Since I was seventeen, I spent my Christmases in Florida… most of them in Fort Lauderdale. While the palm trees swayed from ocean breezes outside, we watched old movies and drank hot cocoa inside. It was a fun way to pretend we were having a White Christmas!
While the Season included baking and tree trimming, shopping and wrapping were not far behind. I remember all the personalized gifts purchased from Paper Mpressions and all the beautiful tablescapes on display at Special Additions. I remember buying the boys matching holiday outfits from Flora Ottimer and finding crafty creations at Cross Stitch Cupboard.
Small businesses have always been a part of our community, like patchwork squares in a storied, family quilt. Our friends are their owners, our families are their customers and together we keep each other wrapped in friendship.
While some of these stores have disappeared, some are still going strong. Cactus Flower, owned by Candy Johnson has been in business for over 30 years. Her customers are not only her friends, they are each other’s friends. In the spirit of friendship (which is celebrated in Canvas and Cuisine), I hope my Fort Lauderdale pals will drop by to say hi, sip some bubbly and support Candy Johnson’s store this Thursday. I look forward to seeing you!
3020 N Federal Hwy
While you’re there, take a look around. Cactus Flower’s vendors are both old and new, and the combination leads to whimsical tables perfect for entertaining.
Meanwhile, please accept this simple, yet elegant holiday party dinner plan as my gift to you. It allows you to prepare everything in advance, so that you can enjoy your party as much as your guests do. And, if you are looking for the perfect serving platter for the salmon, or cake stand for the jam cake… then I’ll see you at Candy’s on the 12th! Merry, merry!
Simple Holiday Dinner Party Menu
Pan Roasted Veggies
Cumin Crusted Salmon with Tarragon Caper Sauce
Cranberry Jam Cake
Pan Roasted Veggies
serves a crowd
45 minute cuisine
16 to 20 Brussels Sprouts
2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar
Juice of ½ lemon, about 2 tablespoons, plus more for the other veggies
1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for the other veggies
1 teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more for the other veggies
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper, plus more for the other veggies
16 to 20 Baby New Potatoes
2 tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon dried thyme
16 to 20 Whole Baby Carrots
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon ground curry
16 to 20 Asparagus Spears
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 Large Yellow Onions
Preheat the oven to 425°.
Cut each Brussels sprout in half and steam (or blanch) until they begin to soften, about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to a baking sheet.
Cut each potato in half and steam (or blanch) for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with mustard, Parmesan cheese, garlic, thyme, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Steam (or blanch) the carrots for a about 4 to 5 minutes. Toss with brown sugar, curry, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Toss the asparagus with 2 tablespoons lemon juice, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
Cut the onion into wedges leaving the root intact. This will help to keep the onion together. Toss with Balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and some of the salt and pepper. Transfer to the baking sheet.
You can prepare the vegetable up to this point several hours in advance. When you are ready to serve, roast the veggies until they begin to crisp and brown, about 20 minutes. You can serve them warm or at room temperature.
Cumin Crusted Salmon
with Tarragon Caper Sauce
serves a crowd
20 minute cuisine
1 (2 ½ pound) center-cut whole salmon fillet with skin
Juice of 1 medium lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
¼ cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon hot paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground oregano
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
¼ cup cream
3 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons tarragon vinegar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Place the whole fillet, skin side down, on a rimmed baking sheet, coated with vegetable oil spray. Drizzle the lemon juice on top.
Combine the brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, cumin, and oregano in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Rub this mixture all over the salmon, coating well. Drizzle the top with olive oil.
Place the salmon into the oven. Reduce the temperature to 350 degrees. Roast until the salmon is rare in the center, about 8 minutes per inch of thickness, or about 15 to 30 minutes for the whole fillet.
For the sauce, stir together the sour cream, mayonnaise, cream, capers, tarragon vinegar and fresh tarragon. Season with salt and pepper.
Serve the salmon with the sauce on the side. Garnish with fresh lemon or orange slices and fresh tarragon sprigs.
Cranberry Jam Cake
serves a crowd
60 minute cuisine plus baking
1 (12-ounce) jar cherry preserves
¾ cup granulated sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 (12-ounce) package fresh cranberries, (about 3 to 3 ½ cups)
8 large egg whites
3 ½ cups cake flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks, room temperature
Zest of 2 large oranges, about 2 tablespoons
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 cup milk
1 cup unsalted butter, 2 sticks room temperature
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 (32-ounce) package powdered sugar
Juice of 1 large orange, about ¼ cup
1 to 2 tablespoons half and half (optional)
Place the filling ingredients into a deep pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the cranberries soften and begin to pop, about 20 minutes. Use a potato masher to mush up the cranberries. Remove the pot from the heat and cool. Spread the filling into a shallow pan. (A cake pan or pie plate works well for this.) Place the pan into the freezer to cool thoroughly while you make and bake the cake.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Spray 2 (9-inch) square cake pans with vegetable oil spray. Place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of each pan and spray again. Use an electric mixer to whisk the egg whites until soft peaks form, about 3 to 5 minutes. Use a spatula to transfer the whipped egg whites to a large bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. Use the mixer to combine 1 cup butter and granulated sugar. Stir in the orange zest. Add ⅓ of the flour followed by ⅓ of the milk. Continue until all the flour and milk have been added. The batter will be quite thick.
Fold the egg whites into the batter using about ⅓ of the whites at a time. This will lighten the batter. Use a spatula to scrape and smooth the batter into the two pans. Bake until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean, about 35 to 40 minutes. Cool the cakes in the pan for 10 minutes. Transfer the cakes to a rack, remove the parchment paper and cool completely. Now is a good time to remove the cranberry filling from the freezer. You want it to be chilled – not frozen!
Use an electric mixer to combine 1 cup butter with cream cheese until fluffy. Add the vanilla and salt. Mix in the sugar a little bit at a time. Alternate the sugar and the remaining orange juice. If the frosting is too thick, you can thin it with a bit of half and half.
Now, here’s the fun part. You can turn this into a four layer cake, by horizontally slicing each of the square cakes in half. Or, you can just use one layer of jam frosting in the middle of the two cakes. It’s up to you how much cranberry to put in the center. Either way you will have cranberry jam left over which is the whole idea. The jam is perfect as an accompaniment to your favorite pork or poultry dish or spread onto your morning Christmas toast! Spread the frosting around the sides and the top of the cake.
What’s worse than a bunch of gals getting together to kibbitz? It’s a bunch of gals getting together to draft their fantasy football team. It’s a trash talkin’, elbow diggin’, name callin’ scene right out of the movie Sweet Magnolias. I mean it’s “bless her heart” on steroids.
Oh, the catcalls from the table when I drafted Patrick Mahomes in the first round (especially when ESPN claimed he was at best a top second round choice)! Oh, the high fives that went around the table when I picked up Robert Woods in the 6th round when he should have been snatched in the 4th. And, the simultaneous, gentle nods of understanding when our dear friend picked up Baker Mayfield in an early round. We all understand her husband’s devotion to OU…. Bless her heart – now that’s love!
The only way to bring our fragile (fantasy football) bonds back from the edge of friendship destruction was to create a spread that satisfies both the winners and the losers. And, that I did.
Ladies and gentleman: the draft party!
My draft party fare included my favorite pimento cheese with seasoned crackers. I added sun-dried tomatoes instead of pimentos and brushed the crackers with seasonings stirred into melted butter before I toast them in the oven. It’s a TD!
I included blistered shishito peppers that I cooked in a cast iron skillet with olive oil, garlic and pepper. I made little skewers of baby tomatoes, mozzarella and globe basil leaves from the farmers market. These were drizzled with just a bit of aged balsamic vinegar. I roasted shrimp with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper and served them at room temperature with a spiced remoulade sauce.
But the dish that tamed the angry fantasy football beast and totally scored in overtime, was my sausage and refried bean nachos. I mean these are truly a punched up bit of nacho cheesiness. I serve these on every game day, regardless of the success of my quarterback.
Just a little note of confession here. I am in two fantasy leagues, one with the girls and one with the family. Having scored a loser C- in my draft evaluation with the gals, I promptly drafted Baker in round two of the family league. Let’s just see how it goes… and bless my heart!
Sausage and Refried Bean Nachos
serves a crowd
30 minute cuisine
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ medium red onion, peeled and finely diced
1 poblano pepper, deveined and finely diced
1 pound Italian sausage
1 (15-ounce) can refried beans
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon coarse black pepper.
1 package tortilla chips (such as Scoops®)
1 (15-ounce) jar medium salsa
¼ cup pickled jalapeno slices, drained and chopped
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
Hot pepper sauce
Heat the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add the sausage to the pan. Use a potato masher to break up the sausage into very little pieces. Cook until the sausage is browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt and pepper. Remove the pan from the heat.
Lay the chips onto a microwaveable plate or platter. You will have enough ingredients to make at least two plates full of chips. Spoon the sausage and cheese filling into the chips. Spoon some of the salsa over the chips. Drizzle the jalapeno pieces over the salsa. Cover with shredded cheese. Place the plate into the microwave oven and cook on high power until the cheese is melted, about 2 minutes. Remove (the hot!) platter from the oven. Top with dollops of sour cream and chopped cilantro. Offer hot pepper sauce on the side.
This month marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock rock concert. More of a generational milestone than a show, the event was marked by the hundreds of thousands of people that attended and the peace and love demonstrated during a time of national unrest. Sounds a bit familiar, yes?
To recreate that feeling now, we got all groovy and welcomed Chef James, who embraced everything 1969 by recreating dishes that brought back the taste of the day.
We started with a co-ed (my “old-man” was in tow) cocktail party that featured passed hors d’oeuvres right out of the glossy mags of the day. Stuffed celery, bacon wrapped shrimp, pigs in a blanket and pineapple and ham topped pizza. Here’s a few snack images to start your California dreamin’….
The highlight was the chips and dip placed on each of the tables. I just couldn’t get enough of those homemade crispy chips with globs and globs of oniony dip! Pretty groovy, man……..
Continental breakfast included home baked “Pop Tarts” and granola bars, avocado toasts and peanut butter and banana toasts with a drizzle of maple syrup. I was ready for the dawning of the age of Aquarius….♬ and the golf that followed.
Lunch included plated cheese balls coated in nuts with Saltine crackers and buffets filled with fresh green salads, quiches, ambrosia salad and tomato aspic. The meals just kept taking me higher and higher!
But the real mouth-watering fun was at the “pot” luck supper. Chef served all the foods of the day that one would bring to a communal dinner. We started with a huge pot of cheese fondue and all the dippers you can imagine. As the ladies sat for the meal, everyone broke off a piece of beau monde seasoned Swiss cheese bread (a recipe right off the pages of every 70’s era Junior League cookbook). The dinner buffet offered other memorable favorites including chicken a la king, Salisbury steak, deliciously soggy green beans, mashed potatoes with carrots and peas, and of course a liberal interpretation of the famed Hamburger Helper, pasta with tomato seasoned beef.
Dessert featured banana cream pie with a shortbread crust and grasshopper pie. And then there were the brownies!!?!! With a little help from my friends, supper was digested by dancing to songs from Janice to Richie.
It was quite an event, one that will be remembered for the food, the fun and especially the camaraderie. You don’t have to wait for an anniversary to remember the good ol’ days. Just kick back, invite your pals, encourage them to bring a dish from their childhood and break some communal bread. As Sly would sing, You Can Make It If You Try!
And that’s the why behind this Far Out recipe for homemade chips and onion dip. Instead of tearing open an envelope of onion soup mix, why not take a few minutes and give the real thing a try? Season the warm potatoes with your favorite combination of dry spices and fresh herbs to create the utmost gourmet chip treat.
Oven Baked Seasoned Potato Chips
with Caramelized Onion Dip
Yield about 2 cups dip
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
2 tablespoons butter 2 tablespoons vegetable oil 2 large yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4 ½ cups) Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar 1 package (4 ounces) cream cheese, room temperature 1/2 cup sour cream 1/2 cup mayonnaise 2 large baking potatoes Vegetable oil spray 1 teaspoon salt 1 teaspoon hot paprika 1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
Heat the butter and 2 tablespoons vegetable oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and brown. Season with salt and pepper.
Stir in the Balsamic vinegar and cook until the onions are syrupy. Place the cream cheese, sour cream, mayonnaise and chives into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse until creamy.
Add the caramelized onions to the processor. Pulse to combine. Transfer your finished chip dip to a serving bowl.
Preheat the oven to 375°. Use a mandoline to cut the potatoes into paper-thin slices. Place the slices onto 2 baking sheets. Coat both sides of the potato slices with vegetable oil spray. Bake until the chips begin to turn golden, about 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the thickness of each chip. Mix 1 teaspoon coarse salt with ½ teaspoon hot paprika. Sprinkle the chips with this mixture.
A mandoline is a hand-operated machine that uses an adjustable blade to slice and julienne firm vegetables and fruit; it has legs, allowing it to sit safely on your countertop. The best part of the mandoline is the carriage, preventing the vegetable slicer from touching your fingertips! The food processor’s slicing blade attachment is a good substitution for the mandoline.
I wish every day was Mother’s Day. We don’t need an excuse to honor the most special women in our lives, or bask in love ourselves. Moms come in all shapes and sizes… whether they are your Mom, someone else’s mom, a best friend who acts like your mom, a neighbor who’s mom to the whole block……Whatever the case, here is my suggestion for a better Mother’s Day:
Get mom (or persuade your loved ones to get you) an experience rather than a thing. There are so many ways to spend time together. To my mind, doing it over good food and art is the best way to go about it.
This global database of food and wine festivals is worth taking a look at. If you surprise mom with tickets for an event that’s further down the road in 2019, it’ll give you something to look forward to. You’d be amazed at how many foodie fests are happening in your own backyard. My food blog editor just went to a Mixology event in an art museum, where food and alcohol vendors had their best wares laid out around the Picassos.
As for me….I found a really cool event out in Phoenix this spring. Check out the slide show below! I will definitely go to the Nirvana Food and Wine Festival again – and I’d be over the moon (hint, hint, my children) if someone arranged to take me next year as an ahem…Mother’s Day gift???
Food Nirvana happened the last week of April, so for me, it was kindof a belated birthday treat. Attending was a happy accident. I happened to be staying in the hotel where Food Nirvana was taking place. As part of our reservation, I received complimentary tickets to one of the events. I chose the Rosé Parté, an event housed in the famed Wriggly Mansion overlooking the city of Phoenix on one side and Camelback Mountain on the other. The views were breathtaking, even in 100° plus heat!
The festival featured all types of vendors with tastings of rosé wines and champagne. Local restaurants offered delicacies that included foie gras mousse wrapped in cigarette shaped tortillas, displayed in what appeared to be a garden of grass with edible flowers on the end of each roll.
There were individual deconstructed blood orange cakes, pastries of all shapes and sizes, and a Bloody Mary bar that rivals any I’ve ever seen. The Nirvana version of a charcuterie board was assembled on a gigantic dining table (which had to seat 20 or more) and laden with cheeses, meats and the most gorgeous loaves of bread I’ve ever seen. I tasted the Pâte à Choux, filled with salmon and topped with caviar and the tri-colored beet terrine. Oh, so special!
Yes, I saw celebrity chefs! Robert Irvine is cute, and as well-muscled in person as he is on TV! His dish consisted of a corn husk laid onto a plate, topped with beef short rib, splashed with the sauce and topped with what looked like an avocado cream and crunched tortilla chips.
Foie Gras Mousse with Edible Flowers
Pâte à Choux served on beet, carpaccio style
Blood orange cake with a sweet glaze & lavender ice cream
Nirvana version of a charcuterie board
The most epic Bloody Mar Bar you have ever seen
The pictures say it all. I had a blast and encourage you (with or without your Mom) to attend a food and wine festival if you get a chance. It is a HAPPENING! But, seriously… Mom is really the most special person on Earth, and if you need any food or entertaining advice helping her realize that, I am here. Email me at Jorj@Jorj.com and I will reply before May 12th!
Sue and I are excited to introduce our new book, Canvas and Cuisine: The Art of the Fresh Market. We will be holding a series of open houses, showcasing yummy food from our labor of love. We are calling these soirees, “A Taste of the Fresh Market”. We’ll have books to read and Sue’s original art work to take your breath away, plus a sip or two of a late afternoon libation. Most importantly, we will have samples (recipes from the book!) on offer in mini bite-size portions.
I learned a lot converting some of the bigger dishes in Canvas & Cuisine to party appetizers! In redesigning some of my recipes, I ended up producing classic standbys that I – a self-described EXTREME party planner – haven’t tasted in a while. What FUN!
One of the most popular dishes in the book (according to my recipe testers) is Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Sun-Dried Tomatoes, Pancetta and Toasted Breadcrumbs. This dish proved to be a great example of what you can do with a recipe. You can make it your own.
I created the dish as a mostly veggie entrée, featuring meaty grilled mushrooms with a buttery wine sauce over the top. Through my recipe testers, it evolved into a spicy stuffed mushroom, with a crunchy topping of crisp ham and breadcrumbs.
This is one of those dishes a dinner host can easily convert from a first course or veggie main to a simple, satisfying appetizer. By stuffing smaller mushrooms with just a bit of the sun-dried sauce, and sprinkling the toasted topping over the top, they become bite sized delicious versions of the original dish.
I thought I’d share this one with you in advance of the event…. Just in case you are in the neighborhood. If you wanna get a book shipped ASAP, click here and order your copy today!
Grilled Portobello Mushrooms
with Sun Dried Tomato Breadcrumbs
30 Minute Cuisine
1 cup Panko Breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons butter, melted plus 2 more for sauce
½ cup julienned sun dried tomatoes in oil
4 large garlic cloves, minced, about 2 tablespoons
¼ cup Marsala wine
Juice of ½ medium lemon, about 2 tablespoons
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
8 Portobello mushrooms, stem and gills removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat the oven to 350°. Mix the bread crumbs with the melted butter in a small bowl. Pour onto a baking sheet. Bake the buttered crumbs until they begin to crisp, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and set aside.
Heat the sun dried tomatoes and the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Pour in the wine and simmer until most of the wine has disappeared, about 3 to 5 minutes. Pour in the lemon juice. Season with salt and crushed red pepper. Turn off the heat and swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter. Stir in the parsley.
Heat a grill pan on high heat. Brush the mushrooms with olive oil on both sides. Season with salt and pepper. Grill the mushrooms, turning once, until just beginning to soften, about 5 minutes total. Transfer the mushrooms to a platter, cap side down. Divide the breadcrumbs into the mushrooms. Drizzle the sundried tomato sauce over the crumbs.
This year, New Orleans is striking up the Mardi Gras band on March 5th, and you know what that means: Lent is starting and Easter is just 40 days away. I love the colors, flavor, parades and pageantry surrounding this time of year – but I can’t get to Louisiana for Fat Tuesday this go around. That’s why I’m devoting this week’s post and next Monday’s to the signature dish on Mardi Gras Day: KING CAKE!!!!
Instead of that classic cake, I took its yummy ingredients and turned it into something perfect for sharing with family and friends. Today it’s bread and next Monday, get ready for some King Cake Cookies, Jorj style!
The Fancy Sprinkles Company was my muse.
A while back I ordered some Fancy Sprinkles made just for Mardi Gras. I put on my thinking cap on what to do with them, and came up with my own Mardi Gras Bread recipe. It’s a sweet treat you can serve at breakfast with cinnamon honey butter, for lunch with peanut butter and jam, or after dinner for a late night snack. Anytime is the perfect time for this bread.
This recipe makes two loaves – one for you and one to wrap up and give to a lucky friend. Give them a big hug and wish them a happy Mardi Gras! Spring is on the way!
Mardis Gras Bread
Yield 2 loaves
2 ½ hour cuisine
2 envelopes active dry yeast (about 4 ½ teaspoons)
5 ½ cups bread flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
8 ounce package cream cheese, room temperature
½ cup granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon dried grated lemon peel
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
¼ cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Yellow, purple and green sprinkles
Stir the yeast in a bowl with ½ cup warm water. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Place the flour, sugar and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook. Stir to combine. With the motor running on slow, add the yeast and 1 ½ cups more warm water. Once the flour is moistened, increase the speed and mix until the dough forms around the hook, about 5 to 8 minutes. Increase the speed again and continue to mix adding in the butter just a bit at a time. Mix until the dough is tight and shiny, about another 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and knead for about 2 to 3 minutes. Form the dough into a ball and place it into a bowl sprayed with vegetable oil spray. Cover with plastic and set in a warm, dry place to rise.
Place the cream cheese, ½ cup granulated sugar, all-purpose flour, egg and lemon peel into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Mix to combine.
Spray two 9x5x5” loaf pans with vegetable oil spray. Check the dough after 45 minutes. The dough should spring back slowly when you poke your finger into it. Divide the dough in half and form into two balls. Take one ball of dough and use your hands to spread into a 10×6” rectangle. Spread half of the filling onto the dough. Roll the dough (jelly-roll style) over the filling. Place the rolled dough into the loaf pan. Repeat with the second ball of dough. Again, cover the loaf pans with plastic wrap and set aside to rise.
Preheat the oven to 400°. Check the dough after 30 to 45 minutes. The dough should rise to about ½-inch from the top of the loaf pan. Place the pans into the oven and bake until the tops are deeply golden, about 35 to 40 minutes. Remove the loaves from the oven and transfer from the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely.
Whisk together confectioners’ sugar and buttermilk. Stir in vanilla extract. The glaze should be thick yet pourable. Drizzle the glaze over the loaves. Shake sprinkles over the glaze.