Be sure to check out my Happy Eats Healthy site to see upcoming classes, seminars, for more information on Health Coaching, nutrition information and more!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Christmas Cookie Tradition with the Family

This year for the holiday I took a week off work and went on a cookie retreat ... with my family.  I have fond memories of making Christmas cookies with my family when growing up.

Sure, everybody remembers the particular Holiday cookies that their Mom or Grandma made, but we didn't just make cookies, we embraced the cookie tradition with open arms. Hundreds of different types of cookies, 20 to 30 batches of each, took weeks to complete and yet only a moment to eat.

There's so many cookies that have been lost along the way; either they were too much work or newer flavors have replaced them. As a child I loved decorating the over-sized Santa cookies with red frosting for the suit, coconut for the beard and little silver dragrees for the eyes. Then there was the filberts, rolling three teeny-tiny little balls, placing them in a triangle in hopes that the balls will cook together and then topping them with a 1/16 of a maraschino cherry. Nobody liked that duty.

But we still make plenty of Christmas cookies that require patience and sleight of hand; our cookies are small little works of art and even still today my parents perseverance amazes me.

I haven't been a part of the cookie making tradition in a few years. Many of those years I was focused on my weight and had replaced such indulgences with workouts. And there were the years that I needed 'space' from the family, and the years that working outweighed family time.

Today, I look back and realize that the cookie making was more than just typical holiday baking, it was a vessel for together time, for communication, and for a way to show others you care. It was good old fashioned bonding time.

At one moment, as I emptied a new bag of flour into the flour bin (we had used 60 lbs to this point) I realized nobody had spoken in a hour. We were all engrossed in our tasks at hand. The kitchen was filled with noise of the mixers whirling, the sifter sifting and the oven timers beeping ... and yet it felt warm and comfortable, as if we were never closer.

The Holidays are over now and I have just a few cookie crumbs left in the freezer from it. But I have the memories (and a few extra pounds!) of a great adventure.The nieces and nephews played with the dough, dirty their little hands and decorated some of their first cookies - a tough rite of passage which must be crossed to officially become part of the tradition. A tradition that I missed for many years, but one that will have a new focus in the future.

Sure, it is true you can pick your friends but not your family...and I wouldn't want it any other way!
Happy Fat and Happy Holidays.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Elegant New Years Eve Dinner

5 Course New Years Eve Dinner Menu

Brussel Sprout Chips and Jam-Dipped Fork Bites

Horseradish Soup with Roast Beef and Chestnuts

Tilapia in a Pastry Shell atop Grilled Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Fig Vinaigrette

Crown Roast of Pork with Bacon Apple Stuffing

Chocolate Covered Bacon Caramel Popcorn


Of all the holidays, New Years Eve reigns as the most prestigious. It's a time to don the fanciest clothes (you could wear the fake Halloween tiara and get away with it!) and spare no expense for the champagne. 

The recipes below are not all exactly beginner level, but they are doable and many of them can be made ahead of time. Make a list that spans a couple of days, include shopping and decorating the table and then check it off as you complete each task, I do this for every party I throw.  Too many times I've realized at the end of the night the cranberries are still sitting in the fridge and I forgot to add the garnish to the desserts.

Go ahead invite your closest friends over, play dress up and and go for broke on the food; it's the beginning of a new year with 365 days to redeem yourself, if need be. Just remember the Fat and Happy way - if one of the dishes is less than stellar for some reason, pop the cork early... at least you'll look regal in your crown.

Tips and Techniques:  Dishes that can be made a day ahead of time: make the soup and the stuffing, but don't add the bread, roast the chestnuts, whisk the vinaigrette. season the pork and bake the chocolate bacon caramel popcorn.  Morning of: wrap the fish in the pastry shell and store in the fridge until ready to bake.

All recipes make enough for 6, the crown roast of pork can easily feed (8- 12 based on a 8lb pork).

The Recipes

Brussel Sprout Chips
10 brussel Sprouts
 1 Tbls olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 275 degrees and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Pick up one brussel sprout, cut the bottom of the brussel sprout off, remove the first layer of leaves and discard.  Carefully peel off the remaining layers and place on the cookie sheet.  I found it helpful to try to core out the little stem of the sprout as it got smaller. Repeat with remaining sprouts.

Drizzle the brussel sprouts with olive oil, using your hands to carefully toss the sprouts until they are all covered in oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place in the oven. Some of the leaves will begin to roast faster than others, so shake the pan often and remove the leaves that are done and place in a shallow bowl.

Place the pan back in the oven until the rest are finished.  Each chip will have some crunchy roasted edges with still green chewy centers.

Serve immediately.

Meat and Cheese Fork Bites

1/4 lb thinly sliced turkey, prosciutto or deli meat of your choice, cut in half lengthwise
jam (fig, orange, blackberry or any flavors of your choice)
4 oz semi hard white cheese (manchego, cantal, white cheddar or cheese of your choice), cut into small chunks
Olive Oil
Blanched asparagus, green beans, fresh grape tomato etc, cut into bite sized chunks (optional)

Assume 2 per person, so have ready as many forks/spoons as needed. Stab a chunk of cheese, an asparagus (if using), then spread a jam on the cheese. Wrap the end of the fork with a slice of the deli meat.  Set on a platter, and repeat.  Lightly drizzle the whole platter with olive oil.

This idea is from Jamie Oliver, it's simple, fun and lends itself to unlimited flavor combinations. Don't be afraid of the jam, it will lend a tangy sweetness to the turkey and cheese. Let these be rustic, encourage your guest to just pick up the fork and pop the whole mixture into their mouth at once.

Horseradish Soup with Roast Beef and Chestnuts

1 garlic clove
1 large shallot
1 medium sized potato
1 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls butter
1 cup + 6 Tbls grated fresh horseradish
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 Tbls mustard
1/2 cup cream
1 tsp white or champagne vinegar
Salt and pepper
6 roasted chestnuts*, chopped
1 cup of finely diced roast beef (deli meat is fine to use here, but go to a good deli)
Mini Pumpernickel bread, two slices per person, toasted

Place the olive oil, butter and shallots in a deep pot, saute for a few minutes and add the garlic and potatoes. Cook until the shallots are softened, stir often. Add the broth, cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.

Carefully use a blender or Cuisinart to blend the soup until it's smooth, do this in batches if needed. Return the soup to a pan and add in the mustard, cream and vinegar. Let the soup reach a very soft simmer, cook for about 15 minutes; the longer the soup the more mild the horse radish will become. Add a little salt and pepper. The soup can be served immediately, or cooled and refrigerated until ready to use (1-2 days).  Lightly butter the pumpernickel bread, place on a cookie sheet in a heated oven until toasted.

To serve: Place about 2 tablespoons of the chopped roast beef, 1 tablespoon of the freshly grated horseradish and 1 scant tablespoon of the chopped chestnuts in the bottom of each bowl. Carefully ladle in about 1 cup of soup and top with salt and pepper. For a dramatic effect, give each person their own craft of soup or pour it into their bowl for them. Serve with toasted pumpernickel points.

unroasted chestnuts.

Tilapia in a Pastry Shell atop Grilled Fennel and Radicchio Salad with Fig Vinaigrette

6 Tilapia fillets (spend the money and get a good piece of fish)
2 sheets of Phyllo dough
4 Tbls butter
1 egg, whisked
Lemon pepper
    1 cup mayonnaise
    Juice of 1 lemon
    Fresh black pepper

    Defrost the phyllo dough, roll the dough out slightly so it is not so thick.  Plan to cut 6 large circles out of the dough, place each fillet one one-half of the circle. Top each fillet with two pats of butter and a sprinkling of lemon pepper. Using a pasty brush or your fingers, wet the edges of one circle with the egg, pull the second half of the phyllo dough over the fish (this will shape a half moon or you can form what ever shape you would like) and seal the edges with a fork.  Repeat until all fish are wrapped. If you have extra dough, make little design for the top, stick on with egg.  Either bake immediately or place in the fridge until ready to bake.

    Mix the mayonnaise with the lemon, add fresh ground black pepper and set aside until ready to use.

    Before baking, brush the fish with the remaining beaten egg. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the phyllo dough is puffy and brown and the edges look bubbly (about 30 minutes).  Remove from oven and serve immediately with a dollop of the lemon mayonnaise and the Radicchio Salad.

    Grilled Fennel and Radicchio Salad
    1 head of radicchio
    1 fennel bulb
    Olive oil
    1 lemon

    Heat a cast iron grill on your stove top.  Core the radicchio and cut into half lengthwise and then half again.  Remove the fronds from the fennel and quarter.  Drizzle everything with olive oil and place on the grill.

    Grill each side of the radicchio for about 4 minutes, remove from the grill.  Grill the fennel about 6 or 7 minutes per side and then remove.  Slice the radicchio and fennel, add to a large bowl, squeeze a fresh lemon over the top.  Toss with the Fig Vinaigrette (start with half of the vinaigrette, toss and add more as needed to moisten everything). Serve immediately as a base for the Phyllo-wrapped fish.

    Fig Vinaigrette

    1 clove garlic, minced
    1 shallot (about the size of a golf ball)
    3 Tbls balsamic vinegar
    2 heaping spoons fig jam
    2 Tbls of chopped parsley
    1/4 - 1/2 cup Olive oil
    Fresh ground pepper, salt

    Saute the shallot and garlic for just about 2 minutes, add the balsamic vinegar to pan, turn off the heat and let steep for about 20 minutes.

    Whisk in the fig jam, parsley, salt and pepper. Add in the olive oil, use as much as needed until desired thickness is reached. Serve warm.

    Crown Roast of Pork with Bacon Apple Stuffing

    1 crown roast of Pork, mine was roughly 8 lbs
    4 tbls dried rosemary
    4 tbls dried thyme
    2 tbls garlic powder
    2 tbls seasoning salt
    2 tbls dried oregano
    olive oil

    Have your butcher ready the pork for you; they will tie it up and put cute little 'crowns' on the tops of the bones (keeping your crown theme going!)  Combine all the seasonings in a bowl and then rub all sides of the pork (inside the crown and out) with the seasonings. Cover and set in fridge to marinate.

    Remove the pork from the fridge 30 minutes before placing it in the oven to allow it to come to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375 degrees, stuff the center of the pork with the bacon apple stuffing, drizzle the pork with olive oil, cover the crown and stuffing with tin foil and place in the oven. Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan.

    About 2 1/2 hours later, remove the tin foil. Add a cup or two of water to the bottom of the pan if the bottom of the pan is dry.  Return pork to oven for another hour. Do check the meat thermometer often, remove at 150 degrees. Cover the pork with foil and allow the pork to rest 30 minutes before slices to help keep all the juices inside.

    Simmer remaining juices in the pan with 1-2 cups of white wine, broth or champagne (what ever you have open); you are not making a full gravy but just reducing the broth a little. Taste and add a little salt and paper as needed.

    To serve:  slice the pork between each rib, place on a plate with a scoop of the stuffing and drizzle the whole thing with a few spoons of the broth.

    Apple Bacon Stuffing
    5 slices bacon
    1/2 cup red onions, sliced thin
    1/2 cup yellow onion, sliced thin
    3/4 cups celery, chopped
    1 Tbls rosemary, chopped
    1/4 cup parsley, chopped
    1 green apple, peeled and diced
    1/2 cup apple cider
    4 cups dried bread cubes

    In a large fry pan, cook the bacon just shy of your desired doneness. Remove from the pan and set on paper towels to drain. Remove most of the bacon fat from the pan, but keep about a tablespoon or two.  Add in the onions and celery, cook about 5 minutes tossing often.  Add in the rosemary, parsley and apples and continue to saute for about 5 more minutes. Don't over cook, the stuffing will be in the oven for a few hours too. Remove from heat and cool.  This mixture can be make a day head and placed in the refrigerator.

    Add in the apple cider and bread cubes and stuff in the crown of the pork.  If the stuffing feels really dry, add in more apple cider.  Bake as directed above.

    Click here for the amazing Chocolate Covered Bacon Caramel Popcorn Recipe on Fat and Happy

    Thursday, December 23, 2010

    Chocolate Bacon Caramel Popcorn

    Everything tastes better with bacon. This is a sneak peek at my planned New Years Eve dinner dessert. I wondered if a chocolate covered bacon caramel popcorn was regal enough to serve for with an elegant dinner, then I wondered why the hell I was wondering that? Who wouldn't love it, and besides - who cares?

    I learned something about popcorn today, it does not pop as well using bacon grease in place of oil. My thought was to impart a hint of 'animal fat' flavor in the popcorn, which it did but only half of the kernels would pop. Now we know.

    Rather than cover all the bacon in chocolate, I decided the final recipe needed to include some caramelized bacon as well, it's quite a nice way to highlight the bacon through a range of flavors and textures.

    There are no rules of what an elegant dinner is, so have fun with yours by serving this bacon popcorn, just do it in a pretty dessert dish. There's no reason this Fat and Happy recipe has to be limited to New Years Eve, either!

    Tips and Techniques: The type of bacon you choose will make a difference, choose a quality smokey bacon.  If your bacon is not smoky, add in a few dashes of liquid smoke and black pepper to the bacon while it is cooking.

    Chocolate Covered Bacon Caramel Popcorn

    4-6 six cups popcorn, popped (see below for popcorn recipe)
    1 cup cashews
    10 slices of bacon
    3/4 cup dark chocolate (chips are fine)
    1 Tbls salt, large crystal
    1 cup brown sugar
    1/2 cup light corn syrup
    1/2 cup butter
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/2 tsp vanilla
    1/2 tsp baking soda

    Pop the popcorn, see notes below. Cut each strip of bacon in half lengthwise and the dice it into small pieces.  Fry until crispy and drain on a paper towel. Set aside to cool.

    Have a cookie sheet ready, and either grease the pan or line the pan with parchment paper. Bring the brown sugar, butter, salt and corn syrup to a boil. Don't stir after it reaches a boil, let boil for 2 - 3 minutes. Then add vanilla and baking soda and whisk together vigorously.  Add the cashew and 1/4 cup of bacon tot the caramel pot, stir. Quickly and carefully pour over the popcorn and toss.

    Bake at 250  degrees for roughly one hour. Take the pan out and carefully toss the popcorn every 15 minutes.  After one hour, take a few kernels out, let them cool and taste it to see if the caramel hardens to your liking.  Remove the pan and let the caramel corn cool.

    While the caramel corn is in the oven, cover the bacon in chocolate.  Warm the chocolate until it is melted; toss the remaining bacon into the chocolate and stir. Pour onto a large piece of parchment paper and spread out the bacon as much as possible. Allow the chocolate to cool and harden, chop into smaller pieces if need be. 

    Toss the caramel corn with the chocolate covered bacon. Enjoy!

    Popping Popcorn on the stove:

    1/2 cup popcorn
    2 Tbls oil (I used olive oil)

    Pour the oil into a deep pan that has a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Drop a kernel or two into the oil to test the temperature, the oil is hot enough if the corn is sizzling. If the corn is placed into the oil too early, the kernels will soak up too much oil.

    Add the popcorn into the pot, cover with the lid, shake every so often to keep the kernels from burning. When you start to hear the popping, shake the pot and crack the lid to help moisture escape.  (Some kernels may fly out of the pot, but this will keep the popcorn from getting soggy.)  Lift the pan above the heat and shake, return pot to the heat.  Continue until the popping stops and you don't hear kernels rattling on the bottom. Pour out of the pan and sprinkle with salt.

    Sunday, December 19, 2010

    Fall Spiced Pumpkin Jello Shots

    Jello shots are the new ice cream. Last year I couldn't stop making delectable frozen treats, but now it's all flavored gelatin-ized liquor and I see nothing wrong with this.
    These pumpkin jello shots took a few turns before the final recipe but my motto is to eat your mistakes- so it wasn't all bad. Super spicy with a hearty fall undertow, these are not for the weak at heart; topping with whipped cream is essential to get the full pumpkin pie jello shot effect.

    If you want to really kick the content up on these fall jello shots, run out today and get this alcoholic whipped cream (called Cream). We were shocked at how strong this is! It's an odd product, completely shelf stable. After trying this on the jello shots, our friend ran out and bought a can for a torrid weekend rendezvous...word is that it was well received but the hotel staff may begin to ban it!

    Lame Jello shot flavors blow, get on the fat and happy bandwagon and make it interesting.

    Fall Spiced Pumpkin Jello Shots

    1 cup chai tea
    1/4 cup brown sugar
    1 tbls white sugar
    1 package of unflavored gelatin 
    1/4 cup chilled vanilla vodka
    1/4 cup chilled vodka
    Spice mixture (recipe below)

    In a sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup chai tea and the brown and white sugar until the sugar is melted.  Add in 1/2 tbls of the spice mixture. Remove from heat and sprinkle the gelatin over the tea, whisking to combine.  Let sit for 10 minutes.

    Add the vodka and the remaining tea, stir to combine.  Strain the mixture to capture any undissolved gelatin, then pour into small jello shot cups.

    Refigerate for at least 3 hours. Top with whipped cream before serving.

    Spice Mixture
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 ground clove
    1/2 tsp ground allspice
    pinch of ground nutmeg
    1/8 tsp ground ginger

    Mix the above ingredients in a bowl and set aside until ready to use.

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Holiday Brunch with Chimichurri Strata and Apple Quinoa Salad

    The Thanksgiving meal, the holiday cookies, the tins of popcorn and candy, the work celebrations, the nog and glogg and the weekend parties- we've all been on an eating fest for weeks now and I, for one, am full!

    What if holiday brunch was a chance to have a lighter meal while still being elegant?  I have this theory that you can have a great brunch set up that is tasty and filling yet leaves you comfortable enough that you don't have to unbutton your pants.  Plus, I am a believer that brunch is a merely a vessel for mimosas* and should be a back drop for them.
    *Mimosas in my family are a glass of champagne with the orange juice waved over the top.

    The key to an easy brunch is creating dishes that can be prepared ahead of time. Strata's are one of the easiest breakfast dishes out there and uses simple ingredients.  It's assembled the night before and dropped in the oven in the morning. The quinoa salad and roasted beets carpaccio can be made the day before, and the Ginger Molasses Bread can be made a week prior and frozen until ready to use.

    That means you can start the oven, pour the champagne and open your present without the hassle of a really heavy, daunting meal. Go fat and happy holiday!

    Tips and Techniques:  Add cooked bacon, chorizo or ham to the strata while you are assembling it if you need meat in your meal.

    Holiday Brunch Menu
    Chimichurri Strata (recipe below)
    Apple Pistachio Quinoa Breakfast Salad (recipe below)
    Orange and Roasted Beet Carpaccio (recipe below)
    Ginger Molasses Bread (click here for Ginger Molasses Quick Bread recipe)
    Mimosas (Roasted Pear Bellini or Lychee Bellini)

    Chimichurri Strata

    1/2 cup onions, small diced
    1 small shallot, diced
    1 Tbls olive oil
    6 cups day old bread
    4 eggs
    2 cups milk
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1 cup shredded queso cheese (or cheddar or whatever you have on hand, use more if you want extreme cheesiness)
    1 cup Greek yogurt (or sour cream)
    1 heaping tsp cumin
    juice of 1/2 lime
    salsa (optional)

    Saute the onion and shallots in olive oil until soft, set aside to cool. Cut the day old bread into chunks.  Whisk together the eggs, milk, salt and pepper. Assemble strata by placing a layer of the bread crumbs in a a greased pan (choose a pan slightly smaller than a cake pan, if you have one), spread a layer of the chimichurri sauce over the bread and a layer of the cheese.  Repeat until the ingredients are used up, then pour the egg mixture over the top.

    Mix the yogurt with the cumin and lime juice, set aside or keep in the refrigerator until ready to serve the strata

    Use a large spoon to push the bread pieces down a bit. Cover the strata with tin foil and place in the refrigerator over night.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees, cook the strata about 45 minutes or until the middle is puffed up and set. Serve with the cumin yogurt and salsa (optional).

    Chimichurri Sauce
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1/4 cup red wine vinegar
    1 large shallot
    1/2 cup parsley, chopped fine
    4 cloves garlic
    1 tsp salt
    1 Tbls oregano, chopped fine
    pinch of salt, black pepper and red pepper
    juice of 1/2 lime

    Using a fork, smash the garlic cloves into the salt.  Mix all ingredients together and let sit for 1 hour before using.

    Apple Pistachio Quinoa Salad

    1 cup Quinoa
    1 garlic clove
    1/2 tsp salt
    1 - 8 oz can of pineapple slices, with juice
    1 tsp Dijon mustard
    1 Tbls red wine vinegar
    2 Tbls olive oil
    1 Tbls fresh oregano
    1 apple
    1/2 cup pistachios
    1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

    Cook the quinoa according to package directions; essentially you will cook the quinoa in the same manner as rice, so simmer the quinoa with 2 cups of water for about 15 minutes or until tender with a tight lid on the pot.

    In the meantime, using a fork smash the garlic clove with the salt until it forms a paste; place the paste in a small quart jar that can be sealed with a lid.  Add the juice from the pineapple can (should be about 1 cup), the mustard, red wine vinegar, olive oil and fresh oregano, close the lid and shake well. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to taste.

    Cut the pineapple and apple into small chunks and add to the quinoa when it is finished cooking.  Pour the dressing over the quinoa while it is still warm and toss well. Top with the pistachios and pomegranate seeds before serving. This can be served warm or room temperature, you can make a day ahead to help save time the morning of your brunch.

    Orange and Roasted Beet Carpaccio 

    2 oranges
    2 beets
    Fresh tarragon or thyme
    1 Tbls olive oil
    1 Tbls honey

    Cut the skin off of one of the beets and slice half of the beet as thin as possible, this is going to be easiest with a mandolin. Wrap the remaining 1/2 beet and the full beet in tin foil and roast in a 400 degree oven for about 45 minutes or until the beets are fork-tender. When the beets are done remove from the tin foil and allow them to cool slightly then peel off the outside skin.

    While the beets are in the oven, dice the raw beet slices into the smallest dices you can.  Set aside in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and the tarragon (or thyme).

    Use a small knife to cut the outer orange peel off of the orange, be sure to remove all of the white pith. Using a mandolin (or use a sharp knife and cut by hand), slice the oranges and the beets as thin as possible. Layer the slices on a platter.

    Drizzle with the olive oil and the honey, then scatter the raw beets across the top. Serve at room temperature.

    Wednesday, December 15, 2010

    Ginger Molasses Quick Bread

    Gingerbread houses are a staple this time of year, but you don't really get to eat them, it's not fair. So I decided to create Ginger Molasses Quick Bread, similar to a banana or pumpkin bread, but this certainly has it's the holiday depth of a house baked right in.

    This bread was designed more as part of a holiday brunch or meal rather than a dessert so it is ever so slightly savory and not overly sweet, but a scoop of ice cream or even fresh whipped cream on top of a warm piece of the ginger bread would be scrumptious! Or toasted with a little warm butter would be a great snack!

    Trash the house and add something edible to your holiday baking with a yummy and warm Fat and Happy Ginger Molasses Quick Bread.

    Tips and techniques: Watch this closely and take it out of the oven immediately to avoid over baking, which will turn the bread dry. Do drizzle the glaze on the bread while it is still warm to allow it seep into the bread.

    Ginger Molasses Quick Bread

    2 cups flour
    1 tsp ginger
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground clove
    1/2 tsp black pepper
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp baking powder
    2 eggs
    3/4 cup sugar
    3/4 cup vegetable oil
    1/2 cup molasses
    3 Tbls butter, melted
    1/4 cup finely diced candied ginger
    Cinnamon Glaze (recipe below)

    Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Sift together all the dry ingredients.  Whisk together the eggs and sugar until the eggs are pale, fluffy and double in size. Continue to whisk while slowly drizzling in the oil and then add in the molasses and the melted butter. Using a rubber spatula, fold the flour into the batter in three batches, add the candied ginger with the last batch of flour. Only mix the dough enough so that everything is moistened.

    Pour the batter into 2 greased bread pans (or 4 mini bread pans), tap the pans on the counter to release any air bubbles. Bake for 50 minutes or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Mix the cinnamon glaze (recipe below) while the bread is baking.

    Remove the bread from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes in the pan. Remove the breads from the pans and set on a cooling rack with wax paper below the racks to catch any glaze that drips off the bread.  Drizzle the glaze on the breads immediately while the glaze and breads are warm. Enjoy

    Cinnamon Glaze
    2 Tbls melted butter
    2 Tbls milk, warmed
    1/2 cup powder sugar
    1/4 tsp cinnamon

    Melt the butter and whisk in the milk, powder sugar and cinnamon.  Keep warm until ready to use.

    Saturday, December 11, 2010

    Mexican Hot Chocolate Square, a Holiday Gift Idea

    It's that time of year again where you are expected to brilliantly come up with amazing gifts for friends, coworkers, book club members, the chiropractor, your kids teachers and the doorman all for under a few bucks each.  Thanks to pressure from the retailers, 'it's the thought that counts' doesn't cut it anymore.  So what are you going to do?

    My gift to you is this Mexican hot chocolate square idea.  It's essentially a little ball/square/cutout (or whatever shape you decided to make) of chocolate that will melt into a cup of warm cream for one of the best cups of hot chocolate ever. The hint of cinnamon and red pepper add a nice depth that wakes up all the senses. You could take this one step farther and add homemade marshmallows, but it's not necessary and is a bit more work.

    Stop stressing over the little presents, make these Fat and happy holiday hot chocolate treats that are delicious, easy to make and easy on the pocket book; or you could just buy everyone a lottery ticket and hope they share the winnings with you. At least you can make a cocoa ball for yourself!

    Tips and techniques:  Design a simple flag or card to attach to the treats with a ribbon that tells the gift receiver how to store and use the hot chocolate squares. Come up with your own name and directions for these cocoa balls, or use my example below.

    Mexican Holiday Hot Chocolate Squares

    3 Tbls sugar
    1/4 cup cream
    1 tsp vanilla
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/8 tsp ground red pepper
    2 tsp cocoa
    4 oz bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces (I prefer Ghiradelli but you can use just milk or dark chocolate chips as well)

    Packaging Supplies:
    wooden stir sticks
    Parchment paper, colored cellophane or clear plastic bags

    Heat the cream with the sugar, cocoa, cinnamon, red pepper and vanilla until steaming but just below boiling. Whisk all the ingredients together well. Pour the steaming cream over the chocolate pieces in a heat proof bowl, let it sit for a few minutes while the cream melts the chocolate and  then stir it all together; the mixture will be thick.

    Pour the mixture into a parchment or wax paper lined pan (for just one recipe try a mini bread pan) and set in the refrigerator until the mixture is set, about 2 hours. 

    Cut the chocolate into squares, scoop them into balls or use a holiday cookie cutter to form them. We prefer a super chocolaty cup of cocoa so I only cut 4 squares out of this; but you can get 6 squares if you prefer to eek out a few more gifts.  Push wooden stir sticks into them, wrap them in parchment paper or in a plastic lollipop bag (can be purchased at Michael's Craft Store), then tie them up with a ribbon and the directions card. Voila!
    Recipe makes 4 - 6

    For the directions card:  Heat 8 oz of milk, cream or coffee, add the hot chocolate ball and stir until dissolved. Enjoy. For a real Holiday kick, add in 1 ounce of tequila.
    Note: cocoa balls are shelf stable for up to a week or frozen for up to a month.

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Apple Caraway Spaetzle

    Recently during an annual pilgrimage to Lincoln Square in Chicago for German food and boots of beer, we were disappointed to find our spaetzle looking like a bowl of spaghetti.  It's funny how much memory, expectation and recognition plays a part in taste. 

    To be fair, making spaetzle the traditional way (with a board and pastry cutter) takes a nimble German grandmother and the patience of a saint; of which I am neither. Of course, you can purchase a 'spaetzle maker' which is basically a German-engineered Grandma,  but you won't be able to use this item for anything else.  As much as I like gadgets - this is not a practical purchase for most, even if it is only ten bucks.

    So then, how to make spaetzle sans tradition... but so it's easy and yet it still resembles spaetzle?  I have two options for you below- a colander or a potato ricer. The actual dough itself is a breeze (flour, eggs and milk), it's like pasta only easier.

    Don your alpine feather hat, fill your boot with beer, and belly with spaetzle - it's Fat and Happy German style

    Tips and Techniques: I love a big bowl of spaetzle by itself, but it does pair nicely with sausage, pork and chicken.

    Apple Caraway Spaetzle

    1 cup flour
    pinch of ground nutmeg
    1/2 tsp salt
    fresh black pepper
    2 eggs
    1/4 milk
    1 tsp caraway seeds, smashed
    3 Tbls apple cider (or juice)
    2 Tbls butter, (one Tbls should be melted)
    small handful of chopped parsley or chives (2-3 Tbls)

    Place the flour, nutmeg, salt and pepper in a bowl, toss lightly with a fork. Add the eggs and milk. Stir with a fork just enough to moisten and combine everything. Add in the one tablespoon of melted butter, stir. Set the mixture aside for 15 minutes. In the meantime, bring a pot of water to a boil and smash the caraway seeds either using a mortal and pestle or a rolling pin.

    Using a colander: Place a small scoop of the spaetzle dough in the colander, hold the colander over the boiling water and push the dough through the holes using a flexible scraper or spatula. The spaetzle will float in a just a minute- remove them from the water using a slotted spoon before reloading the colander, repeat until the dough is used up. 

    Using a potato ricer: Place a scoop of the spaetzle dough in the potato ricer, hold the ricer over the boiling water and begin pushing the dough through the holes. Use a knife to slice the spaetzle off from the ricer.The spaetzle will float in a just a minute- remove them from the water before reloading the ricer, repeat until the dough is used up.

    Drain the spaetzle on a clean kitchen towel for a minute, this will help remove some of the water so they can brown quicker.  Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of butter in a fry pan with the crushed caraway seeds until hot and bubbly (but do not brown the butter) over medium high heat, add in the spaetzle.  Cook about 5 minutes and toss a few times so some of the spaetzle begin to brown.

    Add in the apple cider, simmer for a minute to warm the cider.  Pour into a serving bowl and top with the chopped parsley or chives.


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