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Archive for Christmas

RECIPE: Pomegranate Cheese Ball

Christmas Cheese Ball

Christmas Cheese Ball

Christmas Cheese Ball

[1] The Christmas Cheese Ball, festive with cocktails. This recipe, from How Sweet Eats, is made with with white cheddar, mascarpone and sage. [2] The Café Sucre Farine is made with Monterey Jack, pecans, rosemary and thyme. Minced parsley accents the arils for an even better holiday effect. [3] Our original inspiration was this red and green cheese ball from Go Bold With Butter (recipe below).

 

Deck the hall with this festive almond-Gruyère/Swiss Cheese cheese ball.

Parsley colors the interior green, while the pomegranate arils create a crimson cloak.

Bonus: Prep time is 15 minutes, and you can make it two days in advance. Thanks to Go Bold With Butter for the recipe.

RECIPE #1: CHRISTMAS CHEESE BALL

Ingredients

  • 1 cup pomegranate arils
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 8 ounces Gruyère/Swiss cheese, shredded
  • 3-1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 [heaping] cup slivered almonds
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons horseradish mustard (recipe below)
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped (or ½ parsley, ½ chives)
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  •  
    For Serving

  • Bagel chips
  • Breads
  • Crackers and crisps
  •  
    Preparation

    1. PAT the arils dry with paper towels, ensuring removing as much moisture as possible. You can do this an hour or more in advance and leave the arils on paper towels on the counter to further dry.

    2. PLACE the cheeses and butter along with almonds, horseradish mustard, parsley and seasonings in the bowl of a food processor. Pulse for 1-2 minutes, scraping the bowl frequently until ingredients are well combined.

    3. SHAPE the mixture into cheese mixture into a large ball and refrigerate. can be made up to 2 days ahead, wrapped and stored in refrigerator. Before serving…

    4. ROLL the ball in pomegranate arils until fully coated. Gently press the arils into the heese ball to adhere. To serve, place on plate with breads, crackers and spreaders.
     
    RECIPE #2: HORSERADISH MUSTARD

    We tend to keep sugar away from where it doesn’t need to be—in savory foods. We just don’t enjoy sugary potato chips or wasabi-flavored mustard. (Honey mustard gets a pass.)

    Numerous recipes for cheese balls contain a sweetened condiment: honey, maple syrup, sugar brown sugar. It’s the same with horseradish mustard.

    We don’t mind a brief hint of sweetness; but if a cheese ball tastes sweet (and it isn’t a sweet style, e.g. with dried fruit, or a dessert ball), it’s too sweet for us.

    Since the cheese ball recipe requires just 1-1/2 teaspoons of the mustard, you can adjust the amounts below accordingly.
     
    Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup white prepared horseradish
  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • Optional: sour cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone or plain yogurt
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Preparation

    1. DRAIN the horseradish in a fine strainer or cheesecloth, pushing down with the back of a spoon to remove the excess liquid.

    2. COMBINE with the mustard, mix well and taste. If it’s too strong for you, you can add a bit of sour cream to remove some of the spiciness.But remember, mixing the mustard with the cream cheese will temper the heat.
     
    Variation

    Make a mustard horseradish sauce for meat or poultry, simply by adding one cup of sour cream to recipe above.
     
    MORE CHEESE BALL RECIPES

  • Mini Cheese Balls With Green, Red and Golden Coatings
  • Pecan Pine Cone Cheese Ball (yes, it’s made in the shape of a pine cone)
  •   

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Christmas Crudites, A Gingerbread House Alternative

    Vegetable Christmas House

    Veggie Lodge

    Chocolate Holiday House

    [1] A good-for-you Christmas treat. [2] Start here (photos #1 and #2 courtesy Green Giant). [3] A chocolate house, made with molds from King Arthur Flour.

     

    How about a vegetable cottage instead of a gingerbread house?

    Created by Green Giant; we found it on

    It was originally posted on Green Giant’s Facebook page.

    Here’s the rub:

    The bloggers who re-posted provided the ingredients, but instructed the reader to “Click here for the directions From Green Giant’s Facebook Page.”

    Alas, clicking all those links delivers a “Page Not Found.”

    Conspiracy: Maybe there never were directions! At best, we have some step-by-step photos.

    So you’ll have to put it together yourself. Or delegate it to someone who likes to build.

    If you’re a great food crafter, please make it and send us the instructions.

     
    RECIPE: VEGGIE LODGE

    Ingredients

  • 6 8″ carrot logs (1 front, 5 back)
  • 8 5″ carrot logs (lodge sides)
  • 8 3″ carrot logs (front)
  • 1-1/4″ logs (by front door)
  • 4 1-1/2″ carrot logs (window opening)
  • 3 7″ carrot log rafters
  • 16 6″ roof celery stalks
  • Foam core board gable measures 8″x 6: x 6″
  • Carrot coins for stone path
  • Slice of turnip for window
  • Toothpicks & cream cheese mortar to fasten the cucumbers and celery
  • Bamboo skewers to stack chimney mushroom “stones”
  •  
    For The Surroundings

  • Artichoke “evergreen trees”
  • Broccoli floret “bushes”
  • Boiled baby potatoes
  • Hard boiled egg Santa snowmen (recipe)
  • Cremini mushrooms (brown tops) for more shrubbery
  • Yellow/red cherry or grape tomatoes
  •  
    For The Dip

  • 1 large red bell pepper or other dip holder
  • Dip of choice
  •  
    Ingredients
     
    Or, ditch the healthy house and make this chocolate version from King Arthur Flour.

     
    CAN YOU FOLLOW THESE PHOTOS & BUILD THE LODGE?
     
    Veggie Lodge Preparation

      

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    RECIPE: Cranberry & Pomegranate Holiday Brie

    Baked Brie is a special-occasion favorite, and very easy to make.

    It goes great with sparkling and still wines and cocktails.

    In the spirit of the season, this easy recipe from Liren Baker of Kitchen Confidante will have guests fighting for the cheese knife. It’s a good thing this recipe makes two wheels!

    TIP: If you’re short of time, buy the whole cranberry sauce and only quickly the pecans in spice without candying. You’ll still have a holiday theme on top of the brie.

    RECIPE: CRANBERRY POMEGRANATE BAKED BRIE

    Ingredients For 2 Eight-Inch Wheels

  • 12 ounces fresh cranberries (about 3 cups)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup table sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup pomegranate arils
  • 2 eight-ounce brie wheels
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup candied pecan or walnut halves
  • Garnish: fresh rosemary, spiced or candied pecans or walnuts*
  • Breads and/or crackers for serving
  •  
    Preparation

    Our recommendation is to cook the cranberries two days in advance. The sweetness of the juice and sugar needs time to penetrate the tartness of the cranberries.

    1. COMBINE the cranberries, pomegranate juice and sugar in a small saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, turn the dial to simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes, or until all cranberries have popped.

    2. STIR in the pomegranate arils. Transfer to a jar with a lid; cool completely before adding the lid and placing the cranberries in the fridge. After the first day, taste and add more sweetener as desired.

    3. REMOVE the cranberries from the fridge a few hours before serving; allow them to come to room temperature.

    4. PREHEAT the oven to 350°F. Place the wheels of brie on ovenproof serving dishes or on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for about 7 minutes, until the cheese starts to soften. Top with the honey and cranberry pomegranate sauce and return to the oven for about 2-3 more minutes, or until the brie is gooey and soft.

    5. REMOVE from the oven, top with candied walnuts and garnish with rosemary. Serve warm with breads and crackers.
     
    RECIPE #2: CANDIED OR SPICED NUTS

    You can candy the nuts—sugar only—or add spice for spiced nuts.

    Ingredients For 1/2 Cup

  • 1/2 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon sugar, honey or maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup nut halves
  •  

    Christmas Baked Brie

    Candied Nuts Recipe

    Fresh Rosemary

    [1] A holiday baked brie from Liren Baker of Kitchen Confidante. [2] Candied walnuts photo courtesy Babble. [3] Rosemary is the “Christmas herb,” because it resembles evergreen (photo courtesy Burpee).

     
    For Spiced Nuts

  • 1/8 teaspoon total* cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, allspice and/or cayenne
  •  
    Preparation

    1. MELT the butter in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sugar, stirring constantly until it dissolves. Take care that the mixture doesn’t scorch.

    2. ADD the nuts and stir to coat thoroughly. Pour the nuts onto a sheet of aluminum foil and let them cool, about 15 minutes. Store up to 2 days in an airtight container.

     
    ________________
    *Try this small amount and then increase the spices according to your preference.

      

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    RECIPE: Light, Moist Fruitcake Bundt

    Sour Cream Fruitcake

    Dried Cranberries

    Sultanas

    [1] A light, moist fruitcake for people who don’t like the dense ones, from King Arthur Flour. [2] No candied citron here, just dried fruits! Use dried cranberries instead of cherries for a seasonal touch (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). In Merrie Olde England, where fruitcake began, they didn’t have cranberries. [3] Sultanas, or golden raisins, add more brightness than their dark purple relatives (photo courtesy BT.com).

     

    Today is National Cake Day. What cake should you consider?

    Fruitcake of course! Even though National Fruitcake Day isn’t for another month, on December 27th, why should you wait?

    We love a good fruitcake. While most people have had bad experiences with commercial fruitcakes, here’s a quick and easy solution from King Arthur Flour that is both light and moist, thanks to sour cream.

    This tasty fruitcake from King Arthur Flour features a sour cream pound cake base and a filling of dried fruits: cherries, apricots, pineapple and golden raisins. If you don’t like candied fruits, this is the cake for you! Pecans or walnuts complete the picture.

  • For a more colorful cake, add 1 to 1-3/4 cups of red candied cherries to the other fruit.
  • If you’d just like a simple pound cake, omit the fruits altogether and bake it in two pans instead of three.
  • If you’re an aficionado of citron and other candied fruits, feel free to substitute them.
  •  
    TIPS

  • If using a 10-cup (10″) bundt-style pan or several smaller pans, adjust the baking time accordingly. No matter what pan(s) you use, don’t fill them more than three-quarters full, or you’ll be cleaning blackened cake batter off the floor of your oven.
  • If you’re making the cakes well ahead of serving, brush them with brandy or rum before wrapping tightly and storing at room temperature. If desired, sprinkle with glazing sugar or frost with a light glaze before serving.
  •  
    RECIPE: SOUR CREAM FRUITCAKE

    Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried pineapple, diced
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries, sour or sweet
  • 1 cup dried apricots, diced, or slivered dried apricots
  • 2 cups golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup brandy or rum, for soaking the fruit
  • 1 cup vegetable shortening or 1 cup (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup brandy or rum, to add to the cake batter
  • 3 cups King Arthur Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • 2 cups walnuts or pecans, chopped
  • Optional: vanilla or rum raisin ice cream for serving
  • Preparation

    1. SOAK the fruit: In a medium-sized mixing bowl, stir together the dried fruits and the 1/2 cup brandy or rum.
    Set the fruit aside for 2 hours or longer. Stir occasionally, so the fruit absorbs the liquor evenly.

    2. PREHEAT the oven to 325°F. Grease and flour three 8 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ loaf pans. Alternately, line them with parchment, leaving an overhang on each side and securing the paper with metal binder clips.

    3. MAKE the cakes: In a large mixing bowl, beat together the shortening, sugar, salt and nutmeg. Add the eggs one at a time, beating until fluffy after each addition. Stir in the brandy or rum.

    4. WHISK together the flour and baking powder in a separate bowl. Add half the flour to the shortening mixture, and mix well. Add the sour cream, beating all the time, then add the remaining flour and blend well. Be sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl occasionally to be sure all ingredients are evenly incorporated.

    5. STIR in the fruits (they should have absorbed all the liquid; if not, don’t drain them) and the nuts. Spoon the batter into the prepared pans.

    6. BAKE the cakes for 55 to 65 minutes, or until they’re golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Remove from the oven and let them cool in their pans for 10 minutes. Remove from the pans and cool completely on wire racks.

    7. STORE, well-wrapped, for 5 days at room temperature. Freeze for up to 3 months.

     
      

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    TIP OF THE DAY: Holiday Champagne Alternatives

    Whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas or New Year’s Eve, Champagne is a tradition in holiday homes; that is, holiday homes with means.

    Champagne, by far the most famous sparkling wine in the world, is in the highest demand. But can only be produced on limited acreage, the region of Champagne, in northeast France.

    The worldwide demand for Champagne has been increasing since the 1990s, as affluent consumers in Asia, Russia and elsewhere joined the demands in Europe and North America. Last year, about 312 million bottles were sold.

    While that may seem a lot, worldwide, 3.2 billion cases of wine were produced (2013 figures). That’s 38.4 billion bottles (54%, red wine, 37% white, 9% rosé). The number one country for volume of wine purchased is the U.S. See more wine statistics below.

    The demand for Champagne and the limited ability to produce more of it has upped the prices. The most affordable bottles are non-vintage Champagnes (blends of juice from multiple grape harvests), which make up the bulk of the market. It isn’t less good than a vintage Champagne; in fact, it best shows off the house style, since vintage Champagne by law can only include grapes from that vintage.

    Not all years produce great grapes (not sweet enough, too sweet, etc.), so instead of creating a vintage Champagne, vintners reserve those wines and blend them them to create the precise flavor they seek.

    You can buy good nonvintage Champagnes for $35 to $45.00. Our favorites are Louis Roederer’s NV Brut Premier and Champagne Pol Roger Brut Reserve.

    Only Champagne connoisseurs—those who drink a lot of it and have the expertise to analyze what they’re drinking—can tell you if a glass of Champagne served blind holds a vintage or a nonvintage.
     
    HOW ABOUT BUBBLY THAT ISN’T CHAMPAGNE?

    By law, only sparkling wines made in the Champagne region can be called Champagne. This AOC designation ensures consumers that the food has been made in its original region, with specified ingredients and traditional techniques. It delivers a taste consistently and true to its nature.

    Every other wine that bubbles is called “sparkling wine.”

    These other wines offer bubbles at lower prices; and every non-expert wine drinker will be thrilled that its bubbly, from wherever. (Experts also enjoy these other sparklers.)

    Head to your nearest wine store and check the prices. Don’t hesitate to ask the clerks for their favorites. Consider:

  • Australian Sparkling Wines, such as Yellowtail Bubbles (our favorite is the Yellowtail Bubbles Sparkling Rosé), and other brands (around $10).
  • California “Champagne”: Champagne-style wines made from California grapes by French Champagne houses (Chandon from Moet et Chandoon, e.g.) are pricier, but look for All-American bottlings like Robert Mondavi’s Woodbridge Brut and Domaine Ste Michelle Brut from Oregon (about $10.00).
  • Cava from Spain (for $8.00, look for Cristalino Brut and Cristalino Brut Rosé; Freixenet is $12.00).
  • Crémant From France’s Loire Valley: This wine is made in France with the same method, just not in the Champagne region. Crémant de Bourgogne, for instance, is made in the Burgundy region ($12.00-$15.00 for many bottles).
  • Prosecco from Italy (many around $9.00-$10.00).
  • Sekt from Germany.
  •  
    Sweet Sparkling Wines

    For dessert, go for a sweeter sparkling wine, such as:

  • Amabile and Dolce sparkling wines from Italy.
  • Asti Spumante from Italy (it’s sparkling Moscato).
  •  

    Sparkling Cocktail

    /home/content/p3pnexwpnas01 data02/07/2891007/html/wp content/uploads/cranberry kir royale oceanspray 230sq

    Freixenet

    Glass Of Cava

    [1] Sparkling wines are made all over the world (photo courtesy Grey Goose). [2] Check out the rosé and red wine bubblies (photo courtesy Ocean Spray). [3] freixenet-cordon-negro (photo courtesy Freixenet). [4] Cava, from Spain, is a popular, affordable sparkler (photo courtesy Food & Wines From Spain).

  • American sparklers, such as Schramsberg Crémant Demi-Sec from California. There are sparkling wines produced from coast to coast. There’s also Sparkling Gewürztraminer from Treveri Cellars in Washington State.If you want to celebrate with American wines on Thanksgiving (we always do), see what your store has to offer.
  • Brachetto d’Acqui (a rosé wine) from Italy.
  • Demi-Sec and Doux sparkling wines from France (including Champagne but also from other regions).
  • Dry Prosecco (a.k.a Valdobbiadene) from Italy (in wine terminology, “Dry” is a tad sweeter than “Extra Dry,” which is sweeter than “Brut)”.
  • Freixenet Cordon Negro Sweet Cuvée and Freixenet Mía Moscato Rosé from Spain.
  •  
    WHO DRINKS ALL THE WINE?

    According to International Wine & Spirit Research, Europe and the U.S. consume the most volume, with 2013 statistics showing the big drinkers by volume to be:

  • U.S., 339 million cases
  • France, 296 million cases
  • Italy, 288 million cases
  • Germany, 274 million cases
  • China, 144 million
  • U.K., 133 million cases
  •  
    Per capita wine consumption shows the really big drinkers. In order, they are Italy, France, Switzerrland, Portugal and Austria.

    The biggest sparkling wine drinkers are the Germans, who drank 46 million cases of fizz in 2014. France came in second, at 30 million cases; and Russia, traditionally a large market for Champagne since the wine was created†, consumed 26 million cases. The U.S. was fourth, with 18 million cases, and the U.K. fifth, consuming 11 million cases—incredible given the difference in population of the two countries.
     
    HISTORICAL NOTES ABOUT CHAMPAGNE

    The region now called Champagne was settled by the Gauls around 500 B.C.E. When the Roman legions conquered the area in 56 B.C.E., they bestowed upon the land the name Campania (Champagne) because of the similarity between the rolling hills of that area with the Roman (now Italian) province of Campania (the word campania itself means “open country”).

    In the Middle Ages Champagne was a duchy, then a country. In 1284, Champagne was brought under French rule when Jeanne, Queen of Navarre and Countess of Champagne, Brie and Bigorre married the future King Philippe IV (she was 11 years old). When Philippe’s father died the following year, Jeanne became Queen of France at age 12.

    The wine grapes grown since Roman times were made into still wine†. In the 17th century, the process for making champagne was discovered and the vintners have been making bubbly since then.

    The best grapes are grown where a Tertiary period chalk plain overlaps a vast Cretaceous chalk plain that lies underneath the soil layer (it’s the same huge basin that creates the White Cliffs of Dover in England). The chalk provides good drainage and reflects the heat from the sun. The unique terroir creates the unique creamy, toasty flavor of Champagne wines.
     
    ________________
    †The original wines of Champagne, made since Roman times, were still wines. The first sparkling Champagne was created accidentally, when pressure in the bottles caused the corks to pop and sometimes, the bottles to explode. It was first called “the devil’s wine,” le vin du diable). The technique to master modern Champagne began in the 17th century, with Le Veuve Cliquot, the woman who did it. It was pricey, and became popular with royalty and nobility. The emerging middle class wanted their share, too.

      

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