Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Culinary School in a Box, and Too-Good-to-Eat Christmas Cookies

My friends at Allrecipes.com have put together a series of online cooking classes, which could make a great gift for the foodies on your list. Whether they admit it or not, we all know your friends and family are envious of your culinary abilities, and secretly wish you’d teach them some of your skills.

Since that’s not going to happen anytime soon (hey, you’re busy, and they can’t afford your rates anyway), why not do the next best thing, and make them learn themselves? With any luck, they’ll practice their “homework” on you. Plus, think of all the time you’ll save wrapping a present.

In case you’re wondering, while I completely stand behind this offering, I'm not personally involved in the course instruction, nor do I directly profit from subscriptions to the school. For more info, head over to cookingschool.allrecipes.com. Enjoy!

Christmas Cookie Decorating Ideas


I’m not much of a cookie guy, and even less of a decorating cookie guy; so, since I’m no help, I thought I’d pass along this great post by Karen Gaudette, called 21 Fun And Creative Cookie Decorating Ideas. Because Christmas.

Ironically, the ultimate goal with this kind of thing is to make a cookie so amazing, so intricate, and so visually arresting, that no one would dare bite into it. “How were the cookies? No idea, they were too nice to eat.” Just imagine. Enjoy!

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Cornish Pasty – Going to Fall Down a Mineshaft? This is the Meat Pie For You!

This Cornish pasty is one of those rare recipes that novice cooks will find easier to make than experienced bakers. That’s because to make this to its original, and very sturdy specifications, you’re forced to over-mix the dough…a cardinal sin that literally gives pie makers nightmares.

Like any pastry dough, we’re just adding just enough ice water to bring everything together, but unlike classic pie dough, we’re going to knead the mixture for a couple minutes past that point.  Thanks to a little thing called muscle memory, this is not going to be easy for some of you.

Get over it; because once you taste and feel the final product, it will all make sense. The tougher, but not tough dough is the perfect delivery system for the meaty filling. Speaking of which, I went with a fairly traditional version, and provided the recipe below, but this great crust will work with all sorts of stuffings.

You could use cooked meat in these, but part of what makes them so good, is how the raw ingredients cook in their own juices, while encased in the tasty dough. I can’t imagine many things that wouldn’t be great in these.

By the way, this recipe is dedicated to my mother-in-law Peggy, who requested it about five years ago. It was one of her favorite foods growing up, and I’m curious to hear how close I got. I hope you give this easy, and delicious meat pie a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for 4 Cornish pasty

4 cups bread flour (mine weighed in at 1-lb 2-oz)
2 oz (4 tbsp) cold butter
3 oz (6 tbsp) cold lard
1 1/2 tsp salt
about 2/3 to 3/4 cup ice water, or enough to just bring dough together (start with about 1/2 cup, and then drizzle in more as needed)

For the steak filling:
12oz cubed beef skirt steak
1/2 cup diced onions
1 cup diced gold potatoes
1/3 cup diced turnip
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of cayenne
2 tbsp butter, cut into 8 thin slices

For the egg wash:
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tsp water

- Bake pasties at 350 F. for about an hour or until browned and bubbly

Friday, December 12, 2014

Pine Cone Cheese Ball – So Good, You’ll Want to Hug a Tree

Any cheese ball is a welcome addition to a holiday party spread, but when you bring one that looks like a pine cone, you’re talking about a real showstopper. 

The only danger, as I joked about in the intro, would be hurting the feelings of other guests who also decided to bring a cheese ball, sans camouflage. Hey, they’ll just have to raise their game next year.

Obviously, this seasonally appropriate appetizer can be made using any cheese spread, or cheese ball recipe, but if you’re going to use this one, which comes highly recommended, we should talk about the garlic. I love raw garlic, and since I felt a little cold coming on, I decided to be generous with the amount.

For normal people, two cloves might be a little strong here, so fair warning. If you’re a fan of roasted garlic, that would be beautiful in this as well. Also, if you’re a fan of our beer cheese recipe, there’s no way that wouldn’t be perfect too. I really hope you give this easy, delicious, and gorgeous-to-look-at pine cone cheese ball a try soon. Enjoy!


Ingredients for one giant or two normal size pine cone cheese balls:
2 package (8 ounce ea.) cream cheese
4 ounce goat cheese
Salt, pepper and cayenne taste
1/2 to 2 cloves minced garlic, depending on how strong you want it, or roasted garlic cloves to taste
3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon picked fresh thyme leaves
whole almonds as needed