Friday, December 20, 2013

Christmas Morning Breakfast Ideas for Berry Good Boys & Girls!

Not many days left to peel back on the advent calendar. In no time at all, it’ll be Christmas morning—and that, my friends requires a sugar and carb infusion of the highest order.  New word for “short-stack” anyone? I’m drawing from my Sunday Best repertoire on Wednesday, December 25th and would advise anyone with the same lust for life (and pancakes) to stock up this weekend on King Arthur Flour—the best for pancake house-style flapjacks—eggs, sugar, butter—the essentials for enough fluffy pancakes to take everyone through the learning curve of new gadgets and sporting equipment sitting under your tree.            

I believe the headlining photo on this blog, featuring Buttermilk Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Good Maple Syrup, can revv up the family on Christmas morning and turbo power their snow shoes! I haven’t made a habit of posting many of my book’s new recipes on my blog, but am doing so today as a gift to those “birds of a feather” out there who love pancakes as much as my family does. Other Christmas Day secrets that can put the wow factor into a Chris Cringle inspired table setting involve my Monkeying Around Bread (fun at any age!), trick for making inside out omelets, Canadian Bacon prepared just so (click on this Chipotle Spiced Bacon post to learn how to make it a legend in your household, too) and Cranberry Oatmeal Scones with Pine nuts.  For those bolded recipes, there is still plenty of time to download Sunday Best Dishes, wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It really makes a great Xmas gift!

Other Winter Day Breakfast Ideas….Faking Buttermilk in a pinch, etc…..

Buttermilk Biscuits with a savory gravy are also a great way to go for Christmas breakfast….but what if you open the fridge only to find you’re running low on precious buttermilk?  A lot of Apple commercials would tell you there’s an app for that. I won’t offer you that as a solution, but I can pass on a little cooking trick that can turn plain old milk into a buttermilk knock-off for all your breakfast recipes. Just pour ¾ cup of milk into a measuring container, add 2 tablespoons of white vinegar and set the mixture aside for 5 minutes at room temperature. The result is as close to actual buttermilk as it needs to be. 

If kids are part of the Christmas package this holiday season….

Here are a few tips for decorating pancakes in ways that’d tickle Santa pink!
  • ·        Use sliced strawberries and cover the top half of the pancake with them to represent the red-felt hat. Squirt a big dollop of whip cream for the powder puff on top of Santa’s hat and continue on with the Ready-whip to make the big white beard.
  • ·         Banana slices with Hershey’s kisses in the center make great eyes and maraschino cherries are a terrific nose!
  • ·         Triangles of French toast can be arranged into a Christmas tree, with a star shaped cut of pineapple just prefect for the star on top!
  • ·         Make Rudolph using bacon for antlers, blueberries for eyes and a dime sized pancake in the middle, strawberry on it, for the world-famous nose.

It’s not rockets science….it’s reindeer science! I hope your Christmas is full of love and magic, everyone. See you in the New Year with lots of new cooking advice and recipes! 

Buttermilk-Blueberry Pancakes with Berry Good Maple Syrup


1 cup pure maple syrup
1 cup fresh blueberries
Pour the syrup and blueberries into a saucepan and heat to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the sauce is thickened and the blueberries begin to burst, about 10 minutes.  Reduce the heat to very low to keep the syrup warm.

2 cups pastry flour
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon table salt
2 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
½ cup milk
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
½ to 1 cup blueberries
Confectioners’ sugar

Stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.  In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, buttermilk, milk, honey and vanilla.  Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until smooth.         

Heat a griddle (or large non-stick skillet) over medium high heat.  Ladle batter onto the griddle to form 4-inch pancakes.  When the pancakes are just set, sprinkle with a few blueberries. Cook until the pancakes are golden on the bottom, about 3 to 4 minutes. Flip and cook until the second side is golden, about 2 minutes more. (If you are cooking the pancakes in batches, keep warm in a 200° oven or warming drawer.)

Serve the pancakes with a ladleful of syrup and garnish with a few extra fresh blueberries. Sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Oh My Gnosh!

Tips for Serving Gourmet Spreads and Cheeses (as a gift or…) at Your Next Party
CHEESE makes a marvelous gift for the people you love. Yes, CHEESE: worthy of all caps—that is, if you present it well and offer pairings that make those already heavenly flavors pop. I love stories from hostesses that are told with a sigh—how guests at the Xmas party nibbled at their cheese plate, and asked, mouths full, if there would be a hostess/guest gift exchange. “Uh…darling? That dreamy little block in your hand with the cheesemonger’s initials engraved right into the rind? THAT was your gift.”

Point of story:  If the cheese isn’t speaking for itself and needs a little help, this Extreme Party Planner has come to your rescue with tips on how to make the perfect cheese plate.
Consider the 4 basic categories of cheese before you shop: Cheese is sold soft, hard, aged and blue; a representative from each category is a nice way to go, and an expert behind the cheese counter will be happy to help you. Personally, I believe the safest bets are cheeses that don’t have a pungent odor (I’m looking at you, Camembert), but do possess those nice sharp, tangy, earthy and/or nutty flavors we all love—that’s why I concentrate on the kind of milk used to make it, i.e. sheep, goat and cow. Go with manchengo (made from sheep’s milk, it’s a favorite tapa in Spain), aged 15 to 24 months cheddar and anything manufactured by Santori—their stuff is the friggin’ bomb.  Familiarize yourself with their logo via this photo:

Take the cheese out at least an hour before the party, unwrap it and let it breathe. The flavors shine through more this way.  Plan on 3 to 4 ounces of cheese bliss per person; this can easily translate into 3 to 6 different types of cheeses—ideal for a small party; one or two cheeses serve a gift basket well—you just have to find yummy accompaniments…like a sweet fig spread, crackers and assorted olives. More on those (olives!) later.     

Don’t worry about a carb overload—no such thing on a cheese platter. Use crackers AND sliced bread:  Be sure to vary up the textures on these--that’s every bit as important as diverse cheeses.  Reserve an extra cheese spreader to plunge into a jarred condiment that works well with a cheese plate, i.e. fig spreads (I’ve linked to a good one), Grey Poupon mustard or pretty pickles—which I published a recipe for in Sunday Best Dishes.
Stock up on Olives—loading a ramekin full of them works out nicely next to your cheeseboard Moroccan beldi olives are particularly tasty with any fine cheese—they come in so many pretty colors—from big plum colored purples to small and shriveled marble sizes. Roasted red peppers pair well, especially the ones that have marinated in a spicy vinaigrette, and kalamata olives deliver the perfect punch! Just check out this olive bar photo to get in the mood.
Prepare a few descriptive adjectives about each cheese before you serve it—it’s a fun way to put on a few pounds before the party, but hey…we all have to do our homework! Use a separate knife for each cheese and, obviously, group like-smelling cheeses, otherwise (as the song goes) ya gotta keep ‘em separated!

Parting tip about cheese for your next killer risotto: Use cheese rinds in your cooking; it’s perfectly edible and will flavor a rice, casserole or soup like nobody’s business. Parmigiano Reggiano is ideal for this. As far as what drinks are loveliest to wash your cheeses down with, I searched high and low before I was satisfied and found this article, worth pinning to Pinterest: Some exciting drink pairing for cheese.
Enjoy your cheese within 24 hours of unwrapping it, and be sure to refrigerate between uses…I’m off to carve off a little more of that Santori….
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