Sunday, December 24, 2006

Ribeye and Asparagus

Tonight we had a very impressive, yet very easy dinner to start off our holidays. We had a ribeye roast with asparagus and new potatoes. I coated the roast in Chicago Steak Seasoning that I get from Penzey's - it really is the best steak seasoning we've tasted. The roast, potatoes, and onions were all tossed in an oven-proof dish and roasted for an hour at 350 degrees - or until the internal temp of the meat read about 130 degrees for medium-rare.
The asparagus was set under the broiler for about ten minutes once it was peel and tossed with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Once out from under the heat I grated a little parmesan cheese on top.

Friday, December 22, 2006


My mother-in-law generally makes these middle eastern cookies around Christmas each year. They are interesting because they are made using a special wooden mold and they are filled with a nut mixture.  It is a great cookie to have with a cup of coffee or tea.

Adapted from the Syrian-Lebanese Cook Book

1 lb unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 Tbsp whiskey
1 egg
1 tsp. ground mahlab (middle eastern cookie spice)
1 cup farina
4-5 cups flour

1 1/4 lbs. walnuts, ground
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tbsp. mazahar (orange flower water)

Mix the 3 filling ingredients well and set aside.

Whip the butter until light and fluffy. Add sugar, whiskey, egg, mahlab, and farina while mixing. Gradually add flour while mixing and kneading until enough has been added to make good dough, not too soft, not too firm.  Take a walnut-sized piece of dough and flatten in the palm of your hand.  Add a teaspoon of dough to the center and wrap the dough around it and roll in your hands to seal.  Press ball into mold gently.  Firmly whack the mold on a cutting board or sheet pan had enough to get the cookie to fall out.  Repeat with additional cookies.  Bake at 350 degrees until bottom is light brown.  Sprinkle cooled cookies with powdered sugar before serving.

If not using a mold, pinch off small balls of dough (walnut size). In the palm of your hand make a hollow in the ball. Place 1 tsp of the nut filling in the hollow and close opening. Use a fork to decorate much like a peanut butter cookie. Bake at 350 degrees until bottom is light brown. Sprinkle tops with powdered sugar before serving.

A Family Tradition - Filled Cookies

There are a few cookies that grace our holiday table each and every year. This particular one holds a special place in my heart since this is one that my Grandmother always brings to our Christmas get togethers. We can't wait for her to bring in her cookie tins filled with filled cookies and her amazing date cookies.  My brothers and I greet her with hugs and kisses and then snatch up a couple of cookies which always makes her smile.They are the very best cookies, mainly because they are with lots and lots of love.

Filled Cookies

2 cups sugar
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup shortening/butter
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
Enough flour to roll it out.

This is actually a very old recipe so it comes with no more direction than this. What I do is cream the butter and sugar and then add in the rest of the wet ingredients. Then I add the dry ingredients to about 1 cup of flour. Mix the wet and dry together. Then I gradually add flour by the 1/2 cup until the dough is not too wet and not too dry. It should be quite soft though. I place it in the refrigerator for an hour or two so that it firms up enough to roll out. Once I have it rolled out I cut circles out using one of my big wine glasses. Place a spoonful of your favorite jam or preserve (our favorites include raspberry, strawberry, and apricot) in the middle. Wet the edges of the cookie and place another cookie on the top and seal the edges. Bake at 350 degrees until the edges just start to brown. They will be quite pale in color...but oh so tasty.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Holiday Chocolate #2 - Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

After the Holiday Chocolate Workshop fiasco at Sur La Table a couple of weeks ago I've been anxious to give chocolates another shot. I figured I had a better chance of success without the chocolate police breathing down my neck.
The dipped pretzels from class actually looked nice enough when we made them but the chocolates used were not very tasty. So this time I used a block of Ghiradellhi chocolates which I knew I liked. I only made a dozen of these and I now know that was not enough. However, they are so easy that it literally would only take 20 minutes to make another large batch.
The second thing I made was a small batch of truffles. I've seen so many posts on truffles from the last SHF roundup that I couldn't take it anymore. I crumpled. I decided I just had to try making my own little batch of smooth velvety bites of goodness. I made a milk chocolate ganache and then I dipped them in the leftover pretzel chocolates and finally rolled them in walnuts. Mmmmm. Wow, what greatness. I only made 8 and they are all gone. I shouldn't make anymore...but I might. I just might make some and surprise Joseph later this week. He thought they were the most wonderful things ever. (Then again he could have been making up for his less-than-glowing review of the crepes earlier this week!)

Chocolate Dipped Pretzels

1/3 lb of your favorite chocolates (I would not suggest chocolate chips, since they have stabilizers that don't allow the chocolates to melt correctly.)
1 bag Pretzel rods
White Chocolate
Chopped Nuts

Bring water to a simmer in a double boiler or a small pot with a glass bowl on top. Make sure the bowl does not touch the water. Place chocolates in the bowl and wait until melted and smooth. Hold one end of the pretzel and set the other end in the chocolate. Use a spatula to coat the rod. Tap the end of the rod against the bowl to remove excess chocolate. Set on parchment paper until set or decorate.

Milk Chocolate Walnut Truffles
1/3 pound milk chocolate
1/4 cup cream
1/4 pound dark chocolate
1 cup chopped walnuts

Heat chocolate and cream in a double boiler. After the chocolate starts to melt, stir until combined and smooth. Cool and then set in fridge for about 1 hour. Use a small ice cream scoop to make balls. Roll each ball in your hand and dip in melted dark chocolate. (I used a fork.) Then roll each ball in walnuts.

Monday, December 18, 2006

A Quick-ish Dinner

This dish was inspired by a dish that I've eaten at my middle eastern mother-in-law's house. It is a good way to make something out of nothing since just about any meat can be substituted and the add-ins can be as varied as you allow them to be. I've had this with pine nuts, raisins, lamb, beef, chicken, carrots, etc. It also makes a good side dish as well as main dish. Tonight I chose almonds, peas, and dried cranberries to go along with the chicken. It was a big winner with both my husband and my son.

Middle Eastern Inspired Rice

3 cups water
1 1/2 cups rice
1 TCP salt
2 TCP chicken bouillon
a dash of turmeric
2 TCP cinnamon
1-2 cups diced cooked chicken
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/3 cup slivered blanched almonds
1/2 cup (frozen)peas
3 T ghee(clarified butter) or butter
salt and pepper to taste

Bring water to a boil. Add rice, salt, bouillon, and turmeric. Cook rice according to package directions. While the rice is cooking, melt 1 tablespoon of the ghee in a separate pan on medium-high. Add almonds and cook until lightly browned. Remove the almonds and set aside - leave remaining ghee in pan. Add 2 more tablespoons of ghee, chicken, and spices/seasonings. Cook until heated through and just browned. Lower heat and add the peas. Remove from heat just as peas are thawed out. Add the cranberries and half of the almonds. Mix thoroughly. Taste and adjust seasonings to your liking. Mix finished fluffed rice with chicken mixture and top with additional almonds. (A dusting of cinnamon is also common for this dish.)

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Currants and Crepes

I bought these beautiful currants at the grocery store the other day and knew that I wanted to make a pretty crepe to go with them.  So, I scoured around for a new recipe to try and I came up with Clotilde's version.  It turned out fantastic and I improvised and made a quick currant filling that I mixed with whipped cream.  It was a delight.

Red Currant Filling

6 oz. fresh currants
4 T sugar
4 T water

Bring all ingredients to a simmer. Leave at a low simmer for about 5 minutes or until currants have popped and sauce has thickened. Cool.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Happy 1st Birthday, Baby!

My son, Gabriel, turns one tomorrow!!!! Here is a sneak peek at his cake. I'm making another one for the big party on Saturday. This one is a super mini-version since I'm going to let him eat it all by should be interesting.

Baking and Decorating the Monkey Cake:
For the monkey cake I used a boxed cake mix and baked it in an oven-safe glass bowl. (That took about half of the mix.) The rest of the batter was poured into a cupcake tin. I'm not sure about times...I just kept testing with toothpicks until they came out clean. Obviously, the cupcakes took much less time than the bowl did, so I had to be careful.
I used one cupcake split down the middle for the ears. It worked out we had extra cupcakes to munch on during the day. Oh, and the chocolate coloring was just cocoa added to the frosting.

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