Tag Archives: christmas

Foodie Gifts!

Our families spoil us, and we spoil each other. I wanted to share some of the food-related gifts I am really excited about. You may just want to spoil yourself or some other food geek with them, too.


Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home by Jeni Britton Bauer

I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams, but I really wanted a new ice cream cookbook. On a whim I added this to my wish list, after hearing a lot of buzz and reading great reviews. I almost always test out cookbooks from the library these days, so I don’t know what I was thinking. Now that I have the book it is blowing my mind, and I’m already trying to figure out how often we can make ice cream without it affecting our health. Once a month? Twice? It is hard to narrow down just a few recipes to mention: Roasted Strawberry & Buttermilk. Baked Rhubarb Frozen Yogurt. Scarlet & Earl Grey. Bangkok Peanut. Ylang-Ylang with Clove & Honeycomb. Berry Crisp Ice Cream! I could keep going and going. This book is a revelation.


India Cookbook by Pushpesh Pant

Last year I started to dabble in cooking Indian at home, mostly from library books. I don’t even know where to begin with this gigantic book, but it is spectacular. The sections are different colors of lightweight newsprint, separated by gorgeous, glossy photo pages. Levi was just telling me how much he is craving Indian food. I do believe 2012 will be the year we eat a ton of it.


mason jar stamp

Can’t you just picture the adorable tags and labels I am going to make with this stamp?


Homemade Soda by Andrew Schloss

Now this book I did test out from the library, and deemed it worthy of taking up valuable shelf space in our little house. I love that recipes include different instructions for just making a syrup to mix with seltzer OR actually brewing. Some recipe highlights: Coffee chocolate stout. Fermented honey soda. Original orange crush. Chamomile lavender kombucha. An entire section on shrubs and switchels! And herbal/healing waters! I’m think we’ll be trying the lavender grape migraine mitigator.


Silhouette Salt Mill from Crate & Barrel

Our pepper mill broke awhile back and we have searched to the ends of the internet for an affordable, aesthetically pleasing replacement. In the very long interim, we have been refilling Trader Joe’s mills (not intended to be re-usable) until they break (which is often). Finally, we found something cheap that will hopefully hold up. The salt and pepper mills look identical, but actually have a tiny “S” & “P” on the metal piece at the very top.


Schmidt Brothers 15-piece Downtown Block

I have hemmed and hawed about getting a couple really fancy knives that individually cost more than this entire set, and finally decided to try out a decent set of knives and a sharpener. These won’t actually be in our kitchen until February, so I’ll have to report back!


OXO Food Mill

I can’t wait to see what Jess makes with a food mill, something we found would come in really handy in 2011.

Did you get any great food-related gifts this year? Do tell!

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breakfast in a jar: eggnog oatmeal custards

Time for another baked oatmeal.

This one is a little more decadent and sweet, perfect for a holiday. These small servings work well as one component of a large brunch.

eggnog oatmeal custards
Makes 12 small servings

⅔ cup sugar
half a vanilla bean, split
6 egg yolks
4 cups lowfat eggnog
2 teaspoons freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons bourbon
3 cups oatmeal

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Whisk or beat the scrapings of the vanilla bean and sugar together until the vanilla is no longer in clumps. Add egg yolks and beat lightly. Add eggnog, nutmeg, bourbon, and oatmeal. Stir until combined. The oatmeal will soak and absorb some liquid while you prepare the mason jars.

Bring a kettle of water to boil. Lightly butter 12 wide mouth half-pint mason jars. Place the jars in two large baking dishes. If you don’t have the right jars available, you can use ramekins.

Using a canning funnel, divide the oatmeal mixture evenly between the jars (about 1/2 cup in each). Then pour the boiling water into the baking dish until water comes halfway up the sides of the jars.

Bake for 40-45 minutes, until set. The center should not jiggle.

You can eat them warm after cooling slightly. If you prefer more of a chilled custard dish, cool completely and put the lids on the jars and refrigerate.

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I Heart Eggnog

Perhaps you got an inkling as to my love of all things eggnog when I told you about eggnog popcorn balls. I know some hate it, but my love for eggnog runs deep. When I was a kid we thinned our eggnog with 7-Up. These days my family is all about the organic low-fat eggnog or delicious, vegan Silk Nog. There’s always a dusting of freshly grated nutmeg on top.

This morning Jess went out and got me my first eggnog latte of the year. I was inspired to round-up all the eggnog related recipes I’ve been dying to try.

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homemade organic cane syrup

Oh, the sugar dilemma. I don’t want to use the stuff made of genetically-modified corn, but I also kind of resent recipes that use a cup of maple syrup for sweetener. Who can afford a cup of maple syrup? Agave, honey, and brown rice syrup are also pretty spendy, and often change the flavor of what you’re making. The solution? Make your own organic cane syrup at home.

I tested out this cane syrup recipe from The Kitchn. The organic cane sugar we buy in bulk has a little color to it, so our results were a gorgeous golden. There is a very subtle flavor. Upon first taste I immediately thought of cotton candy.

Ours turned out a little too thick, which I am certain was the result of me needing to calibrate my candy thermometer. Click here for a good set of instructions on how to calibrate yours.

We might just own two identical thermometers. Time to finally calibrate and mark which one is which. And yet still I’m dreaming of a perfect digital candy thermometer with a large display that you can set to beep when it reaches the temperature you need. I might still need to calibrate it, but perhaps I wouldn’t have to bend over and squint to read it so much.

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DIY holiday gift round-up

It’s that time of year. Time to bust out some of those precious canned goods for holiday gifts, or better yet, make some homemade goods especially for gift giving. As we prepare for a food swap next week and plan for the holidays, I have DIY gifts on the mind. Here are some of the links I’ve been looking at:

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With Bells On

We’re celebrating early because Krista is working tomorrow. It’s our second Christmas in our house! Our holiday theme this year is dinosaurs. We spent a lot of time with an origami dino book from the library, and scoured the thrift stores for dino figures to drill holes in. It turns out I do *not* have a talent for origami dinosaurs, but Levi is quite good at it. I found a t-rex puzzle at Ye Olde Curiosity Shoppe in Seattle & gave it to Krista. She assembled it, then made an origami scarf to keep his fossilized neck warm.




We made new stockings for everyone in the family this year. I sewed the stockings. Krista is the decorator & stylist. I love them.


We use cloth gift wrap for all gifting occasions in our house, but for some reason I got obsessed with brown kraft paper this year and bought a roll. Krista is an amazing wrap artist and it was excellent to see what her creative imagination produced. All discarded material in the house is eligible for re-purposing in wrapping.




We totally spoiled each other, reflected on how fortunate we are to be together and have everything we have. Krista & I slow-danced to the Dolly Parton & Kenny Rogers Christmas album, Once Upon a Christmas. The dogs dragged bones out of their stockings, Levi dragged chocolate out of his stocking, the cats dragged the catnip out of their stocking. Actually, it’s too generous to describe the cats’ behavior as “participating” in the stocking un-stuffing, but they enjoy the ‘nip.



It’s always nice to have a day off for food, family & gift-giving, don’t get me wrong, but this is an extra good Christmas. My heart is so happy & full. And as icing on the enormous cake of luck and good fortunate, here’s Levi’s epic official Christmas portrait. Happy Holidays from the Whig Party!

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The Hive

Since I am the most spoiled wife in the history of the world, it should come as no surprise that Krista gave me the most exquisite bee hive for Christmas. Levi gifted me with a veil, a bee keeper hat, a bee brush and a very fancy hive tool. He also promised to help me with the bees, which is more valuable than gold when it comes to lifting heavy boxes of honey and brood. (Insert some kind of Caveman comment like “BOY HAVE MUSCLE. BOY LIFT BOX”) I have, of course, no practical experience in keeping bees, so I am basing this all on my research. I can assure you this will in no way hinder my enthusiasm.

The UPS guy delivered the hive. Generally, when you read books about people taking up bees or chickens in the backyard, they relay a story where the delivery man says, “I didn’t know you could do that here! My (grandpa/uncle/great-aunt/best friend’s dad) used to do that when I was growing up. Neat!” In the most predictable fashion, the delivery man yelled to Krista from the truck, “Do you keep bees? I didn’t know that you could do that here. My grandpa used to keep bees.” Krista mentioned that he may have thought the boxes contained actual bees because he was shouting this from the safety of his truck. The beehive came in a box with the cutest FRAGILE stickers I have ever seen. I mean, seriously, it is a bee stamping FRAGILE on the box. Check it out.

The beehive itself is an english garden hive from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. This hive uses medium boxes and 8 frames, both of which make the boxes less heavy and, thus, easier to work with when they start to get full. Also, you can use a standard size of equipment in all of your boxes, because they are all the same size. I’ve learned that it’s really difficult to make decisions about what you want or need for your first beehive because you have no idea what you or your bees will prefer. I guess you just dive in and hope they don’t swarm away. Anyway, the English Garden Hive is beautiful with its fancy copper roof. It’s been called the Hive of the Future by Bee Culture Magazine’s Kim Flottum, and I like the future, so that’s what I got. Borrowed directly from here, there are a few practical reasons to choose the fancy copper-top hive.

There are two problems with the traditional 10-Frame shallow/deep sized box methodology.
– If your bees decide to make honey in your deep, you don’t really have any recourse. You now have a 100+ pound box of honey that you need to lift every time you work your hive.
– If you get brood (bee larva) in your honey shallows (hive box usually intended for honey only), or honey in your brood deeps (primarily intended for larva), there’s no way to switch the frames around — you’re stuck with a mess.
The 8-Frame medium garden hive solves all of those problems.

And many thanks to Her Majesty’s Secret Beekeeper in San Francisco, for providing high-end beekeeping inspiration. So, with all that fanfare, I only have a stock photo of the hive. It looks pretty much the same sitting in the middle of our living room, so use your imagination.

And the beehive came in several big boxes, wrapped in so much paper to protect it during shipping. I appreciated that it was paper, and not plastic that is going to stick around the planet forever, but there was a LOT of paper. We got a little crazy and made some haute couture dogware. It was sort of like Project Runway, but without Tim Gunn or $$$ prizes.

Although it causes me physical pain to post a picture of myself where I look like the world’s biggest dork, I feel obligated to share this photograph with you. Hopefully next time I am dressed up in bee gear, I can make a slightly less maniacal face.

Now, I need to get some coveralls and a package of bees. The coveralls are harder for me to wrap my mind around than a box of fussy bees. See, I don’t really wear pants. Ever. Maybe I wear leggings to yoga, but I usually do my yard work and gardening in skirts. Bees can fly right up a skirt! I have not figured out how I am going to resolve that small issue, yet.

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