Monday, December 31, 2012

Licensed to Thrill: Champagne Cocktail

There are many ways to bring in the New Year - banging pots from the porch, setting off fireworks, snuggling in bed (see the afore-mentioned fireworks), throwing or attending a party, watching the countdown as the giant silver ball drops in Times Square, or gluing your eyeballs to a marathon of James Bond movies running the gamut from Connery to Craig and everyone in-between. Um … maybe not everyone.

I tend to enjoy a more sedate celebration, usually with a Champagne Cocktail in hand. If you’ve never had one, here’s a quickie (Im fixated on fireworks, again). For those of you who want to whoop it up with a crowd, you’ll find a recipe for a traditional Champagne Punch and another for a Non-Alcoholic Spiced Apple Punch below this post. However you celebrate - even if you’re sawing logs or reading a book by the fire - have a safe, happy, and contented New Year’s Eve! 

xox  Moneypenny

Champagne Cocktail:

1 champagne flute, chilled
1 sugar cube
5 or 6 drops aromatic bitters, or to taste
Enough Courvoisier to cover sugar cube
Champagne (or any sparkling wine), chilled

Drop sugar cube into bottom of chilled glass. Place a drop or two of bitters on each side of cube. Saturate with Courvoisier. Tilt glass and very slowly pour in champagne or sparkling wine such as Prosecco or Henkell Trocken.

Champagne Punch

This deliciously complex sipper is the perfect choice for a New Year’s Eve punch bowl. Freezing a water-filled plastic container will provide an ice block that won’t melt as quickly as cubed ice, preventing the punch from becoming diluted too quickly. For the fullest fizz, prepare this in a single batch, making more as needed.

Champagne Punch: 

One 26 oz. (750 mL) bottle Champagne (or any sparkling wine), chilled
One 26 oz. (750 mL) bottle Sauterne, chilled
½ c. granulated sugar
2 oz. Cointreau
5 oz. brandy
2 c. club soda, chilled
Orange cartwheels, quartered, as garnish 
Pineapple tidbits, as garnish
Maraschino cherries, drained, stemmed

To ice block in punch bowl, add and stir Champagne, Sauterne, sugar, Cointreau, and brandy. Top with soda, garnishing with fruit. This makes enough for 30 single punch-cup servings.

Non-Alcoholic Spiced Apple Punch

If the weather’s poor, or roadblocks beckon this New Year’s Eve, this hot punch is a delicious alternative to the usual boozy beverages. Ladling it from a large slow cooker will keep it warm in your punch glass.

This recipe can be made in a slow cooker

Non-Alcoholic Spiced Apple Punch:

2 tsp. whole allspice     
2 tsp. whole cloves     
Two 3-inch cinnamon sticks                 
2 oranges, unpeeled, thinly sliced
2 lemons, unpeeled, thinly sliced
8 qt. (8 L) apple juice (see Note)
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg 

Tie whole spices in small cheesecloth bag. Add to remaining ingredients,  simmering 30 min. or longer, until desired favor is reached. Remove fruit and spices before serving. Float a few orange and lemon cartwheels on punch, as garnish.

Note: This recipe makes 128 oz. of punch. A standard punch cup holds 4 oz. Assuming guests return to the punch bowl three times, this is a sufficient quantity for approximately 10 people. The apple juice may be increased to 10 qt. without increasing the spices. This makes enough for 13 people.

Further Note: Also see my recipe for Non-Alcoholic Mulled Apple Juice, posted Dec. 9, 2011.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Marsala-Soaked Oranges

Marsala-Soaked Oranges:
Good to the very last drop!
It’s good to get back to basics after heavy holiday meals! This dessert of sliced oranges infused with Marsala is a wonderfully light treat. The dish requires several hours’ chilling and setting, but very little work. 

Marsala-Soaked Oranges:

1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. water
½ c. sweet Marsala wine
6 large navel oranges
Maraschino cherries with stems, drained, as garnish

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low, simmering 10 min. Pour syrup into heat-proof container; cool 10 min. Stir in Marsala.

Remove and discard peel and pith from remaining oranges. Slice oranges into cartwheels ¼-in. thick. Cut each cartwheel into quarters, for easier eating. Lay in shallow pan, covering with cooled Marsala syrup. Cover and refrigerate 1-to-3 days. Serve chilled in small dessert nappies. garnished with a maraschino cherry. Serves 6-to-8.

Note: I dont like to waste food or money. Working with so many oranges makes this a great opportunity to harvest and dry a good supply of orange zest or peel for future use in orange muffins and cakes. Preparing fine zest requires a mandolin grater, but there are two ways to collect thin, long peel for freezer storage in an airtight container. Using a vegetable scraper, you can peel the outer skin of an orange, being careful not to include the bitter pith. Cut this thin peel into julienne strips or chop it very finely as zest. 

If you have a time-saving julienne peeler, you can simplify this step. To julienne an orange, grasp and brace the peeler firmly against your work space, drawing the blade straight toward you. Do the top curve of the orange first; turn it over to repeat with the bottom curve. Getting the hang of it takes a moment or two, but the process will soon move along fast. 

The quickest way to peel an orange is to cut the stem and opposite end before cutting the orange in half. Placing each flat half on your workspace, insert a knife (I use a grapefruit knife) between skin and fruit, circling the orange so that the fruit falls from the skin. Its then easy to remove the pith.

Zesting an orange ... But there are other ways to skin it!

Peel it as julienne strips: Practice makes perfect! 

To peel an orange quickly, slice off each end and ...
Cut orange in half, running knife between skin and fruit

Or use a sideways motion: A grapefruit knife works best

The grapefruit knife's serrated curve does the job fast

Combine equal parts of sugar and water

Bring to a boil before cooling ...
Stir in a splash of Marsala

And add sliced oranges, covering with Marsala syrup  

Refreshing and light - a reprieve from holiday calories!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Turkey Lurkey: Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust

Diced turkey, the crunch of celery and almonds, and the silky smoothness of cheese work together beautifully in this easy casserole. This outstanding recipe makes enough to serve 6.

Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust:

To Prepare the Pie Filling: 

1 c. mayonnaise
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. flour
½ tsp. poultry seasoning
Salt and lemon pepper, to taste
1 tsp. finely minced parsley
3 c. chunked, cooked turkey (see Note)
1-½ c. diced celery
⅓ c. toasted, slivered almonds (see Index for How to Toast Nuts)
¾ c. grated cheese

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Lightly grease a 1-½ qt. (1.5 L) circular casserole or deep-dish 10-in. pie pan. Combine mayonnaise, lemon juice, flour, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, and parsley in bowl, mixing well. Stir in turkey, celery, almonds, and grated cheese. Spoon into casserole or pie pan and set aside.

Dice celery

Chop turkey into bite-sized chunks

Grate cheddar

Combine filling ingredients. Spoon into baking dish

To Prepare the Biscuit Crust: 

1 c. all-purpose flour
1-½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 tbsp. cold butter or margarine
⅓ c. milk

Combine flour, baking powder, and salt in medium bowl. Using pastry blender, cut butter or margarine into flour mixture 1 tbsp. at a time, until mixture is the size of peas. Add milk all at once, stirring quickly with fork. Mixing with clean hands, press dough into a ball. Flour dough lightly on both sides, patting into circular shape. Roll approximately ½- to ⅜-in. thick on lightly floured work surface with lightly floured rolling pin. Position pastry over top of hot turkey mixture, fluting edges if possible. Cut slits in pastry to vent steam. Bake 20-to-25 min., until crust is golden and pie has heated through.

Using pastry blender, cut chilled butter into flour mixture

Gather pastry into ball

Roll out on lightly floured board

Place pastry over pie filling, cutting slits to vent steam

Serve hot, spooning from baking dish

Note: This pie is also excellent made with 8 uncooked, boneless chicken thighs. Rinse, blot dry, and poach thighs 5 min. in 1 c. simmering chicken or turkey broth. Cool meat, dicing into chunks before proceeding as recipe directs.

Friday, December 28, 2012

Turkey Lurkey: Ron’s Turkey Pie

Oh, my Dollinks! First: Few things in the kitchen are more satisfying than using up leftovers with this recipe. You must try it! 

Ron’s Turkey Pie:

Pastry for one double-crust pie (see Index for How to Make Perfect Pastry)
½ c. butter or margarine
½ c. all-purpose flour
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
3 c. poultry stock (see Index for How to Make Stock or use commercially made broth)
¼ c. diced onion
½ c. sliced celery
½ lb. sliced, fresh mushrooms
3 tbsp. butter or margarine
3 c. cooked, diced turkey
1 c. cooked, diced or sliced carrots
1 c. cooked peas
1 egg yolk plus 1 tsp. milk, for brushing top crust

Prepare pastry as recipe directs. Do not prick or pre-bake bottom crust. Allow crust to overhang 9-or-10-in. pie pan or deep-dish casserole by about ½-in. (As the first photo shows, Ron forgot to do this. It still turned out fine!) Roll out top crust and set aside.

Melt ½ c. butter in medium saucepan over low heat. Blend in flour, salt, and pepper, allowing to bubble about 1 min. Raising heat to medium, gradually add broth, cooking and stirring until smooth and thickened. Set aside. Melt 3 tbsp. butter in small skillet over medium-low heat. Sauté onion, celery, and mushrooms until celery and onions are tender and onions are translucent. Add to sauce mixture. Stir in turkey, carrots, and peas. If needed, thicken with a little extra flour before pouring into bottom crust. 

Preheat oven to 425 deg. F. Gently position top crust over filled pie. Brush crust evenly with egg yolk mixed with milk. Cut slits in crust to vent steam. Bake 25-to-30 min., until crust is golden and pie has heated through.

Use your good judgment: The exact proportions will
vary with the size of your pie pan or casserole

Wickedly good: Ron’s Turkey Pie
Tomorrow: If you just cant get enough turkey, tomorrows Turkey Pot Pie with Biscuit Crust offers a completely different texture and taste from Rons more traditional recipe. As I do, you’ll probably have difficulty deciding which pie you prefer!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Turkey Lurkey: Turkey Chowder

Packed with nutritional value, this excellent chowder is a fine way to to put turkey leftovers to good use and to start transitioning to the simpler, lighter meals of the New Year. I absolutely love it and make it almost every year! 

My favorite Turkey Chowder
Turkey Chowder:

7-to-8 c. poultry stock (see Index for How to Make Stock or use commercially made broth)
¾ c. butter or margarine
2 c. diced celery
1 c. chopped onion
2 c. mashed potatoes (see Note)
1-to-2 c. diced, cooked turkey
One 15-oz. (45 mL) can cream-style corn
One 12-oz. (370 mL) can evaporated milk or ¾ c. light cream
1-to-1-½ tsp. ground ginger
Salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare and measure all ingredients before starting. Heat broth just to the boil in large, covered pot. Reduce heat and simmer. In a medium skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add celery and onion, stirring just until soft and onions are translucent. Add butter, celery, and onion to broth together with potatoes, turkey, corn, evaporated milk, and ginger. Simmer 20 min., until heated through. Season to taste. Yields 10-to-12 ample servings. This chowder freezes well.

Note: If you don’t have mashed potatoes on hand, use 2 c. instant mashed potato flakes.

Tomorrow: Leftovers? Try Ron’s Turkey Pie!

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Best HBR in the Universe!

Stuff happens when you least expect it! On Christmas Day, I caught the flu - big time! We canceled our plans, made polite excuses, and I went to bed. That’s when Ron made me The Best 
HBR: A mug of comfort
HBR in the Universe. I’ve never had a better Hot Buttered Rum. Best of all, you don’t have to be sick to enjoy it!  

The Best HBR in the Universe:

2 tsp. butter (not margarine)
2 tbsp. brown sugar
⅛ tsp. cinnamon
⅛ tsp. nutmeg
Boiling water
2 oz. dark rum
Cinnamon stick, for stirring

Add first four ingredients to a 10-oz. mug. Stir in boiling water until butter melts. Add rum. Top up mug with boiling water. Add cinnamon stick. Sleep soundly.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy Holidays, 2012

Happy Holidays 
From Our House to Yours!
Each of you is welcome at our table!
Wisdom, peace, tolerance, and love 
start with just one person - you!

Let the holiday season's hopes and dreams  
fill your life with renewed joy!

Monday, December 24, 2012

Nicole’s Lemon-Raspberry Trifle

As another small gift to you, I have a third blog today, offering a recipe for a spectacular dessert that I recently made for a friend’s holiday party. It was simple, quick, and showy, and I’m pleased to say that I came up with the combination myself. 

Lemon-Raspberry Trifle: Just in time for the holidays!
To prepare this Lemon-Raspberry Trifle, I used more of the frozen lemon cake I told you about in my Oct. 16 blog. A purchased sponge cake or lemon cake made from a mix will do just fine. At this very busy time of year, my goal was not to do too much work while preparing something that looked like a million bucks! 

With many people at the party, I used a large bowl suitable for a large trifle. I’d estimate that the quantities below would easily serve 20-to-25 people. For smaller gatherings, use half the specified amounts (divided for layering), but don’t make such a small trifle that guests feel guilty about wanting more! Trifle is a layered dessert. That’s why most of the ingredients are divided.

Nicole’s Lemon-Raspberry Trifle:

1 single-layer lemon or sponge cake, dried and cubed, divided 
¼ c. sherry, divided
2 c. lemon spread or lemon curd spread, divided (see Note
¾ c. (12 tbsp.) raspberry jam or jelly, divided
1 c. full-fat eggnog
1 c. milk (I used skim)
Half a 5 oz. (135 g) pkg cook-and-serve pudding and pie filling mix (see Further Note), divided
One 6-oz. (170 g) pkg. firm, fresh raspberries, divided
2 c. whipping cream (“heavy cream”), divided
¼ c. icing sugar (“confectioners” or “powdered” sugar), divided

For Top of Trifle:

2 tbsp. flaked almonds, toasted (see Index for How to Toast Nuts)
¼ c. (4 tbsp.) raspberry jam or jelly
Holly berries and leaves, as garnish (optional)

Spread dried, cubed cake in a single layer in straight-sided glass bowl or trifle dish. 

Sprinkle half of sherry over cake.

Top with half of lemon spread, dotting with half of jam or jelly. 

Combine eggnog, milk, and half-a-package of pudding mix. Cook according to package directions, cooling at room temperature. Spread or pour half of cooled pudding or custard over lemon and jam.

Dot with 10 or 12 raspberries.

Whip cream and icing sugar to stiff peaks. Spread half over dotted raspberries.

Repeat layering as above, ending with pudding mix or custard and omitting raspberries.

Spread with remaining whipped cream and flaked, toasted almonds. Set aside to chill (In the Time Zone and at the Latitude where I live, I place the trifle on the patio, covering it with a large pot).

Melt reserved jam or jelly over low heat in a small pot. If using jam, strain seeds after jam warms. Cool warmed jelly or strained jam to room temperature. No more than two hours before serving, roll berries in cooled jam or jelly, coating well to glaze.  Using two forks, transfer berries to parchment paper. Chill to set glaze.

Shortly before serving, position glazed berries evenly over trifle. Center sprig of holly berries and leave on trifle, ensuring berries do not touch cream (some varieties can cause nausea and vomiting, Dollinks). Remove berry sprig immediately after trifle is presented to guests.

Note: I’ve said these words before, but they bear repeating. There are lemon spreads, and there are lemon spreads. My favorite - for its color and its spreadability - is the E.D. Smith brand, sold North America-wide. E.D. Smith simply calls this “lemon,” leaving off the “curd” part. Believe me, Dollinks, I am not being paid to say this! Its just a plain and simple fact. 

Further Note: I used Jell-O pudding and pie filling mix, though you can also use Bird’s custard mix or homemade custard. You’ll want to end up with 2 c. for a large trifle, and 1 c. for a smaller one.

Sprinkle half dried, cubed cake with half sherry
Top with half lemon spread and half raspberry jelly or jam 

Top with half pudding or custard, half berries, half cream.
Repeat layering, omitting berries. Sprinkle with almonds

Warm jam or jelly to liquefy

Strain seeds from warmed jam; cool at room temperature

Roll berries in cooled jelly, coating well to glaze
Rest coated berries on parchment. Chill to set glaze

Presenting ...

Your finished Lemon-Raspberry Trifle! Happy Holidays!

We’re All in the Same Gravy Boat

As a small gift for you, I have a second blog today, telling you how to resolve the gravy emergency reader Barb Lefevre encountered, below. I had precisely the same problem a few years ago, but thanks to this easy solution, will never do it again! Here’s Barb’s note!

Oh, dear, Nicole! Where were you when I needed you? For the first time in 20 years, we had an early Christmas dinner at our place: Family members did the honors in the intervening years.  Everything was going along beautifully - mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, stuffing warming in the oven, red cabbage bubbling on the stove, turkey beautifully cooked and resting. I thought, in my dotage, that all was well. 

Daughter Nancy always produces the most wonderful gravy, and I announced that it was time for her to do her magic. There was only one problem: When I removed the turkey from the oven, I chucked out the drippings and dutifully washed the roasting pan. I even tossed out the giblet water, proudly thinking how efficient I was in ensuring that there wasn’t a pot or pan in sight!

“Oh!” said Nancy,“Where are the drippings?”  

Dear heaven, I nearly fell into a heap! I should have known that nothing is ever perfect in my world. Nancy patted me on the head and said “Don't worry, Mom! I’ll try to create something resembling gravy!” However, even Nancy’s culinary talents were not up to the task, and the result was something that resembled chicken soup.  

Needless to say, said concoction met the same fate as the turkey drippings.  My fantasy about producing a perfect meal was dashed! 

Your Christmas dinner I know will be superb; may I please send my family to your place? Love to you and Ron, and Merry Christmas!  

Fortunately, this problem isn’t difficult to fix - not immediately, but in the years following the problem. Next time, make extra gravy - lots and lots! - from those precious drippings. Then freeze some of it. The next time you cook a turkey, set aside the drippings and use the thawed gravy you froze last time. When the rush of dinner is done, use the drippings still in the pot to make gravy for “next” time. This method works beautifully!   xox   Nicole

PS: For perfect gravy every time, consult the Index for Gravy: Nicole’s.

Sour Cream Nugget Potatoes

These tidbits are delicious and quick to make - especially if you involve your guests in the job! The quantities depend on the number of guests and the number of different appetizers you offer, but I suspect you’ll find each guest probably nibbles three half-nuggets. These are great for an “appys only” party, but because they’re so filling, I wouldn’t serve them before dinner. Caviar dusts the original version of these super little nuggets. I’d love that, but I just happened to be all out of caviar at the moment (!), so I settled for what was on hand. To make a hot version of these, stuff the hollowed-out potatoes with anything you might use to stuff a mushroom. Don’t waste the interior of the hollowed-out nuggets! Use them in soup or mashed potatoes.

Sour Cream Nugget Potatoes:

Nugget potatoes, as needed
Dairy sour cream, as needed
Capers, as needed
Anchovies, as needed

Rinse and scrub nuggets. Do not peel. Bring to a boil in just enough cold, salted water to cover. Cook about 15 min., or until tender but not bursting their casings. Immediately plunge into ice water bath until thoroughly chilled. Optional: Refrigerate, covered, for up to three days to ensure potatoes are firm but tender. Blot dry, cutting each nugget in half. 

Now put your guests to work in a corner of the kitchen: Slip a grapefruit knife ¼-in. from edge of each chilled nugget, easing potato from its casing. Fill each nugget with about 2 tsp. sour cream, dusting with well-drained capers and drained, chopped anchovies, blotted dry.

Note: Nugget potatoes’ rounded shape means they don't stand straight and perky as other appetizers do. Solve this problem easily by placing each cut half into a candy paper. Dollar stores sell seasonally festive papers that look terrific on an appy tray! Happy holidays, Dollinks!

Use grapefruit knife to begin hollowing cold, cooked potato

Continue hollowing out potato to 1/4-in. from peel

Top chilled potato with sour cream

Top with well-drained capers and a bit of anchovy.
If your ship's come in ... try caviar!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Pickled Eggs

I had a hankering for Pickled Eggs a few days ago, and thought how effortless they are to make as a quick appetizer for the the holiday season! And so I jumped right on it: They were brining in less than 30 minutes, and ready for guests in three or four days. Happily, they’re inexpensive and delicious and everyone seems to love them! I prepare them in one of two ways: Both recipes are below. The first comes from a book I wrote several years ago, Fast & Easy Company Treats, and the second is my easiest, laziest way to make them.

Pickled Eggs:

12 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and whole (see Note)
1-½ c. white vinegar
½ c. water
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pickling spice

Peel eggs and place in a 1 qt. (1 L) glass jar. In a large saucepan, mix vinegar, water, salt, and spice. Boil 5 min. Strain hot liquid and cool slightly. Pour over eggs. Cover and refrigerate in brine for 3 or 4 days. Use within a week.

Easiest-Ever Pickled Eggs:

2 c. brine from dilled pickles, asparagus, or beans
8 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and whole (see Note)

Drain brine from emptied glass jar of dilled pickles, asparagus, or beans. Strain brine into heat-proof container. Microwave or heat on stove-top about 3 min., until brine starts to boil. Return hot, strained brine to rinsed jar. Add peeled eggs, one at a time, until eggs are fully covered by brine (I added 2 tbsp. water to top up brine). Cover and refrigerate in brine for 3 or 4 days. Use within a week.

Note: You may think you know how to hard-cook eggs, but are you sure? See the Index for How to Hard-Cook an Egg.

Further Note: For a delicious piece of writing about HB Eggs, see Julia Child’s delightful essay in the St. Joseph News-Press dated Mar. 21, 1982. You’ll find the link at

Tomorrow: Another savory appetizer, ready in minutes!

Easiest-Ever Pickled Eggs: Strain and heat dill brine

What does a hat pin have to do with an egg? See Note!

Start in cold water, bring to a boil, and remove from heat

Older eggs peel best. Immerse in ice water bath after cooking

Pop eggs into hot brine. Seal and chill 3-to-4 days

Ready for the holidays! Rose Bowl and a beer, anyone?