Category Archives: food

2016 Top 5: Charities doing important work

Continuing my Top 5 recap of 2016, I will highlight 5 of my favorite charities doing awesome work. I donate to them, and hope you will too!

#1 – Affirmation – LGBT Mormons, Families, and Friends

Affirmation is literally a life saver. It has literally saved my life. In my darkest times as I have struggled with the complexities and disappointments of being a gay Mormon, Affirmation has been a shining star. Knowing that there are others like me who have come through the dark times has gone a long way towards keeping me moving forward.

Recently, Affirmation has been expanding its work in Central and South America, where the need is even greater than it is here in the USA. Donating to Affirmation will help move forward this important work.

#2 – Liahona Children’s Foundation

Liahona Children’s Foundation focuses on alleviating malnutrition in LDS families in third-world countries. Most recently, the foundation is serving in 17 countries around the world, helping ensure that the most vulnerable children and familes receive the nutrition and education that will enable them to thrive.

#3 – Oxfam

Oxfam is a global organization focusing on alleviating poverty and injustice.  Oxfam is often on the ground after natural disasters and has been fighting for refugees and other displaced persons. After the horrific images coming out of Syria and Turkey over the last few years, I have been motivated to do something to help. Oxfam has been my charity of choice for disaster relief and immediate relief of poverty on a global scale.

#4 – Growing Hope

On the opposite end of the scale from Oxfam, Growing Hope is a local charity focusing on food security in Ypsilanti and neighboring areas. They help food-insecure families learn about gardening by building out raised bed gardens and providing seedlings. They also run several farmers markets in the Ypsilanti area, making fresh vegetables and fruits more accessible to local residents.

#5 – Equality Michigan / Equality Wyoming

Again, I’m really bad at keeping to only five on my list.  I donate to local organizations fighting for equality for LGBT people. The Great Trans Bathroom Panic of 2016 only highlighted for me the need for more people on the ground advocating for compassion and equality on a local level.

 

Those are my top 5 charitable organizations. Looking over them for patterns, it seems I support organizations that focus on food security, poverty relief, and advocacy for marginalized and LGBT people.

What causes do you support?  I’ve got an extra $100 that I will split between the first 5 charities you mention here or on my Facebook page.

Great Customer Service

I recently finished reading Zingerman’s Guide to Giving Great Service.  I’ve been obsessing with Zingerman’s Bakehouse breads lately and I have a Zing BAKE! class on my schedule for later this month, so when I saw this book on the audiobook shelf at the Library, I jumped at the chance.

It was read by the author, Ari Weinzweig, who outrageously gave his office phone number out at the beginning, saying that anyone who had questions could just call his office to discuss. Talk about service!  Anyhow, he talked a lot about ways that good companies could give good service, and while I have forgotten the finer details of it, I do know that I know great service when I see it.  (Here’s a link to their 5 steps for dealing with a complaint, along with some of their other customer service mantras)

I wanted to call out and give examples of two companies that recently left me pleasantly surprised by their approach to customer service.

The first is Woot.com.  I had recently ordered a box of batteries. (Skynet is eating them for lunch.)  When I got the box, I opened it up to find that instead of 72 AA batteries, I had 72 AAA batteries. In all of my life, I don’t think I will use that many AAA batteries.  I wrote in to ask about an exchange, because I really did want those AAs.  I got a quick email acknowledging that my correct order was on its way.

A day or two later, Woot sent out the following email, presumably to all the customers who had purchased batteries during that particular sale.

Dear Battery Lover,

How many times have you gone to the store to buy AA batteries, picked up what you thought was the correct package, paid for it, taken it home… and only then noticed you bought the wrong freakin’ type? You always feel kinda dumb, right? Now imagine if you did that something like one thousand times in a row.

Which is our way of saying that yes, we DID finally notice that we sent you the wrong batteries. If you ordered AA you got AAA and vice versa. We’re the goofballs here and we’re sorry for the mistake. Now, let’s tell you how we’re makin’ it right.

FIRST: keep those batteries we sent you. Put ’em in your remote or your smoke detector or penlight or whatever. They’re yours now. Enjoy!

SECOND: Be aware we’re sending you the batteries you actually wanted, at no additional charge. They’re the ones you asked for, right? Of course you still want ’em!

And please, learn from our mistakes. Always count the number of A’s in your battery type. Always.

Apologetically,
Woot.com

Super awesome, right?  Here’s what they did right:
#1 – They acknowledged that there was a problem
#2 – They apologized sincerely and with a sense of humor
#3 – They made it right, and they made it easy. (I was ready to ship the AAAs back to them)

I have long loved Woot for the sense of humor that they bring to everything that they do.

The second example I wanted to share was the great way Nature Box handled my request to cancel my service.  Let me tell you right up front, I like Nature Box’s service. Basically, you sign up for a $20/month subscription and they send you a box of snacks each month. I felt like it was good value for money, and the snacks were tasty and healthy.  I decided ultimately that mye money was better spent on something else, but I highly recommend the service. (Try the Lemon Pucker Pistachios. You won’t regret it!)

Normally, you don’t praise a company for how they treat you when you cancel, but they did me right.  I knew that if I called they’d try to keep me subscribing, so I went the email route.  This is how it unfolded:

Dear Naturebox-
I’d like to cancel my subscription please and thank you. It is a lovely service, but I think at this time, my priorities lie elsewhere. I have enjoyed my time with you, and let me assure you, it’s not you, it’s me. 😉

Best-
Brady Emmett

Hi Brady,

Thanks so much for your message! I’m sad to hear that you want to cancel your NatureBox subscription

You have been a wonderful customer of ours for so long and I can’t explain how much we appreciate that! We miss you already just thinking about it. [yadda yadda… retention sales pitch deleted here – bpe]

Don’t feel bad if you are not interested, I really just wanted to let you know about this before you go. If you would rather part ways, let me down easy with a simple response to this email 😉

Thank you very much for all you have done for our company. If you have any questions, I am all ears. I really look forward to hearing from you soon!
Andrew

Andrew C.
Professional Snack Concierge since 2013

Hey Andrew-
I really think we should see other people. Maybe at some point in the future (I really liked the Lemon Pucker Pistachios. Those were good times.)
Let’s remember the good in the relationship. 😉

Thanks for cancelling my account!

Best-
Brady

Hi Brady,

Thanks for kind let down haha I speak for the entire NatureBox family when I say, I am sad to see you go 🙁 That being said, I’ve gone ahead and cancelled your subscription. We will not charge your card from this point forward and you should receive an email confirming this shortly.

Remembering the good times,
Andrew C.

I don’t know if you caught that, but my professional snack conceirge played along with me. He had a script, sure, and what kind of customer service rep doesn’t, but he broke out of it to respond directly to me and it honestly left me with a huge smile. If I didn’t have a rule about how many subscriptions I can have at any one time, I totally would have resubscribed right then and there. I still highly recommend it (If you want to try it out, this is my referral link: http://fbuy.me/MFds you get $10 off, and I get a $10 credit, which I will happily spend).

So, that’s how you do great customer service.  Have you had any good experiences with customer service? What about awful ones?

PS If you want a revelation, try Zingerman’s Chocolate Cherry bread. If you are family, and you come visit me, I will buy you some. 😀

Smiling

SheYesterday, Labor Day 2011, was a pretty great day.  I was surrounded by people and things that I love. Of the many many wonderful moments, one stood out that I wanted to share.

As I was shopping at Meijer for a BBQ later that day, I was wandering down the milk aisle and I noticed an old lady standing with a cart off to the side.  We’re talking very old, oxygen tank old.  In the cart was a baby in a car seat.  For no real reason, I made eye contact and gave the woman a big grin, just because I was feeling so good. (I whistled a Guster song that was stuck in my head through the entire store, I was feeling that good.)  And you know what, she gave me a genuine smile back.

And it made my day.

Last Minute Pumpkin

I didn’t think that I was going to squeeze a pumpkin carving into my festivities this Halloween, but thanks to a timely FHE activity, I got one carved just in the nick of time.  I tried lighting it up, but the pumpkin is really really thick.  I need to work the walls down a little bit before the effect really works.

So, in all, I managed to work in The Haunting, Chicken Shish Tawook, Count Chocula, a Cider Mill (and the resulting cider!), coloring, Catching Fire, Dominion: Seaside, refusing to dance, blue hairspray, “For All the Saints”, The Lord of all Catan, pork roast, butterfinger brownies, and pumpkin carving into my birthday weekend.  That’s pretty good, right?  What did you do?

image

Flip Flop: Winter Holidays Edition

I am, by nature, a food flip-flopper. I have many times reversed decisions about whether or not I still like a certain food group or not. I have spent several entire summers not eating corn on the cob, only to (wisely) reverse my stand the next year. I flip-flop almost monthly in my feelings about citrus. On one occasion, I decided that I didn’t like watermelon at all, which in my present state of mind is an absolutely ridiculous stance.

Most recently, I have flip flopped my stance on eggnog. It’s getting to be the end of eggnog season, but I decided on one of my first shopping trips after the New Year that I should get some eggnog. After all, I had insisted that we have eggnog pie at Christmas Dinner (a very popular decision, I might add). Additionally, over Christmas, we twice had eggnog shakes while enjoying such diverse pastimes as reading the Christmas story and playing Dominion. If it had been delicious then, why not now, I reasoned.
How I reasoned wrongly!
I don’t know if it is just the brand that I got at Meijer’s or something else that turned me off. It’s cloyingly sweet and thick, and I just don’t like it. At all.
I have once or twice had some of it straight, but I can’t take very much of it that way, so I’ve taken to cutting it with milk. Unfortunately, this process forces the eggnog to last longer. I’ve had to begin masking it with other things, which as it turns out is a very effective method to increase my eggnog consumption to the point where I don’t feel like I’ve wasted the entire half-gallon.
Some highlights:
1- Eggnog French Toast. Turns out, eggnog and french toast were made for each other. Just swap out the milk for the ‘nog, and you barely have to season.
2- Eggnog Hot Chocolate. I tried this one this morning. Of course, I had to cut it with milk, but chocolate and eggnog seem to compliment each other.
One (extremely) lowlight:
I thought that the general success of the Eggnog Shakes over Christmas was a general indicator that eggnog mixed with any type of ice cream would be heavenly. Not so, my friends, not so. I had some left over ice cream cake from my birthday. It involved red velvet cake and cake mix ice cream, and was not improved at all by being blended with eggnog. In fact, it was the opposite of improvement. Do NOT ever try this. Not ever. Unless you have swallowed some poison and are trying to get it out of your system. I can think of better ways though.
So, now I’m on the outs with eggnog. I still have most of that half-gallon left, and fortunately, it’s just about at its expiration date, so I don’t feel bad about throwing it out now. I wonder if I’ll like it again next eggnog season. Anyone else have a food flip flop for Christmas?

Lemon Lime Surprise

So, I’ve been remiss in writing lately. For some reason, I can’t put pen to paper. Or fingers to keyboard. I don’t get it, but there it is. I also haven’t posted a recipe for a while either. This is one that I made up today, and I really liked it. I was riffing off of a marinade recipe that I saw somewhere. I turned it into a glaze that really has potential on a number of things. I used it on pulled chicken and tomato wedges, served over couscous, but I can see its potential on many things

Lemon Lime Surprise (The surprise is how good this tastes!)

Juice and zest of one lemon
Juice and zest of one lime
1 Tablespoon (or so) honey
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
2 teaspoons (or so) minced garlic

The measurements are really guidelines. I wasn’t planning for posterity when I was cooking, so I was really loosy goosey.

Mix all together in a small saucepan over medium heat. Allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the liquid reduces to glaze-like consistency. (Taste at some point before it reduces all the way, to make sure the honey and the citrus are balanced. I needed to add a touch more honey.) Add whatever you are glazing towards the end.

This made enough for me to glaze 2 servings of pulled chicken with some tomato wedges. It seems that it should be scalable to whatever size you need.

Boy was this tasty!

Citrus Season


citrus
Originally uploaded by niznoz

I realized the other day that I have an unhealthy relationship with Citrus.

It’s like one of those on-again, off-again marriages. I never really know when winter starts if I am going to have one of those years where I love citrus or one where I hate citrus.

It’s truly unnerving how inconsistent I am. Last winter was definitely an on-again season. I was eating all of the oranges that came my way. This winter, however, I’ve been even more back and forth about it than usual. To start the season off, sometime back in November, I was at Meijer, and they had a 2-for-1 special on oranges. Usually, I wouldn’t even consider purchasing two bags of oranges. I would never get through them in a normal season. Something clicked in my head, and I ended up with a lot of oranges at home. Fortunately, it just so happened that these were some of the best oranges that I’d ever had (or at least since last winter), and while I did share them out, I did manage to get them all eaten.

However, at some point just before Christmas, I purchased three lemons. I have no idea why. There was a good reason in there somewhere. Maybe I was going to zest them and some oranges and maybe some limes, and dehydrate the zest so I’d have delicious zest any time I wanted. I don’t think I was planning to make lemonade. That would have stuck with me. They’re sitting in my refrigerator, waiting for me to remember what I was going to do with them.

But then for New Year’s, I picked up a box of Clemantines, and after they weren’t finished at the party I took them to, I feasted on them, multiple times a day until I ran out. (Which wasn’t that long, incidentally, because of the multiple feastings.) I couldn’t get enough of them.

And so I thought I was having a good year for citrus. I bought another bag of oranges… and this time they’re just sitting there on my microwave. I even managed to finish a bunch of bananas before they all went black (which never happens) but my oranges just sit there. Every once in a while I’ll eat one out of obligation. I took one to work for an afternoon snack at some point last week, and I didn’t eat it until Friday, and then only because I needed a break, and peeling it would give me an excuse to get away from my desk.

In the world of citrus, there are only three things that are certain for me:
1- I will always hate grapefruit.
2- I will always love lime.
3- I will always ask about lemonade at a restaurant, but very rarely order it. (I can’t take a cloyingly sweet lemonade. The drink is supposed to be about the lemons, not the sugar.)

That’s all I really know. I wish my relationship with citrus could be as predictable as my relationship with say, apples, or cookies. (love both, by the way.) I have theories as to why it’s not. Most of them have to do with scurvy. But at the very least, figuring out if I’m going to like citrus in a given year makes for an interesting guessing game.

Top 5 Books of 2008

Ok, It’s the 6th and I’m still doing Best of 2008 lists. This one should be my last. This is the one that was the hardest for me, because I couldn’t make up my mind, so every time I decided to do one of my blogs this one got pushed back. Originally, it was a top 10 list, but I decided that I probably could never make up my mind on 10 books, and so 5 books was easier. My biggest problem was trying to figure out which books I’d read this year. I kept an ok record over at GoodReads.com, but I know that I missed quite a few in the last several months of 2008.

So here’s my list:


5- The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger


I found the concept of this one both intriguing and compelling. The main character is afflicted with “Chrono Displacement Disorder.” He often and involuntarily will be displaced in time, although his time walks mostly seem to center on people and places that are important to him. The story focuses on him and his wife, who obviously are living in different time lines. She first meets him when she is a young girl, he first meets her when he is 28 or so. The story jumps around a lot, giving hints and whispering secrets, all the way through. It’s a very interesting read.

4- A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson


I became obsessed with the Appalachian Trail at some point in 2007. I was, in part, feeding my obsession by reading this book. Bryson tells of his experience hiking the AT with his friend Katz as Bryson became reacquainted with America. His story is both funny and poignant. The two parts that stick out most in my mind is the story about Katz flinging his food from his pack because it weighs too much, and the tragic story of the American Chestnut, once prevalent in American forests, but decimated by blight. Of course, I wanted to hike the AT even more after reading this. Maybe 2009 is the year for it.

3- The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss


It’s really hard to explain why I liked The Name of the Wind. Perhaps the best way is to drop a quote from the main character, and let him speak for himself :

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during the day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

The story dragged me in, without me even realizing that I was being dragged in.

2- The Final Empire (Mistborn #1) by Brandon Sanderson


I’ve blogged about this one before. I picked up Sanderson’s first book, Elantris, to see if he would make a good substitute for Robert Jordan. I’m glad I did. It lead me to this one. Of the three in the series, this was by far the best. It really comes off as a caper story (Think Ocean’s 11) dressed as a Fantasy novel.

1- The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan


The Omnivore’s Dilemma is one of the books that most influenced me this year. I plucked it from Amy’s bookshelf and read it. I’ve been having an internal conversation about food all year. (You’d never guess that, coming from the guy who obsessively blogged his vegetables… 😉 ) Pollan investigated the origins of his food chains. He followed four meals from four distinct food chains from beginning to end. In doing so, he described America’s unhealthy relationship with food. I think I’ve changed the way I eat (fresher, more diverse food) and the way I think about food (closer to home) because of it.

So there you have it. My top 5 books from 2008. What are yours?

Bonus:

Schlock Mercenary by Howard Taylor

It’s not really a book, it’s more of a webcomic, but I spent a lot of time reading it in 2008. The story is great, the characters even better, and I’m still only part way through 2006. Go figure. I’ll get all caught up one of these days.

Top 5 Recipes of 2008

As well established readers of this blog will know, I enjoy cooking. So what retrospective of 2008 would be complete without a list of recipes that have influenced me this year. I’ve tried out a lot of new recipes this year, and these are the ones that I loved the most and wanted to share with you all.

5- Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

Amy made this recipe for one of our regular get-togethers to play Settlers. I loved the recipe so much that I tried and failed to replicate it by myself, and eventually just broke down and asked Amy for it. With my CSA this summer I had no dearth of zucchini and summer squash, and this became an easy dinner recipe that I relied on time and time again. This recipe is very easy to both scale and tweak. Add extra little bits of whatever you’ve got (ham, cheese, other veggies, whatever) or vary the spices and you’ve got a completely new experience.

Zucchini “Crab” Cakes

2 1/2 cups grated zucchini
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup minced onion
1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning TM
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable oil for frying

In a large bowl, combine zucchini, egg, and butter or margarine. Stir in seasoned crumbs, minced onion, and seasoning. Mix well.
Shape mixture into patties. Dredge in flour.
In a medium skillet, heat oil over medium high heat until hot. Fry patties in oil until golden brown on both sides.

4- Amy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

I blogged about Amy blogging about these cookies. I’ll refer you to her recipe for the details, but these are far and away the best cookies you could ever make. Ok, maybe I’m gushing, but this recipe sings. And instead of hoarding the recipe to herself, she shared it! And now you can try them too. I’ve made them several times and they’re great.

3- Cranberry Relish

I’m a cranberry geek. I love cranberry sauce, but its very rare for me to get well prepared sauce not from a can. (Has anyone ever gotten good stuff from a can? I don’t know!) For Thanksgiving this year, I decided that if I wanted good sauce, I would have to make it myself. So I did. And it was good. I trialed the recipe twice, and got slightly different results, but the outcome was great both times.
Cranberry sauce

Here goes:

Cranberry Sauce
1 C Water
1 C Sugar
1 Bag Cranberries (12 oz)
zest of 1 orange
juice of 1/2 orange
Apple Pie Spice (cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice)

Bring water and sugar to a boil, dissolving sugar. Add orange juice and cranberries. Return to boil (It’s hard to tell, because there are now more cranberries than anything else in the pan, and not terribly important, just get the temp back up). Lower heat to a gentle simmer. Cranberries will start to pop. Cook for about 10 minutes, until the cranberries have softened and the liquid starts to gel. Add zest and spice to taste. (I just dumped it in, I didn’t measure… probably 1-2 teaspoons.) Mix on the heat for another minute or so. Remove from heat, pour into serving dish. The gel will harden as it cools. When it has come to room temp, put in the fridge until showtime.

My first go with the recipe, I simmered for less than 10 minutes, and the berries were more whole and the gel less firm. The second round, which I brought for dinner, I simmered a little longer (I wasn’t paying attention), and it worked out fine, and set up a lot harder.

2- Spring Rolls

When I went out to Salt Lake this spring, I surprised my MBA friends. They’re always inviting me over to dinner, but rarely give me enough advance notice to get out there. This time I told them I’d go (which was the part that surprised them!). Jodie was hosting the dinner, and since I was staying at her place, I weaseled my way into helping make it. Or mostly watching Jodie make it. The appetizer course was Spring Rolls, which are fancy and very simple to make.

Spring rolls

I later hosted people for a roll your own dinner, and also forced them upon my family over the 4th of July. I think I ended up taking them to a mingle as well, except I called them Summer rolls.

This is another recipe that is very customizable to whatever you have available.

Here’s a basic recipe:

Spring Rolls

1/4 pound vermicelli rice noodles, soaked in boiling water to barely tender (2 to 5 minutes), drained, rinsed, and drained again
1/2 pound Asian barbequed pork, lean beef or chicken, thinly sliced, or thinly-sliced tofu, or any fairly dry cooked vegetable or meat
1/2 pound cooked shrimp, halved lengthwise (optional)
12 lettuce leaves, washed, dried and thinly sliced
1 to 2 cups shredded carrots, or other vegetables shredded on a cheese grater
1 bunch spearmint, washed and dried
1 bunch coriander or basil, washed and dried
20 rice paper rounds (6 to 7-inch diameter)

1. Moisten rice paper by rubbing with water, or dipping in hot water for a few seconds. Let stand a few moments until softened.

2. On the bottom third of the rice paper round, make a small pile of rice noodles, a few shreds of meat, half a shrimp, some lettuce, carrot, and a leaf of each herb.

3. Roll up the rice paper over the filling, taking it halfway up the uncovered portion of rice paper. Now fold in the side flaps and continue rolling until you have a tight cylinder. Put on a plate and keep covered with a damp cloth.

You should serve these with dipping sauces. One easy dipping sauce is Sweet Chili sauce, which you can find in most Asian sections at the grocery store. Another easy sauce is Peanut Sauce. In a small sauce pan, add 2 parts peanut butter (natural and chunky is the way I like it!) to 1 part hoisin sauce (another Asian section staple). Heat it up a bit while stirring. When it seems well mixed, add some coconut milk or water (or both) to thin it down. Whisk vigorously and serve.

It’s that easy! (Special thanks to Jodie for helping me refresh my memory of how to make these, especially the peanut sauce. She is absolutely awesome!)

1- Indian tomato sauce

I love this next recipe. I’ve blogged it before, but I’m going to go ahead and put it here again. Because I love it that much. And because you probably won’t click the link. I discovered this in my How to Cook Everything Vegetarian cookbook (by Mark Bittman), when Melanie, Leilani, and I were having one of our Vegetarian cooking nights. We did Baked Garbanzos with Fresh Cheese and Spinach (basically a fancied up saag paneer). But this sauce was the star of the show. I’d make this for dinner every day if my stomach wasn’t so sensitive to tomatoes.

Here’s the recipe:

Spicy Indian Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 cups.

4 T butter or 1/4 c neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
one 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 T minced fresh chile or hot red pepper flakes or cayenne to taste
2 T garam masala or curry powder
1/2 t chili powder
large pinch sugar
2 c chopped ripe tomato (about 1 lb. whole), preferably peeled and seeded, or drained canned tomatoes
1/2 cream or coconut milk
1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 t cumin seeds
1 t mustard seeds

1. Put 3 T of the butter or oil in a deep skillet over medium0-high heat. When the butter is melted or oil is hot, add onion, garlic, ginger and chile. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in garam masala, chili powder and sugar and sprinkle with salt and pepper; cook and stir until spices become fragrant, a minute or two more.

2. Add tomato and cook, stirring frequently, until it starts to release its liquid, about 3 minutes. Add the cream and cilantro and keep cooking and stirring until the mixture comes to a boil.

3. Turn heat down so the sauce bubbles gently and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomato breaks up and the mixture comes together and thickens, about 30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. (The sauce may be made ahead to this point, cooled, covered and refrigerated for up to 3 days. Reheat gently before proceeding.)

4. Put remaining butter or oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted or the oil is hot, add cumin and mustard seeds and toast them until they begin to pop. Spoon over the sauce just before serving.

And now two bonuses:
Bonus #1: My favorite new spice: Garam Masala. Technically, a mixture of spices, garam masala is an Indian spice, which packs such an incredible punch of flavor. I had been using my own mixture until I realized there is an Indian grocery just down the road a bit. I found it, and I’ve been finding ways to use it ever since. So far, I have seasoned my Thanksgiving backup ham with it and a lentil soup. I’m looking forward to the other ways that I can use it!

Bonus #2: A Christmas cookie recipe: Rolo Cookies.
I got a great response to these on my cookie trays, and thought I’d share the joy. Clicky the linky above. Mmm!

So there you go. My favorite recipes of 2008. What are yours?