December 2008

Christmas morning plans around here will be very casual, as we will be glued to the scene that will be unfolding in the family room. It is our son’s first Christmas! The spread on the kitchen counter will consist of a hashbrown casserole that I still have to think up, and a full size version of the Pomegranate Orange Bundt Cake that I did last week, in miniature, during my baking extravaganza. I am sure I will also manage to bake scones, and this will all be washed out with mimosas.

Orange Pomegranate Cake

Orange Pomegranate Cake

Orange Pomegranate Bundt Cake

1 1/2 cups cake flour
3/4 teas baking soda
3/4 teas baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 stick of butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice
2 eggs
1 teas almond extract
2 TB sour cream
pomegranate seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and flour miniature bundt cake pan.
2. Mix together the flour, salt baking soda and baking powder.
3. Mix the butter and sugar until creamy, add the orange juice till well combined.
4. Add eggs, mixing one at a time. Then add the almond extract and sour cream.
5. Incorporate dry ingredients into the butter mixture.
6. Pour two tablespoons of batter in each mold, add about 10 pomegranate seeds on top of the batter, top with 1 1/2 to 2 additional tablespoons of batter.
6. Bake for 15 minutes.

I have received several emails inquiring about our Christmas Eve Menu. Is there such a thing as a specific menu? Kidding! At our house is a day of munching leading up to an actual meal. Actually, this is going to be a quick and easy post, as two of the dinner recipes are coming from Epicurious. I have been so busy that the 24th has snuck up and I didn’t really get a chance to think up a new dishes. With that, here are some tried and tested recipes.

Christmas Eve Menu

  • Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes – roast the garlic and set aside. In a skillet, cook onions in butter until softened. Place the onion mixture in a medium pot, add equal amounts of cream and milk. Add this mixture to your mashed potatoes and fold in the roasted garlic.
  • Beef Brisket with Merlot and Prunes
  • Creamed Corn Casserole – you can simplify this recipe by using French’s Onions and Hormel’s Real Bacon instead of making your own onion rings and cooking the bacon at home. One of my clients raved over this one at Thanksgiving!

and dessert… how can I forget dessert… also from my friends at Epi

  • Cranberry Eggnog Tart – because I am not a huge fan of bourbon, I plan on substituting with Bacardi Anejo. After all, this girl has got to support the economy of the homeland!

I came across this article as I was about to log into one of my email accounts today:

This got my attention for several reasons. First and foremost, my maternal grandparents grew coffee in mass quantities in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. I learned to appreciate good coffee at an early age, and for the longest time (while in college), I had coffee shipped up here from Puerto Rico, or simply brought up stashes of it every time I went home for a visit.

Buying coffee is almost like buying wine at our house. We find something new and intriguing and we must try it! These unique finds are saved for the weekend, where we can actually enjoy every sip of every cup; yes, multiple cups are enjoyed. So what might you find if you take a peek at the coffee shelf? Kirkland’s Costa Rican Blend for every day enjoyment. Lavazza, Espresso-Kafe (sold at Ikea), and Kona live on the weekend shelf, for now.

So where do you go for the perfect cup ? If I haven’t tried it yet, I promise I will… pinky swear!

Something about the season brings out the desire to bake, even on those of us, self-proclaimed non-bakers. I spent eight hours in the kitchen baking and the results were D-lish. I change up what I make every year, primarily because I love to try new things. The recipes below came from different sources as outlined next to each recipe. Something tells me I am not done for the season though. Lots of ingredients in the pantry, and plenty of rainy days in the forecast.

2008 Holiday Bakeoff

2008 Holiday Bakeoff

  • Lemon Bars – Friend’s grandmother recipe. One thing I love about this recipe, is that is not overly tart, like many lemon bars I have tried.
  • Butterscotch Caramels – Friend’s grandmother recipe. These are addictive! So I managed to overcook the caramel and they are a little harder than I would have wanted. Still, they melt in your mouth.
  • Pumpkin Biscotti – My original recipe. If you stopped by my booth at the Zionsville Farmer’s Market in 2005 or 2006, you have tasted these!
  • Lazy Rugelach – My original recipe. The name says it all. I substituted pie dough in place of the home made dough that the traditional recipes call for. Then filled them with cherry preserves and chocolate.
  • Almond and Cranberry Pinwheels – My original recipe – Another pie dough creation. Filled with almond pastry filling, cranberries, cinnamon, and sliced almonds…. yum!
  • Pomegranate Orange Mini Bundt Cakes – My original recipe. These are super moist and crumbly. Hard to stop at one!
  • Russian Tea Cakes – My original recipe. Filled with raspberry jam and almond pastry filling this time; but the filling possibilities are endless.
  • Shortbread – recipe.  Just bake them for 12-15 minutes instead of the 20 recommended in the recipe.
  • Almond Clouds – Recipe from a fellow blogger. These look like Mexican wedding cookies; however, the cookie itself is not super sweet, so the dusting of powdered sugar is just a perfect ending.
Goya frozen yuca
Goya frozen yuca

Yuca, or cassava, is a long and tapered root vegetable popular in Puerto Rican cuisine that is most popular around the Christmas holidays. My favorite method of preparing yuca is by simply dressing it in an onion based mojo sauce. I made this as part of the menu for my son’s baptism and it was very well received. It was there and then that I realized how the foods that I sometimes discount as being “too simple” can wow others.

Fresh yuca is hard to find in most midwest markets, but Goya sells the frozen kind, that works just as well. That is what I buy, as it saves me the time it takes to peel the fresh variety.

Making Yuca al Mojo is very simple, it will take you no more than 30 minutes from beginning to end!

Yuca al Mojo

Yuca al Mojo

2 lbs frozen yuca, cut into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 TB whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup white vinegar

1. Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil, add yuca and cook for approximately 20 minutes, till fork tender. Drain, set aside to cool.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil and cook the onion for 10 minutes till transluscent.
3. To the skillet, add the garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Cook for an additional 3 minutes.
4. Add the vinegar, and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
5. Yuca contains a membrane that runs through the center of the root. After the yuca cools off, remove the membrane with a paring knife, and transfer to a serving bow.
6. Pour the onion mixture over the yuca and mix till combined.
7. Enjoy!!!

I got some of the sweetest pomegranates at the store today. The juice is delicious, and very good for you. Full of antioxidants and vitamins.

Just a few notes before you start working with the pomegranates.

  • wear gloves and an apron when seeding the pomegranates, the stains from the juice are pretty tough.
  • squeeze ligtly as you would an orange
  • cut the pomegranates in fourths and then pull apart sections to pull out seeds.

Pomegranate Port Chop

Pomegranate Port Chop


rind of one lemon
juice of one lemon
2 TB oregano
2 garlic cloves, crushed
salt & pepper
1 rack of lamb, about 7 or 8 chops
1 cup Port wine
1 large pomegranate, juiced and seeded

1. Preheat oven to 400.**
2. In a bowl, mix together the first five ingredients.
3. Rub the lamb with the seasoning mixture prepared on step 1, and set aside.

4. In a small saucepan, cook the port wine and juice of one pomegranate till reduced by half. One pomegranate will yield about a 1/2 cup of juice, if not, supplement with bottled pomegranate juice.
5. Add 2 TB of the pomegranate seeds to the wine reduction and set aside.
6. Grill the lamb chops, meat side down, for 8 minutes. Turn, and grill for an additional 2 minutes. This will yield medium rare chops.
7. Remove from the grill and let it rest covered for 3 minutes.
8. Carve and dress with pomegranate reduction.
** Note: Our “grilling” method of choice during the winter months is by bringing a cast iron skillet to temperature inside the oven and then placing the meat on it to cook. We only do these for steaks and lamb chops. Alternatively you can use an outdoor grill.

More Cupcake

More Cupcake

Even on a cold day or night, a quick two block detour from Michigan Avenue shopping is well worth it for a taste of More. This upscale cupcake boutique is nestled on E Delaware Street, just a couple of blocks of The Mile.

My favorite? It has to be the salted caramel cupcake. Moist, filled with caramel, topped with the perfect amount of some of the best buttercream frosting I have ever tried.

These folks are getting mixed review across Chicago, but I gotta give them a thumbs up!