Thursday, December 31, 2009

my year in review...

everyone likes a productive year
a year they can point to and say
now that was a good year
as i get older
a good year is one i can remember
a great year
is one i can remember fondly
2009 was a challenge for people i care about
one that i don't vote to repeat
but if i go with my own criteria
i have to say it was a great year
because there were many fond moments
and my heart still beats
and i have a happy marriage
and a healthy family
and more blessings than i can count

*this year past*
i had a wonderful birthday lunch with friends
bought a charming cabin in the mountains
here, here and here
went on an amazing and unforgettable road trip from california to south dakota (i love you south dakota!)
laid to rest to my lovely and dear father-in-law
hung out at lake coeur d'alene
was reminded how great julia child is/was/is
gave a year of service to my alma mater
and lots time to charities
took the culinary trip of a lifetime to italy-- grazie mamma!
here, here, here and here
butchered 2 deer, yes two
hosted a rockin' thanksgiving
here and here
found lots of new blogs to love
because of here
had some laughs
had some cries
had some flashes of brillance
and some forgettable ones
i won some
i lost some
 i misplaced some
despite or because of it all
i look forward
to doing all again next year


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

picnic on parade

on the eve of 2009
we are lucky enough to live on the rose parade route
so every new year's eve
gathering begins
people begin to gather on the streets
setting up camp
lighting fires
preparing for a sleepless night
lots of childish fun

and then once dark falls

the floats begin to arrive
people bustling about
readying those famous floats
testing out the mechanics
adding the final touches of flourish

all this happens
on our doorstep
and there is no sleep to be had
no fighting the crowds
so what we do
is enjoy the heck out of it
i have found that
new year's day comes rather quickly
and i am usually in need of food and coffee
as i rush out the door
as the live action of the floats, bands, horses and cheer of the crowd
i pack a breakfast
easy and ready in an instant
in as long as it takes for me to brew a pot of coffee
i have a well balanced meal
that i greedily eat
while others watch in envy

Breakfast Picnic
everything needs to be made in advance 1 or 2 days ahead of time and put together before you head out the door

Frittata Sandwich
(printable recipe)
1/2 potato or leftover baked potato--sliced
a few thin slices of onion
olive oil
handful of grated cheese
4 eggs
pinch basil
Tbs milk
salt and pepper
baguette or hard roll
up to 2 days before serving.  Whisk together eggs, milk, salt, pepper and grated cheese.  Take a small (5 or 6") skillet and add a glug of olive oil. Keep on low and cook potatoes and onion until soft and beginning to brown.  pour in the eggs and cook on low until it is cooked through. it is meant to look like a round omelet.  I pop mine into a 350 oven to finish cooking, so i can move on to other things
remove from pan, put on a plate and pop in fridge until you need it.
when ready to make the sandwich, toast a baguette, place a wedge of frittata on top and wrap. You can add more cheese or some bacon if you are so inclined. You can also add any of that to the frittata while you are cooking it.

Rich and Creamy Yogurt
2 cups non-fat plain yogurt
apples for dipping
line the strainer with cheesecloth and place over a bowl.  Pour in yogurt, tie up the cheeescloth with a bit of twine and place the whole contraption in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours.  This will drain most of the moisture from the yogurt..making it thick like that expensive yogurt, but a lot cheaper.  Add vanilla and honey to taste...or eat it plain with berries on top. I also use this like cream cheese. It is amazingly rich and delicious!
you can also make some Cocoa
just heat some milk in the microwave
stir and enjoy

Put it all in a fun container, a lunch pail, or a paper sack
and enjoy the parade
your stomach will thank you

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Tuesday Night Supper Club

You may remember I mentioned wanting to see Sherlock Holmes in a previous post
yesterday hubster and I went to said movie
and I loved it
and he thought it was a bit long and boring
but he doesn't swoon for Bobby D and Juda-licious
so, he might be right
but i still enjoyed it
and i thought the score was brilliant
but what caught both of our eyes
was a small scene
in the middle of the movie
where the boys were eating fish and chips
and i thought
that would be a great dinner
and so here we are

Sherlock Holmes Fish n Chips Suppah
(printable recipe)
1 large russet potato
or more if you love fried potatoes
oil for frying
1/4 cup (approx) cornstarch
2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
generous pinch kosher salt
generous pinch black pepper
1 bottle cold beer (the darker the better)
3 or 4 ice cubes
1 1/2 lbs halibut or cod cut into strips
Make the batter by mixing flour, baking powder, salt, pepper and beer-- and  place in refrigerator to rest about 20 minutes.  
Heat the oil in a nice deep pot to 320.  Cut the chips into the shape you like. Make sure they are dry and then drop into the oil.  Let them cook until they are soft, but not browned.  You are going to cook twice. Remove from oil and let drain and cool completely.
Kick the heat up for the oil to 375
Fry your potatoes in batches until nicely browned.
Remove from oil, salt and let drain while you prepare the fish
plop the ice cubes into the dipping batter (you want a really cold batter)
dredge the fish in the cornstarch, then dip into the batter and immediately drop into the hot oil
serve hot with vinegar or tartar sauce
 or both

a cake and a smile

i long for the days of past when family, neighbors and old friends would stop by for coffee and cake
birthdays were celebrated with a small dinner and then extended family coming by for birthday cake and coffee
is that a tradition lost with generations past?
it is that people don't just visit anymore
 that cake has turned from an attribute of community and friendship
a carbohydrate laden capital lettered DON'T

I prefer a piece coffee cake to birthday cake
 it has to rely on itself to be good
it doesn't have some kind of amazing mocha-buttercream frosting to make it moist
or big red roses with that funny but somehow pleasing taste
it really does taste great with coffee
or a
mug of tea
 it reminds me of my grandparents
 insisted on having coffee and cake
playing gin and smoking cigarettes
on our back porch
on warm summer nights
my entire childhood
it was magic
and makes me smile
Big Ginormous Coffee Cake
(printable recipe)
(adapted from Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery Cookbook)
1  cup toasted walnuts
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup softened butter
Sprinkling Sugar Layer
1 Tbs granulated sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted walnuts
8 oz unsalted butter--room temperature
1 3/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp kosher salt
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
4 cups flour
2 cups sour cream
For the struesel:  Mix in a bowl all ingredients except the nuts. Mix until it becomes a bit lumpy then toss together with nuts. Set aside
For the Batter:  Cream the butter, baking soda, baking powder and salt on low until softened and mixed together. Add sugar and mix until light and fluffy.  Mix together the eggs and vanilla in a bowl.  Alternately add to the sugar and butter the eggs and the flour, beginning and ending with the flour.  Stir until just incorporated, do not over-beat.  Stir in the sour cream.
Line the bottom of a tube pan with baking paper, spray with pan spray being sure to hit the inner tube well.  Spoon half of the batter in the pan and spread to create an even layer.  Sprinkle the cinnamon sugar mix over on top of the batter.  Drop the nuts on top and press a bit to get them into the batter. Spread remaining batter evenly on top and then cover with the streusel mixture.
Bake in a preheated 350 oven until firm to the touch and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
It will take more than an hour.

Make a pot of coffee
pick up the phone
 invite some friends over
for a game of cards
just some laughs

Friday, December 25, 2009

oh Tanenbaum

Merry Christmas
from our home
to yours
this isn't really our home
and it's not our tree
but it is beautful
this is the tree at my folks house
dressed simply and beautifully
and it says Christmas
much better
than our two foot
silver tree
with gumdrop adornment

here's a new years promise
next year
we are putting up our big tree
and decorating it to the hilt
so i dont have to go
hijacking everyone else's
and pretend
that it is mine

May your Christmas be filled
with many
Blessings, Joy and Love

Thursday, December 24, 2009

3 different stratas and not an erik among them {egg strata}

Who doesn't like an easy solution for a crowd?
Especially when it is for breakfast
and perhaps the night before the next morning
is filled with fancy cocktails and lots o' bubbly?
and perhaps
too many sweets?

here's my breakfast solution
for just those days
like christmas
and new years
and easy
and not only can, but should
be prepared in advance
my recipe to make this isn't specific
but I think you can get the jist
about 9-12 cups of bread.  I use baguettes or rolls and tear them into nice size pieces and let them sit on a baking sheet to stale a bit....but it isn't essential.  You can use whatever bread you have, but I don't recommend biscuits.

about 9 large eggs
1 cup half and half or milk
salt and pepper
The 3 you see in the photo are:
leeks, mushrooms, zucchini, red bell pepper--sauteed in a bit of olive oil
stir in 1 small rondele or alouette while still warm
salt, pepper and nutmeg
layer with
parmesan and shredded mozzerella cheese
saute in olive oil
2 tubes breakfast sausage,1/2 onion
head of broccoli (tips only)
 stir in cube of cream cheese while still warm
layer with
shredded sharp cheddar cheese
saute in olive oil--lots of chorizo and
1 onion chopped finely
stir in 1 log chevre while still warm
layer with
shredded mexican blend of cheese

So here's what you do.  
Take the eggs and milk and whisk them together in a bowl.  Take your casserole pan and rub a bit of butter along the bottom and sides.  Drop a layer of bread into the pan.  Pour a about half of the egg mixture over and dig around so all the bread gets soaked. Place the filling either in a layer or as i like to do it in such a way so that it looks like the bread and filling are all tumbled together.  Top with a layer of shredded cheese.  Make a second layer of bread and repeat process.
Cover and let sit overnight in the fridge.  Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
you can use any combination of veggies, meat and cheese that you like.  Too much egg is not a problem, too little will result in a dry strata so be careful.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

quick, i need a gift!

do you keep a stash?
I am a second generation stasher
I have a gift cabinet
I have cookie dough
whole pies in the freezer
just in case

I would be mortified
if someone stopped by my house
and i had nothing to offer
instead i can say
perfect timing
i just put a pie in the oven

very june cleaver...don't you think?

come this time of year
we get invited to people's homes
can't go empty handed
but it's tricky
the hostess gift
you can't really show up with a sweater, silver-plate candlesticks or pearl earrings

so I usually give some sort of edible
I like to wrap it so it looks expensive
a little gift trompe l'oeil
wrapped in these neat parcels are biscotti
and here
is a simple recipe
for your last minute gift giving needs
Gingerbread Biscotti
(printable recipe)
2 3/4-3 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt
3 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
3/4 cup + 5tsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tbs molasses
2 Tbs butter--melted and cooled
2 tsp vanilla
3 eggs
1 Tbs sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon mixed together
1 egg--gently whisked for glazing
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, ginger, cinnamon and cloves.  In a bowl whisk together the whole eggs with the granulated sugar, brown sugar, molasses, vanilla and butter.  Stir in the dry ingredients and mix until it comes together. If it is too wet, add a bit of flour to your hands as you form the mixture into 2 logs of about 2" wide.
Place each log on a parchment lined cookie sheet.  Brush the top of each log with the egg and sprinkle the cinnamon sugar on top.
Bake at 350 until it is puffed and firm to the touch
Remove from the oven and let cool
Once cooled, slice crosswise, reduce the oven to 325 and place cut side down on the cookie sheet.  Return to oven and bake until dry but not brown.

you can eat as is
drizzle with dark chocolate
 add bits of crystallized ginger to the dough before baking
dip into a big bowl of dulce de leche
while hiding from your cares
you can wrap them up
and give them away

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Tuesday Night Supper Club--Guest Hostess

We have a guest hostess for tonight's Supper Club
(if you want to be a guest host, please email me at christy@luciagrace(dot)net)
Her name is Julie
and she doesn't have a blog of her own
but she is a follower
and a mom, wife, daughter, sister and an entrepreneur
who makes and eats dinner
so she qualifies

This recipe has passed through the generations of women in her family. It has been revised by each hand either for convenience, or as matter of taste.  Her Gran used a cut of meat as sturdy as the Michigan winter--pork shoulder. But her mother, a Californian found tenderloin more readily available.  Julie added a young person's touch with a can of beer to tenderize the meat--she says).  A new generation, a new approach.

This recipe is simple and delicious
pocket book friendly
and a one pot meal

so to our guest hostess and the women who came before her
thank you for this delicious recipe
and for breaking bread with us

Pork Tenderloin and Potatoes
pork tenderloin
4 potatoes-peeled and cubed
4 carrots--peeled and sliced
1 stalk celery--sliced
1 onion cut into dice
1 tomato cut into dice
1 bay leaf
4 cloves of garlic--minced
2 sprigs of parsley--chopped
dried thyme
2-3 cups chicken broth
1 can of light beer
Rub the tenderloin with a bit of olive oil, then gently rub in the garlic, and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Let it marinate in the fridge for a couple of hours or overnight.  About an hour before you are going to cook, pour the can of beer over the tenderloin and allow to marinate in the fridge.
Heat the oven to 350 and place the tenderloin in the center of a large casserole dish.  Place the potatoes, onions, celery, carrot, tomato, parsley and any remaining garlic around it.  Pour enough chicken broth in the pan to just cover the bottom, no more than halfway up the dish. Sprinkle thyme over the tenderloin and veggies to your taste.  Bake for approximately 1 1/2 hours until meat is cooked through and potatoes are soft.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.


Monday, December 21, 2009

hot cocoa on a peppermint stick

while stalking around the internet late one night
i came across this
a great website with darling and wonderful ideas
 i knew immediately that I wanted to make these
and today i found the time 

which is silly
that i thought i needed to put aside time
because these are so very easy

and yet

so delightful

here's a gift idea

make some of these
and a batch of marshmallows
add a quart of milk in a bottle
and a couple of festive mugs
or not
and some christmas carols downloaded from here

and you have a really nice gift
that is also practical
you can't drink diamonds

Hot Chocolate on A Peppermint Stick
(printable recipe)
8 oz good bittersweet chocolate chips
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
pinch of salt
-sift the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and salt.  In a bowl over a double boiler melt the chocolate (for precise instructions click here).  It is important not to let the chocolate get too hot. It should be JUST melted--and not piping hot. Remove the bowl of chocolate well before the chocolate is completely melted.  This is important. What you are trying to do is keep the chocolate in "temper"--this will allow it to harden with a nice sheen--as well as easily pop out of whatever mold you will be using.
Add the sifted ingredients to the melted chocolate and stir until it is incorporated and has a nice sheen.
Use a pastry bag or spoon into your mold of choice.
I used a silicon canele mold...but you can use ice cube trays, shot glasses, tartlet tins, mini-muffin pans...lots of things.
Use anything you want for the stick...i used mini candy canes, but you can use spoons, lolly sticks, cinnamon sticks, fun vintage plastic stir sticks, funky skewers...

One cocoa on a stick will turn a steaming mug of milk 
into a delicious chocolate mustache-forming mug of cocoa

top with homemade marshmallows
and enter 
a place i like to call bliss
where diamonds
just another unnecessary extravagance

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Gingerbread Nostalgia

I like gingerbread
the cake, not the cookie
no matter how frustrating they can be

but sadly, this year
I didn't plug time in the calendar to devote to one
because I have a gingerbread house problem

I am very supportive and genuinely so, when I see a ginger-house made up of four walls and a roof with a few half eaten candies pasted to it. I find all gingerbread projects charming and nostalgic. But what is good for the goose is not good for the gander.

I have issues
I can't just make a house
When in culinary school, the assignment was make a gingerbread house. I made a neighborhood of East Coast row houses with clear windows and decorated interiors.
One year I mentioned to my mom that I wanted to do a simple gingerbread centerpiece for Christmas and showed up with a shopping village replete with a bakery, art gallery and dress shop 100% edible and fully furnished.  The stone church even had pews.

I already admitted that I have a problem

A couple of years ago, I was asked to enter a gingerbread competition
The theme was Christmas Around the World.

Immediately I thought, Swiss Chalet!
 I then turned to my husband and said...
you have to help me
I am already going over-board and it is only in my head
which is how our gingerbread project was born
Mike built the whole structure from foam core to test the structural viability and appropriate scale
because he is a guy and does guy things
while I got to making caramel corn for the base of the mountain

It took us about 10 days to craft
but it was well worth the effort
we won lots of goodies and a bunch of cash
and it won just about every prize--except the fan favorite
or as we like to call it--be a college student and bring your class, then grab a school bus and drive around town picking up folks to stuff the ballot box.
but i am not bitter
because even without ballot pushing proletariats, we garnered second place in the fan fave category

and hear this...
we won the grand prize
from actual judges

And then we gave the chalet to the hotel
for their holiday display

We left that party
with our arms full of prizes
and our egos full of pride
even after 24 months, I can still feel the sunshine of that very good day
the day my obsessive gingerbread disorder
reaped rewards

Thursday, December 17, 2009

more winners!

Sorry for the delay....but I picked the winners for the last three items in my five days of give-a-ways...

and here they are!

The girl's trio 

and the winner is:
Allie Pickett

The Caramels and Truffles

we have two winners
I was feeling generous
and they are:
Patrick Larsen
Amy Anderson

And The Nativity---

Goes to
the lucky
Tom Mozilo

Congratulations everyone!

I had so much fun with this.  So I will be having more give-a-ways next year....
...keep in touch
*all winners were chosen by a completely random process

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

winners, winners, winners!

The winners have been picked!

The winner of the truffle paste


and the winner of the special olive oil

psst. Day 3-4-5 are still open until midnight (pst) tonight

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Tuesday Night Supper Club

we have had a bit of a cold spell lately
it has dipped well below 70 degrees
Don't hate me
which made it a perfect day for a the picture show
so we seized the opportunity
and chose
 Armored with Matt "ha cha cha" Dillon
Even as a creep he's dreamy
but sadly,
I give the movie a miss
it's kinda slow
until it isn't anymore
and then its over
I say if you only have $9 in your pocket
hold out for Sherlock Holmes
because really
Robert Downey Jr AND Jude Law
my oh my
who cares about the premise
the plot
the ending
when RDj steps on screen
just sit back and let it happen, baby

but i digress
we went to the movie, which means popcorn, which means a light supper
so i made a spicy, spicy vegetable stew for me
and added a chicken breast for hubster
comfort food
that doesn't require stretch pants

Spicy Vegetable Stew
(printable recipe)
olive oil
1 large potato--peeled and cubed
1 red bell pepper--julienne (you can use roasted peppers if you have in cupboard)
2 ribs celery--cut in large pieces
2 medium carrots--cut in large pieces
1 large eggplant--cut in chunks
1 small can diced tomatoes
handful kalamata olives--pitted
handful green olives with pimento (optional)
basically any kind of olive that isn't the kind you put on your finger tips
2-3 Tbs capers
4-6 dried chiles
pinch hot pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups red wine
1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 tsp or more cayenne pepper
2 Tbs tomato paste
equal amounts fresh chopped parsley and mint (about 2T each)

Heat dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat. When hot add potatoes, red pepper, celery, eggplant, and carrots.  Cook stirring occasionally until they begin to soften, but not brown--about 5 or 7 minutes.  Add tomatoes, olives, capers and hot chilies and let cook another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add broth, wine and chili flakes.  Place top on either let cook on stove top (which means you have to check and stir frequently) or pop into a 350 oven and let simmer away for about 45 minutes to an hour.  If you are making on a stove top the time will be shorter.  
Remove top and place on top of stove (if using oven).  Allow to simmer and add tomato paste, parsley and mint 
let cook for a few minutes to get to your desired thickness--i like it a bit soupy
add cayenne, salt and pepper to taste

Eat Up!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It's a Marshmallow World...

It seems like everyone makes marshmallows. I made my first batch of homemade marshmallows when I was in culinary school and used it to decorate my gingerbread project

  • I thought it (marshmallow) was over rated
  • and messy
  • and gelatin smells like wet dog

  • but they (marshmallows) are a crowd pleaser
  • and look so dreamy 
  • floating on a steamy mug of cocoa
  • or piled high on a candy buffet
  • or perched on Mr. Darcy's open palm 

  • but most of all

  • they make the best gift
  • especially if you are on a  budget
  • and out of ideas

  • Which is why I made some of what I call marshmallow cakes to give this Christmas
  • I call this Candy-Cane Mellow Cake
  • because it is peppermint flavored

  • The recipient can cut it in squares, with cookie cutters, or just pick it up and eat it out of hand

  • I don't make the rules
  • and when it comes to eating sweets

  • I. 
  • don't.
  •  judge. 
  • Marshmallows
  • (printable recipe)
  • 3/4 oz (3 pkgs) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbs  light corn syrup
  • water
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large egg whites
  • flavoring to taste
  • food color 

Put sugar in a saucepan. Add enough water to make a mixture that looks and feels like wet sand.  What is most important is that all sugar has the same amount of moisture. Add corn syrup, and place over low heat.  Cook until it becomes a sugar syrup of 235-240 degrees. It should have the consistency of corn syrup. 2 room temperature egg whites into the bowl of your mixer. Add the salt .  Also, prepare gelatin.  Place 1/2 cup water in a bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the water.  Let bloom.
Once the sugar syrup is ready, turn off heat and let sit for a couple of minutes...not too long.  Start your mixer on low and get the whites to foamy.  Mix the gelatin into the sugar syrup and stir until melted completely.  Bring the saucepan over to the mixer and turn it to high. Slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, careful not to hit the whisk attachment.  Leave on high and mix until the mixture is warm, but full volume and comes to a peak.  While it is still warm, pour into tin or pan.  Sift powdered sugar on top
For the candy-cane marshmallow I used a 8" tart tin that I sprayed with vegetable spray.  I added 1/4 tsp peppermint oil (food safe) to the entire batch.  I separated the batch in half and added red food color to one half of the mixture.  I swirled together in the pan. Work fast because this sets up rather quickly.

Don't give-a-ways are still going...check the right sidebar for more information

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Day Five of a Five Day Give-a-Way

We are at our last day of give-a-ways

and it has been a lot of fun for me
i hope it has for you too

I have a wonderful collection of nativity scenes from around the world that are among my most prized possessions.  I am always on the lookout for new sets, so when I came across an artisan in Italy that specialized in them, I knew I should purchase more than one. 

Today, I am giving away a clay nativity which was hand made in Italy
it is very small
about 2 1/2" high
and I think it is lovely
I particularly love the angel flying above the creche

I hope you win!
This is open to all followers--you don't have to live in the US to enter

How to win
1. you must be a follower
and if you are: you are automatically entered
2. you can get a second entry by making a comment
3. and a third entry by linking to this give-away on your blog 
(please let me know in your comment that you did)
4.  If you are on my "push-list" : you will be automatically entered.

Entries will be accepted until Midnight December 16th, 2009 PST. Winner will be randomly chosen on December 17th.
Good Luck

and if you really want to win..make sure you supply enough information so I can contact you!
The give-a-way for days 1 thru 4 are still can link to them from the side bar on the right


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