Category :

farvel, 2016

Oh, 2016.

2016…

2016…

What are we going to do with you?

We might just have to forget you and move on.

I think everyone, regardless of creed, background, or political inclination, can agree that 2016 has been quite a year. Whether that’s good or bad is up to you to determine.

Every year, as long as I’ve been blogging, I like to end with a look back on the previous twelve months, review big moments and firsts, reflect on my resolutions, and think about the next year.

I was rereading the last two end of year posts (“bye-bye 2015“, and “good year, and good night [2014]“), and I saw that in 2014, I wrote about how each year feels shorter than the last. Someone once told me that the years grow shorter as you get older because each year becomes a smaller fraction of your life. For a 10-year old, one year is 10%, but for a 50-year old, it’s only 2%. I commented on how “as I go through my 20s, it feels like someone’s shoving me from behind at a more and more aggressive rate every day,” specifically looking towards the year I would turn 25…

That was this year. I turned 25 this past April, so not only am I halfway through those roaring (meekly squeaking) 20s mentioned above, but I’m also a quarter of a century old.

This year definitely has felt like the shortest and fastest year of my life, and by far the most stressful. Part of me hopes that next year doesn’t go by so fast, but the other part of me knows it will, and can only hope that it’s less hair-loss-and-gray-hair inducing and at least as fulfilling as the last.

And with that, tonight, on the 31st of December, I bid farvel, godnatt, and arrivederci, to 2016, and godmorgen, hallo, and villkommen to 2017. But before we finish our champagne and our adieu’s, let’s look back at what happened this past year.

What Did I Do This Year?

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  • made soup stock for the first time, the second time, the third time, the fourth time, and the fifth time (I could go on for a while)
  • made baguette for the first time in my life
  • applied to grad school
  • got into grad school

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  • voted in a primary for the first time in my life
  • turned 1/4 of a century old
  • got sick from rollercoasters for the first time
  • visited Montana (Glacier National Park, y’all!)

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  • first USC football game as an alumnus
  • got my first credit card
  • spent a semester struggling to understand financial aid
  • bought my first ever saute pan, and also my first ever Nespresso

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  • tried online dating for the first time ever
  • went on my first date, and my second date, and my third what-may-have-been-a-date-but-also-may-not-have-been
  • tried Laotian food for the first time (and ever since I have had dreams of moving to or near D.C. to eat at the same place again)
  • made molten lava cakes for the first time ever

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  • had my first ever allergy test (why are they so expensive??)
  • experienced a lot (a lot) of changes in my family (people passing away, people having children, people getting engaged)
  • took my first ever spin class, and learned how to use kettle bells for the first time
  • turned down job/interview offers for the first time, multiple times

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  • roasted my first chicken
  • made pasta from scratch for the first time
  • successfully made croissants for the first time
  • first ever solo road trip, first road trip as the driver

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  • longest hike ever: 11 miles round trip in Glacier National Park
  • acquired a new role at work: knife sharpener for the cooking school
  • started using an analytics plugin for the blog, so I can get to work on my SEO practices
  • bought my first copy of Photoshop: a Creative Suite photographer’s bundle, which includes annual online subscriptions to both Photoshop and Lightroom (Lightroom is my honeybunch.)

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  • bought my first two knives and my first honing steel
  • bought my first set of ceramic dishes
  • got my car serviced for the first time
  • started tutoring in Japanese

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My 2016 Resolution:

Get fit. 

Did I do that? Doubtful. It is an established fact by now that I can gracefully carry a large ladder, but I cannot carry a 4-quart food processor.

I kept a note on my phone of all the exercise I did this year and all the exercise I wanted to do, organized by type, frequency, intensity, and month, with graduated increases from month to month. I did less than half. In fact, most of it is rolling over into 2017.

And by “rolling over,” I mean “being forgiven like I hope my student loans will be.”

I did get fit, a little bit. I did establish some habits (I walk a few miles a week), and I discovered some exercises that work for me and some that don’t (bootcamp nearly murdered me 51 weeks ago today, and spin class basically saved my life.)

In a sense, I did make progress, and it’s progress that I want to keep working on through the next year and the rest of my life. I want to keep lifting weights, practicing yoga, walking around my city, and exploring different fitness classes. Of course, I want my body to look better but knowing my eating habits, that’s unlikely to happen no matter what I do at the gym.

More importantly, though, I just want to keep exercising and learning.

I had also resolved to produce more savory recipes for the blog, and again, I made minimal progress. I did end up with a nice focaccia recipe and a recipe for onion soup, so not all is shame and failure. I also cooked a lot more this past year than I have any year before, and I learned heaps of great cooking techniques (I can braise! I can sear! I can make a roux! I can roast a chicken!)

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My Resolution(s) for 2017:

I can be pretty obsessive about forming resolutions. Not only do I have a whole philosophy regarding the formation of New Year’s resolutions, but I’ve even gone through various iterations of said philosophy. I couldn’t think of anything pertinent for the new year, and chances are I’ll just keep changing habits throughout the rest of my life anyway, so rather than a general resolution or a massive 12-month goal, I think I’ll work on these 3 smaller goals:

  1. Get a new paid writing job (to replace the one I gave up, supplement what I have now, and expand on my nascent writing career)
  2. Continue working out, improve on my routine, and try to become more consistent with my exercise
  3. Publish more savory recipes this coming year than I already have on this blog (so…at least 4.)

Manageable, measurable, and attainable, and to top it all off, low-stress.

 

Now, let’s all take a collective deep breath, and say “good riddance, and good night” to 2016.

Nick P.

Categories: about me

holiday cookies, 2016: cranberry orange cookies

other cookies

vegan peanut butter cookies || vegan snickerdoodles|| lemon sugar cookies || lemon white chocolate biscotti || loaded brown sugar cookies || ginger turmeric sugar cookies || basic sugar cookies || cardamom shortbread || salted, spiced double chocolate cookies || chocolate chip cookies || cardamom molasses cookies || black tea butter cookies

 

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The holidays seemed so far off in January, and yet here they are, looming over us menacingly. Maybe not menacingly. I love winter.

This winter feels different, though, because I started back in school in August and am still working part time. Next winter may be the same, or it may be better. The winter after that, who knows? And someday I’ll have a full time job again, and I’ll be just a little bit older than I am now (probably), so the winters will zoom on by, impatient and clumsy.

I love winter.

 

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Originally, I was going to reveal some macaron recipes, the first macaron recipes of the Kitchen Klutz Blog, but those stubborn bastards were frustrating me so much, I gave up. I still have at least a dozen egg whites aging in the fridge and freezer, but I dread those little meringue shells and creamy centers so. This year I went with something I never would have done in the past.

It all started with the vegan chocolate muffins of November. I’ve never been much of a fan of chocolate muffins, and yet I posted two chocolate muffin recipes in a row. Those two muffins opened a kind of floodgate inside me, and I decided I wanted to do something with white chocolate. As little as I have liked chocolate muffins, I have always liked white chocolate less, and yet here we are, experimenting with white chocolate.

 

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Spoiler: I ended up deciding not to make white chocolate anything this winter, but what’s important is that I was inspired to try.

Instead, I made cranberry orange cookies. Orange isn’t something I bake with a lot, and cranberries even more so, but after making a cranberry sage pie from Four and Twenty Blackbirds for Thanksgiving, I wanted to do more with those tart, red pimples.

 

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These cookies are based on a snickerdoodle recipe, because of all the sugar cookies I’ve ever had, snickerdoodles have the best texture and flavor: tart, lively, and chewy. Instead of cinnamon and vanilla, I used Cointreau, orange zest, dried cranberries, and diced fresh cranberries, and instead of rolling them in a cinnamon-sugar, I topped them with homemade candied orange peel.

One thing I (re-)learned the hard way when making these and other cookies is that how successfully you cream the butter determines how much dough you end up producing. I rarely see a qualitative difference when I cream the butter superbly versus when I only beat it a little bit, but if you beat the butter, sugar, and liquids for a combined total of at least 7-ish minutes, you could end up with 9 extra cookies.

Pro tip.

Inside info.

 

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cranberry orange cookies with candied orange peel

makes four dozen small (2 tsp) cookies, or one dozen large (3 Tbsp) cookies

 

candied orange peel (for one large orange)

335 g water

300 g granulated sugar, plus an extra half cup of sugar for coating

peel of one large orange, including pith

 

cookies

350 g all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp cream of tartar

1 tsp baking soda

1 c butter, softened and at room temperature

300 g granulated sugar

2 eggs (~104 g total)

zest of 1/2 of a large orange

1 tsp Cointreau or Grand Marnier

candied orange peel, cut into 12 – 48 small pieces

 

Do-ahead: Make the candied orange peels. They dry overnight and can be kept for up to 10 days in a container after dried.

 

Make the candied orange peel

Combine the sugar and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil.

Peel the orange and cut the rind into strips, about half an inch or a centimeter wide.

Add the orange peel to the boiling syrup and reduce the heat to a simmer.

Let simmer for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the peel is tender.

Drain the peel and toss with extra sugar on a cookie sheet. Let cool and dry on a sheet of aluminum foil, uncovered, overnight.

Keep candied peel in an airtight container at room temperature.

 

Make the cookies

Preheat oven to 350 F/190 C and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, salt, cream of tartar, and baking soda.

In a large bowl or stand mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until pale and fluffy, about 5 minutes, scraping down the sides and bottom of the bowl as necessary.

Add the eggs, one at a time, and beat for about 2-3 minutes after each until well combined. After both eggs are added, keep beating for a few minutes until fluffy.

Beat in the zest and liqueur.

In 2-3 batches, beat in the flour mixture.

Finally, fold in the dried and diced fresh cranberries, and beat until dough is uniform.

Using a small (2 tsp) or large (3 Tbsp) cookie scoop, or a spoon, scoop the dough onto the baking sheets, and space the cookies about 2-3 inches apart. You’ll have one dozen small cookies on each sheet.

Top the cookies with candied orange peel and sprinkle with sugar. Alternately, when scooping the dough, drop it into a bowl of sugar and press down lightly on the back with your pointer and middle fingers to form a disc coated in sugar on the bottom, then lift the dough out and place on the cookie sheet, sugared side facing up. Press a piece of the candied orange into the center.

If you have extra dough after 2 cookie sheets are full, loosely cover it in plastic wrap and let chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes, until just beginning to turn golden or bronze on the edges.

Remove from the oven, let cool in the cookie sheets for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling, and continue baking the rest of the dough.

 

Happy merry, to you and your kinfolks,

The Endlessly Humble Saint Nick-Claus

 

Categories: booze, cookies, seasonal produce

muffin of the month, december 2016: chocolate peppermint muffins

previous non-vegan, non-GF monthly muffins

11/15, pumpkin streusel muffins || 6/16, blackberry almond muffins || 7/16, english muffins || 9/16, whole wheat english muffins

 

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You know, I’m really getting into this whole chocolate thing. Immediately following last month’s vegan chocolate muffins, I decided to work on some (non-vegan) chocolate peppermint muffins.

Chocolate and peppermint is one of those combinations I will always relate to on a spiritual level. Peppermint schnapps are my jam.

Lately, I’ve had chocolate shortbread and chocolate peppermint tarts on my mind, though those may have to wait for another winter. Last weekend, I went to Guglhupf bakery to see if they had any of their namesake pastry: kugelhopf. They had one, a chocolate kugelhopf. I’m making progress in my chocolate pastry endeavors, but it’s all baby steps, and I’m not quite at the point yet where I want to buy a chocolate cake, even if it’s yeasted and German.

 

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My search for German yeasted things in the Triangle continues, but for now, I have these un-yeasted (but leavened nonetheless) chocolate bad boys to keep me company.

At first, I tried baking them with whole peppermint York patties on top, and the patties ruptured all over the oven. Next, I cut the patties in half and stuffed them into the batter…they still ruptured, and this time, they made craters in the muffins, as well. Even without the chocolate-covered peppermint candy hockey pucks, though, these are still the bomb.

 

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chocolate peppermint muffins

adapted from vegan chocolate muffins

makes 1 dozen

 

200 g all-purpose flour

50 g unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tsp baking powder

a dash of salt

150 g granulated sugar

1 tsp peppermint extract

2 large eggs (50 g each)

100 g canola oil

150 g milk

70 g Andes mints, chopped

powdered sugar for dusting

 

Preheat the oven to 350 F/190 C, and line a muffin pan with paper muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together sugar, eggs, extract, canola oil, and milk, until uniform.

Quickly combine dry and wet ingredients and mix in the chopped Andes mints.

Using a cookie scoop or spoon, fill each muffin cup with batter about 3/4 of the way.

Bake the muffins for 20 – 30 minutes, until springy and plump.

Let muffins cool in pan for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

When completely cool, dust with powdered sugar.

 

Hark, the herald peppermint beckons!

Nick P.

Categories: Breads, muffins