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Refrigerator Magnets: 12 Days Eat Good

Now, you've spent the Kroger 12 days of trading, the Alan DeGeneres 12 days gifts and food webs in 12 days of biscuits.
But here’s a little-known fact: The 12 Days of Christmas start tomorrow. Yes, Christmas really is the First Day of Christmas and the day before Epiphany (Jan. 5) is the twelfth. These 12 days mark a mini season-within-a-season that, while still filled with festivity and fun, is perhaps less frantic than the weeks that precede it.
The true 12 Days of Christmas are the bridge that take us from the most anticipated day of the year to a place of reflection and resolution.
So, in a spirit of celebrating great food — and with a nod toward the quest for self-improvement that accompanies January — I bring you 12 Days of Good Eating. For each, I challenge myself to elevate my cooking in some way. Many of these are techniques or recipes I’ve been meaning to try but haven’t made time for.
Feeling too exhausted to take up a challenge now? Spread these ideas out over the coming weeks and months. Twelve new ideas for your kitchen could be a whole year of cooking creativity.
1. On this first day of Christmas, I’ll be serving roast chicken, mashed potatoes, corn muffins, sliced fresh pineapple and green beans that I froze from my summer garden. In my quest to take my cooking up a notch, I’m switching out the traditional green bean recipe (you know, the one with mushroom soup and fried onions) for a version with shallots and baby portobellos.
2. On the Second Day of Christmas, I’ll have chicken left to bake into a pot pie. Today’s challenge: Make my crust with the lard I purchased from a local farm this fall.
3. Today, in honor of three French hens, I’m going to take the pieces and parts left from the chickens I roasted (I threw it all in the freezer on Christmas Day) and turn it into stock for soups this winter.
4. It feels like a salad kind of day. I’m always on the hunt for a new, from-scratch dressing, but I don’t often deviate from my standards. Today, I’m making Tahini honey lime dressing. Bonus: it’s advertised as paleo-friendly and good on heartier greens such as kale and spinach.
5. My kids love the cheesy popcorn from the grocery store snack aisle. But I’m thinking I can make a cheaper, healthier version in my own kitchen. A little research and I’m ready to try this: Pop 1 cup of popcorn kernels. Stir in 1/2 cup cheddar cheese powder (if I can’t find it, I’m going to substitute an Annie’s mac and cheese packet). Stir in 6 to 8 Tbsp. butter and then 1 tsp. salt.
6. Cauliflower feels like the vegetable of the hour (trend-watchers are calling it “the new kale”). And yet I almost never cook it. Today I’ll make cauliflower casserole with cheddar from a foodandwine.com recipe. I think my whole family might even eat this one.
7. Day 7 is seven swans a-swimming, and it’s New Year’s Eve. Time for a cocktail if there ever was one. Two foodie friends have recently suggested cranberry highballs. So I plan to stir up this tonight: Place 1 oz. sweetened cranberry juice in a flute glass. Fill with champagne or sparkling wine. Garnish with a wedge of lime and a frozen cranberry or two.
8. For New Year’s Day, I’ll give hoppin’ John a try. I grew up eating (and whining about) black-eyed peas and collard greens at the start of every year. While I’m not a fan of cooked collards, The Pioneer Woman’s black-eyed pea recipe I’ve picked out looks downright delicious.
9. For Day 9, I’m hitting Jenny Muir’s new Super Grains cookbook. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get more comfortable cooking a wider variety of grains. I think her spicy shrimp and quinoa cakes recipe fits the bill.
10. On the 10th Day of Christmas, my kids and I will tackle homemade Cheez-its. This is what my daughter wanted to make during break more than anything else. The recipe we saw on food52.com looked like fun, zipping across the cheesy dough with a fluted pastry wheel (we inherited one of these from the Italian grandma) and poking holes in the center of each cracker with a chopstick.
11. Tomorrow, winter break is over. Today I’ll make an apple quick bread to put in lunch boxes all week. I’ve got good recipes for pumpkin, banana and zucchini breads, but I’ve never had a favorite apple bread.
12. It’s Twelfth Night. Tough to do much celebrating on a regular school day/work day. But I’ll try my hand at wassail, a hot, hard cider-like beverage from Britain that I’ve mostly only heard about in Christmas carols. Turns out, wassail was stirred up on Twelfth Night to chase away the evil spirits from the apple orchards and ensure a good harvest in the coming fall. I’ll drink to that!
Stay tuned for a blog post on how my 12 Days of Good Eating went. In the meantime, let me know what you’re cooking up this holiday season. Email me at christinanifong@gmail.com or comment on the blog at blogs.roanoke.com/fridgemagnet.Source:roanoke.com

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