Thursday, December 18, 2014

Have A Figgy Old Fashioned Christmas!

'Tis the season for all things figgy. Figgy puddings, trifles, cookies and such just seem to fill the Christmas bill.

It's also the time for cocktails redolent with the spices and deep, rich flavors we associate with the season. In the spice vein, that might include cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom and allspice, while in the classic holiday fruits category, raisins, figs, dates, oranges, cranberries and the like would qualify. Which brings me to this year's Dinner Plan-it holiday cocktail, the Figgy Old Fashioned.

Made with a Black Mission fig, warm spice simple syrup, bourbon (or rum perhaps for yet another, sweeter twist) and kissed with a touch of orange bitters, it's a cocktail that will have you remembering Christmases of old by a crackling fire with those you love. Cheers, friends...lots of Christmas cheer to all of you!

Figgy Old Fashioned

  • 1/2 oz fig simple syrup* 
  • 2 dashes Regan's orange bitters
  • 2 oz good bourbon - I used Bulleit or a good spiced rum like Pittsburgh's own Maggie's Farm for a sweeter cocktail
  • 2 Amarena Fabri or Luxardo cherries - reserve one for garnish
  • 2 strips fresh orange peel - reserve one for garnish
  • 1 or 2 whole cloves for garnish

In a cocktail mixing glass, muddle one cherry and the simple syrup together. Add spiced rum and stir well. Strain into Old Fashioned glass (what else would you use?!) over a large ice cube and stir well, add the bitters, twist the peel over the surface of the drink and lightly swipe the orange side of the peel around the rim of the glass. Garnish with another cherry and a clove studded orange peel.


* Fig Simple Syrup: 1 C sugar, 1 C water, 1/2 C dried Black Mission figs - cut in halves or quarters, 3 green cardamom pods - cracked lightly, 1 cinnamon stock - 4" long, 4 whole cloves. 

In a small pot, bring sugar and water to a boil and all the rest of the ingredients. Immediately reduce heat to bring the contents down to a simmer and continue simmering for 5 minutes. Let cool in pot, then strain the liquid into a small bottle. You're all ready to make cocktails now!

NOTE: Try using big, plump Medjool dates (be sure to remove the big pits in the center before adding to the pot) instead of figs if you wish...equally fabulous!

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Saged Potato Dumpling Turkey Vegetable Soup

Today's recipe didn't start out to be a "Quickie," but the potato dumplings were such a snap to put together it ended up as just that.

The actual soup, on the other hand, can be as quick or slow as you wish it to be. This time, I made my turkey stock from scratch, the slow way. Next time I may just use good turkey or chicken stock from a carton and make it a true quickie.

All I added to the stock were fresh green beans, small cuts of carrot, slivers of celery, cubes of red and white potatoes (with the skins on for color and the vitamins and minerals!) and lots of leftover turkey meat. 

The soup itself was put together and cooked the day before I planned to serve it. We all know soups and stews are better the next day, right? By the way, that's what makes this a make the soup the day before and make the dumplings only the day you serve it!

Back to those potato dumplings...the first time saving step is that you use leftover mashed potatoes. Who doesn't have leftover mashed potatoes after Thanksgiving or Christmas?! When it was almost dinnertime the next day, I got going on the dumplings. 

To build savory stuffing flavor right into the dumplings, I sauteed celery and onion in butter until soft, added dried sage, poultry seasoning, flour, an egg and a little salt and pepper and the dumpling batter was ready to drop gently into simmering soup. Once they all floated prettily to the top, it was done.

And there you have it, a deliciously easy way to use up the last bits of Thanksgiving (or Christmas!) in this simple, satisfying and thrifty post-holiday quickie. Enjoy!

Saged Potato Dumpling Turkey Vegetable Soup

Soup (make this the day before the dumplings):
  • 4 quarts turkey stock, either homemade or a good packaged one - I like poultry seasoning added to the stock, but that's up to you
  • 3 C fresh green beans cut into 1" pieces (or use frozen!)
  • 4 medium potatoes, scrubbed and cut into cubes - leave the skins on for vitamins and minerals (I used both red and white potatoes for color and to use up what I had on hand)
  • 3 stalks celery, cut into thin slivers
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled, cut into coins
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 C leftover turkey pieces - for us, it's usually dark meat and errant pieces of white meat that didn't make it into sandwiches...good way to use up the whole bird when your gang prefers the white meat!

Bring the stock to a boil in a large soup pot, add all the veggies and the turkey, then reduce the heat to bring the stock down to a simmer. Cover and let the soup simmer for an hour or so, cool and refrigerate overnight IN the soup pot.

Dumplings (before dinner the next day):
  • 1/2 T butter
  • 2 T onion, minced
  • 2 T celery, minced
  • 1 1/2 t poultry seasoning
  • 1/2 t ground sage
  • 1/2 t salt
  • generous amount of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 3/4 C leftover mashed potatoes, brought to room temperature
  • 2/3 C flour - I used Namaste gluten-free all purpose flour to make these GF
  • 1 egg
Before you start making dumplings, put the pot of soup you made yesterday on the stove and bring to a simmer.

In a small skillet, melt butter and gently saute the onion and celery until tender, but not browned. Add poultry seasoning, sage, salt & pepper. Saute a minute more while stirring to awaken the will smell like stuffing in your kitchen all over again! (That's a good thing around here!) Remove from the heat and let cool while putting the dumplings together.

In a large bowl, mix together the room temp mashed potatoes, flour, salt and pepper and the egg until thoroughly combined. Add the cooled veggies and mix again until thoroughly combined. Now you're ready to drop the dumplings into the waiting, simmering soup.

Using a spoon, take a small amount of dough (maybe a tablespoon each), roll each spoonful into a ball, then drop each into the gently simmering soup. Continue until all the dough is gone or make just as many or few as you want for the soup. (If you don't use all the dough, you can refrigerate it and use it for pan-fried dumplings the next day as a side dish.)

Once all the dumplings have risen to the surface of the soup, give them one more minute and then the soup and dumplings are ready to serve.

NOTE: You can easily make this with a leftover roast chicken!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Cinnamon Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

The cranberry. Know what I like about that festive little Christmas red berry that brightens the holidays? Everything.

The tiny garnet orbs are tart little gems (they DO remind me of garnets and rubies!) that help us celebrate both Thanksgiving and Christmas by way of sauces, jellies, desserts, breads, salads and in stuffings, roasts, chops, stews and such, too. So versatile, they do double duty for both sweet and savory dishes equally well.

When the kids were small, we used to string fresh cranberries to decorate our Christmas tree. It kept their little fingers busy while the resultant loops and scallops of red were gorgeous on our tree! Best of all, the kids really felt a part of making our holiday special. Now, everyone's too busy to sit and string cranberries for hours. I miss those times. 

Kimber may not be stringing cranberries these days, but she is the chief cranberry cooker in our family. Every year she comes up with something new in a cranberry sauce to brighten our table and our tastebuds. This year, her sweet and tart little Thanksgiving number was soooooo good, we think it was the best cranberry sauce rendition ever. Really...who doesn't love a kick of bourbon in their cranberry sauce?!

Christmas menu planning has already begun in our house...have you started your next holiday menu yet? Maybe you and your own family might just enjoy this cinnamon-y, orange-y, slightly boozy, sweet and tart cranberry sauce just as much as we did.   

Cinnamon Bourbon Cranberry Sauce

  • 1 C sugar
  • 1/2 C water
  • 2 sticks cinnamon, use nice and fresh sticks that are the 4-5" size
  • 12 oz bag of fresh cranberries (Did you know the test for a fresh cranberry is to drop it on the counter? If it bounces, it's fresh!)
  • 1/4 C bourbon - Buffalo Trace in this case
  • 1 orange, both zest and juice - zest the outside of the orange first and then juice the naked orange halves
  • 1/2 C golden raisins

In a large, deep, heavy bottomed pot, stir together the water and sugar, add the cinnamon sticks and bring to a boil. Immediately lower heat to medium and let simmer until the mixture develops a medium caramel color. Stir occasionally until it comes up to color - maybe 15 minutes, more or less - then add cranberries, bourbon, raisins, orange juice and zest. It may be a little difficult at first, but stir until mixture is smooth and comes to a boil. 

Immediately reduce the heat to low and cook until the cranberries have popped and the sauce has thickened. Take out the cinnamon sticks carefully with tongs so you don't burn your delicate fingers! Let cool to room temp before serving. You can make this a day or two ahead.

NOTE: Yeah...this makes amazing ice cream topping!