Friday, December 30, 2011

Why Black-Eyed Peas?

Most of us, especially my fellow Southern brethren, will dutifully fix our batch of black-eyed peas for New Year's Day. We've been taught they bring us good luck. But do we know why?

Southern Living says that the tradition dates back to the Civil War. After Union troops retreated from the South after much destruction, only black-eyed peas and greens were serve as animal fodder. Rich in nutrients, these humble foods allowed Southerners to survive.

This idea of family and friends coming together gratefully to look forward hopefully to a New Year continues as we count down to 2012.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Year's Sparklers: Bubblies to Buy

Recently, The Dallas Morning News' wine panel ran a list of the best wines they've tasted over the last five years.  I was thrilled to see them include several that I consider "house wines."

Early in my wine drinking career, I was mistaken to believe (as many are wont to do) that the only good sparkling wines were Champagnes.  So I dutifully bought Moet and Veuve Cliqout for celebratory occasions.  And I loved them.  But I quickly learned two things.  First...bubbly isn't just for special occasions.  And that there were lots of sparkling wines from around the world that are delicious.  And, since I decided that bubbly was a perfect drink for almost everyday imbibing, that, luckily, a lot of them are quite affordable.

And that brings us back to the list.  Two of my favorites were there.
  • Segura Viudas Reserve Heredad Cava: This one runs about $18.  It's crisp and packed with effervescence.  No skimping on the bubbles here.  It's a great gift also...the pewter-trimmed bottle looks like you spent a lot more than you really did. (There's also another version by this winery that costs about $10.  It's perfect for parties where you'll be pouring quite a bit.)
  • Lucien Albresht Cremant d'Alsace:  This one is French, but not a true Champagne.  For me, its name belies its best quality.  It's creamy.  Perfect to sip alone, but also great paired with just about anything you throw at it. It also costs right at $20.
Here are a couple more I love:
  • Gruet Brut: Also a bargain at around $15, I might make too much of the fact that it's made in New Mexico, but I think this one is wonderful with spicy foods.
  • Schramsberg: On our Napa pilgrimage, the other half and I fell in love with this winery and all their offerings.  As a part of their wine club, we get some of their great $100 bottles and cellar them for very special occasions.  But it's well worth the splurge to find one of their $40 bottlings to raise a toast to 2012.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Eggnog Pound Cake

Worried about what you're putting out for Santa tonight?  (OK...that doesn't sound right.  Anyway...)

Here's an easy delicious snack that you can share...just make sure and save about half a loaf pan for yourself.  You'll thank me later.

Eggnog Pound Cake
Makes 12 servings.
From Southern Living.

1 (16-ounce) 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.

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).

Friday, December 23, 2011

Countdown to Christmas: Gingerbread Party Mix

Oh, crap.  Your next door neighbor just delivered a bourbon-soaked fruitcake as a holiday gift.  They weren't on your list...after all, that legal wrangle about where the fence should go have made things a little (ahem) uncomfortable.  No's the gift you can give back...if you're so inclined.

A quick trip to the grocery store and a raid of your spice cabinet will bear delicious results.  Oh...and you can make it for people you actually like as well.

Gingerbread Party Mix
Makes about 7 cups.  (But make several batches and put in cool tins to share.  The boxes of cereal make 2-3 batches.)

3 cups Cinnamon Chex cereal

3 cups Rice Chex cereal
1 ½ cups cinnamon graham snacks
6 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped (Hint: Buy this in bulk at your gourmet market and save some bucks.)
¼ cup white vanilla baking chips

In a large microwavable bowl, add cereals and graham snacks; set aside. In small microwavable bowl, microwave butter uncovered on high 40 seconds or until melted. Stir in cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and vanilla until blended. Pour over cereal and stir until coated.

Microwave uncovered on high 5 minutes, stirring every 2 minutes. Stir in ginger until blended. Spread mixture onto paper towels. In small microwavable cup, microwave vanilla baking chips uncovered on high 1 minute, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted. Drizzle over snack; let stand until set. Store in airtight container.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Cocktail of the Week: Cranberry-Walnut Martini

This is the PERFECT after-dinner drink for Christmas Eve or Christmas night.  Sweet and nutty (just like me), it's sure to go great with whatever dessert you're serving.  Or it could be dessert itself. 

Don't skip the rosemary/cranberry garnish.  It makes it even more festive. you're doing your final shopping tomorrow, hit the liquor store and buy some Nocello.  You already have vodka, right?

Cranberry-Walnut Martini
Makes one cocktail.

2 1/2 ounces vodka, preferably Ketel One

2 ounces walnut liqueur, preferably Nocello
3 fresh cranberries
1 sprig rosemary
1 walnut half, toasted

Combine the vodka and walnut liqueur in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.

Thread the cranberries onto the rosemary sprig and place in the glass. Garnish with the walnut.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Chocolate Crackled Cookies

This is one of the several cookies that went on the plates of goodies I shared with co-workers today.

Chocolate Cracked Cookies
Makes 3 dozen.

1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup shortening
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Beat brown sugar, shortening and vanilla in large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until well-blended. Add eggs; beat until fluffy.

Stir together flour, cocoa, salt and baking soda.  Gradually add to shortening mixture, beating at medium speed until just blended.  Stir in chocolate chips. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

Preheat oven to 375°.  Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls.  Roll in sugar, then in powdered sugar to coat completely.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 8-10 minutes until set.  Cool completely.Dust with additional powdered sugar if desired.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet Potato Pancakes

Hanukkah begins at sundown tonight, and while I'm not sure this recipe is "kosher," I think it's a great way for us Southern Gentiles to pay tribute to our Jewish brethren.  (Oh...and yes, you can still serve them with sour cream and applesauce.  Delish.)

Sweet Potato Pancakes
From Everyday Food.
Makes 4-6 servings.

1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely grated
3 scallions, finely chopped
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup flour
3/4 cup canola oil

Combine grated potatoes, scallions, eggs, flour and a pinch each of salt and pepper.

Heat oil in a skillet over medium-heat until hot.  Using a 1/3 cup measure, scoop mixture and press into a 1/2 inch cake with hands.  Place in skillet and cook until golden brown, about 4 minutes on each side. 

Transfer to a paper towel-line plate, sprinkle with salt and keep warm.

Repeat until all cakes are finished.  Serve with sour cream and/or applesauce if desired.

(Note:  I am going to kick this delicious twist on latkes us a notch next time.  Add smoked paprika.  Or cumin.  Or curry powder.  Or maybe a spoonful of adobo sauce.  You get my drift.)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Gift Ideas: Great Cookbooks I am a little late in posting this, but I'm betting with the magic of and overnight shipping, you could still manage to have some of these in stockings and under the tree.  Some I have and some I don't...but have added to my wish list.

Ad Hoc at Home by Thomas Keller
You won't be making French Laundry recipes out of this one...thank goodness. But there's lots of tips and delicious recipes, included poached salmon, creamed summer corn and buttermilk biscuits.

Think Like a Chef by Tom Colicchio
I want this one for sure.  I am a big fan of Colicchio--both from Top Chef--and his restaurants.  His philosophy of cooking seasonal local ingredients with exacting technique is here on the page for the rest of us to learn.

Bill Neal's Southern Cooking
I'm a fan of the Lee Brothers and have several of their cookbooks. But I want this one also....especially since it includes recipes for Hoppin' John and Natchitoches Meat Pies.

How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman
I hate to say it, but I find Bittman's tv show painful.  But I have loved his New York Times columns and love this cookbook also.  Lots to experiment with here....not just American classics like mac and cheese and pot roast, but also forays into Italian, Asian and French cooking.

Martha Stewart's Cooking School
I have reviewed this one before, but it bears repeating.  This tome is a must in every kitchen...not only is it perfect for the new cook, but also an encyclopedia for those of us who think we know what we're doing, but need a refresher every now and then.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Here's a cookie that Santa would love to get on Christmas Eve.  And they are so easy to make (honestly, the hardest thing about the recipe is unwrapping the Hershey Kisses) that you might as well make a whole bunch for neighbors, coworkers and the kids' teachers.

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies
Makes 2 dozen cookies.

1 cup peanut butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
24 Hershey Kisses

In a large bowl, cream the peanut butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Add the egg and vanilla; beat until ingredients are blended.

Roll into 1 1/4-inch balls.  Place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets.  Bake at 350° for 10-12 minutes or until tops are slightly cracked. 

Immediately press one chocolate kiss into the center of each cookie.  Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks to cool completely.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cocktail of the Week: St. Germain Fizz

Still looking for the perfect grown-up cocktail for Christmas and beyond?  This one should definitely be in the running....

St. Germain Fizz
Makes one cocktail.

2 ounces vodka
1 1/2 ounces St. Germain elderflower liqueur
1 ounce fresh lemon juice
1 egg white
pinch of salt
Barspoon of superfine sugar
1 ounce club soda

Combine all ingredients except for club soda in a cocktail shaker (no ice yet) and shake vigorously.  Add ice and club soda and shake again.  Strain into a chilled cocktail glass.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Holiday Gifts: Garlic Confit

Here's a lovely homemade gift for the foodie in your life.  The garlic is delicious spread on bread or slipped under chicken skin before roasting.  The flavored oil can be drizzled over steamed vegetables or used as the base for a flavoful vinaigrette.  Make sure you let the recipient know all this when you label it.  Pair it with a loaf of good bread and/or a bottle of rich Pinot Gris.

Oh...and make enough to keep in your own pantry as well.  It can be refrigerated up to 4 months.

Garlic Confit
Makes about 3 cups.

2 cups peeled garlic cloves (about 6 heads)
6 thyme sprigs
3 bay leaves
3 dried red chiles
2 cups olive oil

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and simmer over very low heat until the garlic is tender about 30 minutes.  Watch carefully and do NOT let the garlic brown.

Let cool and transfer to three 1/2 pint canning jars, distributing garlic, spices and oil equally.  Seal and refrigerate for up to 4 months.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Chicken Tikka Masala

You can't forget dinner even as you're rushing around prepping for the holidays.  Here's a fairly simple dish that's packed with flavor.  Visit your market and buy the spices in bulk.  My bet is on you loving this recipe so set aside enough in jars or tins to make again.  (And you should always have cumin and turmeric on hand anyway, in my humble opinion.)

Chickeb Tikka Masala
Makes four generous servings.

8 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (I used plain old bone-in, skin-on thighs when I made it.)
2 garlic cloves
1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 fresh hot red chili, seeded
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
5 tablespoons olive oil, divided use.
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/4 cups cream (half and half and milk work well also)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper

Place the chicken in a shallow dish in a single layer.  Puree the garlic, ginger, lime juice, chili, cilantro and 1 tablespoon oil in a food processor.  Spread over the chicken and cover.  Refrigerate for 2-8 hours.

Heat two tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Add the diced onion and cook for 4 minutes; do not let onion brown.  Stir in the turmeric and cumin and cook for 30 seconds.  Remove from the heat.

In a separate saute pan, heat the remaining two tablespoons oil over medium-high heat.  Remove the chicken from the marinade, reserving the marinade, and cook, in batches, for 2-3 minutes on each side until just barely browned.  Repeat until all chicken has been browned.

Pour pan drippings into onion mixture.  Add reserved marinade as well.  Stir in the cream/milk, tomato paste and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil over high heat stirring often.

Pour sauce into baking dish.  Nestle chicken thighs in sauce and bake in a preheated 350° oven for 15-20 minutes until chicken is cooked through.

Serve with steamed rice and a sprinkle of cilantro to garnish.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Microwave Peanut Brittle

When the other half looks at you a half hour before bed and says, "I need something sweet before I go upstairs," this is the recipe to go to.  And it's also a recipe you should use to make all those homemade gifts for neighbors and work colleagues that you have on the list.

Microwave Peanut Brittle

(Note: You may have to adjust cooking times depending on the power of your microwave. Watch your first batch carefully and record those times for future cooking.)

In a large bowl, combine 1 cup sugar and 1/4 cup light corn syrup.

Microwave for four minutes.

Add one cup peanuts (or substitute pecans or almonds) and 1/8 teaspoon salt.

Microwave for another four minutes.

Mix in 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon butter.

Microwave for one to two minutes.

Add 1 teaspoon baking soda. Stir until frothy. Working quickly, pour onto a buttered or parchment-lined (a Silpat also works nicely) cookie sheet. Spread by shaking pan or with offset spatula. (Take care not to flatten the bubbles.)

Allow to cool completely and then break into pieces.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cocktail (Book) of the Week: See Mix Drink

By now, you're probably making your list and checking it twice.  Here's a great gift for the budding bartender out there. 

Brian Murphy has created a primer for mixology.  Color-coded ingredients, line drawings of the proper glassware, and a pie chart illustrating the drink's ingredients by volume mean you can make any one of 100 popular cocktails with the greatest of ease.

Make sure and buy one for yourself as well of course....

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Greek Skewers

Here's an easy appetizer for that holiday shindig you have in the works.

Greek Skewers

Cucumber, seeded and sliced
Pitted kalamata olives
Cherry tomatoes
Feta cheese, cut into 1 inch cubes
Good-quality olive oil

Thread the cucumber, olives, tomatoes, and feta on 6-inch bamboo skewers. 

Place on a platter and drizzle with olive oil.  Finish things off with a sprinkle of oregano.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Tip for Making Candy

Lots of folks make candy at this time of the year.  I'm no different and in a couple of days, I'll be posting a great recipe for microwave peanut brittle.

In the meantime, here's a list of reminders to help you make sweet treats successfully.
  • Rain, rain, go away.  Don't try and make candy on an overly humid day.  Wait until it's dry outside and your kitchen is right at 70 degrees.
  • Read through the recipe several times before you start.  Candy can go downhill quickly, and you don't want to be reading instructions while your brittle is hardening (ruining) in the bowl.
  • NO SUBSTITUTIONS.  This is not the time to try and save calories or fat grams.  Use exactly what the recipe calls for, including sugar, butter and heavy cream.
  • This stuff can be dangerous.  I have never had a burn worse than the time I dropped hot sugar syrup on my thumb.  Be very careful...and this is probably not a time to have little kids help you in the kitchen.
What candymaking tips would you add?

Friday, December 09, 2011

(Another) Cocktail of the Week: Apple-Rye Sour

Here's yet one more grown-up/shaken/martini-type cocktail for your holiday enjoyment.  (Hint: If you're crunched for time...or just lazy...I'm betting you could substitute apple butter or applesauce for the homemade apple jam.)

Apple-Rye Sour
Makes one cocktail.

To make apple jam:
Combine 2 good-quality red apples (peeled, cored and cubed) with 2 cinnamon sticks and 2 tablespoons sugar in a medium saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. 

To make the cocktail, combine 1 teaspoon of the apple jam, 1 tablespoon simple syrup 1 tablespoon lime (or lemon) juice, and 2 ounces rye whiskey in an ice-filled cocktail shaker.  Shake vigorously and strain into a cocktail glass.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Cracker Pairing. Yes....Cracker Pairing.

I'm weird.  I'll admit it.  But I think some things go better with things than others. Yes, I am a big fan of proper wine pairings. Guru Andrea Immer Robinson has taught me that Chardonnay is good with corn and toasted things.  That a funky Pinot Noir goes with cheese or mushrooms.  And that bubbly is good with about anything.

But I look at other pairings as well.  I swear that certain soft drinks taste better with certain kinds of ice and cups.  But I digress....

Another pairing I thought about recently involves crackers.  We all buy lots of crackers over the holiday season.  And we pair them with cheese or a variety of spreads and dips.  And I've realized that I prefer certain crackers with certain things.  Not sure I can explain why, but try them and see what you think. 
  • I think that traditional spinach dip (the one you find on the back of Knorr soup mix) goes best with Triscuits.
  • For my shrimp dip, I buy traditional Townhouse oval wheat crackers.
  • And for our family tradition Kajun Krab Dip.  (Yes, with "k" and in a plastic tub.), nothing works better than good ol' Wheat Thins.
But while we're on the are some other crackers as suggested by the Rachael Ray magazine folks.  I haven't tried them all, but am intrigued by several.
  • Milton's Everything Multi-Grain Crackers:  They say these are great all-occasion crackers; inspired by the everything bagel, they're buttery and coated with five different seeds.
  • Triscuit Cracked Pepper and Olive Oil Crackers:  I have not been a fan of these when I've had them before, but I am interested in the idea that they would be great next to a cheese plate.
  • Sensible Portions Pita Bites, Black Olive Feta:  These are dippers, ready for scooping up hummus.
  • Koyo Organic Brown Rice Chips, Tamari: Apparently these crispy little things are delicious all on their own.
  • American Vintage Wine Biscuits with White Wine, Shallot and Cayenne: The tasters compared them to cookies.  Sounds like they would be perfect alongside a cocktail or glass of vino.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Cocktail of the Week: The Last Word

I've mentioned that this is high cocktail time at our house.  A couple of friends dropping by, something grown up while dinner is cooking, even a full-blown cocktail party...all are reasons to skip traditional highballs like gin and tonic and getting the shaker and martini glasses out.

Now, these are not things you make by the pitcher.  And this particular one (which I found in Bon Appetit's credited to a New Orleans place called French 75) uses exotic liqueurs that you might not keep on hand.  But the complex and balanced cocktail that results is probably worth the investment.  This is a great high-octane sipper for a festive occasion.

The Last Word
Makes one (on the large side) cocktail.

2 ounces gin
2 tablespoons Chartreuse liqueur
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons maraschino liqueur (i.e. Luxardo)

Combine all ingredients in an ice-filled shaker and shake vigorously.  Strain into a cocktail glass...and enjoy.

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

The Good News About Holiday Sweets

We all end to overindulge this time of year.  Who wouldn't with all the Christmas cookies being thrown around?

But the good news is that the butter, eggs and sugar are spiked with ingredients that are actually good for you.  Maybe that will help clear your conscience...

Ginger: After the gym, eat that gingerbread man...and not just the head.  A half teaspoon ginger can help relieve post-workout muscle pain.

Cinnamon: This spice is rich in antioxidants and can help lower your triglyceride levels. (Actually, this tip in one to use all year.  Sprinkle a little cinnamon on your daily cereal, coffee or cup of tea.)

Peppermint: This is a traditional remedy for turns out that it activates an anti-pain reaction.

Nutmeg: Thanks to antibacterial properties, nutmeg can help prevent tooth decay.

Cloves: These little nuggets have the highest concentration of antioxidants in the herb and spice world.

I'm going to go all-out and put all put peppermint in some apple cider...or maybe mulled wine.  It's the healthy thing to do.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Stocking Stuffers for Foodies

Hopefully you're making your lists and checking them twice...not just your groceries and liquor orders for your parties, but also a gift or two.  With my family, the stockings are just as important as the wrapoped gifts, so while I'll have a list of cookbooks, gadgets and other things that you'll want to get for the foodies in your life, today it's all about the little stuff.  Things that I can't do without in my kitchen that will make perfect stocking stuffers.

  • Garlic pepper: This is my secret ingredient.  When a recipe says season to taste with freshly ground pepper, none times out of ten it's the garlic pepper I reach for.  It's available at most grocery stores, but I've also found it in bulk online from several sources.
  • Microplane grater: Nutmeg, Parmesan, ginger, garlic.  These are all things that I grate on this fabulous device.  Get the extra long's easier to handle.
  • Ranch dressing a canister: Ranch dressing is ubiquitous here in the South.  Yes, it goes on our salads, but we also dip raw veggies in it, drizzle it on fried foods, and bathe in it.  (Wait...I think my other half was joking when he offered that suggestion.)  But the little packets are a pain; they're expensive and make more than you need on most occasions. I have tried alternative recipes, but, frankly, nothing compares to the chemical-laden, original.  So I was thrilled to find it in jars at Walmart.  I keep it on hand and can make as much, or as little, dressing as I need.
  • Dawn Power Dissolve: This one is also probably not the most environmental stuff on the planet, but it's a lifesaver when it comes to crusted-on foods on your casserole dishes and baking sheets.  It's a nother one I can usually only find at Walmart.
  • Wooden spoons: This one seems obvious, but a jar full of wooden spoons of various sizes right next to your stove makes it easy to reach for whatever you need.
I'd love to add to this list.  What are YOU asking Santa for? Make your suggestions in the comment section below...

Sunday, December 04, 2011


Pomegranates (and pomegranate juice) are everywhere these days.  You can find them at most grocery stores, and I love that.  They are, in my mind, a perfect ingredient for Christmas-time--red jewels that add a touch of class to lots of dishes and cocktails. And ruby red juice to boot.

Thanks to Food Network Magazine, here are some interesting ways for you to put them to use:
  • Mix up pomegranate cosmos...just replace the cranberry with pomegranate juice.
  • While you're at it, replace your morning OJ with pomegranate juice.
  • Pretty red and green Christmas crostini:  Spread toasted baguette slices with goat cheese and sprinkle pomegranate seeds and chopped pistachios on top.
  • How about pom soda? Muddle a few seeds, add ice, pomegranate juice and top with club soda.
  • Kick up your vinaigrette.  Whisk 1 tablespoon pomegranate juice, 1 tablespoon cider vinegar, and 1/4 cup olive oil together.  Season with salt and pepper.
  • Top your salmon with 1/2 cup slivered toasted almonds and 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds.
  • Simmer equal parts apple cider and pomegranate juice to warm the cockles of your heart.
  • If you want another cocktail, pour 2 ounces each of bourbon and pomegranate juice over ice.  Add club soda and garnish with an orange slice.
  • And of course, a classic.  Simply pour a glass of your favorite bubbly and toss in a couple of pomegranate seeds.  The little rubies will dance in the bubbles.  Quite the festive sipper!
And a few tips:
  • You can store whole pomegranates in plastic bags for up to three months in the refrigerator.
  • No-mess seeding: Quarter and submerge in water.  As you loosed the seeds, they will sink and the pithy parts will float to the top.
  • Check out Martha Stewart's method also.  Quarter the pomegranate, hold over a bowl and whack the skin with a wooden spoon.  The seeds will fall into the bowl.
  • You can always take the easy way out and buy pre-seeded pomegranates.  They make a yummy quick snack.
  • Make your pomegranate juice last even longer and make pomegranate molasses.  (I'm going to test it out and post a recipe sometime soon.)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Cooking Tips from the Folks at The Food Network

Started posting tips that were gathered together in the May edition of Food Network Magazine back in October, but there's plenty more to go. Here's another batch...
  • Blot meat dry before you get ready to sear it.  If the meat releases too much moisture when it hits the hot pan, it will steam rather than sear.
  • Need to cut pancetta or bacon into lardons or other smaller pieces?  Put it in the freezer for fifteen minutes and it's much easier to cut.
  • To turn your oven into an industrial oven and get great crispy caramelization on roasted vegetables, turn it up as hot as it goes and put a sheet pan inside for 10-15 minutes.  Toss the veggies with olive oil , salt and pepper and put on the hot pan.  Turn the heat down to 400° and then watch carefully.  That initial blast of heat will caramelize the sugars in the vegetables quickly.
  • Make sure you have a cast iron pan in your collection.  It's a great even cooking surface and is a cinch to clean.
  • Keep fresh basil longer by putting its stems in water at room temperature.  It's a nice fresh addition to the look of your kitchen also...

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Countdown to Christmas

Just when we've finished putting the Halloween decorations away.  Stored the scarecrows.  And used up the last of the leftover turkey.  It's time for Christmas.  That's exciting. 

And daunting.

But no worries.  Christmas means three "c's" to me.  Cookies.  Canapes. And cocktails. 

So I'll be posting lots of all of the above in the next several weeks.  Join me in the journey....