homemade tamales and a Happy New Year!

chile relleno tamale

Happy. New. Year.


What a year that last one was. Much of mine was painful, difficult, exhausting, scary.
To those parts I say goodbye, I close the door on them.

As always, there were bright and happy points – and those I am very thankful for. I will cherish those memories and bring them with me into the new year.

chile relleno tamale

Even though it was a rough road much of the time, and I now have more knowledge of Portland hospitals than I care to, spending time with my dad this year has been priceless and I am incredibly thankful I was able to. Not only was I reminded of my own strength, but my relationship with dad grew even closer. We had some great laughs and I will always admire my dad’s positive attitude and great sense of humor!

Springtime saw Jason and I buy our new house – which was and is thrilling! We hosted our first holidays last month, and look forward to more entertaining. I look forward to more decorating – I have some fun ideas planned. We are making this house a home, and filling it with people (and dachshunds) we love.

I feel incredibly lucky to have spent my June in a vegan chef immersion program. Even better, I have made wonderful lasting friendships from that class that have already brought me such joy!

Friends. This year I reconnected with a good friend from school, and it is as if no time went by! This is one of those friendships where we can be silly together and we laugh until we snort, and on the other side be serious, support each other, and have great conversations and connections. This has once again become a friendship I truly value, and one that is so very good for me!

This year saw me assist in teaching a cooking demo – something I have wanted to do for a long time and that I look forward to doing more of this year. Exciting plans in the works.

Rosemary. She is a new happiness in our house, and we love her so! Basil is getting used to her… they are usually found side by side.

New Years black eyed peas tamales

The last year of running this site brought much happiness as well. I have had generous opportunities come my way, and have had good fun here – more than I ever dreamed possible! I have created good recipes and had (more than?) my share of those not so good recipes. I was offered and I accepted a new opportunity that begins this month – one I am thrilled about and will share soon.

Most of all, I have all of you. I still marvel at this amazing community of fellow bloggers who support each other, and the readers who we do it all for!

Each and every one of you means so much to me – and when I say your comments Make Me Smile Big, I mean it!

The friends I have made here – you got me through this year. The tough times when I was baking at midnight, the happy times you helped celebrate. I am so very grateful.

So very grateful.

back eyed peas tamale

As is our tradition, Jason and I made New Years Eve tamales.

We made new flavors this year – a chile relleno tamale, a black eyed pea jalapeno tamale, and a fig tamale with havarti sauce. All of them so good – the chile relleno is my new favorite! I also made a new chipotle sauce that is rich and spicy – I cannot wait to share with you!

To see our masa recipe, other tamale flavors and assembly methods, see our tamales from last year.

havarti fig tamale

Happy. New. Year.

Here’s to more than we could ever dream possible!


a Basil and Rosemary holiday…

Basil and Rosemary

Meet Rosemary.

Basil finally got a sister, just in time for the holidays. 

We have been spending time bonding over the last few days, and today we are having the whole family over – with two more dachshunds, Jake and Elwood! Tomorrow is little Rosie’s fifth birthday – we adopted her from the local rescue over the weekend.


happy holidays from all four of us.


pumpkin cheesecake spread

pumpkin cheesecake spread

I am so very excited to be hosting Christmas this year, and have a lengthy list of snacks and appetizers and entrees and desserts and snacks…

Some are things I am making for the first time, so I have to give them a test run.

This is my second attempt at a pumpkin cheesecake spread (first was too sweet!), and we had a little Happy Hour at Home to give it a go. A couple of friends, a bottle of wine, a faux holiday roast (thank you, Theresa!), and some appetizers.

pumpkin cheesecake dip

Second time was most definitely a charm, here, and I will be making a third time (probably doubling!) next week. This one is a holiday flavored keeper. I am undecided if this will be served as a spread, or piped onto sweet crackers as bite size snacks.

This time I served it with light crispy cinnamon cookies (recipe soon!), and Grammy Crisp crackers. The first time I tried these new Crunchmaster crisps was dunked into my roasted plum ice cream, where they held up perfectly – crunchy and slightly sweet.

They say they’re for kids. I say they’re a perfect vehicle for a pumpkin cheesecake spread.

They may not arrive in time for your holiday appetizer table, but I am giving some Crunchmaster yums away after the jump…

pumpkin cheesecake spread

pumpkin cheesecake spread

dairy, egg, and gluten free, vegan

1/2 cup raw cashews, soaked
1/4 cup maple syrup
juice of 1 lemon
1/3 cup pureed pumpkin
ounces cream cheese (dairy free like Tofutti)
1 tablespoon vanilla paste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg

In food processor, pulse cashews until crumbly. Add maple syrup and lemon juice, continue processing until smooth. Add pumpkin, cream cheese, vanilla paste, cinnamon and nutmeg, continue processing until smooth and creamy. 

pumpkin cheesecake dip

One of my favorite cracker brands, Crunchmaster, is offering one (U.S. based) spabettie reader a variety of flavors, including the new product.

To enter, leave a comment for each:

1) What is your favorite sweet dip?

2) Are you cooking for the holidays? What is on your menu?

3) Tweet it!  –>     enter to win a Crunchmaster giveaway from @spabettie ! –> http://www.spabettie.com/?p=11130

4) Follow Crunchmaster via twitter.

5) Like Crunchmaster on facebook.

Enter through midnight Sunday December 23. Winner selected via random number generator and notified via email soon after.


basil cardamom apple brown betty

basil cardamom apple brown betty

I am once again partnering with Cooking Light and The Chew, working with recipes from the show. This time I chose a dessert from Mario Batali, and I was asked to recreate the recipe and make it my own.

Make it my own is exactly what I did.

basil cardamom apple brown betty

Using my favorite herb and spice (basil and cardamom), I made a savory biscuit that pairs well with sweet fruit. I bet adding a cheddar to those biscuits would be. even. better.

Batali’s recipe called for a very simple apple mixture. I made my apples caramely with some dates and butter. Divine.

I also switched the order of baking the biscuit pieces then tossing in melted butter – I tossed them with melted butter before I baked them. Double divine.

basil cardamom apple brown betty

basil cardamom apple brown betty

adapted from Mario Batali’s Apple Brown Betty

dairy, egg, soy, and gluten free, vegan

makes four 8 ounce ramekins

4 basil cardamom biscuits (recipe follows)
2 tablespoons butter (dairy + soy free margarine), melted
6 Medool dates, pitted
juice of 2 lemons
1 tablespoon butter (dairy + soy free margarine)
1-2 tablespoons water as needed
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
4 large apples, cored and chopped

Melt 2 tablespoons butter. Cut biscuits into bite size pieces, toss with melted butter. Arrange in single layer on prepared (parchment / silpat) baking sheet, bake at 300 for 10-12 minutes, turning after 6.

In saucepan over medium heat, combine pitted Medjool dates with lemon juice and butter. As the dates warm, continually stir and mash into a paste, adding water by the tablespoon as needed until a smooth paste forms. Reduce heat to low, add cardamom and chopped apples, stirring to coat. 

Arrange layer of toasted biscuit pieces in bottom of ramekins. Top with Medjool apple mixture, repeat with another layer of biscuit, another layer of apple, until ramekins are full (ending with pieces of biscuit on top). Bake at 350 for 20 minutes, until top is crunchy and apple caramel is bubbly.

Serve warm with ice cream.

basil cardamom biscuits

dairy, egg, soy, and gluten free, vegan

2 1/2 cups gluten free all purpose flour, plus 1/3 cup more for kneading
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum
pinch sea salt
1/4 cup cold butter (dairy and soy free)
handful fresh basil, chopped fine
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon milk (coconut in carton) 

Sift together flour, baking powder, cardamom, xanthan gum and salt. Using a pastry cutter (or fork), cut butter and basil into dry ingredients, combine until crumbly. Add milk 2 tablespoons at a time until dough comes together. On floured surface with floured hands, knead dough several minutes, until no longer sticky. 

With floured rolling pin, roll dough to 3/4 inch thickness. Using a biscuit cutter (or drinking glass), cut biscuit and place on prepared (parchment / silpat) baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Bake at 400 degrees for 12- 15 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through.

basil cardamom apple brown betty

Buttery salty sweet comfort food.


holiday parties and pre functions

During the holidays our schedules can get crowded – multiple events on the same day, friends and family in town while those multiple events are going on, and the want to do all of the things.

That is where the pre-party comes in.

Back in college we would “pre funk” – get together before the function of the night. This is kinda like that – more grown up and most definitely more toned down. Probably.

This past weekend we had a friend in town, had plans with another group of friends, and there was a show we wanted to see. We had a pre-show party at our place and did not not miss a thing.

Just because it is a pre-party doesn’t mean you can’t still have fun with it. There are quick and easy things I did to make our little pre-funk every bit as cool as one of our normal shindigs. We had several small bite appetizers and sweets, pitchers of homemade Irish cream, and I even decorated!

The night before our pre-party I printed out some fun party decor pieces, then sat on the couch cutting and assembling them while watching a movie.

The printables I chose were from two different sources:

fun designs in pink, red and light blue from Hostess With The Mostess

more traditional red and green decor from The Party Dress.

There are toothpick labels, lettered garland to hang, large and small signs, even wrapping papers.

I also used some gift tags for some holiday gifts – they look great on my classic spabettie hounds tooth wrap, yes?

I will be using other pieces from these printables for upcoming events and gifts throughout the holidays – there are many labels and signs I will be adding to my cookie gift platters too. If you need some fun gift tags or party garlands for the holidays, visit the links above to print yours!

This holiday season, let loved ones know how much you care.  Use your favorite photos to create something personalized and unique for everyone on your list.  Make it memorable.  Make it meaningful.  Make it matter.  Go to hp.com/holiday for inspiration and ideas.

Compensation was provided by HP via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of spabettie and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of HP.


sparkly apricot rosemary jewels

A high school friend recently wrote about Finding Focus at 100mph, referring to his motorcycle.

I kinda sorta relate to that, as I love to drive fast and have lately thought of racing (cars!) classes. While driving fast laps around a racetrack, I believe I could easily find that flow, that peace, that calm.

Back in high school and college, this was skiing for me – being out alone on the mountain (well, I wasn’t alone, was I – it simply felt this way) with that silence that can only come from the layered padding of snow.

Now I find that peace while running – it takes a little bit to find my breathing pattern and get into my groove, but once I do, there’s nothing like it. I can process, I can think, I can just be.

I also turn to cooking, specifically baking, when I’m stressed, worried, need to focus or simply zone out.

Dad and I have had some long exhausting hospital days lately – some of it has been good news and some news is still up in the air. I am tired, I am distracted, I am hopeful, I am scattered.

Good thing it is the holiday season, I have been baking a lot these past few days.

Yep, up baking midnight.

sparkly apricot rosemary jewels

makes 14-17 cookies

1/2 cup butter (dairy and soy free)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 sprig fresh rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
1 cup flour (gluten free all purpose), plus up to 1/3 cup for kneading
2-3 tablespoons milk (vanilla coconut)
apricot preserves
colored sanding sugar (optional)

Cream together butter, sugar, vanilla and rosemary. Stir in flour, adding milk one tablespoon at a time until dough forms. Knead into a ball, cool in refrigerator 20 minutes. Roll dough into one inch rounds, place on prepared (parchment/silpat) baking sheet, make a thumbprint.

Bake at 300 for 25 – 28 minutes. Remove from oven, cool completely. Spoon apricot preserves into thumbprint, sprinkle with sparkly colored sugars.

I will have more of an update on Dad soon.

When do you find your focus? What is your 100mph calm?


sweet and salty reindeer antlers

I guess it all began at a very early age, really – the gifting of food.

My Uncle Dudley bringing us fruit baskets and gift towers of cheeses and candies. My mom sending me with a pan of brownies when I was invited to a friend’s house.

Making assorted cookies for our mail lady. She drove this HUGE station wagon, sitting in the passenger seat so she could reach the mailboxes, while steering the wheel with her left hand. Good thing we lived in a quiet area…  that was some skilled driving.

Now the list is longer – not only do I have a mailman to give cookies to, I have Fed Ex and UPS drivers that ahem know me well. We have hairdressers and (well, I have) a manicurist who come to expect holiday treats now.

I have friends across the country I send surprises to. We have many holiday events and nights out with friends, and I always show up with a bakers box of something.

These are a quick and easy addition to any cookie plate this holiday season – and they are just so fun. Dark chocolate with salty pretzels are an irresistible combination most anyone will enjoy, and these mini M&M candies in holiday colors take the festive fun over the top.

It is as if Rudolph’s antlers were strung with glittery lights, and the red M&M makes a good nose…

reindeer antlers

recipe from bright ideas

1 3/4 cups Dove® Chocolate
3/4 cup M&M’S MINIS®
1 bag pretzel sticks, broken into various sized pieces
Reynolds® Parchment Paper

Remove 3/4 cup red and green M&M’S and set aside for decoration.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in a bowl set over a saucepan of boiling water. Stir the mixture as it melts. When mixture is shiny and smooth, turn off the heat.

Once all the chocolate is melted, dip the pretzel pieces one at a time and arrange them on the prepared baking sheet into an antler shape. Place the M&M’S on each antler as it is finished.

Repeat this same process until all the antlers are finished.

Let the chocolate cool completely and get firm. You can refrigerate to firm the chocolate more quickly.

Once firm, remove them from parchment paper.

If desired, wrap each one in a sheet of cellophane, tied with a ribbon or simply put them on a cookie plate.

Click to sweeten the holidays with Silky Smooth Dove Chocolate.

Compensation was provided by Mars via Glam Media.  The opinions expressed herein are those of spabettie and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Mars.


mandarin orange fudge slices

This time of year, in addition to the normal fun holiday buzz, there is the extra excitement of celebrating with friends. Everyone seems to be focused on the festivity of the holiday season, and the giddy smiles and happy laughs happen even more right now.

One of those giddy happy feeling friends is Lora – her friendship continually reminds me of why I love this online community so much.

Lora recently mentioned my fudge recipes from last year, so I created one just for her.

and I made it extra fun.

Lora is so supremely talented and it shows in her culinary creations – I am beyond honored to be a guest at her place today!

Please go visit Lora and my mandarin orange fudge recipe!