Wednesday, November 27, 2013

It's all in the Details

As I ponder over the final details, I have to keep reminding myself that by 10 a.m. on Friday, it will all be over.  The company will be on their way home, the kitchen will be clean, and I will have had at least a few decent hours of sleep. 

But still, I can’t help wondering how I’m going to organize the sea of food on the buffet, if there will be enough table space for everyone, if the new dressing recipe will turn out, what to do with the dog and cat.
I’m no stranger to hosting holiday events for my husband’s large family.  While the task may seem daunting at times, I take comfort in knowing that I've pulled this off before.   So for now, I will focus on the small things that make the day special.
Before I know it, Friday morning will be here just in time to break out the Christmas decorations. 
Happy Thanksgiving!

Spiced Nuts
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
2 cups walnut halves
Preheat oven to 325°.  Line a baking sheet with foil and lightly butter it.  In a small bowl, combine sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, salt and pepper.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg white until frothy.  Add sugar mixture and whisk.  Whisk in orange zest.  Add walnuts and stir until coated.  Spread on baking sheet in an even layer.  Bake and stir every 10 minutes to loosen, until golden about 25 minutes.

Cranberry Apple Relish
¾ orange juice
¾ cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
1 12-ounce package cranberries
1 large apple, peeled and cored
In a saucepan combine orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.  Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.  Add cranberries and apples.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook and stir for 3 or 4 minutes until cranberries pop.  Chill and serve.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

For the Birds

It’s hard for me to admit this, especially at my age.  I should be good at this by now, with many years of experience under my belt.  But the truth is, I avoid it at all costs.  I even snuck past it last year by hosting a brunch instead of making a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. 

You see, I have this phobia – a deathly fear of cooking a turkey. 

Up the front steps
Can you blame me though?  When you’re the one in charge of the turkey, there is tremendous pressure.  Pressure to perform.  It’s got to be great, or everyone’s Thanksgiving will be ruined…. 

Well, maybe that’s a bit dramatic, but it would be disappointing none the less. 

I have tried, really.  Every year I say to myself, “This will be the year that I prepare a full turkey.”  And then, I chicken out.  No pun intended. 

Sadly, this year will be no different.  I am going to host Thanksgiving dinner for our family. I just won’t be the one cooking the bird.   

Our Thanksgiving table
I’m sticking with what I am good at – the decorations, the tablescape, and the scrumptious side dishes.  And that, I can handle.  

I wish you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving Day.
Happy Thanksgiving!


Monday, November 11, 2013


I was absolutely terrified.  I thought my husband would never speak to me again.   It was as if someone had just rang the bell for the start of the Food Network's Chopped challenge.  Not exactly our idea of a relaxing vacation cooking class.

Sharp knives and hot pots were swirling all around us, and participants were already forming alliances with each other.  "We'll take the pork.  You take the chicken. Go!"

I didn't understand what the rush was all about.  Perhaps the romanticism of reality cooking shows had overtaken their emotions.  We had plenty of time - at least three hours to create four different fillings for tacos.

The term too many cooks in the kitchen came to mind.  Quickly I shouted, "I'll take the veggie dish."  Good thing because my husband had already started working on it with Patty, the rock climber, from San Diego.

I dove into my role and began chopping an onion for the tomatillo and avocado salsa.  The kitchen at the Santa Fe School of Cooking was rocking.  Others seemed undaunted by the frenzy, but perhaps I am just used to cooking in my own kitchen.

After completing the salsa and taking a deep breath, we began our next culinary creation - potato, poblano chile and spinach taco filling.  It's sinfully rich as it is finished with heavy cream and Fontina cheese. Get the recipes below.

Me adding the finishing touches

Others in the group made Hot and Smoky Shrimp, Pork al Pastor and Chicken al Carbon. All of which turned out quite tasty.  Toward the end of class, we got a chance to make our own flour and corn tortillas. Feeling adventurous I grabbed the spatula and took command over the tortilla griddle imitating a cook in a Mexican Taqueria.

Learning how to make tortillas

Despite all of the chaos around us, we realized we were having a really good time with some fun folks from all over the country.

It was a good day after all with delicious food, but don't count on me to audition for Chopped any time soon.
Fresh Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa
Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

1 dozen tomatillos, soaked in warm water and husked
(We roasted ours for more flavor)
1 medium white onion, diced
2 garlic cloves
2 or 3 fresh Serrano chiles, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
1 large ripe avocado, cubed
Juice from 2 or 3 limes
Salt to taste
Sugar to taste (We used honey instead to cut the acidity from the limes)
Extra virgin olive oil to taste

Quarter the tomatillos and place in the work bowl of a food processor.  Pulse to a course puree. Place the tomatillos, onion, garlic, chilies and cilantro in a bowl and stir to combine.  Add the avocado.  Season with lime juice, salt, sugar and drizzles of olive oil.  Let stand 20 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
Potato, Poblano Chile and Spinach Tacos
4 or 5 red or white potatoes
1 large white onion, diced
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bunches fresh spinach, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano or marjoram
4 fresh Poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, peeled and cut into quarter-inch strips
1 cup heavy cream or Mexican cream
1 cup grated Fontina cheese
Salt to taste
Corn tortillas

Peel potatoes and dice.  Cook in boiling water until potatoes are soft but not falling apart, about 10 to 12 minutes.
Heat oil in a medium-hot skillet.  Lightly brown onions.  Add garlic and potatoes and cook for 2 minutes more.  Add spinach a handful at a time, stirring with tongs to wilt.  When greens are wilted, add herbs, chiles and cream.
Cook on low boil, stirring constantly, until liquid is reduced by a third.  Stir in cheese and continue cooking until smooth and thick.  Add salt if needed.
Place in a serving dish along with a basket  of warm, corn tortillas.