Monday, December 15, 2008
Apparently, I laughed a little too soon about the snow. We had another two hours of snow in the afternoon, which didn't add up to much but which did add plenty of ice. The road is still iced up today and Mama doesn't drive in the snow/ice, so I'm homebound. No Donner Party moments ahead though; I have some stuff in the freezer. I think a nice meatloaf might be in order (much to NR's sadness, I'm afraid). But perhaps I can tempt him with some snowball potatoes.
I haven't made these before but they do remind me of the klub that I still need to make for Dad - although with cheese inside the potato instead of ham (and they are baked, not boiled - alright they are nothing like klub). Of course, NR doesn't love mashed potatoes or cheese so on second thought, he might not be a fan. Then again, he is a sucker for advertising. The chance to eat snowballs for dinner just might be too much to pass up.
Potato Snowballs (by Ingrid Hoffman)
* 4 medium russet potatoes, peeled
* 1 tablespoon salt
* 2 ounces Oaxaca or any other soft white cheese, cubed
* 1 cup seasoned bread crumbs
* Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Put potatoes in a large pot and fill with water until potatoes are just covered. Add the 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are very soft, about 40 minutes.
Press potatoes through a potato ricer or pulse in a bowl with an immersion hand blender until they are mashed. Let sit for a few minutes until just cool enough to handle.
Cut the white cheese in 1/2-inch cubes.
Prepare a baking sheet with foil wrap and coat with vegetable spray or rub with oil.
Put bread crumbs in a small bowl.
While mashed potatoes are still warm, form into 2-inch balls and insert 1 cheese cube in center, then roll into bread crumbs and place on cookie sheet. Wash hands and dry after every third ball so the potatoes will form evenly and not stick to the bread crumbs in your hand. Quantity should make about 10 balls.
Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, serve immediately.
Recipe found at foodnetwork.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
At last, the big snow of December 2008! It's come to our neighborhood at last. If you blink, you might miss it, so look closely.
Though it doesn't look like much, I must say that it is slippery enough for danger. We watched a girl sliding down the street (as if on ice skates) hurt her leg badly enough that the paramedics had to come. We also saw the dumbest woman in the world get out of her sliding and still in "drive" car to assess why she couldn't manage to get up the hill. Naturally, she fell and the car started rolling away. Luckily, she was unhurt and the car didn't careen into the injured girl, which seemed highly possible. But it was tense there for a few minutes. Oh and I forgot to mention: she was driving a four wheel drive Lexus wagon. I wonder if it is just the snow that brings out the silliest in people.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I tend to get up before everyone else in my house. No matter how late I go to bed, I'm up first and I usually have an hour or so to myself. Typically, I spend it on the computer, surfing. I follow up on random thoughts, check out obscure news, add books to my library "to read" list - the usual kind of stuff.
But today I was a bit weirder than usual. I started with checking airfare rates to London and tour packages - mind you, there is no way I'm going to be able to go any time soon, but what the heck, I can dream, right? BTW, British Airway has $1100 tickets if you are looking to fly in May. There are also some great tour packages to Derbyshire here.
Ok, so that little jaunt led me to reminisce about a family vacation many years ago to Hampton Court Palace (Henry VIII's old digs). So I pulled up the website and prowled around there for awhile. Interesting photos and articles about the palace and a reference to a recent ghost sighting. Wait, what? I didn't hear about that.
So, off to youtube to find the CCTV video of the ghost. . Even a guest at the palace that day saw it so it must be true, right?
A little more reading about other spots we saw on our family vacation (Tower of London, villages in Southern England, Stonehenge - it was an amazing trip) got me thinking about visiting Derbyshire - the gorgeous scenery in the latest Pride and Prejudice movie. Well, since I won't be traveling soon I thought I'd check the library for any books on the subject. That search found me a series of novels where Jane Austen is the detective in murder mysteries. Yeah, there really is no historic person left in the world who hasn't been turned into a sleuth. Ben Franklin, Elizabeth I, Jane Austen...I'm sure there is a Dolly Madison or Prince Phillip mystery out there somewhere in the world.
Ok, so at this point, I'm thinking about England, ghosts, Regency England and of course, Christmas. This leads me to do a little surfing on Christmas past and I read a little about the Twelve Days of Christmas (boy that song is annoying), which leads me to Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, which leads me to an article that explains how bioluminescence could be why his nose glows so bright. So I guess that magic that makes him fly can't handle glowing nostrils.
It's an hour later and I've seen Henry VIII's ghost, learned about glowing reindeer noses, added a likely cheesy novel to my "to read" list and planned a vacation to England. What did I ever do before the Internet? All I can say is God Bless Al Gore for inventing it.
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Have you tried eggnog? Of course you have. Everyone has, right? What about real, bonafide, full of liquor eggnog? It is potent stuff. I assume all the liquor is there to kill any germs from the raw eggs but still, a little dab will do ya. Personally, I'm more of a virgin eggnog drinker myself, though a tiny dash of rum is a nice addition. The grocery store variety is ok with me - no worries about uncooked eggs there - even if it does have a zillion calories per glass. It's still such a holiday drink that I can't help buying at least one quart.
Which, unless you drink it all, leaves part of quart hanging out in your fridge after New Years. So what to do with the stuff? I wondered that myself and here are some interesting alternatives to guzzling down the nog:
How about an eggnog cupcake with bourbon caramel cream cheese frosting? Or perhaps a stack of eggnog pancakes on Christmas morning or New Year's Day?
Had enough sweets? Ok, what about chicken with eggnog cream sauce or eggnog sweet potato gratin (same link). Perhaps a slice of eggnog bread would be good with the chicken.
But, in the end, if you just want to just drink your nog, and you are feeling extra friendly toward those kind folks at the liquor store, here's Martha Stewart's very own recipe. (Be sure to read the disclaimer at the top of the recipe; it does call for raw eggs.) You'll need plenty of bourbon, rum and cognac on hand.
Saturday, December 6, 2008
As much as I tout the wonderful taste that is pie, I have a soft spot in my stomach (one of many) for crisps. Crisps, crumbles, buckles, cobblers - all the fruity goodness that is covered with some kind of blanket of crust. Sure pie is popular, friendly, wonderful to dance with - like Mr. Bingley from Pride and Prejudice (ok, maybe not the dancing part) but crisps have more depth. They are crisp, tart, warm but with an outer layer to protect them, a Mr. Darcy of the dessert world. Ok, yes, I have been watching Pride and Prejudice and reading the book, what of it?
Not to lose an opportunity to find my culinary Darcy, I thought I'd give a cranberry-apple crisp a try. It was recommended by Cook's Country, which I'm always partial to, and it has cranberries, which I love. So why not?
The ingredients are in my fridge right now, waiting for me to get off this computer and get to them. I'm behind schedule today, what with watching the Keira Knightly P&P again this morning (no, it isn't the six hour Colin Firth splendor but it will certainly do). Right now, I have to run off to Home Depot for a reindeer for the front yard (NR's request) and search out some ham shank for the klub. But I swear, after that, I'm ready for Darcy...er....the crisp. Honest.
Wow, I need help.
*Photo found at the New York Times
Friday, December 5, 2008
On Thanksgiving night, my father reminisced fondly of a dish his Norwegian uncle used to make - klub (sounds like cloooob). He remembered Uncle Oscar and Aunt Alma inviting the family over for a big batch, probably around the holidays. As with all Norwegian food, I was scared to ask what it was, but the two helpings of stuffing and gravy gave me fortitude. Klub, my father informed me, is a boiled potato ball/dumpling that has a bit of ham in the center. Nordic humbau, if you will. The potato isn't mashed or shredded, it is riced into tiny bits, to which a bit of Crisco or some other greasing agent is added. This mixture is wrapped around the ham bit and boiled slowly in a pot of water. Or that's the gist of it any way.
I told my dad that I would make some klub for him. Maybe it was my current Scandinavian Christmas fixation that pushed me over the edge or the Princess cake in Martha Stewart's December issue, but whatever it was, I agreed to give klub a whirl. Now, I must admit that this dish doesn't sound good to me. It has several strikes against it in my book, but I'm game to give it a whirl, provided I can find a recipe.
Now, you'd think finding such a recipe would be easy in this age of the WWW but those that I have found, I haven't liked the sound of. Some call for beef suet (no way) or pork hocks or salt pork (no thanks). I checked out a Scandinavian cookbook from the library, filled with just about every recipe known to Viking...except klub. Finally, I did find a recipe for Potet Klub that might fit the bill. It comes from the "Midwest's Number 1 Roadside Cafe" so how can you argue with that? I'll probably try it over the weekend and I'll let you know how it goes.
If anyone has tried this (Auntie R I know you have), please feel free to share your thoughts on what makes good klub. I hope salt figures into your equation.
Tuesday, December 2, 2008
I personally have never had a sugar plum. I'm guessing they are dried plums dipped in sugar, but really I have no idea. I do like the sugar plum fairy, as in the ballet, The Nutcracker, but I don't know how similar the SPF is to the food.
Yesterday, I had a chance to see pint sized plums in action at my nephew's ballet class. He and the rest of the dancers (all girls) were rehearsing for their Winter performance. I should mention that they are three years old. Imagine an unruly line of tots in tutus and one strong boy in black tights and you can imagine how wonderfully fun it was. There was plenty of squirming and sillies while they tried to move into second position. Their upcoming recital is to the song What a Wonderful World (Louie Armstrong version) and it was absolutely precious to see them flapping their butterfly arms while they shouted out the words. They might not have been dancing to Tchaikovsky, but they were sweet nonetheless.
So these little dancers got me thinking about sugar plums. What are these elusive treats that inspired the ballet dance? I did a little recipe searching and wow, there are clearly no firm guidelines for what gets labeled a "sugar plum". I found pieces of candy mixed with chopped pineapple, cherries surround by oatmeal, breads and cakes. It's doubtful that most of these concoctions would have even been available in 19th century Russia. So what is the real deal? Well, I have found a recipe for drying and sugaring plums, updated from a 16th century version. For those interested in drying their own plums, check it out here. I also found an interesting discussion about a dried fruit and nut version, inspired by Turkish candies. Given that The Nutcracker has an exotic local, maybe this is what Tchaikovsky had in mind when he wrote the music.
So the dried sugared fruit or the nut/fruit concoction - I don't know which is the real "sugar plum" treat of Tchaikovsky and Twas the Night Before Christmas. I guess the only visions of sugar plums dancing in my head will be those little ballerinas/ballet dancer working on their pirouettes.