Thursday, December 30, 2010

Buttery, Pretty Macaroons More Popular Than Ever in the Coming New Year

Whip Up My Lemon Coconut Macaroons in Minutes

According to over a thousand chefs surveyed about food trends setting the world on fire/flambĂ© this coming New Year, 2011 is all about farmers markets, eating less gluten, hormone and pesticide-free fruits and veggies (and lots of ‘em), humanely raised poultry and beef, sustainable seafood, and carefully mixed cocktails that include fresh fruit, herbs or savory add-ins. These same chefs also mentioned macaroons by name. I agree whole-heartedly—with my entire palate—that macaroons deserve top billing this coming year. Chefs and food reviewers say they’re putting pies and cakes on the back burner—with new cookbooks, like I Love Macarons, gracing cookbook aisles everywhere.

Let’s Go Macaroon Shopping!

I’m sure just about everyone has tasted a macaroon—or macarons as they’re known abroad—at some point in their lives. They’re a pastry phenomenon (in that they’re so simple) and have been around since the 1500’s when Italian monks brought them to France. Funny story: a pair of nuns traveling with the monks were the only folks in the group who knew how to make them, and earned their room and board by becoming, as they were known by their brethren, “The Macaroon Sisters”!

Ever since, macaroons have been on a world tour. Every country touts its own particular version. My recipe is more faithful to the U.K. and American way of preparing them, which is to say I don’t go the meringue route. But that isn’t to say that I shouldn’t: Wolfgang Puck happens to like the meringue version of macaroons so much that, in addition to claiming they’re his all-time favorite dessert, he also makes a habit of visiting the Payard Bakery every time he’s in New York. I have to agree that this pastry chef’s “coffee macaroons” do look amazing (you can also get them in Caesar’s Palace, Las Vegas). If you’re pastry shopping, look to Sucre in New Orleans; they also make a mean macaroon.

When You’re Making My Macaroons
Because my Lemon Coconut Macaroons calls for a ground lemon peel, may I suggest the zester on my Nana’s Favorite Things page. Keep in mind, this recipe produces 3-dozen individual, happy little pastries, so it’s a good idea to serve half to your guests and freeze the rest for later. If you’d rather have them more readily accessible, just remember to keep them in an air-tight container, in a dry cool place—where they should remain tasty for up to 2 weeks—with a wink and a nudge, I challenge you to see if they’ll last that long!

A Last Note to Thank Home Cooks Everywhere and Wish Them a Happy New Year
I have to tell you that this recipe is stand-out in that it appeared in my very first cookbook. I asked a friend who likes to make them whenever she has an Asian inspired dinner (don’t ask her why; she just thinks macaroons belong on a Chinese menu), if there’s anything she’d like to pass on to someone contemplating them as their next dessert. She said to make sure you measure out the coconut to my exact specifications; otherwise they’ll come out “sandy, a little too “coconutty”…but still pretty good.” She added that the next time she’s feeling artful in the kitchen, she’s going to try putting the macaroon batter into a pastry bag and squirting it through a confectioner’s tube to make her macaroons “especially beautiful.” I would like to reach out and personally say thank you to this wonderful recipe tester and wish her, along with all my other fellow home cooks, a marvelous 2011!

Lemon Coconut Macaroons

Prep time: 20 minutes, plus baking
Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

1 ½ cups all purpose flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
2/3 cup sugar
6 tablespoons butter or ¾ stick at room temperature
4 oz. Cream cheese (also at room temperature)
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon lemon juice (about ½ medium lemon)
½ teaspoon ground lemon peel
1 10 ounce package sweetened coconut (about 3 cups)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Prepare a baking sheet by coating it in vegetable oil spray.

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder and salt, and set aside.

Using an electric mixer, combine sugar, butter and cream cheese and beat together until fluffy.

Beat in the eggs, vanilla, lemon juice and ground lemon peel.

Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.

Mix in the coconut.

Drop heaping teaspoons of the batter onto the cookie sheet, leaving at least 1 inch between each cookie.

Bake for 18 to 25 minutes until the cookies puff and the coconut begins to brown on the top.

Transfer to a rack to cool completely.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Holiday Delights That’ll Tickle Their Taste Buds at Your Next Holiday Buffet or Annual Gift Exchange

‘Tis the season to rock that buffet line! If you’ve been invited to a Christmas party and assured the host or hostess you’d bring a cover dish or scrumptious dessert, well then my advice has reached you just in time; if I’m too late, just keep these goodies on file for New Year’s Eve! Whatever the cause for celebration might be—whether you’re giving the party or just part of its receiving line—you’ll want to put your best foot forward when it comes to the food you bring/serve.

Dips and Crudités are a Buffet Staple
I’m a big advocate of the buffet because sit-down meals, though elegant and much enjoyed don’t allow your guests to mingle—and since many are return guests to your annual shindig, who only see each other AT your shindigs, they’ve got some catching up to do! Here’s a rule of thumb so guests can munch and gab without putting anything down to cut the meat—set up no less than 3 different surfaces (one for drinks, one for hot savory items, one for desserts) and serve as many finger foods as possible. That being said, veggies and dip, or crackers with an accent like my Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread is a great start to the festivities; this spreadable recipe looks great with holiday theme spreaders, and you can substitute eggplant for an equally amazing taste.

Where’s the Beef?
No holiday buffet line is complete without meatballs—get ‘em ready to go by spearing each with a toothpick and it’s no worries for your hungry guests. Mini Meatballs in Creamy Gravy can be made in advance and warmed up just as the yuletide fun begins. Just set a chafing dish or fondue pot on medium high. Another main dish standby that’s fun and fortifying are Open Face Mini Ruebens.

Make it a Sweet Affair
There’s no better way to christen a holiday dessert table than planting a gingerbread house in the center of it, and spreading around the goodies. 3 to 4 plates of cookies that offer a variety to Joe and Jane Sweettooth should suffice, two pies and an item you don’t get to enjoy any old day of the week, like Peanut Brittle and Butterscotch Blondies ought to do the trick; my two tried and true bolded desserts are so fast they’re practically done before you can finish singing the 12 Days of X-mas.

Cocktails Help the Good Times Roll
It wouldn’t be a party without the wet bar! I’ve counseled on this matter before, the last time being Labor Day weekend kicked up cocktails; it may have been summer then, but these chilled refreshments are still welcome in December. While some dream of a White Christmas, others dream of sipping White Sangria. It’s all there—just have a cooler full of ice waiting, and those telltale red party cups and you’re ready to roll!

Send Then Home with a Gift!
And now for the games…you know what’s unbelievably F-U-N at a Christmas party? A wacky gift exchange! In the invite, tell your guests to wrap a present that cost no more than $10—something amusing, like a Chia pet or funny calendar. Also known as the White Elephant Party Game, you’ll need someone to Emcee the event; this usually falls to the hostess. Everyone picks a number out of hat and takes turns approaching the gift laden X-mas tree with a chuckle and mock trepidation…am I really going to unwrap a fly swatter or tackiest T-shirt on earth? Once the first gift is unwrapped, the recipient sits down and anticipates whether the next party guest is going to unwrap something worth keeping, or decides to “steal”. The rules and regs of the game vary according to preferences of the host, but I believe this is standard: if a gift has already been stolen twice and you’re the third one to lay claim on it, you go home with it.

Santa’s presence at these things always kicks things up a notch! Once again, if these tips got to you too late and you’ve just attended or hosted your last X-mas party of the season, I hope you’ll file my ides under “C” for Chris Cringle. May every day feel festive. Here’s wishing you the best in 2011. May it be the best year yet!

Open Face Mini Ruebens

6 slices party rye round slices
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon reduced fat mayonnaise
¾ cup sauerkraut
6 ounces lean deli corn beef, thinly sliced
2 ounces reduced fat shredded Swiss cheese, about ½ cup

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place the bread onto a baking sheet with lip that has been coated with vegetable oil spray.

Spread the mustard mixture on top of the bread. Layer with sauerkraut, corn beef and Swiss cheese.

Bake until the cheese has melted, about 5 minutes.


Makes 12 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

2 cups granulated sugar
1 ½ cup salted peanuts (about 6 ounces)

Coat a rimmed baking sheet with vegetable oil spray. Place the sugar in a deep sauce pan. Pour in ½ cup water. Cook over medium heat until the sugar melts and the mixture begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Continue cooking, stir often until the mixture darkens to caramel and the sugar is totally dissolved, about 10 minutes more. Stir in the peanuts.

Pour the mixture onto the baking sheet. Coat a spatula with vegetable oil spray. Use the spatula to spread out the peanut mixture to about ½-inch thickness. Work fast as the brittle sets up quickly. Cool completely, about 15 to 20 minutes

To serve, break the brittle into bit-size pieces.


Makes 9 servings
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature (1 stick)
1 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup butterscotch chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the flour, baking powder, soda and salt in a bowl.

Use an electric mixer to combine the butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Stir in the egg. Stir in the vanilla. Stir in the flour mixture, nuts and chips.

Spread the batter into a 11 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish that has been coated with vegetable oil spray. Bake until golden, about 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and cool completely.

To serve, cut into 9 bars.

Roasted Red Pepper Cheese Spread

Prep time: 15 minutes
Yield: 1 cup dip

Serving Size: 2 tablespoons

1 (3-ounce) package reduced-fat cream cheese
2 tablespoons reduced-fat mayonnaise
2 tablespoons chopped roasted red pepper
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 ounces reduced-fat grated cheddar cheese (about 1 cup)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Celery Sticks
Carrot Sticks
Whole Grain Bread Sticks

Place the cream cheese, mayonnaise, red pepper, parsley and cheese into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until combined. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with carrots, celery and bread sticks.

Mini Meatballs in Creamy Gravy

Servings: 3 dozen meatballs
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
1 cup milk
1 large shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
3 large eggs, beaten
½ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon allspice
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound lean ground veal
¾ pound lean ground pork
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 to 4 tablespoons butter
¼ to ½ cup flour

1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons flour
2 cups beef stock
1 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons fresh parsley

Soak the breadcrumbs in the milk for 10 minutes in a bowl.

Mix in the shallot, eggs, nutmeg, and allspice.

Add all of the meat to the bowl. Use a hand held mixer to combine until fluffy. Season with salt and pepper.

Shape into 1-inch meatballs. Place onto a baking sheet. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium high heat.

Place ¼ cup flour in shallow bowl.

Roll each meatball into the flour mixture. Shake off the excess. Cook the meatballs in batches until just cooked through, about 5 minutes.

Remove the meatballs with a slotted spoon and drain on paper toweling. Repeat with remaining meat adding additional butter as needed.

Remove all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.

Cook the onion in the pan until soft, about 3 minutes.

Stir the flour into the onion. Cook for 5 minutes.

Stir in the beef broth and cream. Reduce the heat to medium and stir until thickened, about 10 minutes.

Place the meatballs into the sauce. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and simmer for 2 to 5 minutes or until cooked through.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

You’ll Love the Dickens out of this Holiday Menu! Here’s How to Bring the Spirit of a Victorian Christmas to Dinner

"turkeys, geese, game, poultry, brawn, great joints of meat, suckling-pigs, long wreathes of sausages, mince pies, plum puddings, barrels of oysters, red hot chestnuts, cherry-cheeked apples, juicy oranges, luscious pears, immense twelfth-cakes and seething bowls of punch that made the chamber dim with their delicious steam". -Charles Dickens

What foodie doesn’t love A Christmas Carol? The Dickens classic lavishes words on Fezziwig’s holiday feast—not to mention the mountain of mouthwatering treasures lorded over by the Ghost of Christmas Present. For my readers’ dining and entertaining pleasure, I thought it might be fun to present a Christmas party menu, inspired by the Victorians of Scrooge’s era. Some of the selections here are a bit labor intensive, but well worth the effort!

Cocktails and Appetizers
Oysters were extremely available and cheap during the Victorian age, costing just 2 pence for dozen--everyone loved and ate them, from poor folk to British royalty. Here’s a waste not want not proposition: enjoy a welcoming cocktail of Oyster Shooters—refreshing and holly berry red, thanks to the tomato juice, and/or dine on an appetizer of Baked Oysters Rockerfeller. For the cocktails, fill a tub or large bowl with crushed ice, plunging shot glasses into it as guests arrive. Remember that raw oysters are at their best during fall and winter because they spawn during the summer months and become soft and fatty as they mature. Enjoy!

Choosing Your Bird of Paradise
I deliberated hard and long over this one. No matter how many times I watch A Christmas Carol, I marvel at how much meat there is; it’s easy and charmingly proverbial to picture the city streets of London in those days, lined with butcher shops. I thought about a simple Roasted Chicken with Herb Butter, but then thought the colors, aromas and “olde” traditions of Christmas merited something more festive; I ultimately chose Simply Roasted Duck with Orange Cranberry Glaze. Oranges were an exotic, but popular stocking stuffer in the days of Dickens, adding a dash of color around the bird.

Notes on Preparing the Perfect Duck
The hardest part is the thawing process. Most duck is purchased frozen. The best way to thaw the whole bird is to place the frozen duck in your refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours. Unlike chicken, duck can be served rare or medium rare. You can determine the doneness of a duck by observing the color of the juices. The more rosy the juice, the more rare the bird. For medium rare duck, pick the duck up from the pan and observe. If the juices are pale and just slightly rosy, the duck is medium rare…mmm….

A Scrumptious and Very Filling Side Dish
My Gram used to make finger-sized cabbage rolls, simmering them in a deep pot for hours. This Our Grandmas’ Stuffed Cabbage Rolls recipe makes larger bundles, so that you can serve one as a first course, or several for a hearty supper. You can use a shortcut here: put the entire head of cabbage into the freezer overnight. The next day, remove the cabbage and place it on the counter. As the cabbage thaws, the leaves become soft.

For Dessert
Warm Ginger Pudding with Rum Butter Sauce fulfills a long enduring English tradition, when pudding steamed for hours and was served with brandy hard sauce. This pudding is just as good and is baked in a smidgeon of the time!

As they said in A Christmas Carol: The pudding is…"like a speckled cannon-ball, so hard and firm, blazing in half-a-quarter of ignited brandy, Christmas holly stuck on the top".
For more Dickens quotes on X-mas food, you know where to click. In the meantime, enjoy the feast!

Oyster Shooters

Servings: 12 (or 6 if you are ready to party)
Preparation Time: 5 minutes

12 shucked oysters with oyster juice
1/3 cup ketchup
1 teaspoon prepared horseradish
Juice of 1 medium lime (about 1 tablespoon)
12 ounces tomato juice
12 ounces cold Vodka
Drops of Hot Pepper sauce

Place each oyster, with its juice, into the bottom of a tall (6-inch) shot glass (or martini glass).

Mix together the ketchup and horseradish. Place a dollop of this sauce on top of each oyster.

Pour in 1 ounce of tomato juice and 1 ounce chilled vodka over each oyster. Season with additional hot sauce (if desired). Serve cold.

Warm Ginger Pudding with Rum Butter Sauce

Servings: 10 to 12
Preparation Time: 30 minutes plus baking

2 ½ cups flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking power
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons ground ginger
¼ cup butter (1/2 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup molasses
½ cup crystallized ginger, finely chopped
Zest of 1/2 medium lemon (about 1 teaspoon)
1 cup buttermilk

1 ½ cup butter (3 sticks)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark rum
Zest of 1 medium orange (about 2 tablespoons)
½ cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 325 degrees

Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Set aside.

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter until soft.

Add the eggs and molasses and beat until fluffy.

Stir in the crystallized ginger.

Stir in the buttermilk.

Stir in the flour mixture.

Pour the batter into a Bundt pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Bake for 1 hour.

Melt the butter and sugar in a sauce pan over medium high heat until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the rum and the orange zest.

Stir in the cream.

Serve the warm pudding with the warm sauce.

Baked Oysters Rockefeller

Yield: 12 oysters
Preparation Time: 30 minutes

Rock salt or dried beans for lining baking dish
12 medium oysters, shucked with bottom shells reserved
1 cup creamed spinach
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2 large shallots, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 ½ cups milk
1 bay leaf
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and white ground pepper
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 475 degrees

Pour rock salt or dried beans into a shallow baking dish. Place the oyster shells into the salt or beans to hold them in place.

Place a spoonful of creamed spinach into each shell.

Place 1 oyster on top of the spinach.

Drizzle the oysters with lemon juice.

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium high heat.

Cook the shallots in the butter until just soft. Do not brown.

Sprinkle the flour over top and whisk to form a bubbling paste.

Stir the milk into the paste. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the bay leaf, nutmeg and season with salt and white ground pepper. Stir until the sauce thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Place a tablespoon of the white sauce over the oyster. Sprinkle each one with grated Parmesan cheese.

Bake until the oysters are plump and cooked through and the cheese has melted, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Our Grandma’s Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Servings: 6 to 8 (about 12 to 14 3-inch rolls)
Preparation Time: 90 minutes plus 2 hours to simmer

1 whole cabbage
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, diced into ½-inch squares (about 2 cups)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (about 2 teaspoons)
2 pounds ground turkey
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups cooked white rice
1 cup raisins
¼ cup ketchup
1 tablespoon dried minced onions
1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium white onion, diced (about 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons hot paprika
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
1 cup chicken broth
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage

Heat a large pot of water to boiling over high heat. Cut the stem and the core from the cabbage. Plunge the cabbage into the water. This will loosen some of the outer leaves. Cook the leaves in the boiling water for 2 minutes. Gently remove the loosened leaves. Plunge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Pat the leaves dry. Continue until all of the large leaves have been blanched.

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Cook the yellow onions until soft and just beginning to turn brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic to the pan and cook for 2 minutes more.

Add the ground turkey to the pan. Cook, breaking up the turkey with a spatula, until browned, about 8 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer the turkey mixture to a large bowl. Add the cooked rice, raisins and ketchup. Season with salt, pepper, dried minced onion and 1 teaspoon paprika.

Place 1/3 cup turkey mixture on the bottom stem portion of a cabbage leaf, leaving about a 1-inch border. Wrap the leaf, from the stem border, over the filling. Fold in the sides. Continue wrapping until all of the leaves and filling have been used.

Prepare the sauce by heating the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauce pot over medium high heat. Cook the white onion until soft. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons paprika and tomato paste. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the diced tomatoes, chicken broth, brown sugar, Balsamic vinegar and sage. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Place the stuffed cabbage in a single layer into a large, deep pot or Dutch oven. Cover the cabbage with the sauce. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 to 2 hours. Serve the cabbage with the sauce drizzled over the top.

Simply Roasted Duck with Orange Cranberry Glaze

Servings: 6
Preparation Time: 15 minutes plus roasting

1 (4 to 5 pound) duck, parts removed from cavity, rinsed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 orange cut into 4 wedges

1 (15-ounce) can jellied cranberry sauce or 1 10-ounce bag frozen cranberries
Juice of 3 medium oranges (about 1 cup)
Zest of 1 medium orange (about 2 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

Season the duck with salt and pepper. Place the orange wedges into the cavity of the duck. Use a sharp knife to score (cut small slits in) the skin of the duck. Place the duck on a rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Roast for 15 minutes, or until just beginning to turn golden. Reduce the heat to 350 degrees.
Combine the cranberry sauce, orange juice, orange zest and chopped fresh rosemary in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook until the cranberry sauce melts and the sauce is smooth.

Continue roasting until the duck is cooked to medium rare (about 20 minutes per pound). Baste the duck with the sauce during the last 15 minutes of roasting.

Remove the orange wedges. Allow the duck to rest for 15 minutes before carving. Serve the duck with extra sauce drizzled on top.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Walk & Dine in a Winter Wonderland Together…with an Elegant Pack-and-go Picnic

Thanks to that beautiful Christmas song, winter wonderlands conjure images of parsons getting ready to marry you, snowbirds lighting on holly branches and glistening snowy landscapes that have you reaching for the cocoa canister. Isn’t it a splendid excuse to dress in layers, grab your sweetheart and head off with a big wool blanket—savory romantic picnic all ready to go, replete with hot thermoses full of savory soup, hot, fresh coffee and a bottle of Layer Cake Shiraz…ah, my imagination’s like a runaway sled…

Wine to warm the soul…
But I have a very real winter picnic menu to share with you. I’ll start by describing the wine. Because of its complex aromas of plum, mocha, dark chocolate and other super ripe berries, Layer Cake Shiraz suits my menu to a T. I’ve made a career out of pack-and-go treats and these items lend themselves to no sweat prep—just whip it up and you’re on your way…out the door!

To eat…
The main dish is the tastiest and most elegant way I can think of to get rid of Thanksgiving leftovers. The turkey you couldn’t finish and the extra apples you set-aside, but didn’t use, find new purpose in Turkey Wraps with Apples and Curry Mayonnaise. This healthy wrap leaves the chef loads of creative license. You don’t have to use a spinach wrap, but I prefer it—especially since the crunchy apple, red-leaf lettuce and green spinach are such an apropos color combo for your December picnic. Another plus is how the spicy taste of curry warms you, from the belly up, on a cold day. You can prepare these “sandwiches” in the morning and enjoy them for an on-the-run lunch.

To slurp…
To wash that down and keep you nice and toasty, I recommend Easy Broccoli and Cheese Soup. You can make it in less than 30 minutes, pour into a thermos and off you go. It’s also a recipe that’s open to interpretation—it’s still terrific if you decide to substitute with different cheeses, spices and veggies—for what you can’t simply raise to your lips and slurp, remember to pack those silver spoons.

To satisfy your sweet tooth…
Now you don’t need coffee for the dessert I’m serving, but it would be a nice touch if the basket’s big enough for a second thermos. My Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars with Plum Filling are an alternate version of “visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads”. I LOVE dessert in “bar” form—it’s the perfect take along treat, falling somewhere between cookies and cake. Does it get any better than that?

Picnic Primers
If it were me getting ready to “frolic and play in an Eskimo way” as the song says, I’d add a few extras, like gloves, hats—even candles just in case darkness falls quicker than you planned. My research on this topic actually lead me to an online picnic emporium where you can download checklists to satisfy even the most Type A picnicker! The list doesn’t happen to include binoculars, which I’d tote along to bird watch, looking for cardinals among the barren branches. Depends on where you live, though. Many of my readers are from regions where Santa wears Bermuda shorts and drives a team of pink flamingos. That image aside, a great way to get even more in the mood for a spectacular romantic picnic, is to rent Ethan Frome from Netflix—it’s highly snowy and romantic, but poses the caveat that winter sports are best when carefully enjoyed. Stay safe when you ski and hike everyone!


Indoors or out, a merry X-mas to one and all!

Turkey Wraps with Apples and Curry Mayonnaise

Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Serves: 4
Serving Size: 1 sandwich

½ cup reduced fat mayonnaise
Juice of 1 medium lime (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons chopped sun-dried tomatoes in oil
½ teaspoon curry powder
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 large spinach tortillas
6 to 8 leaves red-leaf lettuce, washed and dried
2 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
8 ounces deli style roast turkey breast, thinly sliced

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees

Warm the tortillas in the oven until they are soft and pliable, about 5 minutes.

Whisk together the mayonnaise, lime juice, sun-dried tomatoes and curry powder. Season with salt and pepper.

Place one tortilla onto your work surface. Spread with a tablespoon of the curry mayonnaise. Layer with lettuce leaves. Top with apple slices and turkey. Roll up the tortilla. Wrap in parchment paper. Repeat with remaining ingredients.

Before serving, cut the rolls in half diagonally and pull down parchment paper to act as a paper holder for the wraps.

Easy Broccoli and Cheese Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced (about 1 cup)
2 medium cloves garlic (about 1 teaspoon)
1 teaspoon curry power
1 teaspoon cumin
1 quart chicken stock
1medium bunch broccoli florets, chopped
¼ cup all purpose flour
2 cups cream
2 cups grated extra sharp cheddar cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium high heat.

Add the onions and cook until soft, about 5 minutes

Add the garlic, curry powder and cumin. Cook for two minutes more.

Pour the stock into the pan. Add the broccoli. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the broccoli is tender, about 10 minutes.

Whisk the flour into the cream until smooth. Pour this mixture into the pot. Cook until the soup begins to thicken, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes.

Add the cheese and stir until melted.

Pour half of the soup into a blender or food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add this mixture back to the soup. Season with salt and pepper.

Chocolate Chip Oatmeal Bars with Plum Filling

Yield 2 dozen bars
Preparation Time: 20 minutes plus baking

2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temperature
12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup red plum jam

Preheat oven to 375 degrees

Place the flour, oats, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.

Use an electric mixer to combine the brown sugar and butter until fluffy.

Add the flour/oat mixture and stir. The dough will be very crumbly.

Place 2 cups of the dough mixture into a bowl.

Add the chocolate chips to the bowl and stir.

Press the remaining dough into the bottom of an 11 x 9 x 2-inch baking dish.

Spread the dough with the jam.

Sprinkle the flour/chocolate chip mixture over top.

Bake for 30 minutes or until the top begins to look golden brown.

Cool completely on a wire rack. Cut into 1 ½-inch squares.
Related Posts with Thumbnails