Friday, December 31, 2010

A Thought for 2011

As we get ready for the New Year, here's a thought we're going to live by in 2011:

"One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
Viriginia Woolf, A Room of One's Own

Here's to the most beautiful year you can have!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels

These were a hit at my parents' house on Christmas night. You should make them for your New Year's Eve soiree....

Parmesan Scallion Pinwheels
From Real Simple.
Makes about 20 appetizers.

1 sheet frozen puff pastry (from a 17.25-ounce box), thawed
1 large egg, beaten
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan (1 1⁄2 ounces)
kosher salt and black pepper

Heat oven to 400° F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or your trusty Silpat.

Unfold the pastry and brush with the egg. Sprinkle with the scallions, ¼ cup of the Parmesan, ¼ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon pepper. Roll tightly into a log. Freeze until firm but still sliceable, about 20 minutes.

Slice the log into ¼-inch-thick rounds and place on the prepared baking sheet. Sprinkle with the remaining 2 tablespoons of Parmesan and bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes.

Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pomegranate Gin Sling

For some reason, in our world, Thanksgiving is about eating and Christmas is about drinking. Our holiday meal is simple roast tenderloin with the regular acoutrements (including a really nice Cabernet). During the cocktail hour(s) beforehand, as we open presents and rifle through stockings, we partake of lots of little nibbles and a special cocktail or two. Here's one that's just the ticket.

Pomegranate Gin Sling
Makes two cocktails.

1/4 cup gin
1/4 cup pomegranate juice, chilled
1 tablespoon simple syrup
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
12 pomegranate seeds
2 lime slices

Combine fist 4 ingredients in an ice-filled cocktail shaker; strain even portions into two chilled cocktail glasses. Garnish with the pomegranate seeds and lime slices.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies

Need a quick dessert? Something for the kids' holiday party? Gift for the neighbors? Here you go. This EASY recipe does all that and more. Santa would be quite satisfied with a plate of these spicy rich goodies as he works Christmas Eve.

(Note: The glaze/frosting is delicious, but it's gilding the lily. These cookies are delicious without it.)

Chai Tea Eggnog Cookies
From Southern Living.
Makes 2 dozen cookies

1 chai tea bag
1 (17.5-oz.) package sugar cookie mix
1/2 cup melted butter
1 large egg
4 tablespoons eggnog, divided
Parchment paper
Cinnamon sugar
1 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350°. Remove tea leaves from tea bag; discard bag.

Stir together tea leaves, cookie mix, butter, egg, and 2 tablespoons eggnog until well blended.

Drop dough by tablespoonfuls onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Flatten dough slightly with bottom of a glass dipped in cinnamon sugar. (Note: I pressed the cookies down with a glass I sprayed with cooking spray, then sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on.)

Bake at 350° for 8 to 10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from baking sheet to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 10 minutes).

Whisk together powdered sugar, nutmeg, and remaining 2 Tbsp. eggnog until smooth. Spoon over cooled cookies.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Chicken-White Bean Chili

I made this for a potluck at work today and was reminded how delicious it is. Might be just the ticket for your Christmas Eve...

Martina's Bus Stop White Chili
Adapted from a recipe from People magazine.
(I've made a few adjustments to kick up the spice and make it a little thicker.)

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2-14 1/2 ounce cans chicken broth
1 tablespoon garlic pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil
4-15 ounce cans great northern beans
2-4 1/2 ounce cans chopped green chiles
1 can cream of chicken soup
Half of a 7 ounce can of pickled jalapeno peppers

For garnish: minced cilantro, sour cream, tortilla chips and grated cheese

Put chicken in a glass baking dish, pour in both cans of chicken broth, and cover with aluminum foil. Bake in a 350° oven for one hour. Remove chicken and reserve broth.

Cut chicken into small pieces and season with garlic pepper. Heat olive oil in stock pot and sauté chicken for 2-3 minutes.

Puree jalapeno peppers, with juice, and set aside. (If you want your chili super thick, at this point, also drain and rinse one or more of the cans of white beans.)

Add reserved broth, beans, chiles, cream of chicken soup, and pureed jalapenos to stock pot. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Cocktail of the Week (Part 2): Cranberry Daiquiri

This recipe is from the great book Mix Shake Stir, a collection of cocktails from acclaimed chef Danny Meyer's New York restaurants. The book says this is Gramercy Tavern's all-time best-selling cocktail. It's gonna be perfect as we celebrate Christmas Eve.

Cranberry Daiquiri
Makes 1 cocktail.

1 1/2 tablespoons Drunken Cranberries, plus 1 ounce of their liquid (I posted the recipe for Drunken Cranberries yesterday.)
Crushed ice
Ice cubes
2 ounces dark rum
1 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice

Thread 1/2 tablespoon cranberries onto a small skewer; set aside. Place a small amount of crushed ice in a chilled martini glass. Add remaining tablespoon cranberries; set aside.

Fill a cocktail shaker with ice cubes. Add rum, cranberry liquid, and lime juice. Cover and shake vigorously to combine; strain into prepared glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries and serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cocktail of the Week (Part 1): Drunken Cranberries

I think I have found this year's Christmas Eve cocktail. This one will be delicious with our traditional Tex-Mex feast. And two bonuses: It will use up a few of the cranberries I have leftover from Turkey Day and will look beautiful in our red martini glasses.

This is the glorified simple syrup that is the basis for the drink. I'll post the recipe for the cocktail itself tomorrow.

Drunken Cranberries
Makes about 3 cups.

1 1/2 cups Simple Syrup
2 sticks cinnamon
Zest from 1 large orange
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups white rum, such as Bacardi Silver

In a large saucepan, combine simple syrup, cinnamon, and orange zest. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; add cranberries. Cook until cranberries just begin to pop and skins begin to split, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Strain liquid into a large container. Discard cinnamon and orange zest; add cranberries to liquid, along with rum. If cranberries are not fully submerged in liquid, add equal parts simple syrup and rum until they are completely covered. Let cool completely.

Cover, and transfer to refrigerator until chilled, at least 2 hours and up to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

You're up to your eyeballs in homemade gift making, present wrapping, tree trimming and overall decking of the halls. Doesn't mean you can't make a delicious meal quickly. Skip the fast food and make this tasty, tasty salmon dish. Instant rice pilaf and frozen broccoli on the side...voila!

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
Makes 4 servings.
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light.

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick)
Cooking spray
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 425°.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Remove from heat.

Place fish on a foil-lined jelly roll pan coated with cooking spray; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425° for 15-18 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Wrapping Tip of the Century

This post is only one tip because it is so brilliant. (And so simple when you think about it...)

Slit an empty cardboard paper towel tube up one side. Use it as a protective sleeve on your gift wrap to keep it from being torn or frayed.

Good one, huh?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Slow Cooker Chinese Barbecued Pork Roast

I posted a great Mexican-spiced marinade for a pork shoulder roast a week or so ago. Here's the Asian version. And it goes in the slow cooker, so perfect for a weeknight meal.

Slow Cooker Chinese Barbecued Pork Roast
Makes 8 servings.
From Cooking Light magazine.

1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup hoisin sauce
3 tablespoons ketchup
3 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon dark sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon five-spice powder
2 pounds boneless Boston butt pork roast, trimmed
1/2 cup fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth

Combine first 8 ingredients in a small bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Place in a large zip-top plastic bag. Add pork to bag; seal. Marinate in refrigerator at least 2 hours, turning occasionally.

Place pork and marinade in an electric slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.

Remove pork from slow cooker using a slotted spoon; place on a cutting board or work surface. Cover with aluminum foil; keep warm.

Add broth to sauce in slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for 30 minutes or until sauce thickens. Shred pork with 2 forks; serve with sauce.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake

I made this delicious cake as a part of the cornucopia of desserts we had to cap our Thanksgiving meal this year. It was delicious and fit right in to the Turkey Day theme...cranberries galore!

But I think it's an even better choice for your Christmas feast. It's a great stand-in for fruitcake...the same nutty, spicy flavor without the gloppy fruit. And the five spice powder take it past the "traditional" spice cake.

Spiced Cranberry Bundt Cake
Makes 12-14 servings.
From Bon Appetit.

2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour or almond meal (about 2 1/2 ounces)
2 1/2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 cup plain reduced-fat (2%) Greek-style yogurt
1 cup chopped toasted almonds
1 cup halved fresh or frozen cranberries (do not thaw)
1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries

2/3 cup powdered sugar
4 teaspoons (about) orange juice

For cake:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

Butter and flour 12-cup Bundt pan.

Whisk first 8 ingredients in medium bowl to blend.

Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add both sugars and beat until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating 1 minute after each addition. Beat in vanilla extract, then Greek-style yogurt.

Add dry ingredients; beat just until blended. Fold in almonds and all cranberries. Transfer batter to prepared Bundt pan.

Bake cake until tester inserted near center comes out clean, about 1 hour 10 minutes. Cool cake in pan 10 minutes. Turn cake out onto rack and cool completely.

For icing:
Stir powdered sugar and 2 teaspoons orange juice in small bowl until sugar dissolves. Mix in more juice by 1/2 teaspoonfuls to reach consistency of heavy cream. Spoon icing over cake, allowing it to drip down sides. Let stand until icing sets, at least 30 minutes.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

OK...with the "milk wars" going on, (99 cents a gallon here in Dallas right now) you should be making homemade ricotta instead of buying it in those plastic tubs at the grocery store. Saves some money and much better (non-chemicalized) anyway.

Once you have your finished project, toss it with some pasta and fresh herbs, use it in your favorite lasagna, stuff a chicken breast before baking, or just stir in a few herbs and spread on a cracker for a quick cocktail hour snack.

Homemade Ricotta Cheese

4 cups whole milk
2 cups heavy cream (or half and half or even more milk)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons good-quality white wine vinegar

Pour the milk and cream into a stainless steel pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in the vinegar.

Allow the mixture to stand for 1 minute until it curdles. It will separate into thick curds and the thin whey.

Pour mixture into a sieve lined with 2 layers of cheesecloth over a deep bowl. Allow to drain at room temperature for 20 to 25 minutes, discarding the accumulated liquid as you need to. (The longer the ricotta drains, the thicker it will be, so adjust time according to your final needs and preference.)

Transfer to a bowl and use immediately or cover with plastic wrap.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Mojo Marinade

Living in Texas, I'm lucky enough to live down the street from not one, but several Hispanic groceries. And tamales are a mainstay at this time of year. (We'll be ordering and devouring several dozen when the family comes over for Christmas...) What goes into tamales? Pork shoulder. And thanks to some practice, I have learned how to nail a braised pork shoulder.

Whatever the seasoning, the technique is the same. Marinate if you'd like (more on that in a second). Score the skin and fat in a diamond pattern. Bake at 400° for 45 minutes to get the skin brown and crispy. Add a bit of liquid if it needs, apple juice and chicken broth are all good choices. Cover and braise at 300° until internal temperature is 180°. (That will take about 4 hours for a 7 pound roast.) The pork will fall off the bone. You can pull it apart and serve as roast, in tacos or on a bun. You'll love it.

As for the marinade, lots of options here too. How about garlic pepper and oregano for Italian style. BBQ rub for authentic pulled pork. Or mojo for a truly Latin twist. Again, thanks to the neighborhood carniceria, I can buy this bottled, but why not make it from scratch. Even more delicious...

(You can use this on chicken and beef for a mean fajita as well.)

Mojo Marinade

1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon ground cumin
30 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups fresh orange juice
2 cups fresh lime juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Purée oregano, cumin, garlic, and 2 tbsp. orange juice in a food processor. Season with salt and pepper. Add remaining orange juice and lime juice and stir to combine.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Red Pepper Feta Dip

Ironically, as I post this, I am watching a DVR'd episode of Iron Chef America with secret ingredient bell pepper. So far, neither competitor has made this dip. But they should. It's delicious.

And it's a great one for the holidays. Easy enough to whip together at the last minute. With festive red color to boot.

Red Pepper Feta Dip
Makes one cup.

2 roasted red peppers (from a jar), drained and chopped
6 ounces feta cheese
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Puree all ingredients in a food processor. Serve with toasted pita wedges and fresh vegetables.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Eggnog Pound Cake

Need an easy Christmasy dessert? Here you go.

Eggnog Pound Cake
From Southern Living.
Makes twelve servings.

1 (16-oz.) package pound cake mix
1 1/4 cups eggnog
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350°. Beat all ingredients together at low speed with an electric mixer until blended. Increase speed to medium, and beat 2 minutes. Pour into a lightly greased 9- x 5-inch loaf pan. (Or use a different pan and cook according to pound cake mix box directions. I used a holiday style Bundt pan.)

Bake at 350° for 1 hour to 1 hour and 5 minutes or until a long wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on a wire rack 10 minutes. Remove from pan to wire rack, and cool completely (about 1 hour). (I dusted mine with powdered sugar before servings.)

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Happy Birthday! A Dr Pepper Cocktail

It's a magical day for us Texas folk. Dr Pepper, that luscious nectar I grew up on, was patented 125 years ago today. Since I didn't get to make these delicious-sounding Dr Pepper-braised short ribs from Dean Fearing, I'll mix up this yummy cocktail and raise a glass. Maybe I'll even raise one at 10, 2 AND 4.

Dr Pepper Cocktail
Makes one cocktail.

3 ounces Dr Pepper
2 ounces vodka
1 1/2 ounces triple sec

Mis all ingredients in an ice-filled Collins glass.