Making Spirits Bright

Amidst twinkling lights and fluttering tinsel, the sound of carols and jingle bells, the holiday spirit is alive again. The feeling is hard to describe, but impossible to deny when you have it. It’s the tendency towards generosity and kindness, of hope through the darkest of day, and joy for all the little things.

Whiskey Sour Candied Pecans

Want to help share the experience with those you love?

The easiest way is with a different sort of spirited gift.

Whiskey Sour Candied Pecans

Whiskey Sour Candied Pecans are an intoxicating treat inspired by the classic cocktail. Aromatic and heady, sweet and sour with a subtly bitter edge, buttery yet bright, the simple preparation belies the incredibly complex flavors that develop. This isn’t your average spiced party mix that can be munched mindlessly; each crisp toasted nut delivers a bold infusion of merriment.

Whiskey Sour Candied Pecans

In case your spirits are flagging, here’s a foolproof recipe to revive them. Scrooge himself would be powerless against such contagious wintry cheer.

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Tough Cookies

Christmas isn’t for everyone. The forced merriment and artificial optimism, sour memories that fall short of Hollywood-produced nostalgia, stressful family gatherings topped off by unnecessary expenses; it’s enough to make the most joyful person into a real Scrooge. Even the most committed holiday reveler would struggle to maintain the same level of enthusiasm in this harsh reality. You know what is for everyone, though?

Cookies.

Chocolate cut-out cookies, to be precise, will never disappoint. With a batch of homemade cookies, you can express how you really feel about the holiday season without coming off as a miserly curmudgeon. No one ever said they had to be decked out in colorful sprinkles or intricate icing, so why not keep it simple, classic, and versatile?

This particular recipe may just be a new staple in your repertoire. You’d never know that they’re gluten-free or vegan by their soft, toothsome texture or rich cocoa flavor. The dough comes together quickly, rolls out like a dream, and never judges you for your low spirits.

Like any good cookie dough, this one is as versatile as Christmas carols are grating.

Easily change up the flavor by switching out the extract.

A few tried-and-true additions include:

  • Peppermint extract
  • Almond extract
  • Orange zest or extract
  • Instant coffee powder
  • Coarse or flaky sea salt

No cookie cutters? No problem!

You may need to cut back on the snark without such clear messaging, but you don’t need to forgo a sweet treat altogether. Simply roll out the dough as instructed, then use a sharp knife, pizza cutter, or fluted pastry cutter to slice squares or rectangles of any size. Think of this approach as the dessert equivalent of making crackers, if that procedural reference helps you visualize the steps.

Don’t succumb to the Christmas crazies. Celebrate at your own speed, even if that means staying home and keeping holiday content completely off the program. Just don’t forget to treat yourself while you’re at it. Holidays come and go, but a good recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies is forever.

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Fusion Wok Star

We interrupt your regularly scheduled holiday programming for a tropical breath of fresh air.

Let’s be honest: Who hasn’t dreamed of escaping from this so-called winter wonderland in search of greener pastures? Feeling the warm sunshine beat down on bare skin, palm trees gently swaying in the wind, can instantly undo weeks of built up stress. Since jumping on an airplane isn’t an option for most of us, I have the next best thing: Mango-Pineapple Fried Rice.

Purely fusion cuisine that exists in no authentic culinary tradition, there are elements of many southeast cultures mashed up into one hot bowl of whole grains.

  • Chinese sweet and sour sauce comes through from the combination of tangy pineapple and salty soy sauce.
  • Thai inspiration is found in juicy bites of mango, in sharp contrast to hot fresh chilies.
  • Indonesian elements like coconut oil and peanuts add body, depth, and richness.

The secret to creating such a harmonious yet complex balance of disparate flavors is to start with salsa.

Yes, you heard me right! Sam’s Fresh Mango Pineapple Salsa is a perfect companion to chips and guacamole, of course, but also a brilliant meal starter. Instead of shopping and chopping each individual component, this intensely flavorful base is ready to go right away. You can purchase Sam’s Fresh Salsa at ShopRite, Acme, and Safeway. If they are not in your local store, ask them to carry Sam’s Fresh Salsa products!

It’s easy to make the best fried rice with a few quick tips:

  • Most American or Americanized recipes use long grain white rice for stir fries. There’s nothing wrong with this, and you’re welcome to substitute your favorite, but I prefer medium or short grain, such as arborio or sushi rice. I find it stays chewier without drying out, and forms very satisfying little clumps that are easy to pick up with chopsticks.
  • Ideally, cook the rice a day or a few hours in advance to make sure it’s completely cool, if not downright cold. You want the starch to congeal a bit, which is what browns so nicely on the outside when you saute it.
  • Use very, very high heat. The cooking process is very fast since you just want to sear the rice that’s already fully cooked and otherwise ready to eat.

Wish me luck, because this fiery little entree is my entry Sam’s Fresh Salsa Blogger Recipe Challenge! Contest aside, I can already tell you this recipe is a real winner.

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Waffling Around Breakfast

Tender, fluffy, redolent of warm spices; the best cinnamon buns are the epitome of comfort food for those with a sweet tooth. Each rich swirl is lavished with buttery cinnamon filling and smothered in silky cream cheese icing, melting and mingling within the warm, freshly baked pastry. Such an experience can’t be replicated with anything store-bought or made in advance, so how does anyone enjoy such a treat on a busy morning for breakfast?

Turn that concept into a simple waffle batter and bake that decadent cinnamon sweetness right in for an effortless recipe renovation.

Want to save more time in the morning?

These waffles are your ticket to instant comfort food with some advance planning.

The waffles themselves can be made ahead of time and frozen for up to two months. Simply reheat in the toaster oven until hot throughout and lightly crisped on the outside. The cream cheese drizzle will keep in the fridge for up to a week.

What’s a good substitute for sweet potato flour?

Sweet potato flour is unique for its subtly sweet flavor and thickening properties. It’s an excellent gluten-free option, but may be tricky to find in some markets. If you don’t want to order online or simply want to start cooking ASAP, here are the best options to try instead:

  • Quinoa flour
  • Oat flour
  • Rice flour

Never again compromise between convenience, cravings, and nutrition. These decadent-tasting yet secretly healthy waffles have it all!

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Groundbakers, Movers and Shakers

Most cookbooks exist to fulfill a very simple mission: To provide the inspiration and instructions to create food. The best cookbooks go further, using food as the vehicle to tell stories. It’s a subject that touches every facet of life, so to address it in a vacuum without those establishing details creates an unmet hunger. For anyone else that sees beyond the ingredients to how they were grown and who grew them, the treatment of animals, issues of food justice and equality, I’ve got a book for you.

Groundbakers by mother and daughter team Kathy and Mackenzie Feldman addresses our food system as a whole while providing the tools to start fixing it, piece by piece. It starts with education from esteemed experts in the field, also known as groundbakers.

 
 
Hemp Granola

What is a “groundbaker” and who are they?

GROUNDBAKER (ground-bay-ker) – Noun: An individual who is an originator, innovator, or pioneer in the transformation toward a just and regenerative food system.

Chickpea “Crab” Cakes

The list of contributors reads like a who’s who of culinary visionaries:

  • Alieen Suzara
  • Alice Waters
  • Anna Lappé
  • Bob Moore
  • Bryant Terry
  • Daphne Miller
  • Dean Wilhelm
  • Gail Myers
  • José Andrés
  • Leah Penniman
  • Liz Carlisle
  • Malia Smith
  • Maricela Vega
  • Michel Nischan
  • Sean Sherman
  • Steven Lawenda

Matt’s Loco Moco

With those insights come over 60 recipes to make some tough messages more palatable. There really is something in here for everyone- Vegan, gluten-free, and everything in between. I know firsthand that these dishes are every bit as compelling as the writing because I was lucky enough to create the photos.

Southwestern Salad

Over the course of five years, I got to capture the culmination of those stories, which always end in a good meal. You’ll find all your favorite classic comfort foods here, like sloppy Joe’s, mac and cheese, bagels with “lox,” hearty chili, and so much more. These are everyday staples that will quickly become indispensable for anyone that likes to cook, host, or eat.

Salted Tahini Banana Bread

Groundbakers Giveaway!

Another commonality between the best cookbooks is they’re even better when shared. That’s why I’m excited to share this giveaway for a copy of Groundbakers with you! To enter, let me know in the comment section below who you think qualifies as a groundbaker in your life, or which one of the groundbakers in this book is most inspirational. Don’t forget to come back and register your entry in the giveaway widget, along with additional opportunities to win.

Groundbakers by Kathy and Mackenzie Feldman