Holiday Hodgepodge – LA

Posted on December 23, 2011

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Yep, that's a picture of me making dinner by the river.

As 2011 draws to a close, there’s something that I’ve been ignoring.  My list of resolutions for 2011.

It’s not a list I look forward to confronting, mostly because it’s full of reasonable, doable tasks.

I didn’t make a promise to myself to learn a new language or write the Great American Novel.

Yes, some are old standbys (lose those last couple of pounds) and some are far reaching (pay off student loans), but most are basic things.  Like floss every day.  Pick up the phone more often and call friends and family.  Bike to work.

I look at that list, and I can’t help but feel like, “Where did the year go?”  And, then I look at my photo archive and remember, wow, what a crazy, unpredictable, awesome year:

Outside Lands and Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, Tahoe (Disaster) trip, Sarah & Sam’s wedding, Tina and Ben’s wedding, St. Thomas, cedar baths in Occidental, hiking in the Bay area with new friends, visits to LA from old friends, Big Sur, Bay to Breakers, Easter at Henry Coe State Park, Cape Cod and Rehoboth Beach, Tahoe summer camping, a 30-day epic Pacific Northwest road trip, a goodbye to SF and a hello to LA.

So, thank you readers for sticking with us and following our adventures this past year.  To show my appreciation, here’s a hodgepodge of awesome recipes to close the year and get you ready for the holidays.

See you in 2012.

Haley

My Favorite Holiday Cookie: Pizzelles

Makes a million cookies.  From my mom’s recipe.  Special equipment: Pizzelle iron.

I’ve been making these every year since my mom gave me my own pizzelle iron.  They are my favorite cookie, and always remind me of the holidays, standing around for hours, listening to Bing, and pressing about a million batches of hot, buttery, crisp pizzelles.  These cookies are the perfect size for round tins.  I also like rolling them up into ice cream cones or cannoli shells. 

  • 6 eggs
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  • 4 teaspoons of baking powder
  • 3 ½ cups of flour
  • 1 cup of melted butter
  • 2 teaspoons of anise extract

1. In a small bowl, mix together flour and baking powder with a whisk.

2. Cream together butter and sugar in a separate bowl.  Add the extract and eggs one at a time.  Beat until smooth.

3. Slowly add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients until just smooth.

4. Place a spoonful of batter on the pizzelle iron and press down until the cookie is flat, cooked and golden brown.

5. Remove the cookie with a spatula and allow to cool on a flat surface.  Cookie will harden to a crisp as it cools.

The Perfect Gift: Orange Almond Macaroons

Makes about 24 cookies.  Adapted from 101cookbooks.

Unlike their coconut cousins, these macaroons are chewy and fluffy, without being cloyingly sweet or dense.  They are the perfect host/hostess gift and would be delicious paired with a dark chocolate (think Christmas chocolate oranges!).

  • 1 large egg white
  • 14 oz of almond paste
  • ½ cup pf powdered sugar, plus more for coating the cookie
  • ¼ teaspoon of pure almond extract
  • 1 tablespoon of grated orange zest
  • 1 tablespoon of cointreau
  • dash of salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

3. Beat the egg white, the almond paste, powedered sugar, and almond extract together either by hand or with an electric mixer, until creamy.

4. Add the zest, cointreau, and salt and mix until combined.

5. Coat your counter with a generous handful of sifted powdered sugar then turn the dough out onto it.

6. Shape and roll out the dough into two 3/4-inch thick logs. Cut each log into equal pieces.  Roll pieces into balls. Make sure each piece is entirely coated in sugar, tapping to remove excess.

7. Transfer to prepared baking sheets. They don’t spread much so you can crowd them a bit more than you might with other cookies. Let stand for 30 minutes.

8. Bake until pale golden, about 15 minutes.

9. Transfer the cookies from baking sheets to wire racks, and let cool completely.

Make Ahead Dessert: Green Tea (Matcha) Panna Cotta with Roasted Persimmon Slices

Something velvety and creamy. Refreshing and exotic. Comforting and easy.  By whisking matcha (green tea) powder into the cream, the panna cotta turns a vibrant green, rich with antioxidants.  It’s decadent and light at the same time.  Add roasted persimmon slices as garnish, and you’ll give it that pop of color and seasonality that would be perfect for any shindig.

For the Green Tea Panna Cotta:

Adapted from Bon Appétit. Serves 4.

  • 2 teaspoons of unflavored gelatin
  • 6 tablespoons of sugar
  • 1 cup of cream
  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of matcha
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt

1. Soften gelatin in 2 tablespoons of cold water.

2. In small saucepan, heat sugar, milk and cream until the sugar dissolves, but not boiling.

3. Whisk in softened gelatin and vanilla extract.

4. In small bowl, whisk matcha with 4 tablespoons of milk/cream mixture until smooth.

5. Whisk matcha mixture into the main saucepan.  Whisk well until the matcha is as blended as possible and all the gelatin is completely dissolved.

6. Divide the mixture into four dessert cups.  Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until gelatin sets, at least 3 hours.  Note: some of the matcha may settle at the bottom of the cup.  No worries, it kind of looks cool that way, and it’s like a little surprise waiting for you at the bottom.

7. Garnish with fresh fruit or roasted persimmon slices.

For the Roasted Persimmon Slices:

Adapted from theKitchn

1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly coat with cooking spray.

2. Arrange slices on the foil.  Sprinkle with your salt and spices.

3. Roast for 5-10 minutes depending on the thickness of your slice.  You want them chewy and slightly juicy in the center.  Allow to cool on the pan.  Serve in a salad or with dessert.

Ahh, I have to bring something to my work potluck tomorrow, and I totally forgot: Butter Pecan Cupcakes with Maple Buttercream Frosting

Makes about 12 cupcakes.

Really easy, really delicious.  I always keep a couple of emergency box mixes in the house for this purpose.

Butter Pecan Cupcakes:

  • 1 box of yellow or butter cake mix
  • Butter, water and eggs per the boxes instructions
  • 1 cup of finely chopped pecans

1. Using a spoon or a mixer, blend together box mix, butter, water, eggs and chopped pecans until smooth.

2. Fill cupcake cups until 2/3 full.  Bake according to your box instructions.  Allow to cool completely before frosting.

Maple Buttercream Frosting

Adapted from Everything is Homemade

  • 1 stick of butter at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • dash of salt

1. Beat butter until soft.

2. Add powdered sugar one cup at a time until mixture is crumbly, scraping sides of bowl as necessary.

3. Add maples syrup.  Beat to combine.  Beat on high speed until smooth and fluffy.

4. Frost cupcakes with a spoon or knife.  Top with toasted pecan halves.

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