December 2008


The worst thing about 2009, worse than Sarah Palin, was the Sex and the City movie. I cannot remember the last time I was so totally disappointed in something. I was not anticipating greatness when we went to the theatre, but having watched several old episodes ahead of the movie made me hopeful that some of the wit and inteligence of the show would carry (sorry for that) onto the big screen. From the moment those clips from the show started floating across the screen I knew I was in for something awful. The highlight of all the stupidness in the movie was the toilet humor in the following 76 seconds of pure torture.

Goodness, what were Michael-Patrick King and Sarah Jessica Parker thinking? Everything leading up to this was poor, what followed did not get any better. Hopefully 2009 will not bring the anticipated (what???) sequal, that would be too much for me.

For 2009 my wish is lots and lots more Lady GaGa, the most exciting new musical discovery I’ve made this year. I say discovery because I was not aware of her in Bangkok until right at the very end.

Happy 2009 from me and Lady GaGa!

We left the freezing cold of Albuquerque the week before Christmas to spend a couple of mild and sunny days in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. It was my first time in Mexico and I absolutely loved it.

Despite being one of the country’s main tourist draws, Puerto Vallarta retains much of its pre-hot destination charm in the form of cobbled streets, historical architecture and a very laid-back atmosphere. We stayed in a villa up a steep street, with marvelous views of the city and the bay. A lot of time was spent reading and lazing around the pool, wandering down the hill for lunch and some browsing in the local stores.

Out of all the excellent meals we enjoyed, some on street and some prepared by the chef of the house, the seafood grill we had for lunch on the beach was my favorite. Fresh prawns and marlin are grilled on a stick and accompanied by slices of lime and a mound of salt to be dripped and sprinkled over the food. It tasted incredible and I can still taste it just looking at the pictures.

I also discovered paletas, the best kind of popsicles imaginable. They came in a variety of flavors; tamarind, coconut, coffee, dulce de leche, pistachio and my favorite, granola, creamy popsicle with lots of toasted granola. Good enough for breakfast I’d say.

We got back just in time for some Christmas baking and then loads of Christmas eating. It did not snow, but we enjoyed a fantastic holiday with family and friends. And now it is time to prepare for some New Year celebrations and resolutions, like losing all those extra holiday pounds!

Alexander’s parents picked up the Christmas tree on Saturday and it’s all decorated now and glowing and the living room has a fresh pine scent. Present has been collecting under it since Sunday and it looks all ready for Christmas morning. If we’re lucky we may get more snowfall around Christmas.

But first, we’re off to Puerto Vallarta on the West Coast of Mexico for a couple of days of sun, margharitas and fantastic Mexican food. We’ll be back just in time for Christmas to prepare some more cookies, candy and snacks for all the gatherings on Christmas day!

It started this morning not long after I dragged myself out of our hot and snug bed. We thought it would be the same as the previous snow, just a little light shower with nothing sticking around for long. After a couple of hours of non-stop snow I went outside to take some pictures because there was a very light blanket covering spots in the garden. I was thrilled! But I did not expect it to look like this a couple of hours later when we went to the park!

Everything was covered in an inch of snow and it was still snowing. The whole world had turned white and it was freezing outside. My toes felt like icicles! Making warm mugs of hot chocolate, decorated with candy canes, seemed the ideal way of warming us up!

I’ve been so involved in Christmas activities that I almost forgot about the latest Hay Hay it’s Donna Day challenge. Multiple HHDD winner, Manila urbanite and envy of me, Joey from 80 Breakfasts, picked pesto as theme for the 24th challenge. Although I love pesto I don’t make it nearly enough, but when I do I try to use different ingredients and variations. So when I saw the theme was pesto I knew immediately what kind of pesto I was going to make.

Throughout the years I lived in Asia I fell in love with cilantro. At first I could not stand it, but now I am kind of hooked and my refrigerator just smells right when there is a big bunch of fresh cilantro inside. It’s popular in many Asian dishes and accompanies almost everything in Vietnam and apparently it’s also much used in Mexican dishes. Since we’re leaving for a quick break in Mexico on Wednesday a cilantro pesto with something Mexican seemed quite fitting.

I based my recipe on the original one by Donna Hay, posted on 80 Breakfasts, changing some of the ingredients to suite what I had in the kitchen and what I remembered to pick up!

To make cilantro pesto gather:

1 cup and then some chopped cilantro leaves and stems

2 tablespoons toasted and chopped sunflower seeds (pine nuts or cashews also work)

1 clove crushed garlic

3/4 cup olive oil

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Making it:

Place all the ingredients in a blender and process lightly. Adjust the salt and pepper to your liking and serve. Easy-easy!

Alexander’s dad made awesome fish tacos the previous night and there were some leftovers and fresh soft taco shells (I love New Mexico!), so we decided to try out the pesto with some fish tacos for lunch. Delicious!

Now I have to go pack. I’ve never been to Mexico so I am pretty excited and hopefully I’ll have a picture or two to share when we get back.

Thanks to Joey for hosting, Bron for managing and Barbara for creating Hay Hay it’s Donna Day.

Like these Eggnog cookies we baked the other night. They were a big hit in this house, as the fast-emptying cookie plates can attest.  They are real easy to make and fast too as the dough does not need any refrigeration.Which means we did not have to wait around for hours but could satisfy our cravings almost immediately.

To make these tasty treats you need to get together:

2 and 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

a pinch of salt

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 cup eggnog

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 large egg yolks

3/4 cup unsalted butter at room temperature and cubed

1 and 1/4 cup white sugar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 300F and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside. In a separate bowl beat together the sugar and butter until light and creamy. Mix in the egg yolks, eggnog and vanilla on medium until nice and smooth. Gently fold in the remaining ingredients until everything is just combined.

Drop teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheets about 1 inch apart. You can sprinkle some ground nutmeg or cinnamon over the cookies if you like. Bake it for about 20 minutes and remember to rotate halfway through. Remove from the oven and transfer the paper to a wire rack to cool. The cookies are very soft when removed from the oven, but they set a little more once removed

Alexander created an eggnog frosting the next day to drizzle over our second batch of cookies for some added decadence. Just cream a little softened butter with powdered sugar and mix in a little eggnog, then drizzle over cooled cookies.

These cookies has a delightful chewy texture and are great on their own or accompanied by some warm milk or hot chocolate.

Told you I was going to get into the season. I found this recipe for cranberry and oatmeal cookies on Martha Stewart’s website and Alexander suggested we bake it to serve with the pumpkin pie as part of his dad’s late Thanksgiving dinner for the family (we were stuck in Thailand for the holiday).

As we’re back in a house with a fully stocked kitchen there was no need to rush around trying to find ingredients and I got to work right away. Sweet!

For the cookie dough you should collect:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons milk

2 large eggs

2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

1 cup light brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

3 cups oats

1 cup dried cranberries (I used half a cup cranberries and half a cup chopped almonds)

The process:

Start the process at least 2-3 hours before you want to bake it as the dough needs to be refrigerated.

Whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and soda in a medium-sized bowl and set aside. Whisk together the milk, eggs and vanilla extract in a small bowl and set aside. Combine the butter (cut into smaller pieces) and the sugar in a mixing bowl with the mixer on low (if you use a mixer without paddle attachment) or medium (if you have the paddle attachment) until it is light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, gradually add the milk mixture until well-combined. Next add the flour mixture and beat until just combined. Finally stir in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours.

When it’s time to start baking, preheat the oven to 350F (yes I am in the US now and trying to convert). Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Shape 2 tablespoons of dough into a ball and place them about 3 inches apart on the cookie sheets. Martha suggests flattening them with the bottom of a glass, but we used the spoon to kind of flatten them, which gives them more of a home-made look me thinks.

Finally, bake the cookies for about 16  minutes (or less, my first batch burnt a little on the underside). Remember to rotate the baking sheets halfway through so they bake evenly. When baked, transfer the cookies with the paper to wire racks to cool and serve.

As I only remembered to start baking halfway through the fantastic turkey dinner, the cookies were still warm and fresh when they were served along with the pumpkin pie. In retrospect I found that I added double the cinnamon and salt! Luckily it did not ruin the cookies and they tasted pretty good, in fact, I thing the extra cinnamon made the cookies even better.

And they were even better the next morning with some soy nog!

Oh! My efforts to get more seasonal was rewarded this morning with the first snow of winter. It did not exactly stick, but it looked pretty drifting down and had me quite excited.

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