Friday, December 26, 2014

Holiday Card Recipe Exchange

Per Nana~
Since I did not read the information about the cookie exchange correctly, I did not include a recipe with my cards.  However I would like to share this with you now. 

About 19 years ago, before I retired, a co-worker gave me this recipe for Italian Ricotta cookies. I have made them every Christmas since then and passed the recipe to my granddaughters. (My own Tricia is not interested because she knows I will be making them, so why bother.) 

The four grandchildren have renamed them "Nana Cookies" and when I mention that I might skip them each year, they all have something to say about that. 

Italian Ricotta Cookies

  1. Cream together 1/2 lb butter and 2 cups of sugar. Add 2 eggs, one 15 oz container of Ricotta Cheese, 1 tsp vanilla and mix well.
  2. Sift together 4 1/2 cups of flour, 1 tsp baking soda, 2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp salt. 
  3. Combine the two mixtures and drop by a teaspoonful onto a lightly greased cookie sheet. (Do not use a cookie scoop)
  4. Bake 8-12 minutes in a 350 degree oven, until set. Bottom of cookie should be lightly browned. 
  5. Frost with mixture of confectioner's sugar, milk and almond flavoring  (see below)
  •  1 1/2 cups sifted confectioner's sugar. Very important to SIFT.
  • 3 1/2 tablespoons milk
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
Drizzle over the cookies and then tope with colored sugar sprinkles.
 I used red and green for the holiday. Enjoy !

Per Tricia~
I will admit that I wasn't sure how this recipe exchange was going to work,
 or that I would have time for another "to do" during the busy holiday season- 
but I knew how fun the card exchange had been in prior years so there 
was no way I was going to sit this one out.
Dorista cards proudly displayed on my pantry door in the kitchen ~
As each holiday card came through with a shared recipe I found that it 
was even more special than I could have anticipated.The reality that tried 
and true (or family recipes, or both) recipes were being exchanged by a 
group of folks that are clearly dedicated to finding only the best recipes 
...hit home. The "street cred" of the Doristas is quite high, so when they
 have shared something to make in the kitchen it carries some value. 
 I can easily and honestly say I plan to make every single recipe.
These do not get "mixed in" the general population of holiday cards !
I also shared with my family that I was surprisingly touched by the sentiment
 that was mailed along with these recipes and now when I plan to make a dish
 it will be because these are "Cher's Peanut Butter Cookies" or "Teresa's 
Whipped Shortbread" or "Guyla's  special cocktail- the Apple Cider Sidecar".  
Yup- this already much enjoyed card tradition actually became even more 
special this year. Thanks to all that shared ~whether it was a card, a recipe
 or simply joining in our French Friday adventures at some point this year !

I ultimately selected Tammy Circeo's Lemon Sugar Cookies
 because frankly, they had me at their name. I LOVE lemon and
 the sugary lemony combo for a cookie sealed the decision. 
They did not disappoint. Crazy easy and so, so yummy.
 My entire family enjoyed them and I took a container to Nana's for 
Christmas Eve, where she and my Dad both gave rave reviews too. The 
subtle lemon flavor has a great balance to the original sugar cookie recipe. 
This is a keeper for sure. 
Thanks Tammy !

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Gingerbread Bûche de Noël - Baking Chez Moi

Per Nana ~
This is a recipe I have always wanted to make and was excited that it was 
chosen for this week. I prepared each portion of the recipe separately so 
that I could concentrate without being overwhelmed. I made the candied
 pralines, which was quite easy and a new experience, and Jim loved them. 
As I read through the recipe, as each new step was mentioned I thought it 
would not all work. But with Dorie's instructions, it all worked beautifully. 
Removing the cake from the sheet pan was a trying experience, fortunately
 it came away so easily.  I managed to then roll it up without breaking or 
cracking the cake. By the time I prepared the frosting I realized I did not
 have a candy thermometer, so I just guessed at the temperature and when 
I poured the mixture into the egg whites it actually worked. 
Score one for Nana.
  All kidding aside, it is really not as hard as it looks and I 
am happy to be able to say I conquered the whole process.
So many firsts with this single recipe. I had not attempted a 
bûche de noël before but as I followed along with Dorie's recipe
 from "Baking Chez Moi", I realized that I had not made sponge cake 
like this one, nor made the delicious candied pecans and definitely 
never tried a marshmallow meringue icing like this. It made me 
wonder what I had been baking all these years. 
I also had to chuckle because like any new learning experience, it seemed 
quite simple while I watched the video on Youtube of Dorie making it.  
Very straight forward. Kind of like watching my math teacher do long 
division on the blackboard many years ago. I was right there along side, 
until I got handed a sheet of paper and had to do a problem by myself. 
I am actually embarrassed to admit that I had to watch that Youtube 
video 4 or 5 times to double check what was being unwrapped when.
 Ah, nothing like a new adventure. 
While my kitchen never took such a direct hit (especially from 
confectioner's sugar) as it did with this recipe, it truly was a fun 
and forgiving cake..... bearing in mind that many sins will be
 covered with that amazing frosting. I am so pleased to have
 conquered this "bragging rights worthy" holiday dessert. 
Now on to the Croquembouche !  
(kidding...maybe next year...)
While we do not normally publish recipes from Dorie's books, we are 
permitted when the recipe was shared with the media by the publisher. 
This is one of them. 
The link below will take you to the actual recipe.

 Happy Holidays ~

Friday, December 19, 2014

Orange and Olive Salad

Per Nana~
The recipe for this week was a simple salad made with sliced oranges, 
onions and olives. It is a combination of ingredients that I would never have
 thought to use together, but somehow it was refreshing. I only made a quarter 
of the recipe as I knew it would not go over well with Jim, and I was so right. 
I peeled and sliced the orange and drizzled oil on them, then I added the onions 
and topped with the olives. I used dried olives from the Italian deli, plus salt and 
pepper. I will admit, I was not overly excited. I do think the onions were too strong
 and perhaps if I had used a different olive oil, something more flavorful, it might
have been tastier. It certainly made a pretty presentation. 
Per Tricia~
Calling this a salad almost felt like a stretch, but one I was delighted to make. 
In the busy week before Christmas I was not looking for any challenging projects 
(Bûche de Noël, I am looking at you.....) and I can't tell you how happy I was
 to find out this recipe basically consisted of slicing an onion over some oranges. 
Never mind at all that we were then sprinkling on olives, olive oil, salt and 
pepper- this was EASY.  So easy in fact that the recipe could have asked me 
sprinkle just about anything on and I likely would have enjoyed it just for 
the simplicity alone. But guess what ? It was pretty darn fabulous. 
My husband kept saying that he couldn't believe how good the combo was. 
We like dishes that balance sweet and savory but this also balanced the
 crispy onion texture against the moist olives and oranges. It somehow just 
really, really worked. Once again, Mrs. Greenspan comes through.  
I used the Australian olive oil I splurged on at Williams Sonoma but 
unfortunately did not pick an adequate grocery store for my official "olive 
procurement"  trip and when they didn't have the Niçoise ones I just subbed 
out small black ones. Normally I enjoy the hunt for ingredients but I am
 a bit stingy in the "do over" category during holiday craziness. I know
 that the recipe will simply be that much better next time:)
 This is a very refreshing dish for the winter months and I plan 
on revisiting the recipe many times in the future.
I would just like to add that I have been enjoying the holiday card 
exchange with the Doristas (and Dorie !!) again this year and it has truly
 become a very special part of my holiday season. Each card has made
 me smile and the sentiment, not to mention any recipes shared, carried
with them bring exactly the joy that we hope to find during this season. 

Happy French Friday and Happy Holidays !

Friday, December 12, 2014

Lamb & Dried Apricot Tagine - French Fridays with Dorie

Per Tricia~
Even though this is a "French Fridays" recipe I have to share some exciting 
"Tuesday" news. We have a wonderful new addition to the Dorie community 
- my former neighbor, Nicole. She was the sweetie who bestowed some 
gorgeous heirloom tomatoes on me this summer - on the precise day I
 was knocking out a FFWD recipe that required tomatoes. Serendipity. 

Tomato Provençal 
She mentioned she had an interest in the whole cooking/blogging concept 
and with the roll out of "Baking Chez Moi", she made it official. To say I am
 delighted would be an understatement. Please do check out her blog and send
 her a warm welcome. And yes, she put me to shame with the amazing
 accomplishments she knocked out her first post....she is a natural !

Now for story #2. I bought a tagine while in DC on business and did
 not even know exactly what it was. I am not proud, but I am honest. 
I found the item in  an antiques/catch all shop and I "caught all". 
I simply could not resist the stunning green color of 
the pottery. Even my cat is quite fond of it. 
Yes, this is the "fond" look- taken a day before making the dish so no worries -both tagine and counter were cleaned ! 
 I later researched to find it's intended purpose .......
but had yet to actually use it. (Hangs head in shame) 
I'm so pleased I could christen it with a recipe from
"Around My French Table" and such a yummy one at that. 
I lucked out with the boneless lamb shoulder at my local
 butcher shop and even had saffron on hand, not to mention
 most of the other exotic spices. 
Rather than using chili's I subbed the "piment d'espelette" 
that this group has come to know and love, and traded ground ginger 
that I had on hand for the fresh grated ginger of the recipe.  
As promised, the aroma was intoxicating and the end result
 was a comforting winter's meal- a sort of exotic comfort food.  
It would have been even better if I remembered to add the sliced almonds on top........
 I served it over French Couscous. 

The tagine is now slated to get a lot of play this season, thanks to Dorie. 
Per Nana~
This is such a perfect recipe for a cold winter night.
 I could not find the boneless lamb shoulder so I went with a small
 2 1/2 lb boneless leg. Hubby was intrigued by all the ingredients going 
into this dish so he offered to help. I asked him if he would cut the meat 
into stew portions,which he did. There was a lot of trimming on this 
piece of meat- fat, silver skin, etc. and I think he was sorry he offered.
 However I must admit,he did a great job. 
I haven't had lamb in years and this was so tender and delicious. 
All the ingredients blended together beautifully and the flavor was 
extraordinary. I served this wonderful tagine over Acini di Pepe, 
which is very similar to couscous. It was so delicious.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Rugelach That Won Over France - Baking Chez Moi

Per Tricia~
I was a bit worried about the difficulty level of this recipe, given 
some of the feedback from our community's P's and Q's this week.
 But I was pleasantly surprised at how the instructions truly did come together, 
thanks to the very detailed "hand holding" that Dorie provides in this recipe. 
getting a square shape to my rolled dough was one of the more challenging parts ~
While she can always be counted on for making you feel as though she is
 right there in the kitchen providing instructions, I thought this recipe was 
particularly good (and much appreciated) example of this writing trait.   
It was also the reason why when I read her words about "this is 
easier to read than to do", as part of her instructions for rolling
 up the stuffed dough.....I actually got a bit scared :)  Luckily I had 
no problems creating the rolls and even opted out of chilling. 
I simply cut and baked after applying the egg wash and sugar. 
 It all worked like a charm and was far less labor intensive than
 anticipated. And it was well worth it. The cookie is phenomenal and 
was a huge hit in my house. It is easy to see how it "won over France". 
The dough is simply out of this world and we thoroughly enjoyed
 the filling's mixture of pecan, coconut, cherry and chocolate. 
The aroma alone is reason enough to make this cookie but the taste
 is simply out of this world. This may be my new favorite and will 
absolutely be gracing the holiday dessert table this season. 
Per Nana~
When I first read this recipe I knew it would be good. 
The combination of butter and cream cheese with a bit of flour made
 a wonderful dough that rolled out well after chilling it for two hours. 

The filling of coconut, chocolate, pecans and dried fruit only made it
 better. In my case I used golden raisins instead of cherries because that 
is what was on hand. Unfortunately, when I removed the rolls from the
 freezer after one hour they were so hard I could not cut them. 

They cracked and the filling was falling out. I did not understand how to 
arrange them on the cookie sheet "seam side down". I tried standing them
 up but they collapsed. Fortunately I only baked one tray that way and after seeing 
how that turned out I laid the rest of the slices down and had no trouble. 

I was amazed that the dough turned out so flaky. It looked like puff pastry. 
I plan to do these again before Christmas but I think if I chill the dough in the 
refrigerator it might be easier to slice, or perhaps I will make them in the
 traditional crescent shape. Not matter the shape of these cookies,
 they were so tasty we could not stop eating them. 

 Happy French Friday ~
This marks another recipe completed as we cook along with the "Tuesdays with Dorie" online group.  Please note that we do not post the recipes, per the group rules, but we do encourage others to RUN out and buy their own copy of Dorie Greenspan's "Baking Chez Moi".  Better yet, buy the book and join the group ! 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Tartine de Viande de Grisons

Per Nana~
The tartine that I prepared this week made me think of one of our favorite
 places in Paris called Le Rubis (1st Arr.) at 10 Rue du Marché Saint-Honoré. 
Jim and I made this a definite destination each time we visited Paris. 
After a day of sightseeing and walking all over town, 
we looked forward to relaxing a bit and would stop in 
Le Rubis in the late afternoon for a Kir Royale.  
We would order either the plat du fromage,which consisted of 
bread slathered with butter and slices of cheese spread on top, 
or a plate of country style bread with slices of charcuterie. 
It was so rustic, and absolutely delicious. 
For my tartine I used a hearty country bread, buttered and topped it 
with prosciutto. After adding walnuts I drizzled olive oil on top. I only
 prepared one tartine and served it as an appetizer before dinner. 
Simple, easy and very enjoyable.

Per Tricia~
In the midst of the holiday craziness I found that this recipe also 
had me reminiscing of Paris.  Or perhaps dreaming of a get away ? 
Either way, my mind focused on the bread as much as the toppings. 
I of course wish I could have used the famed pain Poilâne for this 
one but instead I got a hearty country loaf at the local grocery store. 
Luckily, like Nana, I was able to use my souvenir 
bread knife from a prior trip to the 6th Arr.  
A special treat was that I recently purchased a print of a Poilâne loaf
by the wonderful artist Mike Geno. He is a Philly local and a foodie at heart, 
but he has become well known for his portraits of cheese. Yes, cheese. 
They are glorious. Not one to be limited by a single food group, he has 
also done paintings of pastries, bacon and a few other delectables. 
Another favorite of mine was his cannelles painting, as I just recently made
 those little lovelies at home also. He is fabulous- do check out his link:
Now on to the tartine. With endless creative possibilities I opted to simply
 recreate the version Dorie shared with us. I would love to try the air dried beef 
(viande de grisons) she enjoyed but had to "settle" for prosciutto. The walnuts 
were a lovely addition and I drizzled walnut oil over top. Lovely, easy and a
 very good dinner along with some soup during these hectic holiday evenings.

Happy French Friday~
Taste Tester/Younger Son Chase, Tricia, Dorie, Nana
PS- for those not on Facebook, here is a shot from our visit to Dorie's 
book signing this week in Manhattan. It was phenomenal, just like her.