It’s good to be back after taking a little bit of time off for the holidays. So I do apologize that this is a day late. Hopefully all the hangovers and “bad-decision juice” has been worked out of everyone’s systems. But with all the focus on physical recovery and recuperation, let’s not forget all those National Holidays that are taking place this month (there is another “National Pie Day” this month on the 23rd; the other one was last month). I know when we think of January, New Year’s Day is always on everyone’s mind. It is also National Hot Tea Month, National Oatmeal Month, National Slow Cooking Month, and National Soup Month. Here are some of the National Holidays that we should be celebrating this month:
2 Buffet Day, Cream Puff Day
5 Whipped Cream Day
8 English Toffee Day
10 Bittersweet Chocolate Day
12 Marzipan Day
14 Hot Pastrami Sandwich Day
15 Strawberry Ice Cream Day
18 Peking Duck Day (yum!)
26 Peanut Brittle Day
27 Chocolate Cake Day!
29 Cornchip Day
30 Croissant Day
31 Popcorn Day
Here’s another holiday menu post! I do want to start by apologizing for some of my pics. When I was doing my Winter Feast, I was so concerned with keeping to my schedule and feeding hungry guests, I forgot to take pictures of the finished products 😦 Like the Savory Bread Pudding, the Rapini with Fried Apples, the Biscotti, the Roasted Fennel, and this. But luckily there were some leftovers (as is the usual with large parties) and I got to take some shots. Of course, I don’t know what my excuse is for not taking pics of the cheesecake because this was made the day before. But it was evening, so natural light wasn’t available. Plus it’s been very cloudy lately which makes taking good pictures more challenging. That was the case when I was trying to take some pictures of what was left of the cheesecake (and it was raining a little bit). All the Christmas lights in the world really can’t replicate natural light.
Anyhoo, I wanted to put a different twist on cheesecake for the holidays. And then I asked myself, “Waterlily, why don’t you add some of the Cranberry Compote to the cheesecake batter? What a wonderful idea! Such fun!” So that’s essentially what this is, with a little tweaks here and there. . . maybe. This makes a relatively tall 9″ cheesecake (and that’s 9″ wide, not 9″ tall). Here’s what you need:
For the crust:
- 12 graham crackers, the large 4-piece kind
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 T. crystallized ginger
- pinch of salt
- 6 T. butter, melted
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spray 9-in springform with cooking spray. Pulse the graham crackers, sugar, and salt until fine. Add the crystallized ginger and chop (I like having larger bits of ginger in the crust, but you can keep everything a uniform size if you like). Drizzle in the melted butter and combine.
2. Press the crumbs into the bottom and up the sides of the pan about 1 inch. Bake for about 15 minutes until slightly browned. Allow to cool. After the pan is cool to the touch, wrap in foil to prevent water from seeping in.
For the filling:
- 5 8-oz. packages cream cheese
- 1 c. sugar
- 1 t. salt
- 5 large eggs
- 1/2 c. sour cream
- 1 c. Cranberry Compote
1. Reduce oven to 325 degrees F. In the bowl of a mixer, beat cream cheese until fluffy using the paddle attachment. Be sure to scrape down the sides as you go along. Add sugar and salt and mix well, scraping down the sides. Add eggs one at a time, again scraping down the sides after each addition. Mix in the sour cream well. Fold in the compote.
2. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan. Place the springform in a roasting pan; now fill the roasting pan with hot water halfway up the sides of the springform. Bake for about 90 minutes until set in the middle. If there is too much browning during baking, loosely place some foil on top of the cheesecake.
3. Allow the cake to cool on a rack. After about 15 minutes, run a knife around the edges of the cake to help release it from the pan. Let it cool completely before wrapping the top with plastic. Refrigerate for at least 6 hours, or overnight (even better)!
Notes — I was hoping that this would be a little bit more pink. I guess I could always add some coloring, but I’d rather not. . . You are supposed to bake this in a water bath, but if you don’t happen to have a roasting pan you can just use a sheet pan. Fill the pan as high as you can with water; you will probably have to refill the pan at least once during baking. But halfway through the baking process, loosely place some foil on top of the cake. This helps trap some steam around the cake, which helps it bake. . .
This is one of several “holiday menu” installments, so brace yourselves! Alright, so let’s start the holidays off right with some eggnog. The recipe that I’ve been using for the past couple of years has been adapted from Martha Stewart. Now I was looking on her website a couple of weeks ago and I really couldn’t find the right recipe. I found one for her “Classic Eggnog” but the amount of booze seemed a lot lower than I remember; even if you made a double batch it still didn’t sound right. Luckily I found one on Food.com which was a lot closer to what I remember. Of course, I changed it a little — I changed it from 1/2 c. rum to a full cup because why would you just put 1/2 c. of rum into anything?
In addition to a nice large serving bowl, here’s what you need:
- 12 eggs, separated
- 1 1/2 c. superfine sugar
- 1 quart whole milk
- 1 1/2 quarts heavy cream
- 3 c. bourbon
- 2 c. cognac
- 1 c. dark rum
- freshly grated nutmeg
1. In a very large bowl, beat the egg yolks until thick and pale yellow. Gradually add sugar to the yolks, whisking to combine. Gradually whisk in the milk and 1 qt. of the cream. Now add your bourbon, rum, and cognac, stirring constantly. You can make this base of the eggnog a day or so in advance.
2. In the bowl of a mixer, beat the egg whites until stiff (you can add a little bit of sugar if you like). Gently fold that into the mixture.
3. Whip the remaining cream to soft peaks and dollop or fold into the mixture. Sprinkle with nutmeg and serve!
Notes — There is a caution at the bottom of the recipes that I found stating that “raw eggs should not be used in food prepared for pregnant women, babies, young children, the elderly, or anyone whose health is compromised.” It’s probably a not to let pregnant women, babies, or young children to drink something this boozy!. . . supposedly this serves 24.
The holiday season is time for cranberries. And whenever we see some fresh cranberries, we must bake something! Usually it’s some Cranberry Bars with a nice cream cheese frosting. But we tried something new this time. This recipe was taken from the Tasty Kitchen. It’s a little bit different from what you may consider to be a “pie”. Honestly, I think it’s closer to a cobbler than a pie, and it was made in a cake pan. So, really it’s kind of an upside down cake. Actually it’s closest to a buckle, which is one of the many types of cobblers (I should do a post on the different types of cobblers). But the recipe calls itself a “pie” and who am I to make a pie conform to my definitions of what pie should be? Well, it’s tasty, whatever the name is. Plus it’s very simple to make so you can have a nice dessert in about an hour!
Here’s what you need:
- Butter, for greasing the pan
- 2 c. (heaping) cranberries
- 3/4 c. pecans, chopped (measure, then chop)
- 1 c. all-purpose flour
- 1 2/3 c. sugar, divided
- 1 stick butter, melted
- 2 whole eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 t. almond extract
- 1/4 t. salt
- 1 T. (sanding) sugar
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Butter and 9-in. cake pan. Add cranberries to the bottom of the pan. Sprinkle on chopped pecans, then sprinkle with 2/3 c. sugar.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine flour, 1 c. sugar, melted butter, eggs, almond extract, and salt. Stir gently to combine.
4. Pour batter slowly over the top in large “ribbons” in order to evenly cover the surface. Spread gently if necessary.
5. Bake for 45 – 50 minutes. 5 minutes before removing from the oven, sprinkle surface with 1 T. sugar for a little extra crunch.
6. Let cool and slice into wedges. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.
Happy December everybody! Been out of commission for a while due to an increasingly packed schedule. But it’s the first of the month and it’s time to learn about our disavowed national holidays from Mr. Squirrel (or is it Mrs? maybe Ms.?). It really is the holiday season, but there are other days that deserve recognition, like World AIDS Day which is on the 1st. Of course, there are the biggies that (mostly) everyone knows (and these are in chronological order according to my Just Chocolate Labs calendar) — Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Boxing Day, and New Year’s Eve. But here are some of the other national holidays that we should incorporate into our regular rotation.
1 Pie Day
2 Fritters Day
4 Cookie Day
7 Cotton Candy Day
8 Brownie Day
10 Lager Day!!!
11 Noodle Ring Day
12 Ambrosia Day
13 Cocoa Day
21 French Fried Shrimp Day
24 Egg Nog Day
25 Pumpkin Pie Day
There are lots of links for folks to check out this month. Personally, my favorite is “Chocolate Covered Anything Day”, but how can you not love a holiday all about Baking Soda?
If you’re looking for something to serve as a side for the upcoming holidays, give this recipe a try. It’s rich and creamy without using any cream at all, so it’s a little bit more waistline friendly. This was taken from the cookbook An American Bounty from The Culinary Institute of America. What’s nice about this cookbook is that it gives you some nutritional information with each recipe. And this recipe is healthier than you think — 180 calories, 4 g protein, 10 g fat, 18 g carbohydrates, 285 mg sodium, and 40 mg cholesterol per 6 oz. serving. It will serve 4 – 6 people.
I did try my best at making some fancy design like those baristas at those fancy coffee houses. It almost worked, but since the densities of the soup and the cream were so different, designs really didn’t want to stay put. I eventually settled on swirling everything together, which I liked. It kinda looks like Jupiter. . . kinda. . . well, not really. But I digress, here’s what you need:
- 1 T. unsalted butter
- 1 onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 celery stalk, trimmed and diced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 t. ground ginger
- 3-4 c. chicken broth
- 2 c. butternut squash, cubed
- 1 c. acorn squash, cubed
- 1/2 potato, peeled and sliced
- 1/2 t. salt, or to taste
- 1/4 t. freshly ground pepper, or to taste
- 1 t. julienned orange zest
2. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is tender and translucent, about 5-6 minutes.
3. Add the ginger and sauté for another minute.
4. Add the broth, squashes, and potato. Bring the broth to a full boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low. Simmer until the squashes are tender enough to pierce easily with a fork, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove the soup from the heat and allow it to cool briefly. Purée the soup with an immersion blender, food processor, or run it through a food mill.
6. Return the soup to the pot and bring to a simmer. Adjust the consistency, if necessary, by adding additional broth or water. Taste the soup and add salt, pepper, and orange zest.
7. Serve the soup in a heated tureen or individual bowls.
Notes — If you wanted to make this vegan, just substitute the butter with some olive oil and switch the chicken broth with some vegetable broth. . . add a few drops of lemon or lime juice to brighten the flavor. . . you can add a T. of orange juice concentration with the final flavor adjustment. . . if you wanted to make this in advance, complete up to step 5, cool the soup to room temperature, and refrigerate or freeze. Before serving, return the soup to a full boil, and make final adjustments. . . can be served chilled. . . whip a little heavy cream to soft peaks, fold in an equal amount of sour cream, and add freshly grated ginger, to taste. add a dollop to each portion. . .
A chill is in the air and those lovely leaves are turning, so that means that autumn is in full swing. Daisy, of course, fell in love with autumn at an early age, as you can see. Even at the ripe old age of 2 (as you can see in the second picture), she still loves playing in the leaves. But this all means that it’s November and holiday season is fast upon us. Now everyone thinks of the traditional holidays like Veteran’s Day and Thanksgiving (in the United States, that is), but there are others that we don’t take time to celebrate. For example, November is: National Fun with Fondue Month, National Pepper Month, National Georgia Pecan Month, National Peanut Butter Lover’s Month, and National Raisin Bread Month. Here are some more of those unloved holidays:
1 – 7 National Fig Week
4 Candy Day
7 Bittersweet Chocolate with Almonds Day
8 – 13 National Split Pea Soup Week
12 Pizza with the Works Except Anchovies Day
14 Guacamole Day
20 Peanut Butter Fudge Day
23 Cashew Day
24 THANKSGIVING DAY
25 Parfait Day
26 Cake Day
27 Bavarian Cream Pie Day
28 French Toast Day
29 Chocolates Day
30 Mousse Day