Category Archives: Holidays – Christmas

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

 

 

Believe it or not, I learned most about stereotypes long before I moved to New Jersey (surprising, I know!). 

As a native Ohioan, or more suitably I should say Cincinnatian, we have a serious love-hate relationship with Kentucky.  Depending on the situation, we will either turn up our nose and clearly make known, with all of our stereotypical glory, that the Ohio River creates a solid state line separating modern civilization with that other state.  Followed by some type of joke about cousins marrying cousins.

And then in other cases we’ll proudly proclaim that it is our sister state, our comrade, our next door neighbor that produces arugably the world’s best whiskey, hosts infamous horse races, and is home to the cowboy hat wearing, gun-slinging Mr. Raylan Givens (for all you Justified fans). 

In this case I think it goes without saying that Kentucky would be our friend.  Our close friend.  Dear friend.  Our great Makers Mark-producing, Knob Creek-making, cousin kissing friend!

In honor of the Kentucky Derby coming up I wanted to share these, but they are a really delicious treat for any type of party.  Make them ahead of time and store them in an airtight container for up to two weeks, sometimes I add coconut, sometimes I dip them in an extra layer of chocolate, and sometimes I just nibble on them with a glass of red wine.  Truly an easy and succulent treat.

Kentucky Bourbon Balls

Adapted from Williams Sonoma Cookies Cookbook

Makes about 4 1/2 dozen cookies

  • 1 box Vanilla Wafers, crushed
  • 6 oz dark, or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/3 cup Kentucky Bourbon (or can substitute other bourbon)
  • 2 cups toasted pecans, finely chopped
  • pinch of salt

Begin by crushing the vanilla wafers in a food processor (or by placing them in a large plastic bag and crushing them with the back of a spatula or rolling pin).

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave for 30 minute increments, stirring in between.  Remove the chocolate from the heat and add brown sugar, corn syrup, bourbon and salt.  Next, stir in the vanilla wafers and half of the pecans.

Measure out 1 tablespoon of dough and roll into a ball.  Roll the ball in the remaining half of pecans.  Refrigerate the cookies for at least one day prior to serving to allow flavors to merge.  

 

 

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Filed under All Posts, Great for a barbeque, Happy hour anyone?, Holidays - 4th of July, Holidays - Christmas, Holidays - Easter, Holidays - Thanksgiving, Ohio, Recipes, Sweet Treats

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

Give me a handful of asparagus and I will give you two million different ways to eat it.  Or more.  You all know how I feel about the sleek veggie (see: Feta, Walnut, Sundried Tomato Asparagus) — I could simply eat it every day.  And because asparagus season is upon us, I am literally eating it every single day.  In every kind of way.

But this little number?  Brace yourself, because I’m not sure there is even a word to describe it.  Delicious just doesn’t cut it…

Roasted Asparagus and Arugula Salad with Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Crumbles

(The candied pecans are really what make this recipe stand out, so if you’re going to skip a step – don’t skip candying the pecans — it just takes 5 minutes!)

  • Roasted Asparagus (recipe below)
  • Candied Pecans (recipe below)
  • about 2 cups loosely packed arugula
  • 1 ½ cup blue cheese crumbles
  • Balsamic vinaigrette (or olive oil and balsamic vinegar)

Roasted Asparagus

  • 3 bundles thin asparagus
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(I used the very thin asparagus, but if you use the more average size you will need to cook the asparagus for about 10-15 minutes longer)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Chop ends off of asparagus and lay out on a baking sheet.  Drizzle olive oil over to coat completely, season with salt and pepper. Roast Asparagus for about 8-10 minutes ( again, you’ll have to cook them longer if you have the larger asparagus).  Remove from oven, cool and then cut in half for the salad.

Candied Pecans

  • 1 cup roughly chopped pecans
  • 4 tbs sugar

The candying process with the sugar only takes a few minutes and happens fast, so you want everything set up and ready to go ahead of time.  Line a baking tray with wax paper (or a silpat mat) and set aside and have your cup of pecans waiting nearby.

In a small, heavy bottomed sauce pan heat the sugar on medium heat, stirring constantly. Continue stirring until the sugar dissolves and reaches a golden amber color.  Add the pecans and quickly stir to coat and then transfer to the lined tray.  Spread the nuts out (I like to keep some of them in clumps, but you can spread them out thinner if you’d like) let cool.

Once your nuts are cool, assemble all of the ingredients in the salad and lightly drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette or just a good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Fluffy Homemade Marshmallows: Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane and Chocolate with Sea Salt

 

 

Marshmallows may just be my new favorite thing.  Not just any marshmallows, but the big fluffy homemade kind that are bursting with that ooey gooey creaminess in every bite.  I’ve been wanting to try my hand at making them for quite some time and all it took was a casual phone conversation with my sister.  The next thing I knew I was up to my ears in powdered sugar (literally).

It was somewhere between her telling me how she drops them into big mugs of hot cocoa to soak up all of the warm chocolatey goodness and how her kids go absolutely nuts over them on a regular basis, that I began planning out all of the mouth-watering variations I wanted to create with these little gems.  At the top of my list: Chocolate Dipped with Sea Salt and Chocolate Candy Cane. 

Both equally delicious, the Chocolate and Sea Salt (not pictured) was incredible just by itself and the Chocolate Dipped Candy Cane was the perfect addition to my cocoa-sipping, tree-decorating, christmas-caroling Friday night! 

Next on my wish list:  Toasted Coconut and Pumpkin Spiced. Y..u..to the m!

Fluffy Homemade Marshmallows

(Courtesty of Joy of Baking)

  • 1 cup cold water, divided
  • 3 – 1/4 ounce envelopes unflavored gelatin
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • about 3 cups confectioners sugar for garnish
Lightly butter or or spray the sides and bottom of a 13x9x2-inch baking pan. Then sift about 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar onto the bottom of the pan.
 
Place 1/2 cup cold water into the bowl of your electric mixer that is fitted with a whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and let stand until gelatin softens, about 15 minutes.
 

Meanwhile, in a heavy two quart saucepan, place the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup cold water. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Cover the saucepan with a lid and let boil for about two minutes to allow any sugar crystals to dissolve from the sides of the saucepan. Remove the lid and attach a candy thermometer to the side of the pan. Increase heat to high and boil, without stirring, until the syrup reaches 240 degrees F about 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

With mixer running at low speed, slowly pour the hot syrup into the gelatin mixture in a thin stream down the side of the bowl. Gradually increase the speed to high and beat until mixture has tripled in volume and is very thick and stiff, about 10 minutes (looks like thick marshmallow cream). Add vanilla extract and beat to combine, about 30 seconds longer.

Scrape marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan and spread with a damp or oiled rubber spatula. The mixture is very sticky so just smooth it out as best as you can. Dust the top of the marshmallow with another 3 tablespoons of confectioners’ sugar and let stand, uncovered, at room temperature until set, about 12 hours.

Remove the marshmallow from the pan by first running a small sharp knife around the edge of the marshmallow to loosen it from the pan. Invert the pan onto a large cutting board that has been dusted with confectioners’ sugar. You might have to use your fingers to help loosen the marshmallow from the pan (the marshmallow will be sticky). Dust the top with more confectioners’ sugar. Cut the marshmallow into squares using clean kitchen scissors, a pizza roller or a sharp knife. Dip the cut sides of the marshmallows in additional confectioners’ sugar. Shake off excess sugar and store the marshmallows in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to two weeks.

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Filed under All Posts, Holidays - Christmas, Recipes, Sweet Treats

This Year In Review

Move over twenty-ten, we’re heading into the new year at full speed!  There are just a few days left to say our goodbyes and there’s no better time than the last week of an extra fabulous year to reflect on all the good that took place.  Although this year will most definitely be a hard one to beat, I’m so incredibly eager for the next chapter to unfold.

So, without further ado, a few of my favorite highlights from 2010:

I Got Hitched!

First and foremost, I turned in my singlehood this year for an adorable blonde-haired, blue-eyed Jersey boy.  Also known as my husband, Grant.  As many of you know, we were married this September in Charleston, SC –and it was nothing short of perfect.

 

El Bulli Hacienda Benazuza

Eating at El Bulli Hacienda Benazuza, Ferran Adria’s restaurant outside of Seville, Spain was without doubt one of my top restaurant experiences.  Previously named the world’s best chef, Adria is known for his wacky, scientific style.  His take on food is that “Cuisine is not something to be had, but a state to be in”….and that state swept me away to a playful world of spherical olives, mimic peanuts and disappearing desserts.

Noma Named Best Restaurant in World

Taking over El Bulli’s number one spot this year for world’s best restaurant is René Redzepi’s Noma  in Copenhagen, Denmark.  Opening the door for Scandinavian cuisine, you will find on Chef Redzepi’s Nordic menu, items that have been foraged straight from the wilderness (so I hear).   This is likely something we’ll be seeing much more of in 2011 as many chefs are finding new ingredients the oldest kind of way — seeking out pure, natural foods like wild greens, nuts and even tree bark.  You can read more here in The New York Times where they recently highlighted some of the many new ingredients being foraged.

The Cherpumple Was Born 

Ok, I don’t know if I would classify this as a highlight, but it was entertaining nonetheless!  For those of you who unfortunately missed this gargantuan creation, writer Charles Phoenix developed the “turducken of desserts” – the cherpumple.  An outrageous creation consisting of three pies baked inside three cakes and glued together by heaps of cream cheese frosting.  Holy sweet tooth!

Eataly Opens in NYC

I have yet to go, but when I do I am going hungry, thirsty and wearing  the stretchiest pant I own.   Some of our favorite Italian chefs opened a celebration of Italian cuisine in Manhattan, comprised of markets, restaurants and shops with the the nations best Italian foods.

Avocado Ice Cream

One of the first recipes posted here on Daily Crave and one of my favorites.  If you’ve never had it, try it.  You’ll love it.  I promise.

I Got A New Camera

Not just any camera, but my first SLR!  Give it up for the Canon EOS Rebel T2i.

Ninety Acres at Natirar

Although Ninety Acres actually opened in December of 09′, it wasn’t until 2010 that I finally got to indulge in the new restaurants “farm to table” experience.  If you live in the surrounding area, and you’ve not yet been — go!  (And then thank me later.)   Even a non-foodie will appreciate the gorgeous setting in the heart of New Jersey’s countryside.  The 491-estate set against green rolling hills, previously owned my the King of Morocco, has now been transformed into an elegant spa and an amazing restaurant based on local ingredients sourced directly from the Natirar property.

Chef Natalie Lewis: Open for Business!

Lastly, in 2010 I announced the opening of Chef Natalie Lewis, a personal chef and catering service.  A lot of fun was had in the process of creating the new biz, so I thought I’d share with you a couple of photos that didn’t make the cut…

Take two:   (There are very few things more fun than doing a photo shoot in the woods with a bottle of wine and a baguette!) 

Ok, one more time:

So, here it is — just a few of the delicious happenings of this spectacular year!  Happy New Year to you all and here’s to an even more flavor-filled 2011 — Salut!

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Around my house on Christmas Eve

Cookies and Milk for Santa, New England Style…

 

Peppermint Whoopie Pies!

Cheerful snowmen

Sparkly tree

 Lots of goodies decorating every nook and corner

Nutcrackers, of course

And at last, my favorite. May the sweet magic of Christmas bring you the gift of love, peace and happiness for many years to come.

  Warm wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you all!

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Marlys’ (Pumpkin) Carrot Soup

If you’re looking for a good and good-for-you soup to warm you up this holiday season, look no further!  Courtesy of my mother in-law, (shout-out to Marlys), I’m sharing the recipe with you here.

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Filed under All Posts, Healthy Options, Holidays - Christmas, Recipes, Seasonal - Fall, Vegetables

Asiago and Sage Potatoes Au Gratin

In case you didn’t get the memo Christmas is less than 20 days away.  As in, I’ve got only 19 days left to procrastinate.  I keep telling myself that one of these years I’ll get my shopping done before the mad rush begins, but me and Time have always had a rocky relationship. 

Just when I think we’re moving forward in the right direction, I find out I’m being two-timed for some over-achieving broad. 

Hmmt!  Two can play at this game…

Make ahead Christmas dinner ideas, anyone?  Oh, what’s that you say — make ahead and delicious?  Coming right up 😉

You can make this a day in advance and will keep great. 

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup shredded Asiago cheese (1/2 c + 1/2 c plus additional for topping)
  • 2 Garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/8 tsp. Nutmeg
  • 4-5 baking potatoes, peeled and (sliced 1/8 – 1/4 inch thick)
  • 12-15 sage leaves, chopped roughly
  • Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine heavy cream, ½ cup of Asiago cheese, garlic, nutmeg, pepper and salt (a generous amount of salt – about a tablespoon) in large sauce pan and simmer for about 10 minutes until the cream mixture begins to slightly thicken.

Arrange a third of the potatoes in a 8×8 baking dish sprinkle with a third of the cream sauce, a third of the sage leaves and a third of the cheese. Repeat three times, ending with a layer of the potatoes and sauce.

Bake for 1 – 11/4 hours or until potatoes have softened. Remove from oven and top with additional cheese and broil for about 5-10 minutes or until the top turns a nice golden brown color.  Let rest for about 5 minutes before serving.

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