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Craftmas 2012

This weekend I turned up the holiday music, opened a bottle of wine, and announced that I would be making my own Christmas presents.

Scott was doubtful.  “Do you. . . how should I say this. . . Do you actually know how to do arts and crafts, honey?” he asked.


I stomped off to the bathroom.

I sat on the side of the tub and tried to remember the last time I successfully crafted anything.  Unfortunately, Scott took the lead on our annual gingerbread house.  He also carved our Halloween pumpkin.  Technically,  I made a decorative gourd last year–but then I told the whole internet that an old lady sitting next to me did all the work.  Arg.

Scott knocked on the door.  “Are you okay in there?” he asked.

“I’m fine,” I snapped.  “Why don’t you relax by our Christmas tree, WHICH YOU MIGHT NOTICE I CRAFTED THE CRAP OUT OF.”

our tree

This ornament didn’t hang itself, people.  In a stroke of decorative genius, I attached it with a pink paperclip.  If that’s not “crafting,” I don’t know what is.

I spent the rest of the weekend researching homemade gift ideas.  And by that I mean I spent 12 hours hissing obscenities at Martha Stewart’s website, which is all: “This craft is super easy! All you need is a linoleum cutter, dried organic lemon verbena, and a gently worn cashmere sweater!”


I don’t have those things.  In fact, I don’t even have scissors.  I lost them six months ago and now I just use a steak knife to cut stuff.

our tree

This is not looking good, folks.  Craftmas 2012 is teetering on the brink.

our tree

So if you’ve ever made anything that doesn’t require advanced whittling skills or twenty yards of imported silk, help a girl out.  I’m getting desperate.

In the meantime, here’s some quinoa.

quinoaI stayed away from this stuff for awhile because it seemed like an annoying food fad.  But the truth is: it’s delicious.  And it’s good for you.  It’s a “supergrain”!  And it’s easier for me than rice because I can tell when it’s done: the germ sprouts out in cool little curlycues when it’s ready.


I like throwing some roasted vegetable in there.  Any roasted vegetable will do, but I like acorn squash.  Butternut or delicata squash or pumpkin would work, too.  Then I toss it with candied nuts, goat cheese, and an orange vinaigrette.   You can use any nuts you have lying around, and if you’re short on time you can just dress it in olive oil, citrus or vinegar, and salt.  If you’re a big onion fan, thinly sliced red onions would be lovely in this, too.

Red Quinoa with Acorn Squash, Candied Nuts, Goat Cheese & Orange Vinaigrette {Download & Print Recipe}

by eggton


For the squash

1 acorn squash

1/4 c. packed brown sugar

salt and pepper

For the nuts

4 Tbsp. granulated sugar

2 Tbsp. bourbon

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. cumin

1/4 tsp. salt

a dash of cayenne pepper

1 1/4 c. walnuts

For the quinoa

1 c. red quinoa

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 c. chicken or vegetarian broth

For the dressing

1 c. freshly-squeezed orange juice

2 tsp. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. shallots, diced

4 Tbsp. olive oil

1/2 goat cheese (optional), for crumbling on top

arugula or spinach (optional), to be served under or alongside the quinoa


Roast the squash.   Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Rinse the squash and cut it in half lengthwise.  Scoop out the seeds.  Cut the squash into slices about 1 1/2″ thick.  Place the slices on a baking sheet flesh-down (not standing up on the rind) and sprinkle the brown sugar over them.  Season with salt and pepper.  Roast them for 10 minutes, then pull them out and flip them so that both sides get coated in the brown sugar.  Roast for another 10 minutes or more, until you can cut through the squash easily with the side of a fork.  Remove the squash from the oven and let it cool.

Make the nuts.  While the squash is roasting, heat the granulated sugar, bourbon, cinnamon, cumin, salt and cayenne in a small, oven-proof skillet over medium heat.  When the sugar has dissolved, add the nuts and toss until they’re evenly coated.  Transfer the skillet to the oven, which should be at 400 degrees for the squash.  Roast the nuts for 6-10 minutes, tossing them occasionally, until they’re a little browned.  Check them every minute or two to make sure they don’t burn.   (Note: if  you don’t have an oven-proof skillet, just use a regular one and transfer the nuts to a small oven-proof dish before putting them in the oven).  Remove the nuts from the heat and transfer to a plate to cool.

Make the quinoa.  Place the quinoa in a fine mesh colander and rinse for 2 minutes, using your hand to move the quinoa around a bit.  (This helps rid the quinoa of a natural coating that can make it taste bitter.)  In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium-low heat.  Add the quinoa and cook it a few minutes until any water has evaporated.  Add the broth and bring to a boil.  Scrape down the sides so that all the quinoa is in the broth.  Cover and reduce the heat to very low.  Cook for 15 minutes.  Remove the saucepan from the heat but keep it covered.  Let it rest for 5 minutes.  Lift the lid and confirm that the broth has been absorbed and the quinoa seeds have sprouted little curly cues (the germ).  (If not, cover the pot and return it to low heat (try a little higher than last time) and cook for for 5-10 minutes more.  Remove the quinoa from the heat and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.)  Fluff the quinoa with a fork.  If you’re not using the quinoa immediately, leave the lid off until it cools completely.

Make the dressing.   In a small saucepan, boil the orange juice until it reduces to about 3 Tbsp.  Remove from the heat and let it cool.  Add the lemon juice and shallot.  Whisk the olive oil in slowly.

Assemble the salad.  Cut or peel the skin off the roasted acorn squash and cut into 1-2″ chunks.  Add the squash to the quinoa.  Add the nuts to the quinoa, chopping them up a little if they stuck to each other when they cooled.  Toss with some of the salad dressing.  Taste it and add more salad dressing, salt and pepper as you prefer.  Sprinkle goat cheese, if desired, over the salad.  Spoon the salad over arugula or spinach and drizzle with any remaining dressing as desired.


dogs in leaves As these dogs should have learned in daycare, it’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye (narrowly avoided, in this case).

70 Comments Post a comment
  1. I crafted this Christmas – I screwed parts A, B, and C to make the tree! WOOHOO! 🙂 I feel the same – I am not a DIY’er but I LOVE your pink paperclip. xoxoxo and I love Quinoa!

    December 17, 2012
    • Ha! That totally counts because those trees can be hard to stand up. Our tree this year was too small for the stand we got last year, so I had to stick things between the tree and the screws to make contact between them. This involved going around the house looking for The Perfect Objects that were The Perfect Size and could get wet. It took, like, 45 minutes. Ugh.

      December 17, 2012
  2. lucysinspired #

    These are easy peasy and crafty. I have no idea who you would give them to. But, I know you can do it!!!

    December 17, 2012
    • Lucy, those little tag-holders are adorable. I actually have a ton of those binder clips lying around. Yay!! Thanks for the heads’ up.

      December 17, 2012
  3. Alexis. #

    Last year I knit various items for most of the members of my family. I mentioned to my sister that I was going to knit her some socks and she replied, “I want a sweater.” She is henceforth banned from knit items. Also, I had cramped hands, high stress levels, and two of my “gifts” were I.O.U.s. This year, I went shopping.

    December 17, 2012
    • Alexis, that’s funny. And bravo for knitting anything to begin with. I wish I could post a picture of the scarf I started knitting for my friend Emily IN THE YEAR 2006. It’s still not long enough, and I lost interest, and now she lives in Southern California where it doesn’t get cold enough for scarves. So. . . yeah.

      December 17, 2012
  4. Your blog has brought me SO much joy this year. I love your writing and your doggie photos a ridiculous amount. I have one somewhat crafty idea because I am craft-challenged: make beautiful spice blends, then put them in jars with handmade labels and a recipe. I hope this doesn’t seem crass, but I have lots of ideas on my blog — specifically because I cannot make stuff, but I can make food. Happy happy to you!

    December 17, 2012
    • Melissa, your ideas are fantastic! Seriously fantastic. (And I don’t think it’s annoying at all to post links on other people’s blogs. If I hadn’t made movita from look at my blog, we would never have found out that she’s basically my long-lost sister.)

      Anyway, thank you for the kind words. And I love your ideas. I haven’t decided which spice blend or other thing I’m going to make yet, but glass jars were on sale at the craft store the other day, so I got a bunch. I also think that I saw something on Martha Stewart’s website about cute print-out labels that I could then cut out and write on, which would look nice.


      December 17, 2012
      • Whatever you choose, I hope it’s fun! There is nothing worse than getting elbows-deep in a project only to find it’s a total drag 😉

        XO back.

        December 18, 2012
  5. Orn #

    LOL! I actually have all those items in my house, but what exactly are you making that you need them all together? Every year I try to create my whole family personalized anniversary gifts, and it ends up costing a small fortune. Trust me, its way more cost effective to buy everyone a perfume set from Wall-mart & slap on a cute label.

    December 17, 2012
    • Orn, I am so jealous that you have all that stuff! You must make the neatest things. But I agree with you–I can tell already that unless you have supplies lying around, making your own presents could really add up.

      So, I embellished a little in listing those supplies in the same sentence. 🙂 The linoleum cutter was required to transfer a snowy print to a set of tea towels. I didn’t understand that at all, but I’ve never seen a linoleum cutter. The cashmere sweater was for making a kid’s skirt. And the herbs were for making “bath tea” which is basically a big teabag that you fill with stuff and use to infuse the water in your bath tub.

      The cashmere sweater really cracked me up, though. If I had a “gently worn cashmere sweater,” I would be wearing it right now, not cutting it up into pieces!

      Happy crafting to you! Let me know if you ever come across any BEGINNER ideas. 🙂

      December 17, 2012
  6. might I suggest a homemade gin and tonic? I most definitely put it in the ‘crafting’ category, after all, you have to take a bunch of unrelated things and put them together to make a totally new thing. AND the house always looks better after I’ve had one…

    December 17, 2012
    • AND there are probably instructions for making one on Martha Stewart’s website! Hee hee.

      December 17, 2012
      • Kissa #

        Best gin and tonic I’ve had recently was made with Fever Tree tonic, a twist of lemon and lime peel and a single star anise. It was deee-lightful.

        December 18, 2012
  7. Christopher #

    As someone who has admired your photography, how about some photo based gifts?

    Check out this website: (click on the archives) They post all kinds of photo related crafts.

    As I sit here, I’m crafting a Hnefatafl game out of clay and leather for my nephews. Hoping that a game that was played a couple thousand years ago by our ancestors might keep them happy for a few hours. 🙂

    December 17, 2012
    • That website it really cool, Christopher. They have some great posts on food photography that I’ve bookmarked to read over the holidays. Thank you so much for tipping me off to it. Some of their gadgets look cool too.

      Have you ever played “farkle”? It’s a dice game from back in the day and it’s pretty fun. All you need is a bunch of die– you could google the rules if you’re interested.

      December 21, 2012
  8. A bestie of mine compiled a mood cookbook one year (complete with suggested music pairings and a little story about what their family was doing at the time the specific mood-food was necessary). It was personal, funny, and only required writing, photographing, and printing. Genius.

    December 17, 2012
    • Um, that’s a seriously awesome idea. It just sounds like the kind of present I’d love to spend time on because I’d have a blast working on it. The music pairing idea is money.

      December 17, 2012
    • Oh Lyn. This website is blowing my mind. I just bookmarked it. Thank you!

      December 17, 2012
  9. Shalee #

    Quick and easy dish towel apron from Pink Pistachio. Cheap too! You can buy the dish towel from Target and the bias tape and fabric from any fabric store. You could even do it without a sewing machine if you needed to.

    She also has an easy bird feeder craft:

    You can make cute bags, t-shirts or decorate anything really with freezer paper:

    December 17, 2012
    • Shalee, that bird feeder is PERFECT for my neighbor. She puts out whole pieces of food for the doves when they come to have their babies under the eaves of my porch every year. Seriously, I’ll look out the window and the birds will be chowing down on a whole piece of pita bread or something. I am totally going to make this for her! Thank you. The apron is super cute, too, and I like the sound of freezer tape.

      December 21, 2012
  10. Ginger Cobl #

    Are you kidding me!!!! You’re one of the best cooks I know, you don’t need to craft for Christmas you need to COOK FOR CHRISTMAS! How about the granola stuff you brought us, it’s REALLY yummy, hint hint! Not to mention the almond cake that I would happily pay you for if you would open a bakery/cafe, whatever.Merry Christmas!

    December 17, 2012
  11. Ginger, that almond cake is my favorite favorite favorite in the world. I should probably stress that more on this site. So for anyone reading, this is my favorite cake EVER: It’s not my recipe–it’s Amanda Hesser’s. And Ginger, I will be sure to visit this week before heading back to Virginia, with granola (or something else good, I promise!)

    December 17, 2012
    • Ginger Cobl #

      Katherine can’t wait to see you, and I may just have a little treat for you too!

      December 17, 2012
  12. rhema3one7 #

    I’m in the same position as you. Also this recipe is very much new to me. Merry Christmas !

    December 17, 2012
    • Merry Christmas, Rhema! Best of luck with your holiday shopping/crafting. It sounds like you and I both will need it! 🙂

      December 21, 2012
  13. My mother-in-law and dad are getting a shutterfly book of the grandkids. It took for freaking ever to choose the pictures, edit them, and lay them out, so even though I didn’t “make” it there is still plenty of my own man hours in it. I’ve got a couple of diy projects for the kids in my pinterest album. Mostly, I’ll be making them pj pants, painting an ornament for them, and I want to make them a set of tin cans with a string telephone things because they are always curious as to how they work.

    December 17, 2012
    • Brooke, I think the only project on your list that I could handle is the tin can telephone. I feel like I could make that without injuring myself or giving up out of frustration. However, pajama pants? Pajama pants are some of my favorite pieces of clothing, but I don’t think I could make a pair, which is a cryin’ shame. The shutterfly book IS a good idea. If I get my act together earlier next year, that would be a fun thing to do.

      December 21, 2012
      • PJ pants are surprisingly easy. You just use a pair of your current pants as a pattern! There’s lots of tutorials online. Coming from a person who can otherwise only sew pillowcases, I think you could probably handle the pants… 😉

        December 21, 2012
        • OK, so the tin cup phone didn’t happen. Because instead, he’s getting a kit with two aluminum cans, a roll of string, and an instruction sheet! My other son is getting balloons, cups, and marshmallows for DIY marshmallow cannons! The only thing better than making gifts for someone, is making them make them themselves.

          December 24, 2012
  14. Amy #

    Aw, I bet you could do arts and crafts just fine! You know what’s SUPER easy that I made my mother-in-law for part of her christmas present this year? Homemade Brown Sugar Face/Body Scrub!!! Yep, you just mix brown sugar (about 1.5 cups) and coconut oil that you can buy at trader joes (use about 8 Tbsp). Add more oil til it’s the consistency you like. Then buy cute little jars to put it and tie it with a ribbon and a cute tag, and voila…you ARE martha stewart 😉

    December 17, 2012
    • blowingoffsteamandmore #

      I agree with Amy on the sugar scrubs. They are easy, cheap and they work beautifully! I add sugar, sea salt and almond oil then a dash of peppermint essential oil and it makes an awesome foot scrub!

      December 18, 2012
  15. A Table in the Sun #

    Martha Stewart…..Bah humbug! I bet she has a whole crew of worker-bees crafting her “homemade” gifts. Imposter.

    December 17, 2012
    • FACT. I totally agree. Any person who has “omnimedia” after their name (“Martha Stewart Omnimedia”? pshaw) is clearly not acting alone. 🙂

      December 21, 2012
  16. Well, that is one funny coincidence because I’m a bit of a craft guru myself and today was the day I’ve decided to share my gift with the world in my latest post. And on a serious note, I’m glad there is something you are not amazing in, because that would have been too much to handle. Love this post!

    December 17, 2012
    • I love the mugs and plates you made, Katia! I’m now wracking my brain for something witty I could write on a mug for Scott.

      December 21, 2012
  17. a #

    Really? You, who posts photographs and recipes, can’t think of something handmade in the gift realm? Handmade does not have to involve a glue gun! Recipe cards, those handy bottles with premeasured dry ingredients and simple instructions, cakes, cookies, dinner invitations – why are you having a problem here? (I also really like the cookbook idea!)

    December 17, 2012
  18. I love your blog and the idea of crafting. Duct tape is the only arena where I can actually make cool stuff and I bet you have some. Try this for starters, though Pinterest is chock full of stuff made by people that are at one with duct tape…

    December 18, 2012
    • WOW. I am completely amazed. Those bags look nice, too. And I already have duct tape! Yessssssss.

      December 21, 2012
  19. Caddie #

    LOL! You sound like me! Every time I craft something with the best enthusiasm and intentions, I end up looking at the finished product with a “but this doesnt look at all like the picture”!

    December 18, 2012
    • Tell me about it, sister! That’s me and most food I cook from magazines, too.

      January 13, 2013
    • So cute! I LOVE terrariums. I got Scott one that he put together himself last year for Christmas. We put a little porcelain person sitting on a rock in there. It was pretty cute but now it’s totally overgrown. I guess I have to, like, prune the moss or something.

      January 13, 2013
  20. “The girl is crafty like ice is cold”

    She’s crafteeeeeeeee.

    PS good luck.

    December 18, 2012
    • Ha! This will be my theme song for Christmas 2013. Working up to it. . .

      January 13, 2013
  21. Snoring Dog Studio #

    Gawd, you are funny! I loved this post! Look, girl, don’t EVER, EVER go to Martha Stewart for crafting ideas. She will have you strangled in ribbon, choked with glitter and raffia, and leave you with third degree glue gun burns. Step away from the MS holiday magazine. I know for a fact that she employs 5,000 elves to do her bidding. Martha gets as close to crafting as I do to developing a cure for cancer. Google “easy crafts.” You’ll be surrounded by cute felt animals and paper snowflakes in no time.

    December 18, 2012
    • I love your imagery. I’m sure I would have poked a hole in my finger and glued my face to the carpet if I had tried any of her stuff. Many thanks for the moral support.

      January 13, 2013
  22. Food is such a great gift, and you already know how to do that well! And what about those awesome cards you made? Who says you’re not crafty? And those videos? You’re artsy AND crafty! I think you can rest on your laurels and have another bottle of wine.

    December 18, 2012
  23. Ha! That sounds like a conversation I would have with my man. 😛

    I haven’t tried these yet, but they seem to be my level of simple and would certainly add to your crafty tree!

    December 18, 2012
    • Oh my gosh, I bet they make your house smell amaaaaazing, too.

      January 13, 2013
  24. I can’t even comment on this post because we’re far too much alike for it to not sound like anything but “YES. I HAVE DONE ________ TOO.”
    it’s creepy.
    *i like it* 🙂

    December 18, 2012
  25. I painted tea towels for my dad’s birthday this year – all I used was plain tea towels (I made them, but you could just as easily buy them) and fabric paint (that I had to buy), a carrot and a pencil… then you need an iron to fix the paint. It was fun and quick and they looked super cute –
    But I agree with everyone else here – can’t you make home baked gifts – you are such an excellent cook!

    December 19, 2012
  26. I like to kill at least three birds with one stone, so…I bought a ton of lemons and sugar (cheap!) and made candied lemon peels, lemon sugar scrub and lemon simple syrup. Handmade gifts galore and no Martha Stewart in sight. I’d post a link to my blog where I share recipes/instructions for all these wonderful things but I’m to lazy to post DIYs. Plus these items are crazy simple to make (one even has “simple” in the name – descriptive!) and all over the internet.

    December 19, 2012
    • Jen that’s awesome. I like the lemon theme. I read up about sugar scrubs and they do seem pretty easy. I settled on bath salts. Pretty cheap except for the essential oils, so I only got one (bergamot oil) instead of mixing 3 or 4 like a lot of the recipes called for. I think it worked out! I really like the idea of candied lemon peel and simple syrup, too for hostess gifts or birthday presents throughout the year.

      January 13, 2013
  27. Everyone on your list should get food (you can do that with your eyes shut) and Thunder cards. I got mine today in the mail and they’re already addressed and ready to delight others. BTW, I *really* could have used the photo above as a card today. My best friend just had surgery for a detached retina, and she would have loved this.
    **More Thunder Cards!!**

    December 19, 2012
    • Aw, Sandy Sue–I’m so glad you got the Thunder cards and that you sent them out. That makes me happy. I made a Thunder mug for Scott’s sister and I actually love it because it’s big and it doesn’t burn my hand when I take it out of the microwave.

      I wound up making bath salts for people. I just mixed epsom salts, sea salt, baking soda and bergamot oil, and I put them in cute little glass jars with wooden scoopers that were 50% off at Michaels. Overall, I think they looked pretty good. And I also make chocolate-dipped pretzel sticks and then rolled them in things like orange peel, or toasted coconut or sprinkles or chopped peanuts or dried cranberries. They were pretty tasty and didn’t get stale for over a week. So Craftmas was saved! I hope you had a good one too.

      January 13, 2013
  28. jenny_o #

    This is hilariously entertaining 🙂

    And also informative. I’ve been wanting to cook quinoa for a long time but you make it look easier – and more delicious – than any other instructions I’ve read.

    Thank you for both of these things!

    December 19, 2012
  29. Rebekka #

    Hi Katherine! I’m Rebekka and I discovered your blog through Scott’s facebook promotion and I LOVE it. This is kind of last minute, but for future crafting needs/emergencies, you should pick up one of those Martha Stewart craft punches (using a 50% off coupon of course, which you can google on your phone while standing in the aisle in Michaels) and just punch random things with it. They come in all kinds of fun shapes. It looks very crafty and requires almost no effort. You can make unique stationary, and gift/instruction tags for your treats, and who knows what else! Good luck with your gifts and Merry Christmas!

    December 21, 2012
    • Punching things is definitely something I could do. Thank you for thinking of something that’s actually feasible given my general incompetence. 🙂 And it’s so great to meet you (or whatever–you know what I mean), Rebekka! I hope you had a great Christmas. (p.s. I would up making bergamot-scented bath salts for people.)

      January 13, 2013
  30. chrisinphx #

    With all the wonderful cooking and baking you do, a food gift would surely be appreciated by anyone

    December 22, 2012
  31. Great photos! I hope you took the bottle of wine when you went into the bathroom.

    December 23, 2012
    • Mad Queen Linda, we have a wine dispenser in the bathroom, so there was no need.

      I’m kidding. But wouldn’t that be amaaaaazing?

      January 13, 2013
  32. Love these photos! And I am definitely trying to recipes as soon as I get over my flu! 🙂 I have a little giveaway on my blog to help spread positivity and to make wishes come true. Please, anyone can enter. Best wishes for a wonderful 2013.

    December 27, 2012
    • Hi there, Arg–I have some flu-ish thing right now, so I feel your pain. Hope you recovered, and thanks for visiting. Happy 2013!

      January 13, 2013
  33. Katherine, you inspired a post. I’ve been a slacker since my move back and this one kind of awkwardly poured out of me today so thank you.

    January 2, 2013
    • What a lovely post you wrote, Penny. I so enjoyed it and I was honored to have been a wee part of it. Thank you.

      January 13, 2013

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