A new year full of mystery and wonder awaits us as we put 2012 to bed. But right now all you may be wondering about is what to serve when you ring in 2013. Smoked salmon can be a festive way to celebrate. Thin, fine slices of salmon served on a plain water cracker with a small dollop of sour cream and chopped chives. Simple, quick, easy and delicious. Pair with Charles de Casanove Brut Chanpagne (the find of the year according to Washington Post wine writer, Dave McIntyre) and you have a party. (Cathy)
Gina and I are taking a little holiday break next week, December 24-28. We will return on December 31 to ring in the new year. We want to thank all of our loyal readers who have supported us since we started this endeavor six months ago. Looking forward to continuing our conversation about food in 2013. (Cathy)
With cocktails named after iconic people sporting mustaches (Charlie Chaplin, Salvador Dali, Sam Elliot, Magnum PI), HandleBar is new and not quite on the radar, making it a great spot to check out soon. The holiday menu includes fun drinks like The Paul Bunyan which highlights seasonal flavors of maple whiskey and amaretto; a nice way to warm up on those chilly winter nights. Here's the recipe in case you want to try this mustachioed folk hero at home. (Cathy)
The Paul Bunyan
1 ½ oz. 357 Maple Whiskey
½ oz. Armaretto
2 heavy splashes of Aztec Chocolate Bitters
2 heavy splashes of Orange Bitters
Build drink in pint glass. Fill with ice and stir. Julep strain into tall rocks glass filled with ice. Fill with Ginger Ale. Zest the top of the drink with an orange, rim the glass, and garnish with an orange twist.
This very holiday-centric dessert comes from Trace executive pastry chef, Janina O’Leary, at The W Hotel Austin. This creamy, chocolatey treat with that hit of eggnog is destined to become an instant holiday tradition. (Cathy)
Eggnog Pastry Cream
2 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup eggnog
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Heat Eggnog and vanilla in heavy sauce pan, bring to boil, whisk yolks, salt and flour together in a bowl, pour and whisk half of the warm liquid into yolk mixture and all ingredients back to pot stirring occasionally until mixture become thick. Add butter and cool.
Devil’s Food Cake
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, plus more for pans
3/4 cup Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
3 cups sifted cake flour (not self-rising)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter three 8-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment. Dust bottoms and sides of pans with cocoa powder; tap out any excess. Sift cocoa into a medium bowl, and whisk in boiling water. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter until light and fluffy. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides twice. Beat in vanilla. Add eggs a little at a time, beating between each addition scraping down the sides twice. In a large bowl, sift together flour, baking soda, and salt. Whisk milk into cocoa. Add flour and cocoa mixtures to the batter, a little of each at a time, starting and ending with flour mixture. Divide batter evenly among the three prepared pans. Bake until a cake tester inserted into center of each layer comes out clean, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating the pans for even baking. Transfer layers to wire racks; let cool, 15 minutes. Turn out cakes, and return to racks, tops up, until completely cool. Remove parchment from bottoms of cakes. Layer in trifle dish with eggnog pastry cream.
The first time I tasted cranberry salsa was at The Peach Tree Restaurant in Fredericksburg, TX several years ago. It was around this time of year and I loved the idea of using fresh cranberries in a salsa. I remember thinking, "I have to have this recipe." Little did I know I already had it at home in my Peach Tree Cookbook, With Love, From Cynthia. Every year I tweak the recipe a bit and now it seems to be an adaptation between the original and a similar Bon Appetit recipe I found. This salsa makes a great homemade gift along with a bag of green and red El Lago or Xochitl chips.
If you are looking for more ideas for homemade holiday gifts, you know Martha (Stewart) always has a ton up her sleeve, and Whole Foods has some nice ones too. You can also reference a few from our blog like the infused salts, brownie roll-out cookies, rosemary roasted walnuts or pepita chocolate bark. (Cathy)
1 1/2 oranges, peel, pith and seeds removed
1 jalepeno, seeds removed
1/2 cup sugar
1 bunch cilantro, stems removed
4 cups cranberries
1 tsp. salt
Zest from one lime
A squeeze from half a lime
In a food processor chop jalapeno. Then roughly chop oranges and 1/4 cup sugar in processor. Place this in a mixing bowl. Chop cilantro, 2 cups of cranberries and 1/8 cup sugar. Add to mixing bowl. Chop remaining cranberries, last 1/8 cup of sugar, salt, lime zest and lime juice. Combine with other ingredients in mixing bowl and thoroughly mix together. Serve with chips. (Makes about 4 cups)
A friend made this festive and delicious appetizer for a recent Christmas party. At first bite I knew I had to share this simple yet perfect flavor combination. Great for your next holiday party or any time of year. (Cathy)
Apple Bacon Bites
1 Granny Smith Apple
8-10 slices bacon
1/2 cup arugula
Cider vinegar (enough for soaking apple slices)
I small container goat cheese
1 tbsp. brown sugar (you can use Splenda brown sugar)
4 tbsp. butter
Fry bacon until cooked. Remove from pan, pat bacon dry with paper towels, discard grease. Melt butter in pan and add brown sugar, cook until bacon is coated with butter. Slice green apple and soak in apple cider vinegar for a minute or so. Remove and top with goat cheese. Add bacon (sliced to fit apple slice) and one piece of arugula.
After driving past Chen Z on Anderson Lane for several months, I finally stopped in for lunch. Founded by George Chen of Chen’s Noodle House, Henry Wong of Mikado and Johnson Ngo, General Manager of Musashino, Chen Z’s minimal and clean ambiance places the home-style Chinese cooking at the forefront.
The whole experience was modern, fresh and flavorful. We started with the Wok Seared Calamari. This is not the standard Italian style Calamari. It consists of cuttlefish, red and green peppers and green onions. We also had the Pan Seared Pork/Vegetable Dumplings which comes 12 to an order. Well executed and very appetizing, both starters were a great way to begin the meal. For entrees we ordered the Chen Z Knife Shaved Wok Fried Noodles which includes thinly sliced ribeye, chicken, shrimp and Asian greens over buckwheat noodles. We also tried the Smoked Duck Wok Fried Noodles with ginger, green onions and cucumber. I don’t think I could pick a favorite since they were both equally delicious.
Unfortunately, we did not save room for dessert since the portions are so generous. We actually needed a to-go box. I am looking forward to my next visit. I plan to try the infamous Hot Pots which consist of searing hot bowls of various types of broth that are used to cook a selection of meat and vegetables. Chen Z is apparently the first restaurant in Austin to offer this delicacy. (Gina)
Have yourself the best holiday party ever by setting up a true self serve drink, a punch bowl of cheer. With this make-ahead drink, the host can enjoy the party as much as the guests and the punch bowl can be used as the centerpiece. You can have one bowl for adults and one for kids (if it is that kind of party). Remember to make a refill batch. The recipe can be doubled or tripled if you have a larger group. Ice made in a bundt pan will melt less quickly than smaller pieces of ice, thus keeping the punch cold without diluting it. It’s made festive by adding cranberries and rosemary sprigs. (Gina)
Sparkling Holiday Punch (Whole Foods recipe)
2 cups cranberry juice
2 cups pineapple juice
½ cup sugar
1 liter ginger ale, sparkling wine or sparkling apple juice
Mix cranberry and pineapple juice, sugar, lemon and limes until sugar is dissolved. Add one liter of sparkling beverage of choice. Gently place ice ring in bowl. (Serves 6-8)
This recipe from Real Simple is described as low calorie and ready in 30 minutes. What's not to love? It is easy, satisfying and very tasty. If you are not a shrimp lover, chicken or tofu could be substituted. Just right for a cold winter's night. (Cathy)
Spicy Shrimp with Peas and Curried Rice
3 tbsp. canola oil
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cup long-grain white rice
2 tsp. curry powder
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 1/4 pounds peeled and deveined large shrimp
1/4 to 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 large shallot, sliced
1 10-ounce bag frozen peas, thawed
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice, plus lime wedges for serving
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. of oil. Add the garlic and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds. Add the rice, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add the curry powder, 1¾ cups water, and ¼ tsp. each salt and pepper, stirring to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the rice is tender, for approximately 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand covered for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add 1 tbsp. of the remaining oil. Add the shrimp to the skillet, seasoning with ¼ teaspoon each salt and black pepper and cook, tossing frequently, until opaque throughout, 5 minutes. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with crushed red pepper. Add the last tbsp. of oil to the skillet and cook the shallots and peas, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are tender and the peas are heated through, 2 to 3 minutes. Mix in the mint, lime juice, and ¼ tsp. each salt and black pepper. Serve the rice with the shrimp, peas, and lime wedges. (Serves 4)
We wanted to share our top epicurean gift picks for the holiday season. Perfect for friends or family who like to cook or those who just love good food. We are highlighting locally owned stores and hope this helps you find everything you need to wrap up your list. (Cathy & Gina)
SFC Farmer's Market - This is a great place to start your holiday shopping since you can give these items as gifts or bring them home to share with friends and family who come to visit. These vendors are found at the Republic Square SFC Market on Saturdays as well as some others. Most of these items are available online as well. Dai Due has wonderful Fireman's 4 Mustard and Butcher's Links which would make a marvelous savory snack at a holiday party. If you have been reading recent posts, you already know how much we love Confituras Jams and other goodies. One jar or a gift set will be greatly appreciated. Kala's Kuisine has some of the most marvelous hot sauces and salsas (many are award winning). A great gift for those who like to add spice to their meals. Pâté Letelier has wonderful locally made pâté. We tried the Classic Chicken Liver Pâté made with Dewberry Farms chicken livers, Goodflow Honey and Hill Country lavender. Even the novice pâté eater was impressed. Finally, Springfield Farms has skin salves in lovely scents like Pomegranate Sweet Orange and Rosemary Mint to soothe those dry, kitchen hands.
Spartan - We cannot say enough about the uber cool, minimalist and finely designed products available at this well edited store. Bottle openers, trivets, ceramic bowls and trays, honey jars, knives, cutting boards, Way too many items to discuss here. You must go and see for yourself. A few favorites are listed in pictures above.
The love of food and how it can bring people together led to the creation of this blog. As a mother of two grown boys, who have left the nest and occasionally return, I noticed a common occurrence-- there is usually someone at home who is hungry.
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