Holiday Brittle

Over the weekend I was watching the Cooking Channel and Giada was making a super easy Brittle. I decided to make one myself, and added Cranberries and White Chocolate for a holiday look. I call these Harvest or Holiday Brittle.

I have to say that they are SUPER sweet, and my kids have requested that next time I take out the White Chocolate Chips. So what I’m doing with this batch is decorating with them. They last forever, and look so pretty in an antique bowl, cup, or as a centerpiece. It’s really more art than food. Let me know what you put in your brittle, and I would love for you to upload a photo on my Facebook Page!

HOLIDAY BRITTLE INGREDIENTS

Spray a half size sheet pan with cooking spray so the brittle won’t stick.

  • 1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
  • 1/2 cup diced apricot
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 3 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • Splash of vanilla extract

METHOD

Mix the water, sugar and vanilla extract together in a pot, and set over medium heat.

Hint* Once the sugar and water are thoroughly mixed, do not keep stirring or else the mixture will not caramelize.

Using a pastry brush and a dish of water, dip the brush in the water and scrape down the sides of the pot so the sugar crystals that form can slide down and continue to blend with the mixture. Otherwise you will get large chunks of sugar when you pour the mixture over the ingredients.

Now mix together the almonds, chocolate chips apricots and cranberries. Dump everything out onto the sheet pan and spread everything out.

The sugar and water mixture will take about 15 minutes to caramelize. Keep a watchful eye on it after 10 minutes, because it will start to turn golden brown fairly quickly and you don’t want the brittle to taste burned.

Pour the sugar mixture right onto the sheet pan over all of the other ingredients, and let it sit for 2 hours. Break it up when you are done and taste. The pieces are fun to play with. It’s a great kid craft too.

Pickled Baby Veggies Crudite

I’m having an event next week, and I’m going to serve these beautiful pickled veggies via Martha Stewart Weddings. Super easy to do!

Mango Fig Clafouti {Recipe}

This is such a easy dessert to prepare and bake, I’m not sure why I don’t do it more often. You can add whatever you have on hand, or whatever is in season.

For this recipe, I chose to combine Mangos and Figs. Figs are one of those beautiful foods I’m trying to get to know, like a new friendship or first date. I’m slightly obsessed with manipulating them into something my family will eat, and enjoy, not just tolerate. I have to confess that this dessert didn’t do the trick, but I enjoyed combining these two flavors, and will probably do it again in a different way: Roasted Figs wrapped in Prosciutto with Mango Chutney. I haven’t made this yet, but it is on queue.

Mango Fig Clafouti (respectfully adapted from Barefoot Contessa’s Pear Clafouti in Barefoot in Paris Pg. 186)

  • 1 Tb. unsalted room-temperature butter
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 Tb. granulated sugar
  • 3 large room-temperature eggs
  • 6 Tb. flour
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 Tb. Grand Marnier
  • 1 large mango (cut into slices or chunks) or 2 medium
  • 6 large or 12 small black mission figs

Alert* Make sure to plan ahead. You will have to roast the figs first

Method for Figs

Take each fig and slice in half lengthwise, making sure to cut off the stem. Roast for 20 minutes in a 375 degree oven. Set aside.

Preparing the Dish

If you have a round pie dish, use that. I just used my basic round dish, but it didn’t have the fancy rim, which I like for entertaining. Butter the bottom and sides with the 1 Tb. of butter, then sprinkle with the extra 1 Tb. of sugar to ensure that the clafouti doesn’t stick.

Method for Fruit

Peel and process the mango to your liking. Traditionally, you are supposed to arrange the fruit in a fan-like design at the bottom of the prepared dish, but I think you can do bite size pieces if you want to. Take each fig, cut side down, and make thin slices (probably in thirds), arrange them in the bottom of the dish randomly around the mango. Set aside.

Method for the Batter

In a blender, mix eggs and 1/3 cup sugar together until well incorporated. Then add the rest of the ingredients, and blend until smooth. Set aside for 10 minutes just to let it rest.

Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Pour the batter over the prepared fruit in the baking dish. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.

You can sprinkle with confectioners sugar and serve heated!

Try: Pear, Cherry, Apple

Cinnamon Crunch Chicken

Today’s French Fridays with Dorie was one of my favorites. Forget 30-minute meals, this one took half as much time. It was also easy and allowed me to do the two things I try to do each week: 1) Do one small thing (make myself lunch) 2) Try something new (combine Chicken with Creme Fraiche).

Creme Fraiche

It’s a French cultured cream with a consistency like sour cream or yogurt with a better flavor and the ability to be heated without curdling. You can use it to thicken soup, put atop Potatoes with a dollop of Caviar, flavor Beef Stroganoff, and mix with Cinnamon flavored cookies and Chicken like I did for this week’s recipe.

The Recipe

I wish I could give you the recipe, but as part of the French Fridays with Dorie online cooking group, I can only encourage you to join by registering here http://www.frenchfridayswithdorie.com. Please do, it will be so fun to do together.

What I Will Do Differently Next Time

~I will use Butter instead of oil, and measure the porportion of Butter to Chicken to make a better sauce

~ I will use a smaller non-stick pan if I’m only going to 1 breast like I did for my lunch

~ Instead of strips I will probably cut them into chunks

I paired this recipe with the recommended Lemon Steamed Spinach for a tasty lunch. And the Cinnamon cookies added an unexpected flavor profile to the Chicken. I might try to bake it next time. Can’t wait.

Picky Palate Blondies (Brownies)

I can’t take credit for your desire to have a brownie right now. I followed a recipe from one of my favorite food blogs called Picky Palate.

The Picky Palate has a blog filled with original recipes she has developed for her family. Her step by step instructions made it easy to try a new recipe. I’m always trying to find something fun my kids will snack on, and when I saw the original recipe for these blondies (brownies), I couldn’t resist.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the Biscoff called for in the recipe. I’m going to order it though, and try the recipe the right way. I also had the wrong color chips…that is, brown instead of white, hence mine being called brownies instead of blondies.

I substituted Nutella (we are mildly obsessed in our house) for the Biscoff, and chocolate chips for the white.

What I want to note is the method. I love when a method for cooking a recipe is right on. Even though I had to make substitutions, these brownies came out delicious. They were quick to prepare, and the clean-up was something I did during baking time, while sipping a cup of coffee.

You can try these blondies or brownies for yourself by clicking the link above to Picky Palate. You will not be disappointed. I would save one for yourself though, hidden where only you can find it, because these will go fast.

Knickerbocker Glory

I was blessed to have breakfast in bed this morning via my two beautiful daughters, so in thanks I decided to let them have ice cream for lunch, along with other fixings for Knickerbocker Glory.

We found this recipe on page 35 of Gordon Ramsay’s Family Fare. One of my daughter’s has an affinity for sweets, and when she happened upon this page, she let out a squeal of delight.

Essentially it is just a collage of fruit chopped the way you like it, with vanilla ice cream, and crushed Amaretti cookies on top. We got the special cookies double-wrapped for freshness, but next time, I’ll just use almond cookies, or even crushed almonds.

The fun part of this recipe was manipulating the Cherries. I went to the liquor store and purchased, for the first time ever, Kirschwasser, a Cherry Liqueur.

Basically you pit the cherries, halve them, toss them into a pan with the Kirsch and Sugar, and light it on fire. This then gets tossed with the other fruit after it cools.

I don’t have permission to print the exact recipe here, but you get the idea. It’s a simple way to enjoy the last days of summer. Try it!

Cherries Cliche’

If life really is like a bowl of Cherries, than why aren’t there any that smell like dirty laundry and refrigerator science projects, and taste of damp rain and  burnt Crostini- a frequent aroma in my house?

I do appreciate the cliche’ of choices: there are so many, when one door closes another door opens, when one window shuts…well, then…you know what I mean.

So, even though my family and I just love diving into a bowl of Cherries just for the sake of enjoying them in their natural form, I will remember that sitting down to enjoy these baubles from Heaven together, is the best choice of all.

Berries, Basil, Booze and BBQ

I just got this delightful assortment of Berries from my local farmer’s market in Snohomish, WA. This is Berry season and there are so many things you can do with this delectable treat, besides eat them straightaway out of the container.

1) Last week, I made a Simple Syrup of Berries and Basil to make homemade soda. You could really detect the hint of Basil, and I for one, loved it.

2) I don’t think your guests would be offended to find an assortment of Berries in the bottom of a tumbler carrying Sparkling Wine or even a Pinot Grigio.

3) On Friday we are having neighbors over for a BBQ, and I’m going to baste our organic Chicken from Firsthand Food in a Berry Medley that has been mascerated and reduced into a nice sauce.

How will you use your Berries this season? Don’t miss out. They only come around once a year, fresh and off the vine. Enjoy!

The Elegance of Parsley

Back in the 1980′s Dallas was a popular television show about a big oil family in the state of Texas. I grew up in a family who loved watching this show, and so on Friday nights, everything stopped like a traffic jam on I-5 at precisely 8 pm.

All I remember is big hair, southern accents and a lot of drama centered around Larry Hagman. I remember wondering if life was really like that in Texas. I still wonder, only having flown in and out of the airport on my way to some other locale.

My world at that time was centered around rainbows, horses and Ricky Shroeder (you might remember him from the sitcom Silver Spoons). And so when my parents told me that we were going to a local equestrian center for an event, and that famous actors would be there, including the cast of Dallas, and The Rickster, I was thrilled to go.

The memory of this day came back to me as I was harvesting Parsley. I couldn’t help admiring the way the stems swayed in the gentle breeze. For some reason they modeled a stylish elegance which reminded me of that day long ago at the equestrian center.

We had seats on bleachers with handrails seperating the walkway where the stars made their way down to the VIP area. People were holding out their hands for a covetous handshake, asking for pictures, and shouting out the names of their favorite actors.

I can’t remember with what kind of force she shook my hand, surely gentle as only a lady will do, but as she let go and continued down the red carpet, I looked at my hand where Eva Gabor left a dusting of glittery talcum powder. I’m sure this is how I first became a glitter monger…glitter dust from the elegant Eva Gabor.

And so when harvesting Parsley, I remember the past, and glitter, and elegance and how I vowed never to wash my cheek because, I fogot to mention, The Rickster kissed me there after he took a photograph with me.

I’ve since grown up and have washed my cheek a zillion times. I use glitter at every opportunity, and love being inspired by food to remind me of the past, ponder the future, and marinate in the moment.

My advice to you today is to go out and make a memory. It might come back to you in thirty years, like a soft peck on the cheek or an elegant sprinkling of stardust.

A Garden Wedding

Here are just a few pictures I took at my cousin’s wedding last weekend. It was a wonderful, sunny and nostalgic night and the stuff dreams are made of.  The chairs just looked like old friends. The donuts replaced the traditional wedding cake, and were so much fun. The “Wishing Jar” was a neat idea. What would you wish newlyweds? Enjoy!

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