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Month: December 2016

Limoncello Kiss

Limoncello Kiss

Limoncello Kiss

Here we are, finally, at the end of 2016 and it’s time for a Limoncello Kiss.  I can’t say that this year has been that bad for us. I am sorry, though, for the general unrest in the rest of the world.  I always face the beginning of a new year with a little anticipation and a bit of trepidation, as well.  With good reason, I suspect that this year will bring about some major changes in our lives.  We are facing a potential move again, so we’ll see.  I’ve used the last few days of 2016 tidying up around the house.  This has included cleaning out the garage and generally evaluating what’s worth moving and what’s not.

I’ve also had a great week cooking.  If there is any constant in the new year, I very much hope it involves cooking and blogging.  I’m also hopeful to be able to continue to be close to fresh and local foods, as these past nearly seven years of living in the PNW have transformed how I’ve cooked – we really do eat very seasonally and I enjoy the ebb and flow of the seasons for that reason.

The Limoncello Kiss is my farewell to 2016 – I thought this year needed a sweet kiss to finish it out.   If you are in the mood to make your own limoncello, Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe on Food Network is both quick and yummy.  Plus, with the leftover lemons, you’ll have a great excuse to make a lemon meringue pie or lemon bars.  The Limoncello Kiss is a nod to one of my favorite cocktails at Pastini’s which is a lovely pasta chain in Portland.

Wishing you all the happiest 2017!

Limoncello Kiss

Limoncello Kiss

limoncello kiss

Limoncello Kiss

Ingredients

  • 1 ounce vodka or gin
  • 1 ounce limoncello
  • Prosecco

Instructions

  1. Combine the vodka or gin and the limoncello in a champagne flute. Top off with chilled Prosecco.
  2. Enjoy!
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Top Five from 2016 and Five Goals for 2017

Top Five from 2016 and Five Goals for 2017

Like many, I’m glad to see the end of 2016.  I was doing pretty well avoiding whole scale resentment for the year, and then George Michael died.  And my reaction was, really 2016?  Bowie, Prince and George Michael, all in the same year?  And in case you are wondering if my musical tastes are primarily stuck in the 80’s, I’m incredibly sad about Ralph Stanley, Merle Haggard, Leonard Cohen, and Sharon Jones, too.

On the other hand, I’ve cooked a lot of good food this year, including the five most popular recipes here on Fix Me a Little Lunch.

Eggnog Ricotta Pancakes were hands down the most popular recipe this year.  I can see why – who doesn’t love eggnog?  These pancakes were so fluffy and so very, very rich – I’m thinking I’ll be making them again for New Year’s Day brunch.

My Crockpot Posole was also quite popular this year.  It’s such a great slow-cooker recipe, I wasn’t surprised.  We made up a batch of this for Christmas Eve this year and froze several more nights worth.  One of my favorite things about this recipe was that it was the first time I participated in Cook the Books.  I’m really excited about all the inspiration that will come from next year’s book picks.

Greek Spaghetti Squash was a big hit this year, as well.  This was my last office lunch for the year, as we ended up with four snow days and then vacation right around the same time I made this.

Greek Spaghetti Squash

I had a great time this fall going out to Sauvie Island to get winter squash.  As always, I bought a few too many squash, but it wasn’t a problem, since my over indulgence inspired me to make Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Pesto.  If I had to pick a favorite of my own from this year, it might be this one – mostly because I love cheese, squash and pasta.

And last, but certainly not least, is my Mandarin Orange Mule.  I’m glad I finally got with the times and bought a copper mug for Moscow Mules, as they are now high on my list of favorite cocktails.

Mandarin Orange Mule

So there we are – the top five from 2016.

I’m looking forward to 2017.  I know there are likely to be some major changes on the way (more on that in future blog posts, I’m sure), but I’m hopeful they won’t impact my time working on my blog.  I like to spend a little time reflecting on the year before, as well as looking forward and setting goals moving forward.  So – in no particular order – here are my five goals for Fix Me a Little Lunch for 2017.

  1. Keep improving my photography.  I had one photo accepted by foodgawker this year for my Red Kuri Risotto recipe and would like to keep working on lighting, composition and so on in 2017.
  2. Create and mostly stick to an editorial calendar.  I started working on this in December and realized it wasn’t that hard to plan out December 2017’s blog posts.  Now let’s see if I can fill in all the other months of the year. Some of this is product dependent, of course, as I’m committed to keeping Fix Me a Little Lunch all about seasonal foods and recipes.
  3. Continue to be inspired by blog challenges – Cook the Books and Food n’ Flix were my favorite inspirations this year.  The books and movies kept me inspired, as did the community of other food bloggers who created some really fantastic recipes.
  4. Explore the whole affiliate/sponsored post thing.  I’m a little wary of ads – I’m not a huge fan of navigating them on others sites, so not sure I want to do this on my own blog.  On the other hand, I’d love to share some of the products that I love with my readers.
  5. Grow my email list to at least a 1,000 subscribers.  Right now, I have seven.  I love those seven people who are interested in reading my posts regularly – and would like to find some more.  To this end, I’ll be starting a monthly newsletter in January that will include a round up of my favorite recipes from the month before, a bonus recipe featuring a seasonal veggie or fruit, and a profile of a seasonal veggie or fruit.  Sign up to be on my email list and be on the lookout for my first newsletter.

Happy Near Year everyone!  Let’s hope that 2017 is prosperous and happy, and let’s keep eating good food!

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins are one of the tastiest breakfast treats to make.  They take a bit of time, but are absolutely worth it.  With about two hours of your time, most of it hands off, you’ll have the fluffiest Homemade English Muffins.  Who wouldn’t want a homemade English muffin, smothered in butter and jam?

I’ve always had a fondness for English muffins.  Their craggy surface is just begging to be toasted and have a bit of butter drizzled over them.  For years, I’d eaten store bought English muffins and wondered if there was a particular secret or trick to making them.  English muffins were kind of like bagels in that regard – something made with yeast that was too complicated to make at home.  Ok, so I haven’t made bagels yet, but when I made homemade English muffins a few years ago around the holidays, I realized they weren’t that hard at all.

There is a two-step process to cooking the muffins. The first step is to brown them on both sides in a cast iron or non-stick pan.  Then, they bake in the oven for just a little while to bake all the way through.  I don’t see the need to use English muffin rings, as the dough holds its shape.

The one difference is that homemade English muffins aren’t quite as craggy – there aren’t as many air pockets in them.  Still, they toast up really well and have a nice, dense and chewy texture that goes so well with butter and jam, as well as holds up to various breakfast sandwich ingredients.  They also are absolutely heavenly as the base for Eggs Benedict.  These make a great weekend baking project, as well as a yummy treat.

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Homemade English Muffins

Ingredients

  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon active yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon softened butter
  • 1 egg

Instructions

  1. Heat the milk until it is warm to the touch (110 degrees if you have a thermometer). In a medium sized bowl, combine the warm milk and the yeast and let sit for a few minutes.
  2. Combine the flour and salt in another bowl. Add the flour and salt mix, the softened butter, and the egg to the milk and yeast. Combine until you've made a shaggy dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for six to eight minutes. You may need to add a bit more flour to keep the dough from sticking. Once the dough has formed a smooth ball, return it to the bowl and cover with a clean tea towel or plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm spot for an hour.
  4. After the first rise, turn the dough out on a floured surface and divided it into 6 or 8 pieces (depending on the size you'd like your English muffins). Roll each segment into a ball and flatten slightly. Place the English muffins on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside and let rise for an hour.
  5. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Preheat a cast iron skillet or a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When your skillet is hot, add the English muffins, four muffins at a time (or more, if you have the room in your skillet). Cook the English muffins for 5 minutes per side (or until each side is golden brown).
  6. Place each browned English muffin on the baking sheet (lined with parchment paper or lightly oiled). When all English muffins are browned, bake in your pre-heated oven for 10 minutes or until the muffins are a deep golden brown and sound hollow when tapped.
  7. Let the English muffins cool slightly before splitting them open. Enjoy!
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Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

One of the great joys of the holiday season is creating and trying out new recipes, like this Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict.  I’d never eaten Eggs Benedict before we moved to Washington.  I’ll confess that I have been fairly intimidated by runny yolks on eggs.  It’s just one of those quirky things.  As a kid, I absolutely hated eggs.  I could sort of tolerate them scrambled, with plenty of salt and butter.  My grandmother, who was a firm believer in eggs as a key protein, would make pancakes that were more egg than pancake to disguise the eggs, but still get me to eat them. I really thought that hard-boiled eggs were the absolute worst; they struck me as a rubbery abomination.

Fortunately, I grew out of my egg aversion with a vengeance.  I started eating hard boiled eggs when I lived in the Marshall Islands.  They were a cheap and easy source of protein and with enough salt on them, they weren’t too bad.  My relationship with eggs really changed when I met Clay – he makes the most amazing fluffy scrambled eggs and when combined with fried potatoes and avocado in a breakfast burrito, I’m in foodie heaven.  Of course, when we moved to Oregon and I started getting farmer’s market eggs, I learned that not all eggs are created equal.  My first encounter with a really fresh egg with a deep golden yolk was transformative.  Since then, I’ve been really curious about what people see in a runny egg yolk.

I eased into Eggs Benedict, starting out by ordering hard poached eggs.  And then one day, I didn’t bother and experienced a lovely golden egg yolk running all over my English muffin.  Oh, yum.

So this year, I decided it would be great fun to make my own hollandaise sauce, my own English muffins, and recreate my favorite Eggs Benedict dish with bacon and avocado.  This Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict would be the perfect way to start the New Year.  Timing wise, this makes an ideal brunch.

The biggest challenge I encountered with this was the timing of all the parts.  So here’s what I learned:

  1. I recommend making your own English Muffins.  My recipe is linked.  You can start the dough the night before, taking it all the way through the first rise.  Punch down the dough and put it in the fridge overnight.  Take it out thirty minutes before you shape the dough into the English muffins and proceed as directed from there.
  2. Cook the bacon in advance and reheat it.
  3. Cook the Hollandaise and then set it aside while you poach the eggs.  Reheat it gently over very low heat until it is lukewarm.  Be sure to keep whisking it as you do this so the emulsion doesn’t fall apart.
  4. If you aren’t into poached eggs, fry your eggs instead.  You’ll never notice the difference under all the Hollandaise.

Most importantly, enjoy!

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict

Ingredients

    Makes 4 servings
  • Hollandaise Sauce
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup slightly softened butter, cut into tablespoon sized slices
  • Eggs Benedict
  • 8 strips cooked bacon
  • 2 avocados, sliced
  • 4 English muffins, split in half and toasted
  • 8 poached eggs
  • Hollandaise sauce
  • Freshly ground pepper

Instructions

    To make the Hollandaise Sauce
  1. Off the burner, combine the egg yolks, water, and lemon in a small saucepan. Whisk to combine.
  2. Put the saucepan over a burner set on low heat. Whisk constantly until the eggs begin to get frothy and start to thicken. There will be a noticeable change in the egg mixture - they will begin to increase in volume as well as will start to get thick enough you will be able to see the bottom of the saucepan as you whisk. When this occurs, take the eggs off the heat and whisk in the butter, one tablespoon at a time. When one tablespoon of butter is fully incorporated, add the next until it's all been added.
  3. To assemble the Bacon Avocado Eggs Benedict
  4. Split each strip of bacon into two pieces. Lay two pieces of bacon on each half of the English muffins. Lay one or two slices of avocado on top of each English muffin. Lay the poached eggs on top of the avocado and then divide the Hollandaise sauce equally over each muffin. Grind fresh pepper over each.
  5. Enjoy!
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Blood Orange Cosmopolitan

Blood Orange Cosmopolitan

This Blood Orange Cosmopolitan is a festive way to wrap up holiday shopping or enjoy after a stressful afternoon of holiday shopping.  I’m so delighted it’s citrus season again.  I found these lovely blood oranges at Whole Foods and couldn’t resist buying several to eat and to see how blood orange juice would taste in a cosmopolitan variation.  I also happened to have one of those cute tiny bottles of cranberry vodka that I picked up recently with the thought that I’d eventually do something with it.
A cosmopolitan is one of those classic easy drinks that takes just a few ingredients with spectacular results.  The blood orange brightens the drink and complements the orange liqueur.  I used vanilla sugar to coat the rim and then couldn’t resist photographing the finished product with as many glittery things as I could find.  I then sipped on the end product while watching the latest episode of this season’s Top Chef – the best way to spend a Friday evening right before Christmas.
Blood Orange Cosmopolitan
Blood Orange Cosmopolitan
Blood Orange Cosmopolitan

Ingredients

  • 2 Oz vodka
  • 1/2 Oz triple sec or cointreau
  • 1 Oz cranberry juice
  • Juice from half a blood orange
  • Slice of a blood orange and a few cranberries to garnish

Instructions

  1. Combine the vodka, triple sec, cranberry juice, and blood orange juice with a few ice cubes in a cocktail shaker. Shake and then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of blood orange and a few cranberries. Enjoy!
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This post is linked to the Saucy Saturday #76 Linky Party.  For more wonderful holiday recipes, check out the hosts’ sites:

Take Two Tapas, La Petit Chef, Mid-Life Croissant and The Flavor Bender

Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Kahlua marshmallows and homemade instant hot chocolate are a perfect holiday gift and a super cozy self-care treat for days when the snow is coming down or the rain is pouring.    Many years ago, I went to a presentation at a conference for women in higher education and heard a president of a community college in Oregon whom I very much admire talk about the concept of self-care.  This was several years before I formally entered into therapy (long story there) and hadn’t thought about the idea of work-life balance in any sort of depth.  What really resonated for me from that presentation was the idea of “bliss breaks”: brief moments during the day in which you do something just for you, whether it’s taking a walk in the autumn leaves or drinking some hot chocolate.  This recipe is perfectly designed for a bliss break: it’s easy to make, so low stress on the weekend, and can be stored in a plastic snack baggie in your desk drawer.  Add hot water in a pretty mug, stir and call it a happy moment.

Marshmallows are incredibly easy to make and lots of fun, particularly because marshmallow fluff has a tendency to be very active as you are making it – crawling up the mixer beaters, for example, and creating beautiful peaks and valleys as it is being mixed.  A few tips that I learned the hard way: first – when you finish with the sugar mixture and it’s been added to the gelatin, immediately start soaking your saucepan and candy thermometer.  Otherwise, you’ll be chipping out sugar from your pan.  Do the same with the bowl and any utensil that the marshmallow fluff comes in contact with – the faster you clean it out, the easier it will be, as marshmallow sticks to everything!  The second is to butter the spatula that will come into contact with the marshmallow when you are transferring it from the bowl to a pan to set.  This makes it so much easier to get it moved from bowl to pan.  Finally, used powdered sugar liberally on any other utensil you’ll use on the marshmallow.  I was able to cut out the cutest shapes from the set marshmallow by dipping the cookie cutters in powdered sugar first.  The same goes for the knife you’ll use to cut the marshmallows if you decide to cut them into squares.  I’ve also read that you have to have a stand mixer to make these.  While I’d imagine it would be about a thousand times easier to do this with a stand mixer, I’ve used a hand mixer without any problems.

I’m going to enjoy Kahlua marshmallows and homemade instant hot chocolate while gazing at the lights of the Christmas tree and listening to Pink Martini’s holiday collection.  With any luck, we’ll get a white Christmas here in the PNW or at least a pretty icy one.  Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as I do!

Kahlua Marshmallows and Homemade Instant Hot Chocolate

Ingredients

    Instant Hot Chocolate Mix
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup dry milk powder
  • 1 ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • ½ crushed candy cane (optional)
  • Kahlua Marshmallows
  • 2 packets Knox Gelatin
  • 1 cup cold water, divided into ½ cup portions
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 2 tablespoons Kahlua
  • Powdered sugar

Instructions

    For the Instant Hot Chocolate Mix
  1. Layer the ingredients in a jar and mix by either stirring or putting a lid on the jar and shaking. This can be stored in a dry place for several months. To use, combine ¼ cup of the mix with hot water and stir.
  2. For the Kahlua Marshmallows
  3. Prepare a baking sheet or cake pan by greasing it thoroughly with butter and coating it with powdered sugar (similar technique to greasing and flouring a pan for a cake). Set aside.
  4. Sprinkle the gelatin over ½ cup of cold water in a large mixing bowl and set aside. (If you are using a stand mixer, do this part in your bowl for the mixer).
  5. In a large saucepan, combine ½ cup cold water and the sugar. Bring to a boil. Stir continuously and check the temperature with a candy thermometer. When the sugar and water mixture has reached 240 degrees (soft ball stage), take the mix off the heat.
  6. Add the sugar/water mixture to the gelatin. Add the Kahlua. Use a stand mixer or hand mixer to beat the combined ingredients for about 10 minutes or until the marshmallow is light and fluffy and starts to hold its shape. I generally figure I’m at this stage when the marshmallow is crawling all the way up the beaters to the mixer
  7. .
  8. Butter a spatula thoroughly. Use the spatula to release the marshmallow fluff from the bowl and spread into your prepared pan. Sprinkle powdered sugar over the marshmallow and set aside to set – about thirty minutes or so. When the mixture is set, cut with a buttered knife or cookie cutters and roll the marshmallows in powdered sugar.
  9. Marshmallows will last for several days in an airtight container. Enjoy!
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Preserved Lemon Tuna Salad

Preserved Lemon Tuna Salad

I have just one day in the office this week before the holiday break, so decided to make preserved lemon tuna salad as a quick one-day only lunch.  I’ve had quite a bit of lemon going on these last few days.  I’m preparing to make a sparkly New Year’s Eve cocktail for Fix Me a Little Lunch, which I’ll post later this week.  To do this, though, I needed limoncello.  Limoncello is one of my favorite liqueurs, but I hesitate to pay the hefty $20 plus for a store bought bottle when it is so easy to make at home.  So – I stocked up on ten lemons, with the only purpose to peel them and saturate the peels with vodka.  But then, of course, I had ten naked lemons to contend with and couldn’t stand the thought of wasting them.  Naturally, this led to my hubby requesting a lemon meringue pie, which is something I’ve never, ever made.  As I’m writing this, it’s cooling and I’ll confess that I’m pretty afraid to cut into it.  I don’t fully trust that the meringue set quite like it should have, which will only make me determined to try again.  Good thing I still have plenty of lemon juice left from those ten naked lemons!

Good thing, too, that my preserved lemons are ready to use and could be chopped up for this preserved lemon tuna salad so I could have a quick and easy sandwich ready to go for lunch tomorrow.  I did make the baguettes in the photos for this lunch.  I opted for a more traditional baguette that required a starter and an overnight period of time for the starter to bubble and rise.  It’s safe to say that I’m ready for vacation and getting a head start on baking and cooking.  The recipe for the baguette, by the way, is on the King Arthur Flour site (here).  If you have the time, it’s definitely worth it to make fresh baguettes.  If you don’t – a store bought baguette will work fine, too, for a preserved lemon tuna salad sandwich.

preserved lemon tuna salad

preserved lemon tuna salad

Preserved Lemon Tuna Salad

Ingredients

  • 1 can water packed tuna
  • 1 tablespoon preserved lemon, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 - 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • Black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine all ingredients in a small bowl. Serve on a baguette or lettuce leaves. Enjoy!
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Flaming Gingerbread Martini

Flaming Gingerbread Martini

This holiday happy hour is a Flaming Gingerbread Martini, inspired by December’s Food’n Flix movie Krampus (hosted by All Roads Lead to the Kitchen).  As you might know already, Krampus is a holiday/comedy/horror movie from 2015 starring Toni Collette and Adam Scott.  It’s loosely based on European legends of a horned, devil like creature who was jolly old St. Nick’s counterpart, who took care of the naughty children while St. Nick distributed gifts to the nice children.  The movie chronicles the really bad night of a family who have lost the spirit of Christmas and get subjected to Krampus’s minions terrorizing them and eventually dumping them all in a devil ridden pit.  Or at least this was what I was able to get from the movie that I mostly watched through my fingers.  Yes – it’s over-the-top not-that-scary horror, but I’m easily creeped out and really hate anything that looks like a doll come to life.

I do, however, have a certain fondness for the gingerbread men who wreak havoc throughout the movie, particularly as they end up on fire and run around creating mayhem.  I got inspired and started doing research on how to flambe. I kind of thought I might try to make a traditional Christmas pudding and flame it, but then settled on a flambe cocktail.  It took a bit of experimentation to figure out the right combination of liquor for it to actually catch on fire.  If you are going to light this on fire, it’s definitely most effective to have a liquor that’s high proof layered on the top.  I ended up using high proof rum, which catches fire once it’s been heated a bit – which I accomplished with multiple passes of flame over the top.  (Use a long match or an Aim n Flame lighter for this).

I was also baking gingerbread cookies, so couldn’t resist making my own havoc-wreaking gingerbread man to hang off the martini glass.  After I got over my initial fear of flaming alcohol, Clayton egged me on to let the flames attack the gingerbread man and when we turned off the lights, I got this pic:

Definitely Krampus inspired!  I also figured I needed some ornaments strewn around and a few little gingerbread minions to help:

Overall though, I confess that I just liked the color of the flame:

In case you were wondering, the gingerbread man was using gingerbread candy canes as grappling hooks:

As you can probably tell, I had way too much fun with this particular blogging challenge and photo session.

The cocktail itself is perfect for the holidays.  It’s not critical to flambe it, though lighting it on fire does bring out a depth of flavor to the rum that I hadn’t expected.  And it’s quite the showstopper, too.  If you do decide to flambe – be sure to have a fire extinguisher near by, just to be on the safe side.

Flaming Gingerbread Martini

Ingredients

    Flaming Gingerbread Martini
  • 1 ounce Irish Cream liqueur
  • 1 ounce gingerbread vodka
  • 1 ounce brown sugar simple syrup (recipe below)
  • 1/2 ounce rum or spiced rum
  • Sugar Rim
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons gingerbread spice
  • Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water

Instructions

  1. Wet the rim of a martini glass. Combine the brown sugar and gingerbread spice on a small plate and dip the rim of the glass in the sugar/spice mix to make a sugar rim.
  2. Add the Irish creme liqueur, the ginger bread vodka and the brown sugar simple syrup to your martini glass, being careful not to disturb the sugar rim. Using the back of a spoon, gently add the rum to the martini glass - as much as possible, you'll want the rum as the top layer as it is the most flammable liqueur in the drink.
  3. If you choose to light the drink, carefully wave a flame over the top of the drink - just slightly above the ingredients. The alcohol won't catch on fire until it's slightly heated, so this may take a few seconds. Let the drink flame briefly and then blow out the flame. Make sure it is completely out before you drink. Enjoy!
  4. Brown Sugar Simple Syrup
  5. Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and then use.
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Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

I’m pretty sure that this is the first year I’ve ever made gingerbread cookies, and certainly the first year I’ve ever made these mini gingerbread cookies.  I think it may be because growing up, we were a sugar cookie family rather than a gingerbread cookie family.  I remember decorating sugar cookies when I was quite young and then taking over making sugar cookies in my early teens.  It wasn’t until a few years ago that I ever even made gingerbread: for several years in a row, I made Heidi Swanson’s black sticky gingerbread recipe instead of Christmas cookies for our Christmas dinner.

So what started my gingerbread cookie baking marathon this year?  It had everything to do with Food ‘n Flix and the December movie pick: Krampus.  After all, I had to have a gingerbread man to set on fire for this week’s Friday Happy Hour post.  Come back on Friday to see both the flaming gingerbread man, along with a flambe gingerbread cocktail.  Can I just say – setting booze on fire – best thing ever.  I digress.  In order to get a gingerbread man, I had to figure out how to make gingerbread cookies.  After some experimentation, I landed on this recipe.  It’s not a great construction gingerbread recipes (as I learned the hard way after an attempt to make a rudimentary gingerbread structures), but it does make an absolutely delightful cookie.

All the gingerbread shenanigans were also a great way to spend the first snow day I’ve experienced since moving to the Portland area.  My initial reaction last week was to scoff at the snow day without snow (which was how the morning began) and then later to realize that ice storms up here are no joke.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen my car encased in ice before.  I was glad to have these mini gingerbread cookies to enjoy with a cup of coffee in the afternoon.  These have also made great treats for lunch throughout the week.

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Mini Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients

  • Gingerbread Cookies
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons gingerbread spice mix (below)
  • 1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • Gingerbread Spice
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Gingerbread Spice
  3. Combine all the spices for the gingerbread spice in a small jar. This makes sufficient gingerbread spice for several recipes. Set aside.
  4. Gingerbread Cookies
  5. Combine all the dry ingredients, from flour through the freshly grated ginger in a small bowl.
  6. Cream the butter and sugar in a large bowl. Add the molasses, egg, and vanilla. Combine. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Knead the dough a bit in the bowl to incorporate all the dry ingredients and to get the gingerbread to a smooth texture.
  7. Separate the gingerbread dough into four smaller balls. Roll out one ball at a time to about 1/4 inch thick and cut out using your desired cookie cutters. For mini gingerbread cookies, use small cookie cutters. Place the gingerbread cookies on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Cookies can be placed fairly close to one another without sticking.
  8. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes, checking after 10 minutes. Cookies are done when they are lightly browned on the bottom. Ice with your favorite icing. Enjoy!
  9. Makes anywhere between 36 - 48 cookies depending on the size of cookie cutter.
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Green Salad with Asian Pears and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

Green Salad with Asian Pears and Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette

There’s nothing quite so satisfying as a good green salad, especially when you add ingredients like Asian pears and preserved lemons.  Asian pears are one of my favorite winter fruits: they are about the size of a very small apple, but have a brown-yellow skin and a pale white flesh.  They are quite tasty while still a bit firm and can be eaten skin and all.  They lend a lovely crunch to a salad and pair really well with nuts.  If I could figure out where I put the hazelnuts from last year, as well as find the nutcracker, I would definitely have used hazelnuts on this salad.  As it was, I do know where the walnuts are, so that’s what I went with.

I’ve been waiting weeks to start eating my preserved lemons.  Preserved lemons are amazingly easy to make – all it takes is salt and lemons, though you can add in various spices, like peppercorns or bay leaves.  This year, I made my preserved lemons with both peppercorns and bay leaves, but also added in the few juniper berries I had left over from pickling last summer.  The lemons are perfectly salty and tart and ideal for adding to vinaigrette.  I’m sure I’ll be posting more recipes with preserved lemons soon.  If you are looking for a recipe, check out the preserved lemon recipe I posted last year.   You can use regular lemons or Meyer lemons – both are fantastic.   They do take a little bit of time, as the lemons have to cure in the refrigerator for at least a month.  Use only the rind – the pulp is discarded. You can also find preserved lemons in various specialty food stores, though I have to say that these are super easy and quick to make and well worth the time to make a batch of your own.

As we move into the calorie laden holidays, I definitely will be eating salads with my lunches.  This green salad with Asian pears and preserved lemon vinaigrette is a bright spot this time of year.  Enjoy!

Green Salad with Asian Pears and Preserved Lemon Vinaigerette

Ingredients

  • 4 cups salad greens
  • 2 Asian pears, sliced and cored
  • 1/4 cup walnuts
  • Preserved lemon vinaigrette (below)
  • Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped preserved lemon
  • Fresh ground pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Combine the salad greens, Asian pears, and walnuts in a salad bowl.
  2. In a small jar with a lid, add the olive oil, red wine vinegar, preserved lemon and pepper. Shake to combine.
  3. Dress the salad with the vinaigrette and enjoy!
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