Monday, 26 December 2011

The Feast

Christmas Feasting.  The one day of the year that a person should without guilt indulge in the bounty of the table.  A meal that is full of traditional fare dating back to the 1800's to the newer family favourites.  Full of expectancy, we get up in the morning to prep the bird and start to make desserts, and cook the whole day through getting ready for the moment when the turkey is carved.

  This year was no different, yet it had its challenges.  This year we celebrated with my mom and dad, my sister and her husband, my sister in law Carrie,  and our little family.  My mom provided the bird - a fine grain fed turkey, bean salad, homemade cranberry sauce, a jello salad, and her famous nuts and bolts.  I requested the bean salad - a wonderful blend of beans, mushrooms, celery and a vinegary marinade.

My sister has hostess (28 weeks pregnant with my first sweet niece) provided the appetisers, and side dishes.  My favourites included the seafood surprise dip, and tzaziki and crispy bread.  She also had a really nice punch with our supper.

Me: well I brought all my hoarded baking, and my job was to make dessert.  I was thinking early on I would make a cheesecake, but in the past few weeks I had made too many things with cream cheese in them.  So I decided on the favourite ---pie.  Alas I was the one with the challenges.  My sister doesn't bake so she had no flour and doesn't own a rolling pin.  Well, I had to press my pie dough into tinfoil pans ( I had forgotten my pie pans) and improvise a few ingredients.  My dad was so looking forward to the cherry pie....but I couldn't roll a top crust.  So pumpkin and pecan it was.  The pumpkin turned out alright, but my pecan did some weird separation of the crust and filling.  My syrupy filling went underneath.  So I was sadly disappointed.  Thank goodness for Costco's cream puffs!!!  Saved dessert. The meal ended with a nice glass of port.  All in all it was a fabulous meal.  One of our best.  But I was sad about my desserts.  Oh well. Next year.

I hope you all had a belt poppin' good meal this year and were thankful for the bounty that we have here in Canada, even if the syrup went under the crust on your pecan pie.... 

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Making my list, Checking it twice!

 One of my favourite seasons is nearly upon us! Christmas! I love most everything about the season: the music (Meghan Smith's "It Snowed Last Night" - new favourite song!!!), the decorations, the reflecting upon Jesus' birthday, visits to Santa, and watching the kids anticipation and delight as we visit with friends and family.  One thing that seems to find its way into all our Christmas traditions and celebrations is Christmas treats!

Around the middle of November I start to ponder my "list" of goodies that I want to make for the Christmas celebrations.  My list has a few "must haves" and then I like to try some treats every year.  It really is the only time of year when you can never have too much chocolate and sugar!

This year's list:

Dave's Icebox Cherry cookies: sugar shortbread with glazed cherries
Gingerbread men: classic with lots of icing
Chocolate Fudge: no nuts, just the pure chocolate goodness
Mocha Biscotti: pecans, chocolate chunks in a coffee flavoured biscuit, dipped in...more chocolate!
Monkey Munch: fun peanut butter and chocolate covered cereal with icing sugar! Boys love it!
Cranberry Slice: a take on the Starbucks special - cranberry, orange, white chocolate brownies with a frosting.
Butter Tarts: The only thing I like cooked raisins in
Salt Caramels: dip caramels in chocolate and sprinkle with sea salt

Sounds like a lot, maybe it is. But it so much fun to make.  But I am a bit of a Christmas baking hoarder.  I bake it and keep most of it away from my family until right before Christmas. I do this not to be mean but to make sure I have enough (never have enough :)) and to watch our waist lines a bit before the big feast!!

I bet many of you are making your Christmas favourites this coming week as well. I would love to hear what you like to make to celebrate Jesus' birthday!  Here is a recipe for Monkey Munch. Your kids will thank you!!

9 cups Crispix, Life, Chex type cereal (9 cups TOTAL) I do a mix.
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup smooth Peanut Butter
1/4 cup margarine or butter
1 1/2 cups of icing sugar

1. Put cereal in a large bowl and put aside

2. Put choco chips, peanut butter and margarine into microwavable bowl.  Microwave one minute on high and stir.  Continue to microwave in 30 sec intervals and stir for a bit after each time until mixture mixes smoothly. 

3. Add vanilla and stir.  Mix chocolate mixture into cereal carefully. Try not to crush cereal to much.  Coat nicely.

4. In a large ziploc bag add icing sugar.  Add cereal/chocolate mixture.  Close and shake until distributed.

5. Spread onto wax paper and cool and dry.  Resist eating!!!  But you can't!

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Smoking is good for you!!!

OK, OK, Smoking cigarettes is bad for you but that is not what I am talking about here!!  Nor am I talking about what your oven does when you forget that you had one last batch of cookies in there and forgot to set the timer......

I am talking about the wondrous flavor of smoke in foods like cheeses, meats, and fish!  My husband and I have recently begun a foray into the world of exotic cheeses.  When I say exotic that means anything beyond the proccessed cheese slice and that kind you can peel.... Our favorites so far have included an amazing apple wood smoked chedder and a smoked Gruyere.  We have paired these cheeses with a wonderful pinot noir jelly or just munched on it with crackers and a good bold red. (Shiraz has been a favorite lately)  But the SMOKINESS of the cheese is what is amazing!  The flavor the wood adds is bold and intense...making all other cheese seem bland. 

Then there is smoked meats and fish.  We love to buy smoked maple salmon nuggets.  Like smoky candy it is!  I would love to try this on some baguette with goat cheese, but alas it rarely makes it to the bread.  Our family loves it.  We also enjoy the local butcher shop's offerings of smoked sausages, pepperonis, and cold cuts.  When you drive down town of our little northern Albertan town and smell that smoke house smell of hard woods like hickory and apple, along with the meaty goodness you just gotta have some!!! 

I think it would be fun to have a smoker....(don't know if there are any by-laws about that in town) but my father in law has a large one that he hasn't had much time to use.....Hmmmmm.....I think its time to fire up ol Bessie!!!  I would love to smoke some beef and pork to make some of those southern pulled pork sandwiches and beef on the bun.  I think a trip to speak to the butcher about what a "brisket" is, is in order.  My husband also has the talent of making sausages. They are soo good.  I think we should try some in the smoker.  I think its time to do some baking to sweet talk my father in law into letting me at his smoker!!  Smoking is good!!!! At least it tastes good!

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Food is not Grub!!!

Many of my friends have ventured into the world of blogging and I follow their adventures with avid interest.  So I decided to join the blogging world with my own!  One is supposed to blog about what one is passionate about.  Over the past couple of years I have become more and more passionate about FOOD!  So many flavors, smells, and textures to why make the same ol' grub! 

Do you know what a grub is?  A small juicy, slime filled bug that eats rotting wood.......So why oh why do we call what we put into our bodies......GRUB!!!  Food is to be nutritious (most of the time) and flavorable - a coming together of family and friends as part of your day to savor the goodness that the world has to offer.
 I think every passionate cook has their "Julia Child" moment where they come to realize that food is amazing....Her's was over a flavorful fish dish called Sole Meuniere she experienced upon arriving in France in 1948.  Mine....A romantic dinner at  Le Creprie in Edmonton.  David and I dined on a wonderful mushroom appetizer made with a most wonderful Gruyere cheese and smoked salmon.  Followed by a Lamb shank dish with a most rich gravy.  Of course we paired our food with a good red wine.  It was after eating this wonderful meal that I became interested in what I was preparing for my family.  Was it something just boiled or fried and plopped on a plate?  NO!  NO! NO! 

I began watching the Food Network avidly and trying our some of the dishes the chefs prepared. Not so easy. But my husband noticed a marked improvement in my cooking.  I started marinating things, pairing meat and fruit, serving wine with meals and taking care in presentation!  And what a difference!  What an enjoyment.  I have begun to collect cook books and surf the web for recipes to try.  So many to try....not enough time.  So my family and friends get to enjoy my trials and errors. (yep- some not so great combos)  But my journey in the culinary world has caused me to think, and act....No more GRUB!  It's called Lunch and Supper (or dinner if you prefer)  And its not meant to be rushed and plopped.   It is meant to be presented and enjoyed, even if it is Kraft Dinner.  So I hope you enjoy my blog and you can journey with me as I try new foods, and preparations, and have some triumphs, and trials.   So as Julia would say....Bon Appitet!!!