Because, Cheer

I’m feeling the holidays this year. Not in the red and silver tchotchke sense, but for the cheer. The lightness of being. The thoughtfulness that seems on the slight uptick, even in errands and work and travel. Of course, it goes without saying that LIFE IS NOT ABOUT THE STUFF and consumerism = yuck, but I’m putting cynicism on the shelf this season. I’m angsty all year about society and technology and social injustice and and and and and... the list of things induce a palm to forehead gestures is long. In any case, the whole gift thing has gotten pretty polarizing over the years, but I’m going on a hunch that most of us will find ourselves in the position of giving and receiving this year. Here are a few good feel-good ideas for humans who like to read, eat, and savor the moment.

Happyolks | Gift Guide

Yotam Ottolenghi: a master of the craft, in every sense of the word. I finally got my copy of Plenty More –– it’s the kind of cookbook you get through and think, does it get better than this? I think this collection is the perfect gift for a cook who loves daring and true recipes.

I’ve been head over heels for these gorgeous, American-made knives from New West Knifeworks since 2012. I send the Superbread knife out as gifts to clients, and my mom has requested a Santoku under the tree this year. 

This “everything” bag from Winter Session, a colorado company, doubles as my market tote and travel bag. Pricey, but indestructible. I’ve had mine for two years and I anticipate it will last another decade.

Not Without Salt Cookie Mix Does this even need introducing? The inimitable Ashley Rodriguez is at it again with this killer cookie chocolate chip cookie mix. I ordered two and went through them both in a week. Yeah, THAT good.

If a fire came roaring up over our hill, I’d grab a hard-drive of photos and our It’s OK pennant from Secret Holiday Co. It has hung in our 22nd Street bedroom, St. Paul living room, and now lives in our mountain kitchen. I’ve gifted the Be Brave and Yes banners before and still will yet. Simple daily reminders that, yes, life is crazy, but things are pretty darn good.

If it’s possible to choose a favorite work of Anne Lamott, it’s HELP THANKS WOW. A quick, soul-quenching read that leaves me feeling like I just took a giant exhale.

Happyolks | Gift Guide

Quitokeeto Modern Steamer, where utility and elegance coalesce. Just like Heidi, shop owner, herself, I appreciate this tool for it’s understated beauty and practical application.

Heritage, by Sean Brock. I became a mega-fan of Brock’s after seasons 1 & 2 of Mind of a Chef, then planned a quick trip to Charleston to visit  McCrady’s and Husk (heaven is his “On Top of Ol’ Sierra Madre” cocktail)  and experience the way he honors and preserves the culinary history of the South.

I’m head over heels with my Stitch & Hammer apron and this half apron from Food52. This linen number is pretty cute, too.

Level with yourself about how many bags of coffee you really go through in a month and get fresh-roasted parcels delivered at your doorstep before you run out. My friends at Brown Water Coffee donate a fraction of each purchase to sustainable water projects in Nicaragua, how cool is that?

Is there a better way to sip whiskey than with a fancy hunk of ice? I think not.

I’d love to share my experience at Mama O’s (that’s Oprah Winfrey) Life You Want Tour a few weeks back, but I’m still marinating in the feel-good vibes I walked away with. In the meantime, I think her new release “Things I Know For Sure” makes a great stocking stuffer or addition to a homemade gift for your favorite girlfriends.

Happyolks | Gift Guide

I’m in love with this irreverent, quirky 13×19″ print that reads: “I eat no gluten, sugar, dairy, saturated fat, or processed foods… I do, however eat men, women, and small children.” I have a few others from Retrowhale that complete the series. Still trying to figure out the best place to hang these in the new place.

Photos shouldn’t live on your computer. Artifact Uprising makes it easy to honor memories shared and captured with photo books, prints, and cards. Bonus: the folks behind the brand are the REAL deal. We were gifted wedding prints earlier this year, which I adore, and plan on paying it forward to my sister-in-law when she gets her photos in. AU is offering Happyolks readers 10% off any purchase with the following Discount code: BLGHY14.

These Lunar Calendars are for your “woo woo” friend or family member. Both beautiful in aesthetic and chock-a-block with astral insight, I love these calendars as they remind us that life, like the earth, rises and falls, waxes and wanes, and that there is always a new chance to try again.

Produce as a stocking stuffer?  I think yes. I love the preserves from Mm Local, locally grown, organic products from Colorado farmers harvested and canned at the peak of ripeness. I can’t live without the spicy mustard or kale kimchi.

Get yourself (or a loved one that you see often) a turntable and play the 180′ South album while cooking. I love the balance of soulful, meaty, and light songs and the energy they create in the background while entertaining. Sample here.

The 9 quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven is my kitchen workhorse. Expensive, yes, but wholeheartedly worth the investment and sure to make anyone’s eyes light up wrapped up under the tree. From soups to braising, to quick sautes, there is nothing this sucker can’t do.

Shaved & Curried Cauliflower Salad

Happyolks | Shaved & Curried Cauliflower Salad

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

“ We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations. ” — Anais Nin

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Shaved & Curried Cauliflower Salad 

  • 1 extra-large head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1/2 cup dried apricots, quartered
  • 1 cup celery leaves
  • 1 cup flat leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/2 cup mint leaves
  • 1 orange, for juice and zest
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 Tbsp preferred curry powder
  • Red pepper flakes
  • Olive oil
  • Salt


Preheat the oven for 400′ F. Using a mandoline slicer, shave the cauliflower into large pieces. Place on a baking sheet and coat with olive oil, curry powder, juice of half an orange, and orange zest. Bake for 20-30 minutes until the edges brown and crisp. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

In a large bowl, combine celery leaves, parsley, mint, shallots, and apricots. Mix in warm cauliflower and dress with additional orange juice, a lug of olive oil, and a bit of salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

Curry Cauliflower Salad | Happyolks

Happyolks | Shaved & Curried Cauliflower Salad

Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread

Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Happyolks.comFig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread |

Here we are, home in the woods.

There’s nearly a foot of snow on the ground as I write this and the sky doesn’t look like it’s fixing to quit time soon. Erin Brockovich, my favorite movie of all time is playing and I’m perched on the windowsill by the fireplace waiting for a certain Elk that I know lingers around the house to make an appearance.

Loveliness and prettification has NEVER been my schtick, and I hate that the summary of my morning sounds like an Eddie Bauer catalog or one of those instagram accounts that are all leather goods and falling leaves –– BUT life out here does feel good. For all the confused looks we got for making this leap, there is nothing I’ve felt so sure about, next to marrying Shaun. We definitely didn’t know how life would change when we waved goodbye to the city, but we knew it would, and that it would for the better. They say “wherever you go, there you are,” which is true. We brought our same soggy hearts and issues and questions up the canyon with us, but… yeah… and HERE we are, choosing the front row to our own lives and experiences, away from that which no longer serves. I think the “there” can hold more water than we care to admit. But I’m biased. The mountains are my church. It’s impossible to not step outside, breathe deep, and get hit with this rush of perspective. For the first time in a very long time, I think I recognize the sound of my heartbeat again.

There’s this pull-apart bread I’ve been sitting on a while, though. I made it a month ago, the last shoot in the old place. I was feeling that sort of manic-compulsive desire to bake and make a wholly sticky mess of a half-packed kitchen (pro tip: wine bottles make A+ rolling pins). I’m the kind of person who turns to baking when things feel totally psychedelic and out of control. Unlike throwing together something grainy, herby, green-ish, crunchy, tangy in a bowl and calling it a masterpiece, baking requires a high degree of rule-following that tends to turn me off on most days (in the kitchen, and in life). But I appreciate the precision. The requisite patience. The attention to detail. I crave it when everything else in the world feels topsy turvy. I promise the pay-off is big on this one, guys.

Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread |

Fig + Anise Pull-Apart Bread 

For the dough (slightly adapted from The Pioneer Woman): 

  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup butter 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2-1/4 tsp active dry yeast
  • 4 cups AP flour
  • 1/2 cup (additional) AP flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • dash of salt 



  • 2 cups dried mission figs, soaked + softened
  • 2 Tbsp ground anise seed
  • 10 Tbsp butter, melted
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 tsp cinnamon


Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread |

Preheat oven to 350’ F.

Start with the dough. Combine milk and butter in a small sauce pan. Heat until just beginning to steam. Turn off and remove from heat. Stir in yeast and 1/2 cup sugar. Let sit for 5 minutes. In a stand mixer with a bread hook or in a large bowl with wooden spoon, stir together liquid with 4 cups of flour. Wait an hour for the dough to rise, then add 1/2 cup additional flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Place figs in a bowl of warm water to soften for 20 minutes. Strain, dry, and place in the basin of a food processor or a immersion blender. Add anise, melted butter, sugar, and cinnamon. Blend until a sticky paste forms. Add more butter or a bit of milk to thin if necessary. Set aside.

On a floured surface, roll out dough into a large rectangle, about 1/4” thick. Spread fig/anise paste evenly until it covers all of the dough. WARNING: the next phase is extremely messy. It’s unavoidable. Just have fun with it. Cut the dough into 6 to 8 strips, then stack all the strips into one stack. Cut the stack of strips into 6 slices. Place the stacks sideways into a buttered bread pan. If you’re me, you will probably feel the need to shove things in the holes… Dee recommends against this, but hey… it doesn’t always have to be pretty to taste good.

Cover with a dish towel and allow to rise for 20 minutes. Bake for 30 minutes and then check to make sure the top is not browning. Test the center… are things still gooey in there? Cover with tin foil and continue to bake for 10, 15, 20 minutes.

Fig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Happyolks.comFig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread | Happyolks.comFig & Anise Pull-Apart Bread |