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Having been out of cooking commission for most of fall, I missed the season of fancy party snacks and holiday breakfasts. I spent December gazing at a certain very delicious little face, foregoing the mistletoe and the cocktail parties. Now it’s January, and the cinnamon rolls and champagne flutes are fading in the rear view mirror on your way to the gym. 2015, you came quickly.

But I’ve been making up for lost time, now that the babe and I have hit our stride. We’ve had scones and omelettes for brunch, wintry mixed drinks at happy hour, and plenty of snacks. I’ll spare you the over-the-top breakfasts and the bourbony indulgence — for now — but the snacks I’ve been making these past couple weeks are too good not to share. Think of it as some belated holiday cheer.

These dates snapped back into my repertoire after I received a version of them from a friend, shortly after Adi was born. Jana, an excellent cook (and now a maker of very fancy cakes), slipped some chevre into pitted dates, and topped each date with a slice of pistachio and a pinch of minced chives. I ate one, then shamelessly ate all the others before D could get any. And then, the very next day, I added a TJ’s run to our itinerary to pick up dates and chives and chevre and do the whole thing again.

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Since Adi was born, we’ve been the extremely lucky beneficiaries of meals that our friends have prepared and delivered to us a few times each week. While I’ve managed to cook and bake a few things, the opportunities tend to come in very short spurts: 30 minutes of down time in the morning means I can put up a bread dough or simmer some lentils, and if I’m lucky, I get an hour of quiet in the afternoons to bake off that bread or season those lentils. Lunch time isn’t downtime, though, so I often find myself reaching for a few apple slices and a hunk of cheese from the fridge, just enough to tide me over. I’ve got a bag of mixed nuts and raisins that I keep on the side table where I nurse, and I’d say I polish off that bag and call it lunch more often than not.

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There was a time when apples and cheese weren’t just snacks to grab on the go. We’re part of a wine club, which meets once a month for wine tasting and a dinner, cooked by the host, to match the wine. Before the babe was born, my brother- and sister-in-law Adam and Julie hosted an evening of Rioja tasting, and Julie made an absolutely bang-up meal to go with the wine, riffed on tapas she’d eaten at restaurants around town. Pretty much everything on the table was a standout, but one recipe in particular has become a staple in our house ever since: a simple, addictive apple salad with shavings of manchego cheese, buttery marcona almonds, and roasted garlic dressing.

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