Tag Archives: winter

Recipe: Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Pesto

17 Dec

I’m a really big fan of pesto and the endless possibilities to make it! This pesto is a mild version with all of your holiday favorites coming together for one delicious dish. I served it at my holiday party and it was a huge hit!

Unfortunately (for you and me), because of the stress of working an 8 hour day then coming home to host a party, I don’t have any pictures to show you. With any luck, I’ll make it again before the end of the year and then you can see how beautiful this dish is. And I DO mean beautiful…it brings together the classic green and red we think of for Christmas.

When I was experimenting with ingredients for this pesto, I tried to make it season-appropriate, sticking with ingredients you see a lot of in the winter. I think I captured the holiday spirit well, and I really think you should make this at your next get together! Spring and summer are all about fresh and bright, and fall is a very earthy, warm season. Winter though, while warm, also is a lot about sweets and dessert, so I definitely made it a point to channel that into this recipe. This particular pesto is probably served best on bread or crackers, but you might also be able to do some interesting pizza-dessert type things with it, too.

 

Cranberry Hazelnut Holiday Pesto:

1/2 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup fresh kale
1/2 cup hazelnuts, shelled and roasted
1/4 cup canola oil (or more)
2 Tbs homemade salted caramel drizzle (more or less to taste)
dried cranberries (I used Craisins)
1/8 cup Welsh cheddar, grated
sea salt/kosher salt/coarse salt

2 french baguettes OR whole wheat crackers OR salted caramel crackers

Homemade salted caramel drizzle:

1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 Tbs butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 tsp. salt

 

First, take the cranberries and toss them into the food processor. Make sure that you don’t leave behind any large pieces. If you only have one food processor, spoon out the cranberries into a bowl and set aside. Rinse out your food processor to get the remaining cranberries. We are going to process the kale and the cranberries separately to maintain the red and green – if you process them at the same time, your pesto will turn a brown color, and while it will taste the same, it isn’t going to be as visually appealing!

Next, you’ll want to blanch the kale. I removed the large stem parts of the kale so that only the leaves were left. Boil a small pot of water and have a bowl of cold (or ice) water handy. Dunk the kale in the boiling water for about 10 seconds. At the end of the 10 seconds, immediately take it out and dip it into the cold water (this will stop the cooking process). Take the kale out of the cold water, and gently pat the excess water off with a paper towel.

While the kale dries off a bit, take your hazelnuts and shell them (this is assuming you bought them in the shell – I couldn’t find any already shelled). Take these and toss them into a skillet over medium-high heat. Move these around in your pan while they are toasting until the get a deep, brown color. Make sure not to char them!

Now, toss the kale and the hazelnuts into the food processor. Once everything is pretty well processed, add your oil. You are going to want a smooth, easily spreadable consistency, but not liquid. Once you get there, add just a little more.

Take this out of the food processor, and grab the cranberries you processed and set aside earlier. Put these in the same bowl, and using a spoon, mix. You’ll see that really pretty red and green come together. I’m pretty sure this is what Christmas should taste like. This is your pesto! You can set this aside, because now we have to make the caramel!

(Don’t be scared, its easy!)

Grab a large saucepan, and toss in your sugar. Turn up the heat to high and stir, stir, stir! The sugar is going to clump, but keep on stirring and eventually it will melt. Once the sugar melts, keep stirring until it turns into your desired caramel color (light, medium, dark). Mine was classic medium.

Once you’ve reached your desired color, add your butter. It is going to bubble, but keep stirring until everything is melted together.

Now, you’ll slowly add the cream to this mixture. Cook for another minute, and then remove from the heat.

Stir in the salt. Allow to cool – for our purposes you don’t need to have it cool all the way because we will have to be able to pour it and we don’t want to have to warm it back up.

Now, its time to assemble everything! If you are using bread, I highly recommend cutting the bread, then toasting it in the oven until its a nice golden color. Because pesto is so versatile by nature, you can definitely use something other than bread if you’d like!

Take a spoonful of the pesto and spread it onto your bread or cracker. This next part is to taste, so more or less depending on what tastes good to you:

Take 2-4 Craisins and sprinkle them over the top of the pesto. Now take a pinch of the Welsh cheddar, and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the pesto. Finally, you’ll take a spoonful of the caramel and drizzle it in a zig-zag pattern over the top of everything. To top it off, take a pinch of coarse salt and sprinkle it over the caramel.

Voila! Your cranberry hazelnut holiday pesto is complete!

If you don’t want to assemble this for everyone, you can put your pesto into a bowl, toss the Craisins, cheddar, and caramel on top and folks can use it as a dip for their bread and crackers.

 

Tried my recipe? Sound off in the comments!

That Time I Drove My Car Off the Side of a Cliff

6 Mar

Okay…it wasn’t a cliff.

But I did drive my car off the side of the road into the river onto the river bank.

It was a Wednesday night, and I had invited a coworker over to watch The Little Mermaid. It was snowing, and maybe we should have called it off, but we didn’t. Really, I’ve had much worse drives up the canyon even in the short time I’ve lived here.

We stop at a gas station at the mouth of the canyon, and I tell her to park at the top of my driveway, so she wouldn’t get stuck. I completely forgot about the large hill that serves as my halfway point.

We get to my halfway point, and her poor car barely makes it up the hill. I even parked and got out and pushed her the last little bit so she could park. We decided it would be best if she came in my car so that she didn’t get stuck.

We made it to my house just fine, I made popcorn, and we watched our movie. It is always so nice to have people over. She lives as far from work as I do, but in the opposite direction, so even though it was early, we called it a night. We get in my car, and are glad that while it’s still snowing, is isn’t as heavy.

That was when my car slipped off the side of the road and onto the dirt “shoulder”. The roads were very slick, so when I tried to guide my car back onto the pavement, it slipped back down. The only thing I was concerned about at this point, was what was under the snow on that dirt that I wasn’t able to see. I tried to bring my car back up onto the pavement again with more force.

I lost control.

My car veered hard to the left, and across the lane. I hit the breaks, but they didn’t respond. I was about to nose-dive straight into the river, but I was as cool as a cucumber.

I saw my coworker fumbling out of the corner of my eye – she wasn’t wearing her seat belt and was looking for the best way to brace herself. If we were going to plunge into the river, we either needed to jump out of the car, or open the door before we reached it so we didn’t get trapped in the car (the river is low, but the water is cold, and you never know exactly how deep it will be). With my eye on opening my door, I get ready to tell my friend we need to jump, but as I refocus, I realize there is a tree in front of us.

I’ve never been so happy to hit a tree in my life. It was going to stop us from plunging into the river.

And then all of a sudden, my car came to a sudden halt. I hit the tree, we were done.

We looked at each other and couldn’t do anything but laugh. We pondered what to do – no cell service, it’s snowing, and my car won’t reverse – and ended up deciding to walk. Just as we were making this decision, a car comes up around the corner. I jumped back into my car and hit the brights, put on the flashers, and my coworker waved her phone light in the air. I started honking.

They kept going.

So walking it was. We were halfway between my house and where her car was, and decided to go to her car. Not very long after we set out, a truck approached, and we flagged him down. He told us his name, and agreed to take us to her car – he did just get back from church, after all. When we got there, I asked him to remind me of his name.

Adam. You know…like the first man on Earth.

Got it. Not forgetting that one.

We came back down the mountain side, and I went to my good friends house (the one I was living with and dated for a time), and he was kind enough to drive me back up the canyon. We stopped and looked at my car, and he discovered that it was precariously perched on a large boulder, and that I hadn’t hit the tree at all. One of my back tires wasn’t even touching the ground.

Sweetest guy ever. Didn’t even leave my house until about 12:30 in the morning, and still had a 40 minute drive home.

I was okay. My coworker was okay. And my car got fixed for a little over $250. I was very, very lucky. I won’t, however, get back that hour and a half I lost trying to convey to the insurance woman that I live on a mountain, there isn’t cell phone service, and that there are neither cross roads nor an exact address of where my car is stuck.

And it was a winch I needed, not a tow. 

Ever had a close call like that in which you thank your lucky stars you didn’t die? What fears do you joke about with your friends? 

Goodbye, Summer

3 Sep

 

There are lots of different indicators of when summer is over. Some say its over when school starts. Some say its over when it gets cold. Some say its over when fall equinox hits. Others count the last day of summer as Labor Day.

Labor day is tomorrow, and because many summer things will be over (like paddle boating), I’d like to make an official goodbye to summer. I’ve found this one to be an especially enjoyable summer, and I did quite a few things that I set out to do. There are some things I didn’t get done though, like swimming in the reservoir (hopefully that will happen tomorrow), climbing Horsetooth mountain, and then there is the ever-elusive summer romance.

What are some things you accomplished from your summer to-do list? Did you find your summer romance? Any plans for fall and winter?