Monday, December 30, 2013

Cheers to the New Year: 2014

Christmas is over, and my house is, for the first time in months, cookie-free. My tree is still up and there are gifts strewn about the living room, but that's another story. Here are some phone pics of my Christmas vacation (we went ice-caving!). 
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I don't know about you guys, but I'm beyond stoked for 2014! In 2014, I'm getting married. WHAT!? 

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug2013 has been a wild year. I got engaged and wrote a 50,000 word novel for NaNoWriMo. And that was only the month of November! 

I rang in 2013 at a snowy cabin with some of my favorite people. I went wine tasting in Sonoma, house-boating in Shasta, hiking and exploring in the Gifford Pinchot, and camping at the Oregon coast. We celebrated our nephew's 1st birthday in New York, and my sister's Masters graduation from UW. I won a quinoa recipe contest and this blog turned four years old. Evan and I bought a car together, and (after almost a decade of dating and several years of living together) our parents finally met. Some good things happened in 2013.  

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug 2013 also had some bumps, with health scares and hospital visits for people I care very much about. I'm crossing my fingers that 2014 is a happy, healthy year for everyone I know and love. And for all of you guys, too!

Photo & Video Sharing by SmugMug So, here's to the new year! I'll be back in 2014 with great new recipes, photos, and stories. Until then, here are my top 20 of 2013. Some of these were the most visited posts, and some were just my favorite to write, eat, or photograph in 2013. Cheers!


Friday, December 20, 2013

Cranberry Gin Fizz

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Are you guys all ready to have a holly, jolly, merry, bright, drinky, fizzy holiday? I am! Pick me!

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Christmas break has begun and it's officially time for some holiday spirit. Holiday spirits, rather.

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat This cocktail combines three of my favorite things: gin, bubbles, and cranberry. Plus a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. 

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat A few of these fizzy cranberry and gin drinks and you'll be super jolly. 

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Cranberry Gin Fizz

For each drink:
1 ounce (shot) good quality gin (I like Hendricks)
Juice from a quarter or half a lemon
2 ounces cranberry simple syrup (recipe below)
Champagne or prosecco 
Frozen cranberries (on a pick, or otherwise)

Add gin, lemon juice, and cranberry syrup to a cocktail shaker with ice, and shake until cool. Strain into glass, then top off with bubbles. Add more lemon or syrup, to taste. Add frozen cranberries to keep cool. 

Note: this a strong boozy drink. To make a little less strong, you can use soda water instead of prosecco, or leave out the gin, and just do prosecco, cranberry syrup, and lemon.

Cranberry Simple Syrup

2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup water

Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce heat, and let simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh sieve, and cool before using. 

Makes about a cup and a half. 

Cranberry Gin Fizz // Loves Food, Loves to Eat

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Dinner & Movie: Creamy Mac n Cheese

“Bless this highly nutritious microwavable macaroni and cheese dinner and the people who sold it on sale. Amen.” - Kevin McCallister

Guys, Christmas is just around the corner, and it wouldn’t be the holidays without Home Alone. I happen to think Home Alone is the greatest holiday movie of all time, and potentially one of the greatest anytime movies of all time. It’s super quotable, has a killer soundtrack, fills you with warm holiday fuzzies, and helped an entire generation plan out how to protect their homes in the event of a burglary. Safety first. Amanda and I recently got together for our annual Home Alone viewing, and made a big pot of creamy Mac n Cheese for the event.

Dinner & Movie: Creamy Mac n Cheese & Home Alone Its dinner & a movie: Holiday Style!

The Movie: Home Alone
Look what you did, you little jerk! Home Alone! The McCallister family heads to Paris for Christmas, and they accidentally leave 8-year old Kevin (an adorably tiny Macaulay Culkin) home alone. WE FORGOT KEVIN! Meanwhile, two crooks, the Wet Bandits, have big plans for the McCallister’s giant mansion-like house. Kevin comes up with a genius plot to foil the bad guys, and hilarity ensues. The little Nero’s pizza guy runs off in fear from Snakes and Johnny (Acey says 10 percent…), John Candy does the polka, Uncle Frank tries to steal the silverware and champagne glasses from the airplane, Kevin gets a good look at Buzz’s girlfriend (woof!), some totally great classic holiday tunes play, the old guy turns out to not be the shovel slayer after all, and in the end, the whole family is reunited on Christmas morning. Holiday classic! 

The Dinner: Creamy Mac n Cheese
There are a few potential meals you could serve with Home Alone. Pizza might be the obvious choice, since the Little Nero’s pizza guy makes a couple appearances, and Buzz eating all the cheese pizza in the beginning really sets off the chain of events that follow. But, remember that scene right before the Wet Bandits arrive for the final show-down? Kevin sits down (at a candle-lit table) to a bowl of microwaveable Kraft mac n cheese, and says a little thanks for the meal (see quote above). But then the clock chimes, and he doesn’t even get to take a bite. I always felt bad that the mac just sat there getting cold. Did he go back and eat it afterward? Maybe if he had a big pot of creamy, homemade mac n cheese he would have.

Dinner & Movie: Creamy Mac n Cheese & Home Alone This recipe comes from Joy the Baker, and is simple, creamy, and rich… everything a good bowl of Mac n Cheese should be. So, head on over to Joy the Baker, whip up some mac n’ cheese, and get ready to rock around the Christmas tree: it’s time for dinner & a movie!


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap 2013: Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies

For the second year in a row, I participated in THE BEST COOKIE SWAP EVER: The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap! Last year I made Maple Waffle Cookies for the swap. This year, I decided to go minty and chocolaty.

#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat I’m pretty much obsessed with peppermint. When peppermint ice cream starts popping up in stores I go crazy. It’s so good! And I’ll even bend my no-sugar, no-flavorings-in-coffee rule for peppermint mochas. Chocolate, coffee, peppermint...seriously, put that in my stocking this year!

#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat I had seen peppermint mocha cookies before, but usually in drop-cookie form, with pieces of crushed candy cane mixed in the dough. I wanted to make something new, so I decided to do slice and bake cookies (icebox cookies), and then dip them in chocolate and coat that in crushed candy canes.

#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Sidenote #1: crushed candy canes are the most beautiful thing ever. It’s like sparkly white and pink glitter snow.

Sidenote #2: crushing candy canes kind of sucks. I put them in a big freezer sized ziplock, then wrapped that in a hand towel, then beat it with a hammer. Then, because I’m crazy and wanted perfect tiny little speckles, I sifted out the big chunks. #imcrazy

I love icebox cookies because they’re so easy. You can make the dough, then roll it in logs (which, unfortunately, resemble a friendly little Christmas cartoon named Hanky), and then freeze. Then you can fully clean your kitchen, listen to some holiday tunes, watch Home Alone, drink some hot buttered rum, get a good night’s sleep, and wake up the next day, bright eyed and ready to slice and bake!

#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat Sidenote #3: I love the word icebox. Oooh, how retro. How very Madmen of you, Amber!

Also, thanks to the espresso powder, these cookies are super chocolaty. Like, majorly so. Like tiny little cookie shaped brownies. You’ll die ten times. Then you’ll add that cool pepperminty crunch of the crushed candy canes, and you’ll die a few more times. Probably 15 times in all.

#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat Guys. Seriously.

Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies
Very loosely adapted from this recipe 
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup quality unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 egg
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup dark or semi sweet chocolate chips
8-10 candy canes, crushed

Whisk flour, cocoa, espresso powder, and salt together in a medium bowl and set aside.

In bowl of stand mixer, beat sugar, vanilla, and egg on high speed until thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Add butter and continue to beat on high speed until smooth, about 3 more minutes. Using your fingers, work flour mixture into butter mixture until dough is just combined. It will be sticky and a little difficult to work with, but it's all worth it!

Divide dough in half and roll each half into a 9" log. Wrap each log in parchment paper, twisting ends tightly to make a uniform longs. Freeze for at least 8 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Unwrap dough and slice each log into rounds about 1/3 inch thick. Place rounds 1/2 inch apart on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets. Bake until cookies are slightly puffy, about 8-9 minutes. Let sit on the cookie sheet for a minute before transferring to a rack to cool. Be careful, they're really soft at first. 

Let cookies cool completely. Melt chocolate in a microwave safe bowl or over a double boiler, stirring until smooth. Dip each cookie half-way in the chocolate (I tried to dip only on the top), and then dip in crushed candy canes. Set on wax paper to harden. Let cool completely. 


#fbcookieswap Peppermint Mocha Icebox Cookies // Loves Food, Loves to Eat Wait, there's more!
Looking for more recipes from the cookie swap? Check out the blogs of my random matches: the bloggers I sent these bad boys to, as well as the bloggers who sent cookies to me!


Sunday, December 8, 2013

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat
Do you guys have a favorite holiday movie?

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat As far as classics go, I love It's a Wonderful Life and White Christmas. I also love all the old animated ones like Rudolph, Frosty, and (the original) Grinch. The best newer holiday movie is obviously Elf. And as far as all-time favorites go, the best holiday movie, hands down, is Home Alone. I probably quote Home Alone at least once a month. I'm pretty bummed it's not available on streaming Netflix. Christmas Vacation is available though, and I watched that last night in the glow of my round, shrub-like Christmas tree. 

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat This year I decided I'm going to try to watch Love Actually. Guys, I'm sorry. I've tried. I really tried to watch it when it came out, and I just made fun of it and eventually left the room. I just don't love Hugh Grant romantic comedies. Not my thing. The only movie that I've liked in that type of genre so far is the Holiday, which is actually pretty good. So. I'm gonna do it. I'll report back and let you know what I think.

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat But in other news… CARAMELIZED ONION, PISTACHIO, AND GOAT CHEESE TRUFFLES. 

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat I love cheese balls, and couldn't get the idea of a caramelized onion and chèvre ball out of mind. Then I remembered these little gems, and just couldn't live with myself if I didn't make tiny little bite-sized goat cheese balls. THESE ARE SO GOOD. The caramelized onions, with honey and balsamic, are sweet and tangy, and go so good with the creamy cheese. Then you roll them in ground pistachios for a nutty little crunch. The hardest part is waiting for the onions to cool so you can get to rolling.

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat You can serve these with crackers and jam (try something like peach jam or orange marmalade) or you can just pop 'em in your mouth like candy. Make these for a holiday party, and people would be pretty stoked about it. Or…make them for yourself, then sit inside near a heater and watch holiday movies, which is my plan, because it's freaking freezing outside. 

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to EatCaramelized Onion and Goat Cheese Truffles
Inspired by this recipe

1 onion
1/2 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 tablespoon butter
balsamic vinegar
8 ounces chèvre
1/2 cup pistachios, finely ground (using food processor)

Dice the onion in small pieces.

Heat a  thick-bottomed sauté pan over medium high. Add olive oil and butter, and heat until it's shimmering. Add onions and stir. Spread onions evenly, and cook, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium/medium and cook for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt, and cook another 20-40 minutes, until brown and caramelized, but not burned. Stir in a small spoonful of honey and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Add more honey, vinegar, or salt, depending on your tastes. Cook another minute or two, and remove from heat. Let cool completely. 

Crumble chèvre into a bowl, and stir in cooled onions. Roll into 1 to 2 inch balls, and then roll in ground pistachios. Refrigerate until time to serve. 

Caramelized Onion & Goat Cheese Truffles// Loves Food, Loves to Eat
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