I made this salad for Christmas day, based solely on what was "seasonal" both at the market and aesthetically. Red, white, and green . . . not exactly original in concept, but always pretty to look at! It was a huge bonus (and sort of a surprise) that everyone commented on how delicious the salad was--especially on a day like Christmas, when so much food is on offer.

The only trick to this salad is that you need to pickle the red onions a couple of hours (or up to a day) ahead of time. But once that's done, you're all ready to toss and serve.

I posted this last year (and the year before!), but as I look forward to making my stock, rolls, and cranberry sauce this week, it occurred to me that it bears repeating...so here's my official guide to how to prepare Thanksgiving without losing your mind in the process! Tomorrow, I'm going to break with tradition and also post a series of links--some from this blog, some from other places--that direct you to some of our family favorites.

If I've said it once, I've said it a million times--I love banana bread, and I just can't resist tinkering around with new versions. Today, with several brown bananas and half a carton of good ricotta cheese on my hands, I put this version together (with help from The Chubby Vegetarian) and was amazed by the result. The taste is good, sure, but I've hardly ever met a banana bread I didn't like. What sets this one apart is the texture--moist, but not in any way wet.

It's not every day your baby turns 4, so we'd been discussing his perfect cake together for some time. As soon as I showed him one of the countless pinterest shots of a rainbow layer cake, he was sold--but with a few caveats. As a serious lover of rainbows, he wanted to be sure that ALL 7 colors--including indigo--were included. And that they were stacked in order (remember ROYGBIV? I do now!). And that the frosting was white but the words were also indigo.

I made these again recently and was reminded of how incredibly tasty they are. Thus, a quick repost!

In the fall of 2009, when we were still living in Italy, we were invited to a paella party thrown by some Spanish friends. Never being ones to turn down the opportunity to eat delicious Spanish food, we showed up hungry--but, to be sure we'd be invited back, we weren't empty-handed. In addition to a bottle of Rioja, we also brought some little parmesan-pancetta rolls that I made.

One food that both of my kids can agree NOT to like is sweet potatoes--which means I'm constantly trying to figure out ways to get them over their dislike and sneak a little yam into their diet. At my parents' house a few weeks ago, my dad was preparing a chicken on the grill rotisserie, and I noticed that all the lovely rack space was completely empty. Can't have that!

And thus, a tasty new summer side came to life.

One of my very favorite Italian foods is ricotta cheese--the fresh stuff, made by actual Italians, in Italy. But we don't live in Italy any more, so I realized I could either mourn and pine or get busy and figure out how to make it myself. I won't lie, I gave serious contemplation to the former option--I had visions of being the broody, waif-like figure at the cheese counter, asking plaintively if they had any ricotta that Sargento hadn't gotten its corporate mitts on.

If you've never tried a charred cherry tomato, you've been missing out. Not only is it an amazingly beautiful thing on your plate--served as a side, mixed with pasta, etc.--it's also amazing to eat. Definitely proof for the triumph of simplicity, if you're ever locked in a philosophical battle about such things....

How fun is it to take a food that's always associated with one cuisine, and adapt it to the flavors and ingredients of another? For example...Mexican into Japanese. But it wasn't just fun--the result turned out to be wonderful in a completely unexpected way.

You know how you sometimes need to sift just a little powdered sugar over the top of a cake to finish it off? And it seems like overkill to pull out your big sifter or mesh strainer for a tablespoon's worth of sugar?

Try this instead: go to your kitchen junk drawer and pull out the tea strainer that you never use because it actually doesn't work all that well with loose tea.