Friday, November 29, 2013

Molasses cookies, cranberry margaritas, and brandy milk punch - recipes for your holiday arsenal

Here are three recipes I tried recently that would be amazing additions to your holiday entertaining arsenal. Click on the links to get the recipes.

Molasses Spice Cookies: These were yummy, heartwarming and cozy. The whole family will go crazy for this simple and soft cookie. The recipe I linked to is nearly identical to the one I used, with one small exception: The molasses in the linked-to recipe says "light or dark" - my recipe said "robust or mild." The recipe I used warned against using blackstrap molasses.

Cranberry Margaritas: These festive cocktails are unique and fun. By unique, I don’t mean strange-tasting – these are delicious and most everyone will like them. Its uniqueness comes from the rim on the glass, which includes Chinese five-spice powder. It adds an extra hint of tingle to the drink.
            Be careful when making the cranberry jam. It boils down faster than the recipe indicates. I didn’t need the full 30 minutes, 25 was more like it, and for the last 15 minutes I was standing by the pot the entire time, constantly stirring. The mixture will reduce down into a small amount of a jam-like substance, so small, in fact, it barely made enough for three cocktails, not four as the recipe states. I recommend doubling the jam recipe if you make it.

Brennan’s Brandy Milk Punch: This recipe comes from May 2013 issue of Saveur magazine, but I find this drink much more suitable for the Christmas season, not spring! Egg nog fans will love this combo of brandy, half-and-half, a simple syrup and vanilla extract. It froths up beautifully. But I wouldn’t serve it with brunch, as this drink traditionally is in New Orleans. This cocktail, to me, has evening-in-front-of-a-roaring-fire written all over it.
            Simple syrup, by the way, is very easy to make. Sugar (or, I used Splenda) and an equivalent amount of water are brought to a lively simmer in a saucepan, stirring to dissolve the sugar, then left to cool. Simple syrup keeps well in the refrigerator for at least a week.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Fast winter weeknight dinners, and an easy-to-make, popular cake

Here are some recipes I tried recently that will warm up your winter nights.

Panang Curry Beef with Basil: The word “curry” may scare those who don’t like spicy food, but don’t worry – this dish is mild, and could even be served to children. Make sure to make some rice to go with it – we made jasmine rice.

Shiitake and Roasted Red Pepper Pastry Tart: This sounds a little hoity-toity and time consuming, but it’s definitely not. It is simple, hearty fare that uses jarred roasted red peppers and puff pastry from the supermarket. With the red peppers and green tarragon, this supper-time tart has a festive look and feel to it.

Crispy Flounder with Pears, Endive and Meyer Lemon: This is a bit of a grown-up dish that probably won’t go over well with children, but that doesn’t mean it’s challenging or strange. Make sure to eat each bite as a parcel of fish, pears, endive and lemon – that is when it will taste its wonderful best. Be sure to serve it with rice. We used the sole substitute when we couldn’t find flounder.

Eggs Poached in Tomato Sauce: I’m all for trying what might be considered a slightly exotic dish to my North American taste buds, especially if it looks easy to do. That’s why I picked this recipe, and it came through with flying colours. I halved the recipe, so the simmering time in step 2 was cut back drastically  -  barely eight minutes instead of the 20 minutes listed in the recipe. My advice is to keep a very close eye on the dish during the simmering part – when it has thickened slightly, it is ready. I served this with warmed naan bread – delicious.

Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey Frosting: This would more accurately named Pumpkin Spice Cake with Honey-Cream Cheese frosting, as cream cheese is a vital component of the frosting and what makes it so delicious. This easy-to-make cake was a big hit at my workplace and my husband’s – people gobbled it up and some even admitted to thinking about it in the days following!