More Christmas dinner pictures

Still working on the pc, getting things set up. Realized this morning there are a few more programs I want on it.

Here is a picture of my two desserts, before I cut into them, waiting on my hutch for after dinner. Look yummy, don't they? (I still have some left of both if they look good to you - send me a note and we'll work out a way to get you some!)

And here is dinner for the adults on Christmas day (the children were uninterested so had their own little feast elsewhere.) In the foreground is prime rib, seasoned with the rub I had made with my mortar and pestle earlier in the day, which I posted a picture of on Christmas day. It involves garlic, fennel seeds, fresh thyme, pepper and olive oil. The smell of it in the oven is so wonderful, and the impact of flavor is melt in your mouth amazing.

This was served with mashed potaoes (not the low fat kind - these had lots of butter and used cream in place of milk or stock,) sauted carrots and oven roasted asparagus. Yummy!

Unfortunately, my probe thermometer chose that day to die, giving temperature readings between 44 degrees and 382 degrees, so having set it to 125 did me no good at all, and hence the roast ended up a little too rare, even for me. Next day leftovers, reheated in the oven, however, were amazingly good - the perfect balance between rare tenderness and flavor.

And I think that is all I can say at this point about Christmas day dinner!

No new meals to post about in the meantime. Having low key items such as hamburgers and coleslaw, taco's and sheppard's pie, so good, but nothing postable.

Happy Eating!

Details to be delayed

Here are a few pictures of the desserts I made for Christmas. I'll try to post more about them later.

This is a white chocolate cranberry cake, which I read about on another blog but can't for the life of me remember from who's blog! So if anyone knows where I copied this from, please send me a note reminding me!

This is Cheesecake with apples (but without the topping), brought to me by Ivonne, of Cream Puffs in Venice. I don't own a torch and did not want to put my glass bottomed springform pan under the broiler, hence the lack of topping.

And this is why things will be a bit delayed - my new pc! I am still in the process of moving things over and setting things up, while my children are home from school for holidays, my husband is home, and my teenaged brother is visiting. So it is going to take me some time!

Merry Christmas everyone

Hohohoho to everyone!

Lots, and lots of pictures.

Bob (my mixter, nicknamed by my young brother) and I have been very busy, so busy that while I've snapped some pictures, I haven't had time to come blog them all!

So here is some pictures of a few things I made late last week, and a peek at what this family had for breakfast this morning!

The top picture is of some fudgey chocolate cookies, the recipe I found in a magazine I bought to read while sitting in the waiting room of my children's doctor's office for walk-in hours to be done. The wait was very long (and I knew it would be, so I came prepared), but fortunately my son did not have strep-throat and I found a funky recipe or two! And sometime after Christmas I will find where in the mountain of cookbooks and magazines I left that magazine and put up either a link or the recipe for those cookies. They were a huge hit at the friends gathering we hosted on Saturday, being very fudgey and chocolatey!

Next you will see a picture of some sugar cookies, the Sour Cream Sugar Cookies featured in the December Today's Parent magazine. I really like the recipes from the magazine - they are real, use reasonable ingredients that don't cost a fortune, and are kid tested and family friendly. These cookies are a good example - I made the dough early in the day with help from my 4 year old, which chilled in the fridge while both children were at school. After school we pulled out the decorations and they designed and got fancy while I rolled and cut. The scraps really do re-roll very easily and the cookies still taste tender.

I didn't just make cookies, I also made some mini quiches which I could prepare well in advance, freeze, and then cook right before our little party. Bacon, Leek and Cheese mini-quiches, from Fine Cooking, were simple to make, froze wonderfully and cooked up golden, crisp and tasty. And they smelled very, very good.

The recipe is in the December issue, but not showing up on the website, though I haven't logged in to see if it is visible for subscribers only. So if anyone wants the recipe for the, just drop me an email and I'll jot it down for them.

I haven't tried reheating them yet, since 4 dozen mini quiches was alot for 5 adults to eat, especially when there was a table full of other goodies to eat, including another banana cream pie, more cookies and sweets, veggies, fruit, dip, and homemade latke's in the kitchen.

Finally we arrive at this morning, Christmas day. In our family, there are a few little traditions. Calories don't count on this day, so usually breakfast involves alot of very fattening items that you can just pop in the oven, Pilsburry buns and turnovers, while bacon is cooked up and eggs are made to order. Last year my oldest son made a request - Shortbread waffles with fruit and whipped cream. Well, these things are so decadent that you need a special day to have the excuse to have them. So when he repeated the request for this year, well all agreed.

Let us begin.....

You'll need a waffle maker for one - and for this, I recommend you not leave it straight on your counter. Put a sheet pan underneath it, to catch the drips. While it heats up, mix together in a small bowl 1 3/4 cup of flour and 1 cup of sugar. In a larger bowl, whisk together 4 eggs until they are fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the eggs and beat to combine. Then mix in 1 cup of very soft, but not melted, butter (I use salted since there is no other salt added.) And squeeze in the juice of half a lemon. Mix it well.

That's the recipe, only 5 ingredients.

You'll need the sheet pan because melted butter will leak out of the iron while the waffles crisp up to a golden brown color, though it won't be a uniform dark. These waffles will be soft upon removal from the maker (use a spatula to get underneath them and lift them to a plate,) but will crisp up on the plate.

These waffles are not the kind you serve with maple syrup, though bacon is a nice side. Instead, mound them high with freshly whipped cream, mine was made with a touch of fresh vanilla bean in it, and then top the cream with fresh berries. Since it is December and there are not good, fresh berries around here, I used frozen ones, defrosted with a touch of sugar to create a nice syrupy sauce with them. And my choices for this year were strawberries and blueberries.

And serve with lots of good orange juice. Coffee if you like it, which we don't. Which is why we used the mugs from my good dishes for juice instead of coffee. (Hey, I'm willing to let the kids try eating on the good plates today, but not yet willing to let them try crystal glasses!)

Merry Christmas to everyone - and here is one last pictures, a
sneak peek at a part of dinner:

Learning from the expert

One of the problems with Christmas is trying to figure out how to spend time with all of your family. You can't make everyone happy, so usually some middle balance is sought, where everyone is reasonably satisfied.

This last weekend was like that for my little family of four here. We went up for a very short trip to visit 2/3rds of my family, while my sister made the same trip from her portion of Ontario.

As a result, I got to spend some one on one time with my grandmother, making pies for my mother's pre-birthday party. (Insert big happy face here.)

Two banana cream pies were a joint effort. I copied out her recipe for the cream filling, which I then made, and she rolled out the crust for them. My grandmother makes this pie at least once a year, on my grandfather's birthday. When he used to work shift work, he would sometimes be scheduled to work on his birthday. On those days, the boys on the job were a lucky group - she used to send in a pie with him to have for his lunch!

Pastry cream, which basically what the filling is, is not very hard to make, it just requires alot of patience, standing over the stove stirring constantly. In this case, using unfamiliar equipment, I accidentally reversed the order of the pots for the double boiler, so I did not have the most stable of base to be stirring.

I'd never made pastry cream from scratch before, but had nothing to worry about. Apparently I know enough about cooking to successfully make one on the first try. My cream was just the right consistency in thickness, sweet and smooth. And just right for putting down over top of a layer of bananas and hand made pie crust.

Most banana cream pies are topped with cream, but not my grandmothers. The meringue topping probably came about out of economy. The pastry cream requires 3 egg yolks, so why not use the remaining whites to make a topping for the pie with?

So after a lovely morning baking with my grandmother, something I haven't done since I was a child, we were able to present to my mother two beautiful pies to end her birthday dinner with. (Which was also made by the joint effort of my grandmother, grandfather and I. We made her Hawaiian spare ribs, with the sauce I have posted about before.)

The only downside to this pie making expedition didn't come from the pies itself, but from my little boy. He was so sick this weekend that he was not able to enjoy a piece, though he was offered some and declined in favor of plain banana. Instead he has asked me to please make one for him another time, which I have promised to do. That other time is Friday, for a little gathering with friends, where I will see if I can still make a good pie without the assistance of the expert pie maker, my grandmother. And I plan to have my little assistant helping me.

Dear Blog, Please forgive my recent neglect.

Yes, I have been very neglectful of my blog lately.

It's not that I haven't been cooking. I've cooked at least one item a day, though not all of it has been new, or very "exciting." I've had a very good success rate for meals with the family lately, partially because I have not been doing anything too "strange."

So here's a quick little recap of some of the items I've made in the last little while, along with today's baking.

This fun looking item is an oddball version of stuffed pork tenderloin. I had this desire to stuff one, so picked one up, had my butcher butterfly it for me, with the intention of stuffing it with apples, cinnamon and raisins.

Good concept, bad execution.

I only cut up two apples, but that was alot of apple for one little tenderlion. So instead I layed the apples out on top and baked it together. The apples softened, and let go of some juices into the tenderloin below, and the raisins also gained a bit of moisture and softened up.

I liked it, but next time I will rethink the actual process of stuffing before I prepare the item to be stuffed.

A few days later I went Greek, but in my own kitchen instead of the take out counter or the premade souvlaki from my butcher (which is quite good), though I did purchase my tzaziki premade. (I don't like cucumber, but do like tzasiki, though I doubt I would if I made it myself.

These chicken breast, marinated in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and oregano, were very, very moist, and full of flavor. I served them with the dip, grilled pita, red peppers that I had added to the chicken, and sliced cucumber (for the children.) This was a very popular meal and I hope I am able to recreate the marinade again.

Oh and I also had steamed brocolli, which I drizzled with some of the liquid from the chicken - mmmm lemon, garlicky goodness to the veggies as well.

Again chicken here, not as exciting. A whole, roasted chicken. I brined this bird for a few hours, in a combination of kosher salt, cold water, peppercorns and a few cloves of garlic, sliced into the brining liquid. This made my fridge smell very strongly of garlic but I'm not sure it added too much flavor to the chicken (though I served the chicken with a dipping sauce, made from a package I picked up at the grocery store, so the sauce may have over powered the garlic.

This afternoon I did a bit of baking again, making Caramel Shortbread. I had made a batch of this a week or two ago (though it is long gone,) and wanted some in the freezer to take out next week when we have friends over for Christmas. Redoing the recipe today made me realize I had neglected to include the corn syrup in the last batch, which didn't seem to make the least bit of difference to those eating it. Which is good, because in today's batch, I forgot the vanilla. (The recipe has already been tested, and 3 out of 3 testers did not notice the lack of vanilla.)

I've made a small adaptation to this recipe from the hand written copy I was given a few years ago. It calls for making the caramel in a glass bowl in the microwave, stiring every 30 seconds to 1 minutes. That's alot of stiring without much control. Instead, I choose to make the caramel on the stove (and this is where a non-stick pot really comes in handy.) Cooking it on the stove allows me to not only multitask (I started the caramel before the shortbread base, in order to give it lots of time to darken up,) but lets me have more control over how deep the caramel becomes. It takes a bit of stirring, since the butter, syrup and condensed milk do not like to stay together, but in the end, the dark, amber color and thickness of the caramel more than make up for the effort. And since you can do other things while it cooks, letting you come over and occassionally stir, it makes for less of a hassel in the preperation.

Last but not least, here is a lovely photo of some of the little presents I've bought myself recently.

On top is the batch of vanilla beans I purchased off of ebay, which arrived yesterday, soft and fragrant, making my entire main floor smell of vanilla.

Underneath is my signed copy of The Vegan Lunchbox, by Jennifer McCann, whose blog I have referred to before, again called The Vegan Lunchbox. No I have not suddenly gone vegan (obviously) but so far I am very much enjoying the book. It has alot of very cool ideas for the lunch box, some of which my son might actually eat!

The bottom two books are the Ace Bakery Cookbook and More from Ace Bakery. These both came highly recommended to me by Ivonne from Cream Puffs in Venice, a fellow blogger that I can't wait to actually meat in person.

I haven't actually cooked anything from any of these books - I tend to read them front to back first, then go back and choose something. So far I have all three of them at a different stage in reading. :-)

Again, blog, I am sorry for the neglect. I will try to be better, but please have some patience with me as it is almost Christmas, things around here will be busy, and I may have some delays in posting. In the meantime, here is a recipe to make up for the neglect......

Caramel Shortbread

1 1/2 cup softened butter, divided
1/2 cup icing sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/4 cup flour
1 can (300ml) condensed milk
3 tbsp conr syrup
1 tsp vanilla
3 squares semi sweet chocolate (or a handful of chocolate chips)

Preheat oven to 35oF.
Beat 1 cup of butter with icing sugar and salt, until fluffy. Add flour and mix gently to combine. Press into 9x9 greased and floured baking pan (glass pans not recommended for this) with floured fingers. Bake 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool slightly.
In small pot, preferably non-stick, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add condensed milk and corn syrup and stir to combine. Cook gently, stirring occassionally to recombine mixture, until the caramel turns a dark color. This will take some time, be patient.
Stir in vanilla when the caramel has reached the desired color, then pour over crust.
If using chocolate squares, chop and place in microwave safe bowl (or ziplock bag.) If using chips, put in ziplock bag. Microwave either one to melt, being careful not to heat for too long. I like 20 second time blocks to start. Snip corner from the bag, or use a fork if chocolate is in a bowl, and drizzle the chocolate over the caramel. Chill until firm.

This freezes beautifully (I like them when they are still slightly frozen.) However, if you are going to freeze them, cut them into squares before you freeze them. Or plan to eat a 9x9 square of the shortbread. :-)

More cookies

So more pre-Christmas cookie baking at my place this morning. Actually I spent most of my day in the kitchen, baking up different things, and still have a few more I'd like to make.

First up was Raisin Ruglachs, the recipe for which I found in a little Robin Hood Flour booklette that came in the mail. They looked cool, though mine look absolutely nothing like the picture. I learned really quickly that I am not very good at making even cuttings, getting 12 out of a circle, and after the first half of the dough, gave up and went with 8 instead. The end product was much larger than it should be, but they were neater looking. And they still tasted good, the combination of raspberry jam, cinnamon, sugar and cocoa, all rolled up in a cream cheese dough with raisins. My youngest son loved them, my oldest hated them. Oh well.

Next on my list was Pistachio-Cranberry Biscotti Straws, which I found in my December 2006 Fine Cooking Magazine. The picture for these is lousy, sorry about the blur, though you can still see the pieces of pistachio and cranberries in them.

You can also see they are very thick, mostly because I can't read. I read, then reread, then reread every recipe I make, as well as keeping the recipe nearby to consult with. In this case, I couldn't seem to grasp what 1/3 inch was, and instead cut my biscotti into what I considered a good size. So my version resulted in 13 thick, but nice and crunchy (and very yummy) biscotti, rather than the 2 1/2 dozen the recipe suggests can be made. Hehehe.

The last of today's baking was more shortbread, this time Shortbread Meltaways, again from the Robin Hood magazine. These cookies actually are on page 8, whereas the Rugalachs are on page 9. Funny how that worked out.

I barely tried these cookies, not being in the mood for shortbread, but from the amount left on the plate when I cleaned up after dinner, these went over very well. I know both my children tried them and enjoyed them, and my husband told me I wouldn't like them at all so I should just leave them all for him. I think that was a compliment.

So plan for tomorrow involves making some brownies, but not for Christmas. Instead my children and I are contributing to a package going out to a Canadian soldier who is stationed in Afghanistan, though we don't know the name of the person who will be getting them, and won't unless they choose to write us back. Brownie bites seem like a good choice, and I know they handle mailing well.

Happy first weekend in December everyone!

Bowls full of potatoes

Winter finally arrived in Ottawa on Friday. And it came in with vengance! Snow, and ice, blowing and freezing everything in sight! It was the kind of day that said, "Stay in your pj's, put the fire on, and find a book, cause we are not going outside today!"

Unfortunately, I had to go outside. Work, picking up kids, essentials like that.

My plan ahead for dinner that night involved nachos with cheese. Low key, simple, loved by all and a break from routine and proper meals.

I, however, wanted something warmer, healthier, and that would make up for having to get out of my pj's and facing the cold, icy world. I wanted soup. And I didn't care if no one else in the house would eat it (they didn't.)

With my food processor doing the shredding for me, this soup assembled in minutes. And not having to peel the sweet potatoes really helped as well!

Minor changes - I didn't put in a chipotle pepper but instead sprinkled in a bit of cayenne pepper. I didn't really want to open a can for one pepper, and also didn't want too much spice. I wanted to taste the potatoes. I also sprinkled in a bit of fresh nutmeg, just to provide some balance with the cinnamon.

This soup looked, and smelled, alot like an apple sauce (which is probably the only reason my children were willing to try the first, and only, spoonful that they ate.) It tasted, however, like extra smooth sweet potatoes, not overwhelming, not too much of cinnamon, and had a slight background heat to it. Just enough to warm up that final bit. And exactly what I both wanted, and needed, as the first storm of winter blew around my house.