Fun Veggies: Roasted red peppers, English peas, etc.
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How to make holiday art focaccia bread
Place the yeast and sugar into a small bowl. Stir in the warm water. Place the bowl in a warm place until the yeast is bubbling and fragrant, about 15 minutes. I use the proof setting on my warming drawer for this.
Use an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook to combine the flour, salt, ½ cup of olive oil and the yeast to form a dough. Once the dough comes together, continue to knead the dough in the machine until smooth. Stop the machine and check the dough every couple of minutes. The dough should be smooth and elastic, hold its shape around the dough hook and spring back when you indent it with your finger. This takes anywhere from 5 to 8 minutes using the mixer. If you are kneading by hand, knead until you can’t knead anymore!
Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface. Knead it by hand for an additional 30 seconds. If the dough is too sticky, you can sprinkle with additional flour. Form the dough into a ball and transfer to a bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil. Cover and place in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. I use my warming drawer for this step, too.
Pour the remaining cup of olive oil onto a 12 ½ x 17 ½ x 1-inch jelly roll pan. Transfer the dough to the pan, stretching it out to fill the pan. Turn and coat with oil on both sides. Use your finger to poke indentations into the dough. These will be the “nooks and crannies” to hold the seasoning in the next step. Place the dough in a warm place to rise again, for 1 hour. Yep, the warming drawer is still the best place!
Preheat the oven to 400°. Transfer the pan from its warm place. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese, sea salt, thyme, and rosemary. Drizzle with a bit more olive oil. Bake until the top of the bread is golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Cool the bread in the pan before cutting into squares.
The Art of The Fresh Market
Grab the book that contains my favorite travel adventures, with inspired original artwork by artist Susan Fazio.
I hope your holidays were as special as mine. For me, family time is a time of renewal … a rebirth of what is important. I love this stage of my life. I no longer have the responsibilities of parenting, yet I can still take pride in the family that we created.
It’s great to watch the boys careen down the street on bikes and scooters while my friends and neighbors desperately try to dodge them.
It’s wonderful to greet my Sam in the early morning and watch him mindlessly shovel cereal into his mouth before I pour my first cup of coffee.
Who knew a princess could be so jolted by the pea under her mattress that she developed a huge tangle in her flowing hair that had to be surgically removed? It definitely was the bedding… not the princess!
It’s only been a few days since the unwrapping and we’ve already returned three gifts and requested additional parts of others. And where did those receipts go?
The food was over-the top. My fridge is filled with leftovers, lasagna, steaks, sauerkraut and pork… we did it up! The wine flowed….. why wouldn’t it! The activities were active…. swimming, beaching, pickle ball, cycling, day trips and only limited screen time. None of us made it to the ball drop, and that was fine!
Yet, I am renewed. Renewed by the fact that this group of daredevils and princesses chose to spend time with us, their grandparents and parents. We created some memories, some new traditions and made a plan for our summer get together. It doesn’t get better than that – looking forward to continuing our family adventures.
Here are some pictures from our family to yours.
Wishing you a happy, healthy New Year! A little late maybe, but better late than never.
My gift to you this Christmas is a box of sugar cookies that come together faster than you can say happy holidays. But you don’t have to use mine. Perhaps you have an old holiday cookie recipe passed down from your grandmother to your mother – or you just found it in this year’s magazine.
Maybe you grabbed a tin of cookie dough at the grocery store last week. None of this matters. What matters is that these cookies are made special by making them with those you love. I sure had a blast decorating ginger and sugar cookies with my grandkids this season, and making sure we had enough on hand for Santa.
Our cookies give new meaning to “tree trimming”, and sparkle with Fancy Sprinkles.
So, this season, grab someone special, get out the cookie cutters, and share a couple laughs while you make some cookies!
Christmas Sugar Cookie Recipe
15 minute cuisine
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
For the dough
3 cups all-purpose unbleached flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, beaten
1 tablespoon whole milk
For the baked cookies
Red, green and gold sprinkles and icing
Confectioner’s sugar for work surface
Preheat oven to 375 degrees
Mix flour, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. Set aside.
Place the butter and sugar in a separate mixing bowl and beat by hand. You can use a mixer but it’s more fun to hand-mix!
Add the beaten egg and milk into the butter and sugar mixture until just combined, gradually adding the dry ingredients and beating until mixture resembles cookie dough.
Divide the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 2 hours.
Sprinkle work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Remove cookie dough from refrigerator, and sprinkle rolling pin with more of the confectioner’s sugar.
Roll out the dough to just under an inch thickness, moving it around on your work surface so it doesn’t stick.
Cut the dough into Christmas tree shapes, and place into the oven for 9 to 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool before you decorate them with the icing and sprinkles.
Christmas morning arrives and it’s present unwrapping time! The delight of every child and most adults, whether giving or receiving, gifting is FUN and fast. Immediately after gift unwrapping comes cleaning up the papers, bags and bows.
Then there’s the sorting and piling and then… very soon after it all begins, everyone wanders into the kitchen and asks:
“What’s for breakfast?”
What has always worked for me and my family are my make ahead casseroles. I discreetly pop everything in the oven while everyone is grabbing packages, and by the time everything winds down, viola…breakfast is served!
My menu usually includes slices of spiralized, sugared ham, warmed in the oven with a bit of butter and brown sugar; an egg casserole that is the perfect venue for either your favorite veggies or salty meats, and a cheesy hash potato casserole that comes out hot and bubbly.
These are recipes included in my first cookbook, At Home in The Kitchen and I’m sharing one of my family favorites, with you and yours this holiday season.
Merry, Merry to all and to all a Great Season of Family Gatherings!
Fluffy Egg and Cheese Casserole
1 hour and 20 minute cuisine
Serves 6 to 8
10 slices white bread
8 large eggs
3 cups milk
3 tablespoons chopped garlic chives
1 tablespoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Dash of hot pepper sauce
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
3 tablespoons diced green onions
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Trim the crusts from the bread and discard. Cut the bread slices into 1-inch cubes.
In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, chives and mustard.
Season with salt and as much hot pepper sauce as you like. Stir the bread cubes, cheddar cheese and green onion into the egg mixture.
Pour the mixture into an ungreased baking dish. Bake the casserole for about 1 hour or until the center is just set and the edges begin to brown.
Charcuterie boards are trending! Traditionally, this platter is filled with aged cheeses and cured meats. Much like an antipasti platter, you arrange bite size treats, and your guests choose morsels to place on their plates.
My board, is a mixture of both charcuterie and antipasti. It’s not shy on cheese or meats, and has a special stuffed fig recipe you’ll find at the bottom of this post. I had a lot of fun arranging this platter. What would be the first thing you’d reach for? Marinated olives, crunchy bread sticks, radishes rubbed in sea salt, chunks of fresh shaved Parmesan, prosciutto or Italian salami?
For all offerings on my buffet table, I keep portion size at 2 to 3 ounces of meat per person, and 5 to 6 ounces on all the other appys.
What Do You Drink with Charcuterie?
Wines that taste best with charcuterie boards are Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Bordeaux style wines – any vino that is low alcohol, fruity and higher acid. For whites, I recommend champagne or sparkling wines. There should be one bottle for every pair of guests.
For the cheese – arguably the best part of any charcuterie board – sheep’s milk cheeses tend to go best with red wine. A good rule of thumb is that the older the wine, the firmer the cheese should be. Unless it’s truffle infused, I don’t think brie is necessarily the right choice. Gouda and aged cloth-bound cheddar are what go into my shopping cart when I’m planning a romantic evening.
As you go to assemble the board, little bowls of marinated olives, the little pickles known as cornichons, nuts and dips are always welcome – as are the occasional edible flower: think roses, deep purple sage flowers, pansies and violets. Hibiscus flowers are also as pretty to look at as they are to nosh on.
So many excuses to have a cozy little dinner party this winter season – happy entertaining!
Fresh Figs Appetizer
8 ripe figs
4 ounces Blue cheese, crumbled, room temperature, about 1 cup
2 tablespoons sour cream
Honey for drizzling
Cut each fig in half, horizontally. Use a spoon or fork to mix softened (room temperature) blue cheese with sour cream. Use the sour cream to make the blue cheese spreadable. Spoon the blue cheese onto the figs. Drizzle with a bit of honey.