Archive for December, 2009

Happy Boxing Day! and a Snowy Day Gingerbread Train

Saturday, December 26th, 2009

We made this gingerbread train during last weekend’s blizzard. I used
the gingerbread house and royal icing recipes from Simply Recipes and it came together perfectly. Train cookie cutters helped with the design, though I made some errors in sizing up the interior pieces. Fortunately I had baked the gingerbread the night before and it was soft enough I was able to trim it with my chef’s knife. This is a great snowy day project with kids — just don’t start too late in the day unless you don’t mind the kids staying up all night with the sugar rush.

Banana Pecan Coffee Cake (and a blizzard)

Monday, December 21st, 2009

I haven’t had much time in the kitchen lately, as you might have guessed by my lack of posting. After a long and stressful month, I desparately needed some therapeutic time in the kitchen, breathing in the sweet fragrance of butter and sugar creaming in the KitchenAid. So I was thrilled when I heard there was snow in the forecast for the weekend, and sent the boy and husband to brave the mass hysteria at the grocery store Friday night to stock up on all the snowstorm-in-DC essentials: butter, sugar, flour, orange juice. I didn’t realize just how much snow was in the forecast until I finally paid attention to the weatherman Friday evening, and heard the predictions of a foot or two of snow.  Thus far in my son’s three years, he’s seen maybe a cumulative six inches over his lifetime. Clearly, this was going to be the perfect weekend for quality baking and family time.

Sure enough, we woke to quite a bit of snow Saturday morning, with steady snowfall throughout the day. The boy was so excited he ran out in a t-shirt and his Uggs (a.k.a. “cozy boots”) to start shoveling off the porch. I lured him back inside with the promise of breakfast cake, and started my weekend of baking with this sweet banana pecan coffee cake. Perfect fuel for a day of shoveling, snow ball tossing and snow angel making. (And stay tuned to see what else we baked.)

Recipe: Banana Pecan Coffee Cake
adapted from That’s My Home

Ingredients:

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 cup butter
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas (2-3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup sour cream
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 tablespoon milk

Instructions: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a Bundt pan and set aside. In a food processor, chop pecans with sugar and cinnamon. Set aside. In mixer bowl, cream sugar and butter until smooth. Add eggs, mashed bananas and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract and sour cream, mix until well combined. In a separate bowl, stir together dry ingredients. Add to mixer bowl and mix on low until just blended. Spread a light layer of the nut mixture in the bottom of the pan. Add 1/2 of the batter, spreading evenly over the nuts. Sprinkle remaining nut mixture over the batter, then top with remaining batter. Bake for 40-45 minutes, until top is lightly browned. Cool for 5 minutes in the pan, then invert pan and place cake on a cooling rack. Whisk together powdered sugar, 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract and milk until smooth (add more milk if needed to make a thin glaze). Use a spoon to drizzle glaze over cake. Let stand a few minutes for the glaze to set, and enjoy!

Clementines for the Holidays

Thursday, December 10th, 2009

It’s no secret that citrus is one of the reasons I could never live on a 100% local diet — at least not without moving back to California first. As soon as the weather dips near freezing, I start stocking up on grapefruit, oranges, Meyer lemons or, my favorite, clementines. As much as possible I buy organic citrus from Florida, but for clementines it’s the real thing, all the way from Spain. (I actually spotted those newfangled California “Cuties” at Whole Foods the other day, but stuck with the Old World variety.) When I was a kid, we always got a clementine in our stocking, and devoured it while waiting for Christmas breakfast to be ready. I’ve planned to do the same for the boy, but considering how many clementines we eat in the weeks leading up to Christmas, I’m not sure it’s quite as special a treat.

Today I had a meeting near one of my favorite restaurants in the city, Jaleo, so I stopped in for lunch. Imagine my delight to see the “Clementina Festival!” sign in the window. I couldn’t resist and enjoyed a three-course clementine lunch. First up, seared clementines with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and microgreens. Simple yet bursting with flavor. For the main course, seared squid with artichokes and clementines, the citrus contrasting perfectly with the silky squid. And then dessert. Clementine ice cream atop clementine curd, with some almond/graham cracker crumbs and fresh clementine slices — drizzled with olive oil. Perfection. It was like being transported to sunny Spain for an hour, and left me inspired to do more than just eat our way through the box of clementines straight up. The clementine curd in particular has me pondering a clementine tart … stay tuned.

Do you cook with clementines? What’s your favorite way to use them?

Clementina-web-banner

If you’re in DC, the Clementina Festival continues at Jaleo through December 20.

Spreading Fair Trade Holiday Cheer (a Giveaway!)

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

Happy December! It’s been a little quiet around here, but I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving and are enjoying all the holiday preparations. We’ve lit our (organic, real) Christmas tree and visited New York, now we’re counting down the days to Hanukkah and Christmas. Phew. As we get down to gift-giving business, I have a little holiday gift for you. Read on for the giveaway instructions.

I always have great intentions to make hand-made holiday treats, only to run out of time and have to buy something in a rush. Instead of combing the local mass retailer for something semi-natural (please tell me I’m not the only one who can’t even buy a tiny bottle of hand lotion without reading the ingredient list?), Equal Exchange offers the perfect fair-trade gift baskets for anyone on your list — gifts the recipient will love and that you can feel good about. (Think daycare teachers, the milkman, the boss, etc.)

gift_FTMixer50110_mediumEqual Exchange’s Fair Trade Mixer Gift Basket, for example, includes a variety of coffee, chocolates and nuts in a fairly traded kaisa grass basket imported by Ten Thousand Villages from Dhaka Handicrafts, a non-profit that works to improve the lives of children and rural families in Bangladesh. The gift basket is on sale  for $47 until December 15th. Also find other fair trade gifts that support small-scale farmers, ranging from $27-$75. Order online and get 10% of your order and receive free shipping on orders over $75. Use coupon code: giftme10 during checkout. Coupon expires 12/31/09. Visit www.equalexchange.coop today to order!

And here’s my gift to you, courtesy of Equal Exchange. One lucky reader will receive a FREE Fair Trade Mixer Gift Basket.* Just leave a comment below sharing your favorite holiday treat to give or receive, by midnight (Eastern time), Sunday, December 13. A winner will be selected randomly on December 14. One entry per person, please, and please help spread the holiday cheer by telling a friend! Please enter a valid email address when commenting (it will not be posted) so that I can contact you if you win.

The Fair Trade Mixer Gift Basket includes:

• Organic French Roast Coffee – 10oz, drip grind
• Organic Hot Cocoa Mix – 12oz
• Organic Very Dark Chocolate – 3.5oz bar
• Organic Dark Chocolate with Almonds – 3.5oz bar
• Organic Milk Chocolate with a Hint of Hazelnut – 3.5oz bar
• Organic Tamari Roasted Almonds – 5oz
• Roasted Salted Pecans – 5oz

*Please note the fine print: All shipments are sent via United Parcel Service (UPS). Orders will be shipped within the contingent United States only. We do not ship to PO/APO/FPO’s, American Samoa, Guam, Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, or Virgin Islands.

And the FoodieTots.com disclaimer: all reviews are the opinions solely of myself and the FoodieTots family, and are not financially compensated in any way. Equal Exchange is providing the winner’s gift basket.