Sichuan Party Mix

We started yesterday with sweet, and move on to spicy today with this savory and tongue-tingling Sichuan Party Mix. Check out Darcie’s post for a little backstory involving her days in Shanghai, which provided the inspiration for this terrific recipe!

For a roundup of all of our Advent Calendar posts for the year, click here.
Darcie can be found at her website, Gourmet Creative and on Instagram at @darcie_hunter.
Find me on Instagram at @amyrothphoto, Pinterest at @amyrothphoto and my portfolio at (you guessed it) Amy Roth Photo.

Sichuan Party Mix

Allergy Peanuts, Wheat
Meal type Snack
Misc Pre-preparable, Serve Cold
This Sichuan Party Mix couldn't be easier to make — toss everything together, then bake!


Sichuan Party Mix

  • 1/2 cup pretzels
  • 1/2 cup soup crackers
  • 1/2 cup sesame melba rounds
  • 1/2 cup salted, roasted edamame
  • 1 cup salted, roasted peanuts

Seasoning Mix

  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 tablespoon ground Sichuan peppercorns
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried, sliced Asian chilies
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander


Sichuan Party Mix
Toss all of the nuts and crackers together (feel free to change up the mix according to your taste).
Seasoning Mix
Melt the butter in a microwavable bowl and stir in the spices until well combined.
Pour seasoning mix over the party mix and stir to coat. Spread the mix on a baking sheet and toast in a preheated oven at 350°F (280°C) for 10 minutes, until fragrant. Allow to cool, then arrange in gift bags or boxes.

Last-Minute Gifts for the Coffee Addict

One week and a smidge before Christmas and you’re still not sure what to buy for a certain someone? Well, if that someone loves a great cup of joe, you’ve come to the right place.

1. I’ve gone on at length about how great our coffee is now that my barista husband uses a Chemex 6-Cup Coffee Maker. Or try the smaller 3-Cup model if they don’t need quite so much coffee at one time. Buy from Amazon and get free 2-day shipping.

2. Another reason for our great coffee? Great coffee beans. Tonx sources high quality beans, roasts them perfectly, then sends out your package within one day of roasting so you have the freshest cup of coffee imaginable. Sign up for a gift subscription here by Dec. 16th and receive it in time for Christmas.

3. Grind those beans perfectly with a Kyocera Ceramic Coffee Grinder. This manual, adjustable burr grinder puts you back in charge of your coffee. Order from ThinkGeek by Dec. 16th and get 25% off plus free shipping.

4. If you don’t like dealing with paper filters, the Able Kone Filter is a treat. Pricey? Yes, but so worth it if you want to get every last drop of those delicious coffee oils.

5. Maybe your coffee lover is all stocked up on beans and accessories. How about a coffee-themed photo print or two? U.S. customers can still get Christmas delivery from my Etsy shop if you ship via FedEx ($13), plus all prints are 25% off with code 25MERRY at checkout. Just DM me through Etsy to set up a custom listing for Christmas shipping.

6. A fun mug with a message always makes a great stocking stuffer.

What are your favorite coffee-related items? Anything on your wish list?

Day 11, Homemade Vanilla Extract

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 11

As promised, homemade vanilla extract! Once you try this yourself, you may wonder what took you so long to get with the program.

The principles are simple — choose a liquor for the base that’s about 40% alcohol, add vanilla beans and wait — but the results are extraordinary. I keep dark rum and bourbon versions on hand, though vodka is what you’ll usually find in stores because it has a very neutral flavor. I made the jump to dark liquors when I realized that either one would shine in nearly any recipe that calls for vanilla extract. Most baked goods would be complemented by them, don’t you think?

Because vanilla beans can be prohibitively expensive to buy in stores, I ordered mine from ebay. Yep, ebay. This store has a great reputation and a broad selection. And it’s a real bounty of beans, at least for a non-baker like me; I’m still working on the shipment I received a couple of years ago.

If you want to give this as a gift, I’ve created two versions of the label in the picture at the top of the post; they’re the perfect size to affix to a Ball jam jar. Just circle the base you used and they’re ready for gifting!

Homemade Vanilla Extract
Prep Time
15 mins
Total Time
15 mins
Making your own vanilla extract couldn't be easier or more delicious!
Servings: 48
Calories: 14 kcal
  • 3 medium vanilla beans
  • 1 cup dark rum or bourbon
  1. Sterilize your jar or bottle by pouring boiling water into it and letting it sit for 10 minutes. Pour out the water and continue.
  2. Slice vanilla beans lengthwise with a sharp knife. Tuck beans into the bottle or jar, then fill with liquor. Screw on the cap and shake it, then place it in a cool, dark cabinet or closet to mature.
  3. It’s ready after sitting for eight weeks with you shaking the jar once a week or so. I’ve seen other recipes that say you can use it after only two weeks, which may be the case. I haven’t had to break into my stash so early.
  4. As your extract gets depleted, top off the jar with more liquor and add another bean every now and then. You can even reuse a vanilla bean that’s been steeped in cream, just wash it off before putting it in the jar. I don’t bother taking the beans out until the extract is completely gone, but some people prefer to remove them after the initial 8 weeks is up. It’s really your call.
Recipe Notes

I usually make this in huge quantities in the original liquor bottle (omitting step 1). It's a nice use for older beans, if you have those lying around. Start with 10-15, depending on size and freshness. Dark rum comes in a nice brown bottle that keeps sunlight from affecting the extract. Stash bourbon in a pantry. 

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini

Day 10, Flavored Salts

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10

Flavored salts are so easy to make and they’re such a great way to punch up dishes at home.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10

Cook with them or use them as finishing salts — either way, they’ll impart loads of flavor. I made three versions for you today.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10
Doesn’t this just look like Christmas with the red chiles and green lime zest? So festive!

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10
Very subtle smoked flavor with great umami.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10
My favorite of the three. It’s smoky and spicy with a big hit of fruity orange.

I took the Chile-Lime recipe directly from The Kitchn‘s guide to making flavored salts, but winged the other two with ingredients I had in my kitchen, just to see if I could do it.

2012 Advent Calendar, Day 10

Because that took so little time and I was so happy with the results, I created labels for you to download if you’d like to give these to the food-lover in your life. They’d make great little stocking stuffers, don’t you think? You can download the labels here. I affixed them to my 2-oz. spice tins with Scrapbooker’s Glue. (I tried, I mean really tried to do these on printable labels, but the template was impossible to work with. Perhaps it works better if you’re on a PC.)

recipes after the jump

Continue reading “Day 10, Flavored Salts”

Diffuser? I hardly know her!

Despite the prevalence of Advent posts here, Hanukkah Harry’s a generous soul and has been known to visit me on occasion. In addition to a great cookbook from the Official MI Mother-in-Law (more on which later), he brought me something completely unexpected last week — a Gary Fong Flash Diffuser from Claudia at the always-terrific cook eat FRET! I don’t think I’ve mentioned it here, but I did some design work on her banner a few weeks ago and got to know her a little in the process. Long story short, she’s just as awesome as you’d believe reading her posts. I mean, c’mon — supporting my photography habit and we haven’t even met yet? That’s generosity of spirit right there.

And so, onto some test photos! I know almost nothing about using my new speedlight flash, but I think these shots illustrate just how nicely the diffuser will play with the flash once I get up to speed with the technical stuff. Photo below is of our library downstairs, sans flash:


And here, with full direct flash:


And here, with diffuser:


Much nicer, yes? And I haven’t retouched any of them in any way. I think this’ll help my evening pictures quite a bit, since the light situation in our house isn’t, um, good. It’s cozy, but not the best for documenting our dinners.

Thank you, thank you, thank you, Claudia! And Hanukkah Harry, for the delivery!