Oh man. Orange Currant Scones with melt in your mouth flavor. They come together quick because they're part of my #fabin40 collection. These were the perfect breakfast on December 23rd. Yes, you heard me right. I made these two days before as I was preparing food in advance for my Christmas Eve party.
This Tomato Ginger Chutney is the perfect condiment for meats. I got the recipe from Food and Wine magazine, and I served it with cold honey ham. Boy, was it a hit. Full of Indian flavors this chutney will wake up fish, chicken or any other vegetarian dish that needs zing, or lots of color.
Don't tell me you aren't the first to grab a bite of those cute, little cocktails wieners at any party. Mostly because of that great sauce. But some of them are too strong, or sharp, lacking in creativity and low on the yummy factor. I have solved that with my Pineapple Asian Spicy Barbeque Sauce. Simple, and fool proof it includes pureed pineapple, and a trip to Trader Joe's for their Trader Ming's General's stir fry sauce. Kind of a semi-homemade dazzler.
Christmas Trail Mix is brimming with crunch and variety. Simply mix the following together: 1/4 C toasted hazelnuts, 1/4 C salted cashew pieces, 1/4 C each golden raisins and craisins, then add semi-sweet chocolate pieces to your taste. Add a little more coarse sea salt, some pepper, a touch of sugar, a bit of coriander and some cinnamon. Stir and set out with your favorite hand snacks!
Here's how the evening rounded out: Lemony Coleslaw, a recipe from my sister's sister-in-law (uh, you get what I mean.) Blanched carrots with tarragon lemon vinaigrette, and a table full of treats from gifted cooks who brought food to share like roasted brussel sprouts and bacon wrapped dates filled with almonds and sausage! And....so much more.
As I sit here listening to the rain beat upon the downspouts, creating a timpani of knocks and quivers against the house, I realize how the poetry of each day includes so many beautiful moments that must be noted. The holidays, whatever theme you may celebrate, are still about unconditional love and delivering joy, and it leaves me flush with gratitude. I am full of humility for all the wonders of life. And I wanted you to know how my heart is bursting.
The other side of this emotion is an observance in kind, of the activities that perpetuates the opportunity for gladness. Christmas parties are everywhere and they seem to breed a kind of "don't mind me, I just feel like crying," kind of conversations. Hearts are growing 3 sizes, as the saying goes, and there is ne'er a scowl to be found.
What I love most is the evidence of these soirees, as you cannot move about the city without bumping into someone buying a hostess gift or scurrying to pick up that last minute appetizer before dashing off to hug friends and neighbors. It's funny. We talk about all the physical gifts that are being purchased this time of year and I wonder if anyone has counted the number of hams, turkeys, cranberries or wine bottles consumed, passed around, or donned with a bow and punctuated with a signature of sincerity. Would it not be safe to say that food, in all its forms, it more of a symbol of the holidays than any tech toy, sweater, or gift card? I fully believe we can agree that the dinners we share will create more of the memories we carry with us than any other gift. And that is as it should be.
My recipe tonight was one of those gifts, so to speak. An appetizer created on the fly; assembled quickly but certainly not without intention. My only hope is that, as I carefully cut each piece, it will satisfy the taster and bring us to closer to clinking our glasses in gladness and happiness. It is full of the flavors of the season with herbs, fruit and cheese in every bite. It's almost an entire Christmas platter in one, beautiful appetizer. The perfect way to say, "Merry Christmas," "I love you," and " don't forget to be thankful," all on one plate.
Pear, Fig and Rosemary Galette with Creamy Cambozola Cheese
My original recipe for this galette comes together easily, and the aroma and flavor of the cheese is a heady compliment to the spicy and fruity notes of the fig and pear. You won't taste the rosemary per se, but the sharp freshness of the herb helps to amplify the fruit, and blend all the flavors in the most amazing way. Serve as an appie and wash down with a glass of champagne. There...Christmas is COMPLETE.
Enough of your favorite pie crust dough for a 15 inch round; usually enough for two crusts. Either your homemade or store bought will work.
3 barlett pears, peels and diced, about 3.5 C
3/4 C mission figs, diced
juice of one lemon
zest from one lemon
1/2 t cinnamon
5 heaping T of white sugar
dash of salt
1/4 t finely chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 C Cambozola cheese, in chunks
drizzle of honey, and a sprinkle of raw sugar
flour for working with dough
Roll out dough, let rest for 15 minutes. Place on cookie sheet on top of parchment paper. Mix all fruit, juice, zest, herbs, sugar and cinnamon and salt. Pour into center of dough. Fold over edges. Cook in 375 degree oven for 55 minutes or until edged are golden brown and you see the fruit bubbling. Let cool for an hour, drizzle with honey and sugar, slice and enjoy!
I awoke today, not unlike most days, with a start. My 86 year old mother-in-law who has dementia, lives with us, and the way she begins each day is never with peace. Today would be no exception.
"I didn't know where you were!" she exclaimed; hunched over and quivering with fear. She was wandering around the living room when I discovered her, trying to open the blinds and sporting a scowl on her face. I noticed she was still wearing the denims and printed shirt from the day before; a detail I missed because she slipped into bed herself last night, acting quite lucid and lulling me into thinking I could let her go through the evening routine alone.
"Come on, sweetie. It's too early." I cooed. Let's go back to bed.
It wasn't too early, really. 7:34 a.m. is an appropriate time for most people to rise, but I knew I needed to restart her. A reboot of sorts to set her on another path. So we changed Jean out of her yesterday clothes, and into her favorite teal sweats. As I helped her into bed, listening to her breathe labored from panic, I covered her as I would any child in distress and hoped indeed, in an hour or so, she would be better.
It may sound odd, but I began my cooking blog this summer because I knew I could cook and create something personal, while I was literally watching 'her.' It might keep me sane and it will stave off the desire to feel trapped, or without the ability to spontaneously live life. When you're housebound as a caretaker, like we are, it does no good to lament about your incarceration. You must find something you can immerse yourself in. And so I began this collection of food, fun, words and pictures. It keeps me grounded and it helps me reboot, too.
So why blog about ginger cookies? Well, the other night we had to cancel our 9th annual Christmas Cookie Making Night with friends, because Jean was just not doing well and we couldn't take her or leave her. But just because we couldn't go anywhere didn't stop me from wanting to fire up the mixer, dirty the measuring cups, and listen to the hum of the oven fan, even if I wasn't doing it in front of my neighbor's stove.
To validate my desire for cookie greatness, I grabbed for an old, old recipe book I have from 30 years ago when I lived in Salt Lake City, Utah. (EEK, now you know I'm not 29!) This Relief Society collection of culinary comfort food is wonderful so leafing through its pages, I confidently landed on Ginger Cookies because the sound of Jean watching Jeopardy in the background was about to make me crack and a kick of spice was needed.
I'm pleased to say they turned out blog-worthy. Golden browned, sparkling from the raw sugar, and chewy at just the right level of chewiness. This is a wonderful Christmas cookie for any neighbor, friend or acquaintance. Make them now, make lots of them, and enjoy them with hot tea in front of the fire. And when you do, think of how you start each day, and do it with courage, so you're grounded and ready for anything.
Here's what I think. Even though tomorrow may begin the same as today, with confusion as its hallmark, we will take a deep breath, reboot, and face the day with a cookie in each hand...while I watch her.
Chewy Ginger Spice Cookies
1 1/2 C Shortening
2 C sugar
1/2 C molasses
1/2 t salt
4 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
2 t cinnamon
2 t ginger
2 teaspoons allspice (the recipe calls for cloves, but I wanted less breath-mint and more ginger-cookie taste)
4 C flour
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a stand mixer or hand mixer, combine all ingredients except flour into bowl. Mix well for about a minute or so until airy. Add flour a little at a time until blended. Form into small balls, roll in the raw sugar, and place on ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten slightly and cook for 7 and a half minutes. (The recipe said 8 to 10. I think that would make them too done!)
(Recipe credit, Linda Egan, Salt Lake City Utah. Recipe from Butler 19th Ward Recipe Collection, published 1978) Photos copyright Camine Pappas 2013.
Comforting. Rich. Delicate. Buttery. Pretty! Melt-in-your-mouth. Timeless. I. Want. One. Now.
Need I say more? There's so much to say about the delectable, easy and classy Russian Tea Cakes, or Wedding Cookies as some may call it but I chose just a few words that describe it best. Make some tonight.
(We made them small, and cooked for only 10 minutes. PERFECT.)
Click here to download the recipe from allrecipes.com.
It happens every year, that first moment when the spirit of Christmas overwhelms you and you feel warm tears on your cheeks, your heart beating in peace, and you just understand what love has meant in your life. That moment happened, not surprisingly while making my first batch of Christmas cookies about 2 weeks ago, and listening to Manheim Steamroller sing "I'll be Home for Christmas." The smell of chocolate, the twinkling of lights and certainly the smiles on those for whom I cooked all combined to satisfy that deep longing for tradition.
Speaking of tradition, we just returned from a short trip to see my best friend in Indiana, reconnecting with friends and gorging on a plethora of tastes and textures. Her daughter, Kaitylyn, is now also a budding cook, her 12 years belying her maturity and intuition for things. A lot of her passion for food has come from her grandma, Mary Ann who spent nearly all her time during our visit, hunched over the stove lovingly wrapping savory golumpkis, rolling dozens of veal meatballs, and even cooking one of my husband's childhood favorites, the beloved Chrusciki (a fried pastry dough that is served covered, and I do mean covered, with powdered sugar). I share the recipe and the moments with you here today because we all come from something, and the way to find that connection is surely through the recipes and foods we love.
Chruscikis (Polish Crullers)
Recipe courtesy MaryAnn Sakich – Made 12.14.13
½ pint sour cream
9 egg yolks
4 T sugar
Pinch of salt
½ t vanilla
3 C flour
Powdered sugar for sprinkling
Beat yolks, add sugar, salt and vanilla. Add sour cream and mix. Add flour all at once. Knead dough, and then let rest for at least 10 minutes before rolling out. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick or less, making VERY thin so that when they cook there is a bit of a snap when you bite them. Slice into 1 and a half inch by 5 inch strips. Invert one end and pull through the hole. Lay on wax paper. Preheat a pan with at least 2 inches of hot oil. Add the dough, cooking only a few at a time so that each can roll and cook quickly in the hot oil. Turn over after a minute or so and cook on the other side. Take out and place on paper towels. Sprinkle generously with powdered sugar. Store out, in a bowl.
Perfectly Satisfying Paprika Chicken Pot Pie
3 boneless chicken breasts cut up into small chunks
1 whole russet potato diced small
2 large carrots diced small
2 large celery stalks diced small
1/2 white onion diced small
2 T oil (sunflower or another mild oil)
3/4 t paprika
12 ounce can low sodium chicken broth
1/2 C milk
3 T flour
3 T butter
salt and pepper
pinch coarse sea salt
Pie crust (either premade that you roll out, or use your favorite recipe!)
Saute chicken breasts in olive oil and add paprika and salt and pepper. Cook until about 1/2 done. Remove from pan. Add 1 T butter and the vegetables and begin to saute, scraping up the bits of cooked chicken. Add a portion of the broth and cook until veggies are tender, about 5 minutes. Remove veggies and set aside with the meat. Add the rest of the butter, and the flour and mix to make a paste, keep cooking on very low until smooth to cook out the flour flavor. Add in the rest of the broth, whisk all to incorporate, add salt and pepper and when slightly thickened, add milk. Continue to stir, all on low heat, until it begins to thicken again slightly. Add the veggies and chicken back in and warm all.
In the meantime, have your pie crust ready. Rim the top of the pie pan with a little butter so the crust will lift off easily. Add the filling, cover with the crust, form the edges tucked under, and cut steam holes all around in the crush. Sprinkle with coarse salt. Place in 375 degree oven for about 35 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and you can see some bubbling of the ingredients through the holes. Let cool for 20 minutes. Serve in your favorite bowl and with your favorite people!
Want more variety? You can add peas and corn at the end, and a bit of fresh herbs to your tasting. This broth is thick but not heavy and creamy so it feels satisfying without all the fat and bulk.
My grandmother Reta knew that I loved her cooking. When we were young and lived close by it was always a treat to visit her in her old farmhouse. We would search for treasure in her attic, trace our fingers around the pattern in the old flowered carpet, and send whispered messages through the air return ducts, certain our code was undetectable. But before the games began, I would run to the cupboard for one of her famous cookies to much on even before hugging her or wiping my feet. I didn't ask, she didn't mind. That's why we love Grandmothers.
One of my favorites was always this now, nearly 100 year old recipe for Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, originally handed down from my Great Grandmother Essie Williams, and in my mother's recipe archive still hand written in lovely cursive. Chock full of nuts, cake-like and moist, and full of extra spice, they taste like home and remind me that love created in the kitchen is the best code of all.
The recipe is below...make it with love and please, remember us when you do.
I may have told some white lies but this is no fish story. The truth is, there's nothing more refreshing, flavorful or colorful than a bowl of ceviche. I've had it all different ways, and tried in on both coasts, even with all kinds of fish. The following is my favorite way to enjoy it; my twist on the elements that make it irresistible. Cooked, so to speak, in fresh lime and orange juice and spiked with a crunch from celery and the bright sweetness of oranges, and enough cilantro to turn your eyes a new color of green and you have my Tilapia Ceviche with Orange.
Fresh Tilapia Ceviche with Orange
2 to 3 medium tilapia filets, fresh, and patted dry (about 12 - 15 oz.)
1/2 small sweet white onion diced
2 celery stalk, finely diced
1 large tomato, diced, with seeds and skin
1 medium jalapeno pepper diced, no seeds or pith
2 clementine or 1 large, juicy ripe orange
1 T orange or clementine juice
2 C cilantro chopped to equal 1 C
salt and pepper
1 T sunflower oil
2 cloves garlic, optional
3 limes juiced
Toss all ingredients together, making sure all the fish is covered in the juice. Cover and put in fridge. Stir every half hour. Eat when the fish is opaque, about 2 hours. Serve with pita chips or your favorite salty bread.
Recipe and photo by Camine Pappas. Copyright 2013. All right reserved.
It happens every year. I always toast too many bread crumbs for my stuffing, knowing that the time to run short is NOT when you're pouring hot, buttery, onions, celery and fruit over the bread and doing final assembly. Argh. That would be catastrophic. So, I just toast away until my kitchen is brimming with little golden cubes of stuffing fodder. I do it the night before because after you heat the dickens out of them, they're nice and dry and don't mind an overnight stay in the open, dreaming contentedly of their future melding with sausage and butter.
But what to do with these orphans now? Hmmm. I stared at those squares, piled tamely on top of one another inside the zip-lock baggie, jostling for position like college kids in a phone booth, and knew I had to intervene.
Other leftovers are crammed into my fridge, so I don't have to be reminded of their presence every time I walk into the room. But that bread. It is relentless.
"Use me, please? I don't want to be smooshed into your garbage disposal. Does it matter you only paid $2.02 at the store for me? I worked hard to make your T-Day a success. You owe me something!"
And so I responded, and without hint, script or guidance, set about assembling the items needed for a bread pudding, and got to work. And dang it if it didn't work out perfectly. (Nobody likes a bragger, but isn't that what a blog is for? ME, ME, ME?) And we all say that so you will think, "Okay, I trust her. I will try it!"
That's my hope, anyway.
So, I've discovered some little things that made this so awesome. Things that if YOU DO THEM, you will have success. First, (and get closer to the screen, you need to remember this.) THE BREAD MUST BE DRY SO IT DOESN'T PRODUCE A DENSE pudding. Second, make sure you give it enough time to soak up all the custardy numminess. 12 to 24 hours is non-negotiable for soft raisins and currants, and for a dessert that poofs out while cooking like a 16 year old boy with three, giggly girlfriends. And third, more good vanilla than you would suspect because that is what takes it to the next level. I'm not gonna lie to you, the subtle rum flavor is awesome, but the point is you don't want to taste it, you want it to compliment the flavors. Otherwise I'd tell you to go make an egg sandwich and wash it down with a little pirate juice (Yo, Ho, Ho and a bottle of...oh you know). Finally, buy a good, professional whisk. I love my Sur La Table version. I feel like a Food Star every time I grab it. Everything must be mixed well and you can do it without an electric mixer if you have a good whisk.
Okay, enough preaching. Let's start measuring. First, you'll note this is egg generous and easy on the sugar. I think it gives the dessert and the look of it more of a "pop-over" feel and keeps it from being too pudding-ish (which is often why most people dislike bread pudding in the first place). It rises high and is light and airy, but you don't miss that creme brulee taste that makes pudding, pudding. Also, I'm very light on the nutmeg and cinnamon. I let the fruit and lightness of the bread stand alone, because when you add the caramely sauce to serve, you want everything balanced.
Let's just say that those little bread crumbs felt like the center of attention yesterday, and forgot all about that little stuffing incident wherein someone, and I ain't saying who, almost left them behind. (Hmmm. What flavor bread pudding shall I do next year?)
Currant Raisin Rum Bread Pudding with Caramel Rum Sauce
8 cups toasted cubes of french bread, all dry, enough to fit nicely into an 11 by 7 baking dish
1/3 C golden raisins
1/4 C dried currants
Zest from one lemon
2 C milk
1 C heavy cream
1 t salt
1/2 plus 3 T white sugar
1 1.5 t dark rum
1/4 t nutmeg (grate your own if you'd like!)
1/2 t cinnamon
1 1.5 T good vanilla extract
Cut the french bread loaf into 3/4 to 1 inch cubes (It usually takes 1 large loaf) and toast on a cookie sheet under broiler until most of the edges are a golden brown. Put in large bowl and let sit the rest of the day or a few hours so the BREAD IS DRY. Butter a 11 by 7 baking dish. Place bread in dish. Sprinkle the raisins and currants over the top to distribute the fruit evenly. Whisk the eggs together first, so that they're all completely incorporated. Add all other ingredients and again, whisk everything together for at least a couple of minutes until nothing separates and the mixture is smooth. Gently pour the egg mixture over the bread. It should come almost to the top as you gently push down the bread into the egg mixture so that everything is touching egg. You don't have to keep doing it, just make sure the top level of bread is at least immersed by half when they bob back up. Cover and put in fridge 12 to 24 hours.
When ready to cook, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Let the pudding sit on the counter for 30 minutes before you put it into the oven. Bake uncovered for 42 to 43 minutes, until the whole thing rises up and the edges are a little browned. IT won't sizzle or bubble, that means its overdone. Just take out when it appears high (like a popover!)
Remove and let cook for 30 minutes. In the meantime, make the caramel rum sauce.
CARAMEL RUM SAUCE:
1 stick of butter (salted) melted in the pan
1 C light brown sugar (the dark brown has too intense a flavor and won't compliment the dessert as well.)
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 t cinnamon
2 T rum
Melt butter over med low heat. Add sugar and whisk while it bubbles, for about 1 and a half minutes, until it's smooth and shiny. Pull off burner and add the cream, cinnamon, and rum. Return pan to med low/low heat and whisk constantly while it bubbles for about 4 minutes, until it begin to thicken SLIGHTLY. Remove from heat and let bubbles subside now and then to check it.
To serve, cut into squares, drizzle each hot, yummy serving with the hot caramel sauce. Refrigerate leftovers and reheat in micro. Can reheat the caramel sauce as well, although it's a little grainy the second time. I recommend making only what you need for what you serve.
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Meet the Cook...
My name is Camine Pappas and I love to create beautiful and delicious food that anyone can make. My signature style centers around a love for combining things in a way you might not expect as I work to find a hidden combination of colors, textures and flavors from the things that are in my pantry and/or easy to obtain.