Sunday, December 23, 2012

skiing toward christmas . . .

Early in 2012, snow suddenly blanketed Victoria. 

The city shut down and we took the opportunity to go skiing in the field right across from our house.

I'm not sure what exactly is chasing me, but I like to think it might be a falling star.

That was our Christmas card this year and I'd like to send Christmas greetings your way, dear reader.

I made you some cookies . . .

But they weren't quite good enough to share with you. So I thought I'd remind you about a few other good things and let you know what I've been looking at lately:

How to buy Christmas gifts for foodies. Whenever I need a giggle, I look at this photo.

I just made this almond-scented boterkoek for a Christmas Eve potluck tomorrow. It's lovely and buttery for Christmas.

Don't these spice cookies look heavenly? I wonder if I'd need to go to the work of making the candied orange peel, or could just leave it off . . .

Tipsy rum balls. 'Nuff said.

This chocolate cheesecake would make a fine Christmas Day dessert.

We made Madhur Jaffrey's chicken biryani for the eve of Christmas Eve dinner tonight. We served it with homemade mango chutney, raita, roasted almonds and slices of banana. It is certainly an involved recipe, but it is so incredibly good. As Madhur says, "Biryani is quite definitely not an everyday dish . . . It was, and is, a dish worthy of a king."

My friend has said I really must try Colombian cheese buns, called pan de yuca. I've got this recipe earmarked for the new year.

Along the Indian theme because the holidays are a good excuse to cook whatever we want I am longing to make Bademiya's justly famous Bombay chile and cilantro chicken from the Essential New York Times Cookbook. The sauce includes cilantro, garlic, jalapeƱo, walnuts, lemon and cumin. Mmmn . . .

I hope you get to do lots of skiing or whatever your favourite thing is to do around Christmas.

(Now that we live at what we affectionately call the North Pole  Edmonton  there's a lot of skiing happening around here.)

Merry Christmas!

one year ago: nougat marzipan cookies (for your leftover marzipan!)
two years ago: butter lettuce for a break and spicy cajun almonds

Friday, December 14, 2012

hot lemon honey tea

I work in a radio newsroom.

But for the last four days, I've only heard silence.

I've been at home, recovering from the flu. Listening to the radio and following the news seemed like too much for my weakened state.

This afternoon, I thought I should check what's happening, as I get ready to plunge back into the newsroom next week.

And suddenly all I could see and hear was this the school shooting in Connecticut.

While I am safe and warm in my little home, feeling sorry for myself because I have the flu, this unimaginable horror is tearing through lives in Connecticut.

I wanted to give you this my simple family recipe for lemon honey tea, in case you're not feeling well, either.

one year ago: cheesy grapes

two years ago: tipsy rum balls

hot lemon honey tea

juice from 1 regular lemon
a good dollop of honey (about 3 tbsp?)
a splash of rum

Fill the kettle with cold water and turn it on. While it's coming to a boil, juice the lemon and pour the juice into the bottom of the teapot. Add a good dollop of honey and a splash of rum (whisky would also work). Pour over the boiling water to almost fill the teapot. Stir everything together. Taste and add more lemon or honey, as you like. Don't be afraid to add more honey you want to enjoy this drink, not be making puckery faces.


Wednesday, December 5, 2012

cheese ball!

I think I first encountered the cheese ball in third-year university.

It was just after Christmas, and I had had my wisdom teeth taken out a few days before.

I looked like I was related to Bill Clinton, and surely I was only eating soft foods . . . But I still felt well enough to attend a picnic club reunion.

The picnic club was a very exclusive little group: just me and my friends Erin and Tim. We started it when we were in high school in Kelowna, I think mainly as an excuse to have picnics together. Erin soon made us official membership cards. I still have mine.

We all ended up choosing universities on opposite ends of the continent, but we would still meet up at Christmas (for indoor picnics) and summer (if we were all back at the same time).

I've just found the pictures for the cheese ball picnic, and it looks like we did indeed have a soft-food theme: spinach dip in a sourdough bowl and soup were also on the menu.

I can't imagine how I navigated my way around the nuts on the cheese ball, but I must have done it. Because I came away from that picnic with Erin's family cheese ball recipe . . . and I've been making it ever since.

In fact, if you invite me to a party today, there's a good chance I'll bring a cheese ball.

I just don't think you can beat a cheese ball for holiday snacking. It's retro, it's a snap to make, it's easy to transport by bus or car and – really – who doesn't love a cheese ball?

You can also play around with the ingredients. As long as you have cream cheese and a hard sharp cheese, you're good. You can roll it in pecans or walnuts, or even almonds in a pinch. You can add olives to one little cheese ball (with an olive on top to signify its special status) and keep the olives far away from the other pure little cheese ball. You can take the leftover bit of cheese ball in your lunch the next day with crackers for a holiday snack.

And finally, it's just fun to say: cheese ball. (Thank you, Erin!)

one year ago: dominosteine and christmas treats and spiced ginger mound cookies
two years ago: spicy cajun almonds and butter lettuce for a break

cheese ball
from erin
rolls into two medium cheese balls  or one gigantic cheese ball

1 package (227 g. or 8 oz.) cream cheese
2 c. (170 g. or 6 oz.) grated old cheddar cheese
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce*
1/2 tsp. onion powder**
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
optional: 1/4 c. green olives, chopped (reserving 1 or 2 for the top)
about 2/3 c. roasted walnuts or pecans, chopped

Cream the two cheeses together with an electric mixer. Add the worcestershire sauce, onion powder and garlic powder, and mix well. If you're using olives, mix them in at the end.

Use a spatula to take out the cheese mixture and form it into a ball with your hands. Roll the naked cheese ball in the chopped nuts. If you're using olives, put one on top (because it looks cute).

Store in the fridge in an airtight container, or serve immediately with crackers and a little knife for spreading.

* If you're making this gluten-free, make sure the worcestershire sauce is gluten-free
** I often don't have onion powder on hand. Just add an equal amount of garlic powder.