Sunday, December 31, 2006

Cocoa Panna Cotta With Custard Sauce

Another dessert from our holiday menu, this one putting a beautiful finish on Christmas dinner, comes straight from Leite's Culinaria. The recipe can be found here and in the marvelous cookbook The Essence of Chocolate, by Robert Steinberg and John Scharffenberger.

I changed just one thing in the recipe, substituting Splenda granular for the sugar in the custard sauce. Because the panna cotta itself begins with caramelizing sugar, one must use granulated sugar or it won't work.

This panna cotta, or "cooked cream", is absolutely delightful: silky smooth with a just-sweet-enough-but-still-bitter cocoa and caramel flavor that marries perfectly with the smooth custard sauce. It was the perfect finish to a rather rich leg of lamb dinner (subject of a near-future post.)

Be sure to make it well in advance so it can chill in the fridge.

I must admit to having had one problem: I had a heck of a time getting the panna cottas to unmold from their souffle cups. Whether this had to do with the molds themselves or is a flaw of the recipe, I don't know. I'll be trying it again and when I do, I'll wipe a very thin film of light oil on the inside of the molds.

One more note: This recipe is very easy to make. When I found that one recipe wouldn't fill enough molds for my dinner guests, I was able to quickly whip up another batch.
Another note: Why didn't I type out the recipe for you? Well, David Leite, a dear man and my first food-writing teacher, has a really big thing about usurping copyrighted material from his web site, and from that of others as well, and from cookbooks. This list goes on.
According to my research while taking his on-line class, and the findings of others, recipes fall into a VERY gray area of copyright law, in that a list of ingredients cannot be copyrighted but the written instructions, or artistic expression, on how to assemble said list can, to put it very simplistically.
If you've been reading by blog for any length of time, you will know that I print recipes from all over the place, always giving credit where credit is due. Still, out of respect for my teacher's feelings on the issue, I do not take any recipes verbatim or otherwise from his site.
Plus, this way I get to plug Davis, his delightful writing and Leite's Culinaria by inviting you to click on the links I've provided and give him a visit.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Persimmon Bars With Creme Fraiche

It has become a Christmas Eve tradition at our house to have a large pot of andouille sausage, chicken & prawn soup on the stove (recipe coming), a hearty loaf of locally made artisan bread ready to butter and an easily hand-held "something" for dessert.

This makes serving a hot meal to those who arrive at different times of the day and evening easy. No formal sit-down dinner, any of the food items can be held in a lap or set on a counter to eat while talking and catching up with precious company.

Over the next days, I'll be posting many of the recipes prepared over the Christmas weekend, beginning with Christmas Eve.

And since life is short, as my dear friend George used to say, I'll begin with dessert.

These persimmon bars have been adapted from a recipe I found on Epicurious. By replacing half of the all-purpose flour with whole wheat flour and the sugar with Splenda granular, I've come up with a lower carb, higher fiber snack. The lemon glaze was omitted; a spoonful of home made creme fraiche offered instead.

Persimmon Bars
Adapted from Epicurious

1 1/2 cups persimmon pulp (from 3-4 very ripe persimmons)
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
1 cup white whole wheat flour (I use King Arthur brand)
1 teaspoon salt (scant)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated is best)
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 large egg
1 cup Splenda granular
1/2 cup light vegetable oil
2/3 cup golden raisins
1 cup finely chopped walnuts

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter a large baking pan (I used a 9x13-inch pan), then add several spoonsfuls of flour, turning the pan until the butter is coated with the flour. Tapping the pan, remove the excess flour.
After cutting away the stem and seeds from the persimmons, peel them and drop the very juicy pulp into a mesh strainer that has been placed over a bowl.
Using a rubber spatula or a wooden spoon, mash the pulp through the strainer, discarding any fibers and seeds that remain.
Stir the lemon juice and baking soda into the puree and set aside. (The puree will foam and then jell slightly.
Sift the flours, salt and spices together in another small bowl.
In a large bowl, whisk the egg, Splenda, oil and raisins until just combined. Add the flour mixture and the persimmon mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, stirring until just combined.
Stir in the walnuts.
Spread the batter into the prepared pan and bake for at least 20 minutes or until golden brown and a skewer inserted into the center comes out clean.
Cool completely on a rack, cut into 2 1/2 x 2 1/2 inch squares and serve with a dollop of creme fraiche.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

May Visions of Sugar Plums... in your heads
Merry Christmas!
I'll be taking a bit of a break for the holidays
My very best wishes to all of you for a joyous,
prosperous and peaceful 2007

Friday, December 22, 2006

Holiday Persimmon Flan

At our neighbor's Solstice celebration potluck last night, just twenty out of the thirty people present raised their hands when asked if they wanted persimmon flan for dessert. For some, persimmon anything seems foreign.

I was not surprised however, when a few someones gave other dessert-less someones a wee bite, exclaiming, "You've got to try this!", and little by little those who had opted out began wandering in to the kitchen, looking around expectantly to see if there was any left.

There wasn't.

Upon seeing the empty dessert platter, the look on one woman's face was so woebegone that I thrust the platter and a spoon into her hands so she could scoop up the few bits that remained along with a tiny bit of caramel sauce.

Converts are made every time I serve this delectable dessert. The recipe below has been doubled from the original to make two 9-inch round flans. I have changed some of the ingredients to provide a lower-carb, lower fat dessert.

Persimmon Flan
adapted from Potager by Georgeanne Brennan
1/2 cup sugar, divided
2 cups persimmon puree from about 4 large very ripe hachiya persimmons
1/2 cup Splenda granular
2 cups milk, cream or regular 1/2 & 1/2, your preference
2 cups fat free 1/2 & 1/2, such as Land o Lakes
6 eggs
1 1/2 cups egg substitute (equivalent to 6 eggs)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Click here and scroll down to "preparation" to see how to cut, peel and de-seed a persimmon. When you have 2 cups of pulp, place it in a saucepan and cook, stirring often, over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The pulp will change to a lighter color and look somewhat gelled.

Remove from the heat, puree in a blender and put through a strainer, discarding any fibers that remain. Set aside.
Place 1/4 cup sugar in each of two 9-inch round cake pans and place each over low to medium heat on your stovetop.
Using a hot pad, tilt the pans as the sugar melts, coating the bottom of the pan. When the sugar has melted and is a deep, golden brown, remove the pans from the heat and tip them so the melted sugar coats both the bottom and the sides of each pan. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and arrange two racks in the the center part of the oven, spacing them far enough apart to receive a roasting pan on each rack.
Combine the cream and 1/2 & 1/2 in a saucepan and set over medium heat until bubbles form around the edge of the pan. Remove from the heat.
In a bowl, combine the eggs and the egg substitute and beat lightly. Add the 1/2 cup Splenda, salt and vanilla.
Pour the cream mixture slowly into the egg mixture, whisking constantly but gently until fully combined. Vigorous whisking will create bubbles, the ruin of many a flan. Stir in the persimmon puree.
Place each cake pan in its own large roasting pan and divide the custard between the two cake pans, filling them to just under the rims.
Pour very hot water into each roasting pan until it comes up halfway on each cake pan.

Bake the flans for about 40 minutes or until the just centers jiggle when given a gentle shake and a knife inserted into the middle of the flans comes out clean.
Remove flans from the oven and allow to come to room temperature. I usually refrigerate them overnight before serving.

To serve, run a knife around the edge of the flan, place a plate over the top and, holding both the plate and the cake pan firmly in your hands, flip them both together allowing the flan to drop onto the plate. You may have to give the cake pan a shake if it doesn't immediately release the flan. The caramelized sugar will run over the flans and down the sides, making a sumptuous presentation. As you can see in the photo above, a few bits from the custard has joined the caramelized sugar. This is home cooking, not absolute perfection.

This my third and final entry for Kalyn's special herb blogging event, Holiday Cooking with Herbs. Kalyn will be rounding up all the entries early tomorrow morning so she can then travel to enjoy Christmas with her family. If you want to join in, be sure to send her your link today.

Cook's Notes:
Sometimes I have left over custard after filling the cake pans. When this happens, I just place the leftovers into 4-ounce custard cups and put them into the water bath around the cake pans. These make even lower carb desserts as there is no caramelized sugar present. Plus, you can eat them right out of the cups.
This flan will form layers as it bakes because the persimmon puree is lighter than the custard base. This not only gives the tongue different textures to explore, but I consider it a lovely presentation as well.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


Is all your holiday shopping finished?
Or do you, like me, still have a few little items to get, maybe to tuck into Christmas stockings, send to a dear friend, or place in festive little boxes that each of your dinner guests will open?
Will you spend at least $10 on each of these last-minute gifts?
I have a suggestion for you: For each $10 donation that you give to Menu for Hope III, you will be able to choose a chance to win from a wide array of prizes that have been donated by the food blogging community around the world.
Your donation dollars, made in a special person's name if you wish, will go to feed the world's neediest people. Your giftee then gets the chance to win a very special prize, hand-picked by you.
Tomorrow, Friday, December 22nd, is the last day you will be able to bid on some of the most generous, glamorous, and simply outstanding prizes ever donated by the global food blogging community in a single event. Each one is worth way more than, some WAY, WAY more than, the price of a single $10 donation.
As I write this, a Menu for Hope III has raised over $42,600, all of which will go to the UN World Food Programme to help feed those who live in a world of starvation, day in and day out.
If you've been seeing my messages below the Menu for Hope logo on my sidebar for the past two weeks, or received an email from me imploring you to donate to this most worthy of causes while having a chance to win spectacular prizes, and have been putting it off,
I'm not going to give you a plethora of links to visit. Just one.
The most important link is this one:
First Giving - Menu for Hope III. This is the place to make your donation and pick the prizes you would like a chance to win. You will be able to read about the UN World Programme, the previous Menu for Hope campaigns, see who else has donated, how much and what prizes have been bid on. Links are provided for you to view and choose from all the prizes that have been donated.
There's not much time left! This campaign to help feed the world's hungry children, women and men will end promptly at 6:00 PM tomorrow, in just over 24 hours from now.
Please be able to say, "I donated to the Menu for Hope III." I know it will make you smile.
I would like to extend a big thank you for an incredible undertaking, countless hours of work, and the sharing of a common vision to Sam Breach of Becks and Posh, and to the founder of Menu for Hope, Pim of Chez Pim. Without the tireless, selfless work of these two women and many other men and women around the world, this campaign would not have happened. Please take a minute, if you can, to visit their blogs by clicking on the blog names and leave them a message of thanks for a job well done.

My Mother's Best Braided Raisin Bread

As a child, I would watch my mother make this bread every year during Christmas and Easter. Studded with dark raisins, the crust crackling with sugar, we kids couldn't get enough of it.

I can still remember her pulling the braided loaf out of the oven, the cinnamon-y, yeasty smell making my mouth water. Having to wait until it cooled was agony. Having to wait even longer because company was coming was excruciating.

I have her recipe, written in the way only a person who could make this without looking at the recipe would write it: In code. That is to say, many steps are not written down.

It's a good thing that I watched her carefully as she made this or I wouldn't have a clue how to proceed. I have added the missing steps for you.

I haven't made this bread in a very long time, but every year before Christmas, filled with good intentions, I take out the recipe card then some weeks later put it back, bread unmade. My sisters are the bakers in the family.

This year I was determined and am proud to say that as I type this, the braided loaf is achieving its second rise and will be baked, cut and buttered before this is posted.

As both cinnamon and freshly grated nutmeg are used in this bread, making it especially nice for the holidays, this is my second offering to Kalyn's Holiday Cooking with Herbs, which includes spices, plants and veggies as well as herbs. Kalyn will post a round-up of all the entries in this special version of Weekend Herb Blogging on December 23rd and you won't want to miss it.

Then there's the whole low carb thing. Bread is my downfall. I cannot, will not, pass up a few slices of good artisan bread when it comes my way. And that includes walking by the Brio display shelves in my favorite grocery store. Those loaves somehow always manage to jump into my cart. What I do to combat this indulgence is to buy whole wheat, whole grain breads, which have more fiber and more protein, giving a better balance to a low carb lifestyle.

To that end, the one major thing I changed in my mother's raisin bread recipe was to use all white whole wheat flour from King Arthur. I got a bit denser loaf as a result, but it had a fine crumb and made fabulous toast.

Skip's Best Raisin Bread
1 cup milk, scalded and cooled slightly
2 packages dry yeast
1/3 cup lukewarm water
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
4 cups flour (I used white whole wheat, she used all purpose)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated is best
1 1/2 cups raisins (I used golden and only 2/3 cup)
2 tablespoons light oil (she specified melted shortening)
1 egg white, beaten
2 tablespoons sugar

Place the yeast in a small bowl and add the water, stirring until dissolved.
Combine scalded milk, brown sugar, salt and butter then add the yeast and beaten egg.
Sift the flour, cinnamon and nutmeg and add to the liquid ingredients along with the raisins.
Stir well with a wooden spoon (I used my stand mixer, which my mother would have done had she owned one.)
Turn dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and elastic, 6 to 10 minutes.
Gather into a ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, turning over once to coat both the top and bottom.

Allow the dough to rise in a warm spot, covered, until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
Turn dough out again and knead a few times.
Shape into a ball, cut off 1/3 of the dough and set aside.
Cut the remaining dough into 3 equal pieces and, using the palms of your hands, roll each piece into a rope 20 inches in length.
Braid the 3 ropes together, tucking the ends under.
Cut the reserved piece of dough into 3 equal pieces and repeat the rope making process, this time ending up with 15 inch ropes.
Braid these together and place on top of the larger braided piece, tucking the ends under.
Brush the tops and sides with the 2 tablespoons of light oil, place on a buttered cookie sheet, cover with a towel and allow to rise again in a warm spot until doubled in size.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Brush the top and sides of the dough with the beaten egg white and then sprinkle the sugar all over. Place on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for about 40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown.
You have to let this bread cool just a bit before slicing into it, so here's what you do. When it's cool enough to handle, make yourself a cup of tea, cut yourself a slice bread, slather it with butter or Smart Balance, maybe some jam, sit down, put your feet up and enjoy.

Cook's Notes:
Because I used whole wheat flour, a bit more liquid was necessary so I changed my mother's original 1/4 cup warm water to 1/3 cup. I could have used even more water or added another egg to lighten this bread further although Mr. CC says it's pretty darn good just the way it is. He's the bread eater in the family.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The Faraway

At last!

While deep in the New Hampshire woods this past fall at my dear friend Erika's family get-away home, we gathered around the massive stone fireplace, the flaming logs within keeping us warm against the night chill, and toasted to lasting friendships with this cobbled together version of a Cosmopolitan.

Christened "The Faraway", after the name of her family holding, we put this together with what ingredients were on hand, the grocers being at least 6 miles away, down country lanes, in the deep, dark night.

When Mr. CC and I returned home in October I had every intention of posting this delicious concoction immediately but couldn't find the recipe, having left it, as it turns out, back in New Hampshire.

Now sometimes recipes are important and other times not. This one belongs in the former category because, lacking a recipe in the first place, we'd made it up. You can't very well make up another recipe to replace the first made up one, now can you? So I waited...

And yesterday I received an email from Erika who is back at Far Away for the holidays, in which she said, "...since I checked the liquor closet door, and finding the recipe in your own hand for "The Faraway", I thought I'd give it to you direct!!" Thank you dear friend. Merry Christmas!

And now, here it is. Direct from the New Hampshire woods:

The Faraway
5 ounces good Vodka
1/3 cup orange juice
3/4 cup cranberry juice
Juice of 1 lime

Fill a pitcher with ice. Add all ingredients and stir. Serve in martini glasses or, lacking those, wine glasses, sit by a cozy fire with the best of friends and enjoy!
Serves 5

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Perfect Mocha Meringues

Sometimes a great sounding recipe turns out to be a flop.

Well, maybe not a flop in the taste category (although...see my note about salt), but certainly in the shape, size and beauty categories. Such was the case with these meringues.

I had such high hopes that my meringues would turn out to be not only the fat and cholesterol-free, almost sugar-free, treats I aspired to, but truly beautiful to behold. In this case, one out of two is a pretty bad result.

Maybe it's the coastal humidity. Maybe Splenda doesn't work very well for meringues (although George assures me it does.) Or maybe I just didn't do it right.

Whichever the reason, I'm posting this anyway because it SHOULD work and it COULD be a recipe worth trying, especially if you have a knack for making meringues. Which evidently I don't.

Besides, flops keep me humble. And that's a good thing. There's nothing worse than a cocky cook in the kitchen.

Mocha Meringues
Adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (which I don't own and don't want to own)
2 teapoons pure vanilla extract (no sugar or corn syrup added)
1 1/4 teaspoons instant coffee crystals (I used decaf)
4 egg whites at room temperature (very important)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt (note to self: next time use just a pinch!)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Splenda granular
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli's but Scharfenberger would be really good)

First, line two baking sheets with parchment and set your oven to 250 degrees.
Then, combine the coffee crystals and vanilla, stirring well to dissolve the crystals. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, along with the cream of tartar and the salt (remember, just a pinch next time, if any) on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute.
Increase the mixer speed to high and add the sugar and Splenda in a slow stream. When the sugar is fully incorporated, beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks, about 6 minutes, adding the coffee-vanilla mixture during this time.
Decrease the speed to low and add the cocoa powder, mixing until just combined.
Transfer your meringue mixture to a plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut off of one corner and pipe small mounds onto the baking sheets about 1-inch in diameter and 1 1/2-inches apart. Alternatively, use a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip.
Bake for 30 minutes then switch the baking sheets and bake another 25 minutes, or until the meringues are dry to the touch.
Turn the oven off, crack the door just a bit, and allow the meringues to sit there for about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
The recipe says this will make 84 1-inch diameter meringues. I only got about 60.

*Now Then. Here are my notes:
First, as I've said twice, the use of salt in this recipe is a dubious addition. I don't think it works well, but that's me. If it's a food chemistry thing (Alton, where are you when I need you?), use just a pinch.

Second, I would try this using just Splenda and no sugar. You, however, could use all sugar if you like.

Next, I looked at other meringue recipes and didn't see so many different speeds and times used to whip these whites to stiff peaks, so I think I would just whip them all at once, adding the cocoa powder at the last minute.

Also, I think I would use more egg whites next time. Maybe 6 instead of 4. Just a hunch.

Additionally, besides leaving out all or most of the salt, I think I would leave out. or greatly reduce the amount of coffee crystals, say to 1/2 teaspoon, if any. They just didn't do much for me. I'd rather have the chocolate shine all on its own.

And lastly, if you'd like to see how beautiful perfect meringues SHOULD look, go see how Tartelette does it.


Monday, December 18, 2006

Green Chili Chicken

Anyone else ready for the Winter Solstice?

Lately it seems that I would have to prepare all my dishes in the morning just to get decent photos that aren't tinged with yellow, that awful indication of fading daylight, or no daylight at all. (That being my disclaimer for this post's pics.) In just a few days from now, we can rejoice in the returning of the light and better photo ops.

Meantime, here's a simple, quick, lowcarb, weeknight dish that's perfect for these short, dark, cold days of winter and the over-indulgence the season can bring. I'm pretty sure I got this recipe many moons ago from the packaging surrounding a Foster Farms whole chicken. I've changed it of course.

Green Chili Chicken
adapted from Foster Farms(?)
1 4-5 pound young hen (chicken)
olive oil for the pot and the hen
4 teaspoons Fiesta Chili Powder (or other salt-free chili powder)
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup sweet onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced
1 cup canned, whole green chiles, diced
1 cup organic veggie broth (chicken broth works well also)
2 tablespoons white whole wheat flour
2 tablespoons water
1/2 cup non-fat sour cream

Wash and dry the hen, tye the legs closed and drizzle the entire bird with a bit of olive oil.
Combine the chili powder and salt and rub it all over the hen.
In a cast iron dutch oven, heat about 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat.
When the oil shimmers, add the hen and brown it well on all sides. Remove hen to a plate.
Lower the heat to medium, add the onions to the pot and saute until softened.
Add the diced garlic and chiles and cook about 2 minutes more.
Return the chicken to the pot and add the vegetable broth.
Cover the pot with a heavy lid, turn the heat to simmer and cook for about 45 minutes or until the juices of the chicken run clear when pierced with a knife.
Remove the chicken to a plate to rest, leaving the rest of the ingredients in the pot.
In a small bowl, mix the flour and water with a whisk until no lumps remain.
Over medium heat, whisk the flour mixture into the pot and cook until thickened, about 1 minute.
Remove the pot from the heat and stir in the sour cream, mixing well.
Carve the chicken, place on a warm plate and spoon the sauce over.

I served this with steamed broccoli for a truly low carb meal, but in the past I've added steamed rice to soak up all the yummy sauce.

Cook's Notes:
Unable to sleep a few nights ago, I found myself watching the Food Network and learned a clever way to "tie" chicken legs closed. I'm sure other great cooks already know about this but it was new to me.
Make a small slit, about 3/4-inch long in the thin skin that's below and to each side of the cavity. Grab the leg opposite from a slit, bring it across the cavity and push it through the slit. Grab the other leg and do the same, criss-crossing the already enclosed leg. No strings, no muss, no fuss. Clever!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Holiday Brie En Croute

With Mushrooms, Rosemary, Marjoram, Thyme and Port

It wouldn't feel like the holidays at our house if I didn't make this practically foolproof appetizer at least once. Take it to a party, set it down among the other offerings, stand back, watch and listen.

People ask, "What's this?", while simultaneously popping a piece into their mouths. Then the eyes roll followed by gutteral sounds of pure pleasure that punctuate the air, making heads turn.

Such is the appeal of a round of brie that has been stuffed with a melange of mushrooms, onion, herbs, garlic and port, wrapped in puff pastry and served hot from the oven. Crackers optional.

This is the first of what I hope will be three items that I'll be submitting to my blogger buddy Kalyn of Kalyn's Kitchen for her special version of Weekend Herb Blogging, Holiday Cooking with Herbs. The other two waiting in the wings are my mother's Braided Raisin Bread and my own Persimmon Flan. I can't wait to see the round-up on December 23rd, as the food bloggers who regularly submit entries for WHB are such wonderful, creative cooks.

I made these last night for a special ornament party that our neighbors host every year. Always a much looked forward to party, the food and the friends keep getting better and dearer.

Mushroom Stuffed Baked Brie
adapted from a very old Sunset Magazine recipe

2 8-ounce rounds of Brie (I've used one 16-ounce round and several 10-ounce rounds)
2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
flour for the pastry
1 egg, beaten, for the pastry
1 pound of mushrooms, finely chopped (these can be all button or a mixture of several wild mushrooms such as chanterelles, shiitake, oyster and crimini)
1 cup sweet onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely diced
2 teaspoons each dried marjoram and dried thyme
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
Pinch kosher salt
Several grinds Tellicherry pepper
1/4 cup ruby Port
1 tablespoon butter for the pan

Keep your rounds of Brie in the fridge until the last minute. You want them very cold.

In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter, add the onions and saute until just softened.
Add the garlic, herbs, salt and pepper and saute just a few more minutes.
Add the mushrooms, raising the heat to medium high, and saute until the liquid that is released from them has evaporated and the mushrooms are gently browned.
Add the Port and cook until the liquid has been absorbed.
Set the pan aside, off the heat, and cool to room temperature.

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
When the stuffing has cooled, using a sharp knife cut each Brie round in half horizontally, laying the rounds cut side up.
Using a floured pastry cloth, roll out a sheet of the puff pastry to about 15x15 inches, then trim to a 12-inch diameter circle saving the pastry scraps for making leaves and berries to decorate the pastry packet. If you are making a larger Brie, trim your circle accordingly. There should be enough pastry to entirely enfold your stuffed Brie.
Place a piece of foil bigger than the brie packet on a cookie sheet.
Place the pastry round on the foil.

Place a round of Brie cut side up in the center of the pastry circle and spread with 1/4 of the mushroom filling, smoothing it out to the edges.
Place the other half of the Brie round on top of the filling, cut side down, and spread with another 1/4 of the filling.
Brush the edges of the pastry circle with some egg wash.

Begin to enfold the Brie by bringing an edge of the pastry up and over the Brie and mushrooms. The pastry should reach to the middle of the top of the Brie.
Brush the top of that pastry with more egg wash and repeat with the rest of the pastry, folding in the pleats of dough that are made as you go around.
You want to egg brush each part of the pastry that will be covered by more pastry, creating a seal. Cut the pastry if needed so you don't end up with too much on top.
Using the leftover scraps of pastry, cut out leaf shapes, stars, whatever you like and make a few "berries" by rolling the pastry into little balls.
Brush the top of the pastry packet with egg wash and lay the leaves and berries on the top, effectively covering up the pastry folds.

When finished decorating, brush a final egg wash over the entire top and sides of the Brie packet, taking care to not let egg drip under the packet which can cause it to stick to the foil while baking. I know this from experience.
Place the tray in the freezer and freeze the Brie packet, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
Place the frozen Brie, or Bries, in the oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until the pastry has turned a golden brown and the cheese and filling begins to ooze out from the pastry. (I've never known this NOT to happen, so I I just play along like it's all part of the charm. Last night both of my Brie packets oozed filling like a dam had broken, as you can see from the photos.)
Lastly, take your lovelies out of the oven and, using a very wide spatula such as my fish turner (which worked perfectly, by the way, making it a truly multi-tasking tool), remove them to the plate or platter on which you will serve them.
Surround them with crackers if you wish and decorate the plate festively with sprigs of non-toxic greens and red berries. Or not.

Then get on that fabulous black dress with the slit to mid-thigh and the cleavage down to, well, you know, throw on your mother's rhinestones and your kicky black sandal heels and head out to the party.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

My Little Kitchen Scissors Drawing...

The time has come

Mr. CC rolls up his sleeves . . .

All the names are in the hat

Puts in his hand . . .

And pulls out . . .



Kristina of Cozy Pan has won the little kitchen scissors!!
Kristina, I will be emailing you shortly to get your mailing address and will send these to you this week. Thanks to everyone who entered this drawing - it was lots of fun for me. My only regret is that I don't have enough scissors for all of you!

Friday, December 15, 2006

Donate To A Menu For Hope III

Today, total donations to A Menu for Hope III stand at over $17,000. In the five days since the kickoff on December 11th, this is as much as was raised in the entire 2-week campaign last year. (In the time it took me to write this post, the total climbed to $18,000!)

And it's not abating. I am so proud of the food blogger community for its tremendous support of this endeavor. So proud of my family and friends who have donated already. And proud of those who soon will go to First Giving to make a donation and pick one or more of the incredible prizes that have been offered by food bloggers globally, for a chance to win.

This is a win-win effort, people! The prizes that food bloggers have donated to raise money for the United Nation's World Food Programme take my breath away. With each donation of $10, you will be able to choose one from an array of prizes that include dinners at wonderful Bay Area and beyond restaurants, culinary tours in France, Barcelona, Australia, to name just a few, autographed cookbooks, such as Thomas Keller's The French Laundry, baskets of goodies from all over the globe. My pathetic attempt to describe the prizes being offered can't come close to what may be in store for you.

Please go to Chez Pim and see for yourself what is being offered. Just put your mouse over any of the many photos to see the code number and a description of the prize. Then go to First Giving and make a donation!

If you would like to bid on my donation, You can see the description and photo of my prize donation here. The Code Number is UW22.

The other side of this win-win card is a more sobering one. Did you know that today one in 7 people do not have enough to eat? That hunger is the number one risk to health worldwide - more so than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined? That’s 852 million children, women and men, in developing, transitional, and industrialized countries who go hungry each and every day.

It seems fitting then that a group of people who spend an inordinate amount of time talking about, thinking about, reading about, then cooking and enjoying food should go out of their way to help those who are not as fortunate.

And that is what this fundraising event is all about.

The prizes are there, people, to tempt you, push you, bully you into parting with your money to serve a higher cause.

Step up and be challenged! Go to First Giving, make a donation of as much as you can afford and pick the raffle prizes that most appeal to you. You will feel good afterwards, I promise! Then check back at Chez Pim on January 15th to see what you've won.

I'm keeping a daily total of funds raised on my sidebar which you can check anytime. Please don't put this off; the end of this year's event is December 22nd.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Herb-y Lamb Meatballs in Marinara

If you happen upon some local, grass-fed, fresh ground lamb at your grocers or butchers, snatch it up and save it in the freezer for the time when you want to put dinner on the table quickly, bringing in some summer goodness with the marinara sauce you made back in September from the bounty of delicious, organically grown tomatoes from the farmers market.

To begin this dish, defrost your marinara sauce and heat in a saucepan. I made many, many containers of Kalyn's Sausage and Basil Marinara Sauce last September, leaving sausage out of half the sauce, and used a container of the meatless sauce for this recipe. You could also use a good, store-bought marinara.

Lamb Meatballs with Oregano in Marinara Sauce
1 pound ground lamb, local, grass-fed is best
1/3 cup finely ground, dried bread crumbs (I use local Brio croutons that I grind in the food processor)
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1 teaspoon kosher salt
A few grinds Tellicherry peppercorns
Olive oil for the pan

In a large bowl, combine well all the ingredients except the olive oil.
Scoop up about 2 tablespoons worth of lamb mixture and, using the palms of your hands, roll into a ball. Repeat with the remaining lamb.
Drizzle olive oil into a large, heavy pan set over medium-high heat. When the oil shimmers, add the lamb meatballs and saute until nicely browned all over and just cooked through.
Drain meatballs on paper towels.

To serve, place a pool of marinara sauce on a warmed plate and top with meatballs. A roasted medley of cauliflower, carrots and mushrooms rounded out our plates.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Holiday Blogging By Mail

The package from my Blogging by Mail 'Secret Santa' arrived today filled with delicious goodies from Helene at Tartelette. Helene has been baking up a storm, cleaning her house and doing a thousand other chores in preparation for spending the holidays with her family in France. Her penchant for baking is truly inspiring. You simply must go to her blog to see the recent Gateaux Basques and the peppermint meringue kisses.

My package came with Helene's homemade biscotti and blue cheese crackers (yum!), Belgian "Fruits de Mer" chocolates, all in the shapes of shellfish, a sweet Santa in a glass bell jar, gingerbread candles and so many more wonderful goodies. Thank you so much Helene! Mr. CC and I already sampled the biscotti for tea this afternoon and they were delicious.
A special thanks to the very stylish Stephanie of The Happy Sorceress for hosting this Holiday Blogging by Mail event. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
The Menu for Hope III raffle is going gangbusters, with over $13,000 raised in just 3 days. There are so many fabulous prizes donated by food bloggers all over the world that, at just $10 per ticket, how can you resist? Let's make this year's event the biggest and best ever! Click here to read all about it, see the prizes, and make your donation. It's that simple. You could be the winner of some of the best prizes the food blog world has to offer and help hungry people the world over at the same time.
My raffle donation, Code UW22, may be seen here. Please join us!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Menu For Hope III


Now in its third year, A Menu for Hope is an event sponsored by food bloggers around the world to raise money for those in need. Through this raffle, authored by Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim, food bloggers world-wide donate delicious, inspiring, awesome food-related prizes and encourage their readers to donate $10 for each raffle ticket for a chance to win and a way to help those in the direst of needs. This year's event begins today, December 11th and runs through December 22nd. Raffle winners will be announced on January 15, 2007.
Please stay with me awhile and read through this entire post before clicking on. Many of your questions may be answered here. If you do click on a link then wish to return to my blog, please use your back button.

Through A Menu for Hope, thousands of dollars were raised in 2004 and 2005 for victims of the tsunami of Southeast Asia and the earthquake in Pakistan. This year A Menu for Hope III will be raising funds to benefit the United Nations World Food Program which helps to provide emergency hunger relief around the world. And what better time of year than now for us who are more fortunate to help those who wake up each day wondering if they will eat, rather than what they will eat.

West coast headquarters for this event is our very own Sam Breach of Becks and Posh. Sam has the list of prizes being offered by food bloggers from the West Coast of the US, of which I am one. You will see my raffle prize offering further down on this post. Head over to Chez Pim to see the entire list of Menu For Hope III Prizes and who is hosting the prize lists for the rest of the world.


1. Go to the First Giving donation page.

2. Make a donation. Each $10 will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. State how many tickets per prize, and please use the prize code designated for each raffle prize. (For example, a donation of $50 can be 2 tickets for UW01 and 3 for UW02.)
3. If your company matches your charity donation, please remember to check the appropriate box and fill in the information so the corporate match can be claimed.
4. Please check the box to allow your email address to be seen so you can be contacted in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.
5. Check back on Chez Pim on January 15 when the result of the raffle will be announced. (The drawing will be done electronically.)
Just $10 per raffle ticket!! Many of us could go without our daily lattes just twice this week and use the savings to donate to this more than worthy cause. The more you donate, the more tickets you have and the greater your chances of winning!


Prize code UW22

(Be sure to use this code when purchasing a raffle ticket if you wish to win this prize. Some shipping restrictions apply; see my note below)

Made in Humboldt County is not just another label. Located in the far northwest corner of California, access to Humboldt County, especially in the winter months, can be cut off by mudslides, swollen rivers and high tides. Consequently, and luckily for us who live here, for over one hundred years local residents have had to rely on their own resources for food and supplies.

From local gourmet fisheries products to organic, hand-made truffles, the number of products that are made here in Humboldt county have become increasingly gourmet. They have also become more well known outside of the boundaries of the county. Fresh daily organic chocolate truffles, hot fudge sauce made especially for our locally produced ice cream, world-renown, gourmet water-packed albacore fished off the coast in local waters, spicy sauces from local restaurants, and much, much more have made their way into the hands of cooks and foodies around the world.

My gift basket of Made in Humboldt County products will contain:

Sweet Mama Janisse's Sticky Love Sauce and Soy-Gin Sauce

Roi's Italian Restaurant's Polenta Mix and Basil Vinaigrette

Larrupin' Goods Red Sauce and Mustard-Dill Sauce

Lazio's Solid White Gourmet Albacore

Sjaak's Organic Chocolate Truffles

Bon Boniere's Hot Fudge Sauce

Pacific Rim Noodle House's Island Ginger Orange Sauce

Cistercian Nuns of Redwoods Monastery's Creamed Orange Honey

Farm to Table Humboldt County 2007 Calendar with color photos of local farms and farmers

"Managing the Munchies", a Humboldt County cookbook by Nancy Only, featuring many of the items included in my gift basket, along with recipes from local chefs and restaurants such as the award-winning Restaurant 301 in Eureka

SHIPPING RESTRICTIONS: Because of the considerable weight of this gift basket, I must restrict shipment to within the US, Great Britain and western Europe.

Good luck to all of you! And please accept my personal thanks for making a donation that could not only win you prizes, but will benefit those in need world-wide.