Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Our very Nashville Christmas

Our first Christmas in Nashville was a lovely affair! My brother, Bill, came in on Thursday evening and Vance and I kicked off the holiday weekend by taking him to 12 South Taproom for burgers & beer. Unfortunately, Vance worked through the holiday so he was up and out early every day. On Friday, my parents arrived from PA and we had a delicious Beef Bourguignon for dinner - following non-other than the acclaimed Julia Child's recipe. I made this dish on Tuesday night and let it marinate in the fridge. I will post about this recipe another day - let's just say it is a 4 hour process so don't plan to start it after a long day at work!
A few food highlights of the weekend include Whole Food's smoked gouda and vidalia onion dip - amazing. Mini crabcakes, a delicious cheese assortment, after dinner drinks, Mary Clark's creamed onions and, of course, turkey.
In honor of Breads 'n Cheese of Hershey (my first place of employment and one of my all-time favorite places), I make a cheese board every Christmas Eve. This year's assortment included a French Saint Andre (top - soft cheese), Dubliner Irish cheddar (clockwise - hard cheese), a goat's milk Gouda from Holland (semi-soft), Gorganzola (blue cheese from Italy), and Harvarti with dill (semi-soft/soft originally from Denmark). Under the tutelage of Diane and Niels Bilde, I learned a few important things about cheese. Allow cheese to warm up before serving, always use fresh plastic wrap (each time) when re-wrapping cheese, and garnish your cheese board with sweet fruits like grapes, berries and pears to cut the creaminess or dryness of the cheese. My favorite? Goat's milk Gouda is delicious!
Now that I addressed how we start a holiday (with cheese), I will address how we end a holiday (with drinks). Our pumpkin pie was accompanied by a pot of decaf and some delicious cordials.
Vance's favortie.
One of Mary Clark's favorites.
A great birthday gift from Jen Grimes and one of my top picks!
For next year, I need to purchase Creme de Menth and Galliano. More recipes from the holiday to come! I hope everyone had a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 19, 2011

keep calm and carry on...

This past Saturday was a day full of holiday preparation and excitement. I was going to own my (ever growing) to-do list and accomplish some serious Christmas food shopping, prepping & baking. Well - I did accomplish a lot, but in my hustle and bustle, I got too busy and made multiple blunders. Saturday taught me I need to slow down - and take things one step at a time. Whatever gets done - gets done.
First blunder - while cleaning our beautiful stemware in preparation for the holiday, I ever so slightly tapped one of the lovely after-dinner drink glasses that my mom and dad gave us, breaking off the delicate glass base. This, of course, sent me into a spiral of anxiety and tears. This is my first Christmas as a married woman (gulp), first Christmas away from home (tear), and obviously, my first Christmas entertaining my family (sugar!).

After the glass broke and I had a good cry (not just for the glass but all the change and endings that are happening this season), I made Blonde Bombers. If a chocolate chip cookie and a blonde brownie made love they would give birth to a Blonde Bomber. In one word - heavenly. UNLESS you forget to put the eggs in until the very last second. In this, as I experienced on Saturday, the delicious baked treat turns into cement on the outside and a brown sugary goo inside. Fail #2.
Lastly, I made baked brie. One for my Vanderbilt holiday party and one for the Clark's on Christmas Eve. Well one of them exploded and brie ran all over the cookie sheet. Fail #3.
The saving grace? Coconut macaroons by Ina. I love you Ina Garten.
This recipe is super fast and gives you about 25 macaroons.
  • 14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
  • 14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Folding is different from stirring!
Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using a small scoop or tablespoon. Cook for about 25 minutes or until golden. Melt chocolate with a little Crisco shortening (just about a teaspoon) in the microwave for about 2 minutes and drizzle over the macaroons. Cool and enjoy!
Remember to take a breath this holiday season, have a cup of tea, watch a 90210 re-run - if you don't take care of you, who will?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Whiskey Sour

Make yourself a cocktail and relax...

Whiskey Sour

1 small lemon wedge and a cherry
1/4 cup whiskey or bourbon
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon granulated sugar, preferably organic
1 cup ice cubes
Mix ingredients in shaker and give a few hard shakes - pour into a short rocks glass with plenty of ice. Garnish with lemon and cherry. Enjoy!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Put the lime in the coconut...

I purchased a bag of shredded coconut last weekend to make some sort of chocolate macaroon situation - more to come I hope! With some much coconut, I thought I would also make some coconut shrimp. Inspired by A Cozy Kitchen, here is a great and easy shrimp recipe.
Coconut Shrimp:
20-25 medium shrimp - cleaned and peeled (I had a bag of frozen bite-size shrimp so I thawed some and used those)
1/2 cup all purpose flour
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons Panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper to taste
I sauteed peppers, onions and spinach in a little EVOO for a nice side veg.
Spicy Honey Drizzle:
2/3 cup honey
2 Tablespoons chili sauce like Sirracha
sea salt to taste
1. Pre-heat oven to 450F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and spray with PAM (or grease with a little vegetable oil using a paper towel).
2. In a small bowl, season the shrimp with salt and pepper.
3. In a shallow dish combine flour, garlic powder and cayenne pepper. In another shallow dish, gently toss together the coconut, and breadcrumbs.
4. Dredge shrimp in the flour mixture and shake off any excess flour.
5. Then dip each shrimp into the beaten eggs, followed by the coconut mixture.
6. Shake off any excess coconut transfer your prepared baking sheet and transfer to pre-heated oven.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

10. For the honey drizzle: Place all ingredients into a small ramekin and mix.
11. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serve with warm shrimp.
Bite-size coconut shrimp with sauteed peppers, onions and spinach over cous cous.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

It's a Roast Chicken Dance Off...

A few months ago I made Ina Garten's Herb-Roasted Chicken and it was quite delicious. This past weekend - having missed Thanksgiving, I thought I would do a mock Thanksgiving dinner with a small chicken I had in the freezer. I did a bit of a spin-off of Julia Child's Herb, Lemon & Garlic Roasted Chicken.
  • 2 lemons, halved, juiced and halves reserved
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs sage
  • 6 cloves garlic, crushed, unpeeled
  • salt and fresh ground black pepper as needed
  • 4-5 lb whole chicken
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
In a large mixing bowl, add the lemons and juice, thyme, sage, rosemary, garlic, melted butter, black pepper, and salt. Mix together and add the chicken to the bowl. 
Mix with your hands - this smells so good!
Turn the chicken to coat on all sides. Fill the cavity with the contents on the bowl, and tie the legs together with a piece of string. 

Choose a heavy-duty 9 x 13-inch metal or flame-proof glass baking dish, and add the onions (quartered and pulled apart) to the bottom. Place the chicken in the baking dish, and pour over the rest of the liquid. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, and season generously with salt, and place in a preheated 400 degrees F. oven for 1 hour 25 minutes, or until an internal temp of 165 degrees F. You may need to put a tin foil tent over the bird if it is getting too golden.

Remove the chicken to a plate and cover with foil again while you make the sauce.
Take the baking dish out of the oven and put it on a burner over medium high heat. Add about a 1/4 or so of water to the dish and scrape with wooden spoon to get up the brown bit. Bring to a boil to thicken a bit and set aside. After you let your chicken rest for about 5 to 10 minutes, slice and pour sauce and onions over the chicken.
I served my chicken with string beans sauteed with shallots, candied sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce and corn bread. Yum!

 The final consensus between Julia and Ina's recipes - both are delicious, but I think the garlic and lots of lemon in Julia's made our chicken extra delicious. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Chicken Tikka for Thanksgiving

I am back from India! After a short flight to Chicago and then a 14 hour flight to Delhi, I arrived in India the day before Thanksgiving. On Thursday morning, a small group of us met at 1:00 a.m. (yes - 1:00 a.m.) and took a 5 hour bus ride to Agra for a visit to the Taj Mahal, Agra Fort, lunch and shopping. 

After touring and shopping in New Delhi for a few days, I went to Mumbai and took in the 90 degree weather! The week was a bit of a whirlwind, but full of fun people and great memories. Now I am back and the holidays are in full swing! In a rush to catch up, the first thing I did this weekend was buy a potted evergreen and some decorations.
Vance surprised me with an "our first Christmas" ornament which is now proudly displayed on our little tree. Christmas cards are purchased, tree is done, next up is a wreath for the front door and table center piece. 'Tis the season!