Friday, December 30, 2011

Cranberry and Blue Cheese Crostini

I hope you’ve been enjoying the holidays and have found some time to relax a little. We’ve been on the road between homes and are back in sunny Florida where we’ll ring in the new year.

Our condo is having a little festive get-together around the pool for New Years Eve and I plan to take a Cranberry and Blue Cheese Crostini as an appetizer. The recipe is inspired by my friend Jann of Traveling Food Lady who recently featured a Honey Rosemary Cherry and Blue Cheese Crostini. Jann owns a touring company in Italy & France and has a wonderful blog. She recently took a group of ladies on a fabulous trip where they stayed in four star hotels and spent their time shopping, doing food and wine tastings (among other things) in the hill top villages all over Tuscany. Sounds like a dream trip doesn’t it?

I took Jann’s crostini idea and replaced her cherry mixture with my winey French cranberry sauce, and voila, a super easy holiday appetizer.

You could also serve the crostini as a chic little first course to a grander meal.  My French cranberry sauce recipe has appeared several times on my blog and all you need to complete the recipe is to toast some slices of a crusty French baguette, top the toast with fresh arugula, then a dab of cranberry sauce, and finish with a slice of good blue cheese and a crank of freshly ground black pepper. A little more cranberry sauce doesn't hurt on top either. For a festive touch, garnish with a sprig of holly from your garden or the florist.

I hope 2012 brings each of you good health, much happiness, and lots of delicious food. This year, as always, I will be making the same two New Year’s resolutions I make every year:

1 – Remember to think before speaking. Feelings are everywhere – be gentle.
2 – Do not eat anything in the kitchen while standing up. (Excludes tasting while I cook of course!)

Happy 2012 everyone. I’m curious - do you make new years’ resolutions or do you say forget it, they’re not worth it?

From the archives  - Ideas on how to Ring in the New Year with Good Luck

I will be linking this recipe to Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

There’s no place like home for the holidays

There’s no place like home for the holidays. Season's greetings to you and your family from the beautiful mountains of North Carolina where pretty rural stone barns on farms such as this one all decked out for Christmas still dot the landscape.

Merry Christmas

Joyeux Noël

Felix Navidad

Froehliche Weihnachten

Buone Feste Natalizie

Happy Hanukkah

From My Carolina Kitchen 
Sam & Meakin 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Clementine Galette

Clementines are a cute little type of mandarin oranges that were developed in Spain. They are seen in markets from November until March. Although they are grown in other places, I believe the ones from Spain are the most flavorful.

The first time I tasted a Clementine I was in line at a check-out counter in a supermarket at Christmas time. The man behind me had a box of Clementines in his cart. The line in front of me was long and for some reason that I can’t remember now, I turned to him, pointed to the box of little oranges in his cart and asked, “Are those good?”

“You’ve never tried one?” he asked with a surprised look on his face. He turned and, with his fingers, ripped a little hole in the mesh covering the Clementines and took one from the wooden crate and proudly handed it to me. “Try this,” he said. “Clementines are one of my very favorite Christmas fruits and I promise you that you will always remember the first time you tasted a Clementine.”

He was right and since that day every year I look forward with great anticipation to my first sighting of the bright blue boxes with mesh covering the little sweet orange Spanish Clementines around the holiday season. Most of the time we peel them with our fingers as you would a Navel orange and eat the segments out of hand. I especially like them with dark chocolate as a simple dessert. Here I’ve used them in a Galette over tart raspberry jam. I took a short cut and used a purchased pie crust, but homemade would be even better. Next time I’ll put the Clementines a little closer together. As you can see in this close-up below, by the time they finished baking they were further apart than I would have liked.

If you’ve never tasted a Spanish Clementine, give them a try and maybe you too will remember your first taste as fondly as I do. If they are already one of your favorite seasonal fruits, here is just one more way to enjoy them during their short winter season.

Clementine Galette
Adapted from The Fresh Market – Serves 4

4 – 5 Spanish Clementines
1 store-bought pie crust or homemade crust, brought to room temperature
2 tablespoons of a good raspberry jam
2 tablespoons Turbinado sugar, plus more for sprinkling
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the tops and bottoms off of the Clementines and set them on one of the cut surfaces. With a sharp knife, cut the peel and pith off in downward strips around each Clementine to reveal the flesh. Cut into 3 thin slices across the width, making round wheel slices. Remove any seeds. Sprinkle the Clementines with the Turbinado sugar on both sides, taking special care not to allow the slices to fall apart (which they will want to do), and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and unroll pie crust on top of the paper. Spread an even layer of the jam on top, making sure to leave a two-inch border from the edge. Lay the Clementine slices over the top of jam. Fold dough edges over and brush folded dough with the melted butter, then sprinkle the entire galette with more Turbinado sugar. Bake for about 25 – 30 minutes or until crust is golden brown and center is bubbling.

This recipe will be linked to the fabulous Foodie Friday party hosted by Designs by Gollum. Enjoy this stunning live poinsettia tree at the Bell Tower Shops in Fort Myers, Florida.

Apologies for the photos. We don't have our normal computer, but hopefully we'll be back to normal soon.  Who knew you should have a spare.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Start your morning off right with this 3 ingredient Cranberry Maple Syrup

If you are as fond of cranberries as I am, you will love this recipe for cranberry maple syrup. The tartness of the cranberries is offset with the sweetness of the maple syrup, making this a very versatile year-around syrup for pancakes. With only 3 ingredients, it couldn't be more simple.

I actually hoard cranberries in my freezer and use them throughout the year. For this recipe frozen cranberries work just as well as fresh ones. Be sure to use the best quality maple syrup you can find, because the imitation syrup, to my taste, has a faux flavor and not worth using.

I’ve served the syrup over cornmeal pancakes, but use any pancake you like. Wattles would also be delicious. If you are looking for a homemade gift idea, the deep ruby red syrup would be very festive in a pretty glass jar tied with a holiday ribbon.


Cranberry Maple Syrup
Coastal Living Magazine – yield 1 cup

¾ cup pure maple syrup
1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, divided
1 tablespoon unsalted butter

Bring maple syrup and 3/4 cup cranberries to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low, and simmer 3 minutes or until cranberries pop. Crush cranberries in saucepan using a spatula or potato masher. Stir in remaining 1/4 cup cranberries; simmer just until they begin to pop (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat, add butter, and stir until melted. Keeps well covered in the refrigerator.

Cornmeal Pancakes
Adapted from Joy of Cooking – yield twelve 4” cakes

1 cup yellow cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
¾ teaspoon sugar
1 cup boiling water
1 large egg
½ cup milk
2 tablespoons canola oil or other neutral flavored oil
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder

Combine the cornmeal, salt, and sugar in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over the mixture, stir will, cover and set aside for 15 minutes.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, milk, and oil until combined. After 15 minutes, add the cornmeal mixture from above and stir until smooth.

Meanwhile in a small bowl, combine the flour and baking powder. Stir into the hot cornmeal mixture. If the mixture seems a little thick, stir in a bit of milk.

Heat a pancake griddle or 12” lightly oiled skillet until hot. Drop the pancake batter by spoonful’s onto the griddle. When the pancakes begin to bubble in the center and start to dry around the edges, turn and cook until done. The second side takes only about half as long as the first side and never browns as evenly, so serve them first side up.

Remove the cakes from the griddle and keep warm in a pre-heated 200 degree F oven while you make the remaining cakes. Do not stack the cakes or they will become soggy. When all of the pancakes are done, serve immediately.

This recipe will be shared with Foodie Friday at Designs by Gollum and Pink Saturday at How Sweet the Sound.

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas at the Waterside Shops in Naples, Florida. I hope you’ll enjoy this glimpse of the lovely holiday decorations among the swaying palm trees and beautiful water fountains at this very classy, best-in-class shopping destination that features such stores as Nordstrom, Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Salvatore Ferragamo, Guicci, Cartier, De Beers, and Saks Fifth Avenue. Whoever said you can't get in the holiday spirit in sunny Florida hasn't been to the Waterside shops.