Sunday, January 03, 2010

2010: A Return to Blogging

HAPPY NEW YEAR (albeit a bit belated)!

Friends, I realize that I have hit a new low. I have been absent from this blog for over a month, and that is just disgraceful. To put it simply, December 2009 was the month that wasn't. You see, the movers came to take away most of the stuff from the old rental and haul it to the new house on Dec. 14, so the big push to be ready for that momentous day was nightmarish, to say the very least. I remember watching Paula Deen's "Chefography" show ages ago, and in it, she and her sons talked about a time in their life when they were all working around the clock at some cafeteria that Paula was managing. And it was such a difficult time that they still don't talk about it to this day. That's kind of how I feel about this move; it was physically and emotionally traumatizing.

Of course I am excited to be moving into the first house that I own, but I was in that rental house for nine and a half years--longer than I have ever lived anywhere--so there was an unbelievable amount of stuff to pack and purge. And with me working two jobs (the movers actually came the first day of finals week at Clinton!), it was practically impossible to accomplish much on the homefront right at the end of the semester, in the thick of all the madness. All honor and glory and praise MUST go to my AMAZING roommate, Cyd. There really are not enough words to describe the amount of work she did to get us ready for the move or how incredibly thankful I am for her Herculean efforts. So I will just say, from the bottom of my heart, GOD BLESS HER! And the other person that we could not have done it without is my (now former....sniff!) next-door neighbor, Ken, who spent the better part of December running up and down the stairs, hauling crap down from the overstuffed attic. BLESS HIM, TOO!

Though the movers transferred about 80% of our possessions on 12/14, it was somehow worse to finish the last of it, especially as we had to move the rest ourselves. (Appropriate shout-outs here to my sweet friends and co-workers who helped to subsidize the cost of the professional movers, and also to my faithful friends, Vicky and Tom, for the use of their pickup trucks to complete the move.) Then, of course, there was the neverending hauling of trash and finally, all the cleaning. But somehow, we managed to vacate the old place on December 23...Christmas Eve Eve! (December 2009 was also the Christmas that wasn't. Boo hiss.) It almost killed us, but we did it. Thank heavens I have most of January to try to recuperate and maybe start unpacking...but I'm making no promises on that account. I might just live out of boxes until the spring thaw! (By then, my back and my spirit may have healed somewhat.) But one thing I will definitely commit to is a return to food blogging. Granted, I can barely find anything in the new kitchen, but I have some catching up to do before I start sharing new cooking adventures anyway...

I will begin with a recipe that I had originally intended to make for holiday gifts for co-workers and friends (in addition to the cranberry salsa and apple chutney), but didn't manage to pull it off. It was a cranberry loaf with a spicy twist that I read about on Anna's Cookie Madness blog--and that she highly recommended--called Texas Cranberry Jalapeno Bread. I thought I might make mini-loaves for the people at work, but instead, I ended up making two large loaves to take to a couple of Christmas parties that I was invited to.

It sounds a little strange, I know, but I really liked the peppery kick to a traditional cranberry orange loaf. The only thing I didn't like about the recipe was the half teaspoon of cumin that it calls for. In my opinion, it really overpowered the other flavors. I was thinking that one might substitute cinnamon, but I really think I will admit the spice altogether the next time I make it, so that I can taste the cranberries, the orange, and the zing of both the black pepper and the pepper jelly. That was another great thing about this recipe--it allowed me to use up a half jar of homemade pepper jelly that I found while cleaning out the fridge. (Note: I followed a version of the recipe from Recipezaar that included four tablespoons of pepper jelly, while Anna's version called for two tablespoons of pepper jelly and two tablespoons of salsa, which I thought sounded a little odd and potentially overpowering as well.) In any case, I think that this bread is perfect for the holidays and also to warm you up during the chill of winter!

Texas Cranberry Jalapeno Bread

4 cups flour
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cumin (I will omit this next time!)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 bag cranberries, coarsely chopped
3 beaten eggs
3/4 cup orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla
3-4 tablespoons jalapeno jelly (I used my homemade apricot pepper jelly)
1/2 cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix all dry ingredients and the cranberries. In a medium bowl, mix eggs, juice, vanilla, jelly, and butter.

Make a well in center of dry ingredients. Fold wet ingredients into dry and mix gently until ingredients are just combined.

Pour into 2 well-greased loaf pans. Bake 50-60 minutes. Cool in the pans for about ten minutes before turning out and cooling completely on a wire rack.

Makes 2 large loaves.

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