Saturday, November 8, 2008

Holiday Gifts From Your Kitchen

Gifts From the Heart

Every year we all go through the agony of finding the perfect gift for everyone on our shopping list. Ah! December, the month for giving. This year, instead of spending hours of your time at a crowded mall, on a busy highway, or on-line, why not spend some quality time with your kids in the kitchen, at home. Put the fun and novelty back into gift giving by creating something homemade for each and everyone on your list. Have a wonderful holiday season and a very safe, peaceful New Year.

Hot Honey Mustard
by Penny Rich
Inspired by Joan Soons

1 cup hot mustard flour
1 cup white vinegar
2 eggs
1 cup honey
½ teaspoon salt

Mix the mustard flour and vinegar in a blender until combined. Allow to sit overnight. Place the mixing jar back on the blender base and add eggs, honey and salt. Blend until mixed. Set up a double boiler and place the mustard mixture in the top pot. Wisk as the mixture heats, until thickened, about 30 minutes. Pour into small sterilized jars. Refrigerate after opening.
Always include ingredients on all gifts.

Herb Oil
by Penny Rich

1 cup parsley
1/2 cup packed fresh basil
1/4 cup fresh thyme
1/2 cup packed fresh oregano
Zest of ½ orange or lemon
1 whole dried chipotle chili
1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
2 cups canola oil
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Place all of the herbs, zest, chili and peppercorns in a large sterilized mason jar. Pour both oils into a saucepan and heat to 200 degrees F. Pour the hot oils into the jar and cover with a kitchen towel secured with a rubber band. Let stand overnight.
Place cheesecloth over the top of the jar and replace the outer rim of the lid. Invert and strain oil into a large measuring cup. Place some fresh herbs, garlic or chili pepper in gift jars and cover with the oil.
Always include ingredients on all gifts.

Chocolate Chip Cookies in a Jar
by Penny Rich
Makes 24 jumbo size cookies

1 ¼ cup light brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
3 cups semi sweet chocolate chips
3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

Mix together flour, salt, baking soda and cinnamon. Layer dry ingredients in a large jar in any order. Place a seasonal fabric on lid and tie a ribbon around the top of the jar. To the ribbon attach the recipe and instructions.

1 cup or 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
3 eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla

Beat the butter in a standing mixer with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time beating once again until light and fluffy. Mix in vanilla. Take off the mixer and add the ingredient from the jar, mixing with a wooden spoon just until combined. Prepare a cookie sheet with spray oil or cover with a Silpat. With a medium ice cream scoop drop 6 cookie per tray, bake 350F for 14-16 minutes. Cool on rack. Store in an airtight container, if there are any left.
Always include ingredients on all gifts

Hot Cocoa in a Jar
by Penny Rich
Makes 8 servings

Combine the following ingredients in a bowl.

1 cup dry organic powered milk
¼ cup cocoa powder
½ cup white sugar

Place in a Ball or Mason jar. Place a seasonal fabric on lid and tie a ribbon around the top of the jar. To the ribbon attach the recipe and instructions.
To make a cup of hot cocoa, measure 1/4 cups of the mix and place it in a large mug, add 1 cup of boiling water and stir.
For extra creamy hot cocoa, add 1-2 tablespoons of cream or whipped cream.
Always include ingredients on all gifts.

Chanukah Biscuit (for the dog)
by Penny Rich
makes about 2 dozen

½ cup unsweetened applesauce
1 egg
½ cup fresh ground peanut or almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ¼ - 1 ½ cups water
4 cups whole wheat flour
½ cup cornmeal
½ up oats
¼ cup chopped peanuts or almonds

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl combine applesauce through water. In a second bowl mix dry ingredients flour through nuts. Add dry to wet and mix until combined. Turn out on a floured surface and knead until everything is mixed together. Roll out to ¼ thick. Bring out all you holiday cookie cutters and cut out shapes. Bake on a greased baking sheet for 45 minutes, cool on a rack. Place biscuit in a decorative jar or sealed plastic baggie.
Always include ingredients on all gifts.

Candle Jars

What you need; large saucepan, cleaned coffee can, paraffin wax, old crayons, paint stirrer, candlesticks, wide mouth 1 cup glass jars.

Set up a double boiler to melt the paraffin. Fill the bottom of the saucepan with 4 to 5 inches of water and place the coffee tin in the pan. Then pack chunks of paraffin into the coffee can melting the wax over medium-high heat, carefully adding more chunks until the can is about two-thirds filled. To color the melted wax, break half of a peeled crayon into pieces, add to the wax. To add a scent, add your favorite oil. Slowly mix with a paint stirrer, then turn off the heat and let the paraffin cool for about 10 minutes.
Dip the bottom of each candlestick into the melted wax and stick it to the inner jar bottom. When the candlestick ends have hardened enough to hold, carefully pour enough wax into the jars to cover the candlestick tops but not the wicks. Allow to cool. Decorate the jars with holiday ribbons and screw on lid.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

The Perfect Cup of Coffee

I used to be a night owl. Well, that is before I had kids. Now I get up at 5:30 a.m. just to do the one simple thing, all alone, no interruptions, no requests, no questions, just me, and well, the dog. I drink my perfect cup of coffee or two or three. My coffee ritual is the same every morning and well worth it.

6 steps to the perfect cup of coffee
Fresh beans: start with fresh roasted coffee beans. There are different varieties and places where you can buy fresh beans*. It really is a matter of taste so explore and find your favorite locally roasted beans. Air, light, heat and moisture are the enemies of coffee freshness, so store your coffee where it will not be exposed to these elements. Coffee beans oxidize and begin to deteriorate after two weeks, so only purchase enough for a 2-3 week period max. Only buy fresh roasted whole bean coffee for your perfect cup of coffee. Buying ground coffee is out of the question as it deteriorates after only a few days.
Grind: Be sure to use the correct grind for your brewing method.
Coffee Press: 6 seconds in blade grinder
Drip (basket filter): 10 seconds in blade grinder
Cone filter and steam espresso: 25 seconds in blade grinder
Espresso: best achieved with a burr grinder
Proportion: 2 tablespoons of ground coffee for each 6 ounces of water used. For espresso 7 grams of coffee for every 1 ounce shot of water.
Water: Always brew with freshly drawn water, heated to just below boiling. Do not trust the water level marking on your coffee machine. Use a measuring cup to get the exact 6 ounces of water for each cup you will brew until you get a feel for where the proper marking should be.
The Coffee Maker: 
 a good electric drip coffee machine is perfect for everyday use. A French press is better when you have more time to devote to your perfect cup of coffee, like on the weekends. Espresso lovers now have many choices from the simple on the stovetop version, to the $3500 fully automated counter top machine.
The Finishing Touches: 
 Pour your perfect coffee into your favorite ceramic coffee mug. Add cream and sugar to taste, keeping in mind that anything you add to your coffee alters the natural taste. Artificial sweeteners almost always leave a bitter taste. A better choice is Stevia or raw sugar. Also, do not expose the brewed coffee to a heat source for more than 20 minutes. If you would like to keep the coffee hot for more than 20 minutes, I recommend that you use a thermal carafe or thermos.

My family is coming to my house this year for Thanksgiving and I know the coffee will be flowing. Here are some of my favorite ways to serve coffee to make my holiday breakfast special. Have a peaceful Thanksgiving celebration.

Mexican Mocha Coffee
4 servings

4-6 cups coffee
1 tablespoon chocolate syrup
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup fresh whipped cream
Cinnamon-sugar in a salt shaker

Add ingredients, coffee through sugar in a decorative thermal carafe. Swirl around just to mix ingredients. Pour into 4 warmed mugs*. Top with whipped cream. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar.
Top with whipped cream mixture.
*To warm mugs, fill with boiling water while you are mixing the ingredients.

Spice Coffee
8 servings

8-12 brewed coffee
Peel from one large orange
Peel from one large lemon
30 whole cloves

Place hot coffee and spices in thermal carafe. Allow the mixture to steep for 20-30 minutes. Place a strainer on each mug and pour 6-8 ounces of the spiced coffee in each. Serve with sugar and cream on the side.

Irish Coffee
1 serving

1 cup of hot coffee

1 tablespoon of Irish whiskey

1 tablespoon of cream

1 tablespoon of sugar
Mix together top with fresh whipped cream

Jamaican Coffee
1 serving

1 cup of hot coffee

¼ shot of Tia Maria

¼ shot of Myers Rum

¼ shot of Dark Crème de Cacao
Mix together the top with whipped cream

Chocolate Chip Coffee Cake
by Penny Rich
Serves 12

1 cup pecans, chopped finely in a food processor
¼ cup whole pecans
12 ounces dark chocolate chips
¼ cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon

1 cup white sugar
½ cup butter
2 eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 ½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup powdered sugar

Heat oven to 350•F. Butter and flour a 10-12 cup Bundt pan.
In a medium bowl combine topping ingredients, set aside.
For the batter, cream the butter and sugar in the bowl of a standing mixer using the paddle attachment. Add eggs one at a time until combined. Add sour cream and vanilla, mix for 2-3 minutes scraping down the bowl as needed. In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the mixing bowl and mix just until combined.
Place the whole pecans on the bottom of the bundt pan. Evenly sprinkle ¼ cup of the topping on the whole pecans. Fold the remaining topping into the batter. Pour the batter into the pan and spread evenly. Bake 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the cake. Cool for 30 minutes in the pan then flip over onto your serving platter. Let the cake cool for 5-10 minutes more. Top with powdered sugar and serve with your perfect cup of coffee.

*My Favorite Local Coffee Beans

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Chipotle Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

The hardest part of this recipe is cleaning the seeds out of the pumpkin.
Once you get most of the slimy pumpkin meat off of the seeds wash them well in a colander. I do this three times to make sure they are really clean. Allow the seeds to dry for about 30 minutes. Place the dry seeds in a bowl and mix in 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 teaspoons of Kosher salt and 1/2 - 1 teaspoon of chipotle powder(more if you like them hot). Place the seeds on a foil lined baking sheet that has been sprayed with cooking oil and bake in a 275°F oven for 20-30 minutes, mixing up every 5-7 minutes. YUM!