A Truly Happy New Year

new york, new york

Since before I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor, just like my Dad. It turns out I just wanted to be like my Dad, whose manner, and therefore his profession, from my standpoint, was synonymous with delivering joy and good news, news like, “It’s a big, fat, bouncing baby boy!” to new parents.
In the years before I discovered that there was occasionally bad news involved with being a doctor {tumors, warts in unseemly places}, I spent Sundays at his side on his hospital rounds, shadowed him at the office and begged him to be bedside when he delivered babies, which I thought was the most exciting thing imaginable {and still do, if not for the fear that it could one day happen to me}. Once or twice he let me join him in the delivery room, and I twice got a look at one of these big fat bouncing baby boys myself. To my untrained eye these babies, who weighed in around 7 pounds, looked like the teeny-tiniest little things I’d ever seen, except for grandma’s newborn kittens. But he assured me that the babies were robust and healthy and would fatten up as soon as they got on mother’s milk.
On the eve of a New Year, I can think of no greater news than that of a birth of a baby that fit’s Dad’s description to a tea. Big boy William Spencer Motland hit the scene this morning at 9 pounds, 3 ounces. András and I are big fans of his Mamma, Nikki, who taught me how good Fluff and peanut butter is spread between two Famous Wafers in our earliest days together in the Food Network Kitchens. {Today, she’s the gal behind all of the gorgeous food you see on the Martha Stewart Show}. This is a photo from the meal we shared the day we met Will’s Papa, Kent, who we happen to be rather fond of too. The meal was brunch at Landmarc, which I highly recommend, and I think the consumption of sugary stuff {note the cotton candy}, bodes well for a sweet life for one baby boy, and a big, fat, bouncing New Year for the rest of us!
Happy New Year!


Guilt, Glee and Christmas Trees

I am one of those rare New Yorkers that absolutely loves going home for the Holidays. Although my siblings might disagree, the minute I get home, I loose all contact with my picky preferences and accept our holiday habits, meals, and mayhem as a temporary version of bliss.

For about a week, I revert to a pre-1999-state, when I left the Midwest for city slicker life, slip into bulky old sweaters and sit at my spot at the family table to eat whatever meal is placed before me. I forget that I once said the best meal I ever ate was linguine with caviar and sea urchin at Le Bernadin, and suddenly it’s Mom’s mashed potatoes, Mom’s turkey noodle soup, Mom’s shrimp cocktail and prime rib dinner on Christmas Eve.

Today, when I got back to the city, I listened as my friends and colleagues reported back about their visits to in-laws in the Midwest. There were storied back-of-the-soup-can green been casseroles, jiggly Jell-O molds with Cool Whip, sickly sweet sweet potatoes, blue-cheese balls with holiday cracker medleys – all the things we love to hate about our humble culinary beginnings. We all had a good laugh at these institutions of American culture, but I felt secretly grateful that my family had somehow escaped them. Sure, I had experienced all of these fine foods at some point in my upbringing, but rarely at home, and certainly not at the holiday table.
I hate to brag, but my mom makes a mighty fine Christmas meal. It’s not to say our family is above condensed canned soup casseroles. We had them on occasion. But our holiday table has always had some version of a fresh vegetable {this year, asparagus}, a wonderfully roast meat {turkey, plumped with plenty of real butter}, smashed sweet potatoes, homemade cranberry relish, Waldorf salad, pecan pie from scratch with real whipped cream…

I was having this thought, feeling rather proud of my mom, when it occurred to me that Waldorf salad has both mini marshmallows and mayonnaise. Just then the conversation turned to miniature Christmas villages, Christmas plates, tiny tree earrings, and {aghast!} Christmas salt-and-pepper shakers. My mind flashed to a mental snapshot I’d taken of our Christmas Eve table, complete with Christmas imprinted s & p shakers, and I felt both guilt and glee.

Although I may never have a set of Christmas dishes of my own, I have to admit I love, no adore, eating off of them exclusively from the minute we arrive home until the day we head back east. They speak to me of a time and place where the world revolves around the changing of seasons and holiday flourish, instead of stock prices. Like appliquéd Christmas sweaters, faded felt stockings and cream-of-mushroom casseroles, they serve as humility touchstones that insure that I shall never be too cool for a cup of Christmas cheer.


Drizzle & Dazzle

{Handmade Christmas, part xi}
If you've been struck with the post-gift-giving blues, fear not. Gift giving goes on until the stroke of midnight on January 31, giving you a perfect opportunity to bring something dazzling to new year's cocktail parties, like cranberry syrup for mixing up sophisticated kir royales.
the syrup: mix 2 cups water + 2 cups sugar + 1 cup cranberries in a small sauce pan. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook just until sugar dissolves. Turn off the heat, cover and let stand until cool. Cranberries will soften and color the syrup, but hold their shape.
the bottle: From our favorite raw tupelo honey, a Christmas past gift to us.
the ribbon: Thank You ribbon, by Midori, who also make personalized ribbon.
the cork: From the best bottle of red we drank this month.
Incidentally, this syrup is also lovely drizzled over waffles or pancakes, which would make a delicious post-Fête feast as well.


A Christmas Goose

{Handmade Christmas, part xi}
I can't imagine ever spending Christmas without my family, but one day, we'll spend Christmas in Hungary. When I think of that, I imagine a goose, big and fat, once covered in the white feathers that András grandmother taught me to use to dust flour off her strudel dough. The goose would taste like the one I ate at the Csárdás in Csopak on a cold October night after Andras asked me to be his wife. We {sans A., the Hungarian Vegetarian} would eat it with red cabbage and Olaszirizling and finish the night with Hungarian Rákóczy Cake, and Dios Beigli.
At the Copeland house, Christmas is a perfect repeat of Thanksgiving, Turkey and cranberry relish, mashed potatoes and pecan pie, but whatever the bird, a bundle of herbs from your garden, tied and ready to baste with butter, is the perfect way to whisper thanks to your hostess, and help her fill her bird with flavor.


Naughty & Nice

{Handmade Christmas, part x}

Baby it's cold outside, and we've been out snowshoeing all morning {because one naughty little boy and girl broke into their Christmas presents a few days early}. So, while it would be nice to save this little bundle of naughty & nice hot cocoa stirrers to bring to the Carols & Carousing I'm co-hosting with Frances later today, I had to be really bad and break them out early for a cup of cocoa at home.

I made these with craft sticks {dollar store} and a green sharpie, which allows you etch in whatever names you see fit. In Hungary, they call a naughty boy Rosszcsont {Bad Bones}, and Andras stirrer said exactly that.

Give these with a batch of warm cocoa, mixed up ahead of time {milk + dutch cocoa + sugar, to taste}, and transfered to a glass milk bottle {mine come from Ronnybrook}. Tie with a bow and bring along to your cookie swap for instant hot cocoa that beats the stir and serve powdered kind by a landslide.

Blue Ribbon Beans

{Handmade Christmas, part ix}

Before you put away your sewing machine, here's the perfect thing to put in a little bag made of scrap fabric. Since you were so clever to save your seeds from your summer garden, why not pass them on? Shared seeds are the gift that keep on giving, and keeping heirloom varieties growing in your community is a smart way to protect our seed supply. Plus, every successive season you save seeds, you're more likely grow veggies better suited to your garden's climate than they were the year before.

My favorite thing about seed saving is naming them. Experts like Mike McGrath, host of Public Radio's You Bet Your Garden, claim that if you save the seed of a specific variety for a decade and grow it in the same climate, you earn the right to give it a name. I took that liberty a little early, and am pretty proud to pass on my blue ribbon beans. I can't wait to see them spring up in my neighbor's garden when the snow thaws. Oh, don't forget to add the year of the upcoming season, to remind gardeners to put them in the ground.

P.S. I told you my sewing machine broke, so I cheated. This little satchel game with a gift card from Anthropologie. Recycled giving = green, and in a pinch is as good as handmade!

P.S.S. It's completely covered in white outside!

Spot of Tea

{Handmade Christmas, part viii}
Good morning! I like to start the day with tea. You?
Chances are someone you know does too, and they'd be delighted to get a little hand-sewn satchel of mint or lemon verbena leaves from your very own garden or windowsill. I clipped these bunches from mine just before the snow fell and plan to give them fresh for potent tea, but you can dry them out in a single layer on a lined tray overnight.
This satchel is inspired by The French General, one of my favorite stores for stickers, ribbons, aprons and linens, and the team behind my favorite sewing book, Home Sewn. They sell their signature fabrics here, but if you don't sew, or have a sick machine like me, a paper coffee bag will work just as well.


Tinsel Town

{Handmade Christmas, part vii}
Ready for S'more? How about a tin of sweet s'more fixins?

Tuck your new favorite gingerbread, baked in stars, into tins with your favorite chocolate and homemade marshmallows {I like smitten kitchen's version}. Tie with baker's twine and slip in a little silver sprig of spruce. Oh, I made my label with paper from Lee's Art Shop, and a paper hole punch.

I hope you're lucky enough to be there when your giftee opens his gift and roasts the marshmallows over the live fire, but if you're not, set aside a set for yourself. After you taste the gingerbread version of this favored treat, you'll never go back to grahams.

P.S. Don't tell, but I got this tin at the dollar store!

Glass Castle

{Handmade Christmas, part v}
An empty glass jam jar is the beginning of beautiful things when it comes to handmade giving. If you're a jam jar junkie like me, it's likely you have stash of beauties that just need a quick wash and referesh with a handmade label. I like fluff jars, with their fat belly's and bright red tops, but any old honey jar will do. Stuffed with homemade jams, pickles and preserves, you've got a perfect gift. It's past preserving season, which puts you in quite a pickle, but luckily most markets still have plenty of crispy crispins and plucky pippins for saucing. Name your applesauce something playful, like Pippin Pleasure, Jonagold Royale, or Empire State Sauce {if your apples happen to come from New York} to give away the apple's origins, wrap and give. Here's my recipe.

A Touch of Paint

{Handmade Christmas, part iv}

If those cookies are too plain for you, how about a little paint job?

I once painted these cookies, and dozens of others, but I can't take credit for the sweet little hobbit houses and snails above. They were a gift from a friend who also hand-paints china for Herend, the lauded hand-crafted porcelin of Hungary that was once so precious it couldn't leave the country's borders. These two stunning pieces sit in the Herend museum, about 20 minutes from our home in Porva, and command a price on par with some paintings at the MoMA, but take a little royal icing to some homemade gingerbread and I promise you'll get your painting fix for a while.

Start with a snappy, well-baked gingerbread, and you'll only need a touch of paint to make them pretty. One of the best darn gingerbread cookie recipes I've ever baked comes from Gourmet, {here} which bakes up flat and even every time. Next, whip up a batch of royal icing and drop in some natural food colorings {here}, which aren't as potent as others but potentially far friendlier. Now comes the fun part, mixing your primary colors to get a pretty palet. How about a color chart to help you get started?

P.S. If you plan to stack or wrap your cookies before you give, let painted cookies dry unwrapped overnight {out of the family pet's reach}, or until dry to the touch.

Cookie Crate

{Handmade Christmas, part iii}

What's that, you already baked your cookies? Well then, Turn this summer’s berry box into a cookie crate. Wrap cookies in twos for couples and kids, fours for families and grown-ups, and stamp with custom stamps, stickers or labels. We have a case of these pinch-bottom cookie and candy bags leftover from our wedding, which are handy to have on hand. You too can get a lifetime supply of them here, but brown paper sandwich bags take to dressing up just as well.

Cookies, Of Course

{Handmade Christmas, part ii}

And, there's cookies, of course. Sure, you could give them all ready to go, but why not let the giftee decide when they want or need them most {cookies really are a matter of need}. I like shortbread.

1. Make dough and form into a log. Tuck it into the cardboard cylinder from the middle of your paper towels to help it keep its round shape {a clever trick from cookie goddess Dorie Greenspan}. Chill.

2. Wrap your dough in parchment paper, and tie with a delicate twirl of baker's twine {comes in red, green and grey!}.

3. Label the cookie, bake time and temp. Freeze until you give.

My favorite shortbread recipes here, courtesy of me and my pals in Food Network Kitchens. We worked hard on all of them, but my faves that would work in this shape are Chocolate Dipped with Sea Salt, Pecan Sandies, Parmesan Pepper and Orange-Anise.

A Little Loaf

{Handmade Christmas, part i}

Let's start simple. Let's see, there is the little loaf.

1. Wrap lovingly in wax paper {check}, gardener's twine {check}, and a touch of color.
2. Say something sweet on a little label. Mine came from Cavallini & Co, but you could make one with construction paper and a paper hole punch.
3. Give.

Now that was easy!

A Handmade Christmas

l.i.c., new york

About one week before we cracked open our advent calendar, I took the handmade pledge, agreeing to give only hand made goods for gifts this holiday. Since I come from a long line of creatives, I tried to impose a handmade holiday on the whole fam for our annual gift exchange, and sent them rallying email encouraging them to break out their band saws and thread their bobbin for good ole’ fashioned Christmas giving without the help of Amazon.

“But why?” asked the boys {brother, husband, father}.

“Because it’s good to cultivate our crafts, and support local artisans.” {me}

“So, I have to make something?”{brother}

“You can buy something handmade from an artisan, or make something yourself!”

“Do messes count?” {brother-in-law}

No, messes don’t count, though I can assure you I’ve made a lot of messes while creating my little bundle of holiday gifts for the ones we love.

My sewing machine broke within 24-hours of making the pledge {retribution for imposition of my beliefs?}, and since my “craft room” occupies the tiny precious real estate that once held spare socks, most of my handmade gifts come from the kitchen, and speak my love in faint whispers rather than boisterous bear hugs.

The fringe benefit of handmade holiday gifts from the kitchen, of course, is lots of beaters and batter bowls to lick, and the occasional double batch of your best that lands in your belly. And, its the oldest recession-friendly holiday trick in the book, made glamorous by a gaggle of gorgeous gift-wrapping designers {like the flourish collection} and the suddenly chic tone of recycled {formerly known as regifted} gift wrap, paper bags and grograin ribbon, which spiffs up mightly nicely with a swift hot iron.

If you’ve got empty jars, pretty papers, stickers and ribbons at home {and I suspect you do}, you’re half way there. As for the actual gift, think of your delish signature dish, the one everyone raves about, and see if you can make it giftable. Wrap it up with in all your pretty notions and prepare to tuck yourself deep into the heart or hungry belly of someone you love.

Stay tuned, 24-hours of last-minute holiday goodies from my kitchen and garden are on their way to you. Hey, I have to occupy myself somehow while A. hides out in his workshop crafting something for my sis.


Edible Giving, a Food Lover's Gift Guide

What's that, not yet anything under your tree? Here's a little inspiration for edible giving.

For Food Artists: Playful, pretty and pratical, I Macaroons is hard to resist. I also heart Delicious, about the art and life of Wayne Thiebaud, who had a thing for hotdogs, gumballs, cupcakes and color. My favorite of his images is here.

For Collectors: I found this vintage pair of handmade s & p shakers, above, at my local thrift store, and already gifted them {lucky sister}, but I love these, remade from chair legs, on Etsy.

For New Yorkers: A subscription to The Diner Journal, the thoughtful food mag from the folks behind Marlow & Sons, and dinner for two at Locanda Verde would surely delight. If you haven't yet heard of Locanda Verde's chef, Andrew Carmellini, get with it. He's the bomb. And if nothing else, you've heard of Locanda's owner, DiNero.

For Backyard Farmers: The Kitchen Garden Box is easy learning for beginning seed savers, and delicate Vintage Silverware Garden Marker will help vanity gardeners mark the spot. Seasoned gardeners will love you for inspiring them to expand with The Backyard Orchardist, by Stella Otto, which may yield some delicious returns five years from now when their fruit trees mature.

For Heirloom Enthusiasts: A Membership to the Hudson Valley Seed Library is a very clever gift indeed, and comes with a set of heirloom seeds tucked into lovely packets that double as artwork.

For Food Ethicists: If they haven't already read it, Michael Pollan's Omnivore’s Dilemma and In Defense of Food are invaluable guides, as is The Ethics of What we Eat: Why Our Food Choices Matter by Peter Singer.

For Little Gardeners: Beloved in my children's book collection are A Seed is Sleepy and The Curious Garden. I use both when teaching kids in gardens and classrooms. I particularly love The Curious Garden's reference to New York City's newest city garden and my daytime escape, The High Line.

For Teachers: Inspire the teacher in your life to think twice about the food their students {and they} eat with Edible Schoolyard, a Universal Idea, a docu-guide to Alice Waters Edible Schoolyard in Berkley. And for classroom reading, One Red Apple is bound to become a classic.

For Philanthropists {and Fashionistas}: Grab a FEED Bag for your friend to carry home goodies from the farmer’s market. The bonus for you both? Each bag helps the World Food Programme feed one child for a school year. That feels good.

For Dudes: The best gift I ever gave my brother was a Cast Iron skillet, a hearty set of steak knifes, a stack of chef's side towels {dude napkins}, paper french fry cones, a beer flight paddle and local craft beers. I called it Steak Night for the Guys, and tucked in my recipe for a cast-iron seared T-bone. Dude, I'm a good sis.

For Nostalgics: Score vintage or collector’s copies of Gourmet magazine on Ebay, and tack on a subscription to Delicious, the aptly named Brit magazine, to help the giftee mourn Gourmet's passing. It won't replace the hallowed journal, but the inspired images and recipes might turn them on to something new.

For Artisan Breakfast Junkies: Soap Stone Griddles make for perfect pancakes every time, and if seasoned correctly, it is nature's non-stick. They are also excellent for making homemade masa cakes, tortillas, and crispy pizzas. If you don't have any friends or loved ones in this category, I nominate myself for the role.

For Ethnic Eaters: Stone ground masa, used to make handmade tortillas or masa cakes on their new soap stone griddle, is a perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who loves good eatin.

For Meat-a-vores: There are dozens of ways to indulge salumi fans, four of which include the book Salumi, a subscription to Meatpaper magazine, manly mortadella T's from Wooster Street Meats, and anything {imported or domestic} from Salumeria Rosi.

For Indie Foodies {aka. New-Age Food Snobs}: A Subscription to an Edible Communities publication, a series of award-winning indie mags that cover the local food scene in every major city or county across the country is the gift that keeps on giving, connecting readers to the source of their food. {note: I use the term New-Age Food Snob here as a compliment. I'm not talking 10k-gas-range owning gluttons who only eat at Michelin-rated restaurants {BTW, this explanation of a food snob is hilarious}. I'm talking about locavores, who'd sooner eat a shoe that a soft-shell-crab from an offending fishery. Hey, embrace it! It's cool to care about where your food comes from.}

For Serial Dieters: Hopefully, a read through Real Food: What to Eat and Why by Nina Planck, or What to Eat by Marion Nestle will be enough to convince food pansies that real food {food your ancestors grew, picked and ate} is the way of the past, the present and the future.

For Food Geeks: Possibly one of the most accurate, well-written, thoroughly researched guides on produce, How to Pick a Peach by the LA Times food editor Russ Parsons, is as much bedside reading as reach-for reference for cooks, writers and recipe developers.

For Homesteaders: And now that your friends know how to pick a peach, the new book Quick Pickles which teach them how to pickle them. It's the definitive and beautiful guide to fast house-made pickles. A set of vintage Ball jars would go mighty fine with that too.

And by the way, though it has nothing to do with food, if you have a newlywed in your life, buy them an ornament. Most likely, they could use a few more. Here's a charming one for the new Mr. & Mrs.

Last but never least, when you give, consider giving to those who need it most. Share Our Strength feeds hungry families this season and every season, and you can give here.

P.S. The book under the vintage s & p shakers is Mad Hungary, one of this year's best, and a little preview to my 2009 Cookbook Guide, coming soon.


Christmas Merrymaking

u.e.s., new york

On Tuesday of last week, I got this invitation in the mail from The Brothers Clark.

The Brothers Clark, who are these fine gentlemen, I wondered?

From the tone of their invite, I imaged a set something like the Mast Brothers, strikingly stylish and certainly suave entertainers. I set my calendar with the inscribed details: a Recession Reception in their finely appointed Upper East Side Apartment; attire of the black tie variety, "though we highly encourage you to explore your own variation of this theme, pocket watches, monocles, power ties, Park Avenue gold digger get ups and anything that says I couldn't care less about my neighbor's foreclosure."

And then it came to me, these are the devilish brothers, Frankie and Johnny, youngest of a brood of Clarks that began with my friend Katie, and worked its way through the Irish name book {Mary Katherine, Kelly Frances, and so on} until all six were birthed and baptised accordingly.

In past years, the Clarks have gathered in a wing of the Waldorf Astoria with Grandfather Clark {aka, Big Al} presiding over the bar, and opened their doors for friends one and all to join their festivities. After a few holiday cocktails, we would ensemble on foot to one of the city's fine steak houses and animate three or four table with raucous Irish cheer. On one such occasion, I found myself at the infamous Sparks, and as I followed my hosts through a doorway made narrow by rows of Paddys, I heard a priest call out every Clark by name, blessing us each in the sign of the cross as we crossed his path.

The Brothers Clark Recession Reception, in their post-collegiately appointed east midtown apartment, was a different variety of family fun {no 22-ounce steaks, creamed spinach or mashed poetaytoes, as ordered by the family patriarch; no blessings from the family priest} marking our time and age as our own. But as any clever hosts knows, when one is serving merriment with whit and charm, one needn't pomp and circumstance.



Date Night: O Tannenbaum

In northern Illinois, where I grew up, parents pack their kids in the car on early winter weekends and trek to the countryside to ride horse-drawn carriages and cut down a tree. It’s a chance for fathers to show off their skills with a saw, for brothers to play like manly lumberjacks and for big sisters to assert their urge to rule the roost by insisting the tree they picked has the best posture and most prominent peak on which to adorn with the family star. It’s a tradition so beloved that my childhood friends got married at the Williams Tree Farm where our family tree came from for at least two decades.

In Hungary baby Jesus {and patient mothers} brings the tree, all lit up, on December 24, while the children are out at the afternoon matinees with their Papas. It’s a subtle reminder that all good things come from above, not from a bearded man with a big round belly. {Sweet St. Mikulás [St. Nicholas] comes on December 6 with his evil companion Krampusz, to bring goodies to the good girls and boys, and viragács [a bundle of twigs] to the naughty ones}

In New York City, we buy our trees on the corner at pop-up tree farms created by French-Canadians who gladly spend weeks in the big city in exchange for the hefty prices we pay for their silver pines. It’s an admittedly less established tradition, but like everything in New York, it comes with its own set of magic and joy.

Our magic and joy came in a package only three-feet tall, but filled our tiny home with an embracing luminance that gave me the instinct to set a pretty table, etch our initials into tiny tree stumps and make a meal for two, starting a tradition all our own.

Our menu:
Pickled Turnips
Swiss and Avocado Omelets with Pea Shoots
Pomegranite and Meyer Lemon Spritzers
Hand-wrapped Chocolates

Now, if we only had something to put under the tree….

My photo
New York City, United States
Sarah Copeland is a food and lifestyle expert, and the author of Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Eater and Every Appetite, and The Newlywed Cookbook. She is the Food Director at Real Simple magazine, and has appeared in numerous national publications including Saveur, Health, Fitness, Shape, Martha Stewart Living and Food & Wine magazines. As a passionate gardener, Sarah's Edible Living philosophy aims to inspire good living through growing, cooking and enjoying delicious, irresistible whole foods. She thrives on homegrown veggies, stinky cheese and chocolate cake. Sarah lives in New York with her husband and their young daughter.