Monday, December 13, 2010

Have You Shared Your Holiday Table Yet?

Good morning and happy Monday. I had one heck of a weekend...and am still suffering its effects. We hit the ground running on Friday with our annual trip to Disneyland, which was the happiest (also the crowdedest) place on earth. Saturday was my dear friend's wedding (I baked her cake), and Sunday was my son's birthday party. Whew. I need another weekend to recover from my weekend, but December is like that isn't it? Anywho, here are the links from Friday and today for Share Our Holiday Table.

I'll be back to posting more delicious holiday recipes later this week.

December 13: Sides


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

December 10: Entrees


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Soup's On!

I can't think of a more cozy and nourishing way to begin a holiday meal than a rich and flavorful soup made from...inexpensive onions. Gourmet? Perhaps not, though it's amazing what a long slow simmer will do to the most pedestrian of root vegetables. And the blanket of molten cheese on top makes it even more glamorous. As you know I'm participating in Share Our Holiday Table to raise money to stop childhood hunger in the US and today is the soup course!

There are two great things about a soup like this--well, there are many more I'm sure, but just I'll mention the two that come to my mind: it is wonderfully budget conscious (and who couldn't use that during these difficult times) and you can make it the day before you need it. In fact it's better that way.

I cry like a baby every time I slice onions and have tried every one of Martha's suggestions on how to prevent it (keeping my mouth shut, burning a candle nearby etc.) and none of them work. If you have a trick that does, I'd love to hear it! I actually cried so much in the making of this soup that I almost let out an involuntary sob. I've heard it's cathartic, a good cry, and I must say I felt especially good after the onions were simmering away on the stove. Remember to tuck in your fingers when you are slicing, or you'll be crying for a different reason entirely.

Though this soup is very simple to make, it does take time to cook a full pot of onions down until they become deep golden brown and sweet as can be. Don't try to rush this step, unless you are a fan of the acrid taste of burnt onions. It will take the better part of one hour.

Then stir in some flour and broth, a pinch of thyme,and a couple spoons of brandy (everything tastes better with a little booze) and simmer the soup for about 20 minutes. After that you can cool and refrigerate it until the next day. To serve it's simply topped with toasted bread (I used croutons from La Brea Bakery), blanketed with cheese and broiled.

Don't forget to see what's cooking in the kitchens of the other participating bloggers!

December 9: Soup


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

French Onion Soup
Printable Recipe

Dark and rich, this soup will surely satisfy the cravings of your most discriminating guests and make a lovely addition to your holiday supper. This soup tastes even better the second day, so make it in advance if possible.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 2 hours
Yield: serves 4-6 as a first course


5 pounds of onions, about 6 large
4 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/2 quarts good quality beef broth or stock
1 teaspoon of beef bouillon or base, such as Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
2-3 tablespoons brandy
4 slices of french bread, toasted (or croutons)
8 slices of Gruyere cheese


1. Peel and slice onions into 1/4 inch rounds. Heat a large stockpot over medium heat and add the butter. When the butter has melted add the onions to the pot and stir to coat.

2. Cook onions for one hour, stirring occasionally, until onions are deep, golden brown. Sprinkle with flour, then gradually add stock while stirring to prevent lumps. Add bouillon if using, thyme and brandy and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover partially and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely. Refrigerate overnight.

3. To finish, reheat the soup until simmering on the stove. Adjust oven rack so that it is 6 inches from your broiler. Ladle soup into 4 oven-proof bowls that have been placed on a baking sheet. Top with slices of toasted French bread or croutons and 2 slices of cheese (on each bowl). Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

A Little Spice is Nice

Some nights call for a warming chile-infused dinner. I would argue that most nights call for chiles, but there are times when the wind is howling around and all you want to do is curl up in front of the fire with a bowl of something cozy. This is that meal.

Though this chile lacks the chunky tomatos and beans that are found in most recipes, let me assure you that it is as full-bodied as it gets, and the flavors of the dried whole chiles that are added give it a deep earthy and rustic quality. Because the beef and chile are the true stars in this dish, make sure that what you buy is of excellent quality (the beef especially). And here, I'm talking about the cow not the cut, because cheaper chuck works's preferred even because it cooks for such a long time. Your supermarket will probably carry bags of dried chiles in the Latin section. But if they seem especially dried out (they should still be pliable) you may want to order them online.

Don't forget that tomorrow I'm participating in Share Our Holiday Table. Today's recipes (the Salad Course) are listed below. Have a great day!

December 8: Salads


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

Chile Colorado
Printable Recipe

This authentic Mexican-style chile is different from most because it doesn't contain beans or tomatoes. But it's spicy and delicious and will warm you from the inside out. Because it has so few ingredients, make sure you buy good quality ones, especially the meat. Look for dried chiles in the Latin section of your supermarket--fresh ones will still be pliable. Eat this dish on its own, or use it as a filling for burritos or tamales.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 3 1/2 hours
Yield: serves 6


9 dried whole pasilla or ancho chiles
2 cups boiling water
3 pounds beef chuck cut in cubes
1/2 cup flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/2 tablespoon pepper
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups low sodium beef or chicken stock
2 teaspoons cumin


1. Pour boiling water over chiles and soak for 30 minutes. Meanwhile put flour, salt and pepper in a large plastic bag. Add beef and shake to coat. Heat about 3 tablespoons of canola oil in a large dutch oven and brown meat in batches (about 4).

2. After chiles have softened, remove the stems and discard and place the chiles in a blender with the garlic and with enough soaking water to purée them into a smooth paste. Strain mixture through a sieve to remove seeds and skin and place in the Dutch oven along with all the beef, cumin and broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 3 hours or until beef is tender.

3. Serve with tortillas and rice and beans.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

I'm Hongry!

I have a running joke with a girlfriend where she asks me how I'm doing and I answer, I'm hongry!!! (in a growly bear voice). That statement is usually spot on as I'm often hungry, famished....starving....and I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I'm going to cook, and more importantly what I'm going to eat--and when!

But real hunger is no joke. And sadly many children in the United States suffer from hunger and lack of nutrition every! single! day! As you can imagine, this causes parents horrible worry and stress, and makes everything harder for the kids, not the least of which is concentrating on learning.

This week, in an effort to help curb childhood hunger in America I, along with dozens of other food bloggers, will be participating in Share Our Holiday Table. This is an innovative virtual, progressive dinner and fundraiser featuring a delicious 5 course meal with gourmet, family friendly, vegetarian and gluten free recipes. I encourage you to visit their website and make a donation to this worthy literally put your money where your mouth is.

Below are links to the first two days of our virtual party. I think you will find many fantastic recipes you can include in your own holiday parties this year. My recipe for a "gourmet soup" will be included on Thursday so don't forget to check back!

December 6: Appetizers


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

December 7: Drinks


Family Friendly


Gluten Free

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Cookies

The name is long, friends. And so is the taste. It kind of swirls around in your mouth like hot cocoa that's been swizzled with a peppermint stick. However, my spell check is not a fan, of the name at least. In the world of computerized grammar, chocolate and chocolate are not meant to go together apparently. But in my world, and in my kitchen, they go together just fine. In fact, chocolate + chocolate = utter and total bliss. Am I right, ladies? Add in a splash of peppermint extract and a topping of crunchy candy canes, and we've got ourselves a cookie that would give any sweet Girl Scout a run for her money!

I found a jar of Peppermint Snow at my local Williams Sonoma store. You may think it's a bit silly to pay $10 for something you can make yourself for a fraction of that cost, but your kitchen table may thank you (I've dented mine by pounding candies on it), and the jar contains just pure, evenly crushed powdered stuff, like I get when I make it myself. The other thing you should know is that a little goes a long way. I'm pretty sure that one jar will get me through the whole season, depending on how much peppermint bark I end up making.

So back to the cookies, I had made a huge batch earlier in the month and froze the rest in a giant, well-wrapped log (which I took a photo of, but was fully inappropriate looking so I spared you). It's so easy to bake cookies when you have them ready to slice from the freezer. And it's nice also to bake off smaller batches at a time, that way nobody is tempted to just keep eating cookies all day. Ahem. These rich cookies are perfect for giving out to the neighbors or for your annual cookie exchange. Or for dipping into your seventh cup of coffee (that you've topped with whipped cream for good measure).

Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Peppermint Cookies

Printable Recipe

Chocolate, chocolate chips and peppermint? You can’t go wrong with these delectable cookies! Eat them straight out of the oven with a tall glass of milk. They’re exactly the kind of cookie that Santa would want on his plate, don't you think?

Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Yield: 3 dozen cookies


1 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 cups unbleached flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks (or chips)
Small handful of crushed peppermint candies, or peppermint snow


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Place butter and brown sugar in a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) and beat together until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs and peppermint extract.

3. In another medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and beat until combined.

4. Stir in the chocolate chunks until evenly mixed.

5. Drop dough in 2 tablespoon portions (about 1/8 of a cup) 2 inches apart on baking sheets. Sprinkle crushed peppermint over the top of each cookie.

6. Bake for 6-9 minutes, or until cookies are set on the edges. Carefully remove from baking sheet using a wide spatula and cool on wire racks.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Cranberries in the Snow

The holidays are here, whether we are ready or not. Thanksgiving Day marks the end of "fall" and many people jump both feet into Christmastime the day afterward, like so many children into piles of autumn leaves (which are still blowing freely around my neighborhood). Admittedly, I too am eager to make the transition, clearing my mantle of gourds and pilgrims and really dusting (for the first time since September, if you must know).

This Thanksgiving I tried out a new cranberry sauce recipe that I was hoping could make the transition to Christmas with the rest of us, using up the very last of my Annie's Crannies. It was everything I'd hoped for--simple, sweet-tart and positively lovely. Sure, I love cranberry-orange relish, and cranberry chutney too, but on this day, I really wanted to highlight the flavor of the cranberry alone.

What I love about this sauce, besides the amazing burst of cranberry flavor, is that it is baked, freeing up one of my burners. And as you know, stove-top space is at a premium during the holidays. The cranberries are simply sprinkled, smothered rather, with sugar (is it just me or have you found that the cranberries are especially tart this year?), then baked for awhile until their crimson juices run and the cranberries have softened like jellies. Mmmmm, tastes like Christmas, indeed!

Christmas Cranberries
Printable Recipe

The cranberry stands alone in all her ruby-red glory in this simple recipe, adapted from here. Baked instead of simmered in the saucepan, this sauce tastes wonderful with roasts of all sorts, or even over ice cream. Try stirring some of this into your favorite orange marmalade to create a pink-hued marvel to spread over scones...or give as a gift.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 40 minutes
Yield: about 1 half-pint of sauce


3 cups of fresh cranberries (frozen would work too, but you may need to increase the baking time)
1 cup of granulated sugar


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2. Place cranberries in a 8x8 inch square baking dish and sprinkle with sugar. Do not stir.

3. Bake cranberries for 35 minutes, stirring twice during baking. Remove from dish into a bowl, cover and refrigerate.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

All Set!

Wishing you a day filled with family, friends, and gratitude.
Also great food. And drink.
We have much to be thankful for, don't we?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cranberry Cocktail

I just hate it when a recipe I love gets bad reviews (especially recipes I've written). Jeesh. People need to get a grip and stop being so harsh...and learn how to cook for goodness sake. And if you modify a recipe, adding or subtracting or, god forbid, substituting ingredients then you can't really say whether the recipe as it was written was good or not, can you? Do these people actually have taste buds? Or common sense? I think not. And I'm pretty sure that most reviewers haven't passed third grade grammar either. I assure you that the Barefoot Contessa did not RUIN your dinner party because the cooking time she stated in the recipe was too long. Perhaps you just need to calibrate your oven...and not drink so much wine.

It's tough going sometimes...

That said, constructive criticism is always helpful. Like, I made the recipe as you said, but the crust is too crumbly...or the cake is too tough. Or... In Australia I can't find x ingredient. I substituted y and it didn't turn out very well. What do you suggest? Or... Your recipe calls for 2 egg whites. Should one of those be a yolk? Yes, these are the types of helpful suggestions and questions that make me (and I imagine other folks who make recipes) want to fix the problem.

Which brings me to today's recipe (which is not originally mine, by the way). Though it gets mixed reviews on the Epicurious website, I think it makes a fabulously flavored syrup, perfect for mixing with vodka. Sure, you can top it with club soda if you find it a little thick, as did some of the reviewers. But I like to mix it in a shaker, one part syrup with two parts vodka and strain it into sugar-rimmed martini glasses for a gorgeously hued holiday cocktail. We enjoy this on Thanksgiving, and again on Christmas. Strain it into a nice bottle, and it makes a wonderful gift as well. Be sure to attach the martini recipe.

Garnet Martini Syrup

We enjoy this gorgeously-hued cocktail on Thanksgiving, and again on Christmas. Strain it into a nice bottle, and it makes a wonderful gift as well. Be sure to attach the martini recipe.

Prep time: 5 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yield: makes about 16 martinis


6 cups of fresh or frozen cranberries
4 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary


1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes until a glossy syrup has formed. It will thicken as it cools.

2. Strain through a fine sieve into a pitcher and chill for at least 3 hours or up to a couple of weeks.

3. To make one martini, shake 1 part syrup with 2 parts vodka with a handful of ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a martini glass (with a sugared rim, if you'd like) and top with a splash of club soda if desired. Garnish with a sprig of rosemary and serve immediately.