And we’re off!

I’ll be taking a little break from posting while we travel for Thanksgiving. When I get back I’ll have some information on upcoming craft shows. I can’t wait to finally get out there with loads of knitted goods!

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving with all the fall leaves, turkey, football and holiday deals you can handle. I can’t wait!

Fall recipe redux

This time of year always seems like a good time to round up some seasonal recipes. Maybe it’s the combination of Halloween, Thanksgiving, and treks to the apple orchard that make us not want to miss out on the ingredients that will only be good for a few more months. Or maybe it’s the idea of curling up in your warm socks with some comforting food. Whatever the reason, I embrace it fully! Here are some of my favorites:

Pumpkin-pecan muffins

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Applesauce

Stuffed turkey tenderloins

Butternut squash bisque

Pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting

 and caramel apples (freakin’ yum!)

Christmas in the heartland

I was pretty worried that our plan to fly to Kansas City, have our parents shuttle us to Wisconsin, and then fly out of Minneapolis was going to be a disaster. We do have a history of traveling in winter and getting stuck in snowstorms. But thanks to unseasonably warm weather (sadly, no white Christmas for us), we got to every stop without a hitch. And we had a really great time seeing family and friends in the Midwest.

First stop was my family in Kansas. We decided to make prime rib for our almost-Christmas dinner, and it was fantastic. We rubbed the roast with a paste of olive oil, cracked peppercorns, thyme, basil, sea salt, rosemary, and crushed bay leaves. It created a really flavorful au jus in the pan, too.

Apparently in our food coma we neglected to take any more photos, but we did also have a yummy seafood dinner with my dad and stepmom, bubble bread and Frenchiladas (stuffed crepes covered in cheese) with my aunt and uncle, and a lot of flipping through old photos and chatting with grandmas for geneology research.

I’m very excited to start using this bad boy, an enameled cast iron dutch oven that was a gift from my parents.

And these cookbooks. The Paradise Cafe was an institution in my hometown, Lawrence, before it closed.

I forgot to mention that the night before we left for our trip, I started feeling just awful. I think all the stress of Renegade and making last-minute orders caught up to me. So the entire trip I was hoarse and coughing, but I powered through!

Charlotte and Charlie rode along with us halfway to Wisconsin. I made them matching outfits for Christmas and they were so cute.

They’re even starring in their own 2012 calendar!

Everything normally covered in snow was dry and brown, but I still enjoyed the scenery.

Iowa.

Minnesota.

Wisconsin.


If you look closely you can see people ice fishing on the lake.

Once we got to Wisconsin, we did all the Wisconsin essentials.

Drove a big truck.

Ate sausages and cheese curds.

(It was at this point that I lost all willpower to resist sausage logs, Chex Mix, and cookie trays for the rest of the trip.)

We watched cardinals perch on Mike’s parents’ Cadillac of birdfeeders.

Had a Paul Bunyan sighting.

Tried on Stormy Cromer hats.

And mourned the lack of snow in the yard.

In Minnesota we met up with friends and did the Minnesota essentials: walked on a frozen lake, played a bird identifying board game, and ate pickled herring (well, Mike did).

Mike got to hold baby Maya and learned that babies love beards!

I was definitely ready to get back to my house and my doggies, but I had the best time catching up with everyone in our hometowns.

Now that we are completely stuffed to bursting, we are going to wish 2011 farewell with a shrimp ring and ring in 2012 by starting a cleanse. Happy New Year!

Calling all holiday shoppers

This weekend you can find me at the Renegade Craft Fair in San Francisco selling all of my knit goodies — owls, cowls, poufs, fingerless gloves, ornaments, and anything else I can squeeze in the back of my Yaris.

Last weekend I signed up for a little holiday open house in Berkeley and in 3 hours my supply was almost completely wiped out. Which was wonderful! I’ve just been a teensy bit stressed about replenishing it all in the space of a week. But I’m almost done.

Until tomorrow, I leave you with some love from Ryan Gosling.

Holiday baking

It’s that time of year again…

Christmastime always makes me think of rolling out sugar cookie dough and pressing Hershey Kisses into the tops of peanut blossoms. Of course the eating part is fun, but it’s really all about doing something fun with your family.

Our number-one tradition, of course, is gooey bubble bread on Christmas morning.

Then there are the sugar cookies, with colored icing and sprinkles.

If you’re feeling like a baking superstar, you can attempt Candy Striped Cookie Sticks.

Personally, I think you can’t go wrong with a classic chocolate-chip cookie dough recipe, which you can adapt to make:

• red velvet sandwiches
• chocolate cookies with mint chips (just add cocoa powder)
• cranberry walnut cookies (swap dried berries for the chocolate chips)
• spirals (leave out chips entirely and roll half chocolate-half regular dough together and slice)
chocolate Suzies

Peanut butter lovers, you must make those peanut blossoms,

and stuffed peanut butter ball cookies.

This year I might be sticking to the much less guilt-inducing Pepparkakor in various shapes.

What are you baking this year?

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

We got into the full holiday spirit and put up a Christmas tree this weekend. I love having a fresh one — it smells divine.

In case you were wondering, yes, a two-door Yaris can hold an entire tree plus two people. Oh yes it can.

Anyway, we don’t have a ton of our own Christmas ornaments yet, but we do have a few really fun ones. I have to have some odes to “A Christmas Story,” including the double dog dare ornament,

and a tiny leg lamp. It comes in a little crate that plays lines from the movie. The dogs love it.

I’ve had Kermie and Piggy for a while now, but they’re extra special now that there’s a new Muppets movie.

Then there’s the Grinch

and adorable Cindy Lou Who.

I switched out my pinecone centerpiece for my favorite sparkly ornaments. They’re too pretty to go on the tree!

December also means it’s time to break out the monkey pants.

Other things making me smile this week:

Leftover pizza from Tony’s.

Whole wheat fig bars from the Berkeley Bowl. These are so much better than Fig Newtons it’s ridiculous.

The cutest owl Kleenex box. Owls refuse to go out of fashion!

And these vintage looking wire baskets I got at Marshall’s for $5.99 each. They will be perfect for craft fair displays.

Speaking of, I will be participating in a holiday trunk show this weekend hosted by the Pumpkin House studio in Oakland. It’s 1-4 p.m. Saturday at 5725 James Ave. in Rockridge. There will be treats!

Happy Thanksgiving!

We are headed to Sacramento for a potluck with friends. I’m relieved to have a fairly low-key Thanksgiving since our travel plans for Christmas are going to be much crazier.

I decided to bring the non-canned green bean casserole with crispy shallots,

and my favorite cornbread stuffing with caramelized onions.

Mike made this gorgeous bread with cranberries and walnuts.

You’ve gotta be impressed with a double decker braided bread!

I hope you’re enjoying a day full of yummy recipes, football, parades, and naps. 🙂

Thanksgiving recipes

I realized I still have a lot of my family’s traditional Thanksgiving recipes yet to share with you, but until I get those up I thought you might enjoy a little recap of some recipes that would be great on your Thanksgiving table.

First off, these little spinach tartlets are my favorite appetizers of all time.

Toasted pumpkin seeds would also be good for pre-dinner or football-watching snacks.

I’ve never actually cooked a whole turkey before, but I do make a mean roast chicken, and I’m sure my recipes for stock and gravy would work with turkey.

Speaking of gravy, if you’re planning to make mashed potatoes you can use the version from my shepherd’s pie recipe. They are to die for, and go easy on the milk and butter.

If you want to lighten things up a bit you can make green beans with shallots instead of a creamy casserole.

Wild rice stuffed acorn squash makes a great guilt-free side or vegetarian main dish.

How about some homemade bread? This no-knead version is great for bread-baking newbies.

And if you saved any room for dessert, how about pumpkin bars with cream cheese frosting,

or ridiculously easy apple tarts?

I always liked giving caramel apple favors to my guests, too.

After Thanksgiving you can make pot pie with your turkey leftovers.

And if you feel like you overdid it, you can always get back on track with a little green juice.

I for one can’t wait. I love Thanksgiving!

Toasted pumpkin seeds

Here’s a Halloween treat for you. If you are carving pumpkins, you can save the seeds and toast them for a great snack.

Toasted pumpkin seeds

1 cup pumpkin seeds, rinsed of any goop
1 tablespoon vegetable oil (or peanut oil, if you have it)
1/4 teaspoon salt

The first step is to dry the seeds out. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees. Spread out the seeds on a lined baking sheet and pop them in the oven. It takes about an hour at this temperature.

After the seeds have dried and cooled, switch to a shallow pan on the stovetop. Turn it up to about medium heat and add the oil. Once it’s nice and hot, drop in the pumpkin seeds and sprinkle on the salt. Keep stirring the seeds — they will whistle and maybe even pop, and eventually start to turn brown. Once most of them have some browning on them, turn off the heat. All done!

You can see the difference between dried seeds (right) and toasted ones (left).

If you want a sweet snack, you can make these:

Sweet and salty pumpkin seeds
adapted from Martha Stewart

1 cup pumpkin seeds
4 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
pinch of cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tablespoons vegetable or peanut oil

You start the same way, by drying out the seeds in the oven at 250.

Mix up 3 tablespoons of sugar and the spices in a bowl.

Then heat up the oil in a shallow pan, add 1 tablespoon of sugar and the seeds. Keep stirring until the seeds are a little brown and caramelized. Then transfer the seeds to the bowl of spices and toss to coat them.

These are super yummy, but I can’t eat too many of them without going into a sugar coma.

Happy Halloween!