Every Little Bit

I love this season. It’s cold. There are lights. There is hand holding. There is fellowship among strangers. Joy elevates the mundane, and cultivates memories to satiate and linger through the early months of another year, a new year. The blankets come down from the closet, there is ample excuse to bake, and we somehow find time, make time to connect.

For no particular reason, there are some days when I am shaken by the absurdity of my blessings. I learned at a young age that the holidays are not all gingerbread and champagne for everyone. I remember that when everyone seemed to be getting out of school and taking time off, my mom’s private practice was just ramping up. While the “other moms” were planning progressive dinners, she was helping the mourning, lonely, and lost to navigate the hardest part of their year.

There can be just as much sadness as there is joy associated with this season. I try to remember this everyday. While I indulge in the sweet embrace of loved ones next week, I know that someone, somewhere, is alone. Someone, somewhere, is piecing together a semblance of celebration after deep, confusing loss.

It’s startling, to witness your own luck. How mind-blowing it is to have so much, again, another year.

Of course there are moments throughout the season that frustrate. Our relatives can make us crazy. You’ll bump into that person from high school you really would have rather avoided. You’ll feel obligated to attend certain neighborhood functions. Your partner will exceed the 50lb baggage limit. You’ll be late to work. Someone will forget to change the roll in the guest room. There will be thousands of crazy, maddening moments and interactions this season.

Remember that someone, just like you, somewhere on this planet doesn’t get those crazy, maddening moments. They have no one to burn the biscuits for. They are trying to understand the meaning of tradition when there is now an empty seat at the table.

Here’s the thing… I want every single crazy moment that comes with this time of year. I know that one year, if I am not so lucky as I am now, that I will cling to the taste and the touch and the sounds of all these moments and how they made my life so rich and full. I want to do the things I don’t want to really do, I want to see the people I don’t really want to see, I want show, express, and appreciate every bit of it.

Roasted Chestnut Spread 

  • 1 lb Chestnuts
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water
  • 1/2 cup + 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Roasting and shucking chestnuts is more fun with a partner, so grab a partner and tell them to set the oven to 425.’ As the oven preheats, begin working with the chestnuts by cutting a large x on the rounded side of each shell. Place flat side down on a pan. I cover mine with parchment because it’s a bit “seasoned” if you know what I mean. Pour a cup of water over the cross-hatched chestnuts and roast for about 22-25 minutes.

Remove from the oven, the skins should have peel back a bit by now. Let cool for about 10 minutes before getting started on the peeling process. You’ll need to discard the tough, dark brown shell as well as the thin brown skin that coats the actual soft nut. From all my research, each nut has a different story. Some shells and skins are a nuisance while others come off quite easily. It’s a tedious job, but definitely worth it. Toss naked chestnuts into small pot and cover with 1 1/2 – 2 cups of water, depending on how many nuts you ended up yielding. I usually come out with a few nasty moldy dudes and some that crumble apart when I’m trying to peel, so my best guess is that I have about 8-10 ounces of actual nut when it’s all said and done. Add sugar and vanilla. Bring to a boil and stir, allowing to simmer for about 15 minutes.

Remove from heat. Let sit in the pot for a bit before transferring to a food processer with the blade attachment. Process for about 5 minutes, adding a tiny bit of water or warm milk to the mixture to help things along. Transfer to a jar or serve immediately with crepes, toast, or apple slices.

Recipe adapted from Jennie. Cowl/Scarf made by Melissa. Find more music by the amazing (22 year-old!!) Ben Howard Here.

  1. talley

    Kelsey, What a wonderful post! I’m sitting here, nestled in my apartment, watching the grey and rainy weather settle in for another day, and watching your video again, and again, and again. A couple things – First, the Ocean! A blessing in itself. I miss the Ocean. Having lived on the East Coast my entire life the Ocean was a constant and now in Zürich, smack in the middle of Europe, I often feel trapped. Sure there are the Alps and plenty of lakes, but there is nothing like the vast beauty of the ocean. Second, roasted chestnuts (Heisse Maroni) are an incredibly popular street snack here. Little huts will pop up and grizzly mustached men will stand over their roasting pit, stirring and shaking and piling the finished, flakey shelled nuts, into little bags. The bags have two parts – one for the whole nuts and then a separate attached bag for the shells (swiss efficiency at it’s best) I love the idea, but unfortunately I don’t love the taste, they are too dry for me. I’m going to buy some though and try out this recipe! Wonderful! (sorry comment so long, just so much to say!) ps. video is now on it’s 4th round…


  2. Snippets of Thyme

    What a wonderful wonderful post. I think all of us who have had pain and loss in our lives feels so much the same as you. I, too, appreciate each and every moment and marvel at the fortunate existence I have today compared to years ago. I sure do hate pain and loss but I realize that it pushes us to bind together to do more for those who need help. Thank you for reminding me of that.


  3. Ines

    Thank you. The video is very inspiring. Can you tell me the name of the song?


  4. Amanda

    OMG! It’s the China coat!!! Still looks great on you girl! That video was so wonderful! Warmed my heart! You are so precious, and, I think the saying goes, “wise beyond your years.” :)


  5. Meister @ The Nervous Cook

    This post broke my heart in the most beautiful possible way.


  6. Amanda Jane

    wow…this looks amazing!


  7. LiztheChef

    Now I know what to do with my extra jar of chestnuts…Thanks and Happy Holidays to you and your loved ones.


  8. Heidi @ Food Doodles

    Beautiful post, and so very true. Your spread sounds fantastic, I’ve never had anything like that before. I loved the video. I used to live near the ocean and now I like inland so it brings back great memories :)


  9. Melissa @ thefauxmartha

    After watching and reading this, I said to myself out loud—she is so talented! Your writing so raw and beautiful. A breath of fresh air. The video and pictures match the mood with ease. Thank you for sharing your life and your talent. I’m in awe. AND I’m in awe that the cowl made the video. It looks perfect on you.


  10. Jacqui

    Hi Kelsey. I didn’t get to watch the video (I’m at the office right now) but your writing is enough. So true, so … yes. To all of it. Thank you.


  11. sara

    i hope you’ll still be my friend when you two are big time. AMAZING! I love it so much. You two are great and I LOVE love love the videos, makes me feel like I know you better. Pretty scarf too 😉


  12. Chloe

    I have to say, your videos are the absolute best. Thank you, thank you, thank you for brightening up my day. Happy holidays to you.


  13. lauren@spicedplate

    I’ve been feeling the same way recently — so blessed to be able to witness my own luck and abundance of good things happening. It feels almost more sweet, knowing that it’s been a long time coming.

    This video is gorgeous — chestnuts are a tradition my grandparents brought over with them (they come from a town in Italy known for chestnuts that I can’t recall the name of right now) and I have many memories of warm impatient fingers, not able to wait to unpeel the shell. I recently baked chestnuts into apple cookies and it was such a fantastic texture. This spread looks delightful. Thank you for these videos. I’m watching it as a flurry falls outside and it instantly put me back in the joy of the holidays.


  14. El

    The video is phenomenal. Your words are mindful yet inspiring. The chestnut spread looks amazing. All of this is a wonderful reminder of what truly matters. Happy holidays to you both.


  15. la domestique

    Love the video and music! Amen to all that.


  16. Melissa

    Beautiful video. Tom and I need to get around to making one. Love these!


  17. Violets and Cardamom

    Your video was amazing!! I have never had roasted chestnuts before but now I definitely want to give it a try!


  18. Brian @ A Thought For Food

    Damn you! This has left me crying happy tears. What a beautiful post!


  19. Kelly @ The Gouda Life

    Stunningly written as always, Kelsey. Happy holidays to you!


  20. best of the blogs: christmas edition #4. « wabi wabi

    […] 20./ alcoholidays (christmassy drinks) 21./ vegan and gluten-free christmas 22./ baked brie 23./ roasted chestnut spread 24./ nutmeg maple butter cookies 25./ candied […]

  21. Cookie and Kate

    I just adore your videos. They’re the best. That spread looks incredible, and I love Melissa’s scarf on you. I want one!


  22. amelia

    super super lovely. And now I toootally want to roast some chestnuts!


  23. Nicole

    I’ve always wanted to roast my own chestnuts and I’m sure this spread is heavenly. Lovely video, too. I couldn’t go to beach with bare feet at this time of the year in Michigan, but it’s so pretty to see it.


  24. sarah

    Lovely post, lovely words. It’s always good to be mindful of those without. Thanks for the reminder. :)


  25. Kasey

    Absolutely LOVE the video, Kelsey. And agree that even though this time of year can be hectic, I know that I am lucky to have all sorts of hectic, right alongside all sorts of beauty. Happy holidays! xo


  26. Sarah

    Look at your curly-wavy hair! And windy-beach topknot. You’re adorable.

    “Joy elevates the mundane.” This sums up not only what’s wonderful about this time of year, but what can be wonderful about living.


  27. Golubka

    I enjoyed this video so much! You two are lovely, thanks so much for sharing.


  28. Brandi {not your average ordinary}

    I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to see this post. Utterly and completely, plus some. The video is incredible and all of your food photography is STUNNING! I’m so excited to make this soon — and see what I can create with it!


  29. Kaitlin

    I needed this post. I came across it days ago and it got lost in the millions and bajillions of tabs I have open. I’m kind of happy for it, though, because it’s helping me put a different perspective on the events of the weekend. Thank you for that.

    I’m not sure if my desire to find chestnuts came from seeing this post or not, but I had a lot of fun roasting the ones I finally found today. I didn’t make the spread, but I definitely agree that the peeling process is more fun with a friend. I made these with Mom.

    I showed her the video too because I couldn’t keep it to myself. Totally gorgeous!

    I hope you had a very very merry Christmas :)


  30. Brandon @ Kitchen Konfidence

    Another amazing video. Loved it!!


  31. Megan Gordon

    Oh goodness! We were going to roast chestnuts on Christmas Eve and never got around to it. So I love this idea and can’t wait to try it (good on ice cream you think?). You’re so right about the fellowship among strangers — that’s one of my favorite things about the holidays: the “hello’s” and “happy holidays” from people who usually walk right by you on the street. I hope you had a lovely, lovely holiday filled with baking, blankets, and a little sleeping in.


  32. Vanessa

    Just came across your blog and am looooving your gorgeous photos. <3


  33. Bridget

    This looks amazing!!!


  34. Chrissy

    Ah finally a good chestnut recipe! When I lived in Italy, my home-stay mom would make chestnut jam that was TO DIE FOR. I have been missing it :( So this just made me so happy.


  35. Allison

    I have been reading your blog for about a month now and love it. I have had my eye on this spread for a while, but just now read the post and watched the video. The music was beautiful and I want more! . It is so romantic and made me long for a walk with a lover, but I think that is want food is to some of us , a lover that we walk with in our kitchen at meal time.
    We have 10″ of new snow on the ground and I happen to have left over chestnuts so guess what I am doing… :)


  36. Roasted Chestnut Spread | One Tough CookieOne Tough Cookie

    […] And our chestnut spread turned out beautifully. The vanilla and the touch of sugar give it just enough of a sweetness, and the mellow flavour reminds me of the bean pastes used as fillings in my favourite Asian sweets. The recipe for the spread, and a beautiful video to boot, can be found on the incredibly lovely blog happy yolks. […]

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