I had never had dulce de leche before I spent a summer in Santa Cruz, Bolivia over 10 years ago. In fact, I’m not sure I had even heard of it before then. But one taste of the sweet, sticky, caramelly spread and I was instantly hooked. I was in Santa Cruz volunteering as a supervisor for Amigos de las Americas and was often in a rush to get out of the door in the morning, but not without having my bread and dulce de leche. It always seemed like an indulgent breakfast – I was essentially starting the day off with dessert – but hey, do as the locals do, right? It certainly gave me something to look forward to when my alarm when off in the morning!
When I came back to the States after 3 months of bread slathered with dulce de leche, I went into a bit of withdrawal. It’s probably better that I didn’t know then how easy dulce de leche is to make, or I would have eaten it by the gallon. Ok, I confess, I still haven’t made it myself, but it’s basically just sweetened condensed milk that’s heated up slowly until it becomes thick and creamy. Sounds easy enough, right? But these days it’s much more accessible in grocery stores (often in the international aisle), making these chocolaty dulce de leche duos even easier to make. Continue reading
I first made this apple butternut squash gratin for my sister’s baby shower last year and it was completely devoured. Not a crumb was left. I was a little sad because once I had had a taste of it, I was already dreaming about leftovers. I’ve been meaning to make it again every since, but it somehow slipped from my mind and then the next thing I knew, it was spring. When a good friend and his mother made the trip up to have dinner with us earlier this fall, this gratin instantly came to mind. It just seemed like the perfect dish. Warm and satisfying, while being perfectly seasonal with roasted butternut squash, sautéed apple, fresh rosemary, nutty gruyere, and a dash of cream, all topped with crunchy, garlicky breadcrumbs, this gratin is both deliciously sweet and savory. It is also guaranteed to make your house smell absolutely amazing.
The dish is substantial enough to serve as a main dish, pairing beautifully with a harvest salad of pear or apple, walnuts, and gorgonzola, but it would work equally well as a side to any fall meal. It would be an especially nice accompaniment to a Thanksgiving dinner, especially if you are looking for something that will work for both your vegetarian and meat-eating guests alike.
You may have noticed that things have been quieter than usual here on Pixelated Crumb this year. It’s not that I’m not cooking, baking, and eating, and it’s not that I haven’t been itching to share fabulous, seasonal recipes. It’s just been…well, it’s been an interesting year.
I found out that I was pregnant in early February and at just about the same time, my appetite went a bit haywire. I didn’t really want to look at food, let alone take pictures and write about food. I was basically in a semi-permanent state of always feeling a little awful (sometimes just straight up awful) and so unbearably tired. Foods that I had loved suddenly repulsed me. I got through the first 12 weeks knowing it would get better and that it would all be worth it.
But when I went in for my first ultrasound at 12 1/2 weeks, the doctor, after reviewing the sonogram the technician had just taken, came in the room and told us how very sorry he was. I couldn’t understand what he could possibly be talking about. Why would he be sorry? This was such a happy thing! New life! Soft baby skin and tiny little toes! It took a while for the news to sink in. Despite the fact that my body had kept carrying on being pregnant, the baby simply had not developed.
Over the past several months, I have written this blog post over and over in my head. I have gone over and over what I had to say, but it would fill a chapter in a book to say everything I wanted to say: how I declined a D&C and took meds that forced a miscarriage, how I had to take two rounds of the medicine for it to finally kick in, how intensely painful it was, how my parents drove eight hours to be with me, how I stared at pregnant women and couples with newborn babies with anger and resentment deep in my heart, how guilty and ashamed I felt for that anger and resentment, how kind and supportive my friends and family were, how I felt betrayed by my body, how responsible I felt no matter how many times the doctor and midwives told me that nothing I had done had caused this to happen, how my coworkers who didn’t even know why I was out of work for a week brought me flowers, how it took so much longer than I thought it would to recover, how I got macarons and Jeni’s ice cream in the mail from great friends, and how I never felt closer to and more in love with Joseph.
It’s hard to believe that summer has come and gone already. Just a week ago temperatures here in Boston were in the high 90s, and now it’s certifiably chilly. As much as I love fall baked goods, I couldn’t help but make one last dessert to bid farewell to summer. This is the ultimate ode to a favorite summer dessert of mine: s’mores. And with this recipe, you can easily have this summer classic any time of year so that when January hits, you can still get your fix of smooth, creamy chocolate, marshmallows, graham crackers, and nuts. No campfire necessary.
The other big incentive for baking these s’more nut bars was to take part in OXO‘s Bake a Difference campaign, benefiting Cookies for Kids’ Cancer. Cookies for Kid’s Cancer was founded to raise money for research to develop new, improved treatments for pediatric cancer. September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and OXO is working hard to raise money to for Cookies for Kid’s Cancer to help combat the number one disease killer of children in the U.S.