Monthly Archives: December 2010

Holiday Food – or fun in the kitchen

One of my favorite things about the holidays is cooking.  We have lots of traditions, like making sure there is eggnog to drink while we are cooking.  It’s funny how you notice those things when they are missing.  You go – oh durn, where’s the eggnog.

My grandmother always made what she called Crescent cookies – which we turned into balls, not crescents. Powered sugar, ground pecans, melt in your mouth cookies. My mom makes her Scottish Shortbreads. Heck it’s not Christmas until we have them.

I make my Barcardi Rum cake, but use Myers Rum instead.  I suppose that’s against the rules – but the rum is so much richer and works better in the cake.

It’s fun to add traditions to the list.  My daughter-in-law’s family make tamales which I need to do one day soon.  And my husband’s family does the pork chops and sauerkraut for New Years day.  Seems chickens scratch backwards and pigs root forward, so you need to eat pork to go forward into the new year.  Hm, I think I wrote about this last year.

The main thing I did this year different was to make a cheese ball recipe I haven’t made for over 30 years.  I used to make this a lot when I was first married eons ago.  I had forgotten how good it was.  I tweeted about it today and several people said – ‘hm that sounds good’ – so here’s the recipe.

4 (3 oz.) pkgs. cream cheese
6 oz. blue cheese, soft
6 oz. Cheddar cheese spread
2 tbsp. grated onion
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 c. ground pecans or 1/2 c. finely chopped parsley

Combine cheeses, onion and Worcestershire sauce. Beat until well blended. Stir in 1/2 cup pecans, 1/4 cup parsley – shape into ball, wrap in plastic wrap, then foil. Refrigerate overnight. About 1 hour before serving, roll in remaining nuts or parsley. Place on dish and surround with crackers.

Warning, this is addictive. People tend to hover around it like it was a chocolate fondue or something. If you want any, grab your crackers and spread and run for the hills.

Well, that’s it for today. Happy holidays, y’all.


Mushroom Experiment – Part III

Well, the boxes have arrived. I am not quite ready to get them set up because the room I will use is where we are having a party this coming weekend. But, I wanted to make sure all was well, and besides, I was excited to see what they looked like.
I’m glad I did open the boxes because after slicing thru the tape, this is what I found. Glad I didn’t wait an extra long time. They are mushrooms though so I suspect it wouldn’t have been a bad thing to have them sit a bit. It’s the moisture part that is probably the biggest thing. In the winter, with the heat running, there is not a lot of that in the place. I’ll need to use the humidity bags included with the kits for sure. Since Shiitakes are my favorite, I opened that box first. The picture to
the right is the shipping details from
the mushroom farm. I can only hope that my mushroom block ends up looking as rich and loaded
as the one on the photo.
Only time will tell.
This what was in the Shiitake box. It’s a clump of the starter and spores and has a date of 10/19 which is when the humidity bag was created. Some of the little nodules on the side are mushrooms that are starting. Woo Hoo.

The instructions say to check the label and if it’s not 40 days since the package was built, to keep it in the box until the 40 days were up. Since this is December, we’re good to go.

Here’s the Enokitake set. Sort of looks the same.
And finally, here is the Pioppino starter set.

Now I just have to have the party, and get the dining room set up as my new mushroom farm.

The next blog entry will show what I come up with.

Ciao y’all and happy holidays.

Mushroom Experiment – Part 2

My mushroom kits haven’t arrived yet, so I’m doing research on where to keep them indoors and additional recipes for the species I ordered. The first set is Shiitakes.

Shiitakes are rich and smoky flavored so they are great in stir fries. The picture on the right shows a selection.

The second set was Enokitake mushrooms. They are smaller and milder than Shiitakes. This recipe from the New York Times looked awesome:

Enokitake Mushrooms Cooked in Foil

* 4 bunches enokitake mushrooms
* 2 tablespoons butter
* Salt to taste if desired
* Freshly ground pepper to taste
* 4 sprigs fresh dill
* 2 thin slices lemon, seeds removed

1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees.
2. Cut off bottom ends of mushrooms where linked together.
3. Rub center of 2 12-inch squares of heavy-duty aluminum foil with a little of the butter.
4. Place 2 bunches of mushrooms in center of each foil square. Dot with remaining butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and cover each batch of mushrooms with two sprigs of dill. Add 1 lemon slice to each and carefully fold foil into package to enclose mushrooms neatly. Bake 10 minutes. 

YIELD: 4 to 8 servings

The third and final set are Pioppino mushrooms, which I’ve never had. They are Italian so I imagine they will be good in pasta dishes. They are also called shimeji mushrooms.

The flavor is supposed to be like porcini mushrooms but more peppery. Since they are Italian, personally, I would saute them lightly in olive oil with some garlic, then make a vinaigrette and let them sit a while. Bet they will be yummy.

That’s it for now. Ciao y’all.

Making Grape Vine Wreaths

One of my garden experiments is my grape vine.  This year, I got several luscious clusters of sweet, purple grapes.  There were enough to eat, but not enough to do something fun like making homemade wine.  So, I went reading up on grape vines and realized I needed to prune my vine just as aggressively as I would do a rose bush.  In fact even more so.  I turned to my favorite resource, Google, and found several sites that showed me what to do.

Here’s my grape vine before and after pruning.







In the process of pruning my grape vine I ended up with lots of pieces of vine.  Somewhere in the back of my head I remembered reading about making wreaths from grape vines.  I gathered up all the detritus and headed in doors on a mission.

This is the pile of branches spread out in a jumble.







My loyal hubbie, Don, helped me unwind the twigs, not, as it turned out, the easiest process, especially with cats trying to help out.

Once again, I went to Google and found tons of websites that talked about making wreaths.  After  Don and I finished unwinding the twigs – again  more challenging that I originally thought, I spread them out and started the process.

Basically, you wind up the twigs like winding up a hose or rope on a sailboat.  And yes, the twigs have minds of their own.  If you are starting out with twigs that are a bit too dry, you can soak them overnight in water to make them more pliable.  Since I had just cut the twigs mine were fairly flexible.

Here’s a wreath in the process of winding.  You don’t even need wire. You just stick the starting and ending pieces in between previous rounds.

And finally, here’s the end result – 3 wreaths that I will decorate and either hang or give to the neighbors.  Pretty nifty.

That’s it for now.  Happy Holidays and Ciao y’all.