Tag Archives: festive

Christmas Dinner: Christmas Crostini

28 Dec

Brie Crostini with Cranberries & Pistachios

I pulled together these super easy appetizer to snack on before we sat down for our big meal.  The dried cranberries and pistachios bring festive colors to the dish and taste great together too!

Christmas Crostini
(Brie Crostini with Cranberries & Pistachios)

Ingredients
1 crusty baguette, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 round of brie cheese
Handful of raw, unsalted pistachios
Handful of dried cranberries (Craisins)
Orange marmalade or butter

Directions
1. Turn on your broiler to high and put rack on second to lowest rack.  Any higher and the cheese might burn!  (Note: If you don’t have a broiler setting on your oven, preheat oven to 400 degrees instead.)
2. Place sliced baguette on a cookie sheet and spread a thin layer of orange marmalade or butter on one side of each slice.  (Use orange marmalade if you want a sweeter crostini and use butter if you want a more savory crostini.)
3. Place a thin slice of brie on each the buttered side of each baguette.
4. Put the cookie tray in the oven and broil for about 4 minutes.  Check around the two minute mark to make sure the cheese isn’t burning.
5. Remove from oven and put on a serving platter.  Add a few dried cranberries and pistachios on top of each crostini.  Serve immediately.  Simple and festive!

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Christmas Dinner

26 Dec

Christmas Hearth

Merry Christmas everyone!  I hope you had a happy holiday and Santa was good to you and your families!  My family decided to do something different from turkey this Christmas and make a standing rib roast instead.  Serving red meat versus poultry required a total overhaul of our menu from Thanksgiving.  Listed below are the dishes that we made today for Christmas dinner.  Over the course of the next two weeks, I will post each of these recipes.

Hot Toddies
Christmas Crostini
Dad’s Cream of Chestnut Soup
Mom’s Standing Rib Roast
Asparagus Wrapped in Bacon
Potato & Celery Root Mash
Pumpkin Bread Pudding with Creme Anglaise

To round out our meal, we served Sister Shubert’s Wheat Dinner Yeast Rolls and a bottle of Illumination Sauvignon Blanc from Quintessa Winery (see Napa Travelogue post for more info on CA wineries!).  Red wine probably would have gone better with this meal, but my mom generally only drinks white and I had just given my parents a case of this wine for Christmas so we had to try it!

Christmas Dinner Plate

Christmas Treat: Peppermint White Chocolate French Macarons

24 Dec How to Make French Macarons

How to Make French MacaronsIn 2007, I visited my good friend Kristen who was living in Paris at the time (lucky girl!).  One of my favorite parts of the visit was spending afternoons recharging at La Duree, a tea and pastry shop, after spending the mornings sightseeing, shopping and walking around Paris.  La Duree is most well known for their delectable macarons (not to be confused with coconut macaroons).  “Le macaron” is a French sweet consisting of two cookies that are hard on the outside but soft when you bite into them that are sandwiched between a layer of ganache or fruit preserves.  If you are interested in learning more about the history of “le macaron,” check out this website.  Until a few months ago, La Duree only had stores in Europe (Paris, London, etc.) and the Middle East (Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, etc.), so to get my macaron fix, I had to stock up when I visited Kristen or when I am in London for work.  However, La Duree recently opened up a NYC-branch of their famous Parisian tea shop at 864 Madison Ave. on the Upper East Side so now I can get macarons whenever the craving strikes (which is quite often!).  I always wondered how to make macarons until a few weeks ago I found a recipe for macarons from Allison Eats blog on the Word Press dashboard.  You can find my adaptation of her recipe below.  While I won’t be giving up La Duree macarons anytime soon, I can’t wait to serve these at Christmas dinner tomorrow with coffee or hot chocolate after dessert!  If you are new to making macarons like I was, the following sites provide a useful primer on preparing macarons and how to beat egg whites.  It took me two tries to get the egg  white perfect.  I would not recommend using an electric mixer; a copper bowl and whisk worked MUCH better.  Also, as a warning, this took me the better part of a day to create these treats.  Be sure you have set aside at least 3-4 hours when you tackle this recipe.  For more information on French Cooking and Culture, check out this great blog – A Woman’s Paris.  The watercolor iPhone cases are to die for!

Peppermint White Chocolate French Macarons
(Makes 30-40)

Ingredients (for the macarons)
1 1/3 cup almond flour (fine meal)
3 cups powdered sugar
6 large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch cream of tartar
1/2 cup + 2 tbsp granulated sugar
1/4 tsp. peppermint extract
Red food coloring (optional)

Directions (for the macarons)
1. Get out 5 baking sheets and line each with parchment paper.  Using a pencil, draw 1.5″ circles approximately 1″ apart on the papers.  I felt silly doing this, but it really helped me get the hang of things for my first tray, so maybe only do this for a couple of trays if you are short on time.  In the picture below, the right tray has 1″ circles and the left tray has 1.5″ circles.  I found that the larger 1.5″ macarons cooked better and were simliar to La Duree’s mini macarons in size.
How to Make French Macarons

2.  In a food processor, blend the almond flour and powdered sugar until well incorporated and no lumps remain.
3. In a copper bowl, beat egg whites using a whisk until they are foamy.  When they are foamy, add a pinch of cream of tartar and continue beating.  Gradually add in the granulated sugar about a tablespoon at a time.  Once the egg whites have formed “soft peaks,” add the peppermint extract and 30 drops of red food coloring.  (I added 20 drops of food coloring to my mix and I think it could have used a little more.)  Note: It is important that the egg whites are room temperature as this helps the “peaks” form in the egg whites.  The cream of tartar also helps this so don’t forget this step!

Egg White Foam

Egg Whites @ "Foamy" Stage (Photo Courtesy of bakingbites.com)

Egg White Peaks

Egg Whites @ "Peak" Stage (Photo Courtesy of bakingbites.com)

4. Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold the flour/sugar mixture into the egg white mixture in a few additions.  Blend each time until well incorporated.
5. Fill pastry bag (or big ziploc bag with approximately 1/2″ cut off on a diagonal) with the batter and carefully dispense into your drawn circles.  Once the tray is filled, rap the baking sheet on the counter to help settle the batter.  Let trays sit out at room temperature for at least 15 minutes so that a slight crust forms on each shell.  Note: Letting the shells sit at room temperature before baking is a crucial step.  This is how you obtain the crunchy on the outside/chewy on the inside French macaron texture.
How to Make French Macarons
6. While the shells are sitting, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  Bake ONE tray at a time for 9-12 minutes, until the shells are slightly crisp on top.  Remove from oven and allow to cool before removing from trays.  (To me, they look the the image from the Scrubbing Bubbles ads when they are finished.)  Repeat process one tray at a time until all trays are cooked.
How to Make French Macarons
7.  Once the macarons have cooled, pair each shell with one of similar size and shape.  For each pair, flip one over so they are ready to be filled with the ganache.
How to Make French Macarons
Ingredients (for the ganache)
2/3 cup heavy cream
10 oz. good quality white chocolate, finely chopped (I used two 4-oz. Ghiradelli white chocolate bars and 2 oz. Tollhouse white chocolate chips)
1 1/2 tbsp. unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into 3 pieces

Directions (for the ganache)
1. Put the white chocolate in a heat proof mixing bowl.
2. In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil.  Immediately remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate.
3. Using a whisk or rubber spatula, stir ingredients together until smooth.  Then stir in the butter.
4. Place the bowl over a larger bowl filled with ice water, stirring constantly until ganache is thick and won’t run.
5. Place ganache into pastry bag (or Ziploc bag with 1/2″ opening cut on diagonal at one end).  Work quickly so the ganache doesn’t harden.  Carefully pipe filling onto flat side of one shell, leaving space around the edges.  Pick up the filled shell’s empty pair and place it on top of the filled shell, gently twisting as you press them together.  Once all macarons have been filled, store in the refrigerator.  They are best enjoyed the following day when brought to room temperature.

Merry Christmas everyone!  Best wishes for a happy holiday and a blessed new year!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Cranberry Ginger Fizz

8 Dec

I LOVE Canada Dry Cranberry Ginger Ale, but it is the hardest thing to find!  The recipe below is my own cranberry ginger ale concoction that I make when I can’t find the original in stores.  Since ginger is a natural ingredient to help queasy stomachs, this drink is also a good one to make after a few too many pear bellinis the night before. 🙂

Cranberry Ginger Fizz

Ingredients
Ginger Ale (preferably Canada Dry)
Cranberry Juice (no sugar added, not from concentrate)
Lemonade
Limes

Directions (per serving)
1. Fill a highball glass with ice cubes.  Fill glass 3/4 of the way with ginger ale.  Fill glass remaining 1/4 with cranberry juice.  Top with a splash of lemonade.
2. Garnish with lime wedge.
Note: If you want to prevent this drink from getting watered down, fill an ice tray with cranberry juice the night before and use cranberry juice ice cubes!

Thanksgiving Dinner: Grandma’s Turkey

1 Dec

The recipe below is for my Grandmother’s Thanksgiving turkey recipe.  I love this recipe because it’s simple, but produces the juiciest turkey that isn’t over-seasoned.  My Grandmother wrote this recipe in November 1960 and it’s still a crowd pleaser today.

Grandma’s Thanksgiving Turkey

Ingredients
1 9-12 lb. turkey
Stuffing (see Thanksgiving Dinner: Mom’s Stuffing post for recipe)
Salt & pepper
Poultry Seasoning
2 sticks unsalted butter

Other Items Needed
Cheese Cloth
Baster

Directions
1. Follow directions for thawing bird if frozen and be sure to allow enough time for this.  Then clean bird thoroughly and remove any traces of lining from inside around the bones.
2. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
3. Rub salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning along the inside cavities of the bird.
4. Stuff the bird according to directions on Thanksgiving Dinner: Mom’s Stuffing post.
5. Rub salt, pepper, and poultry seasoning along the outside of the bird.  Cover the breast of the turkey with cheese cloth (this will prevent the breast from burning or drying out).
6. Place turkey in a shallow pan.  It’s best to use not too deep of a pan as the turkey will brown better in a shallower one.
7. Melt 2 stick of butter and pour 3/4 of this over the turkey.  The remaining 1/4 you will use in your first basting of the turkey.
8.  Pop the turkey in the oven and set your timer for 20 minutes.  When it rings, open the oven and pour the remaining butter over the turkey.  Also, use your baster to take the juices from the bottom of the pan and cover the turkey.  Put the turkey back in the oven.
9. Set your timer for 20 minutes.  When it rings, open the oven and baste the turkey using the juices from the bottom of the pan.  Continue basting the turkey every 20 minutes until the meat thermometer has popped and the turkey is done.  This should take about 20 minutes per pound, or 3 1/2 to 4 1/2 hours for a 9-12 lb. turkey.  (Note: If you want the breast to be browner, remove the cheese cloth for the last 30-45 minutes of cooking.)
10. Remove turkey from oven and set on a carving board.  Cover with tinfoil and let sit 20 minutes before carving/serving.  Save the juices at the bottom of the pan as you will use these for the gravy (see Thanksgiving Dinner: Dad’s Turkey Gravy).

Before:

After:

Thanksgiving Dinner: Pear Bellinis (aka Christmas in a Cup)

29 Nov

Pear Bellini

My Mom started making this recipe a few years back.  It’s a great seasonal twist on a traditional bellini; adding with rosemary and cranberries as a garnish makes this cocktail even more festive for this time of year!

Pear Bellinis with Rosemary & Cranberry

Ingredients
Pear nectar (I like this one)
Prosecco, or any other dry sparkling white wine
Fresh rosemary sprigs, for garnish
Handful of fresh cranberries, for garnish

Directions (per serving)
1.  Pour ~2 oz. pear nectar into a champagne flute.
2. Slowly fill glass to top with ~4 oz. prosecco.
3. Add 1 sprig of rosemary and 3-4 fresh cranberries for garnish and you have Christmas in a cup!! 🙂

Thanksgiving Dinner

26 Nov

Happy Thanksgiving!  I hope you all had a nice holiday surrounded by family, close friends and great food!

Since Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, I wanted to share with you my family’s recipes from our Thanksgiving feast on Thursday.  Over the course of the next week, I will post each of the recipes.

Grandma’s Turkey
Mom’s Stuffing
Dad’s Turkey Gravy
Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Green Beans with Miso & Almonds
Pear Bellinis (aka Christmas in a Cup)
Cranberry Ginger Fizz

To round out our meal, we serve Sister Shubert’s Parker House Style rolls, canned cranberry sauce and Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe using Whole Foods canned pumpkin.  I think we will use most of these recipes at Christmas they were all so good!