Turducken ramen is a thing, a very very delicious thing. It’s the ideal solution for Thanksgiving leftovers, or to make for a Friendsgiving feast. Check out the recipe that I developed in tandem with Justin Cucci and Mashable here.
Getting around LAX can be a lot like navigating the city of Los Angeles; for the uninitiated, it can seem like an absolutely daunting maze, especially during the upcoming holiday season. But I grew up in L.A., and have some helpful hints for how to make the most of any layover or pre-flight experience in L.A. You can check out my tips over at LAXisHappening.com, and be sure to watch the video below.
Check out the full recipe and story at Mashable here.
This year I got really into the DIY holiday spirit and decked my apartment out with all sorts of homespun elements. Thankfully I was able to elicit the help of my favorite elves, Michael and Bento. All of these little projects were super simple to execute, meaning you still have time to add them into your repertoire before Christmas.
Here’s what we came up with.
To save on paper, we wrapped our gifts using scrap fabric from Mood and recycled brown bags paired with some great ribbon from both Pulp Paper Goods and Mood. The gift tags are from one of my favorite local graphic designers Emily McDowell, who I wrote about here.
I blinged out these pomegranates and pinecones with some of Krylon’s new chrome and glitter spray paints. You can read how I did that project here. I’ve also collected some seasonal release craft beer coasters over the years to pull out this time of year. Lord konws I love a good freebie, especially if it involves gnomes.
We made traditional German hexenhouse, or A-Frames, using a cool kit imported from Germany by Trader Joe’s. They were a steal at $7.99 each, and are insanely aromatic even weeks later. They were super simple to assemble and taste pretty darn great, too.
For my cookie platter this year, I used a few of my favorite recipes. First I started with my riff on James Beard’s bourbon spiced persimmon bread. I also used Martha Stewart’s technique for making swirled bark, but added stick pretzels, craisins, and macadamia nuts from Michael’s grandfather’s tree. I used the leftover white chocolate to do a white chocolate cranberry bark for a bit of color variation to the plate. I also did some white chocolate oatmeal cookies studded with pomegranate arils for a hit of tartness. Finally I whipped up a batch of Giada’s lemon ricotta cookies with a lemon zest glaze, which I discovered at the opening party of her new restaurant out in Vegas. They remind me of lemon bars, which are some of my favorite desserts, plus they add a bright hit of acid, which you rarely get on sweets during the holidays.
I made this tablescape using mismatched cocktail glasses and those blinged-out natural pieces I mentioned earlier. If you glazed over that one, don’t worry about it. You can read how I did it here.
I picked up this longhorn steer head from an artisan selling them on the side of the road in the hill country outside Austin. Michael disassembled the polished horns from the skull on the side of the road so we could pack it as checked luggage. Crafty guy! I then took these old poinsettia candleholders and slipped them on the horns for a festive flare. A little more exciting than the typical Santa hat skull, I reckon.
A big selling point of my teensy apartment was the faux fireplace and mantle with Spanish tiling — so much so that it made me overlook the miniature kitchen. I loved decking it out for the holidays with all my homespun accents.
The vintage bar cart makes a cameo next to the tree. This year I made a tree skirt out of an old Brazilian coffee jute sack that the folks at Blue Bottle DTLA so kindly donated to my cause. All I did was cut the seam to turn it into one large piece of fabric. I paired the rustic jute sack with a checkered tablecloth to match with my Soutwestern/Texas theme. (You can see more of the jute material in the photograph of the wrapped presentes up at the top.)
Now that we’re all decorated, I can enjoy what the holidays are truly about: spending time with your loved ones, in this case my two favorite guys: Michael and Bento.
We wish you all the merriest Christmas and a deliciously inspired New Year!
Remember good ol’ Sandra Lee? Much as I despise her packaged, cookie cutter approach to cooking, that lush was on to something. And I’m not just talking about her affinity for cocktails, though we do have that in common. What I dug about that batty old blonde was her emphasis on tablescaping.
Though she might have gone a bit too over-the-top for many of her themed episodes — her offensive mess of a Kwanzaa cake makes me laugh to this day — there is plenty of merit to having a statement centerpiece with elements that visually guide you to it, especially during the holiday season.
For my tablescaping, I’m all about mixing colors, textures, and heights of organic materials to make to achieve a unique homespun look. I did two centerpieces for the winter holiday season: one for my steamer trunk coffee table (above) and another for my dining room table. Both of them use pomegranates, which I gave a special sheen by spraying with Krylon’s new Glitter Blast spray paint in Cherry. It leaves a sheer glittery sheen that reminds me of Dorothy’s slippers.
I also chromed out some pinecones in silver using Krylon’s Premium Metalic spray paints, and did a hammered bronze look for a handful of other pinecones. So you have glitter, chrome, and hammered all with a pretty evergreen trimmings that not only look great and add an organic pop, but also smell fantastic. I arranged them in a wire nesting bowl that my mom gave me for my birthday a few years back; no need to buy an entire new collection for the holidays. Use what you have and save that money for holiday shopping. (Have you seen my gift guide, BTW? If not, you can check it out here.)
For my dining room arrangement, I used a mirrored serving tray from Cost Plus that I’d been eyeing for the past few months as the base, then arranged varying colors of candles on top of mismatched cocktail glasses flipped upside down.
This cocktail glass candleholder trick is a great way to utilize mismatched glassware, because let’s be honest, there are times when things break, especially when there’s booze involved. The great thing is it creates varying heights, which is super important in creating a centerpiece and creating visual interest.
I interspersed those candles with more evergreen (noble fir, in case you’re curious, is my favorite type of tree), blinged out pomegranates, and chrome and hammered copper pinecones.
Since my dining room table table is teensy — as is my dining room — instead of placing the arrangement on a runner, I used a large Oaxacan wool placemat as the base. But you can use whatever you like: placemats, a festive charger, seconds from a fabric store, or even some used fabrics from Goodwill.
Again, use what you’ve got and if you’re lucky, you’ll have some cash leftover to get yourself something this holiday too. Because let’s be real, you’ve been a good kid this year.
Still haven’t gotten your holiday shopping done? It’s okay, I haven’t either. But you needn’t fret. There’s plenty of time before Hanukkah and Christmas roll around.
From Will’s amazing leather weekenders to Emily McDowell’s quirky lettered creations and super sleekly designed modern water pitchers that use coconut husks to filter your H20, I’ve rounded up my favorite holiday gifts for your nearest and dearest. You can find my full list over at LAist, right this way.
I’m a total nerd when it comes to the holidays. The baking, the decorating, the gift giving, and general merry making are totally my thing.
And while I do love the bountiful produce that the local farmers markets offer in the spring and summer months, the winter has some goodies too. Pomegranates and persimmons, I think, are some of the greatest fruits this time of year. They’re greatly misunderstood, but once you get the courage to play with them, you’ll see how great their flavors can be.
Besides, anything with the name Simmons in it has to be good, right?
Let’s start with those Japanese persimmons. (I’ll show you some cool DIY projects I’ve been working on with the pomegranates later this week.)
This sweet orange fruit is actually native to China, which I just visited earlier this year, and is now grown widely in Japan, where it’s their national fruit. Persimmons are traditionally consumed on the Japanese New Year as a sign of prosperity and good luck in the year to come. (Hopefully eating these will give me the good fortune of traveling to Japan in 2015!)
I came up on some wonderful fuyu and hichaya persimmons after including them in a cute Thanksgiving centerpiece that I made, which you can see here.
Fuyus are the persimmons you’ll find with a flat bottom, and are sweet when they are just slightly ripe. Hichayas, on the other hand, are incredibly tart and tannic until they are absolutely jelly-like ripe. I used 2 of each variety for this recipe, pureeing them together because the fuyus have a more solid texture.
Just like avocados, you can ripen both types of persimmons by putting them in a paper bag. Once they’re super tender to the touch, they’re ready for baking into this fantastic holiday bread, which tastes super toasted with a slathering of salted butter.
The reason I love this bread is twofold: first and foremost the recipe is adapted from the great James Beard, the godfather of American cooking; secondly, it uses my favorite spirit, bourbon. It also makes a wonderful holiday or host gift since the recipe makes 2 loves.
Here’s how it’s done.
Spiced Bourbon Persimmon Bread
Makes two 9-inch loaves
3½ cups sifted flour
1½ teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 to 2½ cups sugar
1 cup melted unsalted butter and cooled to room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, lightly beaten
2/3 cup Bulleit bourbon
2 cups persimmon puree (this comes from about 4 persimmons)
1 cup nuts (I used a mix of walnuts and pecans)
1 cup dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Butter 2 loaf pans, then dust with flour and tap out any excess.
Remove persimmon flesh from the skin and put into a food processor to puree. Set aside.
Sift the flour, salt, baking soda, nutmeg, and sugar in a large mixing bowl.
Make a well in the center, then stir in the butter, eggs, liquor, persimmon puree. After that’s mixed, add in the dried fruit and nuts. (I used much less in this recipe because I’m not nuts for nuts. The original recipe calls for double nuts and dried fruit that I used here.)
Bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes or until toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
The bread will keep for about a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. It can also be frozen.
Looking for a simple but somewhat exotic drink to serve at your holiday gatherings this year? This lovely internationally-inspired cocktail does just the trick. It can easily be scaled to serve in a punch bowl, or done in individual portions for a more intimate affair.
At first, I wrote this recipe to include tequila blanco, which you can totally use, but recently I’ve been making it with mezcal.
For the uninitiated, mezcal is basically tequila’s cousin. It’s made with a type of agave from Oaxaca, Mexico called maguey. It has a wonderful smokiness to it, and just a hint of spice, which I think goes wonderfully with this fall twist on a classic margarita.
My friend Bricia Lopez — one of the owners of L.A.’s great Oaxacan restaurant Guelaguetza — once taught me the popular colloquialism, “para todo mal, mezcal, y para todo bien también,” which translates to, “for all the bad, mezcal, and for all the good, too.” I have to agree. You can easily sip on this drink during holiday time, or if you’ve had a long day at work. (Believe me, I’ve had a few of those lately. And this cocktail makes it alllll better.)
Another little Oaxacan element I added to my festive cocktail was mole bitters. Guelaguetza makes some of the best mole in town, and the dish holds a very special place in my heart. Even though I don’t have Oaxacan heritage, my mom used to make it all the time and to this day it’s one of my favorite dishes of hers to this day. I love the layers of rich spiciness. It’s truly a unique flavor, which you get just a hint of with the mole bitters.
For my fall cocktail I also used pomegranate juice, as pomegranates are typically used in another popular Mexican holiday dish, chiles en nogadas. You’ll see this dish — made of poblano chiles stuffed with dried fruits and nuts, covered in creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds and parsley — as the pomegranates start to come into season in the fall. It really is a celebration of the season’s bountiful harvest.
I hope that sometime soon I can get to Oaxaca to try this awesome spirit in it’s homeland, but for now, I’m happy to share this great little libation with good friends and family during the holidays. Cheers to that!
2 oz POM Wonderful pomegranate juice
1 oz mezcal
1 oz fresh lime juice
1 oz Cointreau
2 shakes Bittermans mole bitters (you can also use regular Angostura or Fee’s Orange bitters if you can’t find the mole version and they’re great!)
Combine all ingredients in a Boston shaker over ice, and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a coupe glass and serve. This cocktail can also be pre-batched using the same ratios and served in a punchbowl for holiday parties.