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Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Star Anise Panna Cotta is a great recipe for an indulgent breakfast treat or late day snack.  It’s also my entry for February’s Food ‘n Flix for the movie Pan’s Labyrinth.  (Food ‘n Flix is hosted this month by Katharina at Pretty Cake Machine).  Pan’s Labyrinth is a dark fairy tale directed by Guillermo del Toro.  The story takes place in post-civil war Spain in 1944.  There’s an undercurrent of political unrest and distress, and the film itself is a dark telling of a young girl following mythical creatures into the labyrinth.  I won’t spoil the ending, but suffice it to say, it doesn’t end well.  It’s one of those films that’s incredible for its filmography and story, but probably best not watched if you are depressed.

Both times I’ve watched this movie, I’ve done so kind of between my fingers – yep, I’m a wimp when it comes to dark movies.  Still, I was inspired to create my star anise panna cotta.  The inspiration came from the scene in which Ofelia encounters the Pale Man at a banquet.  Of course, much like Persephone going into Hades, Ofelia shouldn’t be touching any of the food at the banquet – and of course, all the food is beautiful and alluring (and of course, she eats something, thus jeopardizing her very future).  I was particularly drawn to the molded desserts, which got me to thinking about jello molds and the like – very old fashioned desserts.  The whole temptation and desire thing came to mind, too, especially since we are moving swiftly toward Valentine’s Day.

All of this led me to making panna cotta.  Panna cotta is a rich, creamy dessert that has that air of old-fashioned about it.  At first, I thought I might aim for a bright sauce for my panna cotta, but then decided to go a bit darker, landing on a star anise caramel for the sauce, which complements the star anise panna cotta nicely.

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

star anise panna cotta

Just in case you don’t want to try to get the panna cotta to cooperate coming out of its mold – this tastes just as good in a small jar.  It sets nicely, and you can just drizzle the sauce over the top, throw a lid on it, and call it an afternoon snack.

Star Anise Panna Cotta

Ingredients

    Brown Sugar Star Anise Simple Syrup
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 star anise pods
  • Star Anise Panna Cotta
  • 2 tablespoons cold water
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 4 star anise pods
  • Star anise caramel
  • 1 cup sugar (either white or brown)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar star anise simple syrup

Instructions

  1. Make the brown sugar star anise simple syrup first. Combine the brown sugar, water, and star anise pods in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Boil until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool for at least an hour (though for more intense flavor, refrigerate overnight). Remove the star anise pods.
  2. Make the star anise panna cotta. In a small saucepan, sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water. Bring the gelatin/water mix to a simmer and fully dissolve the gelatin. Set aside.
  3. In a medium saucepan, combine the heavy cream and the star anise pods and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for five minutes. Add the milk and sugar, and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Take the mixture off the heat and add the gelatin (it will have formed a gelatin pancake - just scrape the whole thing into the heated milk and cream and mix until dissolved). Remove the star anise pods and pour the panna cotta into individual ramekins or half-pint jars. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours or over night.
  4. As the panna cotta sets, make the star anise caramel. Combine the sugar, heavy cream, and butter in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over low heat and stir occasionally for 7 minutes. Take off the heat and add the simple syrup. The caramel will thicken as it cools. If it gets too thick, microwave for thirty seconds or so.
  5. To serve, drizzle the caramel over the panna cotta and enjoy!
  6. Makes four servings.
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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!

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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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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Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and 1 Year Blogiversary!

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes and 1 Year Blogiversary!

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

I’m sharing my vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes recipe today on the blog, in celebration of Fix Me a Little Lunch’s one year anniversary!  It’s hard for me to believe I’ve been doing this for a full year now – it seems like just yesterday that I was setting everything up and stumbling around in WordPress.

As I was preparing to write this post, I went back in to see when I actually posted my first recipe.  As it turns out, my first recipe was posted on December 9, 2015 and it was a pasta and kale pesto recipe – no surprise there.  I love kale pesto this time of year and never say no to pasta as a comfort lunch food.  So much has happened in the past year since I started regularly blogging: I changed jobs, moving from a small rural Southern Oregon town to the growing metropolitan area of Portland, Oregon; we downsized a significant amount of our stuff to make moving easier, since I’m on a short-term contract right now and anticipate moving again in the near future; some other things happened in 2015 that were emotionally exhausting.  The blog has been a saving outlet for me – a creative safe space to explore food and food photography, and an opportunity to work with a community of bloggers I didn’t even know existed when I started.  There have certainly been challenges: as we were moving, I had to stop blogging for a bit as I simply didn’t have the time to cook.  I’ve figured out a lot of things the hard way (who knew you could easily resize photos in WordPress?  I didn’t until about a month ago).  I posted a recipe to a Food 52 contest and left out a key ingredient.  I’ve also delved into social media, starting an Instagram feed, which is so much fun, and learning the basics of Twitter.

Some really great things have happened, too: one of my all time favorite bloggers, Toni at Boulder Locavore started following my Instagram feed.  One of my photos was (finally) accepted on Food Gawker.  I posted quite a few recipes to several of my favorite bloggy linkups, including Cook the Books, Food ‘n’ Flix, Cook Once and Eat Twice, and Novel Foods.  I realized I especially love blog challenges that combine my two loves: cooking and reading, so you’ll be seeing a lot more recipes inspired by the book selections for Cook the Books this upcoming year.  I’ve had a chance to get to know one of the bloggers, Becca, from the Facebook group The Blog Passion Project better via the holiday mug exchange.  If you get a chance, check out Becca’s blog: The Fit Foodnista.  All and all, it’s been a great year.

I’m definitely looking forward to a new year of blogging.  I’ve started up a real editorial calendar, as I’m finding it helps me stay on track and post regularly.  I anticipate that I’ll have a newsletter up and running some time in the New Year and I’m going to start working on an e-book.  I’ll keep sharing recipes for lunches, of course, but will also be posting recipes for freezer meals, for cocktails, for things I’ve baked.  I’ll also keep being seasonal, as it’s pretty much the way Clay and I eat all the time.  I’m sure I’ll be traveling in the New Year, so expect more Travel Thursday posts.  Wherever I land for a job, know that I’ll be exploring the food there and posting about it.

In the meantime, my little blog has turned 1 and in celebration of this first blogiversary, I made some vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes.  Fix Me a Little Lunch is a holiday blog-baby, so I thought I would cook something that would look and taste equally good on a holiday dessert buffet.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog this year and I’m looking forward to many years of food to come.

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

vegan chocolate cherry cupcakes

blogiversary-cakes-with-candle-and-ornaments

 

Vegan Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup baking cocoa
  • 1/3 cup coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 3/4 cup soy milk or almond milk (unflavored or vanilla flavored)
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 12 dried Bing cherries
  • For the vegan vanilla bean frosting
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tablespoon almond milk or soy milk
  • Seeds scraped from one vanilla pod

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients (from the flour to the baking cocoa) in a medium sized bowl. Stir to combine. Add the wet ingredients (from the coconut oil to the vanilla extract) and stir until most of the lumps are out. The batter will be a little lumpy, which is fine. Grease or use muffin cup liners for either a 24 cup mini-muffin pan or for 12 cups of regular sized muffin pans. If you are doing mini-muffins, cut the dried Bing cherries in half and place one at the bottom of each muffin pan cup. If you are using regular sized muffin pans, put one dried Bing cherry at the bottom of each.
  3. Bake for 15-20 minutes for mini-cupcakes (check after 15 minutes).
  4. Bake for 20-30 minutes for regular sized cupcakes (check after 20 minutes).
  5. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick or knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. While the cupcakes are baking, prepare the frosting. Combine the powdered sugar, soy or almond milk, and vanilla pod seeds in a small bowl and mix until they are combined. Add more powdered sugar or soy/almond milk if you desire a different consistency. Enjoy!
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This post is linked up to the Treat Petite for December, hosted by The Baking Explorer.  Check out The Baking Explorer and Cakeyboi for previous month’s petite treat recipes.

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

winter-squash-stuffed-shells

I am a huge fan of all things winter squash (as you’ve probably figured out), making this recipe, a winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto, one of my absolute favorite December lunches.  This has everything I most love about the fall and winter: the slightly sweet squash, salty cheese, pasta, and pesto made with kale, spinach and walnuts.  Since there is a small chance that there might be a little bit of snow in this part of the PNW tomorrow, this comfort food just seems perfect.

I used a combination of red kuri (my favorite) and the rest of the pumpkin puree I’d frozen earlier in the fall.  Fortunately, I still have one more pie pumpkin in the garage – I figure we still have a few more months of cold weather and might need to make some more pumpkin bread.  I also used a bit of the sage that is still growing out in the herb bed.

The pesto consists of both kale and spinach – really, you could use just about any combination of greens.  I also used walnuts, because it’s what I had on hand.  Pesto can be made out of any combination of herb or green, nuts, garlic, and Parmesan or other hard cheese.  I love to try out different combinations.  I also have started hand chopping my pesto – I think it helps the herbs or greens retain their integrity and not get mushy like they might in a food processor.  The taste is a lot closer to pesto I had in Rome many years ago, so I enjoy it for the nostalgic value, as well.

All together, the winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto takes about forty minutes to make, and most of that time is hands off while it bakes.  It’s well worth the time.  It also makes a great freezer meal – making it very appealing for lunch.  Since it’s vegetarian, it would also make a great main dish for the holiday festivities for vegetarian friends and family.

winter squash stuffed shells with greens pesto

Winter Squash Stuffed Shells with Greens Pesto

Ingredients

    For the shells:
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree or similar winter squash puree
  • 1 cup ricotta cheese
  • 1 + 1/3 cup parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped sage
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 box of large pasta shells
  • For the pesto
  • 1 cup tightly packed greens (spinach, kale, etc.)
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1/4 cup shredded parmesan cheese
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Bring a pot of water in a medium saucepan to a boil. Add the shells and cook for 8-10 minutes or until al dente.
  3. In the meantime, combine the squash puree, the ricotta cheese, 1 cup of the parmesan cheese, the sage, and the pepper in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Drain the shells in a colander and rinse under cold water. When the shells are cool enough to handle, stuff each with about 2 tablespoons of the squash and cheese mixture. Place the shells in a single layer in a 9 X 13 baking pan. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/3 cup parmesan cheese. Bake for 30 minutes or until the cheese gets lightly browned on top.
  5. While the shells are baking, prepare the pesto. Put the greens, the walnuts, the garlic, and the parmesan in the middle of a cutting board and gently chop until the ingredients are finely diced and combined. Put the pesto in a small bowl and add the olive oil, gently combining.
  6. Serve the stuffed shells with the pesto and enjoy!
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This post has been linked to Tinned Tomatoes: Meatless Monday.  Check out her great posts!

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