Archive | December, 2013

Easy Food for Hungry People (Or, being a “good” host)

11 Dec

I don’t really need to point out that it’s officially the holiday season. This year they’re kind of in a big jumble together. I’ve been anxious for my Christmas “vacation” ever since my 4-day Thanksgiving weekend!

I’ve also been stuffed full since then. But, there’s so much more eating and entertaining ahead of us.
Look – I made these!

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Gingerbread Marshmallows

Anyways-
Holidays in our family mean lots of pop-in visitors – usually one of my mom’s sisters – just dropping by to chat and drink coffee ( or cocktails, depending on the time of day!) Having “unexpected” guests can be frustrating for the unprepared, pajama-clad hosts who didn’t have time to really rustle anything up to feed their visitors.

At least, that’s what happens at my mom and dad’s house. Everyone ends up grazing and picking through the cupboards and refrigerator. Leftover turkey here, some christmas cookies there…not the best strategy for either party. Even if you’re a twenty-something living on your own, I can guarantee people are either coming over or you’re being the guest yourself. Either way, you’re gonna need something to offer. That’s where this cake comes in!
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It’s simple, strait forward, lightly sweetened and pretty difficult to mess up. It utilizes the produce star of winter – citrus – and makes use of holiday flavors without being obvious. It could be a breakfast treat or an afternoon snack. Regardless if you’re the host or the guest, this is a great cake to have around.
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What do you like to have on hand for guests? Do you bring a “hostess gift” when you go holiday visiting?

Orange Cardamom Olive Oil Cake 
(inspired by this recipe)

  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Zest of one orange (about  1 tablespoon) A few tablespoons orange juice (I squeezed half an orange into the batter)
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking powder
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon  cardamom

Set oven to 350 degrees and grease a round cake pan (I used a 9 inch). Beat eggs and sugar together until thick and fluffy, about 2 minutes on high. Stream in olive oil while mixer is on (medium) until oil is incorporated. Mix in vanilla and orange zest, along with the orange juice. Whisk all your dry ingredients together in a separate bowl, and with the mixer on, slowly incorporate into wet ingredients until uniform. Pour into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from middle.

Let cake cool in pan for a few minutes before turning out on wire rack to cool completely. While cake is cooling, make the glaze

  • 1 to 1 ½ c. powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1  teaspoon orange zest
  • 4-5 tablespoons fresh orange juice (I squeezed in the other half of the orange, but you might need a bit more. you can always thin out a little water.)
    Mix all ingredients together, until glaze is thick enough to coat your spoon. Wait until cake is cool before pouring glaze on top of cake. This can be very messy, so I usually slide some parchment paper under the edges of the cake to catch drips. Let glaze dry and harden before slicing. Garnish with some leftover orange slices, if that suits your fancy.
  • {I actually did almost totally screw up this cake. I put it in the oven, looked up and saw the cup full of olive oil I never actually put in the batter, and had a bit of a panicked moment. So, your cake will probably turn out better than mine if you actually follow the directions…}

Why December is the Best (an explanation from an expert)

3 Dec

If you know me even a little bit, you know I love December. This is going to be a very non-serious post trying to explain my fanaticism over this 12th month.

I love Christmas. I love snow. I love having frozen cheeks and frozen boogers (yeah, it happens okay?) and that silence that only comes during a snowfall.
Let me tell you why.

1) My birthday! My birthday is the first day of the best month of the year. When you get older, birthdays get boring and less-special, since everyone is pretty much living their lives and no one is making a big to-do for you. But this year, I did feel pretty special. My #1 fan Brent spent – literally- about seven hours in our kitchen making me a beautiful cake. This wasn’t a box mix and a can of frosting, people. He made me a cake the way I would make me a cake, albeit with a bit more mess.

he's working that mixer like a pro

he’s working that mixer like a pro

I wasn’t allowed to help, and while that was pretty nice, I couldn’t help but peek. He didn’t want me in the kitchen at all because he knew I’d take over. I have kitchen control issues. I did get to teach him how to separate egg yolks from egg whites, but then I got immediately kicked out.
Look. at. this. cake.
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Note the gorgeous, even layers. I’m going to go ahead and say Brent is a much more precise, perfectionist baker than I am and really takes his time to do it right. it makes me happy. This cake rocked my mouth.

I got showered in love on my birthday – my parents happened to be in town, too, so I got to have a birthday brunch (birthday donut and champagne included) along with many gifts and wishes. It was lovely and I did feel special turning 24.

2) I love SNOW. snow snow snow. It usually snows on my birthday. Even when I lived in central Illinois, the sky always squeezed out a few flurries. The last few years haven’t been so lucky, but no bother. I live in Wisconsin…in a month I will be up to my knees in the stuff. I’ve always loved the snow, though. I just love how pretty and pure it makes everything look. I love how you can look out your window and be cozy with the snow outside. I love the sound it makes. I like how it smells. I like how it really makes Christmas more Christmassy. (Can you tell I grew up in the Midwest?)
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3) The Christmas Season
I have garnered this really strange reputation of being the “girl who loves christmas.” I didn’t like…try to be that person. I just really do love it. Apparently word spread, because last year at the cafe I work at, one of my co-workers was like “Oh, yeah, you’re the one who loves Christmas, right?” (um…duh?) “Can I ask why you love it?” I literally didn’t know what to say. I just do. They thought there was some profound reason, or we have some really unique traditions or something. Nope. Not really. But basically, here’s why. I love that everything shines a bit brighter. Cities decorate their streets. Stores put up lights and tinsel. People are more generous and conscious of kindness. I get to buy the people I love things just because I love them. I get to see my giant family that I really only get to see on holidays. We do the same things every year that make them special because we ONLY do them once a year, like walking across the frozen lake, baking an obscene amount of cookies, decorating the house with sparkly, glittery things, eating the same foods and having the same conversations. Blasting Bing Crosby all month. Seeing people’s faces when they open gifts. I’m getting excited just talking about it. Now that I’m married, I have a whole new family to share it with, and start new traditions within my own little family. To me, Christmas is about love. Sharing love, spreading love, feeling love, and remembering that we are loved. Also, Jesus and his love. Love, people, it’s all love. Keep that in mind when you start to wonder what a freak like me sees in this month.
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Look at my face. That is exactly how I feel inside!

Alright, that was a long ramble. Enjoy this season. It only comes once a year and goes by way too fast. Also, I hope you’re ready for more posts from me, because I have a lot planned! Have a good first week of December!