As I return to the test kitchen after my maternity leave, I feel as if I never left. It’s amazing how second nature cooking is to those who are avid cooks. It feels good to be back discussing the bitterness of fennel and the burn of vodka.

With a fury of activity surrounding the end of the year, our deadlines are tight. Four stories need to be tested, edited, and shot in the next three weeks. I initially wished for an easy, laid-back week to ease back into things, but all the activity has turned out to be a blessing: The constant twinges of heartache from missing my daughter are pretty strong, and the distractions are welcome. So bring on the brownies and bratwurst, people, and give me something to cook!

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