eggnog cinnamon swirl bread

The Christmas season always brings with it a flood of memories and emotions for me (all of which, mind you, are grossly exaggerated right now thanks to my physical status. Pretty sure I teared up after watching a life insurance commercial the other day). It reminds me of gatherings with old friends; glittering, nostalgic memories of waiting for Santa to come deliver our presents on Christmas Eve; spending my first Christmas with my husband when he surprised me by decorating our entire place (indoors) with Christmas lights.

It also reminds me of the ones I’ve loved and lost — my sweet grandfathers who never ceased to make me laugh and whom I miss terribly with an aching, gutting feeling every year as the snow begins to fall; and my loving aunt, whose two young boys will be without their mother for the first time this holiday.

Most of all, it reminds of how ridiculously blessed we are in this life. I say this humbly, because I know there are so many hurting and alone this season. Sometimes I feel that pain in my own life, too. And sometimes I feel it for others so much that I become paralyzed with indecision on how to help them. Do I send cookies? A card? Do I just offer a hug? A sympathetic tweet or Facebook message? Will I sound selfish? Aloof? Sometimes I feel like a drop of a few coins in a red bucket outside of the mall just isn’t helpful, so I don’t even do it. Sometimes I clean out our cupboards and completely forget to set aside a few pantry items for the local food shelf. We send money to a child in India, but sometimes I forget we even divvy out that payment every month. Is that enough? Why do I become so overwhelmed by the needs of others that I neglect them?

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sweet potato-marshmallow cinnamon rolls

Sometimes I wonder if I could be one of those people who literally eats the exact same foods every day for his or her entire life. I mean, it would be convenient and there are plenty of foods I love enough to eat on a daily basis. Mashed potatoes are one of them. Same goes for peanut butter and jelly. Bread, duh. I could probably live on enchiladas, too, and cookie dough ice cream for dessert.

But then I think about all those other foods I love that would be neglected (like my beloved brussels sprouts, or macaroni and cheese, or my mom’s spaghetti sauce) and I realize that eating the same foods every day for my whole life would be a real drag (these are the things that take up space in my brain sometimes, I know).

One thing I could eat every day — if my hips would allow it, anyway — are breakfast rolls, reason being because there are so many variations you could make. Like these gingerbread rolls, for instance. Or these raspberry-filled ones, or these Meyer lemon poppy seed ones. Most likely, however, I’d go for these sweet potato-marshmallow cinnamon rolls time and time again because… well, I don’t think that really requires an explanation, do you?

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pumpkin cranberry twists

OK so yes, it’s not even Halloween yet and I’m about to talk about Thanksgiving. But if you’re one of those way-way-ahead Thanksgiving planners, you’ve probably already got most of the menu hashed out for the big day.

Me? Well, I’ve got the rolls covered!

Thanksgiving for us has varied greatly for the past few years. The first year we were hitched, we had Thanksgiving at my parents’ house, so my mom and dad were in charge of the food (and I was in charge of the eating, natch). The following year, we decided to host Thanksgiving, for both families, in our 700-square-foot apartment. It was chaotic and merry all at the same time, and hot. So hot. Twelve people and a not well-ventilated kitchen with the stove and oven going all day in a small space makes for an Amazon-like atmosphere, just FYI.

The next year, we hosted Thanksgiving at our place again but for half the people, which was still merry but less chaotic and Amazon-like. And the year after that, we spent Thanksgiving with Elliott’s fam at their place.

For a few of those years we’ve been in charge of the turkey and some sides and/or desserts. But as much as I love ALL OF THE THANKSGIVING FOOD (seriously, last meal? Thanksgiving dinner), my favorite thing to make for the holiday is rolls. Because carbs.

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raisin-walnut pumpernickel bread

I’m eating a massive slice of this bread right now (as toast, duh) and it is glorious.

I never used to be a morning person. But I was never really a night person, either. And I actually hate that afternoon hour between 4 and 5 p.m. (it just always drags on and on and there’s not even anything good on TV to make it go by faster, you know?). Really, I’m a mid-morning person. The hours between 9 a.m. and noon are my peak hours. I’m like a machine. I get all the things done during this time. I’m super productive. I’d like to thank the toast for this bout of energy.

But then lunchtime rolls around and all I can think about is food, and then once I eat said food all I can think about is taking a nap, and sometimes this may or may not be possible (I’ve tried in all too many inappropriate/inconvenient locations including my car, the back of a classroom, a folding chair, the kitchen table, a hardwood floor, etc. etc.). If I do end up taking a nap, all hope of more productivity is lost because I probably slept too long. Hard knock life, y’all.

ANYWAY, all this to say, in my increasing age I’ve become more of a morning person. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I love being the first one awake in my household (well, besides my cat who has already tried no less than three times to wake me up by incessantly sniffing my face, weirdo), turning on the coffeemaker, checking my e-mails and the Twitter while the coffeemaker makes all its rumbles and pops and trickles, pouring and then guzzling said coffee while watching the sun come up. And of course, the promise of toast. Especially when homemade pumpernickel bread is involved.

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cracked wheat bread

Wheat bread and I, we’re likethis.

Almost every morning, wheat bread serves as the vehicle to getting peanut butter toast into my belly for breakfast. For lunch or dinner, it is oftentimes the base of my sandwiches, grilled cheesus, etc. And when I want dessert that is healthy but also not-so-healthy, a spread of Nutella or cookie butter on a slice of wheat bread comes to the rescue.

We’re basically besties. Also, now you know that my diet is like 80 percent toast.

But cracked wheat bread and I? That’s a whole different story. I’d never put cracked wheat into my bread before making this recipe from Red Star Yeast, let alone tried the stuff on its own. But ho ho hooooo, friends, let me tell you — it’s tasty. Dare I say so tasty, my trusted wheat bread may have some stiff competition.

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