Browsing: Food Celebrations

Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël

December27

We have enjoyed many celebrations and meals over the past four days and I managed to take a break from recording every detail of everything that we ate and drank (for your sake and mine).  The abundance in our lives was apparent by the bounties under the tree.

We are so blessed to host so many family members for dinner that I could not fit everyone into a single picture and even then, I neglected to get Daughter #2 and my 86 year old Mom to squeeze in.  They sat to the far left and right (and D was still in the pantry opening wine).

Of all the baking and roasted meats and gravies, I think the crowning glory was Sister #3’s traditional Christmas dessert that she made especially for The Frenchman (but we all got to enjoy).  If you get “sugared out’ over the holidays, this is a lovely alternative as it is rich and meaty with nuts and butter but not overly sweet.

 

Caramel-Pecan Bûche de Noël
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Serves: 16
 
Ingredients
  • 2 cups pecans, toasted, cooled
  • ¼ cup all purpose flour
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ cup plus ⅓ cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, cooled
  • Frosting and caramel sauce
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ⅓ cup water
  • 1¼ cups heavy whipping cream
  • ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
  • Fresh bay leaves or lemon leaves
  • Powdered sugar (for sprinkling)
Instructions
  1. For Cake:
  2. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  3. Line 17x12x1-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment; butter paper. Pulse nuts and flour in processor until nuts are finely chopped (not ground). Using electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt in very large bowl until foamy.
  4. With mixer running, gradually beat in ¼ cup sugar, beating just until stiff peaks form.
  5. Using electric mixer, beat yolks with ⅓ cup sugar and bourbon in large bowl until thickened, about 5 minutes.
  6. Add yolk mixture to egg-white mixture.
  7. Sprinkle nuts over; gently fold until almost incorporated.
  8. Add butter; fold gently just to blend.
  9. Pour into prepared baking sheet, spreading batter gently to form even layer.
  10. Bake cake until edges begin to brown and cake is firm to touch, about 14 minutes. Cool in pan on rack.
  11. For frosting and caramel sauce:
  12. Stir 1¼ cups sugar and ⅓ cup water in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until sugar dissolves.
  13. Increase heat; boil without stirring until deep amber, occasionally swirling pan and brushing down sides with wet pastry brush, about 9 minutes (time will vary, depending on size of pan).
  14. Remove from heat; immediately add cream (mixture will bubble vigorously). Whisk in butter, bourbon, and salt.
  15. Stir over medium heat until any caramel bits dissolve.
  16. Transfer 1 cup caramel sauce to small pitcher.
  17. Add chocolate to remaining caramel in saucepan.
  18. Let stand off heat 5 minutes; whisk until smooth.
  19. Transfer to bowl.
  20. Let frosting stand until spreadable, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour.
  21. Spread 1 cup frosting over cake in even layer.
  22. Beginning at 1 long side and using parchment as aid, roll up cake jelly-roll style.
  23. Starting 1 inch in from each end of cake, cut off 3-inch-long diagonal piece from each end.
  24. Arrange cake, seam side down, on platter. Spread cut side of each 3-inch cake piece with some of frosting.
  25. Attach 1 cake piece, frosting side down, to top of cake near 1 end. Attach second piece to side of cake near opposite end.
  26. Cover cake with remaining frosting.
  27. Run fork in concentric circles on cake ends.
  28. Do ahead Can be made 1 day ahead.
  29. Cover loosely with waxed paper and let stand at room temperature.
  30. Garnish platter with leaves.
  31. Sprinkle cake lightly with powdered sugar.

Kath’s quote: ” . . . réveillon, this word says it all; it is just as well that it comes only once a year, on 25 December, between two and three o’clock in the morning. This meal. . . is designed to restore the faithful, who are exhausted after a session of four hours in church, and to refresh throats hoarse from singing praises to the Lord. . . . A poularde or a capon with rice is the obligatory dish for this nocturnal meal, taking the place of soup, which is never served. Four hors d’oeuvres, consisting of piping hot sausages, fat well-stuffed andouilles, boudins blancs au crème, and properly defatted black puddings, are its attendants. This is followed by ox (beef) tongue, either pickled or (more likely) dressed as it would be at this time of the year, accompanied by a symmetrical arrangement of a dozen pigs’ trotters (feet) stuffed with truffles and pistachio nuts, and a dish of fresh pork cutlets. At each corner of the table are two plates of petits fours, including tarts or tartlets, and two sweet desserts, which may be a cream and an English apple pie. Nine more desserts round off the meal, and the faithful – thus fortified – retire to their devotions at the early morning Mass, preceded by Prime and followed by Tierce.”-Grimod de La Reyniere

This single blossom appeared on a south facing window sill this week.

Love-that is all.

 

First Christmas Dinner

December11

For our family the Christmas season is launched with a turkey dinner that for 15 years D has planned and catered for 70-80 staff and volunteers of a charity that we support.  There have been various configurations of people who have worked on our team to spoil the guests and thank them for their faithful work.  When D worked at Winnipeg Harvest there were volunteers from Germany and our good friends from Sicily are often in Canada and available to help us out.  But last night was particulary special (for me at least), because it was our family: Sister #3, an Honourary Sister, my Beloved Bro-in-law and my handsome (and hard-working) nephew,  our Son, Daughter (in law) #3, Daughter #2 and The Frenchman.  We are a well-oiled machine thanks in part to our years of participating and D’s organizational skills but also because I think that our family just works well together.  We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and we are there to enhance each other: Sister #3 is always D’s right hand in the kitchen, Daughter #2 typically starts the evening off by getting the dish pit organized, etc. etc.

Here was the menu:

Hot Spiced Cider and Cranberry Punch

Salad Noir with Balsamic Dressing and Dark Chocolate Shavings

Harvest Bakery Dinner Rolls

Roasted Turkey and Gravy

Quinoa, Wild & Basmatic Rice Stuffing

D’s Homemade Cranberry Sauce

Sun-dried Tomato and Basil Mashed Potatoes

Cumin & Coriander Fingerling Carrots

Sweet Potatoes with Honey & Cinamon

Spiced Ginger Cake with Salty Caramel Sauce

Coffee and Assorted Tea

The hit every single year are the sweet potatoes.  One attendee shared with us that they start talking about the taste of them in their office in August.  D found a gluten-free stuffing made with Quinoa which was appreciated.  We were concerned that the Salad Noir might be too unusual, but everyone loved it!

The rewards of the evening are many: for me, the admiration and appreciation lavished upon my husband is wonderful to see and I’ll admit it-I love the kitchen parade, when everyone pulls themselves away from the task at hand to recieve an ovation.  But the best part is when, to close the evening, tapers are distributed and lit and we are included in the singing of Silent Night.

So as of this morning our kitchen is back to normal and preparations for our own festivities can begin in earnest. 

Kath’s quote: “Bad hair day?  You’re a virgin, you’ve just given birth, and now three kings have shown up — find out the happy ending at a church near you.” -Unknown 

Love-that is all.

Shower Them With Love

November30

Most of my readers know that I grew up in a large family and that we all live together in the same city (very rare now a days).  We absolutely love the excuse to celebrate milestones as a family.  We invite extended family members and friends that we have known and loved so long, that they feel like family.  This was the case this past Sunday, when the women of our clan assembled for a bridal shower to celebrate the upcoming marriage of our precious niece.

Our Guest of Honour

Kelsey is such an angel that her halo is often visible.

Plenty of Fruit

We divided the task list up amongst the three sisters and were ably assisted by a 4th Auntie who made a breath-taking fruit tray and lead us in a blessing (the 5th Auntie is vacationing in Hawaii but still contributed Chocolate Cranberry Squares and the 6th Auntie is the Mother of the Bride and provided the wine).

Tableful of Desserts

Tble laden with Desserts

Other desserts were contributed by cousins and friends, Sister #2 made the quiche, decorated and gave the toast; Sister #3 made the salads and was the MC.  There were requests for the Marinated Zucchini Artichoke Salad recipe by Kelsey’s co-workers, so here it is:

Marinated Zucchini Artichoke Salad
Author: 
Recipe type: Salad
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 8-10
 
Hearty enough for a meal but also perfect with a light entree. The 3 Sisters have been delighting guests with this salad for years!
Ingredients
  • 3 small zucchini
  • 1 14 oz. can of artichokes, drained & quartered
  • ½ c canola oil
  • ¼ c red wine vinegar
  • 1 T fresh lemon juice
  • 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 T grated onion
  • 1 t Worcestershire sauce
  • coarsely ground salt & pepper to taste
  • ¾ t sugar t dry mustard
  • 1 t basil
  • 1 t oregano
  • 1 head romaine, torn
  • 2-3 T fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 c fresh mushrooms, sliced
Instructions
  1. Leaving skin on, thinly slice zucchini and place in a bowl with the artichokes.
  2. Combine all except last ingredients in a blender for 30 seconds (or shake well).
  3. Pour over veggies and let marinate at least 2 hours (at room temperature).
  4. Add parsley, mushrooms and lettuce to salad bowl.
  5. Just before serving, toss together with the veggies (marinade and all).

 

Kim's Flowers

Kim's Decor

I made the punch and in writing this, it seems like I got away task-free.  That is the beauty of coming from a large family.  I am particularly busy with my work right now and so my efforts were limited, but my time is coming!  Set up was accomplished by the Maid of Honour and Sister of the Bride and everyone pitched in when it was time for dishes (even one of the cousins who is eight months pregnant).  We are a well-oiled machine!

Kath’s Tip: Sister #3 always brings a fancy pen and place cards to events like this to label each dish.  This way food is not wasted because you are aware of all of the ingredients (some might upset a tummy and there are allergies in our family).

Kath’s quote: “My face looks like a wedding cake left out in the rain.”-W.H. Auden

Love-that is all.

Guest Blogger-Sister #3: GLEE does Hallowe’en

November1

“My dinner club is lovingly referred to as Glee (Girls Laughing, Eating and Entertaining).

Our usual M.O. is to theme a dinner around a movie but on occasions like Halloween we have a built in theme so instead we spend our evening visiting.  Being this was the first dinner event of the 2012/13 season, we had a bit of catching up to do.

Our spooky culinary adventure started the Kathy’s appetizer plate of crunchy-cheesy witch fingers, pumpkin shaped cheese ball and vegetable crudités.

Our hostess, Barb, set a beautiful table and we enjoyed a mixed green salad featuring orange peppers, dried cranberries and pumpkins seeds.

Our main was a rice pilaf, couscous and pickerel cheeks, all delicious.

We finished off the evening with Lucille’s pumpkin loaf topped with her homemade spider chocolates.”

Kath’s quote: “My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already.”-Dave Barry

Love-that is all.

Beer and Cheese Party

October31

I was recently invited to attend a “new” spin on an old favourite- a beer and cheese tasting, as opposed to a traditional wine and cheese party.  I say “new” with qualifiers because both beer and wine have existed since the beginning of time.

First up was Molson M paired with Oka Classique.  This was my first taste of Molson M and I appreciated its creaminess and lack of bitterness.  The selected cheese complemented the sweet, maltiness of the beer.  The carbonation of the beer cut through the richness of the cheese and cleansed the palate.  I intend to remember this for my next formal dinner party and surprize guests with a glass of beer instead of the sorbert cleansing course.

Rickard’s White is one of my favourite “boutique” beer.  This is perhaps because I am drawn to the fresh, crisp taste of cilantro and the beer is fashioned with ground coriander which is the seed of the herb.  The result is a drink with a slight spiciness and a refreshing finish.  An intense, yet velvety Brie was served as a complement.

Last, but not least, was my favourite pairing: Molson Canadian 67 Sublime with a spicy Monterrey Jack.  Since I have long been a lover of light Mexican beer with a wedge of lime squeezed into the bottle, this beer is my new “go to”.  The hint of natural citrus flavour in the beer is the perfect way to cool and refresh your mouth after a hot taste of the jalapeno infused cheese.  If you close your eyes, you could be lying under a palapa on a Mexican beach.

Throughout this tasting, we were hosted by a to female executive from Molson’s (her job title is VP of Beer Reverence-how awesome is that?) who coached us to raise our glass to a light source in order to observe the colour, clarity and foam of the beer.  Then to bring the glass to our neck level and fan it right and left under our noses (more than anything-this looks really cool)!  Next, we were encouraged to discover the first scents of the elixir and then to release even more aromas from the hops and malts by swirling our glasses to release additional carbonation.  Our noses were plunged deep into our glasses for the next step, to take in a long, deep smell.  And finally, it was time to drink!

We were instructed to allow enough beer to cover our entire tongue and taste receptors, to keep our mouths closed and breath through our noses (the opposite of swimming lessons).  This is called “quaffing”.  And thankfully, we were not instructed to spit but to ensure that the beer flowed down the back of our mouths where there are other important taste receptors.  Oh yes, and then we were to breathe.  “Quaff, swallow, breathe.”

Our son J1 is studying to become a brew-master and is already a beer connoisseur.  I hope that he will be impressed by his ole Mom and her newly acquired swilling techniques.

Kath’s quote: “He was a wise man who invented beer.”-Plato

Love-that is all.

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