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What’s the benefit of cooking up five new recipes in a month? Good food! The draw back? Blogging about it. Well, actually, it’s not the blogging as much as it is the picture editing. I really should fire my photographer… doesn’t she know that a steamy lens results in food that’s hard to see?! …

Well, if you couldn’t tell, December (like November, actually) was a busy month in the kitchen. The holiday edition of Everyday Food is one of my favorites. From the special cookie article to wonderful party drink and appetizer pairings, the December EDF always plays a big role in ushering me into the holiday spirit. Below are overviews of the entrees, sweets, and breakfast bakes which added cheer to my December (complete with mostly-steam-free picture collages).

Tangerine Beef Stir-Fry

Truth be told, I knew that this dish was going to be good. I had tried a similar EDF recipe written years (and years and years) ago and had loved it. Having a box of Satsumas (they’re the same thing as tangerines) on hand-made trying this recipe an easy choice. After trying this version, here are my thoughts:

1) It’s spicy (due to the red pepper flakes) in a good way.

2) Beef and citrus are really good together. They should get married.

3) Stir fry is so easy (after the slicing and dicing). I don’t do it nearly enough.

Cost: I don’t have exact figures (all my receipts were thrown out in a hasty house cleaning spree), however, this one should be relatively low if you already have the tangerines on hand since the aromatics run pretty cheap (and who doesn’t keep rice on hand?). Just keep your eye out for a good price on beef and you’re good.

Calories: 317 without the rice

Recipe: Booyah – find it here online or find this one among the In Season recipes on p. 26.

Fun Fact: When I made this, my tangerines were on their tail-ends. As such, I just used my microzester to rub off some zest versus peeling it in thick strips (who wants to eat those anyways?).

Chicken and Lentil Burger

My personal crusade to use up the cans of lentils nearing expiration did not end in November. In fact, one of EDF’s newer columns titled Family Fuel featured another burger which made its way to the HBH kitchen. A simple combination of ground chicken, lentils, and sauteed aromatics (including yummy cumin) made their way into a delicious, yet admittedly, difficult-to-form patty. Since I wanted to keep the burger healthy, I fought every urge and subbed in avocado for some cheese. It was great. And filling!

Cost: Again, this recipe runs pretty basic so the cost can be kept down. Mix and match your veggies based on what you and your wallet like best.

Calories: 409 calories without toppings.

Recipe: You can make this one tonight by clicking here or by flipping to p. 68.

Fun Fact: I used all my lentils. Finally!

Emeril’s Christmas Morning Breakfast Bake

Mark December as another historic month in terms of establishing traditional recipes (you may recall that I committed to Chicken and Barley soup in October)! Emeril Lagasse is a monthly contributor to Everyday Food (his articles focus on cooking with children) and his Christmas Morning Breakfast Bake is awesome and will be awesome for the rest of my life happily ever after. The funny thing is that this tradition won’t start until 2012. You see, the 2011 version was actually an easy-breezy-make-ahead entree for a dinner party I hosted. The savory Canadian bacon, smooth Gruyere and wonderful nutmeg were wonderfully paired in this satisfying dish. I simply served it with a green salad. Oh, and wine of course!

Cost: Another reason this will be a once-a-year recipe? Canadian bacon and Gruyere can run up the grocery bill. I recommend you pick these up at Trader Joe’s.

Calories: 367 calories.

Recipe: Look the recipe over here and decide if you’ll join me in this Christmas morning tradition (the more, the merrier!). You can also check out Emeril’s sweet faces (his kiddos) on pp. 38 and 39.

Fun Fact: I love dishes (like this one) which require layering. So much so, in fact, that I want to make lasagna in heaven.

Vegetable-Bean Soup

With all the overt protein usage happening in prior recipes, it was time to jump to something vegetarian. Alas, the Vegetable-Bean soup called my name as it featured simple vegetables and canned goods which I keep on hand. There aren’t that many pictures because the soup just falls together. After sauteeing veggies, the canned goods and some vegetable broth are added. Some herbs (parsley and thyme) and some simmering and you’re good.

Cost: Minimal. Enjoy it!

Calories: 312 calories.

Recipe: Find it online or on p. 80 (see fun fact below regarding this!)

Fun Fact: This was the only December entree recipe which I tried that wasn’t part of the standard columns found in the front of the mag. It was such a relief to see something from a page number higher than 50!

Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints

As I mentioned before, one of the reasons I admire the December Everyday Food so much is because of it’s famous cookie article. Every year, the EDF staffers seem to come up with the most unique twists on Christmas cookies! When I saw the Chocolate-Peppermint Thumbprints, I knew I had to try them. Not only did they resemble one of my favorite cookies (Peanut Butter Blossoms) but they seemed to sparkle… and I love things that sparkle.

On Christmas Eve, my sister, Kirsten, and I pulled out the Kitchenaid at my parents and measured, beat, whisked, rolled, sugared, and pressed our ways into these little gems. While the recipe did require the investment in another extract, it was worth it. Not only in taste but the fact that I made these twice!

Cost: The extract is the only item I had to buy although if you don’t keep cocoa powder on hand (find it in the bulk section), you’ll have to head to the store for that too.

Calories: What?! There are calories in Christmas cookies?! I guess so… in fact, there are 104 in each one of these.

Recipe: Yowzers! Each and every recipe this month can be found online! These can also be drooled over on p. 102.

Fun Fact: These are really good. The rich cocoa paired with the sweet sugar and salty butter make a nearly-perfect cookie!

Well, that’s a wrap folks! Not only for December’s recipes but my (documented) EDF cook-a-thons too! While I will still be hitting the kitchen hard in order to take advantage of my subscription (I’ve already made three EDF recipes from the January/February 2012 issue!), I think it’s time to move on. So… will you direct my next culinary adventure?

I currently have the following wonderful cookbooks on hand which tend to be underused:

Martha Stewart's Cooking School

I love the tag line: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook. I definitely could learn a few things… especially related to browning things without burning them! Hmph.

Barefoot Contessa at Home (Ina Garten)

I truly admire Ina, yet I’ve only cooked out of this book (which has the sweetest dedication) once or twice. Is it time to get more familiar with recipes other than the Roasted Shrimp and Orzo?

Finally, there’s…

Giada's Kitchen (by Giada De Laurentis)

Giada, in my opinion, is one of Food Network‘s most talented chefs and this book truly reflects her take on delicious food. In light of the journey to Italy this last summer, it would be pretty sweet to recreate some recipes via monthly dinners from this one.

Thanks for your thoughts – here’s to a delicious 2012!