Archive for December, 2011

happy hanukkah/solstice/christmas/kwanzaa/new years


Usually this time of year I start baking like a fiend Thanksgiving weekend and don’t stop until the weekend before Christmas.  All peoples around me would receive beautifully packaged bags of treats.  This year, I’ve been painting (bedroom walls) every weekend and surviving a never-ending work acquisition during the weekdays, so the baking extravaganza has not been happening.  I feel off-kilter.

However, I have to eat so I have been cooking a little.  We made latkes for the first night of Hanukkah, and might squeeze in one more meal of latkes before the end (tonight).

Christmas Eve morning I decided to do a baked pumpkin steel cut oatmeal –  I’d made it once before and it had been good.  This time it was essentially Christmas gruel.  Blech.  Yummily, lunch was the hors d’oeuvres meal that I’d planned for dinner.  With a bottle of wine.  My OH had to take a nap after that.  Dinner was with dear friends on Warren Street.  He wanted to know why I hadn’t covered his demented displays in this blog.  His wife and I pointed out that I’m only interested in food.  He pointed out the inflatable turkey that he’d used earlier this season.  Touche’.  I’ll have to work on being more observant.

I have no real traditions for Christmas meals, other than hors d’oeuvres for Christmas Eve dinner.  My mother has always made a Swedish tea ring but I’ve never been drawn to make it my tradition.  I just like it when Mom makes breakfast.  So this year I took on someone else’s tradition and their Holiday Breakfast Wreath.  I did not have the dried cranberries called for in the recipe, so I chopped up dried prunes and soaked them in brandy before adding to the filling.  Quite delicious, I must say.

just before glazing

And it opens up the whole new world of yeast baked goods.  As much as I bake, I never make anything using yeast as I’ve never understood the whole rising and kneading process.  This time it worked.  I’m very excited.

Mid-day, we wanted to get out of the house to walk/hike off past meals (and prepare for the next) so we headed out to Bash Bish Falls.  What a lovely place.  I don’t know why it took so many years to get there.  Definitely must return in the summer.

I then spent the rest of the afternoon/evening preparing dinner, which was Chef Peter Berley’s Lasagna of Fall Vegetables, Sage Bechamel, and Gruyere.  If you decide to tackle this delicious meal, give yourself a couple of hours and some staff.  And don’t leave the bechamel for last since you need some steeping time.  There’s a lot of prep work, as there often is when you prepare everything from scratch.  But the results are worth it.  My photos do not do the dish justice, but click on the link above for a tasty image.

What’s next?  I might start on my Christmas cookies (no time like the present, right?) – except that at the moment I’m not hungry.  This is not a normal sensation.  O dear.

it’s latkes night!

Did you buy potatoes at the Farmers Market this past weekend?  I hope so because tonight begins the Festival of Lights (Hanukkah) which to me means one thing: LATKES!

You can google a million possibilities for latkes recipes; the one I use is below.  I think I was overwhelmed by the possibilities one year so my OH took the matter into his own hands and found this recipe.   It’s perfectly good.  The recipe says it serves one, but that’s a whole lotta latkes for one person…

The Latkes – Secret Recipe:

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Serves: 1

  • 1-1/2 lbs. Idaho potatoes
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 Tbsps. all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. coarse (Kosher) salt, or as needed
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper, or as needed
  • 2 cups vegetable oil, or as needed (you will hopefully not use this much!!!)

Peel and grate the potatoes. Grate the onions. Beat the egg and add the onions and seasoning and the flour to the beaten egg. Mix in the grated potatoes.

Dissolve vitamin C tablet in 2-3 Tbsp of water, and add that to the potato mixture to prevent browning. (I never have vitamin C tablets around so I skip this step.)  Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a skillet.

Once the oil is hot, scoop out 1-2 Tbsp of the potato mixture, and fry in the oil until the bottom starts to brown (2-3 min). Flip the latke over and fry for another 2-3 min.

Take out the latke and drain on a paper towel. Serve immediately with apple sauce or sour cream.
Note: The recipe makes 10-12 pancakes.

I heard of a Vodka & Latkes party earlier this week – what a perfect combo.


a really belated winter walk wrap-up

…because it’s been that kind of week.

I don’t think it was just me – the Winter Walk seemed bigger and better than ever!  And for once I didn’t feel like a human popsicle after walking up and down Warren Street.  Thank you global warming.  Did you see all the new food options in town?

The 2nd annual Eggnog Challenge was the real deal and I challenged myself to try all of them.  I think I may have missed one or two.  But I did make it down to the Chocolate Bar, the winner of the Eggnog challenge.  Located  at 1 Warren (door on Front Street), this chocolate shop actually opens today, Saturday 12/10.  I am very loyal to Vasilow’s, but now we have chocolate options at either end of town.  That can’t be bad.

Truck Pizza has landed in the 347 lot recently vacated by Tortillaville (for the season).  Guess what they serve.  The line was too long that night so I’ll have to go back.

Taste of the Caribbean opened up right next door to the Italian Shop – a new source of jerk meat dishes and patties. Yum.

We popped in to the Acres Co-op  pop-up in their hopefully future space at 704 Columbia.  Tasted great vanilla and chocolate ice cream from a new guy who just started producing, and got a bottle of wine from Tousey Winery.  Which we promptly took home and drank.

Good time had by all.

national cookie day!

Yes, today (Sunday December 4th) is National Cookie Day.  Much thanks to a coworker who brought this to my attention. I always like to say that when I grow up I’m going to bake cookies for a living.

Are you compelled to bake some cookies?   –  Wait!  Why not?

For the best chocolate chip  cookies, try the Jacques Torres recipe.  You must think ahead – it requires cake and bread flours and bittersweet chocolate chips (semi-sweet will work if necessary) and time – it must rest in the fridge overnight.  Absolutely the best chocolate chip cookies.  Try it.  Trust me.

Are you an oatmeal cookie fiend?  I’ve always depended on the Quaker Vanishing Oatmeal cookie recipe.  I’m not a huge fan of raisins (weird childhood thing since mother wanted raisins in everything) so I always add dried cranberries instead.  And use the old fashioned oats.

How about peanut butter cookies?  These have always been part of my repertoire, because they were my dad’s absolute favorite cookie.  Betty Crocker was the ruling cookbook in our household growing up, so this is my favorite peanut butter cookie recipe.  Again, think ahead as this takes a couple hours of sitting in the fridge.  Also, instead of just dipping the fork in sugar, I like to roll the entire cookie ball in sugar and then make the cross marks with a fork.  And, if I’m really feeling fancy, I make just one fork imprint (not the hatch mark) and pipe melted dark chocolate into the tracks once the cookies are cool.  Again, trust me on this one.

I haven’t even begun to talk about Christmas cookies – snowballs, peppermint balls, decorated sugar cookies, gingerbread boys, pfeffernuesse…

Happy Cookie day!  Eat cookies!