Cranberry Pecan Bread

A good alternative to raiding grocery store shelves for things one may not ordinarily buy in bulk but that are imperative to have on-hand during a weather semi-emergency – bottled water, bagged bread, peanut butter, hot dogs (maybe, maybe not), big clear plastic gallons of milk – is to host a baking marathon. Attendees: the baker, a TV show or movie that requires only intermittent attention to follow the plot line (say, Con Air with commercial breaks, or Burn Notice, or Best in Show — but only if you’ve seen it a few times already), and maybe someone to eat up all the finished products.  Should this storm really ratchet up, I might regret buying pastry flour, sticks of butter, and lemons instead of edible staples. Ice cream somehow found its way into the grocery bag too, so if the power goes out, please join us for a freezer par-tay. All joking aside, with lots of family and friends living up and down the coast, we’re hoping for a quick turnaround and a lesser impact than what is predicted for this storm that just so happens to share my opposite-of-destructive mother’s name.

Thanks to a few episodes of season 3 of Nikita, we’ve got a loaf of pecan and cranberry-studded bread cooling next to a pear and apple crisp that also is…cranberry-studded. Nikita herself probably doesn’t eat anything baked, or anything with fat, salt, or sugar for that matter, but she might be enticed to chow down on a slice of this bread before she heads off to ride motorcycles and karate-chop bad guys. It’s got the texture of a good banana bread with a slightly crunchy top due to a sprinkling of sugar, and the usual blah-blah-blah about how the tartness of the cranberries nicely offsets the sweetness of the bread. They really do, though. As soon as I can get my hands on more fresh cranberries, I’m making this again.

Cranberry Pecan Bread
(Very slightly adapted from Martha Stewards recipe found here)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 cups all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
12 ounces fresh cranberries (if buying in the store, 1 bag is typically 12 oz.)
1/2 cup pecans, toasted and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar, for topping (I used regular sugar)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees; grease a loaf pan (I use coconut oil spray, but Martha says butter and flour, and she is Martha).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, brown sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a medium bowl, mix together butter, egg, milk, and extracts. Add wet mixture to dry mixture and stir until just combined, then fold in cranberries and pecans.

Pour batter into your loaf pan; sprinkle top with turbinado sugar if desired.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Transfer pan to a wire rack; let bread cool 30 minutes. Invert onto rack, then immediately turn right side up to cool completely.

Home Alone

Not really appropriate for a Saturday night, this song would be more fitting under a semi-dramatic PG scene where the hero comes to grips with the fact that he needs to face his enemy and then sets about preparing to do so. Like in Home Alone I and II when Kevin starts booby-trapping his house/derelict apartment building.


Speaking of which, there is an entire web page devoted to the booby traps in the four (four?!?) Home Alone movies and it’s quite thorough. There’s really nothing you can’t find within 3 seconds on the internet. Now go rig an iron to fall down the laundry chute before the bad guys get here.

Sometimes You Find Yourself in the Strangest of Places

80% of this job involves sitting at a desk in front of a computer flanked by stacks of books and haphazardly arranged files, kept company by a stealthily reproductive family of 17 thumb drives and a blanket of post-it notes.  Much of what happens at the computer is quite interesting.  But the other 20% of my work time sees a little more physical action and a change of scenery.

It’s during the 20% portion that it’s often necessary for a little pinch reminder that yes, this is my reality. It might be because that Civil War soldier is eating Cheetos. But has he signed an appearance release yet?

It could stem from the fact that the 1919 synagogue where we’re rearranging pews used to be adjacent to a Beacon Hill brothel. (Bostonites – Did you ever think you’d hear “Beacon Hill” and “brothel” in the same sentence? Heck no! But be quick and pass the embroidered khakis and sockless boat shoes before John Kerry spots us).

Perhaps it comes when I have to ask a skeptical building manager if he’ll please give me access to the icy roof of this 50+story building in mid-January to take a few pictures in between 60 mph wind gusts? Thanks, and I promise not to set off the emergency exit alarm again on my way out.

Or maybe: Do I know how to hang brocade curtains in a shuttered hospital wing? No, but I’ll take a crack at it if you hand me the staple gun. Where is Frederick Douglass supposed to sit again?

No matter what or where or how, that 20% is way fun. And even if it doesn’t teach me how to manage my 401K instead of stashing my savings of Sacajawea coins in a Bass shoebox under the bed, it enforces my enormous respect for all the people out there that do know how to do that. And who keep the traffic lights working and their kids’ noses clean and administer flu shots, or who run volunteer organizations or help others with taxes or translate legal documents.

Everybody finds themselves in some strange places sometimes – where’s the randomest place you’ve been as a result of your job?

A’s Medical “Fact” of the Day

My sister A, a second-year med school student, occasionally contributes Medical Facts of the Day. Today’s is less gory than usual, which is nice because it means that salmon post I’ve got all geared up to go can bookend what you see below. Without further ado…

I Like Ike… and Rat Poison 

The year was 1955. Dwight D. Eisenhower was vacationing with the in-laws in Denver, Colorado, enjoying some golf when he started experiencing some angina. Later that evening, his crushing substernal chest pain intensified, and he was rushed to the nearest hospital. The coronary artery supplying the anterior portion of Ike’s heart, called the Left Anterior Descending or “Widow-maker’s artery” had been blocked by a ruptured atherosclerotic plaque, causing oxygen deprivation of his heart tissue.

In present times, “crushing substernal chestpain,” the telltale sign of a heart attack, is immediately worked up with an EKG and blood tests for cardiac enzymes, and patients are given sublingual aspirin, heparin, oxygen, morphine, and thrombolytics, and placed on secondary prophylaxis with Coumadin. But back in the day, treatment wasn’t so established. Ike was given oxygen, morphine, and heparin, and lay in bed sick for days at enormous risk of suffering from subsequent MI and death.

Wasn’t there something more we could do for this VIP??? Everyone was wondering. Everyone who knew, that is, since his illness was kept secret from the nation. His doctor, Dr. Paul Dudley White, the “Father of American Cardiology” suggested a new treatment – warfarin. Warfarin had been used as rat poison, where in application it led to thinning of the blood and hemorrhage in rodents. There had been very little research done on human subjects, but the drug’s anti-thrombotic effects seemed promising.

So Dr. White gave rat poison to the president. And the president lived, running for another term of presidency just a year later. Warfarin is now routinely used for patients at risk of thromboembolic disease, thanks to Dr. White, Ike, and any rats injured along the way.

Stay tuned for more Presidents in Medicine. Next up: Honest Abe the…Syphilitic?
(Side note: If you like Lincoln, Chris Sarandon, and history, check out Hour 3 of the PBS series God in America. Vested interests are present here.)
Photo credit: Library of Congress, LC-USZ62-104961

The Amish

Did you tune in for The Amish documentary on PBS’s American Experience last night?  It’s a beautiful, thoughtful film – the visuals are breathtaking, the score is lovely, the stories make you weep, and you learn without fully realizing how much information you’re absorbing.  It was pretty neat to work under the same roof with most of the production team, watching as they toiled to get access, find the stories, shoot, edit, and craft the film. Kudos to them and the crew.

Miss the premiere? You can watch it online at

Would love to hear what you think about it!

Childhood Music Archives

When Ace of Base was getting big, I was still popping in cassette tapes while my peers rocked those flashy compact discs. No big deal, because in late 1992, our household finally got its first CD: Supertramp’s Classics, Vol. 9.  As good as Buddha, Malin, Jenny, Joker and “The Sign” are, they don’t hold a sputtering candle to “Crime of the Century” or “Give a Little Bit” or a dozen other Supertramp songs. If you haven’t listened to them lately, please put them on and enjoy a few tunes. Enjoy them just like this happy crowd:


It’s not difficult to claim superiority for Supertramp over Ace of Base, but really our musical tastes weren’t/aren’t that well informed. My family’s early collection also contained “The Bodyguard” soundtrack, Green Day’s “Dookie,” and a regularly spun Ghostbusters II record. Regularly. Ghostbusters II. I don’t think we ever even saw the movie, so I’m not sure how we ended up with the record but there it was wedged between “Mousercise” and “Kukla, Fran and Ollie.”

Mousercise really should have its own dedicated post. We had great whirling dervish dance parties in footed pajamas to that record. Any other children of the 80s that know what I’m talking about?