Monday, December 31, 2007

TOAST the NEW YEAR! ~ TOURTIERE / ORANGE CRANBERRY SAUCE / SCALLOPED SCALLOPS / PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM TORTE

"May all your troubles last as long as your New Year's resolutions."
~ Joey Adams

~ Cheers!
_________
TOURTIERE

~ Traditional French Canadian meat pie

__________


TRADITIONAL PASTRY FOR TWO LARGE PIES

3 cups unbleached flour
1 cup vegetable shortening like Crisco (lard for the purest)
1 scant tsp. salt
1 large beaten egg
1 Tbsp. vinegar
ice water

Place flour, salt, and shortening in food processor or large bowl. Process with machine or pastry blender until mixture resembles course corn meal. In large glass measuring cup, beat the egg. Add vinegar and enough ice water to equal 1/2 cup. Pour over flour mixture. Blend only until dough holds together in a ball. Shape dough into thick, flat rounds. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until easy to handle (about 1 hour).

Note: Skip the ABOVE and head for the refrigerated section at the market. Purchase Pillsbury Pie Crusts ... unroll (dust with 1 Tbsp. flour), spread into pie pan, flute, fill and bake. Not as good as above but ...

FILLING
(for deep dish)

3 pounds freshly (twice ground) lean pork ~ fresh ham or loin is best
1 large chopped Spanish or sweet onion
2 plump cloves minced garlic
3 medium potatoes ~ peeled, boiled and mashed
2 heaping Tbsp. summer savory
1 heaping Tbsp. thyme
1 heaping Tbsp. poultry seasoning
1 heaping tsp. sage
1 heaping tsp. cracked pepper
1 tsp. Lawrey's seasoned pepper
1/2 tsp. coarse salt


Saute pork in large heavy skillet over medium high heat. When brown, drain fat, reserving 2 Tbsp. Add onion and garlic and continue cooking until wilted. Season with herbs, pepper and salt. Add mashed potatoes which should absorb any remaining liquid. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings. Set aside.

Place filling in prepared rolled out and positioned pie crust. Top with crust, flute and cut in venting slits. (Idea: Turkey slits for Thanksgiving, Christmas Tree slits, date slits of New Year). Brush with egg wash (1 beaten egg plus 1 Tbsp. water).

Bake in preheated 425 degree oven for 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown. Cool 15 minutes before serving or freeze when cooled. (Thaw before reheating in 325 degree oven about 40 minutes. Cover gently with foil if crust becomes too brown.) Serve with Traditional Cranberry Sauce. (serves 6-8)

~ this recipe has been gently adapted from the original that dates back several generations.

____________


ORANGE CRANBERRY SAUCE


12 ounce bag fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
grated zest from oranges


Rinse cranberries and pick off stems. Combine sugar and orange juice in medium saucepan. Bring to boil. Add cranberries and zest and boil gently until cranberries begin to pop, about 7 minutes.

______________


SCALLOPED SCALLOPS (or oysters)


2 1/2 pounds Bay scallops
1/4 pound sweet butter
2 cups Ritz cracker crumbs
1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 cup medium cream
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard


Melt butter in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add cracker crumbs, bread crumbs and parsley. Toss lightly. Sprinkle layer of buttered crumbs mixture into oval quart baking dish. Top evenly with scallops.
Mix together cream and mustard. Pour evenly over scallops. Top with remaining crumbs. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes until bubbly.

_____________


PEPPERMINT ICE CREAM TORTE


Bake your favorite brownie recipe according to directions. (Hard to beat GHIRARDELLI TRIPLE CHOCOLATE BROWIES PREMIUM MIX) When cool, press into PAM sprayed springform pan, reserving a few crumbles for the top. Spoon in 1 half gallon premium peppermint ice cream. Top with reserved crumbled brownies.



Sunday, December 30, 2007

HOLIDAY BRUNCH on the PORCH ~ SEAFOOD STRUDEL / WINTER GREEN SALAD with SNOW PEAS, POMEGRANATES, KUMQUATS & CHAMPAGNE VINAIGRETTE

"Cheers to a New Year and another chance for us to get it right."
~ Oprah Winfrey


~ White lily
_________
HOLIDAY SEAFOOD STRUDEL
~ Around for nearly 30 years, a bit labor intensive
but worth the effort
( adapted from a tattered Bon Appetit -Jan/1979)
____
White sauce:
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. flour
3/4 cup milk
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
pinch of coarse salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • Melt butter in saucepan over low heat. Stir in flour to make smooth paste and heat gently, whisking constantly until roux begins to bubble. Remove from heat and add mustard, pinch of salt, and cayenne pepper. Slowly stir in milk. Over medium heat, cook stirring constantly until mixture bubbles and thickens. Add cream and taste for seasoning. Cover until ready to use.
1 cup breadcrumbs
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1 - 1/1/2 lb. bite-sized cooked crab, shrimp & small scallops
1/2 lb. thawed phyllo pastry sheets
1/2 - 3/4 cup grated Swiss cheese
2 hard-cooked chopped eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup diced shallots
2 Tsp. chopped chives
1 large minced garlic
*
3/4 cup melted unsalted butter
2 Tbsp. chopped parsley
*
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese
minced parsley
  • Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
  • Line baking sheet with parchment paper or grease baking sheet lightly.
  • Combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and dry mustard in a bowl.
  • Dampen a towel, spread it out on counter and cover with waxed paper. Unfold thawed phyllo sheets and place on the waxed paper. Brush each sheet with melted butter (½ lb. per strudel) and sprinkle with the breadcrumb mixture.
  • Layer seafood evenly on phyllo and sprinkle with Swiss cheese and chopped egg. Dot with sour cream. Sprinkle with parsley, shallots, and chives and garlic and dot with white sauce.
  • Fold long end of pastry toward center and place on the prepared baking sheet. Brush with some of the melted butter (can be frozen at this stage; defrost 30 minutes before baking).
  • Bake 12 minutes. Remove from oven and brush with more melted butter. Slice diagonally with serrated knife into 1 1/2 pieces. Push slices together to reshape loaf. Add parsley to remaining butter and brush again. Repeat brushing 3 more times during baking, reserving a little butter to brush on just before serving. Bake 35-40 minutes longer, until crisp & golden brown.
  • Remove strudel from the oven. Brush with remaining parsley butter. Cool 5-10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter. Dust with Parmesan cheese and minced parsley. (6-8 servings)

WINTER GREEN SALAD with SNOW PEAS, POMEGRANATES & KUMQUATS

~ Ruby red, vivid green, and sunny kumquats - a feast for the eye and palate

_______

2 halved pomegranates

1 1/2 bunches stemmed watercress

1 12 bunches trimmed arugula

1 1/2 bunches red leaf lettuce

8 oz. trimmed and halved snow peas

4 oz. toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds

24 thinly sliced and seeded kumquats

  • Submerge pomegranate halves in large bowl of water and remove seeds by breaking pomegranates apart. Skim white pulp from surface of water. Drain seeds and pat dry.
  • Combine greens and snow peas in large salad bowl. Toss with Champagne vinaigrette.
  • Divide among chilled plates. Sprinkle each with pomegranate seeds, kumquats, and toasted pine nuts or sunflower seeds. (8 servings)

Champagne vinaigrette

6 Tbsp. Champagne vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

1 clove minced garlic

coarse salt and cracked pepper to taste

3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix vinegar, Dijon, garlic, salt & pepper. Gradually whisk in olive oil.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

CHRISTMAS PAST

"Something about and old-fashioned Christmas is hard to forget."
~ Hugh Downs





"Like snowflakes, my Christmas memories gather and dance - each beautiful, unique and too soon gone."
~ Deborah Whipp
(web designer)

Monday, December 24, 2007

ON THIS HOLIEST of NIGHTS ~ 'Peace on earth, goodwill toward men'






NIGHTY NIGHT, 'SLEEP TIGHT', SANTA ...

"After today, I'll bet Santa takes a shovel to the reindeer stalls to fill your stocking."
~ Bill Watterson
(Calvin & Hobbes author)

SLEEP TIGHT

~ True to its name
_________

5 oz. milk
1/2 oz. honey
1 oz. Couvoisier V.S.O.P. (cognac)

Warm a coffee cup with hot water and empty. Steam milk and honey using the wand of a home espresso machine until hot and slightly frothed (or use a hand frother). Pour cognac into warmed coffee mug and top with steamed milk and a dollop of foam. (1 serving)

Sunday, December 23, 2007

HOLIDAY BRUNCH ~ CRAB & ARTICHOKE CASSEROLE / MANDARIN ALMOND SALAD

"Keep your Christmas-heart open all the year round."
~Jessica Archmint

CRAB & ARTICHOKE CASSEROLE
~ Rich 'but worth the calories' 30 year old favorite adapted from Bon Appetit/Nov 1977
____________
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3 Tbsp. minced onion
1/2 cup flour
1 quart cream
1/2 cup Madeira
1 tsp. white pepper
coarse salt
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
4 cups good lump crab meat
3 cups drained artichoke hearts
2 1/2 cups cooked penne pasta
2-3 cup grated Gruyere cheese
fresh chopped parsley
paprika
  • Preheat oven to 350-degrees. In saucepan, heat cream to boiling point.
  • Melt butter in large saute pan. Add onion to sizzling butter and saute until golden. Stir in flour and cook over low hear until flour is pale yellow. Remove from heat. Add cream and whisk vigorously. Return to moderate heat and stir until sauce comes to a boil. Reduce heat and add Madeira. Season with salt and white pepper.
  • Pour lemon juice over crab meat and toss lightly. Combine crab, artichoke hearts, cooked pasta, and sauce. Spoon in to buttered 6-quart casserole. Sprinkle with cheese. Top with chopped fresh parsley and dust with paprika.
  • Bake for 25-30 minutes or until heated through. (10-12 servings)
Note: Can make a day ahead and refrigerate. Bring to room temperature before baking.
___________
MANDARIN ALMOND SALAD
1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. fresh parsley
1/8 tsp. coarse salt
3 drops Tabasco sauce
1 Tbsp. sugar
8 cups fresh greens (Spring mix, romaine, bibb or spinach)
1 11 oz. can drained mandarin oranges
1/2 thinly sliced red onion
  • Cook almonds and 14 cup sugar in small saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly for 10 minutes or until almonds turn golden. Spread in single layer on lightly greased wax paper; cool 20 minutes and break into pieces.
  • Combine oil, vinegar, parsley salt, pepper, and sugar in jar with tight lid. Shake well and chill until ready to serve.
  • Toss together lettuce, oranges, and onion. Drizzle with dressing and top with caramelized almonds. (6 servings)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

THE GIFT ~ 'WINTER SOLSTICE' .......... GOURMET ESPRESSO DRINKS (BRANDY-RUM MOCHACCINO & GRASSHOPPER CAPPUCCINO)

"Never are voices so beautiful as on a winter's evening, when dusk almost hides the body, and they seem to issue from nothingness with a note of intimacy seldom heard by day."
~ Virginia Woolf
(Night and Day)

~ WINTER SOLSTICE (Hubbard Lake)

~ 'FATHER CHRISTMAS' (dressed for Winter)

______________________

BRANDY-RUM MOCHACCINO

~ Warm yourself on frosty winter nights with this piping hot chocolate drink compliments of Mathew Tekulsky's Making Your Own Gourmet Coffee Drinks

_______

cup of hot espresso

1 1/2 tsp. brandy

1 1/2 tsp. rum

1 12 tsp. creme de cacao

1 Tbsp. chocolate syrup

3 oz. steamed milk

1/4 cup heavy whipped cream

ground cinnamon

ground nutmeg

thin wafer garnish

  • Mix espresso, brandy, rum, creme de cacao, and chocolate syrup in a (warmed) glass.
  • Add 1 1/2 oz. steamed milk and 1 1/2 oz. milk foam. Top with whipped cream, sprinkle with cinnamon and nutmeg. Garnish with thin wafer.

________

GRASSHOPPER CAPPUCCINO

~ For the minty coffee lover from Matthew Tekulsky's

Making Your Own Gourmet Coffee Drinks

________

cup of espresso

1 1/2 tsp. creme de menthe

1 1/2 tsp. creme de cacao

3 oz. steamed milk

1/4 cup heavy whipped cream

sweetened chocolate powder

fresh mint sprig for garnish

  • Mix espresso, creme de menthe, and creme de cacao in a (warmed) glass.
  • Add 1 1/2 oz. steamed milk and 1 1/2 cup milk foam. Top with whipped cream and chocolate powder. Garnish with fresh mint sprig. (Also good over ice)



Friday, December 21, 2007

FRIDAY NIGHT SEAFOOD TREAT ~ HOLIDAY CRAB CAKES

“Let Every Day Be Christmas”

~ Norman W. Brooks

HOLIDAY CRAB CAKES

~ As an appetizer or entree, this family favorite is always a hit.

_________

1 lb. good lump crab meat

1 cup panko crumbs

2 large lightly beaten organic eggs

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

4 finely chopped green onions

1/2 diced red bell pepper

1/2 diced yellow pepper

1 Tbs. chopped green chilies

2/3 cup mayonnaise

coarse salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

2 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
Hungarian paprika
chopped green onions or chives

  • Combine all ingredients. Gently fold in crab.
  • Preheat broiler. Using scoop, drop onto Pam sprayed baking sheet. Brush with melted butter. Sprinkle with chopped green onion or chives and a dusting of Hungarian paprika.
    Broil approximately 6 minutes or until golden.


Thursday, December 20, 2007

'JOLLY OL' ST. NICHOLAS'




Jolly Ol' St. Nicholas

Jolly ol' Saint Nicholas'

lean your ear this way!

Don't you tell a single soul

what I'm going to say:

Christmas Eve is coming soon;

now, you dear old man

Whisper what you'll bring to me;

tell me if you can.

When the clock is striking twelve,

when I'm fast asleep

Down the chimney,

broad and black,

with your pack you'll creep

All the stockings you will find

hanging in a row

Mine will be the shortest one,

you'll be sure to know

Bobby wants a pair of skates,

Suzy wants a sled

Nellie wants a picture book,

yellow, blue, and red

Now I think I'll leave to you

what to give the rest

Choose for me, dear Santa Claus;

you will know the best.



Wednesday, December 19, 2007

RELAXING BREAK ~ POINTSETTIA (Cocktail) & VILLA CREEEK BLACK PEPPER SHORTBREAD

"Champagne and orange juice is a great drink. The orange improves the champagne. The champagne definitely improves the orange."
~ Philip (Duke of Edinburgh)

POINTSETTIA
~ Santa never says "NO" ...
__________

1/2 oz. Triple Sec or Cointreau

3 oz. Cranberry juice

slash of orange juice

4-5 oz. champagne

cranberries

orange slices

Add chilled Cointreau or Triple Sec to cranberry juice. Add splash of orange juice. Plop 3 cranberries in champagne glass. Fill 1/2 glass with cranberry juice mixture and slowly top with champagne. Serve with orange slice. (Can also be served over cracked ice).

_______________


VILLA CREEK BLACK PEPPER SHORTBREAD
~ Delicious treat from Tom Fundaro, chef at Villa Creek.
_________

6 ounces unsalted butter (1 ½ sticks)
¼ cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cracked black pepper
¾ teaspoon dried thyme
2 1/3 cups flour
5 tablespoons whipping cream
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Place the butter in a mixing bowl and let it stand until softened, then cut it into small pieces. Add sugar, salt, pepper and thyme to the butter, then add the flour. Using 2 knives, cut through the mixture as if making pie dough until the butter is evenly mixed and in very fine flakes. Add the cream a tablespoon at a time until the dough holds together and can be formed into a ball. Mix with a fork while adding the cream. When the dough begins to hold together, mix with your hands. You might need a little more cream, but the dough should not be moist and soggy.
  • Form the dough into a flat round and place it on a sheet of baking parchment on a work surface. With a very lightly floured rolling pin, roll the dough evenly into an 11-inch square. Press with your hands to straighten the edges, but don't worry if the square isn't perfect.The edges will brown more deeply than the remainder of the square, and can be cut away later. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into six sections from top to bottom, then cut crosswise into 8 sections, forming 48 small squares. Prick each square two or three times with the tines of a fork. Do not separate the squares.
  • Lift the parchment onto a baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Turn the baking sheet back to front halfway through the baking time. When done, remove from the oven. With a spatula, transfer the shortbreads to racks to cool. When thoroughly cool, store in an airtight container. Some outer squares may be deeply browned and slightly irregular in shape. Set these aside as treats for the cook. ( 4 dozen)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

SANTA'S FAVORITE ~ CRANBERRY CHEESECAKE with CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE

"They err who thinks Santa Claus comes down through the chimney;
he really enters through the heart."
~ Mrs. Paul M. Ell
~ Cranberries on flow blue
______________
CRANBERRY CHEESECAKE with CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE
~ One taste and you will know why this is Santa's favorite
(adapted from Bon Appetit October 1992)
_______________
CRANBERRY FILLING
1 pound fresh cranberries (4 2/3 cups)
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
CHEESE FILLING
2 pounds room temperature cream cheese
1 1/3 cups sugar
4 large organic eggs
CRUST
1 1/3 cups shortbread cookie crumbs
(homemade or store bought like Lorna Doone)
3 Tbsp. melted unsalted butter
TOPPING
2 cups sour cream
1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Cranberry Filling: Combine cranberries, sugar and fresh orange juice in heavy saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer until berries opp and mixture thickens, stirring frequently to prevent sticking, about 10 minutes. Cool completely.
  • Cheese Filling: Beat cream cheese and sugar in large bowl until well blended. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. Set aside.
  • Crust: Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly butter 9-inch springform pan with 2 3/4-inch sides. Place cookie crumbs in medium bowl. Add melted butter and blend until moist crumbs form. Press onto bottom (not sides) of prepared pan.
  • Pour cheese filling over crust in pan. Spoon 1 cup cranberry filling over cheese filling (reserve remaining cranberry filling for Cranberry Orange Compost). Using small sharp knife, swirl to form marble pattern. Bake until center of cheesecake is set, about 1 hour. Transfer cheesecake to rack and maintain oven temperature.
  • Topping: Mix sour cream, sugar and vanilla in small bowl. Gently press down any raised edges of cheesecake. Spoon topping over cake. Bake 5 minutes. Transfer cheesecake to rack and cool. Cover and refrigerate overnight. (can be prepare 2 days ahead).
  • Release pan sides. Transfer cheesecake to platter. Cut into wedges and serve passing Cranberry Orange Compote. (10-12 servings)
CRANBERRY ORANGE COMPOTE
~ Leftovers good on ice cream, pound cake or mixed in plain yogurt
__________
1 cup sugar
1/2 water
1 3/4 cups cranberry filling reserved from Cranberry Cheesecake with Cranberry Orange Compote
2 tsp. minced orange peel (orange part only)
4 large oranges
Combine sugar and water in heavy saucepan. Bring to boil, stirring until sugar dissolves and liquid appears clear. Transfer to medium bowl and mix in 1 3/4 cups reserved cranberry filling and minced orange peel. Cut peel and white pith from oranges. Working over another bowl to catch juices, cut between membranes to release segments. Add segments to bowl with juices. Add orange segments and juices to compote and serve. (4 cups)

Monday, December 17, 2007

'LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW! LET IT SNOW!'

~ Record breaking December snowfall
(Hubbard Lake)

'STOPPING BY WOODS ON A SNOWY EVENING' ~ CHOCOLATE SNOWFLAKES

"Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.
My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.
He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep."
____________
CHOCOLATE SNOWFLAKES
2 sticks softened butter
1 12 cups powdered sugar
3 tsp. vanilla
2 egg yolks
1 tsp. cream of tartar
1/2 cup finely ground almonds
1 tsp. baking soda
2 cups flour
8 oz. milk chocolate
~ additional powdered sugar
  • Preheat oven to 325-degrees.
  • In mixing bowl, combine butter & sugar; beat until creamy. Add vanilla & eggs; beat well. Add cream of tartar, almonds, and baking soda; beat well. Slowly add flour. Keep beating until well mixed. Roll dough int 1-inch balls. Tap slightly with bottom of glass to flatten. Bake for 11-13 minutes - cookies will stay light colored. Let cool on baking racks.
  • When cool, melt chocolate in microwave or in double boiler and use to frost cookie. When chocolate cools, cut out a paper snowflake or use a lacy doily and place over cookie. Sprinkle additional powdered sugar through to create snowflakes. (2 1/2 dozen)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

CLASSIC 'OLD WORLD' COOKIE ~ SPRITZGEBACKEN



~ Hamilton Wright Mabie (1845-1916)
American author, essayist and critic


~ Christmas cymbidium orchid
_______________


SPRITZGEBACKEN
(Judy O's)

1/2 pound (room temperature) unsalted butter
2 egg yolks
2 - 2 1/2 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. vanilla
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Mix all ingredients together. Be sure the butter is soft. You must mix everything by hand all at once. Fill spritz gun right immediately.
  • Bake about 10 minutes or until cookies turn light golden brown.

Monday, December 10, 2007

KEEPING CHRISTMAS 'SPIRITS' ALIVE ~ CRANBERRY VODKA & CRANBERRY SPRITZER / 'BOURSIN' PINECONE

" Christmas is a time when you get homesick -
even when you're home."

~ Carol Nelson
CRANBERRY VODKA
~ Still time to 'steep' before Christmas
_____
2 cups cranberries
2 cups vodka
lemon twist
Pour vodka over washed cranberries in clean glass jar. Cover tightly and hide in cool, dark place at least 2 weeks before serving. Serve on the rocks with twist of lemon.

______________

CRANBERRY SPRITZER

2 cups cranberry juice

1 1/2 cup chilled Sauterne

1/2 cup Triple Sec

2 cups chilled club soda

cranberries

Combine cranberry juice, Sauterne and Triple Sec. Add club soda before serving. Pour over crushed ice and a few cranberries.


'BOURSIN' PINECONE
~ Rich 'boursin cheese' topped with toasted pecans
________
Herb 'boursin' cheese
1 lb. soft cream cheese
1 stick unsalted butter
6-8 cloves crushed garlic
2 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. basil
1/2 tsp tarragon
1/2 tsp. minced chives
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. sage
1 Tbsp. cream
freshly ground cracked pepper
2 cups toasted pecans
Fresh rosemary sprigs
  • Combine thoroughly in blender or food processor. Shape into oval. Chill 2 hours.
  • Beginning at bottom, work upward arranging pecan halves over herb cheese in overlapping rows. Artistically arrange rosemary sprigs at top to resemble pinecone. Serve with favorite crisp crackers.

THE FLOWER of CHRISTMAS ~ POINSETTIA

"The only real blind person at Christmas-time
is he who has not Christmas in his heart."
~ Helen Keller
~ 'Winter Rose' poinsettia

Sunday, December 09, 2007

SUNDAY NIGHT HOLIDAY SUPPER ~ BEEF TENDERLOIN with BLUE CHEESE PEPPERCORN BUTTER

POINTSETTIA HISTORY & LORE



~ Poinsettia

_________________


BEEF TENDERLOIN with BLUE CHEESE-PEPPERCORN BUTTER

~ 20 year old holiday favorite adapted from Bon Appetit (Dec 1987)
_________

1 32-oz. center cut well-trimmed tenderloin
2 snipped fresh rosemary springs or 1 tsp. dried
4 snipped sprigs fresh thyme or 2 tsp. dried
2 bay leaves
2 cloves crushed garlic
1/4 cup dry red wine
3 Tbsp. Pickapeppa sauce
3 Tbsp. Tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. crushed whole pink peppercorns
1 tsp. crushed whole white peppercorns
1 tsp. crushed whole black peppercorns
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley sprigs
Butter
1/2 cup room-temperature unsalted butter
1/4 pound crumbled blue cheese
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp. crushed mixture of peppercorns
(pink, white & black)
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice and zest
1 minced small garlic clove
1/8 tsp. dried crumbled tarragon


  • Combine chopped thyme, rosemary, bay leaves and garlic with red wine, Pickapeppa sauce, soy and peppercorns. Slowly whisk in 1/2 cup olive oil. Pour over tenderloin, turning to coat. Refreigerate 4 hours or overnight.
  • Blend all ingredients for butter. Transfer to bowl and refrigerate. (Can be made ahead).
  • Preheat oven to 475-degrees. Drain tenderloin and pat dry. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in heavy ovenproof skillet (like cast iron) over high heat (almost smoking). Add tenderloin and brownn on all sides, about 3 minutes.
  • Place skillet in oven and cook tenderloin until thermometer inserted in thickest part registers 120-degress for rare, about 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let stand 5 minutes.
  • Cut into 8 thick slices. Place 2 on each plate. Top with blue cheese butter. Garnish with parsley sprigs and serve with roasted new potatoes, buttered haricots verts (thin french green beans), crisp salad, and full-bodied Cabernet or Pinot Noir. (4 servings)

Friday, December 07, 2007

FRIDAY NIGHT FISH FEAST ~ HERB CRUSTED CRANBERRY/CHERRY SALMON & ROASTED ROSEMARY POTATOES

~ Gone fishin'
____________
HERB CRUSTED CRANBERRY/CHERRY SALMON
~ Delicious meld of herbs, tart cranberries, lemon & sweet dried cherries make this crunchy festive salmon memorable.
_____
1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillet
1/2 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped dried cherries (or cranberries)
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried
1 Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup panko crumbs
zest of 1 fresh lemon
3 Tbsp. melted butter
sea salt & freshly cracked pepper
  • Preheat oven to 375-degrees.
  • Rinse and pat salmon dry. Place skin side down on foil lined baking sheet sprayed with Pam. Season with salt & pepper.
  • Combine chopped cranberries, cherries, onion, thyme, rosemary, lemon zest, and panko crumbs. Blend in 2 Tbsp. melted butter.
  • Pat mixture evenly over salmon. Drizzle with remaining butter.
  • Pop in oven and bake for 20 minutes or until salmon is opaque in center. (4 servings) Delicious served with wedges of roasted rosemary potatoes, fingerlings, or a simple baked sweet potato.

__________

ROASTED ROSEMARY POTATOES


2 large red skin potatoes
2 large black potatoes
2 large sweet potatoes
extra-virgin olive oil
3 heaping Tbsp. chopped fresh rosemary or to taste
coarse salt & freshly cracked pepper

Slice potatoes in wedges. Coat with olive oil. Place in ovenproof pan or iron skillet. Sprinklewith rosemary, cracked pepper and coarse salt. Bake in 450 degree oven 45 minutes or until roasted.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

DREAM DESSERT ~ CHRISTMAS CAPPUCCHINO MOUSSE

"I could give up chocolate but I'm not a quitter.'
~ Author Unknown

~ Chocolate Moose
________________
CHRISTMAS CAPPUCCINO MOUSSE
~ Decadent & delicious
__
1 1/2 cups whipping cream
4 large organic eggs
8 oz. chopped good bittersweet chocolate
4 tsp. instant espresso powder
1/8 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
Unsweetened whipped cream
chopped chocolate covered espresso beans (Trader Joe's)
fresh mint sprigs
fresh cranberries
  • Separate whites from egg yolks. Let stand at room temperature.
  • Whisk 1/4 cup cream and eggs yolks in saucepan. Set over low heat and cook, whisking constantly for 2 minutes or until mixture thickens. Add chocolate & espresso powder; stir until smooth. Remove from heat.
  • In large bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar and continue to whisk until whites begin to mound. Gradually add sugar, whisking constantly until stiff peaks form. Fold chocolate mixture into whites, blending well.
  • In chilled bowl, whip remaining 1 1/4 cups whipping cream to soft peaks. Whisk in vanilla extract. Fold whipped cream into chocolate mixture until barely blended (note visible streaks of white).
  • Spoon into individual mousse dishes or glass 6-cup serving bowl. Cover carefully with plastic wrap to avoid marring surface. Chill until set.
  • Spoon mousse from large bowl onto desert plates. Garnish with dollop of whipped cream and sprinkle with chopped chocolate espresso beans. Arrange mint leaves on side with 3 cranberries to resemble holly and serve immediately. (6-8 servings)

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"BABY, IT'S COLD OUTSIDE!" ~ CREAM of WILD MUSHROOM & LEEK SOUP

~ Magical talking tree

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CREAM of WILD MUSHROOM & LEEK SOUP

~ Curl up by the fire and enjoy this earthy soup.

*

3 cups fresh assorted sliced wild mushrooms ( shiitaki, portobello, baby portobello, chanterelles, cremini, oyster, morels, etc.)

1 cup sliced domestic mushrooms

1/2 lb. sweet butter

1 bunch cleaned, trimmed of tops, and julienned leeks

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 finely chopped red pepper

3 additional Tbsp. sweet butter

1/4 cup flour

6 cups organic chicken stock

2 cups heavy cream or half & half

3 Tbsp. sherry or Madeira

1 Tbsp. chopped thyme

coarse salt & freshly ground pepper

chopped green onion or fresh chives for garnish

  • Melt butter in large stockpot and saute leeks and garlic until translucent. Add red pepper and mushrooms. Saute 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Melt remaining 3 Tbsp. butter in saucepan. Add flour and whisk constantly to achieve a light brown roux. Slowly add 2 cups chicken stock, stirring constantly until thickened.
  • Add remaining chicken stock to sauteed mushrooms and leek mixture. Whisk in roux and cream. Simmer until heated through. Add sherry (Madeira) and thyme, adjusting seasonings to taste with salt & pepper. Serve hot, garnished with chopped green onions or chives. (Serves 6-8)


Sunday, December 02, 2007

SEASONAL SUNDAY NIGHT SUPPER ~ DUCK BREAST FAISINJAN / WINTER SALAD of GRAPEFRUIT, FENNEL & WATERCRESS


~ Virgin snow
(Hubbard Lake)
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DUCK BREAST FAISINJAN
~ Rich in antioxidants, pomegranates make this favorite classic Persian recipe from The Creative Cook well worth the effort.
*
4 pomegranates
juice of 1 large lemon
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar or honey
coarse salt & freshly ground back pepper
4 boned duck breast halves
1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 minced onion
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • Have the pomegranates and scoop the seeds into a food processor, reserving 2-3 Tbsp. Blend briefly and then press through a strainer.
  • Put juice into a pan and add half its volume of water, the lemon juice, sugar, and season. Bring to a boil and simmer gently about 20 minutes. Cool
  • Prepare duck breasts by making several diagonal cuts through the fat to the meat. Put breast in bowl and pour over the cooled pomegranate mixture. stir well, cover and let marinate 2-3 hours.
  • Preheat broiler. Drain duck breasts, reserving marinade. Pat breast dry and broil skin-side up until well browned, 5-8 minutes. Turn and cook the other side in the same way. (duck is best served fairly pink; if you prefer it well done, reduce heat and cook another 10 minutes or so.)
  • While duck is cooking, heat oil in saucepan over medium and add the onion and walnuts. Cook until onion is soft, 2-3 minutes. Add the pomegranate mixture to the saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer about 5 minutes. Adjust the seasons and the sweet & sour balance with more lemon juice or sugar.
  • Serve duck thickly sliced, sprinkled with the reserved seeds. Pass the sauce separately. (4 servings)
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WINTER SALAD of GRAPEFRUIT, FENNEL & WATERCRESS
~ From Pamela Morgan's FLAVORS, comes this tasty winter salad perfect for peak grapefruit season.
*
3 medium ruby red grapefruits
2 medium bunches trimmed watercress
1 medium very thinly sliced fennel bulb
1 thinly sliced small red onion
freshly ground black pepper
  • With serrated knife, cut a thick slice from top and bottom of each grapefruit. One at a time, set the grapefruits on a cutting board and slice downward, following the curve of the fruit, removing the bitter white pit and the peel, leaving as much fruit behind as possible.Cut between segment dividers to remove the fruit sections.
  • Divide the watercress among 6 chilled salad plates. Mound the fennel and onion atop the watercress. Arrange the grapefruit segments over the salads. Lightly dress with Poppy Seed Dressing and cracked pepper.
POPPY SEED DRESSING
3 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp. honey
1-2 Tbsp. grated mild onion
1/4 tsp. coarse salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 cup corn oil
1 tsp. poppy seeds
Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, honey, salt & pepper. Whisk in oil in a slow, steady stream; the dressing will thicken. Stir in poppy seeds. Adjust seasonings.

DECEMBER SONG ~ "To everything there is a season"

~ Transition (snowy leaves)
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To Everything There Is a Season
To everything there is a season,
a time for every purpose under the sun.
A time to be born and a time to die;
a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
a time to kill and a time to heal ...
a time to weep and a time to laugh;
time to mourn and a time to dance ...
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to lose and a time to seek;
a time to rend and a time to sew;
a time to keep silent and a time to speak;
a time to love and a time to hate;
a time for war and a time for peace.
~ Ecclesiastics 3:1-8