Tag Archives: holiday

Chocolate Granola for Valentine’s Day

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

I hope you all have loved ones with whom to celebrate. If you do, I think you should be starting your day off with chocolate.

You know, to celebrate.

And if you don’t… you should definitely be starting your day with some chocolate.

To… make yourself feel better. Or, hey, to celebrate being single. Whichever.


It’s because I love you guys that I spent part of my weekend creating a recipe for chocolate granola.

Definitely not because I knew I’d need some chocolate on Tuesday morning.

Not telling you which of the above scenarios has me needing chocolate in the morning, though. 😉

Anyway, I thought this might be a nice Valentine’s Day recipe to wake up to. Healthy, but not too healthy. Chocolate-based, but not wildly caloric (the cocoa makes it taste decadent without being coated in melted chocolate). A good balance. A perfect start to the day.

Chocolate Granola

makes about 2 1/2 cups worth… whatever that means to you, serving-wise 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup agave
  • 2 tbs vegetable or canola oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup slivered or sliced almonds (I actually switched to sliced after I took the above picture)
  • 1/4 cup chocolate chips

Directions:

Set oven to 300 degrees.

Pour all ingredients into a bowl. Mix, preferably with a wooden spoon.

Try really hard not to eat some with a spoon.

Fail. There’s no raw egg in there. Fail happily.

Spray a baking sheet with non-stick spray.

Spread (remaining) granola mixture evenly across the baking sheet.

Bake for 30 minutes, tossing the granola every seven-ish minutes.

Voila! That’s it. I love easy recipes.

Serve however you want.

So far, I’ve tried it with milk…

Almond milk…

(soooo good)

And in a delicious yogurt bowl for Valentine’s morning. 🙂

Delicious. Decadent. Still healthy.

And totally holiday-appropriate.

Happy Valentine’s Day! Did you have chocolate in your breakfast today? Share!

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A Lucky New Year

Well, guys, New Year’s Eve has come and gone.

And for me, you know what New Year’s Eve means? It means it was time to return to “camping in the woods” of good ol’ Phoenicia, NY.

It felt like returning home.

So, I got really lucky this year. I was picked as one of Foodbuzz’s twenty-four bloggers for 24×24 to ring in the new year. This meant that — full disclosure! — they gave me $250 to write about my New Year’s Eve food experience, which was fortunate because it afforded me the ability to actually attend camping with my friends this year. Thank you, Foodbuzz!

I pitched the idea of “A Lucky New Year,” which meant I wanted to make a bunch of traditionally lucky foods for New Year’s Eve. (For the record, I did all of my “lucky food” research on Google and just found a lot of common themes amongst a lot of articles and web pages.)

Ironically, my trip started off with something very unlucky. About an hour and a half into my two and a half hour journey to upstate New York, my mom called me to let me know that… those Christmas presents I had so carefully picked out and wrapped? Yea, they were sitting on my kitchen floor.

Whoops.

So, when I got to the cabin, the space underneath the tree there remained woefully empty.

Again: Whoops! I did not start the whole experience off very “lucky,” huh?

Now, I want to explain why I chose the theme of luck for this New Year’s Eve. Within this little group of friends, we all need luck in this coming year. And, for all of us, the common themes were love and career.

Specifically…

Katri and I are both looking to advance in our careers (as you can tell from our very serious picture above).

Will, with his very serious fake tattoo below, has the same goal in mind.

And all three of us are hoping for better luck in love in 2012.

Michelle and Ed also have career goals, but their goals are mostly centered on love. Why?

Because they’re getting married (to each other) this year! Hooray!

I think that deserves some luck, right?

Anyway, soon after I got there, we all decided to go downtown to Woodstock (a nearby town with lots of character).

The boys got lunch while we were in town, but I saved my appetite for the lunch I’d brought. Why? Because it was…

Lucky Food #1: Fish

That morning, I’d picked up a container of my favorite tuna fish from a nearby store because I wanted to make my lunch lucky, just to get things started.

In my research, I learned that fish is a lucky food for ringing in the new year because the silver scales of fish (usually herring) are meant to represent money (silver).

Soon enough, I started preparing one of my dishes for the evening, which included another lucky ingredient.

Lucky Food #2: Lentils

I decided to make a lentil dip, which was a bit of a risk because I’ve a) never had lentil dip before, b) don’t even really know if this is something that exists, and c) completely made up the recipe in my head without any real foundation.

Anyway, it’s a darn good thing that I started it early, because the process was an absolute disaster (it does, however, have a happy ending).

I’ll be posting about the dip in detail later, with the recipe, but I’ll share this now: the blender, which I was using in place of a food processor? Yea, it didn’t work. The blades moved, but it just didn’t blend. See below.

I ended up baking it to soften it (which actually ended up being a blessing in disguise!) and then mixing it with a hand mixer.

Again, more details later. But what you need to know now is that it worked. 🙂

I served the dip with these new Sweet Potato Chips from TJ’s.

I picked them because I thought they’d go well with the dip (they did!) and because they are shaped like coins, which is considered lucky for the New Year. That is, incidentally, why lentils are considered a lucky food! Coin-shaped foods are considered lucky because they, too, represent money and prosperity for the year to come.

We also had other appetizers, sort of.

Lucky Food #3: Long Noodles

This was just a prepared noodle dish from TJ’s, but I knew long noodles wouldn’t otherwise fit into our menu and I wanted to uphold this lucky food tradition. We each took a bite (well, other than Michelle, but she’s gluten-free) of noodles without breaking them first (important!), which is meant to represent long life and longevity.

This isn’t a lucky food, but we also ate baked brie with crackers and pepperoni (for the non-vegetarians).

I did, however, manage to bring the lucky food theme into my drink of choice for the evening.

Lucky Food # 4: Oranges (round-shaped fruit)

As you can see, oranges were incorporated threefold in this drink.

This drink was a shot of orange-flavored vodka (when my dad makes it, it’s Stoli — when I make it, it’s Smirnoff) with a cup of fresh (so important!) orange juice and a healthy slice of an orange.

From my research, I learned that oranges are traditionally lucky for the Chinese New Year especially and are meant to bring wealth and general good luck.

Lucky Food #5: Cooked Greens

Now, this one gets a little interesting.

The intention was to make sauteed spinach as a side dish to our pasta dish.

The actuality is that we lost the shallots for the pasta dish and I offered up my shallots/ onion/ garlic mix for the pasta dish, which meant I lost said mix for my dish. My compromise was that Ed (who was in charge of the pasta dish) incorporate my spinach into his dish.

It totally worked! So, it wasn’t as planned, but we still had cooked greens.

Personally, I think this is a good sign. It shows that I can/ will be flexible, adaptive, and generous in the new year. 🙂 Right??

Cooked greens, like so many other foods here, are meant to represent money (because cooked greens look like folded bills).

Lucky Food #6: Ring Cakes (and other ring-shaped foods)

This was my personal favorite lucky food, both because I like what it represents and because it tasted (and smelled!) so freaking good.

Full disclosure: my mom made this for me because I didn’t have my ish together and because she is the best mom in the world.

She also made that homemade whipped cream with chocolate shavings that you see there. Because she is amazing. Recipe to come for the cake and whipped cream too, don’t worry. 🙂

As I did my food-blogger-photographer thing, the rest of them narrated and filmed the experience.

It was quite funny to listen to, especially because they thought I couldn’t hear them through the glass door.

Ring-shaped cakes and other ring-shaped foods are meant to represent coming full circle. I love that. A complete year ahead.

Lucky Food #7: Pomegranate

This was another food which I incorporated into a drink.

This drink was one part sparkling cranberry juice and two parts (classy) champagne with pomegranate seeds at the bottom of the glass.

This was the drink with which I toasted at midnight.


Ironically, I only took one sip and never got to the pomegranate seeds (nor did anyone else) because Ed and/ or Michelle knocked the glass off of that ladder.

Pomegranates are meant to represent fertility. I’m pretty sure this either means I or Ed and Michelle are not meant to have kids this year.

That’s okay. I don’t think having kids this year was in any of our plans. 🙂

Last but not least, we have…

Lucky Food #8: Grapes


Traditionally, you’re supposed to eat one grape for each stroke of midnight at midnight, AKA twelve grapes in all to represent each of the twelve months of the year.


We didn’t hear actual strokes of the clock at midnight, but I’m pretty sure I did it!

Eating grapes in this manner is meant to represent luck for each particular month of the new year.

Pretty cool, huh? Now, here are some pictures of us so you can have a sense of our silly night:

Lots of fun, lots of games, lots of food, lots of mess, and lots of love.

On New Year’s Day, we woke up to bright, beautiful sunshine.

Which, in my opinion, is the perfect start to 2012.

Michelle also lit a bayberry candle, which is meant to give luck in the new year.

And with that…

… I think we’ve done everything we can to edge our way to good luck in the new year, don’t you think?

Do you have any lucky New Year’s Eve traditions?

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2011 Reflections

Before I make my resolutions for 2012, I want to take a look back at 2011. That’s healthy, right? We’ll make it like a report card.

1. Career.

I don’t mention my job(s)  much on the blog (it’s just not smart), but this past year has been absolutely crazy, job-wise. I think I’ve given the gist of it, but let’s do a recap, shall we? Let’s see…

a)I left a job that made me miserable

b) I went to a temporary job that made me happy but was only ever going to last a month.

c) I then got a job that was supposed to be temporary but ended up becoming permanent and making me really happy…

and then I d) landed my dream job and had to quit said happiness-creating job. It was okay, though, because the new job made (makes!) me happy, too! It is my dream job, after all. 😉

e) Within that dream job, I just recently landed my dream (three-month-long) position. WOOHOO!

A little confusing, I know — but, overall, I think it’s safe to say that 2011 was a long process toward the exact path I want to be on my career.

Grade: A- (the – is only because I had to leave one job I loved for the other job.)

2. Health

Well, I think we all know that 2011 was a little rough on me, health-wise. The big thing: After months and months of physical therapy, I still never got better and eventually realized I needed to get knee surgery. So, as you all know, I finally got knee surgery in October and have been healing since.

Before the surgery, though, there was a lot of suffering. I stopped being able to run. I stopped being able to do high-impact exercise. I had to give up on P90X before I even started. I left a kick-boxing class in tears. I started feeling like a gerbil with no real goal on the elliptical. I lost sight of my ideals.

And to worsen everything, I ate some stupid stuff and drank more than I should have, and I’m pretty sure this has all been in reaction to not being able to work out. I gained more weight than I’m comfortable with. I know that a lot of this is because of my knee, but some of it isn’t.

I might as well keep it real on here, right? Otherwise, why would you read my blog?

Grade: C (I am in good health and I still have pretty good habits — I’m just focusing on the bad ones.)

3. Friends and Family

I’ve made a ton of new friends and kept the old. I like to think I stay pretty well in touch with all of the friends and family from whom I live far away, but I could always do better. I think I need the most work in terms of keeping in touch with the friends that live close by!

Grade: A

4. Love

I’ve dated a bunch of duds. Or just guys that didn’t work out. I’m really very over dating in LA.

Grade: D

5. Blogging

With all of the job changes, I lost a little focus around here. I didn’t mean to — it just happened!

Grade: B-

Sheesh! That report card is all over the place! Still, I’m happy as the year closes. So I’ll give it…

Overall Grade: B

What are some of your reflections about 2011? What grades would you give these areas of your life? What areas would you add?

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Christmas Day

Ahh, I love Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday of the year. It might even be my favorite day of the year — even more than my birthday!

In my family, Christmas traditionally starts with the children (okay, now it’s “children”) opening their stockings first, before the adults (“adults”) are allowed into the room.

Tradition has sort of been thrown out the window, now that I awaken early with the “adults” and my brother still sleeps in until nearly noon like a teenager (he’s in his twenties). Nonetheless, we still start with our stockings. Our parents are just there with us now. And they open their stockings, too.

Before we got to anything else, post-stocking ritual, we all needed caffeine…

…and breakfast. And not just any breakfast. No, it was time for our traditional coffee cake.


…AKA the most unhealthy cake in the world. Last year, we tried a healthy version. This year, everyone else vetoed it. No big deal. We had fruit, too.

That makes it healthier, right?

Frankly, I agreed with them. I just took a small piece and paired it with a healthy serving of berries.

Don’t worry. The family still made a significant dent.

Keep in mind — there are only five of us.

Soon, it was time for the most anticipated part of the morning: the presents under the tree!

The family did not hold back. In no time at all, we went from this…

…to this…

…to this…

… to this.

What a bunch of slobs.

A highlight of the gifts?

My brother got me a WHOLE CASE OF PUMKING!

Best. Brother. EVER. Am I right??

Other “highlights?”

Oh, just some “Superstar” fuzzy PJ pants and a Hello Kitty t-shirt that says “Being this cute is exhausting!”

… I don’t want to talk about it.

I do, however, feel like talking about how much I love this picture of my siblings and me.

Love them. Love that we lined up in height order… again.

We spent the afternoon being lazy, watching a movie, and playing games.

My favorite, however, was…

Bananagrams!!! (AKA my new favorite game.)

I won the first round…

… but my family didn’t like that very much. And my family plays dirty. So, while I wasn’t looking, they switched the tiles around before the next round so that I got almost entirely consonants.

You know what they say about Karma, though? Check out my brother’s tiles.

He got what he deserved!

Wine helped the games (and my dad) be quite silly and fun.

Before we knew it, it was Christmas dinner time. No, we did not dress up. None of us even showered. Why do you ask?

We did, however, dress the table up. Someone had to look fancy.

Isn’t that pretty? My mom is amazing.

Those Christmas plates have been around for as long as I can remember.

Christmas was a wonderful day full of lots of love with my favorite people in the world.

But, all too soon, it was over.

How were your Christmases? I miss hearing from you guys!

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Free Cookies! (Holiday Gift Giveaway)

Did that get your attention?

I thought it might. And that’s good, because I want to keep it for this whole post. There’s lots of information here, plus a GIVEAWAY at the bottom, plus a COUPON CODE for everyone else who doesn’t win!

Anyway, these free cookies. They’re free cookies to make — very easily — at your convenience.

Or, if you’re in the giving mood since it’s the holiday season and all, at someone else’s convenience. Good thing, too, because it is seriously a perfect holiday gift.

Allow me to explain.

You see, there’s this really cool company called The Mason Jar Cookie Company, which allows you to create your own custom cookies.

You get to choose a base (out of four options) and three add-ins (out of thirty!), and all of a sudden you have a “recipe” for  your own custom cookies. And you get to name your blend, too!

Then, in the mail, you get this attractive tube.

Which you open to find this:

And then you dig down a bit, and you find your custom cookie mix, carefully layered inside a mason jar.

It even comes with custom nutritional statistics and baking instructions!

Which brings me to the next part — baking it!

All you need to provide is the butter,  egg and vanilla.

And then it comes together so quickly, it’s ridiculous.

In just a few minutes, you have delicious cookies right out of the oven, with basically no work at all.

Super easy clean-up, too.


Oh, and even better? You can re-order your mix (or get your friends to order your exact mix) easily with your custom code!

(Note: That’s not my code, nor was this my mix — I just got their recommended blend.)

Anyway, here are the two best parts:

1. I get to do a GIVEAWAY!

You have until Thursday, December 8th at 12PM (noon) PST to enter.

Here’s how you can enter:

(Up to two entries by doing each of the below.)

  • One entry for commenting here with what your mix will be.
  • One entry for tweeting about it (and also copying me, @honeykaitlin and The Mason Jar Cookie Company, @masonjarcookie) and linking to this post.

2. All of you get to benefit from this — not just the winner! — because ALL of you can use the coupon code TENOFF to get 10% off your order.

It’s the perfect holiday gift for the person who has everything… or the person who just loves cookies! And especially the person who loves cookies but is hopeless in the kitchen. 🙂

Enter and order away! Let me know if you order one, too. 🙂

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Caramelized Onion, Swiss & Gruyere Mashed Potatoes

Yes, really. All those ingredients.

Yes.

You’re welcome.

Actually, we first have Emily from the Daily Garnish to thank for this one — she came up with the idea, and then I adapted it, making it totally not vegan. I made it her way last Thanksgiving, changed it a little bit at Christmas, and then made it my own this year.

I used A LOT of potatoes and onions for this recipe. After all, I was cooking for 25 people.

Don’t believe me? Check it out.

That’s nine pounds of potatoes and eight onions. Yup.

That’s two big pots full of potatoes…

And a huge bowl full of diced onions.

… which resulted in two — yes, two — 9 x 13 pans-full of mashed potatoes.

Don’t worry. I’m scaling the recipe down for you here.

Caramelized Onion, Swiss & Gruyere Mashed Potatoes

makes about 10 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 tbs olive oil
  • 3-4 sweet onions
  • ~4-6 pounds (about 7-9 medium) potatoes
  • 2 tbs butter
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup shredded swiss & gruyere
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions

Dice onions.

Heat a heavy-bottomed skillet over low heat. Pour olive oil in and add onions and a pinch of salt. Cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, stirring often! You want to let your onions get a lovely even light brown color without actually burning or browning them. The key is to keep the heat low.

While your onions are caramelizing, quarter the potatoes. Put them in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil and then cook the potatoes at a simmer for about twenty minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Drain potatoes and put into a bowl. Add cream, butter, salt and pepper.

 

Blend with an electric mixer.

Set electric mixer aside and add caramelized onions (once they’re done). Use a spoon to mix the onions in. Add cheese and mix completely.

Serve!

I promise you — you will love this dish.

You can quote me on that.

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Happy Thanksgiving! Praline Spice Cookies (Vegan)

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Today, I am thankful for so much. My life is rich and full. I have an amazing family, a huge circle of incredible friends all around the world, a base of readers that I see coming back day after day (I really love you guys), a job I love, and so much more. I am a lucky girl.

I know I was supposed to share these with you yesterday (sorry about that), but it’s better late than never, right?

Plus, these are some of the best cookies I’ve ever made. Seriously.

And now you can be thankful for that. 🙂

(And maybe just ignore how awful the pictures are since they were taken in my garage at night. I did my very best without a lightbox!)

Oh, and this is actually an adaptation of my own recipe — for my Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!

Praline Spice Cookies

makes 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 1/2 tbs cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 cup coconut oil (liquified, at room temp or higher) (use unrefined — trust me on this)
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • 1 cup vegan chocolate chips (Ghiradelli makes really good ones!)
  • 1 cup pecan pralines (I get the amazing ones from Trader Joe’s)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt together. Set aside.

In a separate bowl blend white sugar, brown sugar, liquified coconut oil and vanilla extract. Add flour mixture and blend again.

Set mixer aside, add chocolate chips and pecan pralines, and use a wooden spoon to mix the chips and nuts into the dough.

Spoon tablespoon-sized balls of dough into your baking trays and leave them rounded. You can even round them with you hands,if you want, as they will keep their shape.

Bake for 12-14 minutes.

And then you’ll get these babies.

Yup.

These are also the closest to cookie dough balls that I’ve ever made by accident. They are hard on the outside while being crumbly, doughy and chewy all at once on the inside.

Plus, the pecan pralines add an incredible sweet/ salty aspect to them!

So, back to Thanksgiving — aside from this awesome recipe (I kid, I kid)…

… What are YOU thankful for today?

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