Tuesday, December 30, 2008

3rd Street Promenade Farmer's Market

Our last day in Santa Monica, JJ and I were finishing up our Christmas sale shopping down in the 3rd Street Promenade and came across their amazing Farmer's Market. I love the City Market here in Kansas City, but their market puts ours to shame. There was organic everything!!!...Pistachio farmers, dried fruits of all shapes, colors, and sizes, more root vegetables than I knew the names of, mushrooms of all species, exotic fruits, the list could go on. I was in heaven! We walked around in awe of the gorgeous California produce and decided to take a few things home. We bought a bag of organic salted pistachio nuts, dried apricots, and dried elephant heart plums. I cannot wait to make my New Year's Eve hors d'oeuvre with all of my market finds. I will let you know how it goes...

Happy New Year!

The City Bakery in L.A.

The City Bakery at the Brentwood Country Mart was featured in my very first blog post and lucky for me, I was able to return for the same delicious brunch dish. We decided to eat at the counter to get the most out of our breakfast dining experience. Our server immediately recognized that we were "not from there" based on how friendly we were. Supposedly, people in the Brentwood area are a little stuck up. They can serve up some good food, though. The server offered us samples of Farmer's lemonade. It is fresh squeezed lemonade with organic cream. It was very interesting and refreshing. I orderded the same dish I did in August, the poached eggs with spinach and fava beans, but JJ got Huevos Rancheros and it was just too pretty to not feature. His skillet was filled with mexican cornbread, a fried egg, and roasted scallions. The black beans and salsa are supposed to be mixed into the whole dish. There are jalapenos on the side if you are daring enough. Everything that is served in this restaurant is organic and perfect!

Mochi Ice Cream

After our Christmas Eve dinner at Daikokuya, we walked over to Mikawaya to get some Mochi ice cream for dessert. Mochi ice cream is a Japanese confection made from pulverized sticky rice for the soft dough like outer shell, with an ice cream filling. They come in a few different flavors; matcha (ground green tea), chocolate, vanilla, strawberry, pistachio, and mango. I tried a bite of everyone elses and the strawberry was my fave. The dough like outer mochi shell doesn't have that much flavor. I think its purpose is purely to house the yummy ice milk ice cream on the inside. They are a perfect size of sweet after a large meal. I must say, mochi was a delightful ending to our Japanese feast!

Tis the Season to be Jorry!

Traditionally, my mother's Christmas Eve dinner consists of stuffed calamari, which we call "boats". We cook fish on Christmas Eve to celebrate the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes, also known as La Vigilia. First, she stuffs the body of the squid with breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and egg. Then she cooks the tentacles and calamari rings in the marinara sauce to flavor it. It is my most favorite part of the holiday! When I took my boyfriend home for his first Christmas with my fam a few years ago, I was nervous about how he would react to our traditional Christmas Eve dinner. He loved them and we even took the leftovers in a cooler on our drive back home from the holiday. I look forward to it every year and now, so does JJ.

This year was a bit different, because we went to L.A. to stay with my sister over Christmas. My mom came too, but was not planning on making the boats....boo hoo! We all decided to go out to dinner on the Eve. My brother-in-law brought us to this restaurant in Little Tokyo called Daikokuya (pronounced diet-coke-ooo-yah). They serve traditional Ramen and claim to be the home of the original noodle and rice bowl. JJ ordered the traditional Ramen which included noodles, a hard boiled egg, and pork belly in a flavorful broth. I orderd a Bento box filled with sushi and other Japanese goodies. In the middle of dinner, I felt like the servers were about to break out in a rendition of 'Tis the Season to be Jorry... Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra Ra!' from A Christmas Story. It was a wonderful non-traditional Christmas Eve dinner. Sometimes it is fun to mix it up a bit!

Monday, December 22, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 12 Breakfast Casserole

This casserole is a hearty and delicious way to start Christmas day. To ensure that you are not slaving in the kitchen while the rest of your family is relaxing and opening presents, assemble it the night before. Once you have everything in the pan, stick the prepared casserole into the fridge overnight and then just bake it in the morning. Serve it with fresh fruit and an orange julius (read last blog). 

1st layer
1 lb. grated monterey jack cheese
· 1 lb. cheddar cheese ( I use mild)
· 2 4oz. can of diced green chilies
2nd Layer
· 5 eggs
· 1 can of evaporated milk
· 1 tbsp. of flour
3rd Layer
· 1 lb. of sausage.

· Mix all ingredients for the 1st layer in a bowl and then pour the mixture into the casserole dish. Mix all ingredients in the 2nd layer and then pour evenly over the 1st layer of cheese. Brown the pound of sausage
distribute evenly over first 2 layers.

· Bake for 50-60 minutes in a 325 degree oven. Can be served with salsa for a kick.


12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #11 Orange Julius

Growing up, my mom always made the best Orange Juliuses with brunch. They are a bright start to any morning and especially Christmas morning. This frothy and sweet drink pairs well with a savory or sweet breakfast. You could even add some vodka to create a "suped-up" screwdriver.

· 1/3 can of concentrated orange juice
· 1/2 cup milk
· 1/2 cup of water
· 2 tbsp. sugar
· dash of vanilla extract
· 2 cups of ice
· 1 orange (for garnish)

· Mix well in Blender and serve in glasses with an orange slice.

Merry Christmas!

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 10 Morning-After Coffee Cake

I found this recipe in the Ex-boyfriend Cook Book and thought it sounded amazing. It is a perfect breakfast dish for Christmas morning with some fresh fruit. It serves many and stays fresh for a few days.

· 1 cup butter (room temp.)
· 2 cups sugar
· 2 cups flour
· 1 tsp. salt
· 3 eggs
· 1 tsp. vanilla extract
· 8 oz. sour cream
· 1 cup pecans (chopped)
· 2 tsp. cinnamon
· 3 tbsp. brown sugar

· Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
· Cream butter and sugar.
· Sift dry ingredients. Mix in each egg by itself, completely.
· Mix batter at slow speed while adding vanilla and sour cream.
· Pour half of the batter into a well-greased bundt pan. Add half of the filling.
· Pour the remaining batter and then top with the remaining filling.
· Bake for 65-70 minutes.

Happy Holidays!

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 9 Peanut Brittle

It will be hard to get through the holiday season without a sweet crunch of peanut brittle. It is super easy to make and a classic. This recipes ensures that the confection is light and airy and not at all sticky. If you decide to make peanut brittle this Christmas, make sure to stash a little on the side for you...before you know it, it will all be gone!

· 1 cup white sugar
· 1/2 cup light corn syrup
· 1/4 teaspoon salt
· 1/4 cup water
· 1 cup peanuts
· 2 tablespoons butter, softened
· 1 teaspoon baking soda

·Grease a large cookie sheet. Set aside.

·In a heavy 2 quart saucepan, over medium heat, bring to a boil sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Stir in peanuts. Set candy thermometer in place, and continue cooking. Stir frequently until temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or until a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads.

·Remove from heat; immediately stir in butter or margarine and baking soda; pour at once onto cookie sheet. With 2 forks, lift and pull peanut mixture into rectangle about 14x12 inches; cool. Snap candy into pieces.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 8 Cranberry Meatballs

In the spirit of Christmas, I thought I would share with you a recipe that brings cranberries to life, along with your taste buds. Normally, cranberries are used in sweet dishes, but this dish really plays with the savory side of this seasonal berry. The chili sauce and red pepper flakes really give the meatballs a little kick. This is great for seasonal parties as an appetizer or as the main course for four when paired with veggies.

· 2 lbs. ground turkey
· 2 large eggs
· 1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
· 1 tsp. salt
· 1/2 tsp. pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and thyme
· 2 tbsp. cooking oil
· 16 oz. can jellied cranberry sauce
· 12 oz. jar of chili sauce
· 1/4 cup of orange marmalade
· 1/2 cup water
· 1 tbsp. spy sauce
· 2 tbsp. red wine vinegar
· 1 tsp. red pepper flakes

· Combine first 8 ingredients to make the meatballs. Roll into small to medium size meatballs with hands. Heat cooking oil in pan over medium heat. Cook the meatballs in the pan until fully cooked (browned on the outside). Drain oil and put aside.
· Keep the pan over medium heat and add the remaining ingredients over medium heat for 5 minutes. Add meatballs and simmer for 20 minutes, reducing heat.
· These can be transferred to a dutch oven to stay warm through out the night or just served on toothpicks.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #7 Candy Cane Cookies

One of my coworkers brought in these cookies to a work party this past week and they were absolutely delicious. Thanks, Ashley! They are super cute and festive for the holidays. They would even make great little gifts to wrap a few in a clear bag with a cute little ribbon. I bet kids would love to participate in the making of these candy cane cookies, too.

· 1/2 cup butter, softened
· 1/2 cup shortening
· 1 cup confectioners sugar
· 1 egg
· 1 1/2 tsp. almond extract
· 1 tsp. vanilla
· 1 1/2 cup Gold Medal flour
· 1 tsp. salt
· 1/2 tsp. red food coloring
· peppermint candies
· 1/2 cup of granulated sugar

· Heat oven to 375 degrees. Mix butter, shortening, confectioners sugar, egg, and flavorings. Blend in flour and salt. Divide dough in half, blend the red food coloring into half of the dough.
· Shape 1 teaspoon dough from each half into 4 inch rope. For smooth, even ropes, roll them back and forth on lightly floured board. Place roped side by side, press together and lightly twist. Complete cookies one at a time.
· Place in ungreased baking sheet, curve top of cookie down to form handle of candy cane. Bake about 9 minutes or until set and very light brown.
· If you wish, mix about 1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy and 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Immediately sprinkle cookies with candy mixture, remove baking sheet. Makes about 4 dozen.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #6 Bacon Wrapped Dates

This is another one of those dishes that is a good "go-to" when you need a quick and easy recipe for that last minute dinner party. Let me tell you, it's a crowd pleaser! It is one of my staples. There are never any left on my serving platter at the end of the night. The sweetness of the date mixed with the smoky and saltyness of the bacon is a perfect match. Try and you will see!

·dates (pitted)

· grease a cooking pan and preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
· cut each slice of bacon in half length wise.
· roll a date in a bacon slice and secure it with a toothpick
· place on baking sheet about 1 inch apart
· bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes and flip sides
(they should be crispy and dark when fully cooked)

They can be served at room temperature, so you do not have to worry about cooking them right in time for serving. You could also create variations by stuffing the dates with blue cheese or by using apple smoked bacon. Mix it up!

Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 19, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #5 Cookies for Santa

Leave these adorable cookies out for Santa and he will not skip over your house this year! You may even get every thing on your list, that is, only if you were nice...

for cookies
· 3 eggs
· 2 sticks margarine · 1 cup sugar · 1 1/2 tsp. vanilla plus 1/2 tsp. vanilla for frosting · 2 tsp. baking powder · 1/2 tsp. salt · 3 1/2 cup flour · 2 cup powdered sugar · 2 tbsp. butter, melted · 3 tbsp. milk

·With mixer, cream together margarine and sugar until fluffy. Slowly add in eggs, one at a time. When blended completely, add in vanilla. Sift together flour, salt, and baking powder. Slowly add it to margarine mixture. Cover and chill for one hour.

·Roll 1/4 of the dough about 1/4 inch thick on a dusted flour surface. Cut out with floured cookie cutters. Bake on cookie sheet at 350 degrees for 7 minutes. Cool.

for icing
· 2 cup powdered sugar
· 2 tsp. butter, melted
· 3 tsp. milk
· 1/2 tsp. vanilla

·Blend completely. Separate into divided bowls. Leave one white. Add 2-3 drops food coloring to make the whole palette of color choices. Also you may use gum drops, red hots and other candies to decorate. Be creative! Most of all, have fun!


12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #4 Gingerbread Cookies

"Run, run as fast as you can. You can't catch me, I'm the gingerbread man!" This recipe isn't as quick as the gingerbread man, but it is the best one that I have come across and it is a holiday classic.

· 6 cups all purpose flour
· 1 tbsp. baking powder
· 1 tbsp. ground ginger
· 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
· 1 tsp. ground nutmeg
· 1 tsp. ground cloves
· 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
· 1 cup shortening, melted and cooled slightly
· 1 cup molasses
· 1 cup brown sugar
· 1/2 cup water
· 1 egg
· 1 tsp. vanilla extract

· Sift together the flour, baking powder, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon; set aside.

· In a medium bowl, mix together the shortening, molasses, brown sugar, water, egg, and vanilla until smooth. Gradually stir in the dry ingredients, until they are completely absorbed. Divide dough into 3 pieces, pat down to a 1 1/2 inch thickness, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

· Preheat oven to 350 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies 1 inch apart onto an un-greased cookie sheet.

· Bake for 10-12 minutes in the preheated oven. When the cookies are done, they will look dry, but still be soft to the touch. Remove from the baking sheet to cool on wire racks. When cool, the cookies can be frosted with the icing of your choice.


12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #3 Warm Crab and Pepper Dip

During the holidays, there are always so many parties to attend that require you to bring an appetizer to share. Working and Christmas shopping do not leave much time for slaving in the kitchen. This recipe is a quick and easy solution to the "bring an app" blues.

· 1 cup of 2% shredded mozzarella cheese (divided in half)
· 1 pkg. (8 oz) of cream cheese, softened
· 1 tsp. garlic powder
· 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
· 1 medium red pepper, chopped
· 1 small onion, chopped
· 1 can (6 oz) crab meat, drained
· fresh parsley for garnish
· crackers for serving

· Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove 1/2 cup of the mozzarella cheese; cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Mix all ingredients until well blended.
· Spread into 9-inch pie plate.
· Bake for 20 minutes or until crab mixture is heated through and top is lightly browned. Sprinkle with reserved 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese. Garnish with fresh parley. Serve hot with crackers.


Tuesday, December 16, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe # 2 Spiked Egg Nog

No holiday celebration is complete without a few drunk relatives. To make that happen here is recipe for a delicious homemade Egg Nog that will knock those cozy slippers right off!

· 3 pt. milk
· 2 cups superfine sugar
· 16 oz. cognac or brandy
· 16 oz. cream
· 16 oz. dark rum
· 12 eggs
· grated nutmeg

Separate eggs and beat yolks and sugar together until thick. Stir in cognac (or brandy), rum, milk, and cream. Chill in fridge until cold. Just before serving, transfer the egg mixture from fridge to a chilled punch bowl. Beat egg whites until stiff and carefully fold whites into the egg nog without beating or stirring. Sprinkle the top with nutmeg.


Sunday, December 14, 2008

12 Days of Christmas: Recipe #1 Struffoli

This recipe I am about to share with you brings back fond memories of Christmases at my Aunt's house in Scarsdale, NY. Growing up, we would travel to New York every year for Christmas. My family would pack up my mom's Volvo station wagon and drive from Charlotte to Scarsdale in one trip. I always looked forward to this trip because it meant good Italian food and playing card games with my Grandma. I would save up all of my change for the whole year so that I could play cards with her and lose it all. I didn't particularly like that part, but I loved spending time with her. My Aunt would have a variety of Italian pastries and cookies out in the dining room to munch on throughout the day. My sweet of choice was always Struffoli. I love how festive it looks and the sweetness of the pastry dipped in honey is just delightful. I have the recipe for it and have yet to make it because I am trying to watch my waistline. Horrible time to try to watch your figure, I know... so maybe you can try out the recipe for me!

·3 cups all purpose flour
·4 eggs, beaten
·1/4 cup butter
·1/2 cup sugar
·1/2 tsp. salt
·2 tsp. baking powder
·1 tbsp. lemon zest
·1 1/2 cups honey
·3/4 cup pine nuts
·2 1/4 oz. colored sprinkles

·Melt the butter or margarine over low heat.
Mix together in a large bowl 2 & 1/2 cups of the flour. Add sugar, baking powder, lemon rind, and salt. Make a depression in the middle. Drop the eggs and melted butter or margarine into the depression made. Mix with a wooden spoon and then with your hands, until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl. Add remaining 1/2 cup of flour as needed. Knead dough on floured surface.

·Break off pieces of dough and roll into ropes about the size of a pencil. Cut into pieces 1/4 inch long. Roll these pieces into little balls and set aside.

·In deep frying pan, heat oil about 2 inches deep. Fry ball until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

·In a large saucepan over medium heat, bring 1 1/2 cups of pure honey to a boil. Let honey boil gently for 3 minuted before adding little dough ball, stirring gently with a wooden spoon until the are well-coated.

·Remove balls from honey with a slotted spoon and place in a deep dish or mound them on a platter. Sprinkle surface evenly with nuts and multi-colored sprinkles. Let cool.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Homemade Taffy

I found this recipe for homemade taffy in a children's science experiment book at my my boyfriend's mom's apartment over the Thanksgiving break. I was very intrigued because I didn't even know you could make homemade taffy, assuming it was too difficult. All I need is to get my hands on a candy thermometer and I will be all set.

·1 cup sugar
·1/4 cup water
·2 tbsp. vinegar
·1 tbsp. butter
·1/2 tsp. vanilla
·deep pot
·mixing spoon
·candy thermometer

·Combine sugar, water, and vinegar in deep pot. Clip candy thermometer to the side of the pot. Boil to 265 degrees or to the "hard ball" stage. (A drop of the mixture form a ball in a cold glass of water.)
·Add butter and vanilla, then pour onto a buttered plate to cool. It will be cool on the outside but hot on the outside. Butter hands and work mixture into a ball.
·Pull, fold, twist, and mix as much air into the mixture as possible. The taffy is done when it becomes a creamy color and difficult to pull.
·You can cut into pieces and wrap in wax paper for individual servings.
I am not sure at what stage food coloring or flavoring could be added, but this would be fun to experiment with, too. These would be great for Christmas gifts!

Let me know if you are brave enough to try it...