Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas Dinner Menu

This meal is basically a repeat of our New Year's Eve meal from January 2008. Some meals are worth repeating and this was one of them. It was as amazing yesterday as I remembered it. Best part is, this meal doesn't really require a lot of time in the kitchen which is nice when you want to enjoy Christmas day! I served my Rib Roast with mashed potatoes instead of the Boursin potatoes but I highly recommend the Boursin potatoes. I would like to make Yorkshire pudding to go along side this sometime. I planned on preparing it yesterday but after a big day of cooking the night before, we decided to go low key on this one. We were too stuffed for dessert. I had planned to make Ina's frozen berries with white hot chocolate. I have all the ingredients so I'm sure I will be making it soon!

Sunday Rib Roast
Sauteed Carrots
Mashed Potatoes
Frozen Berries with White Hot Chocolate

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Chocolate Biscotti

Dorie Greenspan's cookbook Baking From My Home to Yours, is probably my favorite cookbook purchase of 2008. I've wanted to try making my own Biscotti for some time and I was always a bit hesitant. I didn't want to make those traditional tooth breaking biscotti we have all had. This particular recipe has been popping up in other cooking blogs I read quite a bit lately. I finally gave it a try today and I'm so glad I did. I think Biscotti may be my new favorite cookie to bake. Cookies aren't generally my favorite thing to bake. These were really simple and I didn't have to worry about making them all precisely uniform. The biscotti held together well but were nice and tender. The chocolate flavor in these was intense. I loved the taste of the melted chocolate in each bite. I dipped mine in white chocolate and they made a beautiful presentation. I know I will be making these again as well as trying some other flavor variations.

Chocolate Tiramisu

This dessert was totally sinful! I searched high and low for a tiramisu recipe that did not have raw egg in it and happened upon this one. This recipe takes some time to make but is totally worth the effort. Its rich, creamy and decadent. I could have eaten the chocolate zabaglione all by itself. I read numerous reviews of this recipe and made some changes accordingly. I had no problems with this dessert, it turned out perfectly. I have noted the changes I made below in red. This is a perfect dessert for entertaining since it can be made ahead. This would also be fun to make in individual portions.

Chocolate Tiramisu

6 ounces container mascarpone cheese (at room temperature)
2/3 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup sugar
Chocolate Zabaglione, recipe follows
2 1/2 cups espresso coffee, warmed
24 crisp ladyfinger cookies (recommended: Savoiardi)
Unsweetened cocoa powder, for garnish
Dark chocolate shavings, for garnish

Place the mascarpone cheese in a large bowl and set aside. With an electric mixer, beat the cream and 1/4 cup of the sugar in a medium bowl until soft peaks form. Fold the whipped cream into the mascarpone. Then fold in the chilled Chocolate Zabaglione. Cover and refrigerate.

Whisk the warmed espresso and the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in another medium bowl until blended. Line a 9 1/4 by 5 by 2 3/4-inch metal loaf pan with plastic wrap, allowing the plastic to extend over the sides. Working with 1 cookie at a time, dip 8 cookies into the espresso, and arrange in a single layer side by side over the bottom of the prepared pan.

Spoon 1/3 of the mascarpone mixture over the cookies to cover. Repeat dipping 8 of the cookies in the espresso and layering the cookies and remaining mascarpone mixture 2 more times. Dip the remaining 8 cookies in the espresso and arrange side by side atop the tiramisu. Press lightly to compact slightly (the last layer will extend above the pan sides). Cover the tiramisu with plastic and refrigerate at least 6 hours.

Unwrap the plastic from atop the tiramisu. (I didn't try to invert mine I served it straight from the pan) Invert the tiramisu onto a platter. Remove the plastic. Sift the cocoa over the tiramisu, and with a vegetable peeler or sharp knife, make dark chocolate shavings and sprinkle over top.

Chocolate Zabaglione:

2 tablespoons whipping cream, or heavy cream
1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
4 large egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup dry Marsala
Pinch salt

Add cream and chocolate to a heavy small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring often, until the chocolate chips are melted and smooth. Set aside and keep warm.

Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, Marsala, and salt in a large glass bowl until blended. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, but do not allow the bottom of the bowl to touch the water. Whisk the egg mixture over the simmering water until it is thick and creamy, about 4 minutes (actual time was 10 minutes). Remove from the heat.

Using a large rubber spatula, fold the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Cover and refrigerate to chill completely.

Source: Giada De Laurentis, Food Network.

Christmas Eve Menu

Below is the menu for our wonderful Christmas Eve dinner.

For those who are not familiar with traditional Italian dishes, Sunday Gravy is a homemade pasta sauce which is studded with sausage, meatballs, braciole and ribs. The meats cook all day in the sauce and imparts a really nice flavor to it. Much better than a plain tomato sauce. Once the sauce is finished, all the meats are removed and served separately from the sauce. There are very few recipes that I won't share and this is one of them! My grandmother used to make this recipe and I started making it several years ago when I was first married. I don't have my Grandmother's original recipe but have been told my version is just as good!

I wish everyone who reads this blog, a very Merry Christmas. I hope you and your families enjoy a very happy, healthy and prosperous New Year!

Holiday Citrus Punch
Antipasto Platter
Proscuitto Puffs
Chopped Salad
Pasta with Sunday Gravy (My secret recipe!)
Garlic Bread
Chocolate Tiramisu
Chocolate Biscotti
Tea and Coffee

Holiday Citrus Punch

We had a wonderful Christmas Eve dinner with family. My favorite meal to cook on Christmas Eve is Italian. We started off our meal with a beautiful antipasto platter that my Mom put together and some delicious proscuitto puffs that she also made. I'm definitely going to get the recipe for those puffs! Instead of my usual Sangria, this year I decided to make a Holiday Citrus Punch from the December issue of Everyday Food. This was a hit with everyone! I didn't have any blood oranges, so I used regular oranges instead. You can't really go wrong with any kind of citrus at this time of year. I'm sure tangerines or even grapefruit would work well. I like that the rum is not a prominent flavor in the punch but adds just enough kick. This would be great in a non-alcoholic version too. This punch would be the perfect compliment to a brunch menu or even for a shower.

Holiday Citrus Punch

Set a fine-mesh sieve over a large pitcher or punch bowl; pour 2 cups bottled pear nectar and 4 cups orange juice (from blood oranges or regular juice oranges) through sieve into pitcher. Before serving, stir in 2 cups chilled club soda, and if desired 1 cup light rum. Pour into glasses over ice; garnish with orange slices. Serves 8.

Source: Everyday Food, December 2008.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Baked Artichoke Squares

I have a habit of collecting those cute little holiday recipe books sold at the grocery store check-out lanes. They are a handy source of ideas for holidays and party planning. I needed a recipe to take to a friend's house for a Christmas pot luck last night. I knew I needed an easy and quick recipe as I had a busy day of Christmas shopping before the party. I quickly consulted my stash of books and found these baked artichoke squares in a Pillsbury Holiday Appetizers and Desserts Recipe Booklet. These were really delicious. They took less than 10 minutes to assemble, cooked for 20 and were delicious! It was a fun spin on the traditional spinach artichoke dip. These went very fast at the party! Definitely a new favorite for us.

Baked Artichoke Squares

2 (8 oz) cans Pillsbury Refrigerated Crescent Dinner Rolls
1 (14 oz) can artichoke hearts chopped
1 (9 0z) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to drain
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup mayonnaise
2/3 cup sour cream
1/8 garlic powder

1. Heat oven to 375. Unroll dough into 4 long rectangles. Place crosswise in ungreased 15x10x1 inch baking pan; press over bottom and 1 inch up sides to form crust. Press perforations to seal.

2. Bake at 375 for 10-12 minutes or until light golden brown.

3. Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine all remaining ingredients; mix well. Spread mixture evenly over partially baked crust.

4. Bake at 375 for an additional 8-10 minutes or until topping is thoroughly heated. Cut into 1 1/2 inch squares. Serve Warm.

Source: Pillsbury Holiday Appetizers and Desserts, 1998.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Chocolate Apricot Spritz Cookies

I'm finally getting into the swing of baking Christmas cookies. I made these to take to a cookie exchange. I love Spritz cookies. I have wonderful memories of making spritz cookies with my Mom every year. I also can't resist a chance to whip out my cookie press! I just realized it has a snowman and pumpkin plate and that you can also make cheese crackers with it! So fun! I need to play with this gadget more often! I got this recipe from my 1975 Better Homes and Garden Homemade Cookies Cookbook. My Mom has this same series so I know the recipes are tried and true. I always have fun finding old cookbooks like this at the half-priced book store. This recipe was different from my usual plain butter spritz. These turned out really well and were perfect for the exchange because the recipe makes a large batch.

Apricot-Chocolate Spritz

3/4 cup butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1-ounce squares unsweetened chocolate, melted and cooled
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/2 cup apricot preserves, sieved
1/2 cup chopped almonds (I omitted)
2 tablespoons sugar (I omitted)

Cream together butter and 1/2 cup sugar. Add egg; beat well. Stir in cooled chocolate. Stir together flour and salt; add to creamed mixture with almond extract. Mix well.

Place half of the dough in cookie press. Using ribbon plate, make four strips 12 1/2 inches long on ungreased cookie sheet. Spread each strip with about 2 teaspoons of the preserves. Press another strip of dough over filling. Combine almonds and 2 tablespoons of sugar; sprinkle half of the mixture over strips. Cut into 2 1/2 inch bars. Make additional cookies with remaining dough, preserve and nut mixture. Bake at 400 degrees for 12 minutes. Makes 40.

Source: Better Homes and Gardens Homemade Cookies Cook Book, Meridith Corporation, Des Moines Iowa, 1975.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Barefoot Bloggers-Coq au Vin

Finally, a blog update! We've had a series of colds and viruses run through our house so there hasn't been much noteworthy cooking in my kitchen! I'm happy to report that we are all feeling well now and ready for a happy, healthy holiday and new year and of course lots of yummy recipes! This Coq au Vin was a perfect way to get back in the kitchen. It was also the perfect meal for a night with a rare Texas winter storm. We really loved this dish. I think I may like Coq au Vin even better than Beef Burgandy. The flavors in this dish were outstanding. I didn't have the Cognac or an onion but didn't feel this dish was missing anything. I served mine over mashed potatoes as suggested by Ina. This is definitely a great recipe for a nice Sunday dinner or casual meal with friends. Thanks to Bethany at This Little Piggy Went to Market for a delicious December pick. I will definitely be making this one again.

Coq au Vin

2 tablespoons good olive oil

4 ounces good bacon or pancetta, diced
1 (3 to 4-pound) chicken, cut in 8ths
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 pound carrots, cut diagonally in 1-inch pieces
1 yellow onion, sliced (I omitted)
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/4 cup Cognac or good brandy (I omitted)
1/2 bottle (375 ml) good dry red wine such as Burgundy
1 cup good chicken stock, preferably homemade
10 fresh thyme sprigs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, divided
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound frozen small whole onions (I omitted)
1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, stems removed and thickly sliced

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove the bacon to a plate with a slotted spoon.

Meanwhile, lay the chicken out on paper towels and pat dry. Liberally sprinkle the chicken on both sides with salt and pepper. When the bacon is removed, brown the chicken pieces in batches in a single layer for about 5 minutes, turning to brown evenly. Remove the chicken to the plate with the bacon and continue to brown until all the chicken is done. Set aside.

Add the carrots, onions, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper to the pan and cook over medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac and put the bacon, chicken, and any juices that collected on the plate into the pot. Add the wine, chicken stock, and thyme and bring to a simmer. Cover the pot with a tight fitting lid and place in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the chicken is just not pink. Remove from the oven and place on top of the stove.

Mash 1 tablespoon of butter and the flour together and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. In a medium saute pan, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter and cook the mushrooms over medium-low heat for 5 to 10 minutes, until browned. Add to the stew. Bring the stew to a simmer and cook for another 10 minutes. Season to taste. Serve hot.

Source: Ina Garten/Food Network

Monday, December 1, 2008

Thanksgiving Dinner

We had dinner with family on Thanksgiving Day, however, I didn't want to be without turkey left overs and couldn't pass the chance to cook my favorite meal too so I made my own dinner on Sunday. I fully intended to have pictures of all of my dishes but got so consumed with making the meal and setting up for dinner that it wasn't until everything had been eaten that I realized I forgot! Since this meal was so amazingly delicious, I decided to go ahead and post the recipes with a review.

Apple Cider Brined Turkey-Having heard so much buzz about turkey brining, I decided to give it a try this year. I initially planned to make my own brine, but ended up purchasing one at Williams Sonoma instead. Luckily, I have a 20 quart stock pot and an extra refrigerator which makes this process much easier. I can honestly say my turkey turned out really moist and tender. Probably the best turkey I have ever made. I'm completely sold on the brining process. I don't think the brine imparted that much flavor, but it did enhance the meat tremendously. I used a 14 lb fresh free range turkey. After rinsing the brine off the turkey, I seasoned the turkey with an herb butter consisting of herbs de provence, paprika and freshly ground pepper. Taking the advice of Bon Appetit, I roasted the turkey at 450 degrees for the first 30 minutes then, 350 degrees for the remaining 3 hours. I also was careful to tent the turkey about an hour or so in when it started to brown to avoid an burning.

Corn Bread Sausage Stuffing with Apples-This was the first recipe I tried from my Silver Palate Cookbook and if it is any indication of the quality of their recipes, I can't wait to try more. I decided to forgo my favorite family stuffing recipe to try something new. This one got rave reviews and had similarities to my favorite recipe. I liked the mix of corn bread, white bread and wheat bread. I used a chicken and sage sausage instead of pork. We were really happy with this stuffing. It definitely runs a close second to our family recipe. I omitted the nuts because they seemed out of place in a stuffing. I also used organic chicken broth in mine instead of using the turkey juices.

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Marshmallow Brulee-This recipe was a combination of a recipe from 101 Cookbooks and one from the Whole Foods website. These were definitely a hit and probably the best sweet potatoes I have ever had. This dish makes you stop and say wow! I hadn't originally planned to brulee the marshmallow topping but I put it on a bit too early and they melted completely. It ended up creating a really great dish.

Vanilla Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Marshmallow Brulee
Source: As adapted from 101 Cookbooks and Whole Foods

1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes, cleaned and left a bit damp
1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons heavy cream ( I didn't have quite enough heavy cream, so I added milk to equal the total amount needed)
1/3 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped (I used Vanilla Bean Paste)
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (optional)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
kosher salt
white pepper in a mill
natural marshmallows purchased at Whole Foods
finely shredded coconut

Preheat the oven to 350F. Put the potatoes on a baking sheet and bake in the oven until tender to a fork tip, about 1 hour. Remove from oven and let cook until warm enough to handle, 10 to 15 minutes. Peel and discard the skin. Put the potatoes in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade.

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a 2-quart pot, add the vanilla bean and orange zest, if using, and set it over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Use tongs to fish out and discard the vanilla bean. Pour the mixture over the potatoes in the processor and add the butter.

Puree the potato mixture until smooth. Season with salt and 4 grinds of pepper, or to taste. Prior to serving add marshmallows and coconut. Cover with lid. Marshmallows will dissolve. Finish off under the broiler until nicely browned. Keep covered and warm until ready to serve.

Serves four.

Sauteed Green Beans and Mushrooms-I made this recipe awhile back and it has since become my favorite green bean recipe. Definitely beats a green bean casserole any day!

Pumpkin Roulade Trifles with Ginger Butter Cream-I started out making this Ina recipe as a Roulade. However, when I took my cake out of the oven and rolled it, it cracked badly. It was clear I wasn't going to be able to unroll it in one piece. As a result, I decided on trifles as plan b. I have the most adorable mini trifle dishes so I knew I could make an elegant presentation out of this dish. I sliced up the cake and layered it with the butter cream in the dishes. I topped it with a little more candied ginger and a sprinkle of fresh nutmeg. Definitely a winner, there was none left! The candied ginger adds a wonderful spicy crunch this dish. I will definitely make this again.