Bitter Greens with Manchego and Cranberry Dressing

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Because this is a festive salad, I just had to squeeze it in before the end of 2021. I made it for Thanksgiving, and it’s truly unique. I had no problem making it a second time!

The recipe, from Bon Appetit, is called Bitter Greens with Cranberry Dressing. What initially caught my attention was how pretty the salad is.

It’s a mixture of bitter greens, with parsley, mint, shaved Manchego cheese, glazed pecans, and a lemony cranberry dressing, made with canned cranberry sauce. You can bet that this was the first time I ever bought canned cranberry sauce.

Because of timing, I purchased glazed/candied pecans, even though they are so easy to make. I used really good Manchego cheese, and bought the best bitter greens I could find.

Bitter Greens with Cranberry Dressing

3 tablespoons raw sugar
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 – 14 ounce can whole-berry cranberry sauce
Zest and juice of one lemon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
12 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped parsley
2 tablespoons finely chopped mint
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
6 heads of green and/or red endive, quartered
2 heads of frisée, torn into similar sizes
4 ounces Manchego, shaved

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix raw sugar, maple syrup, and salt in a bowl. Add pecans and toss to coat. Spread pecans out on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake until sugar is bubbling, 6-8 minutes, then continue to bake 3 minutes longer to allow sugar to caramelized. Let cool; break into small pieces. Or, buy some already glazed pecans.

Whisk cranberry sauce, lemon zest, lemon juice, nutmeg, and 5 tablespoons of oil in a small bowl to combine. Season cranberry dressing with salt.

Whisk parsley, mint, vinegar, and remaining 7 tablespoons oil in a large bowl to combine; season herby dressing with salt and pepper. Add endive and frisée to bowl and toss to coat. (I didn’t include the mint because you just never know who likes what!) Do this just before serving, although I don’t mind a little wilting.

Arrange salad on a platter and drizzle some cranberry dressing over. Top with Manchego and candied pecan pieces.

Serve with remaining cranberry dressing alongside.

This salad is incredible. You could make the dressing with leftover cranberry sauce, or simply make a lemon dressing. The combination is spectacular.

Serve with a creamy pasta or crepes for a perfect lunch or light dinner.

Peppermint Chocolate Cocktail

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Earlier this year, for my husband’s birthday, I made a peppermint vodka to surprise him with a special cocktail. He loves peppermint. The peppermint vodka is from Katherine’s blog, Love in my Oven, one of my favorites.

The cocktail she presented using the peppermint vodka was a peppermint chocolate cocktail, using crème de cacao. When he tasted the cocktail, he said it tasted like Christmas, so I thought I’d share Katherine’s recipe before the holidays!

One thing she recommended was to rim the cocktail glass in crushed candy canes, which I thought was a wonderful idea! Except that I couldn’t get them to work, so I settled on pearl sugar.

Peppermint  Vodka

2 cups vodka
5 peppermint candy canes, broken in two
One drop of red food coloring, optional

In a clean jar, place the candy canes in the vodka and stir occasionally until they dissolve. Store in a dark place for up to 3 days, then use in the following cocktail, or create your own. I didn’t use the red food coloring just because I think the pink is really pretty!

Peppermint  Chocolate  Cocktail
Serves 1

4 ounces peppermint vodka
2 ounces clear crème de cacao

Combine the two ingredients and shake with a bit of crushed ice.

Strain and pour into a glass.

Rim with crushed candy canes if desired; let dry slightly before filling the glass with the cocktail. If you’re able to…

Make a small pitcher of this cocktail if you’re serving multiple purpose. The ratio of 2 to 1 is an easy one!

Raclette

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Raclette is not only the name of one of my favorite cheeses, but it is also a way to eat. I should say it could be a way to live, because if I could get away with it, I’d eat this way every day!

My family and I took an extended trip through Eastern France in 2002, and thankfully, we visited Chamonix. It’s a magical and picturesque town, situated at the base of the Alps. One evening we were wandering through town to pick out our dinner spot. And then I smelled it – that undeniable smell of warm, stinky cheese. I followed my nose to a restaurant with outside seating – all woodsy and cozy in the shadow of Mont Blanc. Then I noticed these contraptions on diners’ tables. This is when and where I discovered Raclette. The contraptions were similar to this one, screwed into the wooden tables.

Raclette is a cows’ milk cheese that comes from the Rhones-Alpes region of France which has an inherent viscosity. If you have noticed, hot cheeses can be thin and runny, or barely move at all – like rubber. Melted raclette is perfectly pourable, and extremely delicious.

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The verb “racler” in French means “to scrape.” So this is what you do when you raclette (verb): the raclette (noun) melts from a heat source, then you scrape the melted cheese onto your bread or potatoes. Originally, raclette was melted by an actual fire.

After returning home, you can bet I researched raclette, and lo and behold! There were electric raclette makers!!! Not as provincial as sitting around a fire waiting for your blob of melted cheese, but that’s ok. I’m talking about having the most fun you can imagine cooking yourself a dinner that revolves around cheese!!!

This electric raclette maker from Williams Sonoma, is very similar to the three I now own. They are really fun, because you can melt your cheese in the little dishes below, and grill meats and breads on the upper granite slab. Yes, I now own three raclette makers – I mean, the more people, the merrier!

I recently discovered the website Raclette Corner, and you can order not only raclette, but the raclette grills and melters. Sonja, the owner, is Swiss/German, and after moving to South Dakota, she missed raclette so much she started this business! I talked to her recently when she set me up with an expedited shipment of raclette when my original order fell though. What’s especially interesting on her site is the page that tells the history of raclette.

This is a photo of the Swiss raclette I received from Sonja. It’s called a half square, which I’d never heard of before. It was much easier to cut up than round wheel!

So here’s what to do if you want to have a Raclette night, my way. However, keep in mind that there is no “one” way to raclette.

Raclette Menu for 4

4 filet mignons
Olive oil
2-4 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Raclette, about 2 pounds
1 loaf of bread
Salad Greens
Salad toppings such as tomato, mushrooms, and hearts of palm, sliced beets
Vinaigrette of choice
2 large cooked potatoes, sliced into quarters, lengthwise
Cornichons
Pickled onions

Begin by slicing the filets about 1/4″ thick and place in a ziploc bag. Whisk together about 1/2 cup of olive oil with your preferred amount of garlic and salt. Add this mixture to the filet slices and let marinate overnight. Before racletting, bring the filets to room temperature.

To set your table to raclette, each person should have a small plate and a small bowl. The electric grill comes with the dishes for the cheese, plus little scrapers. Each person should have at least two cheese dishes, and one scraper.

I also recommend small wooden tongs to pick up the cheese, as well as for other goodies you’re going to have on the table.

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Cut up the Raclette (cheese) into about 2″ squares, about 3/8″ thick. Place on a plate and set on the table. It’s hard to estimate how much people will eat, but in my experience, it’s more than you’re think!

Slice the bread into 1/4″ slices; place in a bowl or basket and set on the table. I like to have some olive oil in a squeeze bottle to add to the top of the grill for toasting the bread. Even better if it’s garlic oil!

Divide the salad greens into four bowls. Divide the salad toppings between the salads. Put these bowls next to the plates already on the table.

Divide the quartered potatoes among the plates and have the vinaigrette on the table.

Place the cornichons and onions in a bowl on the table.

The electric raclette maker goes in the middle of the table. One raclette maker will easily work for four people at a square table.

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Turn on the raclette. Give it a good 15 minutes to heat up properly.

Place a piece of cheese in a dish to start the melting process. Place a piece or two of the marinated beef on the top to grill.

Add some vinaigrette to your salad, and help yourself to the cornichons and pickled onions. As the bread grills, place it on the plate. Using the scraper, scrape the cheese out of the dish and onto the bread.

Add the filets to your salad, or place on top of the cheese.

And make sure to put cheese on the potatoes!

A Festive Baked Brie

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I happen to love baked brie. I’ve discovered since joining the blogging world, however, that there are those who don’t. Personally, I feel like these people are missing out.

But, like with all food, taste is subjective, and no one need be forced to eat baked brie or anything else he or she doesn’t love, ever. Thankfully. Or I’d have to eat uni.

Hopefully at some point in your life you’ve tried a baked brie – perhaps at a party. It might have been a fancy baked brie, topped with chutney, then artistically wrapped in phyllo dough. When I catered, this is the sort of presentation I used to create because it makes an impression.

And, the pièce de resistance – you get to pierce the cheese rind, and the wonderfully warm, oozy brie pours out, along with the chutney, and you get to spread this mixture on bread. A baked brie is heavenly.

But a baked brie doesn’t have to be wrapped in pasty. Here’s a simple baked brie recipe that I made over the holidays. This one is on the sweeter side, which might surprise you. I do love a savory baked brie…

The main flavors are maple and pecan, so you can serve this brie anytime in the fall or winter, not just for the holidays.

I made this same brie for a Christmas party at my house 16 years ago. It was definitely a hit! (Hiding behind the crackers on the left.)

Maple Pecan Baked Brie

1 – 2 pound wheel of brie, at room temperature
1/2 cup real maple syrup
1 stick, or 4 ounces unsalted butter
1 tablespoon brown sugar
Sprinkle of cinnamon
Sprinkle of ground cayenne (optional)
1 1/4 cups toasted pecan halves*
Water crackers or French bread slices

Unwrap the brie, and place it on a greased cookie sheet. The greasing helps insure that the brie can simply be slid on to the serving dish. If you use a spatula, you run the risk of prematurely piercing the brie, and you’ll have to start over.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium pot, combine the maple syrup, butter, and brown sugar. Heat over medium heat until the butter dissolves. Cook the mixture for about 15 minutes to reduce slightly and thicken. Then add the cinnamon, and cayenne, if using. Set aside to cool somewhat, stirring frequently.

Break up the toasted pecans and set aside.

Bake the brie as is for about 20 minutes. Carefully slide it onto a heat-proof serving dish. Alternately, if you’re really good using your microwave, have the brie on the heat-proof and microwave-proof serving dish, and gently and slowly on the lowest power settings warm the brie. Do not let it cook.

If you baked the brie in the oven, let it cool for a few minutes, then pour the warm maple mixture over the top, and sprinkle the top with the broken pecan pieces. I first put a little blob on the brie to help the pecans stick, added the pecans, and then poured more of the maple mixture on the top and sides of the brie, followed by a last few pieces of pecans.

Serve immediately with crackers or bread.

Full disclosure – I used a 1-lb brie in the photos, because I didn’t want to eat 2 pounds of brie, basically on my own!

* The easiest way to toast a small amount of pecans is in a skillet on the stove. Place the desired amount of pecan halves in a skillet over medium-high heat, in one layer only. Once the skillet heats up, you will smell the pecans toasting. Shake the skillet around, moving the pecans around, until you can see that they’re toasted on all sides. Then remove the skillet from the heat. Let cool completely.

Ultimate Christmas Pudding

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We have a new member of our family – our British son-in-law. My daughter and he have been at our home for Thanksgiving the last two years, but because of the pandemic, they won’t be back in 2020. In fact, they married in Brighton, England, and of course we couldn’t attend. My daughter said I could include a wedding photo in this post. I just couldn’t pick one. Aren’t the pics beautiful!

I’ve been wanting to make a steamed Christmas pudding for years, not just now with a Brit in our family. Ironically, he doesn’t like Christmas pudding! (I’m actually trying to figure out who does!)

I don’t enjoy alcoholic desserts, but Christmas pudding isn’t similar to American fruitcakes, in that they’re not slogged with brandy or rum weekly before being served.

It’s recommended that one start a Christmas pudding up to 3 months in advance of serving, which I did. I chose Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas pudding from her book Nigella Christmas, which is my favorite book of hers, probably because I love Christmas so much. And I love Nigella.

This took me a while to understand, but desserts in England are called puddings, like sticky toffee pudding isn’t a pudding, nor is this Christmas pudding.

Nigella Lawson’s Ultimate Christmas Pudding
From Nigella Christmas

150 grams currants
150 grams sultanas
150 grams roughly chopped prunes
175 millilitres pedro ximenez sherry
100 grams plain flour
125 grams fresh breadcrumbs
150 grams suet
150 grams dark brown muscovado sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon baking powder
grated zest of 1 lemon
3 large eggs
1 medium cooking apple (peeled and grated)
2 tablespoons honey
125 millilitres vodka (to flame the pudding)

You will need a 1.7 litre/3 pint/1½ quart heatproof plastic pudding basin with a lid, and also a sprig of holly to decorate.

Put the currants, sultanas and scissored prunes into a bowl with the Pedro Ximénez, swill the bowl a bit, then cover with clingfilm and leave to steep overnight or for up to 1 week.

When the fruits have had their steeping time, put a large pan of water on to boil, or heat some water in a conventional steamer, and butter your heatproof plastic pudding basin (or basins), remembering to grease the lid, too.

In a large mixing bowl, combine all the remaining pudding ingredients (except the vodka), either in the traditional manner or just any old how; your chosen method of stirring, and who does it, probably won’t affect the outcome of your wishes or your Christmas.

Add the steeped fruits, scraping in every last drop of liquor with a rubber spatula, and mix to combine thoroughly, then fold in cola-cleaned coins or heirloom charms. If you are at all frightened about choking-induced fatalities at the table, do leave out the hardware.

Scrape and press the mixture into the prepared pudding basin, squish it down and put on the lid.

Then wrap with a layer of foil (probably not necessary, but I do it as I once had a lid-popping and water-entering experience when steaming a pudding) so that the basin is watertight, then either put the basin in the pan of boiling water (to come halfway up the basin) or in the top of a lidded steamer (this size of basin happens to fit perfectly in the top of my all-purpose pot) and steam for 5 hours, checking every now and again that the water hasn’t bubbled away.

When it’s had its 5 hours, remove gingerly (you don’t want to burn yourself) and, when manageable, unwrap the foil, and put the pudding in its basin somewhere out of the way in the kitchen or, if you’re lucky enough, a larder, until Christmas Day.

On the big day, rewrap the pudding (still in its basin) in foil and steam again, this time for 3 hours. Eight hours combined cooking time might seem a faff, but it’s not as if you need to do anything to it in that time.

To serve, remove from the pan or steamer, take off the lid, put a plate on top, turn it upside down and give the plastic basin a little squeeze to help unmould the pudding. Then remove the basin – and voilà, the Massively Matriarchal Mono Mammary is revealed. (Did I forget to mention the Freudian lure of the pudding beyond its pagan and Christian heritage?)

Put the sprig of holly on top of the dark, mutely gleaming pudding, then heat the vodka in a small pan (I use my diddy copper butter-melting pan) and the minute it’s hot, but before it boils – you don’t want the alcohol to burn off before you attempt to flambé it – turn off the heat, strike a match, stand back and light the pan of vodka, then pour the flaming vodka over the pudding and take it as fast as you safely can to your guests.

If it feels less dangerous to you (I am a liability and you might well be wiser not to follow my devil-may-care instructions), pour the hot vodka over the pudding and then light the pudding. In either case, don’t worry if the holly catches alight; I have never known it to be anything but singed.

FREEZE AHEAD TIP: Make and freeze the Christmas pudding for up to 1 year ahead. Thaw overnight at room temperature and proceed as recipe on Christmas Day.

Maplev Bourbon vButter

3 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup powdered sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla powder
2 tablespoons brown sugar bourbon, or your choice of liquor
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of allspice

With a mixer, beat the softened butter until creamy. Add the powdered sugar and mix while scraping the sides of the bowl, so the sugar and butter come together evenly. Add the vanilla, bourbon, and spices.

Mix, scraping the sides again, to combine. Spoon the sauce into a bowl.

This is brown sugar bourbon.

Serve warm or at room temperature, along with some of the maple bourbon butter.

Well, I do like Christmas pudding. And I really like this butter, which I adapted from Ms. Lawson. They’re a great combination.

Well, I liked it!

Holiday Toddy

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I happen to be in love with Christmas. I love the smells, sounds, the foods of Christmas… Christmas movies. I love it all.

I’m actually listening to Christmas carols as I type this post, and I was listening to Christmas carols when I whipped up this toddy. I start listening on the first cold day or, the 1st of October, whichever occurs first.

About this time of year I also have a well-stocked liquor cabinet, so I can create a holiday-inspired cocktail with pomegranate vodka, eggnog liqueur, peppermint schnapps – whatever I fancy. I am very lucky this way.

Today it’s chilly, and I was in the mood for a toddy, which, in my book, implies a hot drink. Like a hot buttered rum would be a hot toddy to me.

I had an idea inspired by a recipe I once saw, using tea as the toddy base. I happened to have chai tea bags on hand, so I used them.

I’m using a relatively new liquor that I love, Brown Sugar Bourbon, and I’m not a bourbon lover!

Holiday Toddy
Printable recipe below

8 Chai tea bags
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
7-8 ounces sweetened evaporated milk
8 ounces brown sugar bourbon, or spiced rum, like Captain Morgan
Cinnamon sticks

Place the tea bags, cardamom, and allspice in a heat-proof container; I used a 4-cup measuring cup. Add about 2 cups of boiling hot water and let the tea bags steep for at least 5 minutes. Remove the tea bags.

Add more hot water until it measures 3 cups. Transfer the tea into a stove-top pot with a pour spout, and add the cardamom and allspice. Place on the stove over low heat. Add the sweetened condensed milk and bourbon and whisk until they’re completely combined.

Heat the toddy till it’s steaming, then serve with a cinnamon stick.

Any Christmas-type tea will work, even an orange tea. And, you could always serve the toddy with a little orange peel twirl.

This recipe makes about 6 good-sized cups. It can easily be doubled, or tripled…..

And if you’re wondering who designed these delightful festive cups, it’s Tracy Porter, who unfortunately doesn’t design dinnerware any longer.

Festive Cumberland Sauce

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Cumberland sauce is, to me, a cross between what Americans know as a fruit compote and a fruit chutney. Mustard and shallots add savory elements to the sauce, plus I added cranberries to a traditional Cumberland sauce for the festive aspect! Cause I’m all about festiveness.

Cumberland sauce supposedly originated from Cumbria, in England, which also happens to be the home of sticky toffee pudding! If you’ve never been, it’s worth a visit, and definitely for more than the food.

You can purchase Cumberland sauce, this one sold by Harvey Nichols, (or Harvey Nic’s if you’re and Ab Fab fan!), but home-made is always best.

I included verjus in this recipe. It was the first time I’d opened the bottle. Really good stuff! I had to stop myself from sipping it. (It’s not alcoholic.)

Festive Cumberland Sauce
printable recipe below

1 lemon
2 oranges
2 shallots, peeled, finely chopped
1 teaspoon English mustard
3 ounces ruby port
8 ounces fresh, sorted cranberries
1/2 cup red currant jelly
1 tablespoon verjus

Zest the lemon and oranges and add the zest to a medium-sized saucepan of water that is boiling. Lower the heat to a simmer and remove from the heat after 5 minutes. Pour into a fine sieve and set the zest aside.

Return the saucepan to the stove. Squeeze the oranges and place juice in the saucepan, along with the shallots, mustard, port, and cranberries.

Gently bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the cranberries have burst.

After about 10-15 minutes, stir in the jelly, zest, and verjus.

Remove from the heat and let cool slightly.

It’s truly a sauce, not thick like a compote or chutney, so I put it in a gravy boat.

This sauce is marvelous. You can taste all of the sweet, tart, and savory elements. It was definitely good with turkey, and I can’t wait to serve it with gammon.

note: I’ve seen Cumberland sauce with a demi-glace component, which sounds lovely. Also, one option is to prepare the sauce in a skillet where meat had been seared.

 

Create Your Own Chutney

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I truly love condiments, especially those seasonally-based, like chutneys. And, because I love to “play” in the kitchen and use whatever ingredients I have on hand or am in the mood to use, I wanted to show how easy it is to make your own chutney sans recipe.

It’s all about creating a chutney that you love, customizing the ingredients to your tastes, according to the seasons. Indulge. Chutneys are fabulous.

I have an actual recipe following this “primer” of chutney making below, but seriously once you make a chutney, you’ll see how creative you can be and how well they turn out. A recipe is not necessary.

Create Your Own Chutney

A chutney is about combining fruits – the sweet factor, and aromatics – the savory factor, and then adding seasoning and flavorings.

The sweet-savory ratio is important, however. I use about 2/3 fruit to 1/3 aromatics in my chutneys. You don’t want it all fruit, or it would be a jam.

I season the chutney according to my tastes and the time of year. There are spicy fall and winter chutneys, and there are light, vibrant chutneys you can make for spring and summer appearances as well. (Like my Strawberry Onion Chutney.) It’s all about seasonal ingredients.

Fruit:
You can use fresh fruit: apple, pear, mango, apricot, plum, cranberries, strawberries, peach, etc.
And you can use dried fruit: cranberries, cherries, figs, apricots, raisins, dates, blueberries, etc.
A combination of fresh and dried makes a nice consistency, like pear-dried fig, peach-raisin, apple-dried apricot. Using three fruits works really well, like apple-mango-dried cherry. Or cranberry-apple-date. You get the idea.

If you’re using dried fruits like raisins or cherries, you can soak them in port or fruit juice first to soften them and soak up the flavors, then use it all in the chutney-making process.

Aromatics:
I always use a combination of fresh onion, garlic, and sometimes shallots and fresh ginger. You definitely need onion; the rest is optional.

Sugar:
There is always a sweet component in chutney to balance the aromatics. If you’re using tart cranberries, you would definitely need more sugar than if you were using, say, ripe peaches or strawberries. You can use brown sugar, white sugar, turbinado sugar and so forth. Liquid forms of sugar don’t work well in chutney, because they’re too, well, liquid. A prepared chutney is soft, but not a pile of syrupy mush. But you can add a teaspoon of maple syrup or boiled cider.

Seasonings:
Except for salt, you don’t have to season a chutney at all, although I happen to love black pepper, white pepper, and cayenne.

For fall and winter chutneys, I like them full of flavor – especially when they’re going to be served alongside fairly bland meats. The choices are vast, depending what you want your chutney to taste like.

I, personally, love that what curry powder adds to a chutney. But separately, you can use cumin, cardamom, coriander, etc. A cinnamon stick adds flavor while the chutney is cooking, but ground cinnamon can be used as well. And nutmeg, cloves, and allspice are always yummy. Think of them in an apple-pear-dried fig chutney served with a pork loin. YUM.

Another fun ingredients are small pieces of crystallized ginger.

You can also add ground chile pepper, like ancho or even chipotle powders, to a chutney. And also adobo or adobo powder – especially if you’re making the chutney for a Southwestern-inspired meal.

Vinegar:
Any vinegar will work in a chutney. I love cider vinegar and red wine vinegar, but a white balsamic vinegar works well also. Nothing fancy is required.

Cranberry Apple Raisin Chutney

2 tablespoons grape seed oil
1 purple onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 – 12 ounce bag cranberries, rinsed, sorted
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely chopped
1 cup golden raisins, loosely packed
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cinnamon stick, optional
2 teaspoons vinegar

Add the oil to a hot stock pot and let it heat over medium. Add the onions and sauté for about 5 minutes, without allowing browning.

Give the garlic a stir into the onions, then add the cranberries, apple, and raisins. Stir together.

Allow to heat up, then add the sugar, cinnamon, curry powder, salt, and the cinnamon stick.

Stir well, then cover the pot, turn down the heat to a simmer, and let cook for at least 15 minutes. It will look like this.

Add a couple teaspoons of vinegar and stir in gently. Unless there’s excess liquid, remove the pot from the heat.

Let the chutney cool, remove the cinnamon stick, then store in sterilized jars.


It freezes well.

Not only does this chutney go beautifully with Thanksgiving turkey, but also with chicken and pork. Here I’ve served it with roasted pork and sweet potatoes.


As you can see, there’s a lot of leeway when creating a chutney. They can be simple or complicated from an ingredient standpoint, but they are very easy to prepare.

Chutney is also wonderful topping a baked Brie, and can be used in individual Brie and chutney bites.

Just remember to cook off any extra liquid over extremely low heat, and also don’t overstir. You want to see the beautiful pieces of fruit in your beautiful chutney!

Figgy Jam

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Figgy Jam! Just the name alone conjures Christmas spirit! And it’s December – time to plan cheese pairings!

Personally, I think a jam, paste, or curd is a wonderful addition to a cheese platter, because it enhances the cheese. This one has a little savory component to it, but it’s not a chutney. And, it’s really not a jam, because it’s not that sweet.

Just as the Spaniards are so good at pairing their beloved Manchego with quince paste, I make my figgy “jam” to pair with cheeses like Chèvre, Brie, and my favorite stinky cheese of all time – the famous Époisses from the Burgundy region of France.

I love dried figs, but I have to admit something. When I eat a dense fig jam, it can sometimes feel like I’m chewing sand because of the seeds. So to the figs, I added dates and dried cranberries. That way, I will have the figgy flavor, but not so many seeds.

And the cranberries provide a more scarlet color, which fits the holidays.
So here’s what I did:

Figgy Jam

1 pound dried fruit – chopped figs, chopped dates, and dried cranberries
1 apple, peeled, cored, finely diced
¾ cup fresh orange juice
¼ cup ruby Port
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 shallots, finely diced
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cinnamon stick

On a scale, weigh out the fruit you’re using – in this case, figs, dates, and dried cranberries.

Place all of the ingredients in a pot including the cinnamon stick.

Cook the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes over medium-low heat, stirring often.

Pretty much all of the liquid will have been absorbed; you want the dried fruit hydrated, but also have a little liquid left over in order to process the jam.

Let the mixture cool. Remove the cinnamon stick, then put the mixture in a food processor. Pulse, scrape, pulse, scape, and continue, using a little more orange juice if necessary. I don’t make a paste – I prefer to have a little texture.

Place in jars and store in the refrigerator. Alternately, freeze the jars and thaw in the refrigerator before serving.

The jam is best at room temperature served with a variety of cheeses, crackers, breads, and more dried fruits!

There are brie logs that would make lovely canapés.

Also, the figgy jam could be put on a brie wheel of any size, warmed slightly. Then you get the combination of oozing cheese and the figgy jam.

I drizzled a little maple syrup over the brie as well.

The jam is also good with goat cheese.

However you use it, you will love the combination.

The figgy jam isn’t terribly sweet, so it’s also good on toast in the morning!

Christmas in your Mouth!

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Okay, weird title, but there’s no other way to describe this after-dinner drink. It just tastes like Christmas, which I happen to love.

I’ve mentioned quite a few times over the years that I’m no mixologist. I’ve made some good margaritas, but it seems like when I try to make something creative, it’s terrible.

Actually, it’s not that my skills are completely lacking because I’m typically following recipes, but I don’t enjoy a lot of cocktails, especially if they’re terribly strong. Like martinis. So whatever I might make and dislike, which seems to happen often, I pass on to my willing husband.

Typically when the weather turns cold, I stock up on seasonal liqueurs. I love Amarula, Eggnog, Bailey’s, various chocolate liqueurs, and so forth. Some I will put in coffee or hot chocolate, or some over ice in lieu of dessert.

One night I got super creative (sarcasm) and combined all of two different liqueurs together for my husband and myself. We both thought that this drink was so good that we haven’t been able to stop drinking it!!!

It’s good, it’s pretty, and it’s Christmas in your mouth. You’re welcome.

Christmas in your Mouth
Makes 2 drinks

2 – 8 ounce cocktail glasses
Small ice cubes
4 ounces Buttershots
4 ounces Rumchata

Fill the glasses with ice.

Divide the buttershots and Rumchata evenly in both glasses.

Stir and serve.


You can add some freshly grated nutmeg if you’d like.

And, it’s Christmas!