Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice

Make Your Own Pumpkin Spice

Erin, our guest blogger from Food Wise Family, is getting us ready for yummy, pumpkin spice season! 

How to Make Pumpkin Spice
Now that fall is upon us, pumpkin spice is everywhere and somehow in everything, so it’s time to make a fresh spice blend. With only five ingredients, you can have this delightful autumn spice blend in five minutes or less. I am all about making homemade spice blends, and that includes pumpkin spice, which is also called pumpkin pie spice. This tasty blend is made up of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and allspice, and somehow manages to encapsulate all that is fall.

Why You Should Make Your Own Spice Blends
Making your own spice blends saves money, especially if you already have the spices. A quick peek in the cupboard might reveal that you already have the ingredients for pumpkin spice. Without even thinking about it, you just saved some money by looking in your cabinet and making your own spice mix. Even if you don’t have all the spices, making your own blend will still save you money in the long run, particularly if you use a lot of pumpkin spice, or if you cook a lot with the individual spices.

Additionally, making your own pumpkin spice at home means you can customize the spice blend to meet your needs. If you have an allergy to a certain spice or just don’t like it, leave it out. Customize your blend to fit you and your family.

What Is Pumpkin Spice Used For
Typically, pumpkin spice is used in sweet pumpkin recipes, such as pumpkin pie, pumpkin cake, pumpkin bread, pumpkin muffins, and don’t forget your pumpkin spice latte. Don’t limit yourself to just using it with pumpkin recipes. Branch out and sprinkle it on warm homemade applesauce, on freshly roasted butternut squash, or even delicious candied maple pecans. Get creative and liven up your food with these warming autumn spices this season.

Pumpkin Spice
Total Time: 5 Minutes

Ingredients
2 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1.5 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1.5 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Instructions

  1. Add all spices to a small bowl and mix well.
  2. Place spice blend in a small airtight container. Store in a cool, dry place for up to 6 months.

Note: This mixture fits perfectly in a 4-ounce glass mason jar.

Homemade Pumpkin Spice
I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.
Read our other Butcher Block Co. blogs featuring pumpkin!
Super Moist Gluten Free Banana Bread Recipe

Super Moist Gluten Free Banana Bread Recipe

Our guest blogger, Erin, of Food Wise Family, shares with us a favorite fall baking treat for the family – gluten free banana bread!

Fall is almost here, so it’s time to crank up the oven and get baking. To me, nothing is more reminiscent of fall than banana bread, but maybe that’s just because my mom used to bake it around this time of year when I was a kid.

This gluten free banana bread is super moist and perfectly browned with that classic banana flavor. Not only is this bread gluten free, but it is also paleo friendly and grain free. Additionally, it is sweetened with bananas, applesauce, and maple syrup, making this recipe free of any refined sugars.

Use Up Those Overripe Bananas
Besides how irresistibly delicious this bread is, my favorite part about this gluten free banana bread recipe is the fact that it lets no bananas go to waste. It seems like bananas are underripe forever and then before you know it they are overripe, and somehow you missed the window of perfectly ripened before they got too mushy. Or at least, that’s the case for us. I cringe at the thought of throwing away food, so being able to use up overripe bananas in breads, muffins, or pancakes is a plus. (Tip – you can save overripe bananas in the freezer with their peels on. When you need one for baking, just pop it in the microwave for a few seconds until it softens.) gluten free banana bread ingredient
Is Your Baking Powder Gluten Free?
To keep this recipe gluten free, read the label and make sure your baking powder is gluten free. To my knowledge, there is no paleo or grain free baking powder on the market, so I make my own. Making your baking powder only requires baking soda, cream of tartar, and a few minutes of your time. If you’re interested, check out my instructions here.
Gluten Free Banana Bread
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Baking Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 60 Minutes
Wet Ingredients
4 large eggs
2 mashed large overripe bananas (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup melted extra virgin coconut oil
1/3 cup applesauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dry Ingredients
1/2 cup coconut flour
1/4 cup arrowroot flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
Nuts
1/2 cup chopped raw pecans
Instructions
1. Preheat oven to 350°.
2. Grease a 9” x 5” bread pan with coconut oil.
3. In a large bowl, mix all wet ingredients until thoroughly combined.
4. In another bowl, combine all dry ingredients.
5. Slowly add the dry ingredient mixture to the wet ingredients while thoroughly mixing.
6. Gently stir in pecans.
7. Add batter to the greased pan.
8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean.
9. Let bread cool for at least 20 minutes before removing from the pan.
10. Store tightly wrapped in the refrigerator for up to one week, or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Although, this gluten free banana bread does not last in our house for more than two days before we gobble it all up.
Note: Unlike most wheat flour banana bread recipes, this gluten free banana bread recipe does not fill the entire bread pan once baked. So, if your bread is just a little over half the height of the pan, you did it right. gluten free banana bread
I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.
Try Our Recipe For Easy Grilled Sweet Potatoes

Try Our Recipe For Easy Grilled Sweet Potatoes

I would like to introduce you to our newest guest blogger, Erin Higgs, who is a food blogger at Food Wise Family. She creates wholesome, delicious paleo recipes with a focus on family, and she will be contributing to our blog monthly. When Erin is not in the kitchen or writing, you can find her playing peekaboo with her toddler. We hope you enjoy her first, of many, blog recipes!

The long weekend celebrating Labor Day is almost here. I imagine you probably already have an idea of what meat you’re grilling up for the holiday, whether it is a juicy hamburger or some tasty chicken kabobs, so I’m here to talk about making a side dish.

A side dish should be appetizing, but simple. With only five ingredients and quick prep, easy grilled sweet potatoes fit both of these standards.

Easy Cleanup
One of my favorite parts about grilling is the cleanup, or should I say the absence of cleanup. There is no messing with pots and pans. This sweet potato side dish is entirely cooked in an aluminum foil packet, making cleanup a cinch. I double up the aluminum foil to make sure there is no break in the foil packet while cooking.

Sweet Potatoes Are Amazing
We cook sweet potatoes a lot in our house, and there is no exception when it comes to grilling. This nutrient-rich vegetable is not only versatile when it comes to cooking, but also just absolutely delicious. For this recipe, I leave the skin on the sweet potatoes, but you can certainly peel them before cubing them if you prefer.

Easy Grilled Sweet Potatoes Prep
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Grilling Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes

Ingredients:
2 large sweet potatoes, washed and cubed
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil (melted) or olive oil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

* Other spices to consider are sweet paprika, cinnamon and rosemary.

Instructions
1. Place two large sheets of aluminum foil on top of each other.
2. Position the sweet potatoes in the center of the aluminum foil, while keeping plenty of room to fold the foil up. Bring the sides of the aluminum foil up and lightly fold at the top. (Make sure it’s a light fold because we will be opening this back up in the next step.) Tightly bunch both ends of the foil.
3. Open the foil up at the top. Add oil and spices to the potatoes and gently stir to coat the potatoes. Firmly refold the aluminum foil on the top.
4. Place sweet potato foil packet on a hot grill and close the lid.
5. Cook for 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes are soft. Remove foil packet from the grill with tongs.
6. Allow sweet potatoes to slightly cool and serve directly from the foil packet.

sweet potatoes cubed

spiced sweet potatoes

I believe that the food we put on the table should not only be healthy, but easy and full of flavor. Check out my website foodwisefamily.com for more wholesome recipes.

Try Our Spanish Paella – Meat and Seafood Recipe

Try Our Spanish Paella – Meat and Seafood Recipe

National Spanish Paella Day is March 27th, but you can make this amazing rice dish any day. There are many versions of paella recipes but what they all have in common is rice, meats, veggies and saffron spice, which turns the rice a beautiful golden color.

Spanish Paella originated in the Valencia region in eastern Spain. Classic paella usually is made with rabbit, chicken, snails, beans, and artichokes and seasoned with saffron and spices. Still hugely popular in Spain today, the recipe for paella has expanded over the years, and now many different varieties of paella are passed off as authentic. Paella is cooked over an open fire in a traditional paella pan. It is commonly made with rice, chicken, fish, seafood and any veggies you would like.

Today, Spanish Paella can be found all around the world. If you order paella outside of Spain you will likely get a rice dish with chicken and seafood.

My introduction to Spanish Paella came in October 2014 when my husband and I traveled with family to Madrid, Spain. It was October and the weather in Madrid was absolutely beautiful – ideal for strolling down the streets and eating at outdoor cafes. Here, we found an abundance of restaurants serving tapas and paella, family-style, in festive outdoor patios.

We fell in love with Spanish Paella so much that my husband came back and assembled this paella recipe with an assortment of Spanish meats and seafood. The beauty of paella is that you can make it your own, adding and subtracting ingredients as you wish. It is not difficult to make paella, but it is best to be organized ahead of time. Here are a few tips before you get started:

  • Tip 1– Prep and chop as much as you can in advance
  • Tip 2– Grill outside
  • Tip 3 – Invest in a real paella pan  – a large, flat, open pan that has handles on both sides for easy lifting. We recommend a pan 15” to 19” in diameter.

Ingredients:  We have organized our ingredients for this recipe by the different prep components, including the brine, broth, meats, veggies, seafood and garnish. 

BRINE (for chicken)
1-1/2 cups water
½ cup coarse salt
¼ cup sugar
2 bay leaves
1 Tbsp peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick
Peel from a small orange
4  Star anise
¼ cup loose green tea

BROTH
6 cups very strong chicken broth (bouillon)
1/2 tsp saffron
4 tsp smoked Spanish paprika
1 small onion, peeled

Spanish Paella broth

MEATS
¼ lb Spanish Salame
¼ lb Spanish Ham diced (Jamon serrano ham)
1 ½ lbs Spanish Chorizo cut into ½” pieces
2 lbs Boneless Chicken Breast or Thighs cut into bite size pieces (approx. 1-1/2” square)

Spanish Paella meats

VEGGIES/RICE
1/2 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
4 scallions, chopped
4 Tbsp chopped garlic
2 fire roasted red peppers from jar, coarsely chopped
3 cups short grain Spanish rice, such as Bomba or Calasparra
5 Tbsp chopped parsley
2 bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 bag frozen artichoke hearts (12 oz.)

SEAFOOD
18 clams and/or mussels, scrubbed, or 12 oz. Peeled shrimp or frozen langostino tails

GARNISH
Lemon wedges for garnish
Parsley for garnish  

Preparation: 

BRINE THE CHICKEN – Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil. Stir to make sure the salt and sugar have dissolved. Let cool to room temp. Strain out all of the herbs and discard, keeping the brine broth.
Add the cut-up chicken to the brine. Refrigerate for at least two hours or as long as overnight. Remove chicken from broth, drain well and pat dry with paper towel. 

COOK THE CHICKEN –  Coat the chicken with olive oil and sear it in a preheated pan on the stove for 3 minutes. Transfer the pan to a 350 degree oven and cook for about 10 minutes. Set the chicken aside for later.

BROTH – Heat the chicken broth with the saffron, paprika and the whole onion. Cover and simmer 30 minutes. Remove the onion and measure the broth — you need exactly 6 cups for later.

MEATS – In a paella pan over medium-high heat add the ½ cup of olive oil. Once hot, add in Spanish Salame & Spanish Ham. Cook for 5 minutes. Then add the Chorizo to the pan and stir fry about 10 minutes.  (Do not add the chicken). 

Spanish Paella prep

VEGGIES – In the paella pan with the cooked meat, add the chopped onion, scallions, garlic, & roasted red peppers and sauté until the onion is wilted. Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat it well with the oil. Sprinkle in the chopped parsley and the crumbled bay leaves.  Stir in the 6 cups of boiling hot broth. Add the wine and rice. Salt to taste. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium high heat about 10 minutes. Add the cooked chicken and bury it in the rice.

SEAFOOD – Add the clams and the mussels (or other seafood) with the edge that will open facing up, pushing them into the rice mixture.

COOK MIXTURE – Scatter the paella with the artichoke pieces, then bake at 325 degrees F, uncovered, for 20 minutes. If using a grill outside, close the lid and grill for 20 minutes. 

GARNISH – Remove paella from the oven/grill and let sit, lightly covered with foil, for about 10 minutes. Before serving, decorate with lemon wedges and chopped parsley.

Spanish Paella

What does authentic Cuban Paella look like? My girlfriend Michele in Florida hosted a Paella party featuring Seafood Paella and Meat Paella. This looks spectacular!

Cuban Paella

 

 

Roasted Cauliflower Rice Recipe

Roasted Cauliflower Rice Recipe

The cauliflower rice craze continues to spread and I love it.  Touted as the new kale, it remains a trendy and healthy veggie often prepared as a substitute for rice in recipes. It has also found its rightful place as an alternative ingredient in many gluten-free recipes and even pizza crust!

I am pretty happy preparing it as an alternative to rice, as I attempt to avoid bad carbs and stick with healthy veggies instead. Like rice, the cauliflower morsels will soak up the flavor of the surrounding seasonings making it very flavorful. There is nothing too fancy about this recipe, but everyone needs a tried and true recipe now and then, and this roasted cauliflower rice can be made just how you like it. Best of all, it is not mushy because instead of it being sautéed in a pan, you roast it in the oven to the desired crispness!

Ingredients

  • 1 bag (16 oz.) – Cauliflower Rice
  • ¼ cup – Garlic Infused Olive Oil or use whatever flavor you like!
  • Fresh Tarragon
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 lemon juiced

Preparation

Preheat to 425 degrees convection roast. For those of you who are true cooking enthusiasts, you may want to make your own cauliflower rice by ricing the florets in your food processor. But if you are like me and looking for the easy route, use the already riced Cauliflower you can find at Costco and other stores.

In mixing bowl, combine cauliflower rice, infused olive oil (Trader Joe’s), salt and pepper. Stir. Spread the mixture on a foiled cookie sheet. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, then stir it around a bit. If you like crispy cauliflower rice, continue to roast to desired crispness. Take it out of the oven and add 2T chopped fresh tarragon to the top.  Fresh tarragon is really worth it, so make the extra effort to purchase it. Transfer your roasted cauliflower rice to a serving bowl and add the juice of 1 lemon and stir. Serve.

I like to double the recipe so that I have extra available to add to other goodies I find in my fridge. I will add it to other roasted vegetables, or add some rotisserie chicken to it to create another meal. I even mix it in with my less trendy kale salad!

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie – A Fresh Summer Dessert

Claire is back and she brought Strawberry Rhubarb Pie! Claire has never let us down in regards to summer delights, and this is the perfect dessert as we transition into the hot summer months. Let’s all take advantage of the farmers’ markets and roadside stands this weekend to pick up some fresh fruit and see what treats we can come up with. In the meantime, Claire has pie to share.

A little birdie has told me that it’s dessert week at Butcher Block Co. I know for a lot of people, that might conjure images of chocolates or cakes, but my favorite desserts are all fruit-based. Baked fruit, fresh fruit, whatever, I love it. We’re coming into fruit season now, and I can tell because giant, weathered rainbow umbrellas are popping up along roadsides over tables offering the best local summer produce at the best prices. We’re not quite at stone fruit season, but I am here for the early summer offerings, like strawberries and rhubarb. I love rhubarb, but like so many of the best foods, I didn’t appreciate it in my youth. I thought it was too tart, and also, it was a weird food that no one ever heard of and it looked like weird celery. When I was a kid, my mom would make rhubarb pie, and I would eat the crust and the ice cream and leave the filling. I was an idiot with bad taste; I always ordered the chicken sandwich in restaurants, which is why I didn’t discover how good hamburgers could be until I was well into my adulthood. But I digress.

When I was a teen, my dad actually planted some rhubarb in our front yard. I watched it grow from a little puff of leaves on slender pink stems into a giant, fan-leaved monster that threatened to take over the whole garden. By that time, like all teens, I still hadn’t completely grown out of my idiocy, but at least I had better taste. I started making a mess in the kitchen trying to copy my mom and grandma’s pies. I did apples in the fall, peach in late summer, and as the spring would start to turn hot, I did my part to rescue the garden from the encroaching rhubarb-pocalypse. Of course, as an obnoxious teen, I couldn’t stick to their tried-and true recipes. Instead, I stole all the newly-ripened strawberries from the tiny patch at the side of the house and put them into a pie with the rhubarb. It turned out awesome. It was like a revelation. My family never really came around to my side – old habits die hard, I guess.

For me, strawberry rhubarb pie is my absolute number one pie pick.

I don’t make a ton of pies anymore. It’s less fun when the mess is in my own kitchen and I can’t rely on my dad to come in behind me and start doing dishes. Also, I am a grown adult person, and I can’t just go around eating pies all the time. Still, when I see those umbrellas pop up along the roadsides, I know I have to do at least one strawberry rhubarb pie to bring me back to those flour-coated summer days in the kitchen, my dad buzzing around me with a sponge and the whole house smelling like heaven. Heading home from the grocery store last weekend, I saw one of those rainbow umbrellas, and I had to stop. Fifteen minutes later, I was at the kitchen table hulling the sweetest strawberries, the whole house already smelling like heaven.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie
I don’t have my grandma’s recipe on hand anymore, so for this strawberry rhubarb pie, I used Deb Perelman’s recipe from the Smitten Kitchen, which of course turned out amazing, even though I over-cooked the filling a smidge in order to get a prettier color in the crust. I really like the way the tapioca thickened the juices without affecting the flavor at all. Then I figured, as long as I was committing sacrilege by deviating from my family’s recipe for the filling, I might as well go whole hog. Mom, you may want to stop reading here.

My grandma always made the same crust Strawberry Rhubarb Pie for every pie with just flour, salt, vegetable shortening, and a little hot water to bind it all together. It’s a great workhorse crust. It doesn’t have a ton of flavor, but it’s reliable and simple to make, it works for a savory or sweet filling, and it’s what I grew up with, so it has always been my go-to. However, my mantra in the kitchen and in life is that the worst reason to do a thing is “because that’s how my parents always did it.” Plus, maybe I still have some of that obnoxious, rebellious teen in me. I decided to try my hand at an all butter crust for a change, and I am telling you, my eyes have been opened. It was flaky, rich, and as much the star of the dish as the incredible filling. After a perfect pie like this, I don’t think I could ever go back to shortening. Sorry not sorry, Grandma.

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

In the spirit of dessert week, my husband and I have devoured nearly the entire glorious pie in the space of five days. I top each serving with some gently sweetened whipped cream, and I shamelessly lick the plate clean. What are you doing for dessert week? What is your quintessential summer dessert? Is it weird that I’m strongly considering making another strawberry rhubarb pie this weekend?

Food Processor Favorite – Olive Tapenade Recipe

Food Processor Favorite – Olive Tapenade Recipe

Are you a food processor aficionado? You should be! This versatile kitchen gadget, while large, makes short work of many tasks and will earn its keep every time you entertain. Sarah is here to share some of her favorite ways to use the food processor, along with a simple and versatile recipe for Olive Tapenade that is sure to please your palate. Alright, Sarah, get us all mixed up in this food processor world!

Greetings, entertainers. Let’s talk tech! I love kitchen gadgets, and when I was thinking around my kitchen for a favorite, one immediately sprang to mind. Not only is this gadget versatile, but it is easy to use, pretty noisy, and for me has some stress-relieving benefits.

I am, of course, speaking of none other than the food processor!

Why is a food processor so great? First, I never had one growing up, Food Processor so it went in the class of kitchen gadgets I thought of in my head as “super crazy technical and awesome” (along with the mandoline). I only ever saw them being used on cooking shows, and seeing professional chefs use them for everything made me want one pretty badly.

Fast forward a few years to when I finally put one in my own kitchen, and I’m a pretty happy camper. Do you want fresh salsa? Toss in a mango, some chiles in adobo sauce, and some fresh tomatoes. Run out of hummus halfway through the party? Never again. This thing is the king of dips, and as an added bonus, puts you in the front row to watch things being pulverized.

One of my favorite things to make with a food processor is tapenade. I usually have all the necessary ingredients in my kitchen, which mostly speaks to my love of olives (and anything salty). So let’s get down to it—how do we make this treat for your guests?

Ingredients

  • Olives. I like to use a combination of olives from the olive bar at my grocery store, but if you have a favorite, that works, too. Kalamata olives make great tapenade that turns out a pretty purple color. The key here is no pits.
  • Olive oil. Seems unnecessary, right? Wrong. Just a drizzle is absolutely necessary to getting your tapenade a smoother consistency.
  • Capers. Just a few!
  • Lemon juice. Salt loves acid. Enough said.

Food Processor

Directions

Assemble your food processor. For me, this means choosing the correct-size bowl, and determining which blade to use. I chose a smallish 4-cup bowl to keep my ingredients close together, and the standard chop blade that came with my machine. Some food processors offer doodads that julienne and add all kinds of awesome knifework to your ingredients. Olives are so small that it’s not necessary here.

Add olives! I chose a mix of dried black olives, red pepper Spanish queens, and kalamata. I used enough to almost cover the bottom of my food processor, but for a party, you’ll want closer to 2 cups.

Now capers. I used a heavy hand because I know I like the pungency. I wouldn’t use more than a teaspoon-full for guests.

I squeezed half a lemon using another favorite gadget—a citrus juicer. Pro tip—put your citrus in flat side down so that the squeeze turns the lemon inside-out.

Turn your food processor on low to blend your ingredients. I let it go about twenty seconds, or until the food stops moving around the bowl.

Once your olives are all stuck to the sides of your bowl, turn the processor off, remove the lid, and scrape the sides. Now, the magic. Add a little bit of olive oil, and turn it back on low. I’d recommend about a tablespoon, or enough to keep the pulverized bits moving around the bowl as the machine goes.

Do the check, scrape, add olive oil thing until your tapenade is the consistency you like, and then serve with pita chips or pita bread (I’m a sucker for pita bread with tapenade!). If you want to make it extra fancy, toast your pita in a pan on the stove first with a little butter.

So what are your favorite kitchen gadgets? Any that were a childhood dream realized as an adult (I know I’m a huge nerd)? Happy entertaining, hosts!

 

Homemade Soup – Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

Homemade Soup – Slow Cooker Thai Chicken

A big bowl of homemade soup is just the ticket for these cold winter months, and with this Saturday being Homemade Soup Day, now is the perfect time to share a fantastic recipe that will warm you right up! It is also most definitely slow cooker season, so we’ve got Sarah here with a souper (sorry…) easy dish to come home to on a chilly night. Warm us up, Sarah!

In the dead of winter, I know I can always warm up from the inside out with a good bowl of homemade soup (and good bread!). I live in the snowbelt and experience a wonderful phenomenon known as the lake effect, which means I can expect a foot or more of snow overnight without Mother Nature blinking an eye. It’s great when you’re in school because there are snow days, but as an adult with a job, the traffic jam that doubles my commute home means that I am looking forward to dinner being ready when I get there.

Enter the slow cooker, one of my favorite kitchen appliances. You can throw raw ingredients together in the morning and come home to a fully-cooked meal.

My favorite homemade soup this winter has been a creamy coconut milk-based Thai chicken soup.

Adapted from this recipe, this soup is tangy and a little bit spicy. It gets better as you get deeper in your bowl.

Slow Cooker Thai Chicken Soup

  • 1 ½ lb. chicken (3 frozen chicken breasts)
  • 1 bunch cilantro (or 1 squeeze from herbs in a tube)
  • 1 heaping tsp ginger
  • 1 onion
  • 1 bag frozen peas
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 2 TBS red curry paste
  • 5 TBS fish sauce
  • 1 TBS lemon juice
  • 3 TBS peanut butter
  • 4 TBS brown sugar
  • 2 TBS soy sauce
  • 1 TBS sriracha

Instructions on this one are pretty simple: Load up your slow cooker, turn it on low, and go about your day. I turn it up to high for a bit when I get home from work. I doubt it does anything, but it FEELS hotter. When you are ready for dinner, remove the chicken breasts and cut them up (lazy girl shortcut). This is great served over rice, but I love a brothy soup (as evidenced by my midnight whiskey chicken soup obsession). The combination of peanut butter, red curry paste, and fish sauce will keep you dipping your spoon until you’ve eaten a bowl or more. So good it sneaks up on you.

Homemade Soup

My favorite serving suggestion with Thai chicken soup is thick, crusty bread spread thick with good butter. A diced red pepper wouldn’t go amiss in this concoction, and I wouldn’t turn my nose up at tossing in baby corn or plain frozen sweetcorn.

What are your favorite deep winter recipes? What is the best side to serve with homemade soup? Do you like your soup piping hot or more lukewarm? I am in camp “hot enough to burn my mouth,” just like my mother, and I will never learn.

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Christmas Cookies – Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

Need some simple, yummy Christmas cookies to make for your holiday cookie exchange? Or just to have on hand because, well, Christmas cookies are delicious? Sarah has an easy, tasty recipe to share with us today that will surely please a crowd.

In my experience, there are two kinds of people who bake. People who love to bake, and people who wish it wasn’t quite so… involved. The holiday season brings with it the anticipated (or dreaded) holiday parties and cookie exchanges. I, for one love any chance to be a little extra festive and fancy (and enjoy a few cocktails, clearly), but I also want an “easy” button.

Today’s recipe—Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies—is a little less involved than other Christmas cookies I’ve made, and the end result tastes great!

This recipe was a challenge for me, because I love to tweak things I already know, and I knew this recipe was good using lemon juice and lemon zest. I also had a dark red cherry liqueur on-hand. And it’s the Christmas season… I really wanted these to be pink cookies with green lime zest on top, but we don’t always get everything we want from Santa, either. The cherry flavor from the cherry liqueur is much more subtle than you think it will be in the finished product, and the dough soaks it right up, so feel free to use a heavy hand.

Cherry Cordial Cream Cheese Cookies

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup cream cheese
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2-1/2 cups flour
  • Cherry liqueur (approximately 5/8 to 3/4 cup)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt

-Cream the butter, cream cheese, and sugar together. This will be a crumbly mixture with a clump of butter and cream cheese stuck to your mixer paddle. Don’t panic.

-Add the egg. Hooray for egg! This will give you something more akin to a standard cookie’s wet ingredient mixture.

-Add the cornstarch, baking soda, and salt.

-Add the flour and cherry liqueur alternately. Mix half a cup of flour into your wet mixture and turn your mixer on for a moment to combine. This will get crumbly. Stop your mixer and add 2 tablespoons of cherry liqueur, then turn your mixer back on to combine. Repeat until you’ve added 2 ½ cups of flour and then balanced it out with cherry liqueur.

-This is an opportunity to either chill your dough, or the start of the period of time where you need to work quickly. Use your hands to form balls of dough about ½ an inch to 1 inch in size (I am terrible at uniform cookie sizes), and space about an inch apart on a greased cookie sheet. I am a big fan of shortcuts in the kitchen, but my best tip today is to use the biggest baking sheet that will fit in your oven, so you’ll be making fewer batches of these bad boys.

-Bake 8-10 minutes at 350°.

These cookies beg for some sugar, and maybe some citrus, so you have two (easy!) options to finish them. The first is to top them with powdered sugar and lemon or lime zest. This takes seconds, looks nice, and adds a hit of sweetness. I used my zester to sift the powdered sugar, since I don’t own a sieve. Scoop a small spoonful onto the backside of your zester, holding it horizontally over your cookies. Tap the side of the zester lightly and voilà! Rinse your zester and grate some lemon (or lime—green for Christmas!) zest on top.

Your second option is to make a glaze. This is going to require some time to dry, and may make transporting the finished product more difficult. However, a glaze adds a massive hit of sugar, which is beneficial to a more muffin-y cookie. Mix half a tablespoon of milk with half a tablespoon of your flavoring of choice—lemon juice or cherry liqueur are good choices in this instance. Add confectioner’s sugar bit by bit until you have a dippable consistency (about ¾ of a cup). Dunk the tops of your (cooled!) cookies in the glaze and let dry on a rack or plate before storing (or snacking—or not, I can’t tell you how to live your best life!).

These Christmas cookies are not pink. They are not super sweet. They do not punch you in the face with bold cherry flavor. But they do have a very moist, dense consistency thanks to the cream cheese. And with a glaze or dusting of powdered sugar on top, they are a perfectly balanced bite that you and your cookie exchange participants will enjoy sharing while celebrating the holidays. Happy everything to you and yours!

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Cozy Christmas Drinks to Put You in the Holiday Spirit

Get into the cozy Christmas mood with these festive cocktails from Claire (you know how we love a seasonal drink!). Whether you are spending a quiet night in or hosting a holiday party, Claire has you covered in the cocktail department! Let’s get mixing, Claire!

This year seems to have gone by in record time, which is good, because 2016 has been a real stinker and I’m not going to miss it when it’s done. Usually in December, all I want to do is get cozy and Christmassy, but this year I’ve been having a tougher time than I normally do getting festive. Luckily, I have devised a brilliant, alcohol-fueled plan to grease my Christmas spirit wheels, and it all starts today, as I trim my tree.

A cozy Christmas cocktail is the perfect way to fire up the holiday spirit!

As a child of a mixed-religious union, I grew up celebrating both Christmas and Chanukah, though with so many fun activities involved, Christmas always won out as the bigger deal of the two. Our family tradition was to spend Christmas day at our Grandma’s house, so we didn’t always have a tree in our house. Well, I am a strong believer in creating your own holiday traditions, so now that I have my own house, I always have a Christmas tree, no matter where I’ll be on Christmas day. The week after Thanksgiving, Pier and I go out to the tree lot, we pick out a tree, and then he helps me set it up so I can decorate it. Well, this year, Pier has had to work late all week so I went to the tree lot by myself. I tied the tree to my car by myself and then unloaded and stood it up by myself. I knew I was going to need some powerful holiday magic to get me through decorating by myself. What better than hot cocoa? I used to always make Mexican hot chocolate from scratch whenever I got a craving for cocoa, but I found that I actually wanted cocoa more often than I was willing to put the effort into the process. Since then, I have gotten smarter and/or lazier, and I have adapted my own recipe for an instant mix from Alton Brown’s own recipe (so you know it must be good).

Mix together one and a half to two cups of powdered sugar, one cup of unsweetened cocoa powder, two and a half cups of dry milk powder, two teaspoons of cornstarch, and one teaspoon of salt. Add cinnamon and cayenne pepper to suit your taste. I like a lot of heat in mine, so I go a little heavier on the cayenne. Just add hot water, et voilà, you’re in cocoa heaven. This mix can keep for a whole year in an air-tight container, but I doubt it will last longer than a month, especially if you prepare it the way I like it best. Put two spoonfuls of cocoa mix into your mug. Add some coffee if you have some made, or a little bit of instant espresso if you don’t. Pour in hot water, leaving about an inch of space at the top. Stir until everything is dissolved, then fill the space to the top with Irish cream. Top it with marshmallows (obviously) and you are ready to get cozy while you untangle your lights!

Cozy Christmas

Cocoa is nice while I enjoy the Fireplace for Your Home on Netflix, but it can be a little rich for everyday drinking. For something equally warming, I recommend mulled cider. Mulling spices make some of the best smells on the planet, and they go great with the piney smell of the Christmas tree. This will make your home smell like a cozy Christmas cabin. To make mulled cider, just pour some good apple juice or cider into a saucepan. Add a tangerine, either pierced with cloves, or sliced. Also add a couple of whole star anise, a good tablespoon or so of allspice berries, and two or three cinnamon sticks, cracked. I like to add some ginger to my cider as well, because I like the kick. Add a little wine, if you like, and bring the whole pot to a gentle boil. Simmer for 15 minutes, and strain. If you need an extra pick-me-up, bourbon, rum or brandy will all blend beautifully with your cider.

Cozy Christmas

Of course, the Christmas season isn’t just about cuddling. December has only just started, and I already have three parties on my calendar. Hot cider works nicely at a quiet dinner party or a bonfire, but for a traditional Christmas soiree, I’d say that punch is best. It can be made in large batches, so the host doesn’t have to tend bar, and it makes a festive and stylish centerpiece. There are a lot of ways you can go with your punch, but I think it’s nice to keep it simple. For this one, simply pour a whole bottle of sparking white wine (Prosecco, Champagne, whatever!) into your punch bowl. Add a cup of cranberry juice cocktail, half a cup of vodka, and a squeeze of lemon or orange juice to taste. I like to freeze a bag of cranberries and throw them into the bowl, too. They help keep the punch cold, and they add a festive flair. I also recommend setting your punch bowl on top of a bowl of ice or some freezer packs wrapped in a napkin or towel to keep it chilled.

Cozy Christmas

Whatever you’re drinking this holiday season, I hope you are with people who love you, or at least a cat that doesn’t mind sharing the room with you. Happy holidays to you and yours.