Archives for December 2013

Holiday Cocktails – Hot Chocolate, Pancake Shots, and More!

Holiday Cocktails – Hot Chocolate, Pancake Shots, and More!

Chef J wants you to make it through the holidays with a smile on your face! This week he shares some festive holiday cocktails that are sure to brighten up your party!

We’re on the home stretch toward the big holiday parties! Whether your celebrations are populated by hip friends in freshly pressed suits and little black dresses or extended family in terrible Christmas sweaters that aren’t being worn ironically, chances are the tie that binds is sweet, sweet liquor. It doesn’t matter if you’re hitting the eggnog bright and early or waiting for that final champagne toast: booze is what makes the party world turn. Holiday cocktails bring people together, coax strangers to mingle, and make your aunt’s “famous” casserole almost edible! Anthropologists believe that civilization started because of the discovery and production of alcohol; so the least you can do is put up with grandma’s never ending interrogation about why you aren’t married yet for one night!

Here are a few recipes for fun holiday cocktails that will surely liven up your party.

If you want to be extra festive keep a supply of holiday themed sprinkles, maraschino cherries (they come in red and green), grenadine, food coloring, whipped cream, maybe some fresh mint leaves, fresh berries, etc. The holidays need to be decorated; there is no reason to exclude your drinks. Mix a teaspoon of grenadine in some ginger ale for the kids (or champagne for the old kids) with a green maraschino cherry for flare. Shake some chocolate sprinkles over your hot cocoa to show them that you care. And a spoonful of cream will float on the top of most heavy liqueurs to give your shots a festive, snow-capped look.

A little razzle-dazzle will go a long way to secure your place as the greatest holiday party host of all time!

Best Hot Chocolate Ever

  • 8 oz. milk chocolate
  • 4 oz. white chocolate
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup toasted hazelnuts, ground
  • 8 oz. cream
  • 1 gal milk
  • 4 oz. Frangelico (optional- can be added later)
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate, sugar and cream together.
Heat the milk in a large pot. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the milk along with the hazelnuts; bring to a simmer.
Strain the hazelnuts out of the liquid and add the liqueur, nutmeg and salt.

Apple Cider

  • 64 oz. unfiltered apple juice
  • 32 oz. water
  • ½ lemon, sliced
  • 1 orange, sliced
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 3-4 whole cloves
  • ½ cup honey
  • Brandy

Bring all ingredients, except Brandy, to a simmer. Let steep for at least 30 minutes (you can do this a day early and reheat to serve to get more spicy flavor). Serve hot. Season to taste with Brandy. Leave the Brandy on the side so the kids and drivers can have cider, too!

Pancake Shot

  • 1 ½ oz. maple whiskey
  • ½ oz. Irish Cream

Pour the whiskey into a shot glass.
Slowly pour the Irish Cream into it, the cream will sink.
Shoot it!

Christmas Mint Shot

  • ½ oz. Grenadine
  • 1 oz. Creme de Menthe

Pour the grenadine into a shot glass.
Carefully spoon the Creme de Menthe over the grenadine so that it floats on top.
(Peppermint Schnapps will work in place of the Creme de Menthe if you want clear/red instead of green/red).

Ginger Berry Tummy Tonic

  • 1 oz. Bourbon
  • ½ oz. Raspberry liqueur
  • 8 oz. Ginger Beer (non-alcoholic, “real” ginger ale)

Add the Bourbon and Raspberry Liqueur to a champagne flute or rocks glass.
Pour the Ginger Beer over it.
Serve chilled or over ice.
This one helps the ol’ tummy after a long night of stuffing your face with delicious holiday treats!

Do you have a favorite holiday cocktail? Share with us! No, really, share with us!
Printer friendly recipes: Holiday Cocktails

holiday cocktails

Christmas Dinner: Pork Tenderloin, Brussels Sprouts, Mac & Cheese

Christmas Dinner: Pork Tenderloin, Brussels Sprouts, Mac & Cheese

It’s time once again for Christmas dinner. How super excited are you for another big, fat ham?! Maybe with some pineapple slices stapled around it? Wow! My mouth is watering just thinking about another greasy, syrupy slice! You know what would go well with that? Some store bought, boxed stuffing! Oh sweet culinary delight! Is my sarcasm coming across? I can never tell. How about this: this year we’re going to make a Christmas dinner that is equal in comfort to the classics that we’re used to, but this time we’ll make it quicker, easier, healthier, deliciouser, and all around betterer. Here are a few recipes that will please your table without overwhelming you with grocery shopping, dishes, and grey-hair-making time management.

All of these dishes can be drastically modified to accommodate your taste and the ingredients you have on hand…creating your own perfect Christmas Dinner.

Stuffed Pork Tenderloin
Spice Rub:

  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • 1 tsp chopped, fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp allspice

Combine all ingredients and set aside.

Pork Tenderloin and Filling:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/3 cup Feta cheese
  • ½ a sweet apple, chopped
  • 1/3 cup toasted, chopped pecans
  • ¼ cup chopped shallot
  • 1 TBS balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tsp spice rub

Combine all ingredients except tenderloin and set aside.

You can usually find pork tenderloins packed in brine at your standard supermarket. If you have a nice butcher shop close by you will be treated to a much better product, but you will want to soak the tenderloin in brine overnight, or at least for a few hours, to help it retain moisture. Remove the silver skin by carefully cutting under the thickest part of that connective tissue with a thin sharp knife, such as a filet knife. Hold that end with a paper towel to get a firm grip, gently cut along the length of the silver skin with your knife angled up so that you remove it while leaving as much of the meat as possible. When that is all cleaned up it’s time to butterfly. Simply cut through the tenderloin lengthwise until you can fold it open, leaving a solid, flat piece of pork. Very gently pound it with a meat mallet or empty wine bottle to flatten and thin it out. Again, a real butcher shop is your best bet- they will do all of this for you!

Heat your oven to 350. Pile the filling into the center of the pork tenderloin. Carefully roll the tenderloin up around the filling. Tie the Pork up with butcher’s twine so that the filling cannot spill out. Season the outside of the tenderloin with the remaining spice rub. Heat an oven safe pan to medium. Sear the tenderloin on three sides until just golden brown, when you get to the fourth side throw the pan in the oven and let it go for about 25 minutes. When the center of the roast reaches 160 remove it from the pan and set it aside. Let the roast rest for at least 5 minutes before removing the string and slicing. There will be some tasty dripping left in the pan that can easily be turned into a sauce by whisking together a bit more herbs, a dollop of grain mustard or a sprinkle of flour, and a half a glass of cider, beer, or wine. Simmer to reduce. Season to taste.

christmas dinner pork tenderloin

Roasted Brussels SproutsChristmas Dinner brussel sprouts

  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen Brussels sprouts
  • 4 strips bacon, chopped
  • 2 TBS finely chopped shallot
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 tsp orange zest
  • Salt & pepper

Heat your oven to 350. Slowly cook the bacon over medium heat to render out the fat in a small frying pan. Save 1 tablespoon of the fat for the mac and cheese you’ll be making. In a roasting pan, toss the bacon with the remaining ingredients and mix up to make sure the sprouts are nicely coated. Roast for about 20 minutes, stirring 2 or 3 times. The cooking time will depend on how done you like your sprouts; you can let them go for about 15 minutes for a crunchier, fresher Brussels sprout or cook the heck out of them for about 25 minutes, letting them soak up all of that great bacon fat.

Mac & Cheese

  • 1 lb. macaroni, cooked
  • 1 TBS fat (bacon is best!)
  • 1 TBS flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 cup of your favorite cheese, shredded
  • Salt & pepper

Mix the fat and flour together in a large pot over medium heat and cook for 3-4 minutes, whisking continually until it starts to bubble up and take on a golden color. Slowly whisk in the milk. Add the nutmeg and bring to a simmer. Slowly mix in the cheese and stir until melted. Add the cooked macaroni and stir to coat. Season to taste.


Printer friendly recipes: Christmas Dinner Recipes

Holiday Cookies Make Everything Better!

Holiday Cookies Make Everything Better!

Chef J is back to talk about Holiday Cookies! This week he shares a basic cookie dough recipe that can be customized to your liking, plus an old family recipe for some awesome peanut butter cookies.

Remember when you were little and you would leave a plate of raw carrots and broccoli with a side of ranch dressing out for Santa Clause? No? Maybe it’s because that’s gross and nobody wants that stuff. Yet every year, at every party, there is a crudites platter; sitting quietly in the corner, tossing out awkward glances, hoping to catch someone’s eye like that weird uncle that no one remembers inviting. Let’s not waste vegetables: we want cookies! The holidays are about cramming as much sugary goodness into our face hole as possible! They’re also about family and tradition and love and stuff, but mostly cookies. Walk into any party with a tray full of chewy, gooey holiday cookies and you will be surrounded by friends. Cookies will dry the tears of your whiny niece, end the political rant of your cranky grandpa, and even soften the daggers of your judgmental aunt.

You can build them yourself with relatively little effort and you are limited only by your imagination! A great way to expand your cookie catalog without dirtying extra dishes is with a holiday cookie exchange- recruit a few friends and each pick a couple of kinds of cookies to make. Make a bit extra and trade them around. I recommend freezing the dough before baking. You can go from freezer to oven, ensuring that you are never more than 13 minutes away from freshly baked cookies. Freezing also gives you a better result: when making the dough, if you over mix you will end up with a tough cookie since the gluten gets all worked up. And if you don’t let it sit long enough you end up with crumbly cookies. By freezing (or even storing in the refrigerator), you allow the gluten to relax and the flour to absorb the liquid, giving you a perfectly chewy, moist treat! If you have room in your freezer, you can freeze individual portions of dough on a cookie sheet and then store in a zipper bag after they have frozen solid. Otherwise, roll up a log of cookie dough in parchment paper and just slice into pucks when you’re ready to bake.

Here is a basic dough recipe. You can add an extra 2 TBS of dry ingredients (cocoa powder, spices, etc.), and 2-3 cups of “name” ingredients, as in the word before Cookies (chocolate chips, pecans, dried cranberries, and so on…).

Basic Cookie Dough
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

  • 8 oz butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 oz maple syrup or honey
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • ¾ tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 package instant pudding
  • 1 tsp baking soda

Preheat oven to 375.
Cream together the butter, sugar, maple syrup, vanilla and salt.
Add the eggs one at a time.
Sift together the flour, pudding and soda and slowly add to the mixture.
Fold in the goodies of your choice.
Scoop onto a lined baking sheet and bake 11-13 minutes.
My favorite cookie of all time is the Peanut Blossom! My Swedish grandmother would make these every year and I would eat so many that I would have a tummy ache until New Year’s. My mom would try to hide them under the peas in the freezer, so I can tell you they are great frozen!

Peanut Blossoms
Makes 3-4 dozen cookies

  • ½ cup shortening
  • ¾ cup peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 oz milk
  • 1 TBS vanilla
  • 1½ cup flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp salt
  • Sugar
  • A bunch of chocolate kisses, about 48 (plus more for munching!)

Preheat oven to 325.
Cream together the shortening, peanut butter, sugar and brown sugar.
Mix in the egg, milk and vanilla.
Combine the flour, soda and salt, and slowly add to the peanut butter mixture.
Roll the dough into 1” balls, roll in sugar and gently press onto a lined baking sheet.
Bake about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and press a kiss into the warm cookie.

Printer friendly recipes: Basic Cookie Dough Recipe  Peanut Blossoms Recipe

Holiday Cookie 2

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