New Year's Eve is a perfect time to pop open a bottle of bubbly, but here you can have your cake and drink it too.
The BF and I love our new year's resolutions [Ed. note: I promise to get out and run as soon as I can fit through the door], and January will be a chance to reboot the holiday-sweet mode to eat cleaner and leaner. However, for tonight let's celebrate with this citrus champagne bundt cake. Have it with bubbly when the Times Square Ball drops, or with coffee while you watch parades and football the next morning.
Thank you all for reading, commenting, liking, and spreading the word about the blog! I wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2018.
Adapted from: Tutti Dolci
Number of servings: 12
NOTE: For baking pan, I used this 10-cup Heritage Bundt Pan
Hope everyone had a wonderful holiday!
Traditions are discussed a lot here, and everyone has their must-see Christmas movies. For us, it's not December if we haven't watched Bad Santa, A Christmas Story and holiday-themed episodes of South Park, Family Guy and Aqua Teen Hunger Force. [Ed. note: Grow up? You fool!] This year my BF surprised me and found the 1964 Rankin/Bass Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, which I haven't seen since I was a child.
On Christmas Eve we hosted our annual traditional dinner with a small group of dear friends. In previous years I'd made seafood paella, but this year I veered away from that tradition and made cioppino. Although it was delicious, my guests took a vote and it's back to seafood paella in 2018. (Am not complaining. Note to self: don't mess with tradition.) I also made a delightful sugar-free low-carb peppermint cheesecake, and bought a chocolate layer cake wrapped like a gift, because I didn't think all the guests would go for the sugar-free option. Of course, the sugar-free cheesecake won out (and will certainly be featured in a blog post next year).
Christmas day was gloriously relaxing. For me, a rare day off. Music and movies playing all day, a leisurely breakfast, gifts to open [Ed. note: I got Joker socks and you didn't], taking our chocolate lab Marlowe for a long romp, and a Christmas Story-inspired Chinese take-out dinner of Peking duck and Chinese greens.
The aforementioned "leisurely breakfast" was this gorgeous, colorful, refreshing, jewel-toned citrus salad. Blood oranges and citrus are at their peak right now, so it's the perfect time to make it.
Wishing everyone a happy, healthy and adventure-filled 2018.
NOTE: I cut the sugar amount in half from the original recipe as my preference is to not over-sweeten, but if that's not of your concern, stick with the original recipe. I also added two Cara Cara oranges, which look like regular navel oranges on the outside, but the inside is red-fleshed, juicy and sweet. You can make this one day in advance. Keep chilled.
Number of servings: 8
Adapted from: Gourmet (December 2008)
For the last seven years or so, my BF and I have held a Christmas Eve dinner for some very dear friends. For the first few, a new towering cake would be presented, i.e., spice with eggnog buttercream, chocolate with peppermint chocolate ganache and peppermint buttercream, whiskey soaked dark chocolate bundt, gingerbread roulade with eggnog filling, etc.
Then, this one. Moist, stout-spiked [Ed. note: HELLO], spicy gingerbread and mascarpone whipped cream icing–it has a deep, dark, mysterious flavor, yet tastes surprisingly light. It tastes like Christmas.
For a while I had been making a similar recipe as a gingerbread loaf, but after discovering this layered-cake version (originally adapted from a Claudia Fleming recipe, who created it while she was pastry chef at Gramercy Tavern in New York; then adapted by Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen), I knew the holiday dessert tradition was forever settled. No more auditions.
Wishing you and yours a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!
Number of servings: 8-10
Adapted from: Smitten Kitchen
NOTE: You’ll have up to 1 cup more whipped cream than you’ll need, which I use to frost the outside of the cake (not a fan of "naked" cakes, like the original recipe). If you wish to save the cream, it can stay stable for a couple days due to the added mascarpone. Start the cranberries the night before.
NOTE: Deb Perelman of Smitten Kitchen says, "This recipe makes three thin cake layers. As most of us have two cake pans, at best, you could also make it into two thicker cake layers, giving it a little more baking time. Or, you could do as I did, which is to hold the last bit of batter in a bowl until the first layer comes out and can be unmolded. It holds up just fine at room temperature for an hour."
Whipped mascarpone cream
In grade school, my classmates were jealous because they thought I had eight days of extravagant presents for Hanukkah. Truth be told, in our family, as a kid I received gifts for Hanukkah two, maybe three times total. And when we did, my siblings and I all received the same small gifts. It mattered not, as I remember being so appreciative and excited to get these favors, and waiting to light the candles.
The first year we received presents, I was in the second grade, and this is what we all opened on each night: (1) a pencil in our favorite color and with our name; (2) a comb; (3) rabbit's foot; (4) notepad; (5) paperback book; (6) The Sound Of Music album that we all shared; (7) chocolate Hanukkah gelt; and (8) flavored chapstick. Am not sure why I remember that particular Hanukkah so well, but it's embedded in my brain how thrilled we all were to get a pencil with our name on it!
To me, it's all about tradition. I loved the traditions as a kid, and love continuing the rituals today. My BF and I still light the menorah. He is typically the one to fetch the pillowed box from the shed, and place the menorahs around the house.
For years, family food Hanukkah traditions revolved around some sort of brisket, with latkes always making an appearance during the week. More recently, I've been making all variations of short ribs: chipotle, Moroccan, beer braised, etc.
This red wine braised variant, which I've been making for many years, may very well be the favorite. It's easy to make, meltingly tender and savory. The red wine sauce has exceptional depth and flavor, and I love substituting celeriac (celery root) purée in place of potatoes. (For those of you watching the carbs.)
Number of servings: 4
Adapted from: Short Ribs–Bon Appetit (October 2011); Celeriac Purée–Saveur (April 2014)
Family is not an important thing, it's everything.
~Michael J. Fox
Six years ago today, my beloved momala passed away. The best way we have honored her life and kept her memory alive is to embrace our little family and celebrate each other as often as possible. She used to say, "If you don't have something to celebrate, celebrate anyway." [Ed. note: Spinal Tap keyboardist Viv Savage also said it well, "Have a good time. All the time." youtu.be/WrhzX3dRRiI]
Our family recently got a little bigger. My little sister Julie brought the new man in her life, Frank, by for a whirlwind visit, our first time meeting him. Seems there couldn't be a more perfect person for Julie than Frank; they share a love of nature, geology, animals and family. Bonus, he has an encyclopedic knowledge of sports and wine (we were excited to try riesling and pinot noir from his own vineyard), which endears him even more to the BF. [Ed. note: We even coexist with his love for the St. Louis Cardinals and ours for the San Francisco Giants.] We feel like he's been here all along.
Unfortunately I ran out of time and could not make cookies for them to take home, but had I been able, these would have been the choice.
My momala would have adored them as well. Chocolate and orange coupled and a hint of fresh ginger and brownie texture. It would have sent her over the edge.
Dorie Greenspan (this is originally adapted from her book Dorie's Cookies) is an excellent source for all things baking. She mentions that this cookie is best on the day it is made, but I have found it stays fresh, moist and chewy for at least 3 days. So it works well for shipping or gift giving.
Number of servings: about 20 cookies
Adapted from: Saveur (Dec/Jan 2017) and Dorie's Cookies
Yotam Ottolenghi says of this eggplant dish, "I can't think of a more rustically elegant (is that a contradiction in terms?) starter." Contradiction? Hardly.
Ottolenghi is an Israeli-Italian chef residing in London, with a flavor palette that's out of this world. This recipe is adapted from his 2010 cookbook Plenty, and I selected it for today's post because of its gloriously gorgeous colorful presentation, not to mention it's delicious and a perfect easy-to-make dish for your holiday table (or anytime). I prepared it for an anniversary dinner party, not as a starter, but as a side dish with grilled lamb chops and naan--it was heavenly.
Another advantage for a dinner party: it can be served at room temperature, meaning it's easier to make ahead of time.
Adapted from: Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi
Number of servings: 4 as a starter or side dish
Writer Julian Barnes said of mourning, "The thing is—nature is so exact, it hurts exactly as much as it is worth, so in a way, one relishes the pain, I think. If it didn't matter, it wouldn't matter."
A friend sent this line in a condolence letter when my momala passed away, and it has resonated ever since. The grieving is commensurate with the loving, a testament to what’s missing.
This has been a particularly difficult year for my boyfriend (the blog's man behind the curtain, the one behind the editorial notes), who is grieving the passing of his mom, and today is actually the one-year anniversary.
Kathryn Bailey was an accomplished jazz pianist based in the San Francisco bay area, who accompanied everyone from Billie Holiday to the Buddy Morrow Orchestra, Berkeley's Straw Hat Theatre, and Ronnie Cass.
We miss you everyday, Kathy.
I'm Jacquie, personal chef & recipe developer in the bay area. Living life with my wildly funny boyfriend and dog Marlowe. Lover of books, bourbon, chocolate and movies.