Saturday, December 29, 2012

New Year's Eve Drink: Grapefruit Ginger Gussy

Here is a base cocktail recipe that can be finished by each guest to their liking- spiked or non-alcoholic. Gussy up ruby red grapefruit juice with homemade ginger syrup and a squirt of lime juice then add a little bourbon or rum, or when its time to take a break from the party, a little seltzer or ginger ale.

Homemade ginger syrup is ridiculously easy and really makes this cocktail fresh for the new year.  The base recipe makes about 72 ounces (nine cups), enough to fill the glasses of twelve friends and family. Pour the mixture into a big pitcher or serve from an iced punch bowl. 

Grapefruit Ginger Gussy
Makes 72 ounces
64 ounces ruby red grapefruit juice
1 recipe ginger syrup*
Juice of 2 limes
Mix-ins (soda or alcohol)

  1. Combine  grapefruit juice with ginger syrup. Stir in lime juice.  
  2. Chill until ready to serve.  
  3. To serve,  add a handful of ice cubes and juice mixture to a tall pitcher.  Set out glasses with a choice of additions- rum, bourbon, vodka and seltzer, ginger ale.  Use a rough ratio of 5:1 juice to alcohol or 2:1 for juice and seltzer or ginger ale. 
*Homemade Ginger Syrup
1 cup cold water
1 cup sugar (1/2 cup sugar can be used for a lighter syrup)
1 inch of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced using a vegetable peeler

  1. Stir to combine water and sugar in heavy-bottomed pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Do not stir again.  
  2. When liquid is perfectly clear, remove from heat.  
  3. Meanwhile, use a vegetable peeler to peel the ginger and to cut off off paper thin slices of fresh ginger. Drop ginger slices in sugar syrup and allow ginger to infuse the syrup while it cools.  
  4. When cool, store in a covered container in the refrigerator.  Use within 3-4 days.  
Ginger syrup can also be used to make fresh lemonade, sweeten tea or moisten pound cake. 
Happy New Year!

Sources acknowledged: There are many grapefruit juice-based drinks online, especially searching under daiquiris. Several have interesting add-ins like ginger.  This recipe allows each guest to finish the drink a little differently -with rum or not--so perhaps it no longer qualifies as a daiquiri The inspiration for this recipe is from who were in turn inspired by Breakfast, Lunch, Tea: The Many Little Meals of Rose Bakery

Friday, December 21, 2012

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cake, my godchild's favorite, was the inspiration for these holiday cookies.  I created the recipe when Kate went off to college.  No one expects mail on campus these days so I had to send word electronically for her to check her mailbox.

This year I will be getting a new address for Kate and have the special treat of seeing her and her family just before Christmas.  It seemed time to update the recipe and "winterize" it with the addition of white chocolate baking chips peaking out among the toasted coconut and pecans in these deeply rich chocolate cookies.  These cookies have no eggs in them so if you in a baking flurry and running low on eggs, reach for this recipe as is or as a pattern for no-egg cookies.

German Chocolate Cookies
Yields about 24 cookies
12 ounces unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla exract
1 1/3 cups flour
2 tablespoons cocoa
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted*
1 cup toasted sweetened coconut*
1/2 cup white chocolate morsels (chocolate or butterscotch chips can be substituted)

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚F.  
  2. Prepare 2 baking sheets by lightly oiling or using silpats to prevent sticking.  
  3. In a large mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  When mixture is light and fluffy, add vanilla.  
  4. In a small bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.  Add to creamed mixture all at once and mix thoroughly with a wooden spoon or stiff spatula.  
  5. Fold in cooled nuts, coconut and white chocolate morsels.  
  6. Form balls about 1 tablespoon in size; use a tablespoon "ice cream" scoop if you have one.  Ask Santa for one if you bake cookies frequently. 
  7. Place the balls about 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets.  Use a fork to press cookies down.  These cookies do not spread much so you should have enough room on the both pans for the entire batch.  
  8. Bake 8-10 minutes at 350˚F rotating sheets midway through.  
  9. Remove and allow cookies to rest on baking sheets one minute before removing to racks to cool.  Once cooled, cookies will keep for a few days sealed tightly.  These cookies can also be frozen.  
*To toast coconut, preheat oven to 350˚F.  Spread coconut on a baking pan and bake 8-10 minutes until lightly browned. Check and stir every 3-4 minutes to ensure coconut does not burn at the edges.  Pecans can be toasted at the same time in a sperate pan  They take only about 3 minutes.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole

Ground Turkey Vegetable Casserole looks like an ornament and gives the cook an easy night in the midst of busy December. 

Sautéed mushrooms and roasted peppers build subtle complexity in a turkey mixture that alternates with lengthwise sliced zucchini and mozzarella cheese layered like a sideways lasagna. The mild southwestern flavors can be spiced up with a sprinkling of cayenne or hot sauce. 

Bake it in a round casserole dish to create a Christmas ball ornament effect that will make mid-week December dinners feel special.  It’s attractive enough to bring to holiday potlucks and cookie parties.  It even makes a good brunch dish.

Serve the casserole with pasta, rice or stuff portions into corn or flour tortillas.  On nights when we feel a bit weighed down by too many holiday parties, we eat it as is (no carbohydrate sides) with a side salad.

Its versatility is especially evident when you are in a hurry to a carol sing, candle lighting or school play.  It reheats beautifully.

Christmas Ornament Turkey Vegetable Casserole
Serves 4

1–2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 jalepeno peppers, seeded and halved lengthwise*
8 oz portabello mushrooms, sliced
1 pound ground turkey
14-oz can low-sodium tomatoes and their juice
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coriander
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup milk or light cream
2 cups chopped fresh spinach
1 egg
1 zucchini, sliced lengthwise in 1/8 inch slices
3 ounces mozzarella
3 ounces grated cheddar, grated (about 1/2 cup)

*or 1/2 red bell pepper, sliced

  1. Preheat oven to 350˚K.  
  2. Coat a large skillet with about 1 tablespoon oil and grill jalepenos until skin bubbles and flesh begins to brown.  Remove from pan and when cool slice.  
  3. Add more oil to pan if needed and sauté mushrooms.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  (If using sliced bell peppers sauté with mushrooms.) Add to reserved peppers.  
  4. Cook ground turkey over medium-low heat until no pink remains. Add a little more olive oil if sticking.  When turkey is cooked, drain.  Add juice from canned tomatoes, salt, oregano and spices. Return peppers and mushrooms to pan. Stir to combine and cover.  Cook 5-7 minutes on low.  
  5. Remove cover and add milk or cream.  Cook uncovered until most of the liquid is gone. Fold in chopped spinach and cook just until it wilts.  Remove from heat.  
  6. Oil a round or oblong casserole dish (a deep pie plate is perfect).  Stir egg into slightly cooled turkey mixture.  Pour mixture into prepared baking dish.  
  7. Insert zucchini slices strait down into turkey mixture at intervals so that the green skin shows at top of casserole.  Slice mozzarella in half then into 1/4 inch slices and tuck along side of zucchini.  Chop the drained, canned tomatoes and layer over casserole.  
  8. Sprinkle grated cheddar over the top.  Bake, uncovered, for 30 minutes at 350˚F, until zucchini is tender.  Remove from oven and let sit 10 minutes before serving.
Serve with sour cream, chopped black olives, hot sauce

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Mushroom Appetizers

The focus is on simple holiday appetizers.  I like ones that come together quickly or can be frozen and reheated when needed so the cook and the kitchen can stay focused on the main meal or other party matters.

I created a tasty mushroom appetizer that can be hand-held, made ahead and even frozen.  It’s instant party food. 

And it does not require any pastry skills so I’m hoping all my friends will give it a try.  Think if it as a simple mushroom sandwich with a cheesy top layer. When it’s cut in squares, the mini-sandwiches turn into toothpick-worthy puffs.

Mushroom Minis
Makes 30-36 squares
8 slices firm bread
4 tablespoons butter, softened and divided
1 tablespoon olive oil
10 ounces mushrooms, finely chopped
1 shallot, peeled and  finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh herbs (your choice, parsley, dill, thyme)
3 ounces cream cheese, divided
1/2 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional)
2 ounces finely grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Remove crusts from bread and butter four slices with 2 tablespoons of butter.  
  3. Lay butter side down in a 8”X 8” baking pan (metal preferred).  
  4. In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add shallots and mushrooms and cook over low heat stirring occasionally until mushroom juice has begun to evaporate.  Stir in herbs, anchovy paste if using and half of cream cheese then remove from heat.  
  5. Spoon warm mushroom mixture over  bread in baking pan.  
  6. In a small bowl , mix remaining butter and remaining cream cheese together.  Butter last four slices of bread with cream cheese mixture and lay, buttered side up over mushroom layer.  
  7. Sprinkle top layer with Parmesan cheese.  
  8. Bake at 400˚K for 12-15 minutes, until top cheese layer has begun to brown and edges of pan are showing that bread lining pan is browning.  You can peak by lifting the edge with a spatula.  (Repairs are easy with a little extra cheese.) 
  9. Remove from oven and let rest 10 minutes before cutting into squares.  
To freeze: Cool completely, wrap in aluminum foil and freeze.  To reheat, places frozen squares on a plain baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 325˚F for 15 minutes.  Garnish with a roasted red pepper strip or sliced olive to serve.