It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas….

Well, not exactly yet, but hopefully by tomorrow’s end the house will be well on its way to its holiday transformation. Christmas brings a new set of food festivities in our household. Fruitcakes start off the season in early December. They need to be made 3-4 weeks prior to handing out so they have time to ‘cure’. My fruitcakes have a white cake base, which varies from the traditional dark cake base you might normally envision. I also do not use any glaceed fruit. Instead, I opt for a mix of high-quality dried fruits which I reconstitute in a sugar syrup (with lemon and orange juices added). Along with the fruit mixture, pecans, walnuts and almonds are folded into the batter just before baking. They are baked in mini loaf pans, then wrapped in cheesecloth to dry out for 2-3 days. Finally, I soak them in the sugar syrup mixture I used for the fruit, with a bit of Maker’s Mark bourbon and Grand Marnier added to prolong the shelf life. 😉 These babies are not passed around from year-to-year nor are they used as doorstops…and they pair extremely well with a ruby port. MmmMmmm!

Christmas caroling is another tradition in our neighborhood. A group of us gather sometime about a week before Christmas and wander the neighborhood gracing all with our lovely voices (I tried unsuccessfully to type that with a straight face!)…I bring a big batch of homemade eggnog for the adults – I even have a special pewter bowl and ladle for this occassion…and trust me, after a little eggnog we sound terrific! ***Please note: it is imperitive that all parties partake in the eggnog in order to appreciate how ‘terrific’ we all sound….

I am traveling to London in December with my husband and am especially looking forward to seeing the city during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. On our last visit there we dined at Ye Olde Cheshire Cheese where we ate the best meal we had while in London. I hope we find a free night to relive the experience. Other than that I have not planned out any food adventures yet, but I am sure I will make the best of our travels.

Final Thanksgiving Thoughts

Pie Night was another success. For me this night has evolved into almost another holiday all on its own. It began innocently enough several years ago after we had a ‘pie surplus’ and decided to invite a couple of friends over to help resolve the ‘situation’. It stayed smaller until last year, and then it just seemed to blossom!!! The best parts about Pie Night are the gathering of fabulous friends and family, the laughter, the stories, and of course, the pie. It is a wonderful way to wrap up Thanksgiving and really sums up what this holiday is all about. Thank you to all of our friends…we are truly fortunate to have you in our lives!

Thanksgiving Re-cap

What a fabulous day! I do believe I am done cooking for the rest of the weekend…I ended up with 11 pies: 2 each of cherry, pecan and pumpkin; 1 apple; 1 apple w/ brandied raisins; 1 chocolate; 1 banana cream; 1 coconut cream. I also have several mini meringue tarts, some with lemon curd, some with cranberry curd…I have not tried those yet. Dinner was phenomenal. I was up late last night with pie activities so I did not get as much meal prep done as I had planned. As a result I spent the entire day cooking, setting the table, making the centerpieces for the table, etc. But I loved every second of it, and it all turned out beautifully. The feast included both roast turkey and smoked turkey – the roast one was an organic ‘Heidi’s Hen’ from Whole Foods, bread ‘stuffing’ (I didn’t stuff the turkey, so technically it is dressing), mashed potatoes, bourbon sweet potatoes topped with pecans, green beans with almonds, brussels sprouts roasted with chestnuts and proscuitto, gravy, cranberry sauce, sweet potato rolls with dried cherries, and butterflake herb rolls. We served dinner with both a Cava and a Pinot Noir, and there was sparkling cider for the younger folks. We were so full from dinner that we didn’t even have any pie until almost midnight…how crazy is that to have 11 pies and not dip into even one of them all day??? But dip into them we eventually did. My scale is relegated to the deepest corner of my closet for at least a week or so…no need to see the damage staring up at me!!! Well, I am exhausted…finally time for me to retire for the night, perhaps even the weekend. My body is full of the wonderful aches that come from spending all day and night in the kitchen. I am one lucky woman – and so very thankful for the family and friends in my life!

Final Pie Results…

The tally is in: 8 completed pies (2 each of apple, cherry, pecan and pumpkin); 1 half-finished chocolate pie; 1 banana cream pie yet to make; bite-sized meringues (lemon and cranberry) to assemble last minute. We also smoked a turkey breast, along with some scallops, habanero peppers and pecans. We had to do two rounds of pecans because the first batch somehow got burned…I now have a grocery run tomorrow for pecans to finish off my sweet potato dish for dinner. Not bad for a day’s work, eh?

Pies and Turkeys and Smokers, oh my!

Ah, the day I have been anticipating for days, even weeks! Today is pie-baking day, as well as the day we smoke the turkey breast. (I have the image of the Dunkin’ Donuts guy in my head, only he is saying ‘Time to bake the pies!’ instead of ‘Time to make the donuts’) This may be the last I see of my couch for the remainder of the day…my legs and back will be aching within hours, but a wonderful ache that will be! In a few short minutes I will head out to fire up the smoker. It is rather large and will take close to a solid hour to come up to temperature. My turkey breast went into the brine last night. I did a simple brine of salt and brown sugar (about 1/2 c Kosher salt, 1/4 c brown sugar and 1 1/2 gallons of water). Once the smoker is heating up I will take out the turkey breast, pat it dry and apply the rub…then into the smoker it goes!

Pies will follow. Last night I moved the crusts from the freezer to the fridge, which was cleaned out and ready to hold lots of pie. I made a lemon curd and cranberry curd last night to use for my mini meringue pies. I am experimenting to see if the meringue holds up better in bite-sized portions than it does in a full-sized pie. I will be using the mini phyllo dough shells to test…