and the similarities were uncanny!) We stopped for Mexican Hot Chocolate and Apple Bourbon Bread at this adorable coffee shop called Please and Thank You, and also had beers in a former church, called The Holy Grale! I’m wishing we could have eaten there because the menu looked amazing (particularly the poutine with roasted corn, jalapeños, cheese curds and duck gravy). Next time around I’d also love to visit Milkwood and Hillbilly Tea and catch a show at The Actors Theatre of Louisville.

As luck has it, I only have a month before my next little adventure. I’ll be reunited with my city…and in the fall! I’ll fly up to New York for a couple days and then take the train into Carmel, to spend my second Thanksgiving with Jay’s family. I’m so looking forward to all of it. I’ve been reminiscing about my time in New York last fall, and thinking of where I was and what I was doing. This month last year, I was going out for Oktoberfest at Radegast, with Louisa, calling every candy shop and purveyor in town, requesting samples for our Halloween candy feature, going to the Serial Killers Haunted House with Molly, and stocking up and freaking out over the impending arrival of hurricane Sandy. Time flies.

Wedding planning is progressing and we met our pint-sized photographer Casey, for pints at The Federal in Durham the other day, and she is so cute and kind and genuinely excited to be a part of our wedding. Check out some of her and her husband Matt’s beautiful work here. I am loving how this process is unfolding.

It’s been awhile since I’ve shared some of the music I’ve been listening to lately. Here’s pretty much what I have in rotation on my playlist:

  • These Days – Jackson Browne
  • Off He Goes – Pearl Jam
  • Firstborn – J. Tillman
  • We are Fine – Sharon Van Etten
  • The Pharaohs- Neko Case
  • Deep Red Bells – Neko Case
  • Lakehouse- Of Monsters and Men
  • My Unusual Friend – The Fruit Bats

and this sweet little gem


The arrival of fall brings forth a hankering for what I like to call “hibernation food,” you know, warming comfort food, one-pot meals that can simmer away on a Sunday afternoon. Hibernation food is best consumed while wearing socks and sitting on your couch, watching Downton Abbey. It pairs excellently with red wine. Yesterday’s dreary weather  begged for homemade creamy tomato soup  with grilled cheeses and apple salad. And cookies. This afternoon during a beautiful jog, I was thinking about food (as I often do while jogging), and deliberating over what to cook for tonight’s dinner. It needed to be relatively quick because Jay had to leave for rehearsal and I wanted him to be able to eat before he left, which meant I had two hours to grocery shop and make it happen. Since Sundays mean roast chickens are on sale at Whole Foods, I picked one up and made a casserole with some beautiful broccoli I got from Farlow Farm, at the Curb Market. I added some mushrooms that were about to go bad, and some leeks, because leeks are awesome. This simple casserole definitely met the hibernation food criteria. I highly suggest you make some.


Chicken Casserole with Mushrooms, Broccoli and Thyme  makes 6-8 servings

  • About 4 cups of rotisserie chicken (I used all of the white meat from one) *save the carcass to make chicken stock!
  • 1 cup of cooked brown basmati rice (cook in chicken stock if you can)
  • 2 leeks, cleaned, with green parts removed and discarded; sliced into quarter-inch rounds
  • 1 TBS olive oil
  • 2 large cloves minced garlic or 3-4 small cloves
  • 1-2 TBS of fresh thyme (I just eyeball this and you can do it to taste)
  • 1 cup baby portobello mushrooms, cleaned and cut into quarters
  • 1 1/2 cups chicken stock (use homemade if possible)
  • 1/2 cup half and half or whole milk
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 1 cup shredded parmesan
  • salt and pepper to taste

Cook the rice according to package instructions. While the rice is cooking, shred the chicken (I just do this by hand) and place in a large bowl. In a medium skillet, add olive oil and leeks and sauté over medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the garlic and sauté another minute. Preheat the oven to 450. Add the mushrooms, chicken stock, half and half, thyme and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer, cooking for about 10 minutes or so. You want the liquid mixture to thicken and reduce a little.

Meanwhile, cook the broccoli in a pot of boiling water for one minute. Drain and set aside. Add the rice, broccoli, and the liquid mixture to the large bowl with the chicken and add 1/2 cup of parmesan. Toss with a large spoon or spatula until everything is combined. Pour the mixture into a 13 x 9-inch baking dish, sprinkle with remaining 1/2 cup of parmesan, and some more thyme leaves. Cover with a lid or foil, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid/foil and place under a broiler until the top is golden brown (about 5 minutes). Put on something comfy and eat.

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List Love

  • I wish I could click my heels and go here this weekend…
  • Come back fall weather so I can make these two dreamy pumpkin treats and inaugurate my pumpkin colored Mr. Rogers sweater.
  • This was SPOT. ON. “I love your outfit by the way, where did you get that?” 

                                                       “A fire.”

The craziest thing is, I actually caught the facade of our apartment in this spoof! Too funny and very appropriate, considering Girls is shot about 200 feet away from where I used to live, on Diamond and Messerole).

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This time. Last year.

Some people have spirit animals. I have a spirit city. It’s NYC and I’m missing it hardcore right now. Every year, without fail, I get very contemplative and nostalgic once fall arrives; it stirs something within me. It’s my favorite season by far. I love the crisp air and the way it smells differently. I love falling asleep with the window open and my socks on, and I prefer sweaters, boots and scarves to t-shirts and sandals.

It’s so hard to believe that this time last year I was living in Greenpoint— my little Polish neighborhood, situated in a little nook on the tip top of Brooklyn. I was settling into feeling like a New Yorker. I was interning at Time Out—feeling like a little fish in a big sea, calling restaurants and PR firms galore, gearing up for fall preview, researching beer tastings, cooking classes, festivals and markets, and actually getting to write some. I was afraid of my boss, who was gorgeous but mean and impossible to please. But I can say the woman was fierce. She got shit done.

I had learned how to walk from the West Village to SoHo, to the East Village and to Tribeca. I had a favorite bodega, two favorite neighborhood coffee shops (Grumpy’s and Charlotte Patisserie), favorite walks, and a favorite view (the East River and Manhattan skyline from the pier by Transmitter Park. I worked. I worked on weekends. I learned to carry a lot of heavy things without a hand truck and how to set up a tent by myself. I babysat spoiled upper west (and east) side monster children who behaved so atrociously I thought they only existed as a cliche, in films. I met friends. I made friends. I laughed. I cried. I yelled at cars that almost ran me over (on a regular basis)—”I’m walkin’ here!” I felt empowered. I felt insufficient. I felt inspired. I felt uncomfortable. I felt energized. I felt intimidated. The city knocked me down some days and lifted me up others. It always surprised me.

I don’t miss having to right walk by suffering homeless people on a regular basis, I don’t miss urine in the subways or sharing a teeny tiny bathroom with three other people. I don’t miss waiting for the G train. I don’t miss missing my boyfriend, sleeping alone, and waaaaaaaiting.

But I do miss and miss dearly breakfasts with people I love at Five Leaves, subway music at the Metropolitan/Lorimer stop, strangely and comically running into people I know all. the time. I miss the Blue Stove, the Flea, walking everywhere, the smell of Polish Rye bread baking in the New Warsaw Bakery and wafting out into the night air. I miss that first night where my three roommates and I stayed out all night drinking frozen harrisons and dancing at Enid’s. I miss Commerce Street, brownstone stoops, Cobble Hill, the walk home from the Bedford stop, through McCarren Park, seeing the old man in my neighborhood making pizza all day and then falling asleep on a chair outside late at night, the Union Square Green Market, doughnuts  the size of your head, from Dough, Peter Pan Bakery, walking through Washington Square Park at golden hour, the people, the culture, the food, the transience that can make you feel alone and not alone at the same time. This city will always tug at my heartstrings.

So there you have it. I’m pretty much always missing New York, but especially this fall. So I drink my coffee out of my Brooklyn Flea mug every Saturday or Sunday morning and let myself get nostalgic, and longingly look ahead to my next visit. I look around me and am grateful for the journey I’ve taken so far, the opportunities I’ve been given, the people I’ve met and the memories I have. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.






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List Love

  • This late summer trifle looks so incredible, I’m determined to find an occasion to make it, ASAP. I think the fact that it’s late summer and that I’ve never made a trifle before classify as suitable occasions.
  • I’m kind of really in love with this blog and with Rebekka’s paintings.
  • Last week we made Alice Waters’s ratatouille and it was seriously life changing. I can’t stop thinking about it.
  • I have some gorgeous Italian prune plums that are begging to be made into Molly Wizenberg’s plum crumble
  • I’ve been living vicariously through the dreamy recaps of this Kinfolk workshop
  • It’s just about time for pears, and I intend to make this
  • I’m incredibly excited for the brand new series debut of A Chef’s Life, airing on PBS (nationally!) this Thursday evening (check your local listings here). It’s a unique hybrid of cooking-reality show, and each episode explores a particular ingredient and how chef Vivian Howard translates that ingredient on the plate. I’m honored to have been able to assist with some of the show’s website and blog content, and some social media, and through the process, have gotten to meet some incredibly talented people. I’ve known the show’s creator, director, and filmmaker, Cynthia Hill (from Durham) for a few years now and this woman is  talented and driven. She’s always got at least a couple projects in the works, is raising two adorable daughters, and runs Markay Media and The Southern Documentary Fund. Her partner Rex is also quite the talent. He too is a documentary filmmaker and has worked alongside Cynthia on this series. I can’t say enough about the wonderful work they do in the documentary field. And Vivian is the real deal. She’s got a true Mida’s touch, where everything that comes into her hands—be it a humble ingredient or a fancy one—turns to gold. She beholds a raw, unbridled talent for conceiving unique spins on simple southern dishes, and invested interest in exploring her southern roots and upholding those rich culinary traditions. She works with some amazing local farmers and food purveyors and has a mighty, tenacious crew at her and her husband Ben’s restaurant, Chef and the Farmer. It’s well worth driving to Kinston for the mere sake of eating there. If you’re even remotely interested in the south, NC, and/or food, you need to tune in Thursday night and watch this show.


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