Friday, December 9, 2011

Birthday Blog

Many years ago today, I was born. This December 9th dawned clear and crisp with temps in the teens. Being a hungry farm girl, this day will be about food and cooking as much as anything. My birthday request to my husband was to keep up with the dishes as I cook my way through the day. The only way to keep our kitchen warm when it is 18 degrees outside is to keep that oven and stovetop going.

We are having a favorite local couple in for dinner. My friend, a kindred spirit, is bringing greenhouse grown arugula salad, a jar of homemade gooseberry jam, and her special ginger carrot cake. You can see why we are friends.

My kitchen plans for the day include a miso sesame ginger sweet potato dip that I definitely want to share with everyone. It is a super healthy, simple but unique, and tasty recipe. I also plan to make spicy fennel almonds, ground turkey chili, Mexican wedding cookies, and pumpkin bread. On a wintery day, spending time being creative in the kitchen (especially with someone else on dish-duty) is my idea of a little bit of heaven.

Yesterday I made smoked-sea-salted caramels. I almost never make candy but I was inspired by an advertisement for salted caramels in a holiday Crate and Barrel catalogue that appeared in our mailbox recently.

These will make nice gifts for the neighbors

Below is the sweet potato dip recipe. You will need miso paste and sesame tahini.  
Miso, sesame, and sweet potato dip
1 lb. deep orange flesh sweet potatoes, peeled
   and cut into 1 to 2 inch chunks
2 t. minced fresh ginger
2 T. white or red miso paste
1 ½ T. tahini
2 t. soy sauce
2 T. thinly sliced green onion
1 ½ t. toasted sesame seeds

1. Steam sweet potatoes until tender (~20 mins). Drain reserving liquid and let cool slightly.
2. Whirl sweet potatoes, ginger, miso, tahini, soy sauce, and a bit of the reserved liquid in food processor until very smooth.
3. Transfer to bowl and stir in ½ the green onions. Sprinkle top with remaining green onions and sesame seeds.  *A drizzle of sesame oil is also nice.
4. Serve warm or at room temperature with cucumber slices for dipping.

The finished dip sans the green onions
(I thought I had some??)

Every holiday season our quaint downtown hosts a "Sparkle Night" where all the businesses stay open late and serve food and drink. There is a lights parade and carols and a Christmas tree lighting on the grand old courthouse lawn. It is always a cold night but a couple thousand intrepid men, women, and children bundle up and come out to meet their friends and neighbors, and share in the holiday cheer. On Sparkle Night 7 years ago I tasted these spicy almonds at a business and jotted down the recipe from the proprietor. They are quick and easy to put together and make a nice appetizer for company. My husband loves savory nibbles in the pre-dinner hour and these are perfect for that too.

Christmas Sparkle Spicy Fennel Almonds
non-stick spray
3 T. sugar
2 t. fennel
1 t. dried crushed red pepper
1 t. salt
1 c. raw almonds
1 T. water

Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees.
Line a small baking pan with foil and spray with non-stick spray. Combine sugar, fennel, red pepper and salt in a bowl. Add 1 T. water and mix well. Add the almond and stir to coat well. Spread in a single layer in pan and cook stirring occasionally (2 or 3 times) for approximately 25 minutes until the almonds are golden brown. Cool and break apart. Enjoy!


  1. Happy Birthday to you....etc. etc. Your dinner guests are very lucky,as are the rest of your family.

  2. I suppose Sparkle Night 2011 has come and gone already. I loved taking part in Quincy's community Christmas celebrations 6 years ago.

    Guess what?! A food co-op is forming in Sebastopol!

  3. Happy belated birthday Karen! And Happy New Year as well! Just found your site address cleaning up our messy life. We also made spicy/sweet almonds as a holiday gift this year. Typically we use pecans, but they were like $13/# (the Texas drought I suppose) so I opted for almonds at half the price. Our recipe is a little sugar, coriander, allspice, cayenne, cinnamon, salt, an egg white and vegetable oil. Tasty snack, and they don't break apart like all those gingerbread figures or wafer cookies when you deliver them to friends, family, and neighbors. The blog looks great. Your friend, David