Category Archives: Seasonal

DIY Cranberry Sauce

cranberry sauce

This year I have been asked to make Thanksgiving, which I have never done before on my own.  Naturally this has led to a great deal of cooking via project management (see also: Project: Christmas Cookies — which clearly explains why I didn’t get a lot of dates in high school).  I’ll document the insanity I have resorted to for Thanksgiving planning in another post.

But part of that planning was that I was not going to make my own cranberry sauce.  “The can is fine!” I said.  “Don’t obsess about making everything from scratch!”  Yeah right.  Next thing I knew I’d gone to the grocery store and had a black out moment and come home with a giant bag of cranberries.  Then I read you can make cranberry sauce a week ahead.  OH FINE, I’ll just make it.

Continue reading DIY Cranberry Sauce

Project: Christmas Cookies

For the past six years I’ve undertaken a project which sounds simple, but is in fact deceptively complex:  Christmas cookies.  I’m not Christian, so really these are just “random cookies my friends get in the mail in December,” but I still really enjoy and celebrate a secular Christmas so who cares what they’re called!

This began because I have a lot of friends who unfortunately live all over the United States.  They mean a lot to me and I wanted to give them something for Christmas.  However, I also didn’t want to start a horrible cycle where you not only have to worry about presents for your family but also for friends and no one really knows what to send or how much to spend and do they even need socks and we all have too much stuff anyway and wait why am I buying my friends presents?  No one wants this.  But everyone enjoys cookies.  And they are the present that gives and then stops giving after you eat them and they no longer take up space in your house. Continue reading Project: Christmas Cookies

Project Christmas Cookies: Scope

peanut butter cookies

So while I could keep sending cookies to an increasing list of people every year, my time and cost would also keep increasing.  I’ve found that my good middle ground is send to about 12-15 people/households.  So 12-15 boxes that I need cookies for and then have to package and mail.

I could make 10,000,000 chocolate chip cookies and send everyone those and I’m sure people would be thrilled.  But I like having a variety of things in each box, just a few of many different kinds of cookies.  So before cooking every year I have to make sure that I’m making both a good mix and also making enough so everyone has a satisfying amount of cookies.  In the end it’s a bit too little when sent to a family and a bit too much when sent to a single person, but I figure it’s free cookies in the mail so who complains?

Just remember:  Do not let your cookie list grow out of control (a.k.a. avoid cookie scope creep). Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Scope

Project Christmas Cookies: Time

Christmas cookies

Beyond the sheer amount of effort of making a lot of different cookies, the most difficult part of this is the time.  Cooking this much stuff takes a long time and is pretty exhausting.  And when I get exhausted making Christmas cookies I get all cranky and weepy and it’s not good for the holiday spirit.  I am proud to report that 2016 involved zero tears, however! Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Time

Project Christmas Cookies: Cost/Resources

Christmas cookies

As far as human resources go it’s primarily just me.  Most years I do all of it.  This year Mr. R assisted a lot.  He was a big help when packaging the (over 70) caramels and wrapping the cookies.  I always think packaging is just a detail but it actually takes approximately forever.

It’s important to make sure that you have enough cookie sheets for this.  In the past I’ve done it with two (do not recommend) and also with two good ones and two crappy ones (better, still not recommended).  This year I sprung for two more high quality cookie sheets for a total of four and I bought three more cooling racks for a total of six.  I also have two sets of measuring cups and spoons.  I also use silpat mats to line my cookie sheets — nothing sticks and I don’t have to bother with cutting parchment paper.  This makes for slightly expensive equipment.  This project can absolutely be done with just stuff from the grocery store, but if you want to invest in some slightly better cooking equipment it will be used well doing this. Continue reading Project Christmas Cookies: Cost/Resources

Lime Pie with a Nut Crust

lime pieLime season continues, heating up with the exciting race of “can I make enough lime things before the limes spoil?”  My friends and I have a game night every few months where we also make dinner and drinks, so I set aside about ten for that and a few found their way into very limey gin and tonics and sloe gin fizzes.

The rest I juiced into about four cups of lime juice.  The majority of this will head to the freezer for use later in the year.  But because I was seeing friends I also realized that enough people would be assembling to make reasonable the best use of limes:  lime pie! Continue reading Lime Pie with a Nut Crust

Custard Lime Cake

Lime cakeIt’s lime season here again!  My tree outside on my .04 acres of land went crazy this year and produced 54 limes, almost twice of last year’s crop.  So it’s Lime Land here and I’m trying to think of what to use them for.  I tried candying them which ended in a burnt finger and failed candied limes…  That project needs a second attempt.

But limes also make me think of key lime pie.  I love it, but making a pie for just myself leads to eating an entire pie by myself which is never a wise plan for anyone.  How to get the deliciousness of lime pie without the volume?  My solution:  lime pudding.  This isn’t exactly a lie-pie-in-miniature (that will come) but it was interesting enough I felt it warranted a post. Continue reading Custard Lime Cake

Rose & Orange Blossom Ice Milk

rose ice milkA Lebanese restaurant near my house has the most delicious rose tea. It’s very sweet, with the wonderful floral notes of rose and orange blossom water.  That tea is my most frequent encounter with rose flavor — I only sometimes encounter it other places, like in Turkish delight or macarons.  I’ve cooked with rose water before, but I also had a bottle of orange blossom water that I had never tried.  I smelled it last week and was in love.  Since then I’ve been thinking of what to make.  Since it’s getting warm here in Houston, floral ice cream came to mind. Continue reading Rose & Orange Blossom Ice Milk

King Cake

The finished King Cake
The finished King Cake

If you’ve never had one before, a King Cake is a bread-like cake, sometimes with filling and sometimes without, that’s iced with white icing and sugar in purple, green, and gold for Mardi Gras.  They aren’t my favorite of desserts, but they’re a lot of fun around Mardi Gras.  There’s usually a “baby” hidden inside and whoever finds it provides the cake the next year.

Normally you buy King Cake and you can even have them mailed right from New Orleans.  But I’ve been enjoying making foods that match the seasons and so I thought it would be a shame to miss the chance to try making my own King Cake! Continue reading King Cake

Halloween party food!

Halloween table
Halloween table

My absolute favorite holiday is Halloween, but the past few years the crazy Halloween parties of the past haven’t been happening.  So this year I decided to have my own.  I had a few friends over for Halloween-themed snacks and then we watched part of The Addams Family, Troll, and all of Evil Dead.  I was hoping for more classic monster movies, but they were all certainly appropriate to theme! Continue reading Halloween party food!