Christmas Favorites

December 6th, 2016

Braised Short Ribs for Christmas

It has been rainy days and clouds for the last week.  We are happy for it because it has stopped the raging fires that have endangered our lives for weeks.  We feel for the people affected by the fires in Gatlinburg, as they were impacted much more than our community.  Our community sent much needed resources to the firefighters in their area.  These few weeks have been a time of reflection, thankfulness and love of neighbors.

I haven’t had much time to cook. Photography ops show only grey skies and low light.  So, for at least for the moment, I will rely on previous posts to convey my love of the season.  The food in December is a labor of love.  A beautiful entree is required.  It shows your guests that they and the holidays are special. This first dish, above, is one that David made for Christmas a few years ago.  It is now our Christmas Beef Short Rib Recipe.  It looks like the season with the red tomatoes and green beans and is absolutely delicious.

Maple Glazed Stuffed Pork Tenderoind

One of my triumphs in recipe development is this Maple-Glazed Stuffed Pork Tenderloin that I entered in a Food52 recipe contest.  It was a finalist for the top spot.  This is a beautiful entree wrapped in bacon and drizzled with honey.  Your guests will love it.

Ham Loaf

The final entree is somewhat humble, but one of my favorites because it was what my Mother served to guests when she was entertaining.  It is a Ham Loaf with a thick sweet glaze that will have you licking your fingers.  It is simple but festive with the cross hatching and a glistening cloak.

I hope this brings you inspiration for the holidays.

Magic Bars

February 11th, 2012

This was a hit with the Hubs.  “What have you made ?”  he said, tasting.  “Holy sh#*t  Moly, these are good.”   What about the diet?”  ” Not to worry”, I said.  “These are for friends, not us”.  Weeping sounds.  “OK, maybe you can have just one more”, I replied.

I have to admit that these Magic Bars are something special.  The recipe has been around for a long time, but I had never heard about them before.  Last Christmas David bought me a cookbook at the suggestion of one of my OBFFC (Oldest Best Friend From Childhood).  Thanks Lyla!  She suggested the Neiman Marcus Cookbook and it has some terrific recipes in it.

The Magic Bars are nothing more than a layer of buttered graham cracker crumbs, chocolate chips, shredded coconut and nuts.  A can of sweetened condensed milk is drizzled over the top and they are baked until the chocolate is oozy and the crust is browned.

We are going out to dinner with a group of friends Sunday night to celebrate and they will each get a box of goodies.  Happy Valentine’s Day.

MAGIC BARS (Adapted from The Neiman Marcus Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups chocolate chips
1 1/2 cups coconut
1 cup chopped pecans, walnuts or peanuts

Preheat oven to 350 F (325 F if using glass pan)

Melt butter and mix with graham cracker crumbs.  Pat mixture into a greased 13×9-inch baking dish.

Sprinkle chocolate chips over crust, then coconut, then nuts.  Pour the condensed milk evenly over pan.

Bake for 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool before cutting.

Store in fridge, or cut into pieces and freeze.

Printable recipe

Holiday Happenings

January 3rd, 2012

It has been a season full of love, laughter and awesome food.  We returned home yesterday and I have had little time to unpack, let alone cook, so I am offering you a pictorial review of our holiday.  Hope your holiday was as happy an occasion as ours was.

For our Christmas Eve dinner Kristen made Ina Garten’s Short Ribs.  The casserole was assembled with lots of root vegetables.

The short ribs were roasted to brown and then added to the casserole.

Cam Man, looking “oh so cool” and Gampy waiting for dinner.

Rachel and the neighbor kids toasting the holiday with sparkling grape juice.

Gampy reading Rachel a Christmas Eve bedtime story.  What makes it special is that it is one that Gampy wrote himself.  It is called Rachel and the Wizard of Lake Lure.

Michael and Kristen on Christmas day at the family celebration at her sister’s home.

Uncle Jeff’s 19 hour smoked brisket.  This is just a small portion of the 11 pound roast.  Just look at that beautiful smoke ring.  It was unbelieveably delicious.

We spent the New Years weekend in Charleston with our good friends.  On Friday night Johnny and Karen made a low country boil with shrimp, sausages, potatoes and corn.

We had mussels on the side.

Johnny also brought the appetizers.  With that grin he could do a commercial for Cheez-Its.

For New Years Eve we did steaks and baked potatoes.

Barbara made a delicious salad.

The cooks wish all of you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Cardamom Pork Roast with Apples and Figs

December 15th, 2011

The holidays are upon us whether we are ready or not.  This is the first year in a long time that I have remained calm and accepting of all of the myriad tasks left to do.  We will be traveling back to North Carolina to spend Christmas with our family and enjoy the joy of Christmas through children’s eyes.  We have not put up a tree.  Only wreaths adorn our front door.  I have not made cookies and most of my shopping has been done online.  I am taking the Peace and Joy of the season to heart.

But you can’t expect me to totally ignore the wonderful food possibilities for a Christmas meal.  Dried fruits, whether used in fruitcakes or figgy pudding,  are a part of the season.  Pair them with a beautiful pork roast and you have the star of the show for your holiday table.

This simple pork roast is so festive and delicious that I plan to make it every year.  There are a few ingredients that you may not have on hand, but they are worth purchasing.  Cardamom is not a spice that was in my spice cabinet.  When I saw the price of it, I almost turned away, but being the curious cook that I am, I went ahead and bought it.  Cardamom is an Indian spice with a strong flavor.  Very little is needed to impart it’s distinct spicy notes.  It is used in many Indian desserts and is an important ingredient in the Finnish sweet bread, Pulla.  I have seen recipes for cardamom sugar cookies online and think I will make them, just because I can.  Pear nectar is another important ingredient in this recipe.  Because the pork and dried apples and figs are seasoned with spices like cinnamon and cardamom,  a fruity liquid makes perfect sense.  Add port and cream to the finishing sauce and you have a dish that just screams CELEBRATION.

Give this a try.  I will be back next week from North Carolina with more holiday cheer. 


3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1 (3-pound) pork loin, trimmed
Cooking spray
2 cups dried figs, halved lengthwise
2 cups dried apples
1/4 cup minced crystallized ginger
3/4 cup pear nectar
1 (14 ounce) can low sodium chicken broth

1/2 cup pear nectar
1/2 cup port
2 tablespoons currant jelly
1/4 cup heavy cream

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

To prepare roast, combine first 9 ingredients in a small bowl.  Rub mixture over surface of roast; place in a shallow roasting pan coated with cooking spray.

Place figs, apples, and crystallized ginger around roast.  Pour 3/4 cup nectar and broth over fruit.  Bake at 400 degrees F. for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until meat thermometer registers 160 degrees F., stirring fruit frequently.  Remove from oven; place roast on a carving board, and place fruit in a bowl using a slotted spoon.

To prepare sauce, pour any pan juices into a sauce pan.  Add 1/2 cup pear nectar, port, and jelly; bring to a boil.  Cook 4 minutes or until thick enough to lightly coat back of a spoon.  Stir in heavy cream; simmer 2 minutes or until sauce has thickened, stirring occasionally.

Printable recipe

Fennel Breadsticks

December 9th, 2011

I have gotten out of the habit of baking bread.  I’m not sure why.  It has always been such a satisfying experience.  It could be because we have stopped eating bread at meals and seldom reach for the bread basket in restaurants.  But every once in a while, when soup is on the menu for dinner, there is nothing better than good bread to dip in the broth and savor along with the contents of the bowl.  The key words here are “good  bread”. 

I ran across this recipe in a  Cooking Light Cookbook the other day and loved the idea of twisted breadsticks.  The yeast dough was enhanced with cornmeal and  was easy to handle.  After the first rise the dough is divided into 24 pieces and rolled into ropes.

The ropes are twisted together in twos forming 12 breadsticks.  These are left to rise for a half an hour and then the breadsticks are brushed with egg and sprinkled with fennel and coarse salt and baked.

One for the cook!

I loved this recipe and plan on making the breadsticks again during the holidays.  The fennel and salt enhanced the flavor so much and would make them a great accompaniment to many Italian dishes.  As a matter of fact they will go well with our traditional New Years Day dinner with friends.  I will have to take the recipe with me to our rental house in Charleston.  The same four couples always get together at New Years.  I hosted it one year and wrote about it here.  I think everyone will enjoy these.  I hope you will too.


1 tablespoon sugar
1 package dry yeast
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm fat-free milk (100 to 110 degrees F)
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
Cooking spray
1 tablespoon water
1 egg white, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon kosher salt

Dissolve sugar and yeast in warm milk in a bowl, let stand 5 minutes.  Stir in olive oil.

Lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups, level with a knife.  Combine 2 1/2 cups flour, cornmeal, and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.  Add yeast mixture; stir until a soft dough forms.  Turn dough out onto a lightly floured surface.  Knead until smooth and elastic (about 10 minutes), add enough remaining flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, to prevent dough from sticking to hands.  Place dough in a large bowl coated with cooking spray, turning to coat top.  Cover and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in size.  (Gently press two fingers into dough.  If indentation remains, dough has risen enough.)

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.  Punch dough down, turn out onto a lightly floured surface.  Divide dough into 24 equal portions.  Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining portions to prevent drying), shape each portion into a 9-inch rope.  Twist two ropes together; pinch ends to seal.  Place on prepared baking sheets.  Repeat with remaining dough.  Cover dough, and let rise 30 minutes or until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine water and egg white in a small bowl.  Combine fennel seeds and kosher salt in another bowl.  Brush breadsticks with egg white mixture, and sprinkle evenly with fennel seed mixture.  Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes or until puffed and lightly golden.  WATCH CAREFULLY.  MINE WERE DONE IN 10 MINUTES.  Cool on a wire rack before serving.  Yield: 12 servings.

Printable recipe

© Penny Klett, Lake Lure Cottage Kitchen. All rights reserved.