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Archive for the ‘Holiday’ Category

**So I’ve been very busy the past few months and realized I haven’t updated in a loooong time.  This is evidence of that.  I found a draft I never finished.  Instead of posting the recipes (since they’re not at all healthy) I’m just going to post it as a brag about how awesome B is.  If you’re interested in any of the specific recipes let me know and I’ll post them.**

B has always been very lucky in terms of Valentine’s Day obligations: he only has to say “Happy Valentine’s Day.”  This is because my birthday is only two days prior so we usually have a nice dinner out, etc. that day.  This is also because the first year we were dating, we decided to celebrate this holiday with a dinner out at a nice Italian restaurant in Chambersburg (a neighborhood in Trenton, NJ).  Reservations for 2 at 7:30pm, check.  We arrived and the place was wall to wall people.  It was like being in a hot bar at midnight (I am not an anchovy in a can!).  We also didn’t get seated until 8:30pm.  This was the beginning of the end of our Valentine’s Day celebrations.  Six years later, B decides that he wants to make me a feast for Valentine’s Day.  Let me tell you, he puts me to shame.  What follows are  the meals and pictures associated with said feast.   This is definitely not a diet friendly meal but worked for me since I’m in maintenance now.  Adjustments could be made for the sake of making the dish healthier (reduce butter, replace with something else) but I would be you would really lose something in terms of taste.  As the main reviewer of this meal, I can say that it made me think B needs a new career as a stay at home husband/personal chef.

Course 1: Arugula Salad with Broiled Goat Cheese and Crostini

Course 2: Seared Sea Scallops and Brown Butter Lobster Risotto

Course 3: Chocolate Souffle with Strawberry Sauce and Whipped Mascarpone Cream

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As part of New Year’s Eve and day, B and I have a tradition to eat extremely decadent food to end and start the year on a good note.  For New Year’s Eve day, we made: Parmesan crusted goat cheese ball with basil oil (I didn’t strain the oil like she did in this recipe though); an arugula salad with cherries, gouda, and pralines with a dijon mustard dressing; and lobster ravioli (we used the fake lobster instead of steaming and cleaning them).  It started out as being a dinner I was going to make for B, but given my terrible time management, it ended up mostly a dinner made by B for me.  The goat cheese was great, nice and light and a good way to start the meal.

The arugula salad was also great.  The sweetness of the pralines and cherries with the sharpness of the gouda and dressing was great.  We actually used two types of gouda since I had gone to our local supermarket and B had gone to Whole Foods to get some herbs they didn’t have at the other supermarket.  We used smoked gouda (I got that) and a very aged gouda (B got that).  The aged gouda was different from anything I had ever seen; it was a hard cheese and was very similar to Parmesan. It was, however, absolutely delicious (but I’m a cheese girl).

The ravioli was the biggest endeavor.  We made the dough from scratch and rolled it out.  We tried to use our ravioli attachment but, alas, that was not meant to be.  For some reason we just cannot make ravioli.  They either don’t come out filled enough, get stuck in the machine, or are just off.  One of these days we’ll learn the trick.

For New Years day we planned to eat french onion soup and beer steamed mussels.  I spent most of the day curled in the fetal position on the couch due to the champagne and beer imbibed the night before so B enjoyed the soup day of (I had made it ahead of time) and made the mussels for us (I helped a bit since I had become more human by that point).  I calculated the Weight Watchers Points Plus for the soup; it made seven servings and were 3 PP per serving without the bread and gruyère cheese.

B said that this mussels recipe was the best we had made to this point.  We have previously made a fennel recipe and the standard one with white wine.  This was the first time we did it with beer.  The mussel’s recipe was built off of something online that we had found that I cannot find now (go figure).  It was very simple.  We basically did garlic, onion, chopped tomato, and beer to taste.  We also added some thyme since we had it leftover from the lobster ravioli.  We figured, its mussels, you can’t really go wrong.

All in all, a good end to 2011 and beginning to 2012, which will be very, very eventful for both B and I.

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On New Years Eve, I was looking for something sweet and delicious and alcoholic.  If there’s one thing that’s pretty standard for our house is that there’s a plethora of bourbon and scotch but not so much for the “sweet” alcoholic beverage concoctions.  I came across this recipe and decided to change it up based on what we had in our place.

Jen’s Dirty Grasshopper
1 serving, (100% not Weight Watchers Friendly, I think it’s around 12 PP)

1.5 oz Smirnoff vodka (or any equivalent type)
1 oz creme de menthe
1 oz Kahlua coffee liqueur
fill with non-fat milk

Pour vodka, creme de menthe, and kahlua in a glass over ice. Add milk to fill. Garnish with whatever you’d like, and serve.

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I’ll start by saying this is 100% not Weight Watchers friendly.  I don’t think I mentioned, but before the holidays I finally achieved lifetime status (yay me!) after hitting my goal back in October (it took so long to hit lifetime because there was a few weeks in October I couldn’t make it to weigh in).  That combined with a medicine that I’m on that is making me lose too much weight (where were you this time last year crazy medicine!) I was/am not highly cognizant of the points values of the food I was ingesting between December 17 and 31st.  But everyone deserves a treat now and then, so I hope that you enjoy if you are following WW.  In terms of the recipe itself, I followed it basically to the letter because I had never, ever made waffles from scratch before.  For the eggnog sauce, I used the low-fat eggnog I had made previously and reduced the amount of butter and sugar that was originally in the recipe.  I made a half serving of the sauce and only used 2 tbsp butter and 2 tbsp sugar.  The recipe, as written for a half serving, called for 1/4 cup of butter and 1/2 cup sugar.  I’ve adjusted the measurements below from my scale down.  If you’re looking to make a full portion for the source recipe, 1/2 cup of butter should replace 1/4 cup of butter and 1 cup of sugar should replace 1/4 cup of sugar.

Gingerbread Waffles
(Sources: Annie’s Eats and Dine & Dish)
Made 6 Waffles

Ingredients:
2 cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. salt
1½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. grated nutmeg
¼ tsp. ground cloves
4 large eggs
6 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup milk
½ cup low-fat sour cream
3 tbsp. molasses

Directions:
In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.  Whisk to blend.  In a medium bowl, combine the eggs, butter, milk, sour cream and molasses and whisk to blend well.  Add the wet ingredients to the bowl with the dry ingredients and whisk to combine until all the dry ingredients are incorporated.

Preheat a waffle iron.  Fill waffle wells and cook according to the manufacturer’s instructions.  Cook until crisp and golden.  Serve immediately.

Eggnog Syrup
About 6 Servings

Ingredients
1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 c. eggnog
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Directions
Melt butter in a medium-sized sauce pan over medium-low heat. Mix in sugar until well combined, then mix in the eggnog and bring heat up to medium-high heat. Whisk continually until mixture comes to a boil, remove from heat

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So I love me some eggnog.   Unfortunately, I think it has to be up there with everything on the “this is why you’re fat” website.  So I searched for a “better” alternative.  Unfortunately, everything in the store that has the “light” label on it was also not really acceptable.  When nothing in the store satisfies, make it yourself, I always say.  I found this recipe on the Food Network’s website.  It originally called for vanilla bean, which I could not (and didn’t really have the patience to) find.  I thought it came out pretty good, B thought it was a little orange-y tasting for his tastes and as a replication of the out of carton version of eggnog.  When I make in the future (that is, tonight to enjoy with some bourbon) I’m going to use less orange peel.  Enjoy!

Low-Fat Eggnog (Adapted from Food Network)
6 servings (1/2 cup), 3 Weight Watchers Points Plus per serving

2 cups nonfat milk
2 large strips orange zest
1 large strip of lemon zest
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cornstarch

Bourbon (optional)
Freshly grated nutmeg, for garnish

Directions

Combine 1 1/2 cups milk and the citrus zest in a medium saucepan. Add the vanilla extract to the saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs, egg yolk, sugar and cornstarch in a medium bowl until light yellow.

Gradually pour the hot milk mixture into the egg mixture, whisking constantly, then pour back into the pan. Place over medium heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon in a figure-eight motion until the eggnog begins to thicken, about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and immediately stir in the remaining 1/2 cup milk to stop the cooking. Transfer the eggnog to a large bowl and place over a larger bowl of ice to cool, then chill until ready to serve.

Remove the orange and lemon zest and and strain into pitcher and/or glasses. Spike the eggnog with bourbon (or white rum if preferred), if desired, and garnish with nutmeg.

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Holiday Biscotti!

For Christmas this year I decided to try my hand again at biscotti.  I had tried to make pumpkin pie and anise ones for Thanksgiving but they did not turn out as well as I would have hoped.  This time around they were much more biscotti-like (which was good because I was giving them as gifts).  I made two different types: anise biscotti adapted from this recipe and a holiday biscotti adapted from a Giada de Laurentis recipe.  The one big problem I found was that the holiday biscotti recipe was simply too wet to form into good logs.  As a result, I used a combination of methods: I added more flour and kneaded by hand and also refrigerated the dough to try to get it to be more malleable. Also, B suggested that the anise biscotti could be more “anisey” so if you like that flavor increase the anise seed/extract in the recipe.

Holiday Biscotti
This recipe made around 60 biscotti cookies (I can’t remember the exact number)

4 cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cup white sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
2 tsp grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cup dried Craisin cherries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line a heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Whisk the flour and baking powder in a medium bowl to blend. Using an electric mixer (I used my stand mixer), beat the sugar, butter, lemon zest, and salt in a large bowl to blend. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time. Add the flour mixture and beat just until blended. Stir in cherries.

Form the dough  into a 13-inch long, 3-inch wide log on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until light golden, about 40 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Place the log on the cutting board. Using a sharp serrated knife, cut the log on a diagonal into 1/2 to 3/4-inch-thick slices. Arrange the biscotti, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake the biscotti until they are pale golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer the biscotti to a rack and cool completely.

Anise Biscotti
This recipe made around 60 biscotti cookies (I can’t remember the exact number)

12 oz (3 sticks) butter
1 3/4 cups white sugar
6 eggs
1 tsp anise extract
2 tsp anise seeds
2 tsp vanilla extract
6 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F ( 165 degrees C ).

In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugar together. Add eggs one at a time; beat until fluffy. Stir in the anise seed, anise extract, and vanilla extract. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt; Add them to the egg mixture. Stir with a spoon and as the dough comes together, Knead by hand.

Divide the dough into 4 parts. Roll each piece into a log about 15 inches long. Place logs onto cookie sheets, 2 to a sheet, the long way. Flatten the logs out until they are about 3 inches wide with a slight hump going down the middle. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes in the preheated oven, loaves should be firm. Cut the loaves into diagonal slices 1/2 inch wide, place the slices onto the cookie sheets and return to the oven. Toast on one side, then turn them over to do the other side. This will take about 5 to 15 minutes on each side depending on how crisp you want the biscotti.

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Holiday Season…

So I have a lot of baking/cooking planned for the next few days but I haven’t done much in the past few weeks (beyond my go-to dish for B’s family’s Italian feast – layered taco dip.  Which I’ve never shared and probably won’t because I don’t want the family to see how easy it is and potentially think I’m less awesome.)  Here is a list of things planned (links and posts forthcoming):

Anise Biscotti
Holiday Biscotti (Adapted from: Giada de Laurentis)
Eggnog Cupcakes (Adapted from: Annie’s Eats and Food Network)
Gingerbread Cupcakes (Adapted from: Emeril Lagasse)
Mini Chocolate Cupcakes with peppermint icing
Brie en croute
Fancy Grownup Mac and Cheese (Adapted from: Pioneer Woman)

Hopefully these will be successes and not flops.  That remains to be seen!

Happy Holidays to whoever reads this (hi mom!).  I’m off to make potato latkes (with matzoh meal and not flour, of course)!

Margot has the holiday spirit!

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