Another Short Rib Recipe to Savor!

Happy 2014!  The holidays are over (once again way too quickly!) and it’s time for the annual combo of healthy, light, and comfort foods that inevitably follows the overload of the holiday season.   And even though it’s a normal January in Southern California, by which I am referring to temperatures in the high 70’s and even warmer, I still crave comfort foods, because it’s January for goodness sake!  Well, it may not feel like Winter outside but I am determined to cook and share the yummy comfort foods that are intrinsic to the season.  So there!

I have posted the delicious Short Rib recipe from Roy’s, which I love.  This recipe is just as good, a little bit lighter and so easy to prepare.  Short Ribs have become increasingly popular as more great recipes are developed, and as a result they aren’t as easy to find as you would think.  Since I really like them, I tend to buy them when I see them and either make them in the oven or slow cooker, depending on how much time I have.  
This recipe comes from the Winter 2013 issue of Fine Cooking’s One Pot Meals  and I adapted it just slightly.You can make this ahead of time; cook the meat and refrigerate separately from the sauce; when ready to reheat, spoon the fat off the sauce and pour over the ribs, then heat in a 350F oven for about 30 minutes.
 I apologize for just the one picture; I got so into preparing them that I forgot about my camera!  Serve these with your favorite recipe for mashed potatoes and enjoy, even if it’s 80 degrees outside!
Asian-Style Beef Short Ribs with Julienned Leeks

1 – 14 oz. can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1/2 cup dry sherry
2 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1 Tbsp. Chinese Five-Spice Powder
5-6 lbs. beef short ribs on the bone (each 3-4 inches long)
Freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. vegetable oil (more as needed)
6 cloves garlic, crushed and peeled
1 – 1 inch piece fresh ginger (about an ounce), peeled and cut into eight slices
6 large scallions, cut into 2 inch lengths (white and green parts)
1 Tbsp. sweet butter
3 medium leeks, white and light green parts, cut into 2 inch julienne strips, rinsed and dried
Kosher Salt
Place a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 325F.  In a bowl, mix the tomatoes, soy sauce, sherry, brown sugar and 2/3 cup water.  Stir to combine, then stir in the Chinese Five Spice Powder.
Pat the short ribs dry with a paper towel (they won’t brown properly if you skip this step, and browning the meat gives the dish wonderful flavor) and season them with the pepper.  In a dutch oven large enough to hold the ribs in no more than two layers, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Place as many ribs in the pot as you can without crowding them (if you pack them in they will steam rather than brown), and brown them on all sides – about 2 minutes per side.  Remove the ribs to a platter and brown the rest, adding more oil if needed.
Pour off the fat from the pot, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, ginger and scallions, pressing them against the pot with a spoon for 1-2 minutes to release the flavor.  Place the ribs back in the pot and pour the soy sauce mixture over them.  Bring to a simmer and cover, then place the pot in the oven and  braise the ribs for approximately 2 1/2 – 3 hours, turning the ribs every half hour or so, until the meat is very tender and starts to fall off the bone when pulled with a fork.
Transfer the ribs to a serving platter and remove the garlic and ginger pieces from the sauce, then pour into a measuring cup and let it sit for a few minutes.  When the fat has risen to the top, skim it off with a spoon.
In a pan, melt the butter over medium-high heat, then place the leeks in and saute, stirring frequently, until they begin to brown.  Lower the heat to medium and cook another 3 – 5 minutes, until they are tender.  Season with Kosher Salt and pepper to taste.  Reheat the sauce, place a short rib on a nice scoop of mashed potatoes, and top with the leeks.  Serve and savor!

Making Spirits Bright ~ Holiday Irish Cream

The holidays are a time for gathering with family and friends to toast each other and the blessings you hold dear.  Any beverage is fitting, of course, but here’s a recipe for one that is truly special ~ Holiday Irish Cream. 

There are many copy cat recipes out there for Bailey’s Irish Cream, but this is the only one I’ve made and my family and friends are always delighted to receive a bottle for Christmas or New Year’s. I’m not sure where this version came from; it was given to me many years ago by a friend, who had gotten it from her friend, who had gotten it from…well, you get the picture.   It’s fun to give in beautiful bottles tied with equally festive ribbons, and it keeps well for a couple of months in the fridge, so it’s a gift that lasts into the New Year.  It is super simple and quick to make, but anyone who receives a bottle from you will be thrilled…and you’ll probably hear some entertaining and appreciative stories from them about when they drank it, usually followed by a request for the same gift from you next year!

I make this a few days ahead of time so that the flavors can blend and mellow a little; you don’t want to give or serve this the same day you make it.  I also use a little less whiskey than the recipe calls for, but you can adjust to your own taste and the tastes of those you are gifting.  This recipe is very simple, but as with all recipes, you’ll want to use the best quality ingredients you can for the best flavor. It’s so easy and so delicious!
Holiday Irish Cream
1 cup half and half (you can use heavy cream but it will be very, very rich)
1 – 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 2/3 cups Irish Whiskey (yes, you must use Irish Whiskey; it is Irish Cream, after all!) – I use between 1 and 1 1/3 cups
1 tsp. instant coffee granules – I use espresso powder
2 Tbsp. chocolate syrup – I use Hershey’s or Bosco
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract

Place all ingredients in a blender and blend on high speed for about 30 seconds.  

Pour into clean decorative gift bottles (a funnel is very helpful) and tie with pretty ribbons.  

Store this in the refrigerator and shake it once each day, just to keep the flavors blending.
I attach a tag that says:
Holiday Irish Cream ~ made especially for you!
Keep refrigerated and shake well before serving.  Serve over ice or ice cream, in coffee, cocoa, etc…
Enjoy before (insert the date here; 2 months from the day you make it)


By special request from a special friend…Marshmallows!  Although I do make them occasionally during the year, I make multiple batches during the holidays for friends and family, who look forward to receiving them every holiday season.  This recipe, which I got when Martha Stewart had a show on Sunday mornings (a very long time ago, way before the Food Network or Cooking Channel started), is very easy…it is, in fact, it was this recipe that showed me candy making wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be…  So you might say that marshmallows were my “gateway” candy, leading me to try other candies like toffee and brittles, which I also make every year.

I especially like this recipe because, unlike many other marshmallow recipes I’ve seen, it does not contain egg whites, egg powder or cornstarch.  The marshmallows are tossed in powdered sugar only, and gelatin sets the mixture, replacing the egg white, so there are no worries about using eggs.

These are so much better than anything you can buy in a store – light, fluffy, melt in your mouth amazing!  I’m giving you lots of pictures and my hints so you’l feel comfortable trying these.  I know that once you do, you’ll make them again and again.  Have fun and enjoy!

Before you begin, read the entire recipe and have your equipment and ingredients ready.  Know that candy making isn’t necessarily difficult, but it is precise.  Follow the steps in order.  Use a candy thermometer.

4 packages unflavored gelatin
3/4 cup cool water

Line a 9″x13″ pan (or a 1/4 sheet pan) with heavy duty foil and spray the foil with non-stick baking spray.  I use the larger pan because it yields more marshmallows for sharing, but if you are making them for less and want a real “wow” factor, use the smaller pan; they will be very tall and everyone will be totally impressed!

In your mixer, combine the gelatin and 3/4 cup cool water.  Let stand while you make the candy mixture.

1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water
3 cups sugar

2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

powdered sugar

In a large pot (preferably non-stick), mix the corn syrup, salt, water and sugar.  Over high heat, bring the mixture to a boil.

Attach a candy thermometer to the pan and cook the mixture, stirring constantly, until the temperature reaches 235-240F – this is called the Soft Ball stage.  (If you were to drop a bit of it into cold water it would form a soft ball.  Brittles, to give you some perspective, cook to almost 300F, which is the Hard Crack stage.  SO even a couple of degrees make a difference in how your candy turns out.)  I turn off the heat at 238F.  It’s fun to watch the mixture change in texture as it changes temperature.  (NOTE: when your mixture is almost at temperature, start running water in your sink to get it as hot as you can; this will make clean-up much easier for you.  Use gloves so it’s not too hot on your hands.)  When the mixture is up to temp, take the thermometer out of the pot and place it in the sink under the hot running water.

Even though it may not look like a lot of liquid, you want to use a pan with high sides.  The mixture does bubble up and you don’t want to risk it boiling over.  It goes without saying that you should not walk away from this while you are bringing it up to temperature.  Candy will go from the exact right temperature to the next stage – or from perfect to burnt – in a split second.

Pour the mixture into the gelatin mixture.  Be careful, the mixture will bubble up and is extremely hot; be prepared for hot steam!

Cover your mixer with a towel and, using the whisk attachment, start on low and increase to high speed, and mix on high for 15 minutes.  Put your empty pot into the sink and let it fill with hot water while you get the mixer going.  Wash it while the marshmallows whip; don’t let the pot and mixture cool or it will take you much longer to clean.

After 15 minutes, stop the mixer and marvel at your bowl of heavenly white fluff!  Don’t taste it yet; add two teaspoons of good vanilla extract, and mix on low speed until combined.

Spray a spatula with non-stick spray (trust me, this stuff is seriously sticky!), and pour the mixture into your prepared pan.  Spread it as evenly as you can and smooth the top.  Now take a taste from the beater or spatula…yum!  When it’s cooled, cover it with foil (spray it with non-stick spray if it will be touching the top of the marshmallow mixture) and let it set for several hours or overnight. (The marshmallows will set up more quickly in dry weather; you’ll be able to tell when they are set.)

When you’re ready to cut them, you’ll need a mat or vinyl cloth to put on your counter, cupcake liners or whatever containers you plan to serve or give them in, powdered sugar, a knife, and non-stick cooking spray.

Spray your knife with the cooking spray (you’ll only need to do this once).  Use a strainer or sifter to dust the mat with powdered sugar (cover an area large enough to fit the pan so all the marshmallow is covered.

Turn the marshmallows out onto the powdered sugar and peel off the foil.  Dust the top side of the candy with more powdered sugar.

Now you’re ready to cut them!  You can make them whatever size you want.  For eating on their own, make them larger.  If you’re giving them with hot cocoa mix or hot fudge sauce to put on ice cream, cut them smaller.  I almost always use a knife to cut the marshmallows into squares, but you can also use cookie cutters.  I have used them before – Marshmallow hearts are so cute for Valentine’s Day! – but ultimately I don’t want to waste any of the candy and you do get more from simple squares. If you use the 1/4 sheet pan you can easily get 64 good size marshmallows from this recipe.  Cut 8 long strips and eight squares from each strip.   (If you have lots to make, then make multiple batches.  Although most recipes double well for larger quantities, I don’t recommend doubling this one.)

If you want a different treat that has a little less sweetness, you can roll the marshmallows in cocoa powder instead of powdered sugar.  And one of these days I’m going to try Peppermint Extract and mix in crushed candy canes with the powdered sugar…and try some other extracts as well…chocolate, maple, caramel…

When you’ve cut them into the squares, roll each piece in the extra powdered sugar to coat; 
whatever isn’t coated with powdered sugar will be sticky!

Package them in boxes, holiday containers, and cello bags; I’ve used clear plastic corsage and boutonniere boxes too.  With pretty ribbons that coordinate with cupcake papers, these package beautifully, and make truly special gift.

Boxes, bags, holiday containers…everyone will be delighted to receive this treat from you, 
even more special because you made it!  

Package with homemade Cinnamon Sugar Nuts (my adaptation of Candied Peanuts from Christy Jordan’s Southern Plate) and Easy Hot Fudge Sauce (from Chocolate, Chocolate and More) and an ice cream gift card for a great dessert package!

I can’t wait to hear if you try these and how much fun you have.  Thank you for visiting my blog and requesting your favorites.  Wishing you all a Merry Christmas filled with life’s sweetest gifts – family, friends, lots of love and, of course, wonderful food!

Holiday Scones for a Good Morning

I promised I would post this ASAP so that everyone would be able to make them at least once during the holiday season.  Even if you are not a fan of Eggnog as a drink, do give these treats a try…the subtle flavors may surprise you.  A good friend shared this recipe many years ago and I make them every holiday season as soon as I can get my hands on some Eggnog.  These are so easy to make and, since the dough needs to rest for at least a few hours, I make it in the evening and refrigerate overnight.  Then, first thing in the morning, I preheat the oven and put them in to bake, so we have fresh, hot scones for breakfast, delicious on their own and even better with good jam.  It’s one of life’s lovely pleasures!

Eggnog Scones
(makes 8-10)

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup baking powder
4 oz. (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 egg, beaten
3/4 cup Eggnog
1 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. nutmeg (freshly grated is best)

Heavy cream or half and half

Combine the dry ingredients, including the nutmeg, in a large mixing bowl.  Using a pastry blender, cut in the pieces of butter, mixing until you have dime-sized pieces.  Beat together the egg, eggnog and vanilla.  Slowly add the liquid to the dry ingredients, stirring with a fork, until the mixture is the consistency of Play-Dough.  You may not need to use all the liquid.

Gather the dough into a ball and pat out into a disc.  Wrap in plastic and chill for several hours or overnight.  When you’re ready to bake:

Preheat the oven to 350F.  Place the dough disc onto a stoneware baking sheet or an aluminum baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Pat the dough down into about a 9″ round.  Use a pizza cutter (or a knife) to score the dough into 8 or 10 scones, but do not separate.  (As with biscuits, if you leave the dough pieces touching, they will bake up evenly and won’t spread or fall to the side.)

Brush the top of the dough with the cream or half and half, then sprinkle lightly with sugar and nutmeg.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes, until they are golden brown.  Let the scones cool for about 10 minutes, then run a pizza cutter or knife through the scoring to separate.

Sere and enjoy!

Sugar and Spice ~ Gingerbread is So Nice!

Gingerbread is a quintessential holiday treat.  In the forms of bread, cupcakes, cookies, muffins, truffles and more, it’s a comfort food at any time of the day.  This Gingerbread Pudding Cake (from an old Land O’ Lakes holiday baking magazine) is a delicious addition to any brunch, dessert or sweet table.  Don’t let the simplicity of its appearance fool you…this cake packs a delicious, ginger and spice flavor that is complimented by the saucy pudding on the bottom.  The magic of this cake is the way the hot water, butter and brown sugar on top of the batter when it goes into the oven become the pudding that ends up on the bottom of the cake when it’s done. Needless to say this is a great cake to make with kids!

Gingerbread Pudding Cake
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/4 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/4 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/2 cup sweet butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
1 cup molasses
1 cup water

3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
1 1/2 cups hot water
1/3 cup sweet butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, ginger, cinnamon, salt, allspice and nutmeg; set aside.

Combine the 1/2 cup sugar and butter in a large bowl.  With an electric mixer or a whisk, blend until they are creamy.  Ad the egg and mix, then alternately add the flour mixture, molasses and water, mixing after each addition until just mixed.

Pour the batter into an ungreased 9 x 13 dish.  Sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the top of the batter.  Combine the butter and hot water and pour it carefully over the top of the batter.  (It doesn’t look spectacularly appealing at this point; trust me, it’s going to be amazing when it’s done!)

Bake the cake for 40-55 minutes, until the top is cracked and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Serve warm, with ice cream or whipped cream, if desired.  Enjoy, enjoy, enjoy!