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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

New Year's Nibbles

Three cheers to a Happy New Year! In need of some last minute snacks to whip up for your party? Lucky you, I came up with these tasty little treats that are easy to make and will surely impress your guests.  You're welcome.

    On The Menu:
-Cho-Tokkyu Shrimp Cocktail
-Pear & Fig Tartlettes With Gorgonzola 
-Cocktail: The Rejuvenator 
  Pear & Fig Tartlettes: Makes 15 tarts

15   Pre-baked mini-filo dough tart shells 
       (huge time saver! In the frozen aisle of your grocer)
1/2  Pear, ripe but firm, diced 
 8    Dried Mission Figs, diced 
 1    oz. (about) good quality Gorgonzola cheese
 1    tsp. fresh chopped thyme, plus small sprigs for garnish 
 1    Tbs. good quality honey for drizzling 

1) Rehydrate the figs by giving them a bubbly bath in the Pear Cider along with the 
    thyme. Let sit 20 min.
2) While the figs sit, preheat your over to 350, crumble your cheese and chop your 
3) When the figs are ready, set a strainer over a bowl and drain figs, reserving their 
    cooking liquid.
4) Heat a large sized pan over med-high heat and add the pears along with half of 
    the reserved liquid. Sautee for about 5 minutes before incorporating the figs in 
    with the remaining liquid, cook about 5 minutes more or until the liquid is cooked 
5) Scoop mixture out by tablespoon full into the tart shells, sprinkle with a little 
    cheese, and place on a baking sheet. (Tarts can be made up to 4 hours ahead of 
    time at this point, just let the mixture cool before filling the shells and refrigerate
    well wrapped until ready to bake).  Let cook 5-7 min. or until the cheese in nice 
    and melty.
6) Drizzle with a little honey (just a little!) and garnish with some fresh thyme. 
    Marvel at what a great chef you are.

You might just want to make extras of these beauties. 

Cho-Tokkyu Shrimp Cocktail: Serves about 6 

12 oz. Shrimp, fully cooked, tail on
 2  Tbs. sugar
 3  Tbs. Kosher salt 
2+ tsp. prepared horseradish 
1/2 c. Chili Sauce (Heinz works great!)
1  tsp. grated lemon zest 
1) Swirl and pour the entire bottle of cider into a large container and add sugar and 
    salt. Stir until dissolved and then add shrimp. Make sure all the shrimp are 
    covered with the liquid and then put in fridge for 20 -30 min.
2) While the shrimp are resting prepare your sauce. Just combine the horseradish, 
    lemon zest, and chili sauce and stir well to incorporate. Cover and keep in fridge.
3) When the shrimp are ready; drain, rinse with cold water, pat dry, and let rest on 
    a paper towel lined sheet pan. (You can make ahead up to this point and keep in
    the fridge covered until ready to serve)
4) Heat a grill pan over med-high heat, oil lightly. The grill should be good and hot,
    when it's ready throw on your shrimp for just a minute or so per side. Any longer 
    and they'll get chewy. Transfer to a platter with the sauce and serve immediately. 

Nothing like a twist on a classic
The Rejuvenator: Recipe is per drink; easily multiplies 

1 oz. Calvados 
Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
0.75 oz. Rosemary Simple Syrup (sugar, water, fresh rosemary)
Keeps in fridge for three weeks :)

1) First make the simple syrup; combine 1/2 c. sugar and 1/2 c. water in a small 
    saucepan. Heat until sugar is dissolved and then add 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary.
    Let infuse 20-30 minutes and then strain into a container with a tight fitting lid. 
2) Once the syrup has cooled you can make your drink! In a shaker, add ice, and 
    combine ingredients. Give it about 5 good shakes to mix and cool it, but be 
    carefully because the cider is effervescent and the shaker will build up a little 
3) Strain into a chilled martini glass and garnish with a lemon wheel and rosemary 
    sprig. Sip, relax, enjoy.
Now if that's not a recipe for a successful cocktail party, I don't know what is. Have a very Happy New Year!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Soup's On

Spending most of the holiday thus far deep in overindulgence? I know I am. I whipped up this Honey Crisp, Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup to help give myself a healthy dose of veggies without having to sacrifice all of the wonderfully rich flavors I've grown accustomed to over the past couple weeks. It was delicious, super easy, and I can assure you that you won't miss the extra calories and fat I left out of it.
(You can easily just use veggie stock and omit any cream or cheese to make it vegan! It's already gluten free!)
You'll Need: 1 c. Crispin Honey Crisp Cider 
4 c. Chicken or Veggie Stock 
About 1 lb. of carrots, peeled and chopped into 1 in. pieces
3 medium yams, peeled and chopped into 1 in. pieces
2 Tbs. fresh ginger, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1 tsp. good quality cinnamon
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. nutmeg

For Goat Cheese Cream:
1/2 c. heavy cream
2 oz. goat cheese
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
As always, do your prep work! Makes everything go smoother.
So after peeling, measuring and chopping all your ingredients, heat the 1 Tbs. oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the garlic and onion and cook 3-4 minutes or until translucent.  Then add the spices and ginger and stir until well blended.
Add the Honey Crisp cider and stock and bring to a boil.  Add squash and carrots and continue to boil a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer, cover and cook until the veggies are tender. About 20-25 minutes.
While soup is cooking I recommend drinking the rest of the cider. 
When the veggies are done, let cool a few minutes before processing in a blender or food processor. If you're using a blender you'll have to work in 2-3 batches.

If you'd like to make the goat cheese cream to add to the soup, simply heat the two ingredients together in a saucepan over low heat until the goat cheese is melted. Let cool 10-15 minutes before drizzling over soup.

Soup's on. Eat up and feel better. This soup makes enough for 6-8 people, share the joy or let your body thank you for days to come. It's too good to not make so you'd better get cooking, it even got the kitchen pig's stamp of approval. And that my friends, speaks volumes.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

I know how to fix this...

Friends! I feel like it's been ages since I last posted something, my most sincere apologies. I've been bogged down in a flurry of work and moody blues from this less than lustrous weather we've been having here in Minnesota. 
My inspiration for today's post came after a particularly trying day on the job.  I arrived home crabby as can be and decided it was well deserved to treat myself. So I did. I said screw it to the cold, dark, damp weather and made myself a round of delicious Strawberry Cider Slushies. 
Now I get to share my cure-all with you so we can all be happy, cheers! 
Things to grab: 1 can Crispin Browns Lane 
2 oz. Domaine de Canton (my favorite if you can't tell by now)
About a cup of strawberries/raspberries/whatever fruit you'd like
2 Tbsp. sugar 
1 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

Make: Throw all of that stuff into a blender and let it work its magic until thoroughly combined. 
Bust out your ice cream maker and process the mixture in there until it turns into a slushy!
If you don't just happen to keep such a thing on hand, you can easily incorporate ice to this and blend that way, it just won't be as concentrated flavor wise. (just add more booze, it'll be great)
And then voila! You've made a delicious treat. Now stick a straw in it and enjoy! 
p.s. As adorable as a silly straw is, unless you'd like a jaw workout I wouldn't recommend it, they were just the only straws I had on hand.