Saturday, February 20, 2010

Brief Hiatus!

I promise I haven't disappeared off the face of the earth! After Christmas I had big plans to redesign this blog and was excited to improve my photography with my new Nikon DSLR. However, shortly after the New Year we found out we are expecting our second child in September! Food has not been my friend the last few months and I've just slowly been able to get back in the kitchen. I have a strong aversion to raw meat and many cooking smells which makes cooking and blogging a bit difficult. Thank goodness my wonderful husband has been able to take over a lot of the cooking. I hope to be back soon!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Cauliflower Gratin

I expected this dish to be good, but the extent to which is really wowed us was not expected. I can't say I have ever had better cauliflower than this. This dish was a nice change from my regular standby of serving a potato dish with prime rib. This dish is creamy and really rich on flavor. The cauliflower is deliciously tender and all the flavors nicely compliment one another.

Cauliflower Gratin
  • 1 (3-pound) head cauliflower, cut into large florets
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups hot milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 cup freshly grated Gruyere, divided
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 cup fresh bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Cook the cauliflower florets in a large pot of boiling salted water for 5 to 6 minutes, until tender but still firm. Drain.

Meanwhile, melt 2 tablespoons of the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Add the flour, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture and stir until it comes to a boil. Boil, whisking constantly, for 1 minute, or until thickened. Off the heat, add 1 teaspoon of salt, the pepper, nutmeg, 1/2 cup of the Gruyere, and the Parmesan.

Pour 1/3 of the sauce on the bottom of an 8 by 11 by 2-inch baking dish. Place the drained cauliflower on top and then spread the rest of the sauce evenly on top. Combine the bread crumbs with the remaining 1/4 cup of Gruyere and sprinkle on top. Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter and drizzle over the gratin. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the top is browned. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Source: Ina Garten, Barefoot in Paris, Clarkson Potter, 2004.

Christmas Dinner Menu

There are no other words for this meal but spectacular. It was a perfect menu for Christmas day. The meal was elegant yet fairly simple to prepare thus allowing lots of time to play with new toys brought by Santa! I didn't prepare dessert with this menu since we got together later in the evening for dessert with family. I think a beautiful trifle would be the perfect ending for this menu.

Sunday Rib Roast with Horseradish Mustard Sauce
Green Bean Bundles
Cauliflower Gratin

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints

This is a another new Christmas cookie I tried this year. It was a big hit at our Christmas Eve buffet. Next time I'm hoping to find the green Andes candies as was pictured in the recipe book. I also would probably cut them a bit smaller. I found it was easier to use my thumb to make the indention as opposed to the wooden spoon handle recommended in the recipe. I did add the green food color to this recipe, even though I'm not a fan of artificial dyes. I didn't want all of our cookies to be beige! I have found natural food color in Whole Foods, however, I find the color it renders tends to be really off and you would have to add quite a bit which can effect the liquid ratios in your recipe. These cookies would also be fun for St. Patrick's Day.

Chocolate Mint Thumbprints

1 cup butter, softened
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract
2 egg yolks
16 drops green food coloring
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup dark chocolate chips
3 tablespoons whipping cream
3 tablespoons butter
18 Andes mints, unwrapped, cut in half diagonally

1. Heat oven to 350. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In large bowl, beat 1 cup butter and the powdered sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Beat in peppermint extract, egg yolks and food coloring until blended. On low speed, beat in flour, baking powder and salt.

3. Shape dough into 1-inch balls; place 2 inches apart on cookie sheets. With your finger, press a deep well into center of each cookie.

4. Bake 10-12 minutes or until set. Reshape wells with finger. Cool 2 minutes; remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool completely; about 15 minutes.

5. In medium microwaveable bowl, microwave chocolate chips, cream and 3 tablespoons butter on High 1 minute, whisking frequently until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Fill each well with about 1 teaspoon chocolate mixture; garnish with Andes mint piece. Let stand about 1 hour until chocolate is set.

Source: Adapted from Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookies, Dec./Jan. 2009.

Cherry Tea Cakes

I loved all the new cookie recipes we tried this year but these were probably my very favorite. A really great butter cookie with a delicious almond cherry flavor. I used Tillan Farms maraschino cherries. They have no artificial colors, artificial flavors, sulfites or preservatives. I omitted the red food color from the recipe so mine did not have the pink hue as pictured in my recipe book. You can dip these or drizzle them with white chocolate but I think they are perfect as is.

Cherry Tea Cakes

1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup butter, softened
2 teaspoons maraschino cherry liquid
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 or 4 drops red food color (omitted)
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup drained maraschino cherries, chopped
1/2 cup white vanilla baking chips (omitted)

1. Heat oven to 350. In large bowl, beat powdered sugar, butter, cherry liquid, almond extract and food color with electric mixer on medium speed until blended. On low speed, beat in flour and salt. Stir in cherries.

2. Shape dough into 1-inch balls. On ungreased cookie sheets, place balls 2 inches apart.

3. Bake 8-10 minutes or until edges are light golden brown. Remove from cookie sheets to cooling racks. Cool 20 to 30 minutes.

4. In 1 quart resealable freezer plastic bag, place baking chips, seal bag. Microwave 35-50 seconds, squeezing chips in bag every 15 seconds, until chips are melted and smooth. Cut small tip from bottom corner of bag; drizzle melted chips over cookies.

Source: Betty Crocker's Christmas Cookies, Dec/Jan 2009.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas

Wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas Eve Menu

We hosted a casual gathering for Christmas Eve. The scene was perfectly set with twinkling Christmas lights and beautiful blowing snow outside (a rarity in these parts!). To warm everyone up I had some mulled cider brewing. I think Williams Sonoma has the best mulled spice mix. I mix mine with organic apple juice that is not from concentrate. instead of cider I served the following menu buffet style.

Mulled Cider
Artichoke Bruschetta and Crackers
Mini Spanakopitas
Spiral Sliced Ham
Rolls/Rye Bread
Cranberry Conserve
Maple Orange Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Macaroni and Cheese
Mixed Green Salad with Herbs de Provence Dressing
Soft and Spicy Gingerbread Cookies
Chocolate Mint Thumbprints
Cherry Tea Cakes
Peppermint Bark
Praline Cheesecake