Archive for December, 2011

Happy New Year

I am inspired by the Japanese traditions surrounding New Year or Oshogatsu.  According to Victoria Abbott Riccardi in Untangling My Chopsticks, “beginning on the eve of December 31 and ending on January 3, it is a time of great joy and renewal.”   Families prepare by thoroughly cleaning their homes, and by paying off social and physical debts.  They enjoy “year forgetting parties” in which they drink and take the opportunity to speak honestly to superiors and colleagues so as the walk into the New Year unburdoned.  During the holiday, no work is done, people pay respects to their elders, cleanse, and rest.  I cannot say that my interpretation of her interpretation of New Years is correct.  However, I like the idea of taking a moment to cleanse oneself and ones house of 2011 before walking into 2012.


I did a couple of deep scrubs this week in preparation for the New Year.  One thing I took some time to clean was my budget.  I removed some unnecessary items to make more space in my paycheck for whatever 2012 brings.  I took the opportunity to speak honestly with a good friend about where our friendship might go next.  Brett joined in to the cleaning frenzy  by going through some boxes to decide what to keep and what to give away.  Our house is cleaner, our budget is freer, and I feel a sense of clarity.  In this space of clarity, I hope to set some intentions for 2012 knowing that I am keeping what I want from 2011 and leaving behing that which will no longer serve me.

Having been so inspired by the culture, I took a day to explore Japanese food.  Elizabeth Andoh’s beautiful cookbook Washoku served as my guide.  In the coming weeks, I look forward to sharing more with you about my Japanese culinary adventure as well as some of my intentions for 2012.  In the meantime, I encourage you to make this basic stock which will serve as the basis for the meal to come and take some time to determine what from 2011 need a deep cleaning to prepare for 2012.

Basic Sea Stock


15-20 square inches kombu 

4 1/4 cups cold water

1/2 cup katsuo-bushi

Place the Kombu in a pot with the water.

Let soak for 10-15 minutes

Heat until bubbles start to form.  Remove from heat.

Add the katsuo-bushi.

3-4 minutes later, strain stock.



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Santa’s Favorite Cookies

Santa’s mostest favoritest cookies are Molasses Crinkles.  No, I do not have a direct line to Santa.  But I do have science.  Every year, my sister and I put out Molasses Crinkles for Santa and some carrots for his reindeer.  Every year, the Molasses Crinkles had bites taken out of them, the carrots were gone, and we got great presents.  See?  Science.  Santa likes Molasses Crinkles cookies bestest.

Very slighty adapted from Ina Garten.   The recipe that I used is below.  Follow the link for the original recipe.  I quadrupled the powdered ginger and omitted the cloves because I wanted ginger cookies.  I used less crystalized ginger because ginger comes in 4 oz packs rather than 6 oz packs at my local Whole Foods.  I used one egg and one egg yolk because I forgot to buy extra-large eggs.  See, Cookiepalooza 2011 was a well-organized affair.

Cookiepalooza 2011 Aftermath


  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/3 cup unsulfured molasses
  • 1 large egg and 1 egg yolk
  • 4 ounces chopped crystallized ginger
  • Granulated sugar, for rolling the cookies


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, and salt and then combine the mixture with your hands. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the brown sugar, oil, and molasses on medium speed for 5 minutes. Turn the mixer to low speed, add the egg, and beat for 1 minute. Scrape the bowl with a rubber spatula and beat for 1 more minute. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 2 minutes. Add the crystallized ginger and mix until combined.

Scoop the dough with 2 spoons or a small ice cream scoop. With your hands, roll each cookie into a 1 3/4-inch ball and then flatten them lightly with your fingers. Press both sides of each cookie in granulated sugar and place them on the sheet pans. Bake for exactly 13 minutes. The cookies will be crackled on the top and soft inside. Let the cookies cool on the sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

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Make Peppermint Bark.  Every Christmas season, when the crowds start to get to me, I make Peppermint Bark.  Its easy, its delicious, and it is a stress reliever.  I let my friends and family believe that the reason for the Peppermint Bark is to give as a gift.  The real reason, of course, is because I get to beat peppermint sticks with a wooden spoon.

Mid process on this year’s batch, Brett suggested that a food processor would be a more reasonable solution.  I thought about it. . . and promptly disregarded the suggestion.  If a use a food processor, I don’t get to beat things with wooden spoons, do I? 

12 Candy Canes

4 White Chocolate Bars

Wax Paper

Prepare1.  Crush candy canes using whichever method suits your mood.

2.  Melt white chocolate.  I have never had a problem putting white chocolate in the microwave for short intervals, stirring between each one.

3.  Spread melted chocolate along the wax paper to create a layer that is about 1/4 inch.

4.  Sprinkle the crushed peppermint evenly across the white chocolate.  I recommend putting down a layer of the most finely crushed peppermint covering down first and then sprinkling the larger pieces evenly across the white chocolate for a more even look and flavor.  I also recommend pressing the larger pieces into the chocolate so they won’t fall off when the chocolate hardens.

5.  Leave overnight to firm.

6.  Slice into pieces.

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My house smells fabulous!  Brett very sweetly took me to buy my very own fresh-cut tree which I decorated with homemade chocolate ornaments. Every time I step into the living room, it smells like pine and chocolate; Christmas.  Even better, the ornaments are super easy to make.

How To


Candy Melts or White Chocolate

Candy Mold

Ornament hooks

To Do:

Melt the candy in the microwave in 30 second intervals, stirring between each interval.

Pour candy into the mold.  If using hollow molds, fill about half full.

Refrigerate the mold untill chill and then pop the candy out.  If the candy breaks coming out, it can be reattached with some melted candy or melted again.

If working with a hollow, two piece mold like I did, use more melted candy to fuse the two pieces together.  position the ornament hook between the two pieces.

Things I Learned

Candy melts and mold can be found at a craft store.

Test the first batch for weight on the tree.  My biggest ornaments are a bit too heavy for my tree.

A single piece mold is easier than a two piece mold (seriously? why don’t these things occur to me until I am half way done with a project.)

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Sausage Mushroom Pesto Pasta

One of the delightful things that Fall has brought is a veggie box split with friends. Brett and I get enough veggies for the week and regular meal inspiration as we try to figure out what to do with the contents of the box.  Not knowing what is going to arrive in the box creates space for me to be spontaneous.  As we enter a season rich with traditions, I encourage you to allow yourself space for spontaneity as well even if it is in little things like what to do with a veggie box.


Every week, our veggie box has contained a new unidentifiable green leafy vegetable.  To the left are this weeks greens.  Seriously, what are these?!?  The one on the left is sour and wilted quickly while the one on the right is bitter and more durable.  If you have any insight, let me know.

In the end, what they were mattered less than the bitter greens pesto they turned into.  Garlicy with a bite, this pesto eased my guilt about the sausage that also found its way into the pasta.  Because, you know. . . if there is something healthy and green in your meal it okay to add something fatty and delicious. . . right?

1 large bunch bitter greens

1/4 onion

3 garlic cloves

 2 Tbs olive oil

1/4 cup pine nuts

1.       Roughly chop greens, onion, and garlic.

2.       Blend until almost smooth.

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