25 December 2010

Merry Christmas

from all of us at

Teddy decided to un-decorate the tree.

This year we decorated a Pepe le Pew theme tree.

After much playing around, Carlisle decided to show everyone how to strike a pose.

And then...

She decided to sing...

A little song... Silent Night, I am pretty sure.

Alright Mr. De Mille, I'm ready for my close up...

And to all a goodnight.

24 December 2010

Buon Natale, Y'all

We feel that stealing Christmas traditions is the only way to go. This year we are having a Feast of the Seven Fishes. We are not Italian. We know an Italian or two. My mother had a second cousin twice removed who died...but years later my mother found out that she was alive and well and married to an Italian in New Orleans.

I know that in the Italian tradition one is supposed to have salt cod. In Alabama we don't have regular cod, so we sure as hell don't have salt cod... you can't even fish with salt cod.

Seven Fish is my favorite Key West restaurant.

Remember, this is the Southern version of seven fishes.

Here's the menu:

Fried Oysters
Fried Catfish
Crawdaddy Hush Puppies
Crab Cakes
Spaghetti with Tabasco Butter Poached Lobster
Shrimp and Truffled Grits
Redneck Riviera Chowder

Since New England chowder has a cream base and Manhattan chowder has a tomato base, Redneck Riviera chowder has a sweet potato base.

Our Cocktail at the Burn Pit/Fireplace is a variation on a French 75.

Italian 75

2 oz. gin
2 sugar cubes
2 oz. blood orange juice

Shake the first three ingredients in a shaker.

Pour into a tall glass.

Fill to the top with Proseco.

Have a lovely Christmas Eve. I know I will.

23 December 2010

Cocktails at the Burn Pit -- Nog Shots

It is just too damn cold to spend quality time at the burn pit -- so we suggest moving indoors to the fireplace, wood stove or cooking stove of your choice. We are planning to gather with friends around our kitchen Christmas tree, lovingly created by Jon.

Now I know that eggnog is a Christmas favorite. By the time you add those raw eggs, sugar, heavy cream, bourbon, rum, brandy and just a dash of nutmeg, a 4 ounce glass has the caloric content of a Double Cheese Whopper. Not to mention all that booze cloaked in guise of a milkshake lends to overindulging in a big way.

Still tradition is important. When Christmas Eve rolls around and your guests are gathered around the verdant chalk wall tree, with the stove open wide and warming their chestnuts, serve them up a special Burn Pit Nog Shot.

Burn Pit Nog Shot

10 ounces of eggnog (Do feel free to buy eggnog, but spring for an organic, all natural eggnog, because it is Christmas.)

2 envelopes of gelatin (Not jello -- look for Knox - four packs to a box - so you will be able to make two batches!)

5 ounces of liquor (Be creative! I like a bourbon/rum blend 4 /1. Brandy works fine. Just bourbon, just rum, just brandy -- think about your regular eggnog recipe and improvise.)

A pinch of nutmeg

In a saucepan, bring the eggnog to a simmer. Do not boil, simmer till little bubble are around the edges of the pan, but not a full blown eruption.)

Pour the eggnog into a quart measuring cup (or small bowl, but the measuring cup makes it easier to pour).

Sprinkle the gelatin on top of the hot eggnog and let sit for a minute, then stir to dissolve. (At this point the gelatin might look a bit hinky, but just keep stirring.)

Allow the eggnog mixture to cool a bit, then pour in the alcohol. (As we do not want the buzz to be burned away.)

Pour the eggnog into small shot cups (you know those little plastic cups they put pills in at a hospital) -- about two ounces should do the trick.

Put the cups into the fridge and let sit for at least 4 hour. If you are going to make them early, set the cups on a tray and cover with cling film. Right before you serve them, grate a bit of nutmeg on the top.

A fun way to keep a tradition and improve upon it at the same time.

22 December 2010

Chocolate Citrus Fruitcake

Why didn't someone tell me that Christmastimes a' comin'?

I recently made some fruitcakes. Now I love fruitcakes, but in America it is often hard to find good candied peel and if you use that dry chopped peel that is standing in some sugar water, well, your fruitcake will most definitely suck.

My other problem with fruitcake -- it seldom has chocolate in it, and frankly, chocolate is a favorite for cakes. This year I decided to remedy this. I developed a fruitcake with the requisite candied peel, but I also added chocolate. I used chips, because I had a couple of bags, but next time I think I will use chunked chocolate.

I macerated the fruit in one of my favorite liqueurs, Jeremiah Weed. Jeremiah Weed is a bourbon liqueur so you get both bourbon and a sweetness which is wonderful. Now if you are not a drinker, you can skip the macerating.

Chocolate Citrus Fruitcake

3/4 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flower
3/4 cup room temperature milk
3 cups mixed citrus peel
1 cup Jeremiah Weed or bourbon; plus extra for brushing
2 3/4 cups chocolate chips/chunks

In a large bowl, mix the citrus peel and the Jeremiah Weed and allow to sit overnight.

In a large bowl, beat together the butter, sugar, baking powder, salt, vanilla and almond flavors.

Beat in the eggs one at time.

Stir in the flour alternately with the milk.

Stir the citrus with the liquid and chocolate into the cake batter.

Pour the batter into the lightly greased pans, filling them about 3/4 full. (The cake will make one large cake or several smaller ones. I like the individual, smaller cakes.)

Bake until done – about 50 minutes for small cakes or 1 hour 40 minutes for large cake.

Remove from the oven.

Brush while still warm with liquor.

As one might suspect, I have a huge collection of cooking equipment that is totally useless. One such item is the ORKA Silicone Squid Brush and Baster.

This little squidy device works much like a regular baster in that it sucks up liquid and then you can squeeze it on something else. It is pretty small to actually baste anything like a turkey, holding only about 1 1/2 ounces. However, if you pull off the top and fill its little squid body with say, liquor, it is superb for basting baked goods.

So, if you absolutely hate fruitcake -- reconsider and give this one a try.

20 December 2010

Two Wreths A'wavin'

I confess -- I hate to decorate for Christmas. So I don't. What I lack in festive trimmings I try to make up for in food. Still, every year I have that "Christmas In Connecticut" moment and feel an urge to do something.

So this year I made two wreaths and hung them on the chicken house. I thought about hanging lights but I couldn't get up on that ladder.

Where is Eddie Ross when I need him?

15 December 2010

Lucinda's Christmas Granola

This weekend was Christmas gifts time in our kitchen. This year we made our Christmas granola. If you like granola, there are probably "favorite" ingredients that you will want in it, so a recipe is very subjective. My friends are all big on flax seeds, so some end up in my granola. I don't like nuts in my food (do not take this as an opportunity to convert me to your Grandma's Nut Balls or Uncle Bubba's Squirrel Almondine), but I will acquiesce to walnuts and they seem to another fave of all my friends, so my recipe has walnuts.

Here is a general rule of thumb recipe for concocting your own very personal granola.
Basically, granola is a tub of rolled oats (oatmeal) with some sugar and oil added. It is baked till a bit crunchy, removed from the oven where raisin are added. Voila -- granola.

Really good granola consists of something:


You want:

4 parts oaty -- basic rolled oats, steel cut oatmeal, etc.

1 part crunchy -- This year, I used a Harvest Grains Blend from King Arthur. It has oat berries, millet, rye flakes, wheat flakes, flax, poppy, sesame, and sunflower seeds. I think of "crunchy" as more seedy and flaky than nutty, however, if you love nuts, you can use this "crunchy" part as an additional "nutty" part.

1 part nutty -- walnuts, almonds, pecans... be as nutty as you want to and as I said earlier, if you love nuts, they can also be a "crunchy" part. Another anomaly is coconut. I use coconut* as
part of my "nutty" but it can also be a "chewy" part.

1 part syrupy -- this is your sweetener with honey being the most popular, but agave works, Karo works, maple syrup works. This year I used the tried and true Alaga Syrup direct from Alabama. It has a sorghum taste to it.

1/2 part oil -- if you don't have a strong point of view, use a non-descript canola. I am fond of a fruity olive oil, especially if I choose pine nuts as part of nutty/crunchy selection.

3 parts chewy -- for Christmas I always use "red chewy" things like cranberries, cherries, red grape raisins, even pomegranate seeds.

So, my recipe this year: Lucinda's Christmas Granola

3 cups rolled oats
1 cup Harvest Grains Blend
3/4 cup walnuts
1/4 tinted coconut
1 cup Alaga Syrup
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cups mixed dried cherries
2 cup dried cranberries

Mix all of this oaty, crunchy, nuttyness together with the syrupy/oily elements and bake on cookie sheets at 325 for about 30 minutes. A large batch will take several trays of baking.

When the baking is finished, allow the mixture to cool and add the chewy parts.

Mix thoroughly and put in, bags, bottles, or cans for lovely treats for you and yours.

*A Note on Tinting Coconut. I tint my coconut a festive green for the holidays. Take about 1 ounce of green food coloring and squirt it in a plastic bowl with a cover big enough to hold your coconut. (Also, be prepared to throw the bowl out after using as it may not come clean.) Add the coconut to the container and shake it about until the coconut is tinted a nice green. Another work of warning: Harrylowe, who gets this granola, likes to heat up his milk and pour it over the granola which results in a ghastly green milk. Kids will no doubt love it, but it is something to think of before you tint the coconut.

10 December 2010

More Free Christmas Tunes

The folks at Paste Magazine not only offer a "build your own subscription" but this week they are offering the Paste Holiday Sampler. We are suckers for Christmas music...especially the FREE kind. Enjoy.

08 December 2010

Leftover Turkey Soup

Every time I cook turkey, I go through the process of saving the carcass, adding aromatics and making a huge container of turkey stock.

Sometime, usually around July, I find it in the freezer and trow it away.

This year was no different. I made a about two quarts of turkey broth and there it sat in the refrigerator, doomed to end up lost in the freezer. Then, I got an e-mail from Saveur with a list of recipes and I saw one for Turkey Soup so I clicked and immediately closed it. This soup called for dumping in the stuffing and that sounded AWFUL.

So I went home with every intention of making a nice soup and skillet of cornbread and then I looked in the refrigerator. What difference would it be if I made corn bread for the soup or threw in the cornbread dressing?

I took out the broth and skimmed the fat. I heated the soup tureen, added a nob of butter and sauteed some chopped onion and celery. I threw in a handful of frozen carrots as I had no fresh ones. I dumped in the turkey stock with bits of turkey. I chopped up some more turkey, added that along with the rest of the cornbread dressing. In the last few seconds I added some frozen peas.

It was wonderful. I believe it was better than the turkey dinner. I want to make turkey again just to make this soup. What a great way to eliminate leftovers expeditiously. I wouldn't add the cranberries or the pumpkin pie, but almost any veggie side would work as would mashed potatoes. Give it a try with your leftovers.

07 December 2010

Snow, Snow, Snow




What more can one say!

Christmas Tunes From Target

If you like that hip hop tune on the Target commercial it is a song called Toy Jackpot by Blackalicious. Target is offering a free download of 14 Christmas songs. A great deal.

05 December 2010

Sweet Potatoes With A Side Of Pie

My friend Catherine returned from a visit to the shore with a bag of presents: a cabbage just slightly larger than a basketball and two lovely, large sweet potatoes. I love sweet potatoes, but I must confess that casserole topped with bags of store-bought marshmallows makes me gag. It is tantamount to making a rich, cheddary macaroni and cheese and then topping it with a jar a chezwhiz.

I was looking for a dish that I could make in individual servings that would be textural, not too sweet and would show off the sweet potato. This fall I received an abundance of old fashioned, hard pears. They are divine for preserves, but as it became hard to process them all, I decided to make a batch of pear butter. This was a case where the variety of pear did not evenly match its use. The herbed pear butter with thyme and sage remained a bit gritty.

When I got the sweet potatoes, I thought the pear butter would make a nice compliment to some mash. Then I decided to make a savory pie instead. I thought this would be nice to make in large cupcake pans so you could have individual servings, but I made one big pie to try it out.

I made a sage oil with some rubbed and fresh sage and set it aside. I began roasting the largest sweet potato in a 375 oven and after about a half-hour, I set in a pie crust to blind bake. Next, I peeled and slice the other potato in slices of a bit over 1/4 inch. I laid them on a baking tray and brushed them with the sage butter. When my crust was nicely browned, I pulled it out and checked my baked sweet potato. It was soft, so I took it out and put in my slices.

I mashed the baked sweet potato and added about 3/4 cup of herbed pear butter. I added 1/4 cup half-half and two eggs and mixed well. I added the mixture to the pie shell, removed my slices from the oven and laid them decoratively on the top. I put the pie back in the oven and baked it for 45 minutes.

It came out fine, but not as savory as I thought. It actually made a lovely dessert pie. I am still thinking of making individual "cups" to serve with a Christmas turkey or maybe just as little snacks.

(Not So Savory) Sweet Potato Pie

1 bottom crust, blind baked
2 baked sweet potatoes: one mashed, one sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
1/4 teaspoon rubbed sage plus 6 sprigs of fresh sage if available
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup pear butter (or apple sauce)
1/4 cup half-and-half
2 eggs

Mix the sage, salt and oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Peel and slice one sweet potato. Lay the rounds on a baking sheet and brush with sage oil.

Bake the other sweet potato in a 375 oven for one hour, until soft.

Remove the baked sweet potato from the oven and now add the tray of sliced sweet potatoes into the oven.

Peel and mash the baked sweet potato. Add the pear butter, half-and-half, and eggs and mix thoroughly. Pour into baked pie shell.

Remove the potato slices (they may not be totally cooked, but that is OK). Arrange the slices on the top of the pie. Return pie to oven for about 45 minutes.

In the end, these sweet potatoes would not be denied their incredibly rich sweetness. So my savory sides became a sweety pie. What's a girl to do?

04 December 2010

Let's Talk About Chicks, Man

My friend Ann decided to give me chicks for Christmas. They are, indeed, the gift that keeps on giving.
Sandi is raising them up till they are a bit bigger because I keep my house really cold and I have cats. While they live quite peacefully with the chickens, I must admit these little one look like tiny morsels of goodness that no self respecting feline could resist.

The yellow chick to the left is an interloper and not a member of the Doe Run Farm collective, but that's OK. These 20 chicks will start laying in the spring and Ann and about a dozen other friends will reap their yolky goodness for years to come.

In this season of giving, I would like to put in a word for one of my favorite charities, Heifer International. For a donation of $20, you can give a family a flock of chicks. To give you a bit of perspective, in Tanzania, families survive on 50 cents a day. One $20 flock of chicks can raise that family's income to $2 a day. Think about that when you pass a Starbucks.

If you are looking for a gift-giving opportunity for that person that has EVERYTHING, think about giving a flock of chicks in their name.

01 December 2010

Rain and Snow

It rained and rained and this morning I was stranded.
While the house in on pretty high ground, it did flood in the 1930's.

The first bridge was passable.

But the second one was decidedly underwater.

Then it decided to snow.
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