Thursday, January 9, 2020

2020 New Year, Trying New Things

Happy New Year!

We are about a week into 2020 - hopefully it's off to a good start for you!

If you made resolutions, I'm rooting for you to stick with them! I don't personally make resolutions. I prefer to think of my goals for the New Year as a stretch assignment. Every year I like to choose a few things that I would like to learn or things that I would like to experience and make it happen.

A few years ago I took a day off of work and went to the Cleveland International Film Festival to see movies by myself. I was really nervous but it was totally fine! I don't necessarily think seeing movies solo is something I will do regularly, but I was really proud of myself for trying it. 

Last year I vowed to finally use the Kitchenaid food processor that had been sitting on a shelf for years. I'm REALLY glad I conquered my fear of this thing because I absolutely love it! I've made pasta dough in it and figured out how to use the slicing blade. Life changing! Now I make shredded Brussels sprout salads all the time.

I got laid off recently, so this year I'm focusing on ways to save money and using the extra time that I have to try new things in the kitchen. I'm going to be making bread a lot because it accomplishes both :) I'm also trying to make kombucha for the first time and plan on fermenting garlic and honey. If you have any tips, tricks or favorite recipes, please let me know!
kombucha, fermenting, saving money, 2020 resolutions
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Another thing I am focusing on is to drink more water. I have found that I don't drink enough throughout the day and tend to be slightly dehydrated. One thing that has really helped is our Distilatta water cooler
new years resolutions, drink more water, no single use plastic

It's highly visible so when I walk by it, it triggers me to think about drinking water. The model that we have has three temperatures of water (room temperature, cold and hot) so it's ready to go no matter what I plan on drinking. I especially love that it makes hot water at the perfect temperature for tea. Another great benefit is that it's super easy to fill up a reusable water bottle so I can stay hydrated on the run without being tempted by single use plastics.

Also, I received an Instapot for Christmas so add conquering my fear of pressure cookers to the list! I'll definitely be sharing how that goes - I know a lot of you have them sitting around unused because you are afraid of them too.

Do you make New Years Resolutions? What are you trying to work on this year?

Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Limoncello Biscotti with Pistachios and Dried Cherries

The holidays are filled with so many fun traditions - breakfast with Santa, Christmas trees, beautiful lights, gatherings filled with family and friends, festive cocktails and more. But one of my favorite things about the holidays are the cookies! Not every day cookies like chocolate chip, but the once a year extra special cookies.

My Christmas memories are filled with pizzelles, biscotti, thumbprints, Mexican wedding cookies, gingerbread, chewy molasses cookies, pecan tassies, and pignoli. But making all those cookies takes A LOT of time.
If you love having a palate pleasing assortment but don't want to spends weeks baking, you can gather some friends and have a cookie exchange. It's a festive way to achieve your baking goals and have fun at the same time.

There are many ways to organize the exchange but I like to keep it as simple as possible because the holidays are stressful enough. Pick a day a week or two before Christmas and get baking!

Here's what you need:

Beverages
I like to have champagne but eggnog, coffee, tea, ice cold milk, or seasonal cocktails are other great options depending on the time of day and how boozy your friends are.

Food
There will be sampling of cookies for sure so you don't need a huge meal but you'll definitely need something savory to balance out all the sugar. We opted for pizza and baked brie. Veggies, olives, mini sandwiches, charcuterie - any nibbles will do! 

Friends
Friends are what make the exchange so much fun! It's easier if you keep the group smaller because you'll be baking a dozen cookies for each guest. Six is a great number because many recipes make 3 dozen so doubling is easy. Also it's a nice variety for a cookie tray. If you want to include more people, you can always decrease the amount of cookies for each person to six instead of 12. Or bake a lot more cookies. :)
Nikki, Sarah, Elisabeth, Megan, Michelle, me and Buffy

Cookies
The cookies are the star of the show of course! It's so much fun to see what people choose to make and of course taste them all. When organizing the party, have everyone share what kind of cookies they want to bring so you don't end up with duplicates. Look at the gorgeous assortment we had this year! #myfriendsrock
Mexican tea cakes, peppermint bark and 2 kinds of spritz - Nikki \\ @cravecle
Brown butter thumbprints with salted caramel - Elisabeth
Candy Canes - Megan \\ @cleaneatsfastfeet
Sugar cookies with royal icing - Sarah
Holiday Oreo Cream Cheese  - Michelle \\ @clevelandfoodiegirl
Limoncello biscotti with pistachios and dried cherries - me
Containers
Everyone should bring plastic storage containers or Ziploc bags so they can bring their cookies home. You can also just refill the container or tray that you bring the cookies to the party in. If there are anise or mint flavored cookies, you'll want separate containers for them so they don't infuse the other cookies with their strong flavors.

Recipes
Bring a copy of the recipe or send everyone a link so they can make the cookies themselves. Your recipe just may end up being someone's new holiday tradition.

Once you have the cookies home, pop them in the freezer. This keeps them fresh. Just take the number of cookies you need out of the freezer about an hour before you are ready to serve them. 

This year I made Limoncello Biscotti with Pistachios and Dried Cherries. Unlike the traditional recipes, I created this one to include butter which gives it a richer flavor and softer texture. I wanted the lemon flavor to pop so I added three types of lemon flavorings for a flavorful yet balanced cookie. Four if you include the lemon vodka that the dried cherries are soaked in to plump them up. Pistachios and cherries are decadent additions and the color combo is perfect for the holidays. Feel free to sub any combo of nuts and dried fruit.

Limoncello Biscotti with Pistachios and Dried Cherries




Ingredients:
2 c. sugar
2 sticks butter, melted
6 T limoncello
1/2 dram lemon oil
Zest of two lemons
1 1/2 c. dried cherries, soaked for 1 hour in lemon vodka
6 large eggs
5 1/2 c. flour
3 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, pistachios, and cherries in large bowl. Whisk lightly to combine. In bowl of stand mixer, mix sugar, butter, limoncello, lemon zest, and lemon oil. Add eggs and mix well. Add flour mixture and mix just until combined. Chill dough for 30 minutes.

Line two cookies sheets with parchment paper or grease well. Preheat oven to 350 F.

Separate dough into four portions. Using lightly moistened hands, form each portion into a long flat log and place on cookie sheets, 2 logs per sheet. The logs should be about 3" wide and 1/2" thick. Square off the ends.
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Bake for 30 minutes, or until a light golden brown. Cool for 20 minutes on the cookie sheets.

Gently slice each loaf into 3/4" thick slices using a serrated knife. If you find the the loaves are crumbling, spray lightly with room temperate water and let sit for 5 minutes before trying again.

Carefully place slices back on cookie sheets and bake 20-25 minutes. They should be lightly browned. Bake longer for crunchier cookies. 

Once cooled, you can dip or drizzle the cookies in white chocolate and add sprinkles.

Lemon oil is a more potent version of lemon flavoring. If you are unable to locate it, you can purchase it online or substitute 1 T lemon extract.

What is your favorite Christmas cookie? Have you ever participated in a cookie exchange?

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Mexican Brussels Sprout and Quinoa Salad

I love comfort food but I still crave the fresh crunch of a good salad no matter the season. This refreshing and healthy salad is perfect year round but is a great way to balance out a heavy holiday meal. Plus it's really festive looking too!
gluten free, vegan, salads, christmas food, recipe, healthy recipe

It's perfect for bringing to a potluck because it satisfies basically every dietary requirement: it's gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, and vegetarian. This recipe makes enough for a crowd, but it's easy to cut in half if needed. I like to make the full recipe because it's great leftover. It quick and easy enough for a weeknight dinner too.

I use a food processor for this because it's a huge time saver. You could hand chop or purchase pre-shredded Brussels sprouts if you don't have one. But freshly shredded are way cheaper and taste SO much better! Plus you know that they were actually washed.

Mexican Brussels Sprout and Quinoa Salad


1-2 lbs fresh Brussels Sprouts (enough to make 8 cups shredded) 
1 fresh jalapeno, divided
2 garlic cloves
1/2 c. red pepper (I use the mini peppers)
4 green onions, sliced
4 - 6 radishes, julienned 
1 cup chopped cilantro
1 c. drained and rinsed black beans
2 c. cooked quinoa, cooled 
Zest of 2 limes

Dressing:

4 T lime juice
4 T olive oil
2 T honey
½ t. Salt
Fresh ground pepper to taste
1 teaspoon whole toasted coriander seeds, slightly crushed

Garnishes:

1 c. toasted pepitas or slivered almonds
2 avocados, cubed
1/2 jalapeno, thinly sliced
1 mini red pepper, thinly sliced
2 radishes, julienned

Directions:

Shred Brussels Sprouts in food processor. Place in large bowl

Add 1/2 jalapeno and garlic to food processor. Use chopping blade and pulse until very finely minced. Add to bowl of sliced sprouts. Stir in quinoa until evenly distributed. Add sliced red pepper, lime zest, green onions, cilantro, and radishes to bowl. Mix well.

Make dressing: whisk olive oil, lime juice, honey, cumin, salt and pepper until combined. Check seasoning and adjust if needed. Stir in coriander seeds. Pour over Brussels Sprout mixture and toss until coated. 

Add beans and avocado. Fold to combine. Place in serving dish.

Garnish with pepitas, sliced jalapenos, avocado, sliced red peppers and radish sticks. 
vegan, vegetarian, gluten free, recipe, holiday food, potluck, salad, meal prep, lunch
This salad holds up great for several days and is perfect for lunches. If you plan on eating this for more than one day, leave out the avocado and pepitas and add them just before serving. 

Variations:

You can add grilled shrimp or chicken for an even heartier meal.  Tomatoes or broccoli slaw makes a tasty addition. A nice sprinkle of cotija cheese is delicious too.

If you have any questions, or end up making this, let me know!