Monday, December 22, 2014

OMG a Recipe: Holiday Eats and Treats on the Move!

I admit, I'm remiss on the holiday hoopla on the blog this year, not that we haven't decorated the house or put up a tree -- the house is festooned with festive-ness! I just haven't had a chance to take proper photos and post accordingly, but feel free to peek at our holiday shenanigans on my Instagram feed. I will share some of the resources for my holiday eats -- this year has been busy with making treats that can be mailed, and pre-made items easy to bring to others' houses, so that's why I call this Holiday Eats and Treats on the Move!

Homemade chips n' dips - an easy make-ahead/portable party snack - Photo by Wasabi Prime

I'm very pleased with myself this year -- despite getting weird looks by the Mister in September, when I was already starting to plan/plot/connive the DIY holiday making + baking extravaganza, the early start allowed me plenty of time with friends and zero gift-stressing. The trick to making your own gifts is always the planning. You need to have your game plan set at least a month before you start making the stuff and getting it packaged to send out. Because I mail so many gifts to family and friends that live out of the state, I look for treats that are not only sturdy for mailing, but things that can be easily  made in bulk. Cylinder cookies, where you just slice n' bake are my go-to these days, but this year, this recipe from the lovely Jennifer Yu of Use Real Butter caught my eye -- cranberry hazelnut crisps.

Cranberry hazelnut crisps, from Use Real Butter - Photo by Wasabi Prime
Her recipe is an adaptation of a store-bought crisp, which I'm sure we've all seen -- a whole wheat cracker chocked full of tasty dried fruit, nuts and seeds. Delicious on its own, it's wonderful with a creamy chevre, a slice of fresh fruit, or a jammy preserve. Great for parties, it's also a festive-looking item to make and send to others for their holiday fetes. The homemade version is delicious, and it allows you to customize your mix of fruits, nuts and seeds accordingly. Plus, if you double the recipe, you get quite a bit, and it's easy to pack all those crisps up in a pretty bag or box and give away as a homemade gift.

Let the ingredients guide your baking gift ideas - Photos by Wasabi Prime
From the cranberry hazelnut crisps came mini carrot cake muffins and loaves. I bought all the dried fruits and nuts in bulk, online -- yep, Oh Nuts! is really the name. Which means I had plenty of extra, which came in handy for the carrot cake. I just took a favorite carrot cake recipe -- any will do; my go-to is from the Grand Central Baking cookbook -- and I super-charged the filling with extra dried fruit and nuts. I made mini versions using muffin cups and oven-safe paper loaf pans, and made a quick streusel topping with rolled oats, extra seeds, brown sugar and butter. I know carrot cake is just a vehicle to deliver cream cheese frosting, but when you're mailing stuff, you need something less messy and less likely to spoil. The sturdy muffins, loaves and cranberry crisps were packaged accordingly and sent off in the mail, making it to all the destinations safely.

Pecan or pumpkin pie? How about both - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I know Thanksgiving has come and gone, but the ingredients for that holiday carry over nicely through Christmas and New Years. This year we were on dessert duty, which makes it easy to prepare things ahead and bring it over the day-of. Frankly, I just didn't want to make two pies, knowing there would be so much food, so I made a layered pumpkin/pecan pie, inspired by this recipe from Pecans are like the party guest you want at all your gatherings. It's the fun nut. The one who makes the gatherings lively and tells the jokes everyone wants to hear. So a pecan-topped anything makes it perfect for any holiday, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. The pumpkin bottom half just gives your insides a break from the ridiculous sugar high of the traditional pecan pie. And in my case, it wasn't even a pumpkin pie, it was a squash pie -- I used roasted acorn and butternut squash because I prefer the creamier texture of those varieties, since pumpkin can be a bit stringy. I'm already thinking of making this again next year, maybe in a springform pan, so I can get some height on this baby.

Total random note, but when making any sort of pie, small ramekins are handy for pie filling leftovers, to make mini pies. It's hard to estimate the exact amount of filling you'll have when you're roasting squash, and most pie recipes tend to lean towards more filling than less.

I know I promised an actual recipe, and this one is basically an UnRecipe, as I threw this together as a last minute appetizer to bring to Thanksgiving dinner -- it's a sundried tomato and pistachio tapenade, with homemade lavash. The lavash is just a thin, crispy flatbread, baked until golden, sprinkled with whatever seasonings you like -- I used Better With Butter's recipe, which is super-easy and quick to make. The tapenade is a perfect make-ahead item since it's better if it sits for a few days to let the ingredients marinate. You can swap the pistachio with pine nuts or even walnuts, I just like the sweetness of pistachio, plus it makes the dip nice and creamy.

Sundried Tomato and Pistachio Tapenade
(this recipe makes quite a bit, but use it for party dips and/or a pesto sauce)

4 cups of sundried tomatoes (can be in a bag or packed in oil)
2 cups of shelled pistachios
2-3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon oregano
1/4 cup Parmesan or Asiago cheese (any aged, hard, nutty cheese)
salt and pepper to taste
red pepper flakes for heat - add as much or as little as you like
olive oil - about 1/2 cup if you're using dry sundried tomatoes, less if they were in oil

Throw the pistachios and sundried tomatoes into a food processor and buzz down until broken down. Add the garlic, cheese, salt/pepper and pepper flakes, and drizzle in the olive oil as the processor blades spin. The finished texture should be an easily-spreadable paste. If you wish to make this into a pesto, add more olive oil until the texture is loosened, like a thick sauce.

Hopefully this recipe comes in handy -- you really don't need a ton of ingredients for it, and you'll make enough to supply a tasty dipping sauce for many holiday parties. It also freezes well, although good luck keeping it around, I was literally eating it with a spoon.

With very little holiday fuss, I wish you all seasons greetings, happy eatings, and stay warm n' toasty as Old Man Winter comes to town.

Baby, it's cold outside - Happy Holidays, everyone! - Photo by Wasabi Prime

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