Have yourself a merry little Christmas

Courtesy of the amazing Judy Garland.

Merry Christmas to all! (And especially my sister, Jenni, who is in Phoenix and who we really miss this year.)

May the new year bring us all adventure, joy and peace.

P.S. I was so in love with Judy and this movie, that I had my mom make me a deep red velvet dress for Winter Dance my senior year of high school


Food Inspirations

All sorts of fun food info and links around the Web this week! I wish I had time to try some of these out. I'm half-tempted to get some chestnuts from the farmer's marketing this weekend and make a soup!

This chestnut soup definitely caught my interest, and it's the one I may actually attempt to make: Chestnut Soup with Crisp Prosciutto.

But, always enlightening NPR also just posted a nice article on chestnuts with some yummy sounds recipes, particularly the Slow Cooker Lamb with Chestnuts.

Incredible Layer Cakes
As much as I love making cake, I don't think I'll ever attempt one of these cakes highlighted in a New York Times article.

Dinner Tonight


Monday Distractions

The Muppets are IN right now. For the record - they were never out in my book, but it's so awesome to see them around the Web these days. They have a new video in celebration of Christmas:

More Muppets fun with Bohemian Rhapsody (Seriously, watch long enough to hear Monster's solo. So funny.):

Even Saturday Night Live is getting in on the fun:


Spirit of Christmas

Well, what a wonderful weekend! Pete hosted a festive holiday party, and we all sampled some exciting hot holiday beverages including Hot Buttered Rum, Mulled Wine (Glogg?) and Tom & Jerry's (tastes kind of like egg nog). And now, I'm staring past my Christmas lights out the window, and willing it to snow. (Just a little!)

Pete and I just watched Elf and drank cocoa, and while that movie is funny it makes it seem like the "Spirit of Christmas" lies in believing in Santa Clause. The heart of Christmas is love - bringing love into the world through Jesus, if you're a Christian. And that shows in many ways - spending time with family and friends, giving to the poor, etc.

I heard a really touching episode of Story Corps this week that provided one of those grounding moments. And of course, it takes a child to show us all how far off the mark we can stray. Listen to it here: Debbie Watterson and her son Mitchel


Christmas Cruise

We sang carols, drank hot cocoa (with a little something extra), took in the lights and even survived the arctic wind out on the Sound. It was a lovely evening on the Argosy Christmas Cruise, and definitely got me even more in the Christmas Spirit.

And, guess what? It might SNOW here this weekend. Here's hoping!


Eggs in Hell

Dramatic name, right? We can thank M.F.K. Fisher, author of "How to Cook a Wolf," for the recipe and name. I know I've mentioned how awesome she is before, but I'll do it one more time. If you're a bit of a foodie, I'd highly recommend her book. She laments the downfall of good, crusty bread and praises the healing effects of eating pigeon(!!!). Obviously, she's speaking from a different era.

This recipe is along the lines of a few others I've come to rely on for a quick, satisfying dinner. They are all based on the same equation: toasted bread, topped with some kind of warm veggie, topped with a friend egg. A great example that involves kale is at Orangette.

For this one, you make a quick tomato sauce, and then break the eggs into the sauce and let them cook gently for about 15 minutes. Then serve it all up on a piece of toast. I had it for dinner this week, along with a glass of wine, and it was a very tasty, satisfying winter meal!

Eggs in Hell

4 TBS olive oil
1 clove garlic
1 onion, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
1 tsp minced mixed herbs (basil, thyme, red pepper flakes)*
1 tsp parsley
8 eggs
Slices of French Bread or another type of good bread, toasted

1. Heat oil in a saucepan that has a tight cover. Split garlic lengthwise, run a toothpick through each half, and brown slowly in oil. Add the onion and cook until golden. Then add the tomato sauce and seasonings and herbs. Cook about 15 minutes, stirring often, and then take out the garlic.**

2. Into this sauce break the eggs. Spoon the sauce over them, cover closely, and cook very slowly until eggs are done, or about 15 minutes. (If the skillet is a heavy one, you can turn off the heat and cook in fifteen minutes with what is stored in the metal.)

3. When done, put the eggs carefully on the slices of dry toast, and cover with sauce. (Grated parmesan cheese is good on this, if you can get any.)

Note: I usually cute the recipe in half and just make 2 eggs, if I'm cooking for myself.


Well, I've already failed miserably at posting every day. But, I believe that rules are meant to be broken - even if I created the rule myself! I have a post halfway finished that I'll put up later today.

I'm super distracted today because I'm going on a Christmas Cruise around Seattle tonight!! I've packed lots of warm clothes, and I'm ready to take in the Christmas lights and holiday beverages.


Melt Your Heart

It's Monday. Ugh. I re-watched this video today to break up my afternoon.

Just try to watch this movie trailer without melting. This may rival March of the Penguins on the cuteness scale!


Christmas Poinsettia

Last night I went out with a group of friends to the cozy, retro-swanky Sorrento Hotel for drinks and jazz. It was a lovely evening, and the room was decorated beautifully for Christmas. In the holiday spirit I ordered a drink called the Poinsettia (after my customary vodka martini - that's what I get whenever I go out for cocktails). A you would expect, it was a very pretty red color. The recipe below is an estimate based on having drank it once.

I'm kind of craving one right now!

2 parts champagne
2 parts cranberry juice
1 part vodka
1 part Cointreau

Mix and serve in a wine glass over ice.


Cheese Ball!

I made this cheese ball for a party last year, and it was a hit. I make it into a ball, and then cover it with pecans. It looks really retro and kitschy - but everyone really liked the way it tasted too! I serve it with Ritz crackers.

This recipe is from the fabulous Amy Sedaris's book "I Like You."

I'm making it for a holiday party tonight!

In case you can't read the recipe from the picture:

Lil' Smoky Cheese Ball

2 cups shredded smoked Gouda
16 oz. cream cheese
1/2 cup butter
2 1/2 tablespoons milk
2 1/2 teaspons steak sauce
1 cup pecans

Bring all ingredients to room temperature. Add milk and steak sauce to cheeses and butter and beat until completely blended. Chill overnight (or for as long as you have time). Turn it into a ball. Cover with nuts. Serve it at room temperature, spread on Ritz.


Birthday Paella

Photo source: Epicurious, Marcus Nilsson

Well, I was going to post about sweet potato biscuits today. See, I had this Martha Stewart recipe for sweet potato biscuits that I had been holding onto for, literally, years. I FINALLY decided to make them last night. And . . . they were OK. I mean, they were good, but not as good as I had worked them up to be in my mind over the last four years.

So, instead I'm posting the recipe for paella that I made for Pete on his birthday. I first dabbled in paella with Mark Bittman's simple vegetarian version, and then tried a couple other kinds. I quickly sold Pete on the joys of it as well. But, I was still looking for a good classic recipe to make for his birthday when I stumbled across one called Birthday Party Paella. How perfect! It's called that, though, because it's designed to serve about 12 people. So I cut down a lot of the ingredients. My personal altered version is below.

It really is delicious and satisfying - try it out!

(I would post a picture of the one I made, but because I'm not a food photographer my photo makes it look kind of gross.)

Pete's Birthday Paella

3 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 fresh Cajun or hot Italian sausages
4 chicken thighs with skin and bones (about 4 1/4 pounds), excess fat trimmed
1 very large onions, chopped (about 5 cups)
6 garlic cloves, chopped, plus 1 garlic clove, minced
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2/3 cup frozen peas
1 red bell pepper, cut into 1-inch-wide strips

1/2 pounds uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined
Generous pinch plus 1/4 teaspoon saffron threads

1 1/2 cups arborio rice
1 1/2 teaspoons salt

3 cups canned low-salt chicken broth
2 teaspoons paprika

Chopped fresh parsley

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in dutch oven or large cast iron pan. Add sausages and sauté until cooked through, turning often, about 10 minutes. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Working in batches, add chicken, skin side down, to pot. Cover and cook until brown, about 6 minutes. Turn chicken over, cover and cook until brown and cooked through, about 8 minutes longer. Transfer chicken to bowl with sausages. Add onion and 5 chopped garlic cloves to pot; sauté until tender, about 8 minutes. Add tomatoes and bay leaves; stir 2 minutes. Stir in peas and bell pepper.

Toss shrimp with remaining 2 tablespoons oil, 1 minced garlic clove and generous pinch of saffron in medium bowl.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Mix rice and 1 1/2 teaspoons salt into vegetable mixture. Cut sausages diagonally into 1-inch slices. Using wooden spoon, push sausage and chicken pieces into rice mixture; pour any juices from bowl over. Bring 3 cups chicken broth, paprika and remaining 1/4 teaspoon saffron to boil in medium saucepan. Pour evenly over rice mixture. Cover with a lid or foil. Bake until rice is almost tender, about 30-40 minutes.

Sprinkle shrimp mixture with salt and pepper. Arrange atop rice mixture. Cover and bake until shrimp are opaque in center, rice is tender and most of liquid in pan is absorbed, about 20 minutes longer.

Remove from oven and put pan over high heat for a few minutes to develop a bit of a bottom crust before serving.

Sprinkle with parsley. Spoon paella onto plates and serve.


December Food Blogging Challenge

It's the holiday season! I just made the my first batch of Christmas cookies with Pete this weekend, and have about 20 soup recipes lined up. I'm feeling happy every time I look at my little tinsel tree and Christmas lights. And, I'm plotting out the last of my Christmas gifts. I'm also hoping for (just a little) snow in Seattle this year. It was so fun last year - until it turned into a total nightmare . . .

I've also been wanting to blog, but feeling so behind that I don't know where to start. So, I've decided I'm going to go out of 2009 blogging strong. I'm going to post a new recipe every day until the end of the year! (Or at least try.)

I'll start today with a fun Sweet Potato Bundt Cake posted by Orangette. I made it last time I had to provide food for church coffee hour. And, guess what?! I'm making it again for coffee hour this weekend! It was a real crowd pleaser, and not too heavy or sweet for a late morning snack. Plus, I have some canned sweet potato puree that Fred Meyer was conveniently carrying during Thanksgiving. I might have to stop by and see if they have more - it's a handy thing to have around!

Anywho, here's the recipe. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato Pound Cake
Adapted from Southern Cakes, by Nancie McDermott

For the cake:
3 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
½ cup milk (low-fat is okay)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
8 oz. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes

For the buttermilk glaze (optional):
½ cup buttermilk
½ cup sugar
4 Tbsp. (½ stick) unsalted butter, cubed
1 ½ tsp. cornstarch or flour
¼ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10-inch tube or Bundt pan. (If your pan is nonstick, you can get away with just some cooking spray; no need to flour.)

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, nutmeg, and salt. Whisk well. In a small bowl or measuring cup, combine the milk and vanilla.

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, and light brown sugar until light and fluffy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the sweet potatoes, and mix until the batter is combined. (The batter may look terrible at this point: curdled, weird, terrible. Don’t worry.) With the mixer on low speed, add half of the flour mixture. Beat to just incorporate. Then add half of the milk mixture, and continue to beat on low until well blended. Add the remaining flour, followed by the remaining milk, and beat on low until the batter is thick and smooth.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan, and bake for 60 to 75 minutes, or until the cake springs back when pressed lightly and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around the edge to loosen the cake, and then carefully invert it onto the rack.

Meanwhile, make the glaze, if using. In a medium saucepan, combine the buttermilk, sugar, butter, cornstarch, and baking soda. Place it over medium heat, and bring it just to a gentle boil. Immediately remove it from the heat, stir well, and set it aside to cool to room temperature. Add the vanilla, and stir well.

Set the wire rack - with the cake atop it - over a rimmed sheet pan. Spoon the glaze through a fine-mesh sieve over the warm cake. (I recommend using a sieve because my batch of glaze had some little gelatinous bits of clumped cornstarch in it.)

Cool completely before serving.