1 week out, menu planning (always Italian) and grocery list
a trip to Wegman's, farmers markets, farms, South Mountain Dairy, etc.
1st year ever that I have the entire day to prepare our feast, I have dreamed of this!
Christmas music all day
set table, light candles & build fire
appetizers then on to dinner, sigh & yum
relax and change into our matching Christmas PJ's
coffee and dessert, relax
open gifts, relax
maybe time for late night snack? local eggnog & cookies
this year's menu:
Prosecco Italian charcuterie and cheese board arugula pecorino romano lemon vinaigrette cracked pepper spaghetti braciole & meatballs lemon ricotta cake pour over Black Dog coffee
If you have never experienced braciole below is a recipe from Lidia Bastianich, Ken's favorite!
SUNDAY RAGU This is a typical Sunday Italian American meal. Serve the braciole as is, or fish them out of the sauce, arrange them on a platter and serve the sauce with rigatoni or gnocchi. Sausages and meatballs may also be added to the pot for an even more bountiful dinner.
Makes 6 servings
For The Braciole: 1 1/2 cups milk 2 cups bread cubes (1/2-inch), cut from day-old bread with crusts removed 2 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped coarse 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese 1/4 cup raisins 1/4 cup toasted pine nuts 1 garlic clove, chopped fine 2 lbs. beef bottom round, cut into 12 slices, each about 1/2 inch thick (see Note) 12 slices Prosciutto di Parma (about 6 ounces) 1/4 lb. imported provolone cheese, cut into 1/4 x 1/4 inch sticks Salt Freshly ground pepper
For The Sauce: 3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil 2 small onions (about 8 ounces), chopped 2 garlic cloves, chopped fine 1 (35 oz.) canned Italian plum tomatoes 1/2 cup dry red wine 3 Tbsp. tomato paste 2 bay leaves Water as needed Salt Crushed red pepper flakes Pour the milk into a medium bowl, add the bread cubes and let soak until the bread is very soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Squeeze out excess milk from the bread cubes with your hands and return the bread to the bowl. Stir in the chopped eggs, parsley, Parmigiano-Reggiano, raisins, pine nuts and garlic. Mix well and set aside.
With the toothed side of a heavy meat mallet, pound each slice of beef round to a thickness of about 1/4 inch. Arrange one of the pounded meat slices in front of you with one of the short sides (if there is one) closest to you. Top with a slice of prosciutto and tap the prosciutto with the back side of a knife so it adheres to the beef.
Spread 2 tablespoons of the stuffing over the prosciutto, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Place a stick of provolone crosswise over the edge of the stuffing closest to you. Fold the border closest to you over the provolone, then fold the side borders in to overlap the edges of the stuffing. Roll into a compact roll. Secure the end flap with a toothpick. Proceed to finish all, then season the rolls with salt and pepper.
MAKE THE SAUCE: Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large, heavy casserole over medium heat. Stir in the onions and garlic and cook until the onion is wilted, about 5 minutes. Add as many of the braciole as will fit in a single layer and cook, turning the braciole as necessary, until golden on all sides, about 7 minutes. If necessary, repeat with any remaining braciole.
Meanwhile, empty the tomatoes into a bowl and squeeze them with your hands until coarselycrushed.
If necessary, return all the braciole to the casserole. Pour the wine into the casserole, bring to a boil and cook until most of the wine has evaporated. Stir in the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add tomato paste and bay leaves and stir until the paste is dissolved. Adjust the heat to simmering and cook, adding water as necessary to keep the braciole completely submerged, until the beef is tender, about 3 hours.
Remove the toothpicks before serving. The braciole can be prepared up to 2 days in advance, then reheated over low heat until heated through.
NOTE: The slices of beef should measure about 4 to 5 inches on each side before pounding. To obtain pieces of the right size, look for -- or ask your butcher to cut -- six 1/2-inch-thick slices from a whole bottom round, then cut those slices crosswise into two pieces.
Christmas morning I love to prepare panettone French toast along with fresh squeezed OJ, super yummy.
#2. cookies, top 10
my Grandma Bertha's roll out sugar cookies
peanut butter and jam cookies
Italian wedding cookies
I spend one day and bake all the dough's. Some I roll into logs and wrap then just slice and bake. The roll outs I just do all at once and store on the back porch. As a kid I would help my Mom bake dozens and dozens of cookies, it was the beginning of my baking love. We would start a couple of weeks before Christmas and store all the cookies wrapped up in dress boxes in the garage. After school that is where you would find me! I honed my cookie eating skills at a very early age! It's as if it was just yesterday that I was baking with my Mom, thanks Mom for the cookie tradition, big love.
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Creambutter in a large mixing bowl. Add the vanilla then gradually add the 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift the flour, measure, then sift again with the salt. Add gradually to the butter mixture. Add the pecans and mix well. Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and place 2 inches apart on ungreased baking sheets. Flatten slightly using the bottom of a glass, then bake for 20 minutes, or until edges are very lightly browned. Remove the cookies from the baking sheets and roll in powdered sugar while still hot. Cool on wire racks and roll cookies again in powdered sugar before serving. Once they are completely cooled, cookies may be stored in airtight containers for up to 1 week.
#3. decorating for Christmas!
2 weeks before Christmas we switch our dishes to the Spode Christmas Tree china
fresh tree jammed packed with ornaments and lights
angel tree topper from a childhood birthday cake
my Pop's Christmas village, all the boxes are labeled with date & where he purchased them, so adorable and I love the feeling he is with me when I set it up!
crazy Santa, Annalee & Snowbabies collection
Following traditions help hold close all the wonderful moments that have taken place in the past. During the holiday seasontraditions make us feel festive and reassured.
Wishing everyone a fantastic holiday. Hope your cookie jars are packed and your plates filled with delicious food!
Dice the butter and return it to the refrigerator while you prepare the flour mixture. Place the flour, salt, and sugar in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse a few times to mix. Add the butter and shortening. Pulse 8 to 12 times, until the butter is the size of peas. With the machine running, pour the ice water down the feed tube and pulse the machine until the dough begins to form a ball. Dump out on a floured board and roll into a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
Cut the dough in half. Roll each piece on a well-floured board into a circle, rolling from the center to the edge, turning and flouring the dough to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Fold the dough in half, place in a pie pan, and unfold to fit the pan. Repeat with the top crust
Linzer cookies, from Epicurious
2/3 cup hazelnuts (3 oz)
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 12-oz jar seedless raspberry jam
Special equipment: a 2- to 2 1/4-inch fluted round cookie cutter and assorted 1/2-inch shaped cookie cutters or aspic cutters
Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
Toast hazelnuts in a shallow baking pan until fragrant and skins begin to loosen, about 6 minutes. Rub nuts in a kitchen towel to remove any loose skins (some skins may not come off), then cool to room temperature.
Pulse nuts and 1/4 cup brown sugar in a food processor until nuts are finely ground.
Whisk together flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a small bowl.
Beat together butter and remaining 1/4 cup brown sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer (preferably fitted with paddle) or 6 minutes with a handheld. Add nut mixture and beat until combined well, about 1 minute. Beat in egg and vanilla. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture, mixing until just combined.
With floured hands, form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 5-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firm, at least 2 hours.
Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat oven to 350°F.
Roll out 1 disk of dough into an 11-inch round (1/8 inch thick) between 2 sheets of wax paper (keep remaining dough chilled). If dough becomes too soft to roll out, rewrap in plastic and chill until firm. Cut out as many cookies as possible from dough with larger cookie cutter and transfer to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging about 1 inch apart. Using smaller cutters, cut out centers from half of the cookies, reserving centers and rerolling along with scraps (reroll only once). Bake cookies, switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until edges are golden, 10 to 15 minutes total, then transfer with a metal spatula to racks to cool completely. Make more cookies from second disk.
Spread about 1 teaspoon jam on flat side of 1 solid cookie and sandwich jam with flat side of 1 windowed cookie. Sandwich remaining cookies in same manner
I absolutely love the smells of fall, rich damp black soil, warm fires burning, fresh picked apples, earthy fallen leaves and the crisp cool air. Could it just stay fall and skip winter, please.
Autumn is romantic and calm. It is my time to prepare for hibernation. I just switched my summer and winter clothes along with the cleaning & organizing of closets. I washed all my windows inside and out. Entertaining moves inside, I enjoy rearranging the furniture to make the rooms cozy and inviting.
Most importantly don't forget the kitchen, this sounds crazy but it is time to clean, arrange and stock up your pantry. The winter is the busiest time of the year in most kitchens.
I thought it would be fun to put a pantry list together from all my favorite Chef's must haves.
BASIC PANTRY Whole black peppercorns Kosher salt Good quality olive oil/ cooking, vinaigrette's and finishing dishes Vegetable or grapeseed oil/ cooking and vinaigrette's Selection of good quality vinegars, balsamic, champagne, red wine, apple cider & rice Whole grain mustard/ sauces and vinaigrette's Local honey Organic cane sugar Powdered sugar Good quality chocolate chips Cocoa Brown sugar Cornstarch Flours, All-purpose, whole wheat, cake & bread Cornmeal Bread crumbs Baking soda & powder, check use by dates Baking spices/cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, ginger, vanilla extract Organic peanut butter Jam cayenne pepper Bay leaves Red chili flakes Hot sauce Olives, capers and pickles Dried fruits Dried pasta Nuts and seeds Assorted crackers Anchovies Whole grains/farro, quinoa, brown rice, polenta, Arborio Couscous Good quality whole canned tomatoes Fresh herbs Shallots Garlic Red and white onions Unsalted butter Good quality Parmesan, goat, feta & cheddar Yogurt Farm eggs Milk, half & half and heavy cream Local slab bacon Champagne, there is always something to celebrate!
I hope this list inspires you to be Top Chef in your kitchen, ready for any cooking challenge.
I happened upon a new Container Store near the Reston Town Center, whoa I had to get out of there cause talk about super duper organizing stuff for the pantry. Crazy cool baskets, gadgets, containers, etc.! Yikes......
Happy fall organizing!!!!!
Cuteness from Rainbow Hill Organic Farm Charles Town WV
Ever since the first Twinkle Bell dinner when I made the creamy corn polenta, I am obsessed with freshly gristed cornmeal. I have to say it is unbelievable more delicious than just plan store bought. If you have the chance to find it at a farmers market or at a mill it is worth the extra time & effort to track it down.
The recipe I have been using to create all sorts of fruit & cornmeal combinations I found in "The Best of the Best Food & Wine". The cookbook is a collection of recipes from the top 25 cooks books of the year. It just so happens that this recipe is from one of my favorite food blogger's, Deb Perelman from the Smitten Kitchen www.smittenkitchen.com
Everyone wants this recipe so here it is! She uses blueberry's but I have been baking it with local stone fruits, so get creative!
Blueberry Cornmeal Butter Cake Yield: 16 squares of cake
1 stick of unsalted room temperature butter, 115g or 8 tablespoons 1 C all purpose flour, 125g 1/2 C cornmeal, 60g 2 tsp baking powder 1 C sugar, 200g 2 large eggs 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 1/4 tsp freshly grated lemon zest 1/3 C sour cream, 80g 2 C blueberries, 190g
Streusel 1/2 C sugar, 100g 6 tablespoons all purpose flour 2 tablespoons cornmeal pinch of salt 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into small pieces preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line the bottom of an 8 inch square pan with parchment and coat with a non stick spray.
whisk the flour, cornmeal, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl, set aside. using an electric mixer cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, at least 2 minutes. beat in eggs one at a time and scrape down sides between additions, then add vanilla and zest.
add a third of the flour, all of the sour cream and another third of the flour beating until just combined. scrape down sides and mix in the remaining flour mixture with the fruit and gently fold into the cake batter.
spread the batter into prepared pan. combine the dry topping with a fork. mash in the butter with a fork, your fingertips or a pastry blender. scatter the topping over the batter.
bake until top is golden and the tester comes out clean, about 35 minutes. cool then run a spatula around the edges to loosen it and flip out onto cooling rack.
easy and delicious!
Don't forget Twinkle Bell Secret Dining Fellowship last dinner of this year is approaching, October 19th 6pm. Call your friends and make your reservations ASAP!
hey thanks for all the support in the Martha Stewart American Made contest, who knew I could get all those votes! Cowbell loves that you love her!
Fall is around the corner, it's that time of the year as the garden slows down and gets ready for it's winters slumber.. here is what's going on in my yard.
Camp Luckybell headquarters. Head on down 6pm, sharp. We aim to serve and protect you upon arrival.
Welcome campers! Come help us bid farewell to summer and usher in autumn with a harvest festival. We are going to light up the sky and open up the mess hall with some locally sourced seasonal bounty. Our focus for your evening stay will include: building team spirit, constructing a teepee styled campfire, using old fashioned communication skills in making new friends, learning the do's and don't of glamping and of course becoming one with nature. So dust off your Kate Spade or Marc Jacobs knapsack and here is your camp check list: a flask of whiskey or BYOB, flashlight or lantern, your ugliest coffee mug, a deck of cards, a blanket to cuddle in, last but not least a long stick. We do have a strict dress code at Camp Luckybell so remember to wear something flannel, you know grunge, lumberjack, preppy, chic, etc. and we do recommend not to forget to wear your woolly socks. Tell the kids not to worry we do provide adult supervision. See you soon and thanks for your interest.
Camp Enrollment is now open! To make the evening easier we would appreciate payment before event, $70 includes tax and gratuity. Thanks! Email firstname.lastname@example.org for the paypal link
French music, laughter & the noisy summer Cicada filling the evening air
now playing, my childhood 8mm home movies along with "The Artist"
Time to thank our beautiful farmers & artisans, Tudor Hall Farm, The Breadery, Rainbow Hill Organic Farm, Potomac Organic Farm, TrueFarms, South Mountain Creamery & Breezy Meadows Farm. And a big giant thank you to all that joined in on a wonderful evening! Merci beaucoup.
Next secret dinner October 12th, not to be missed!
Hey, if you have a second jump over to Martha and vote for the Cowbell, we need your support! Thanks!!!!