Gingerbread Love

December 20th, 2016

Grove Park Inn

The place to be at Christmastime if you love Gingerbread houses is the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, NC.  It began with a few gingerbread houses built by members of the community in 1992.  No one had any idea that two decades later the Grove Park Inn National Gingerbread House Competition would be one of the nation’s most celebrated and competitive holiday events.  The event has attracted the highest quality of competition and the best judges in the United States.

Grove Park Inn Fireplace

The Grove Park Inn is the perfect venue for displaying the Gingerbread houses.  With fires burning in its many fireplaces and immense Christmas trees everywhere, the setting is something right out of a Victorian masterpiece.  Christmas magic is in the air.

Gingerbread Winner

The winner, from Innisfil, Ontario Canada, created her “Dream House”.  The gingerbread castle features Gothic spires and arches – an inspired sugar-filled creation.  The details were amazing.

Gingerbread Winner

Another view of the detailed work.

Gingerbread Dolls

3rd Place went to a local Asheville resident whose gingerbread sculpture “The Bakers”, featured two gingerbread cookies baking gingerbread.

Gingerbread Carnival

Of the top ten winners, this was one of my favorites because of its unique colors and whimsical theme.

Gingerbread Farm

I also loved the detail on this entry.  There were so many beautiful gingerbread houses.  I have not made a gingerbread house before, but this competition has inspired me.  What I have made is a delicious gingerbread cake.

Ginger-Cake-1

I have blogged about this before, but it is perfect for Christmas and full of freshly ground spices and fresh ginger.  The recipe comes from Ruth Reichl and was featured in her novel Delicious!  I think that you will agree that this is just what you need for dessert during the holidays.  I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.  May the holidays bring you joy and peace.

BILLIE’S GINGERBREAD ( From Delicious! by Ruth Reichl )

CAKE:
Whole black peppercorns
Whole cloves
Whole cardamom
1 cinnamon stick (I used 2)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 cup sour cream
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup sugar
2 large pieces fresh ginger root (1/4 cup, tightly packed, when finely grated)
Zest from 2 to 3 oranges (1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Butter and flour a 6 cup Bundt pan.

Grind your peppercorns, cloves, and cardamom (individually) and measure out 1/4 teaspoon of each (You can use pre-ground spices, but the cake won’t taste as good.)  Grind your cinnamon stick and measure out 1 teaspoon (Again, you can use ground cinnamon if you must.)

Whisk the flour with the baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a small bowl.

In another small bowl, whisk the eggs and egg yolk into the sour cream.  Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar in a stand mixer until the mixture is light, fluffy, and almost white.  This should take about 3 minutes.

Grate the ginger root-this is a lot of ginger-and the orange zest.  Add them to the butter/sugar mixture.

Beat the flour mixture and the egg mixture, alternating between the two, into the butter until each addition is incorporated.  The batter should be as luxurious as mousse.

Spoon batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 40 minutes, until cake is golden and a wooden skewer comes out clean.

Remove to a rack and cool in the pan for 10 minutes.

SOAK:
1/2 cup bourbon
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

While the cake cools in its pan, simmer the bourbon and the sugar in a small pot for about 4 minutes.  It should reduce to about 1/3 cup.

While the cake is still in the pan, brush half the bourbon mixture onto its exposed surface (the bottom of the cake) with a pastry brush.  Let the syrup soak in for a few minutes, then turn the cake out onto a rack (I used a serving plate).

Gently brush the remaining mixture all over the cake.

GLAZE
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted or put through a strainer
5 teaspoons orange juice

Once the cake is cooled, mix the sugar with the orange juice and either drizzle the glaze randomly over the cake or put it in to a squeeze bottle and do a controlled drizzle.

Printable Recipe

Happy Thanksgiving

November 22nd, 2016

Christmas Tablescape

It is the beginning of the holiday season and we are thankful to be able to share this time with family and friends.  We are especially thankful for our home after the scare of forest fires.  I set a holiday table that combines both Thanksgiving and Christmas.  It has a woodland theme in celebration of our beautiful North Carolina mountains.

Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Biscuits

We will be having an unusual Thanksgiving dinner with family this year.  Everyone loves Jeff’s Ribs so there will be no turkey on our table.  I was asked to bring the bread component to the meal.  Biscuits go well with ribs so I did a riff on the basic biscuit.  I made these Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Biscuits that I found on Epicurious.  I made them small because there will be lots of dishes on the table and huge biscuits may be more than everyone can handle.

Cheddar, Bacon and Chive Biscuits

I wish all of you a bountiful Thanksgiving and hope the holiday season brings you joy and fellowship.

CHEDDAR, BACON AND CHIVE BISCUITS

INGREDIENTS

    • 6 thick-cut bacon slices
    • 3 3/4 cups bread flour
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons baking powder
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes, plus melted butter for brushing
    • 2 1/2 cups (packed) coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese (about 12 ounces)
    • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
    • 1 3/4 cups chilled buttermilk
    • Honey (optional)

PREPARATION

    1. Position rack just above center of oven and preheat to 425°F. Line heavy large baking sheet with parchment paper. Cook bacon in heavy large skillet over medium heat until crisp and brown. Transfer bacon to paper towels to drain, then chop coarsely.
    2. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in processor; blend 5 seconds. Add butter cubes. Blend until coarse meal forms, about 30 seconds. Transfer flour mixture to large bowl. Add cheddar cheese, fresh chives, and chopped bacon; toss to blend. Gradually add buttermilk, stirring to moisten evenly (batter will feel sticky).
    3. Using lightly floured hands, drop generous 1/2 cup batter for each biscuit onto prepared baking sheet, spacing batter mounds about 2 inches apart.
    4. Bake biscuits until golden and tester inserted into center comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Brush biscuits lightly with melted butter. Let cool 10 minutes. Serve biscuits warm or at room temperature with honey, if desired.

PRINTABLE RECIPE

Tuna Tostadas

July 25th, 2016

Tuna Tostadas 1V

Do you want to pep up that can of tuna?  Instead of a tunafish sandwich for lunch, try this riff on the popular pantry item.  All you need is a good quality olive-oil packed tuna, a can of spicy pickled jalapenos and carrots and some crispy fried corn tortillas.  It took me a while to find the pickled jalapenos on the international food aisle.  This is the brand that I used.

La Costena pickled jalapenos

I loved combining the tuna with this pickled jalapeno mixture rather than the more caloric mayonnaise dressing.  Because I had the special 9 80 Panama sauces from my previous post and giveaway, I also added a tablespoon of the Wild Cilantro sauce.  This is optional if you do not have it.

cilantro-pop

When the tuna mixture is served on the crispy corn tortillas you will not miss having a boring sandwich.

Tuna Tostadas 2

As a disclaimer I have no connection with La Costena or 9 80 Panama sauces other than being given a set of sauces to try.  All opinions are my own.  Now on to the winner of the 4 pack of sauces.  The winner is Karen of Back Road Journal.  Please email me, Karen, with your address.  Congratulations.

TUNA TOSTADAS (Adapted from Food and Wine)

Canola oil, for frying
4 corn tortillas
Salt to taste
5 ounce can of tuna packed in olive oil, drained
1/4 cup chopped pickled jalapeno peppers and carrots from a can plus 1/4 cup of the brine
1 Tablespoon Wild Cilantro 9 80 Panama sauce (Optional)
Chopped cilantro leaves
Sliced radishes
Toasted sliced almonds

In a medium skillet, heat a small amount of oil.  Add 1 tortilla to the hot oil and fry over moderate heat, turning, until browned and crisp, about 3 minutes.  Transfer to paper towels to drain; season lightly with salt.  Repeat with the remaining tortillas.

In a bowl mix the tuna with the jalapenos and carrots and their brine plus the Wild Cilantro sauce if using.  Spoon the tuna onto the tostadas and top with cilantro, radishes and toasted almond slices.

Printable Recipe

Banana Walnut Bread

April 12th, 2016

Banana Bread with Walnuts 2

I have tried many Banana Bread Recipes.  I have to say this is my favorite so far. Even David, who is not fond of banana bread, ate two pieces one right after another,  saying how moist it was.  Since we have returned from Florida, it has been a marathon clean-up of our property. We always love returning to the greening trees and blossoming bushes. But the leaves on the roof, the gutters and the yard always challenge us.

The colder weather has also been a concern.  I have held off purchasing many flowering baskets or putting out pots of herbs. They do say that you should wait for Mother’s Day before putting out flowers to avoid the possibility of frost or freeze.

 

 

Wizard

I did buy one pot of flowers in an old bucket that I have been carrying in and out of the house during cold nights.  It is sitting on the stump of a tree that we had taken down over the winter.  You can see our wizard carving in the background.  The Grandchildren love the wizard and it is featured in one of the children’s books that David has written; Rachel and The Wizard of Lake Lure.
Banana Bread with Walnuts 1V

This banana bread is just right with a cup of coffee or tea on these cool Spring mornings.  The cinnamon and vanilla add just the right flavor notes with the bananas.  The walnuts are also a nice touch.  If you want a healthy boost, you can add chia seeds and hemp hearts.  They are barely detectable but good nonetheless.  My DIL adds them to all of her sweet breads, muffins and pancakes.

Banana Bread with Walnuts 3 close

I hope you are enjoying this Spring awakening as much as I am.

BANANA WALNUT BREAD

3/4 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup white whole wheat flour (King Arthur)
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon Chia seeds, 1 tablespoon Hemp hearts (optional)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
3 medium overripe bananas, mashed
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk the flour with baking soda, cinnamon, salt and Chia seeds and Hemp hearts if using.  In another bowl, combine the sugars, eggs and oil and beat at high speed until light-colored and creamy.  Add the mashed bananas and vanilla and beat until smooth.  I did this in my Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Stir in the dry ingredients until thoroughly blended.  Fold in the nuts.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in the middle of the oven for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the top is springy and a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.  Let the loaf cool in the pan for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a rack to cool completely.

Printable Recipe

Christmas Green Beans

December 9th, 2015

Christmas Green Beans 1

We have made the transition from N.C. to Florida.  It is always hard to leave my Lake Lure Kitchen, but I have to say that it is nice to be able to walk the dog without wearing a jacket.  I am getting into the Christmas spirit with the tree up and the wreaths on the door, but I haven’t started shopping or baking yet.  I did make these green beans the other day.  I included chopped pickled beets in the mix and the whole dish made me think of Christmas.

Christmas Green Beans 2

This dish would be perfect on any holiday table.

Thanks to all of you for your support in the Food52 recipe contest.  Unfortunately I did not win, but they have contests every month, so there is always hope.  Right now the contest is “The Best Thing You Ate This Year”.  I would be curious as to what you would choose.

CHRISTMAS GREEN BEANS

1 pound French green beans (haricot vert), trimmed
2 teaspoons minced garlic ( 2 cloves )
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest ( 2 lemons )
3 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
3 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons tasted pine nuts
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 to 5 jarred pickled beets, sliced into strips

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Add the green beans and blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender but still crisp.  Drain the beans in a colander and immediately put them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

For the gremolata, toss the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, Parmesan, and pine nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.  Drain the beans and pat them dry.  Add the beans to the pan and saute, turning frequently, for 2 minutes, until coated with olive oil and heated through. Off the heat, add the gremolata and toss well. Add the pickled beet strips and sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and serve.

Printable Recipe

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