Thursday, December 27, 2012

Christmas Plunder & Dinners

I hope everyone had a great December and whatever holiday you choose to celebrate (unless it was that Nonsecular Human Light Existence of whatever... that is stupid. Just celebrate the damn solstice.)  I feel like my Christmas started a little early when the hubs shot a deer!  With all the deer running around Mid-TN you'd think they'd be easier to kill.  We don't have the meat back from the processor yet, but we got some fantastic things to help us use all the lovely, red, gamey meat.

My mom got us a deep fryer, which I have surprisingly never owned.  It is a nice one with a basket and digital temp read-out.  But more exciting than that... we got a meat grinder!!!  It has sausage filling attachments too.  To go with the grinder, seasoning blends, and various casings, we have what seems to be the charcuterie bible, Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing!  This books has every type of curing you can possibly think of in it from tasso ham to jaegerwurst to pate en croute.

Christmas Eve night, we went to my parent's hose.  Seafood has always been kind of a tradition for Christmas in our house.  Thanksgiving is our big traditional American meal and Christmas is a little more subdued, especially if we were travelling to see family because that usually involved a huge dinner.  This year, my mom decided to do an Italian inspired feast of seven fishes meal (we have no Italian blood in us whatsoever.)

Christmas Eve Seafood Feast
Sauerkraut Balls (not seafood, but always delicious) 
Hot Crab Dip w/ Spinach & Artichokes
Seared Sea Scallop w/ Fennel & Orange Salad
Linguine w/ Clam Sauce
Cioppino w/ Mahi Mahi, Mussels, Shrimp, & Lobster (similar recipe here)

Christmas day was our combined families and a bit more of a traditional meal.  If both sets of parents will be in attendance at any given occasion, we are basically required to bring smoked salmon.  But we got my dad a smoker, so maybe we will be relieved of that duty on occasion.

Christmas Dinner
Smoked Salmon w/ Roasted Garlic & Caper Spread
Garlic & Rosemary Roasted Cornish Hens
Yellow Rice (w/ Wild Rice)
Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
Fruit Salad w/ Honey Mustard Vinaigrette
White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Apple Tart w/ Cinnamon Pear Balsamic

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Arrington Vineyards 2012 Christmas Vintages

Oh no!  5 days until Christmas and you need another gift?!  I suggest you rush over Arrington Vineyards RIGHT NOW!  This year, AV introduced two seasonal vintages for the holidays, one red and one white.  But they only have 450 of each available for purchase, so you better hurry.... if they are not already gone.

Both are blends of several different grapes.  Neither is too dry or too sweet, which makes them perfect for just about any wine lover on your gift list.  I really wish the white blend was a year round selection, because it is so delicious!  I may even like it more than Stags White (gasp!)

The bonus, is that they are very affordable, $14.99 each.  Buy both and you will be set.  You better buy some for yourself too.  However, due to limited bottles, there is a very good chance they will be sold out.  (Sorry I didn't tell you about these sooner.)  The good news is, you can't go wrong with any of their wines.  Sign up for a free wine tasting to figure out your gifts or ideas to restock your wine rack.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Almond Joy Cookies

I don't know about you, but I like to spread out my Holiday cookie making.  I think I've made at least one batch of cookies a week for the last month.  But, now that Christmas is literally just around the corner (if you think of weekends as corners), it is time to wrap things up.  No present pun intended.

My husband and I made up this recipe when we were had just started dating nearly six years ago (!!!).  Wow.  I can't believe I haven't shared it yet.  This is really just a basic cookie, so nothing difficult to confuse you at this hectic time of year.  This would be the perfect last minute addition to Santa's cookie plate.
The Almond Joys are the chocolate ones, the others are
Chocolate Chip & Walnut Oatmeal Cookies

Almond Joy Cookies
2 sticks room temp butter (I generally use 1 unsalted, 1 salted)
3/4 C white sure
3/4 c loosely packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla
2 C all purpose flour
1/4 C cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C chopped almond
5 oz unsweetened coconut
1 C semi-sweet chocolate chips

   Cream butter and sugar together.  Incorporate eggs.  Add vanilla.
   Combine flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Slowly mix into butter mixture.  I think three batches is good.   When the third addition of flour is almost fully incorporated, add coconut.  Mix.  Fold in chocolate chips and almonds.
   Spoon heaping tablespoons onto a cookie sheet about 2 inches apart.
   Back at 350 deg F for 10 minutes.
   Makes ~3 dozen.

**I also highly suggest you try Sandra Lee's New York Cheesecake Cookies.  They may be my new favorite cookie.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Creamy Baked Spinach w/ Tomatoes

I love creamed spinach, and this little idea popped into my head a few days ago.  It was pretty awesome idea, if I do say so myself.  It is great side that is simple yet unexpected.  But a brunch spread would also benefit from the veggie dish.  I made it it for our hobbit meal last Thursday.

Creamy Baked Spinach w/ Tomatoes
16 oz frozen chopped spinach, thawed and water squeezed out
3 oz room temp cream cheese
3 Tbsp cream (or 1/2&1/2 or milk...)
3 cloves roasted garlic, mashed
~1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 med tomato, sliced into 1/4-1/3 inch slices (pulp gently squeezed out if it is really wet)
1/3 C bread crumb mixture*
oil or melted butter

   Combine cheese, cream, salt, pepper, and garlic.  Mix in spinach.
   Spread into a lightly greased 9 inch pie plate (or other cooking vessel).  Arrange tomato slices over the top.  Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the top.  Drizzle a little bit of oil or melted butter over breadcrumbs so they get golden brown.
   Bake at 375 deg F for 12-15 min.  Broil on HI until breadcrumbs are golden.
   Serves 4.

*Breadcrumb mixture:  1/2 seasoned breadcrumbs (I used a roasted garlic variety) and 1/2 grated parmesan (the kind from the can).  I made a huge batch of this stuff a year ago.  I keep it in my freezer to use for all sorts of stuff and it is still delicious!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bacon, Horseradish, & Cheddar Mashed 'Taters

I spent early this morning the best way I could possibly imagine:  a face-full of tears, excitement, and utter exhilaration!  The Hobbit was fantastic; it was everything I hoped it would be and more.  If you are not a midnight premier kind of person and are seeing it this weekend, maybe you should make these mashed potatoes before going.  They are delicious and hearty; you won't need to fill your stomach with grossly salty, stale, movie theater popcorn.

Bacon, Horseradish, & Cheddar Mashed Potatoes
4 med potatoes (skin on), cut into large chunks
4 slices thick bacon, chopped
1/4 lb good white cheddar, shredded (I used a really high quality Welsh cheddar)
2-3 Tbsp butter
1/3-1/2 C milk
2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (more or less for taste)
salt and pepper

   Render bacon until crisp, drain.  Pour bacon fat into pot you are cooking the potatoes.
   Cover potatoes with water in a large pot.  Add about 2 tsp salt.  Bring to a boil.  Boil for 15-20 minutes, until potatoes are tender.  Drain off water, return potatoes to pot.
   Add butter and some milk.  Mash.
   Fold in cheddar and horseradish.  Add milk until the potatoes are your preferred consistency.
   Salt an pepper to taste.  Fold in bacon last (so it doesn't break up too much.)
   Serves 4.

Perfect pairing:  Bratwurst, English, or Irish sausages that have been cooked in a med-dark beer.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hobbit (mini)Feast

It is pretty fucking amazing that I have been able to even remotely keep my cool this week.

Because, you know, the first installment of The Hobbit comes out in less than 48 hours.

I would love to have a huge blowout with apple tarts, mince pies, cheese, eggs, chicken, pickles, etc and 13 other people.  But it is just me and the hubs going to the midnight screening.  And I will absolutely be dressing up by myself for it.  I can think of no better way to celebrate turning 25.

What to eat for dinner was a very important decision.  I have thought about it since we bought our tickets nearly a month ago.  A couple days ago we settled on our menu... mostly.

Sausages Cooked in Beer
Mashed Potatoes w/ Horseradish, Cheddar, & Bacon
Creamed Spinach
Roasted Mushrooms
(dessert....?  Probably cookies)

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Spinach & Goat Cheese Pizza w/ Artichoke Sauce

I haven't shared a new pizza recipe in a while.  It is probably some vain, unconscious attempt to make you think we don't eat a lot of pizza.  Actually, we haven't had pizza in a few weeks and I really want some.  The sauce on this one keeps popping up in my mind.

Spinach & Goat Cheese Pizza w/ Artichoke Sauce
pizza dough, enough for a roughly 12" circle
3 C fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 1/2 C shredded mozzarella
4 oz crumbled goat cheese
1/4 C shredded parmesan
1 C finely chopped marinated artichokes, partially drained
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 lrg cloves of garlic, minced

   Combine sauce ingredients.
   Pre-bake crust at 425 deg F for about 5 minutes.
   Spread sauce over crust.  Evenly distribute spinach over pizza.  Top with cheese.
   Bake at 425 deg F for 10-12 minutes, until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown.

*-When I made the sauce, in place of the butter and garlic, I used one of those garlic butter cups you get from take-out.  Why I had it, I have no idea; but it worked perfectly for this.  So if you happen to have one of those lurking in your fridge, use that.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction

My entire life, I heard that brussel sprouts and spinach were the two most dreaded foods of children everywhere.  I could consume my body weight in broccoli as a child, so green things were not scary for me.  Early on, I learned that spinach, when handled properly, is absolutely delicious.

Now brussel sprouts.  To be honest, I never had them until fairly recently.  My mom dreaded the frozen tiny balls as a kid, so she never even attempted to feed them to us.  Maybe frozen, they are disgusting.  But I haven't had frozen, only fresh.  If these little cabbage beauties had been placed in front of me as a kid, I would have devoured them and asked for more.  They are mild and slightly sweet, with just the faintest hint of a cabbage funk.

I think I am going to make this stupidly easy side for Christmas and convert the rest of my family in sprout lovers.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts w/ Goat Cheese & Balsamic Reduction
1 lb fresh brussel sprouts
~3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper
~3 oz goat cheese, crumbled
~1/2 C balsamic vinegar

   Wash sprouts if needed and remove any discolored outer leaves.  Trim the very tip of the root end and cut in half.
   Toss with oil, salt, and pepper.
   Roast at 375 deg F for 20 minutes.
   Bring vinegar to a bubble over med-hi heat.  Reduce to med-low and reduce vinegar by half or a little more, until it is a thick, sweet syrup.
   Sprinkle sprouts with goat cheese and return to the oven for about 10 minutes.
   Drizzle with balsamic and serve.
   Serves 3-4.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Coconut Lobster Curry

A Thai curry seemed the only logical option for those monster lobster tails.  This a very slight variation of my regular coconut stir-fry sauce.  You can put whatever meat or vegetables in this as you want.  If not for the lobster, the sauce is the star.  It may seem like a lot of work when you start reading the instructions but it really isn't, and it is a stir-fry so it all comes together very fast.

Coconut Lobster Curry
2 lrg lobster tails (or 4 small ones)
8 oz trimmed green beans (I used high quality frozen)
1 bell pepper, sliced (whatever color you prefer)
 1 sm onion, cut into lrg chunks
~1 C sliced carrots
1 14 oz can lite coconut milk
2 Tbsp red curry paste
2 Tbsp dark soy sauce
2 Tbsp fish sauce*
2 tsp fresh grated ginger
2 tsp pasted garlic
2 tsp sriracha (or to taste)
zest of half a lime
juice of 1 lime (~1.5-2 Tbsp juice)
1 Tbsp cornstarch
chopped cilantro to finish

   Mix up all sauce ingredients, except cornstarch.
   To cook lobsters, place in a large pot with boiling water, enough for tails to be submerged.  For large tails (14-16 oz), cook for 6-7 minutes.  For small tails (5-7 oz), cook for about 4 minutes.  This is not enough to cook the tails all the way through, they will finish cooking in the curry.  When they are cool enough to handle, crack the shells and remove the meat.  Chop or slice into bite size pieces, it should be slightly translucent in the center.  Save whatever juice comes out of the tails.
   In a little bit of oil, over med-hi heat, saute onions, pepper, and carrots.  Cook about 5-6 minutes, until just tender.  Add sauce, green beans, and whatever lobster juice you have.  Turn up heat to high, bring to sauce to a bubble.
   Add about 2 tsp water to the cornstarch to make a slurry.  Add to bubbling sauce while stirring so it doesn't clump up.
  Add lobster.  When lobster is cooked and sauce is thick, the curry is done.
  Serve over rice or pasta.  Top with cilantro.
  Serves 4.

*To make the sauce vegetarian/vegan, use 3 1/2 Tbsp dark soy and omit the fish sauce.