‘Tis the season to be so incredibly busy that it takes a summons for Jury Duty to give me an opportunity to write something down here. It also takes another two weeks afterward to actually finish this post, while sitting at JFK waiting for my flight to Minnesota.

Under normal circumstances, I would have envisioned myself baking up a storm this holiday season and hopefully blogging a few recipes to share with the many people I wish I could be near right now. Instead, I found myself barely penciling in a night that my husband and I could sit by the tree and exchange gifts.

I guess it should go without saying that Christmas is like none other this year, fully equipped with bursts of sudden realizations and reminders that this is the first Christmas without Dad, a patriarch in the McCaffrey family household at Christmas. He who would adorn the wrapping paper and bows on his bald head after we had shredded open our gifts with shrieks of excitement and anticipation. The man who would eat my silly cut-out cookies on Christmas Eve, long after I had fallen asleep, leaving a note of thanks for the delicious treats (Love, Santa.) The man who drove through a blizzard to get us to the cabin, so that my fiance could propose to me, just days before Christmas.

Christmas 2007

Walking around the city at Christmas time doesn’t really drum up memories of Dad, specifically, so much as just memories all around. Christmas memories. Trees. Lights. Cold. Red. Green. Life. Happiness.


Christmas 2008 in Brooklyn

Dad and Baby Oliver. Christmas 2009

I was able to catch one of New York City’s old timey trains a couple of weeks ago. Apparently, they decided to run some really old subway trains to get New Yorkers feeling that nostalgia. I didn’t really need the boost there, but I took the opportunity and hopped on, only to find out it was from the 1940’s. Rickety. Smelly. Old.

Inside train.

Old, but certainly not dead. It ran perfectly and got us where we needed to be.

Honestly, I don’t know how much longer I can keep up this blog, but I can tell you one thing: in times of desperation and confusion, there is truly great comfort in food. Sometimes, we abuse that comfort and lose control. Other times, we find ourselves surrounded by some really great people, eating something delicious and sharing in new memories.

Here is something to hopefully bring more cheer to everyone I know. Merry Christmas to you all- and may you find the people in your life that mean the most to you and make many more memories, for years to come.

Apple Muffins:

adapted from Martha Stewart

Makes 2 Dozen.

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4 cups coarsely shredded apples, such as Macintosh (about 1 3/4 pounds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line mini muffin tins with paper liners; set aside.

Whisk together flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.

Put butter and sugar into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Mix in eggs and vanilla. Reduce speed to low; mix in apples. Add flour mixture; mix, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until just combined.

Divide batter among lined cups, filling halfway; bake until tops are springy to the touch, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove cupcakes from tins; transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Maple Cream Cheese Frosting

Adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Two (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

In a stand mixer beat all the ingredients on medium until fluffy. Chill the frosting for 10 to 20 minutes, until it has set up enough to spread smoothly.