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Growing up in Arizona, during the blazing summer months I’d wake up early, throw on my bathing suit, and run out the door at the first possible moment. Sometimes, I wouldn’t come home until dinnertime. We were a neighborhood of girls, all within a year or two of each other, each with younger siblings. My day would consist of running back and forth between various backyard pools, getting shooed away only when the little ones had to take naps. We were a rowdy, noisy lot and this minor inconvenience didn’t slow us down in the least. We’d just go to the next pool and continue in this fashion until it was time to move onto the next house or go home. I’d like to think the neighborhood moms coordinated their infant’s sleep schedules to accommodate our summer priorities. Sure they did.

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I’m drowning in stuff. Various recipe development projects have left me with bags, tins, jars and cans of ingredients that no matter how much I try to organize, end up in big piles every which way all over the place. I always seem to be looking for the one thing that isn’t where I think it is and create a disaster to be dealt with at a later date. My freezer isn’t much better with bits of this and that crammed into every available space. I seem to have stockpiled a lot of bacon in there. Is that a bad thing? A houseguest recently gave me a lot of s*%$ about this as she was trying to find space for a pint of ice cream. (It was tight, but we got it in there.) Then last week a bag of frozen peas catapulted itself at my head in an attempt to escape. Alright, message received. This food clutter needed to be dealt with, one item at a time. So I started with those peas. Baby steps.

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I’ve been spending quite a bit of my time these days working on recipe development projects for various companies and restaurants, and while I very much enjoy it, the process pretty much sucks up all my creative juices leaving little for personal projects. And so goes the fates of this blog. It also fills my home with endless bags, tubs and boxes of ingredients. My apartment looks like a ransacked grocery store right now. First world problems. Appetizers, entrees, desserts, snacks, sauces … name it, I’ve done it in the last few months and have the leftover groceries to prove it. If there’s ever a zombie apocalypse, come over here. We’ll eat well for years.

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Every February, with a few notable exceptions, I focus on chocolate. Chocolate cakes and cookies and pies and other delicious little things because it seems appropriate. Visions of chocolate hearts cloud our vision during these four weeks. Plus it’s cold and I think chocolate is a proper distraction until the beautiful summer fruits start appearing. Sheepish admission here … I’m not much of a chocolate person so I figure if I’m going to eat chocolate, it better be good. I’m getting a late start this month but I’m kicking off with a bang. These cookies are good.

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Well, it’s Christmas and we’re off to a rough start in this household. My mother and I spent 4 hours shopping for all the Christmas dinner necessities yesterday and realized at lunch we forgot about 52 things. It’s not Christmas until you run to the store 17 times, I suppose. Then, in the capper of all things, she looked into the kitchen last night and said, “Why is there smoke billowing out of my oven?” Yes mom that would be the pizza box you forgot was in there before you turned the damn thing to 400 degrees. My sister pulled into the driveway at this exact moment to smoke pouring out of windows, fire alarms screeching, the two of us yelling and coughing and waving newspapers around in some strange ritual dance. Chaos. Complete chaos and the house still smells like a bbq. Merry Christmas indeed.

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Does anyone need another recipe for apple pie? Maybe. Hell, I’ve got three of them on this blog, each one a little different. Guess it depends on what you’re looking for but I think that there’s always room for another. I’ve covered the bases – classic, amped up with salted caramel and even fancy in a French inspired tart. But what about an apple pie that was completely packed with pure apple flavor, holding nothing back? Scoot over and make some room; there’s a new addition to the line up.

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Growing up, occasionally my mom would buy a plastic tub of soft cheese spread as a treat. Once in a while it was a cheeseball or log, rolled in chopped almonds or pecans, but mostly it was just a clear plastic tub that I would dip crackers directly into. This method was rarely successful and I’d often leave a trail of cracker debris in the container and someone would yell at me. But I continued to do it anyway, too lazy to get a knife and a proper plate I suppose. There were a few flavors as I recall, cheddar certainly and maybe something called “Swiss almond” but my favorite was a pastel pink and orange swirled concoction known as “port wine cheese spread.” I didn’t even know what port wine was until many years later, but damn I loved that stuff. It seemed very adult and sophisticated to my young mind, like the Daiquiri Ice at Baskin Robbins.

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