Wednesday, December 21, 2011
This year as a holiday gift i decided to make Rugelach. This is one of my favorite holidays treats right behind the Babka. For years i have made the Babka, then i did some Salted Caramel last year and i was playing around with Fudge this year – but after making all the different kind of fudge i went back to the Rugelach. To me it is just such a delicious little pastry filled with fruits and nuts. Since i am married to a person that comes from Jewish traditions i like to keep some of those traditions. One of them is celebrating Hanukkah! So Happy Hanukkah and in celebration of Hanukkah here is this awesome Rugelach recipe. This recipe is easy to make but somewhat time consuming due to the chilling but if you split it up in two days it is much quicker.
For those not familiar with Hanukkah, it is one of the less important Jewish holidays. However, Hanukkah has become much more popular in modern practice because of its proximity to Christmas.
Hanukkah falls on the twenty-fifth day of the Jewish month of Kislev. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, every year the first day of Hanukkah falls on a different day – usually sometime between late November and late December. Because many Jews live in predominately Christian societies, over time Hanukkah has become much more festive and Christmas-like. Jewish children receive gifts for Hanukkah – often one gift for each of the eight nights of the holiday. Many parents hope that by making Hanukkah extra special their children won’t feel left out of all the Christmas festivities going on around them.
Everyone has different traditions – we light the hanukkuyah one night and eat Latkes and then we move on to my Swedish Christmas traditions.
As we say in Swedish “God Jul och Gott Nytt År” or Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
Adapted from: Baking with Julia Child
Yields: About 48 pastries | Prep Time: 60 minute | Chill Time: 6 hours in refrigerator or 1 hour in freezer
The Cream Cheese Pasty
3 sticks (12 ounces) unsalted butter at room temperature
12 ounces cream cheese at room temperature
½ tsp salt
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
Beat the butter, cream cheese, and salt together until smooth with a mixer, add the sugar and beat until light. Once that is done switch to a paddle attachment. Mixing on low speed add the flour, mixing only until the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a counter and work it gently into a ball. Divide the dough in half and press each half into a rough rectangle.
Wrap each half in plastic and refrigerate about 2 hour or 30 minutes in the freezer. The dough can be wrapped well and stored in the refrigerator for up to 2 days or frozen for a month.
Yields: 2 cups | Prep Time: 20 minutes
6 cups whole dried apricots
2/4 cups brown sugar
4 ½ tbsp of fresh lemon juice
Place the apricots in a medium saucepan, cover with water, and simmer until the fruit is soft, about 15 minutes. Drain the apricots, reserving about 1 tbsp of the liquid, and put the fruit in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade. Puree the apricots with the brown sugar and lemon juice, adding a bit of the reserved liquid if the mixture seems too stiff to be spreadable.
This will keep in the refrigerator up to two weeks.
The Filling and Topping
1 cups granulated sugar
½ cup of brown sugar
3 ½ tbsp cinnamon
3 ½ cups coarsely chopped assorted nuts ( I used pecans and walnuts)
2 cups of apricot lekvar (recipe above) or apricot marmalade could work too.
2 cups of assorted dried fruits (I used golden raisins, apricots and figs)
1 large egg for egg wash
You are going to need 3 bowls here:
First bowl - ½ cup of granulated sugar and ½ of the brown sugar and I tbsp of cinnamon and mix.
Second bowl – 1 ½ cups of the remaining sugar, 2 ½ tbsp of cinnamons and 1 ½ cups of the assorted nuts and add to a food processor and pulses a few time until nuts are chopped and put back into your bowl. This is for topping the rugelach.
Third bowl – put the remainder of the 2 cups of the nuts and all the dried fruit (2 cups) into a food processor and pulse a few times and put into a bowl.
Working with one pieces of the chilled dough at a time, place it on lightly floured work surface and let it soften for a few minutes.
Here you have two options of how to roll your rugelach:
Jellyroll – Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough into a rectangle 14 inches by 10 inches and ¼ inch thick. Do not make it much thinner because you need a sturdy wrapper for all the chunky fillings. Using a knife or pizza cutter, cut the dough in half lengthwise, to make two 14×15 inch rectangles; leave the half in place.
Spread each half generously with one quarter (1/2 cup total) of the apricot lekvar. Sprinkle one quarter (1/4 cup) of the cinnamon/sugar mixture from first bowl. Press it down lightly with your fingers. Then sprinkle half (1 cup) of the nuts/fruit mixture third bowl and press it down lightly with your fingers.
Starting with he long edge of dough, roll up each rectangle jelly-roll fashion, tucking in any fruit or nuts that fall out along the way.
Cover the two rolls and put into your refrigerator until firm for about 4 hours or freezer for 30 minutes.
Repeat the steps for the second piece of dough.
The rolls can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
Brush the roll all over with the egg wash. Using a serrated knife and a sawing motion, slice the roll into pieces that are 1 to ½ inches wide.
Crescent shape – Flour your rolling pin and roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle and about ¼ inch thick. Do not make it much thinner because you need a sturdy wrapper for all the chunky fillings.
Spread one quarter (1/2 cup total) of the apricot lekvar evenly. Sprinkle one quarter (1/4 cup) of the cinnamon/sugar mixture from first bowl. Press it down lightly with your fingers. Then sprinkle half (1 cup) of the nuts/fruit mixture third bowl and press it down lightly with your fingers.
Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) Starting at the base of each triangle, roll the dough up so that each pastry becomes a little crescent.
Arrange the roll-ups on one baking sheet, making sure the points are tucked under the pastry, and refrigerate until firm for about 4 hours or freezer for 30 minutes.
Repeat the steps for the second piece of dough.
The pastries can be covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen for up to 2 months.
Brush the roll all over with the egg wash.
Final Steps and Baking
Position the oven racks to that they divide the over into thirds and preheat the oven to 375F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicon. Although you can probably bake all the pastries at the same time I would do it in batches.
Tosh each pastry in the cinnamon/sugar/nut mixture bowl two to coat generously. Transfer the rugelach to the prepared baking sheet, cut sides down for the jellyroll version, leaving an inch between each pastry.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pans top to bottom and from to back halfway through the baking period. The rugelach are done when the tops are golden and bottoms are caramelized. Cool the pastries on the pans for 5-10 minutes, then releases them from the sheet by running a think spatula under them. Cool to room temperature on a rack. Repeat with the remaining rolls of dough.
The rugelach will keep for a week in airtight containers, seals in plastic bags; they can be frozen up to 2 months.
Here are a few extra tips:
- Take the cream cheese and butter out of the refrigerator just 10 minutes before you’re going to use them – they should be still cold and only a tad soft.
- Give the dough a leisurely chill in the fridge before rolling it out, it makes a big difference. 30 minutes in freezer is min, 4 hours in the refrigerator or overnight even better.
- Refrigerate the pastries after you’ve assembled them – they’ll hold their shape a lot better if you bake them when they’re cold, trust me I have tried not to and they fall apart.
One Year Ago: Rice Porridge “Risgrynsgröt” and Swedish Santa Claus “Jultomten”
Monday, December 19, 2011
Not only do we host during the holiday season but we go to others for the holidays, if it is a cocktail party, holiday party, Christmas party or new years party one is always wondering what to bring to the hostess. 99% of the time most people bring a bottle of wine since that is pretty safe. But why not get a little creative and bring one of these items for your hostess during the holiday season, I would love to get any of these items.
What do you usually bring to the hostess?
Also here is a list of other gift ideas from previous years.
- Salted Caramels from Jon Boy – $8.99. – TheseSeattle made caramels are amazing. They are made with local cream, organic sugar, fleur de sel and organic brown-rice syrup by former local Whole Foods employee Jonathan Sue and business partner Jason Alm, these little boxes of 15 or so caramels pack in a whole lot of happiness. Today they are only selling these locally inSeattle, but you can get them online, and let me tell you, your hostess will not be disappointed.
- Black Tea Assortment Gift Tin from Mighty Leaf – $17.56 – This is my favorite tea these days and I always order my tea from there. You can get all kinds of flavors and always very good.
- Infused Truffle Olive Oil – $23.95 – I think this is a great gift, we all use olive oil and sometimes I have a hard time buying myself some fancy olive oil and always end up with the basic. However, I love getting this as s gift.
- Made in America Cookbook – $27.70 – An amazing cookbook which is a celebration of the contemporary American food landscape. 100 recipes by world’s leading chefs. Each recipe is enhanced with an introduction that includes the background and origin of the dish and a unique profile of the chef who has undertaken it, as well as sumptuous photographs of the dish, chef, and restaurant. Great cookbook for a chef at home.
- Eggs/Snaps Cups – $29 – Why not get something very Swedish from Splendidwillow Avenue with a set of adorable Egg cups. Every breakfast table/tray deserves some fancy egg cups.
- Cucina Hand Soap Set – $42 – Love this soap in the kitchen. They come in all different flavors. The scents are always refreshing and softens hands while bringing a Mediterranean touch to the surrounding decor of your kitchen.
- Cote Bastide Amber Crystal Potpourri – $42 – When you open this they look like a mix of amber and sea glass. Almost like brining a box of gemstones but with amazing scent.
- Italian Herb Garden – $49.95 – What a great idea to have a little herb garden inside your house during the winter season. I always forget to transfer mine inside.
- Truffles from Fran’s Chocolate – $50.00 – These amazing truffles makes anyone happy. A complete assortment of handmade truffles and award-winning salt caramels. These are my new favorite chocolates on order. I received these as a gift last year for Christmas and they were delicious. Today if I want to send chocolates as a gift I go to Fran’s, perfect hostess gift.
- Laurent-Perrier Brut Rose with Gift Box – $59.99 – Laurent-Perrier Rose is the best-selling roseChampagne in the world and it is one of the few roses still made by the traditional “saignee” method. Fabulous Champagne to give to your hostess.
One Year Ago: Swedish Christmas Glögg (Sweet Christmas Wine)
Sunday, December 11, 2011
December 13th is St Lucia Day in Sweden and traditionally you have saffron bread on lucia “Lussekatter.” You can actually make anything saffron and this year I decided to make this amazing moist saffron cake, which was delicious. The saffron is not overpowering and the cake is not too sweet. Just a great light moist dessert or during your afternoon “fika” snack.
What is Lucia?
There are a lot of different version of stories and theories of this. The Lucia tradition can be traced back both to St Lucia of Syracuse, a martyr who died in 304, and to the Swedish legend of Lucia as Adam’s first wife. It is said that she consorted with the Devil and that her children were invisible infernals. Thus the name may be associated with both lux (light) and Lucifer (Satan), and its origins are difficult to determine. The present custom appears to be a blend of traditions.
In the old almanac, Lucia Night “winter solstice” was the longest of the year. It was a dangerous night when supernatural beings were abroad and all animals could speak. By morning, the livestock needed extra feed. People, too, needed extra nourishment and were urged to eat seven or nine hearty breakfasts. This kind of feasting presaged the Christmas fast, which began on Lucia Day.
The last person to rise that morning was nicknamed ‘Lusse the Louse’ and often given a playful beating round the legs with birch twigs. The slaughtering and threshing were supposed to be over by Lucia and the sheds to be filled with food in preparation for Christmas. In agrarianSweden, young people used to dress up as Lucia figures (lussegubbar) that night and wander from house to house singing songs and scrounging for food and schnapps.
The first recorded appearance of a white-clad Lucia in Sweden was in a country house in 1764. The custom did not become universally popular in Swedish society until the 20th century, when schools and local associations in particular began promoting it. The old lussegubbar custom virtually disappeared with urban migration, and white-clad Lucias with their singing processions were considered a more acceptable, controlled form of celebration than the youthful carousals of the past.Stockholmproclaimed its first Lucia in 1927. The custom whereby Lucia serves coffee and buns “Lussekatter” dates back to the 1880s, although the buns were around long before that.
Picture from Swedish newspaper
Today, Lucia is a ceremony where a girl is elected to portray Lucia. Wearing a white gown with a red sash and a crown of candles on her head, she walks at the head of a procession of women, each holding a candle “Lucia Train.” The women sing a Lucia song while entering the room, to the melody of the traditional Santa Lucia song describing the light with which Lucia overcomes the darkness.
In the Lucia procession at home the oldest daughter brings coffee and saffron bread to her parents while wearing a candle-wreath and singing a Lucia song. Other daughters may help, dressed in the same kind of white robe and carrying a candle in one hand, but only the oldest daughter wears the candle-wreath.
If you are even in Sweden during this time you will see the competition for the role of Lucia. Each year, a national Lucia is proclaimed in one or other of the TV channels, while every town and village worth the name chooses its own Lucia. Candidates are presented in the local newspaper a couple of weeks in advance.
Adapted from: Allt om Mat
Yields: 8 servings | Prep Time: 15 minutes | Bake Time: 45 minutes
15 tbsp (200g) butter
½ tsp (0.5 g) of saffron (usually sold in 1 gram packages use ½ of that)
1 tsp sugar
1 1/3 cups (3 dl) sugar
1 cup (2.5 dl) milk
1 3/2 cups (4 dl) flour
2 tsp baking powder
Confection sugar for decoration
Turn oven to 350 F (175C). Butter a round cake pan with removable bottom.
Melt the butter. Mix the saffron in a mortar with 1 tsp of sugar until you have it all into a powder consistency.
Using a mixer, whip up the eggs and sugar until fluffy. Add the saffron/sugar mixture and then the butter and milk.
Then add the baking powder and flour until all mixed together.
Pour into the cake form and bake for about 45 minutes.
Powder with confection sugar before serving.
One Year Ago: Saffron Buns “Lussekatter”
Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Appetizers for your party – Rosemary and Parmesan Crackers or Pear Rosemary and Goat Cheese Foccacia
I was looking for a recipe and came across this old House Beautiful magazine where these awesome 101 Party Do’s & Don’ts were given out and I could not stop reading and decided to share this with the group as the holiday season is here and we are all either hosting parties or attending lots of parties and sometimes a little advice is good.
House Beautiful’s magazine asked designers, event planners, and bloggers for advice about how to host a successful party and they share their easy tips for setting a stunning dinner table, creating an inviting space for guests, making the perfect playlist, and more.
Some of these parties are great and some of them I do not agree with but they are all still good to read. #9 for example I do all the time – unfortunately my guest are always guinea pigs when it comes to recipes, I just can’t help myself.
Any others you can add to this list that you live by?
101 Party Do’s & Don’ts
Adapted from: House Beautiful
- Create a Playlist – Create a music playlist that’s ready to begin as soon as the doorbell rings and doesn’t end until the last guest departs.
- Set the Mood – The host’s mood sets the tone.
- Make Room for More – Do always include the single friend or extra surprise guest, even if it’s 13 at your table. You can always make room, slice the roast a little thinner.
- Learn the Art of Conversation – Don’t be a bore. Don’t monopolize the conversation.
- Loosen Up – Have a stiff drink before anyone arrives. If you are having fun, everyone will have fun.
- Serve Food at Proper Temperatures – Warm plates before serving hot food on them.
- Remember to Iron – Crispy ironed linens! There is nothing so luxurious as to sit at a table with a lovely ironed tablecloth and spread an ironed napkin over your lap.
- Charm the Host – Don’t come to a party empty-handed.
- Don’t Recipe Search on Party Day – Don’t try a new recipe at a party.
- Use YourChina- Don’t use plastic.
- Send out a proper invite. A handwritten one is preferable, but the online versions at PaperlessPost are quite wonderful.”
- Serve Appetizers Family-Style – Serve the first course family-style by placing platters on the table for everyone to share. It gives you time to work on your next course.
- Play with the Centerpiece – Flowers are overused as centerpieces. Use seasonal fruit, a tureen, or an interesting sculptural centerpiece instead.
- Host an Intimate Dinner – The perfect number for a dinner party is six to eight. You want festive conversation, but not so many people that the conversations are always split up.
- Set Up a DIY Cocktail Bar – Let guests make their own cocktails. I have a few favorite recipes on cards, and all the ingredients on hand. People mix and shake and think it’s super-fun.
- Don’t Delay Dinner for Tardy Guests – Don’t wait for late guests. People resent being hungry.
- Arrive on Time – Don’t be late.
- Follow the One-Bite Rule – Keep hors d’oeuvres to one bite. No one wants to talk or kiss with a mouthful.
- Add a Light – We all look better with light on our faces. Put lamps on your buffet or server.
- Don’t Serve Only White Liquors – Don’t serve only white liquors because you’re afraid of spills.
- Do Serve Only White Liquors – My grandmother, who did an awful lot of entertaining, said: ‘Serve only white-colored liquors and wines so they don’t stain.
- Make More Than Enough Ice – Never, never, never run out of ice.
- Set Table Properly – Don’t face the knife blade out. Rules are made to be broken, but that’s not one of them.
- Introduce Other Guests – Always, always make introductions. If you’re going to make a guest feel alienated, why invite them?
- Have Appropriate Timing for Flower Deliveries – If you are sending flowers as a thank-you, don’t send them the same day as the dinner. Much better to send two days before or two days after.
- Prepare Naughty and Nice Desserts – Offer a choice of desserts — something sweet and sinful like a peach crisp with vanilla ice cream and something lighter like poached pears. Guests usually take some of each.
- Adults Only, Please – Look, I know your child is adorable. I know your dog is even more adorable and not given to begging at the table. Still, both parties would be better off having their own party in another room (like the kitchen) and, ideally, at a different time (like before the guests arrive).
- Keep Champagne on Hand – You should always have a cold bottle of bubbly stashed in your refrigerator in case friends drop by, and a bottle of something sparkly for nondrinkers.
- Give Out Party Favors – Always do favors. People love leaving with a little something.
- Don’t Be Rude – Turn off cell phones!
- Dress Up Catered Food – Serve takeout on your finest china.
- Create Ambience – I cannot tell you how many parties with great food have been ruined by operating-room lighting. Atmosphere is half the battle. A low-lit atmosphere with candles can even give pizza old-movie glamour.
- Make Clean-Up Simpler – Always start with an empty dishwasher.
- Entertain on Any Budget – Don’t be afraid to throw a party because you think it will cost too much. You can have a good time for $10 with a bottle of wine and a bag of nuts.
- Encourage Friendly Conversation – Seat guests next to someone they know and someone they’d enjoy meeting.
- Keep Flowers Low – Don’t create such impressive centerpieces that the guests can’t see each other across the table.
- Keep the Lights On – Light up the backyard so there won’t be a big black hole outside your windows.
- Linger at the Table – Don’t tidy up the table too soon. Once the plates are cleared away, often so is the mood.
- Equip the Powder Room Appropriately – Put individual guest napkins in the powder room (prevents yucky overused guest towels). And a soap pump (no gooey soaps).
- Control the Volume – Music should be just loud enough so that people have to talk above it slightly.
- Seat Guests Wisely – People with big personalities are best in the center of the table. They can help carry the conversation from that place.
- Be Inclusive – Don’t discuss topics that exclude others. It’s a surefire way to deflate a party.
- Stick with Simple Food – Make a home-cooked meal, even if it’s just a bowl of chili and a salad with garlic bread. There’s nothing better than simple and delicious.
- Keep an Upbeat Attitude – In case of an entertaining crisis, take a deep breath and ask, ‘What would Auntie Mame do?’ If a guest accidentally breaks something, regardless of value, simply say, ‘Thank you. I’ve been looking for a reason to replace that old thing.’
- Mix and Mingle – If you’re throwing a cocktail party, have fewer chairs than people. This will force your guests to circulate and mingle the good old-fashioned way.
- Find Ways to Break the Ice- I discovered early on that the best parties involve a certain amount of serendipity. I try not to have everything done when the guests arrive so that people can pitch in and help in the kitchen. It’s a great ice-breaker.
- Prep Ahead – Get everything ready the day before.
- Check in with Guests – Ask people ahead of time for their food preferences: Do they eat meat? Do they drink? Do they have any food allergies? It sounds stupid but believe me, nowadays these can ruin a dinner party.
- Choose Proper Lighting – No colored candles! Only ivory and white.
- Use Place Cards – Don’t expect guests to seat themselves — it’s your dining room, not Southwest Airlines. Placement is key to great conversations and something you don’t leave to chance.
- Have Drinks Ready – Have beverages visible from the moment guests step in the door.
- Anything Goes – Don’t take yourself too seriously. Anything goes these days with your table decor and menu, so have fun.
- Mix “Mocktails” – Not everyone drinks alcohol. Have fresh-squeezed juices and other delicious choices so you can mix a ‘mocktail’ or two.
- Write on Both Sides of Place Cards – Make sure place cards have first and last names, written legibly, on both sides, so guests know the names of people sitting opposite.
- Use Cloth Napkins – Never use paper napkins.
- Have a Backup Plan – Have Seating Plan B. If one of your guests is iffy on attending, or if two you’ve seated together spend the entire cocktail hour huddled together, be prepared for an alternative arrangement. Keep it simple: You don’t want to relocate the whole table.
- Use the Good China Outdoors – Don’t be afraid to use your finest china, silverware, and crystal pieces outdoors. It can make a casual event a bit more special.
- Write Yourself Notes – Buy a pad of sticky notes and write everything down that you need to do. Stick them all around the kitchen. When you finish a task, take down that note.
- UseCrystalDishes – When I was inItalyone summer, our hosts served cashews and potato chips in crystal bowls while we sipped Prosecco. It was a revelation: right-out-of-the-bag snacks become sophisticated when they’re served in a gorgeous dish.
- Be Ready When Guests Arrive – Plan ahead! There’s nothing worse than greeting your guests while you’re still trying to light the candles, turn on the music, and get dressed.
- Seat People Closely – Crowd the table a little: With more people at the table, no one can ignore their neighbor.
- Stream Music – If you don’t have time to create your own playlist, log on to pandora.com.
- Stock Up on Essentials – Have enough of everything on hand. Nothing worse than running out of anything, whether Perrier or loo paper.
- Give a Dress Code – Give your guests an idea of what to wear. Never say, ‘Whatever you’re comfortable in’ unless you don’t mind them coming in their PJs.
- Don’t Give a Dress Code – Don’t impose a dress code on people. What is dressy attire anymore? Forget it — leave them to their own devices and just see what turns up.
- Seat Couples Separately – Separate couples when seating a dinner.
- Serve on Separate Plates – Don’t do family-style for larger events. By the time you finish picking up, passing, waiting for everybody to serve themselves, your food is cold and you’re hungry.
- Freeze Your Candles – Stick your candles in the freezer for a couple of days prior to using them. The freezing will eliminate most of the messy dripped wax all over your furniture.
- Don’t Be Stuffy – Elegance: YES. Fussiness: NO!
- Have Drinks Prepared – Nothing is worse than a long wait for a drink. Drinks should be plentiful and easily accessible, with a couple of good seasonal options.
- Take Photos – Record everything about every party with a notebook and a digital camera. It will prevent you from repeating menus and seating arrangements. Add your personal comments about the hits and the misses. You’ll thank yourself!
- Don’t Cancel – Don’t cancel a dinner invitation the day of the dinner unless you are on an IV drip in a hospital.
- Balance Hors d’Oeuvres – If you are having an elaborate dinner, then keep your hors d’oeuvres simple. And if you are planning an easy dinner, make your hors d’oeuvres a little fancier.
- Write Thank-You Notes – Handwritten thank-you notes after being entertained are a must.
- Keep It Casual – Don’t ever make it feel formal — it’s such a snooze.
- Have Extra Seating – There should be lots of seats to pull up — or perches abounding — but scattered around the perimeter of the space so as not to block the party’s traffic flow.
- Rearrange Minimally – Don’t rearrange the chairs all against the wall just because you are having a large party. People like to see a beautiful interior.
- Sit Next to Your Guests – As a host, don’t sit at the head of the table — presumptuous and archaic.
- Dress Up – Glamorous informality is the name of the game. Dress up, even if you are serving hot dogs!
- Stock the Bar – Don’t run low on the hooch!
- Avoid Scented Candles – Unscented candles, please!
- Use Pink Bulbs – Switch lamp bulbs to pale pinks, which make everyone look great.
- Make Extra Food – Don’t be stingy with your food and beverages. Like my old Italian grandma used to say, ‘I’d rather have lots of leftovers than have someone leave my party hungry.’
- Have Snacks Handy – Keep cocktail nuts and a stocked bar so you’re always prepared for last-minute guests.
- Use WhiteChina- You can never have too many white plates, platters, and bowls.
- Make Dessert – Serve an amazing dessert. Even the worst main course will be forgotten if it’s followed by a spectacular dessert. Extra points for making it yourself.
- Use a Secret Ingredient – Serve at least one course with a secret-weapon ingredient that makes everyone swoon trying to guess what it is, like David Monn’s rose-petal jam added to his angel food cake, or Naeem Khan’s muddled kumquat cocktails.
- Invite Pets – If you’re a pet owner, extend an invitation to your friends’ dogs. It makes for lively conversation and your guests feel instantly at home.
- Pamper Guests – Never underestimate the power of a great powder room. It is your gift to your guests. Every detail will be noticed, and it will reveal much about you, so don’t skimp.
- Make a Mobile Bar – Ever notice how guests love to gather in the kitchen? To disperse the crowd, place a bar somewhere in the corner of your living room and rearrange furniture to create a few different conversation spots.
- Keep a Clean Work Area – Clean as you go! That way you’re not left with a kitchen that looks like a tornado made dinner.
- Turn Down the Lights – Dim the lights or change all the bulbs to 25 watts or less.
- Switch Scenery – Move to another room for dessert and coffee. A new atmosphere keeps the flow of the evening going.
- Don’t Disrupt Conversation – Don’t move people around too much. If you move people off the dining table it can be sort of a cue to leave and can break up the conversations.
- Stick with Simple, Salty Appetizers – Keep the hors d’oeuvres simple and minimal — something salty and crunchy is always a good idea. We keep good Dufour puff pastry in our freezer and can whip up a batch of cheese straws at a moment’s notice. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on a cutting board. Lay a sheet of pastry on top and sprinkle more cheese over it. Roll the dough out about 1/8-inch thick. Cut into long strips and twist, like a corkscrew. Bake in a preheated 375-degree oven until golden and crisp.
- Let Guests Seat Themselves – Don’t use assigned seating — allow guests to mingle and let the evening evolve organically.
- Mix and MatchChina- Don’t set the table with a single pattern of china or silver, as though you just unearthed your bridal registry. Mix it up, get creative.
- Use Matching Glasses – If you mix and match the china, keep the glassware and flatware consistent.\
- Don’t Always Eat at the Dining Table – Don’t be afraid to set up a dinner table in an unconventional or ?not-the-usual spot for a more interesting dinner or lunch — in the library ?among the books, out on a porch.
- Use a Coatrack – Provide a place to hang coats and leave bags. If you don’t have extra room in your closets, put out a folding coatrack with matching coat hangers.
- Bid Farewell – Don’t leave without saying good-bye to the host.
One Year Ago: Perfect Gift for Him & Her
Monday, December 5, 2011
During the winter months i love making bread – there is nothing as awesome as warm fresh bread out of the oven with some real butter on it. This Whole Wheat Sandwich load fits that bill. I have also found a favorite butter, i have always just bought European butter for my sandwiches but they were hard to find spreadable and now i have found this Kerrygold Pure Irish Butter softer tub, oh it’s so good. Then a slice of some turkey and some hot mustard. That is my type of sandwich.
I found this great bread recipe for the Secret Recipe Club “assignment!” Every month you get a name of a blog and you need to choose ANY recipe from that blog and then blog about that recipe by a date. It’s a secret because the blog owner does not know you are doing this until the reveal date. My secret blog this month was Thru The Bugs On My Windshield which is written by Suz who lives in Texas and writes this great cute food blog.
This recipe tells you to put the loaves in a pan but i decided not too – therefore my bread is a little flatter bu i like to have them that way sometimes.
Whole Wheat Sandwich Loaf
Adapted from: Thru the Bugs on my Windshield
Yields: 2 loaves | Prep Time: 3 hours 15 minutes | Bake Time: 35 minutes
3 tsp (15 ml) active dry yeast
3 cups (680 ml) whole milk (3.25 per cent fat), warmed to a temperature of 97ºF (36ºF)
2 1/2 tsp (12.5 ml) salt
2 tsp (10 ml) butter, melted
5 1/3 cups (750g) whole wheat bread flour, + 1/2 cup (75g), for working the dough
2 tbsp (30 ml) butter, for the loaf pan
In a large mixing bowl or processor, combine the yeast and warm milk, and mix to dissolve. Mix in the salt and the melted butter.
Gradually sprinkle in the flour, switch to using the bread hook on your processor and mix slowly. If the dough becomes too thick to stir use knead it with your hands, for about 5 minutes, until you obtain smooth, homogenous dough that is soft and a little sticky.
Move it to a glass bowl that is buttered and cover it with a kitchen towel and let rest 30 minutes.
Knead the dough 20 strokes (still in the bowl), cover again, and let rest for 1.5 hour.
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface, and divide in two. Form each half into a slightly oval ball. Butter your two loaf pans and transfer the dough to the bread pans. Cover and let rise in a draft-free area for 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
Fill a large baking pan with hot water (simmering is fine) and place in the oven. Preheat oven to 450ºF (240ºC).
Put the loaves in then oven and bake for 10 minutes. Do not open the oven door during this time. After 10 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 400ºF (200ºC) and continue baking for about 25 minutes, or until the loaves are nicely golden. Unmold and let cool on a rack.
One Year Ago: Perfect Gift for Him & Her
Monday, November 28, 2011
I can’t believe it was first advent yesterday, this is my favorite holiday of the year and first advent start it all off – with 4 Sundays to Christmas. In Sweden on first advent we start of by making some Glögg it is an awesome spiced wine that just brings so many memories of the holiday. Other things we do for first advent is light the first candle of four in our advent candlestick. On TV, there is a special Christmas calendar show for the young with 24 episodes. It, too, serves as a countdown to the big day. When I grew up the TV advent calendar was one of my favorite things about Christmas.
Last year I did the Swedish Christmas series and wrote all about our traditions and I will expand on them this year but here is the Swedish Christmas Series from last year:
As the holiday season begins I also think about all the awesome hearty food to cook. This year I am starting off with some amazing short ribs that can be served anytime of the year but these are especially good during Christmas.
I would love to hear about some of your traditions.
Braised Short Ribs
Adapted from: Pioneer Woman
Yields: 4 servings | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Cook Time 2 ½ hours
8 whole Beef Short Ribs
Pepper To Taste
¼ cups All-purpose Flour
6 pieces Pancetta, diced
2 tbsp Olive Oil
1 whole Medium Onion, diced
2 whole Carrots, diced
2 whole Shallots, Peeled And Finely Minced
1 parsnip, diced
2 stalks of celery, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups Red Wine
2 cups Beef Broth (enough To Almost Cover Ribs)
2 sprigs Thyme or 1 tsp try thyme
2 sprigs Rosemary or 1 tsp dry rosemary
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp allspice
Salt and pepper ribs, then dredge in flour. Set aside.
In a large dutch oven, cook pancetta over medium heat until complete crispy and all fat is rendered. Remove pancetta and set aside. Do not discard grease.
Add olive oil to pan with the pancetta grease, and raise heat to high. Brown ribs on all sides, about 45 seconds per side. Remove ribs and set aside. Turn heat to medium.
Add onions, carrots, shallots, garlic, celery, parsnip to pan and cook for 5 minutes. Pour in wine and scrape bottom of pan to release all the flavorful. Bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
Add broth, 1 tsp kosher salt, and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Add the paprika, cayenne pepper, thyme, allspice and rosemary. Add ribs to the liquid; they should be almost completely submerged.
Put on the lid and place into the oven. Cook at 350 for 2 hours, remove from the oven and taste for salt. Add more salt if needed. Then reduce heat to 325 and cook for an additional 30 to 45 minutes. Ribs should be fork-tender and falling off the bone. Remove pan from oven and allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, lid on, before serving. At the last minute, skim fat off the top of the liquid. (Can also refrigerate mixture, then remove solid fat from the top.)
Serve ribs over potatoes, rice or your favorite starch.
One Year Ago: Le Crostata – Cranberry and Caramel Walnut Crostata
Sunday, November 20, 2011
I can’t believe it is Thanksgiving this week and the weather in Seattle has been freezing already. I still have a bunch of pumpkin recipes i wanted to try this week, one of them were these amazing pumpkin fritters. To me anything doughnut like has to be fresh or i will not eat it, these you will not stop eating when they come out. Plus they are not as good the day after. These pumpkin fritters are perfect for a simple dessert served with only confectionery sugar, but you can also go all out and server with some jam and whipped cream. Either way you can’t go wrong.
These are a keeper for me. They are simple to put together and the frying is the most time consuming part, which was not bad at all.
For thanksgiving i am going to some family in town and will be making my yearly ribs and a side salad. What are your plans for thanksgiving? Still looking for ideas? Here are some thanksgiving recipes to check out.
Adapted from: What’s Cookin’ Italian Style Cuisine
Yields: 24 fritters | Prep Time: 10 minutes | Cook Time: 20 minutes
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin spice
1 tsp salt
4 cups canola oil for frying
confectionery sugar for topping
Pumpkin Pie Spice (2 tsp)
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp nutmeg
In a medium bowl using a mixer, combine pumpkin, egg, flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, pumpkin spice and salt. Mix until smooth.
Heat oil in a deep saucepan to 325 degrees. Drop batter by spoonfuls into hot oil. Fry until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon, and serve immediately with sifted powdered sugar on top.
One Year Ago: Cranberry Orange Molds
Sunday, November 13, 2011
These cookies changed my life. Not really, but they were my first step toward liking pumpkin. I used to hate pumpkin until I tasted these Pumpkin Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies. We used to go to an annual wine tasting/swapping party at a friends house every year. Someone always brought these cookies – I really didn’t know they were pumpkin and just started eating them and thought they were delicious – fluffy, spicy and minty. Then when they told me it was pumpkin I was really surprised. After that I tried other pumpkin things and started to really like it and today I am addicted.
Here is the recipe to the famous pumpkin mint cookies, they are minty and you are probably thinking pumpkin and mint, hmm that is a strange combination – but these are delicious.
It can be hard to find mint chocolate chips but I order them on Amazon.com. Also in this picture I added a few white chocolate just for fun.
Other exciting news today is that I have 3 months to go with my pregnancy – time is flying by!
Pumpkin Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies
Yields: 40 cookies | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Bake Time: 15 minutes
½ cup sugar
1 (1/2 cup) stick butter room temperature
2 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp nutmeg
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt
1 tsp peppermint extract
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup mint chocolate chips
Turn oven onto 350F
Mix sugar, butter and egg in a mixer until fluffy. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt and set aside. Then in a third bowl mix the peppermint, vanilla, pumpkin and mint chocolate chips. Then mix the three bowls together into one just until combined.
Using a tsp add these cookies with an inch apart on a cookies sheet with parchment paper or silicon liner. Bake in 350 degree oven for 15 minutes.
One Year Ago: Turkey Stuffing
Monday, November 7, 2011
I love corn chowder just never make it enough. There are many different ways to do corn chowder but I especially like curry in mine. I think it gives great flavor to the soup. This is not a vegetarian version but you can omit the bacon and use vegetable stock as well. I do enough my corn chowder spicy so I usually use hot curry powder and including hot sauce at the end. The soup is even better the day after.
I got the idea to finally make corn chowder because it was time for another Secret Recipe Club “assignment!” Every month you get a name of a blog and you need to choose ANY recipe from that blog and then blog about that recipe by a date. It’s a secret because the blog owner does not know you are doing this until the reveal date. My secret blog this month was The Cookaholic Wife which is written by Nicole. Nicole had some great soup recipes on her site, and everyone knows I love soups. But then when I saw her recipe for Corn Chowder I knew I had to try it out. Since I really like curry in my corn chowder I made a few adjustments, but the soup was delicious.
Adapted from: The Cookaholic Wife
Yields: serves 6 | Prep Time: 45 minutes | Cook Time: 30 minutes
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
3 ears of corn, kernels removed from the cobs (or 2 cups of frozen corn)
2 tbsp salted butter
2 strip of bacon chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 cup chicken stock
2 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into 1” cubes
1 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tsp celery salt
1 tsp paprika
2 tsp curry
1 tsp mustard powder
salt and pepper
2 cups half and half
hot sauce, optional
1/2 tsp parsley
Preheat oven to broil. Line a cookie sheet with foil. Drizzle olive oil over the green, red pepper, and broil until slightly browned 4-7 minutes. Remove the green and red pepper but turn the oven to 350 F. Wrap the corn in foil and put them in the oven for 30 minutes to roast.
Once the corn is done remove the kernels from the corn by standing a corn cob vertically over a large, shallow pan (like a roasting pan). Using a sharp knife, use long, downward strokes of the knife to remove the kernels from the cob. Use the edge of a spoon to scrape the sides of the cob to remove any remaining pulp. You can also use frozen corn if you wish.
In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the bacon strips . Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and carrot and cook for 10 minutes or until tender.
Chop the green and red pepper and add to the pot along with the corn. Cook about 5 minutes. Or until the corn is thawed if using frozen corn.
Add the chicken stock, potatoes, oregano, bay leaf, celery salt, paprika, curry, mustard powder and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Stir in the half and half cook for 5 minutes until heated through.
Season with additional salt if necessary – the potatoes will take a lot of the salt and add hot sauce if desired. Sprinkle with parsley before serving.
One Year Ago: Cranberry and White Chocolate Streusel
Wednesday, November 2, 2011
I am back from my “babymoon” and very relaxed. I have lots to write about from there. But first I have to share this fabulous Pumpkin Bread recipe. I hate to cook baked good with oil but since I have been a pumpkin fanatic this season I decided to try this recipe for pumpkin Bread that is with oil from Alexandra’s Kitchen. WOW! That is all I have to say. This is definitely the best pumpkin bread I have had. It is spicy, lots of pumpkin taste and very very moist. I have another pumpkin bread recipe that I made here which is with butter instead of oil and with raisins and walnuts and it is delicious but this one here today does beat it with moister.
I have made this recipe a few times now, I have tried with without frosting and with whole wheat flour. I recommend the bread with all purpose flour, using whole wheat makes it much dyer and not as tasty. Also if you want to be decadent add the frosting.
I hope everyone had a great Halloween I can’t believe it is already November.
Adapted from: Alexandra’s Kitchen
Yields: 2 standard loafs | Prep Time: 20 minutes | Bake Time: 60 minutes
2 cup sugar
1 cup canola oil
16 oz. canned pumpkin (not pie filling)
3/4 cup water
3 cup flour
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp allspice
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pans with butter. Using a mixer beat sugar and oil together until blended. Add eggs one at a time mixing after each addition. Add pumpkin purée and water and mix until blended.
Whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, clove, nutmeg, and allspice. Add to the mixer and mix only until just incorporated. Pour batter into prepared pans.
Bake for about an hour (mine took 1 hour 15 minutes) but start checking for doneness after 45 minutes — the loaves are done when center springs back when touched.
6 oz cream cheese, at room temperature
3 tbsp unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 tsp Boyajian Natural Maple Flavor
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cream cheese and butter on low speed until smooth. Stir in the maple flavoring and vanilla extract. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the confectioners’ sugar and mix until smooth.
Spread the breads with the Maple Frosting.
One Year Ago: Pumpkin Pie Bars