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Running of the Lighted Christmas (Cheese) Balls

15 Dec

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This weekend marked the 3rd anniversary of Greensboro’s Running of the Balls. The tradition of lighted Christmas balls hung throughout the trees of Sunset Hills is something that is so undeniably Greensboro. No one would ever guess the marvelous display that bundled up chicken wire and lights can make when flung high into trees!

The Running of the Balls 5k(ish) race is one of the most endearing events that I’ve ever participated in. Nearly 3,000 runners and walkers are decked out in all kinds of Christmas gear. The race route is a marvelous display of a traditional historic Greensboro neighborhood sprinkled with holiday light — plus the addition of bands and choirs. In addition to all the fun, the race raises much needed dollars and pantry donations for local shelters. How warm is your heart feeling right now?

You can learn the background of the Lighted Christmas Balls from Justin Smith, who started the tradition with his family.  

My friend’s Jamey and Phil (who hung about 200 plus balls themselves) hosted a large gathering of neighbors and friends after the race. In trend with the evening, I made three large Christmas Cheese Balls for the party. They were so good that I received a phone call today at the office requesting the recipe! So, here it is! Martha’s recipe makes enough for all 3,000 runners – so feel free to adjust the proportions to fit your crowd.

If you’re in Greensboro – or near – it’s worth a visit for dinner and a drive/stroll through Sunset Hills to see the display. If you’re not here, its a reason to visit next December.

Martha Stewart’s Cheese Balls, Three Ways

BASE RECIPE:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
  • 3 packages cream cheese (8 ounces each)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 dashes hot sauce (such as Tabasco)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground white pepper

CHEDDAR AND CRANBERRY:

  • 8 ounces sharp orange cheddar cheese, finely shredded
  • 2 tablespoons store-bought chutney
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
  • Water crackers, for serving

ROQUEFORT AND WALNUT:

  • 6 ounces Roquefort cheese
  • 1 shallot, minced (about 1 tablespoon)
  • 2 teaspoons brandy (optional)
  • 1 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • Vegetable chips (such as Terra Chips Sweets & Beets), for serving

GOAT CHEESE AND SCALLIONS:

  • 8 ounces goat cheese
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
  • 1/3 cup fresh curly-leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 English cucumber, cut into 1/8-inch-thick slices, for serving 
  1. Put butter, cream cheese, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, salt, and pepper into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until combined. Divide equally among 3 medium bowls.
  2. Stir cheddar cheese and chutney with base mixture in the first bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll cheese ball in cranberries to coat before serving. Serve with crackers.
  3. Stir blue cheese and shallot with base mixture in second bowl; add brandy, if desired. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days; freeze up to 1 month. Roll in walnuts to coat before serving. Serve with chips.
  4. Stir goat cheese and scallions with base mixture in remaining bowl. Form into a ball. If not using immediately, refrigerate up to 3 days or freeze up to 1 month. Roll in parsley to coat before serving. Serve with cucumber slices.

 

 

 

Easy Brunch Sides

11 Dec

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I decided on Sunday that a brunch might be the easiest party to host, especially when you position them at 12noon with a very casual dress code. In the words of my friend Alison, I recommended to friends to wear their “quitters” (sweat pants/ yoga pants) and come over for brunch on the sofa by the Christmas tree. And, I did my own fair share of short cuts. Pre-cut fruit from the The Fresh Market saved me hours of time cutting fruit. And, I tossed 4 packages of breakfast sausage on a cookie sheet into the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes to do the most simple side. Everyone loved the sausages and they were so much less of a mess than bacon!

Ina Garten always says that nobody has more fun at a party if you kill yourself in the kitchen before hands (that is, of course, paraphrasing). I agree, again with Ina. I couldn’t have been more relaxed when everyone arrived after having an easy morning preparing a big homemade (with shortcut) brunch for friends.

I’ll share the easiest recipe for two simple frittatas tomorrow!

Savory Bread Pudding with Mushrooms and Gruyere

3 Dec

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I started a community-wide dialogue (slight exaggeration but it did end up in Triad City Beat) about the difference between stuffing, dressing and savory bread pudding. I’m still unsure of the technical difference between a savory bread puddings and dressings. But, I do know that they are both share a common theme – a decadent blend of gluten-baked-heaven amongst delicious items like cheese, onions, pork products and mushrooms.

With all the chatter, I (easily) convinced my mother to prepare Ina Garten’s recipe for Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding for our Thanksgiving meal. The recipe is perfect because it can be prepared in advance and baked right before eating. It was delicious piping hot out of the oven – and was, frankly, the only thing I could eat for Thanksgiving Leftovers Part III.

Ina’s Mushroom and Leek Bread Pudding

  • 6 cups (1/2-inch-diced) bread cubes from a rustic country loaf, crusts removed
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 ounces pancetta, small-diced
  • 4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts (4 leeks)
  • 1 1/2 pounds cremini mushrooms, stems trimmed and 1/4-inch-sliced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1/4 cup medium or dry sherry
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 extra-large eggs
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 cup chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1 1/2 cups grated Gruyere cheese (6 ounces), divided

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly browned. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook for 5 minutes, until starting to brown. Stir in the leeks and cook over medium heat for 8 to 10 minutes, until the leeks are tender. Stir in the mushrooms, tarragon, sherry, 1 tablespoon salt and 11/2 teaspoons pepper and cook for 10 to 12 minutes, until most of the liquid evaporates, stirring occasionally. Off the heat, stir in the parsley.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, chicken stock and 1 cup of the Gruyere. Add the bread cubes and mushroom mixture, stirring well to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the bread to absorb the liquid. Stir well and pour into a 2 1/2-to-3-quart gratin dish (13 x 9 x 2 inches). Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Gruyere and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until the top is browned and the custard is set. Serve hot.

Brussel Sprout Thanksgiving

26 Nov

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It’s almost Thanksgiving! My folks are already in town doing shopping and advance preparations for tomorrow’s cooking and feasting. This year, we are excited to welcome my friend Margaret’s family over for our celebration on Mendenhall. Merging of traditions is always a fun time – especially, when mixed with North Carolina oysters, Florida stone crabs and a bourbon cocktail. I can’t wait to report with recipes, photos and stories.

Now to brussel sprouts. There is no doubt that both kale and brussel sprouts have been at center stage on Mendenhall this year. I love their hearty nature and I’ve recently discovered their perfection in almost all forms – cooked and raw. I’m looking forward to preparing my favorite Balsamic Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon tomorrow. They are now famous too – featured in this week’s Triad City Beat! Check out the article today on local foodie’s favorite Thanksgiving sides. And, if you’re interested in the recipe – check it out here.

Now, back to my love of kale. Lately, I’ve been making an extremely delicious and healthy salad with raw kale and raw brussel sprouts. I found the recipe on Just a Taste.  It’s crunchy, has a wonderful dressing of lemon and shallots and will shock anyone with it’s deliciousness. If you’re looking for a last minute Thanksgiving recipe – this might be it. Or, you could commit to only eating this salad the day-after-turkey-day for an appropriate cleanse.

Shredded Kale and Brussels Sprout Salad with Lemon Dressing, Just a Taste

1 Tablespoon minced shallots
2 Tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
2 teaspoons honey or agave nectar
1/4 cup olive oil

4 cups finely shredded Lacinato kale (loosely packed)
4 cups finely shredded Brussels sprouts (loosely packed)
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese

In a small bowl, whisk together the shallots, mustard, lemon juice, lemon zest and honey. Stream in the olive oil while whisking continuously until well combined. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste. (You can add more lemon juice or agave nectar to adjust the acidity or sweetness to your personal taste.)

In a large bowl, toss together the shredded kale, shredded Brussels sprouts and toasted almonds. Add as much dressing as desired, tossing to combine, then add the cheese and toss. Serve immediately

Halloween Deviled Eggs

4 Nov

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Ive vie decided that deviled eggs are for for any season and any party. While one used to think they were only fitting for summer picnics, I’ve seen them dressed up for winter in caviar or truffles or perfectly decorated as tiny pumpkins with a little extra paprika for Halloween. This weekend they were a perfect starter before friends came over for Halloween chili by the fire.

We had too few trick or treaters this year which was a total bummer. But a little scotch punch helped forgot the angst. I’ll post the recipes for chili and scotch punch this week.

How do you dress up your deviled eggs?

Cauliflower & Kale Gratin

29 Sep

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Fall is here. Pool season seems to be over and the only last hope is cool nights with bourbon, chili and good cashmere. This year the summer season caught up to me. I’m left with few regrets – just longing for a couple more warm nights in the garden with rose and a fired up grill. But so it goes. It goes to gratin – potatoes, cauliflower broccoli, squash, throw in some kale this year to make yourself feel better. He is a good starter recipe for your fall meal. It pairs well with a simple roasted pork loin or quick seared piece of red meat.

Cauliflower & Kale Gratin

1-1/2 to 2 pounds curly or *Tuscan kale (about 3 bunches)
2 small heads or one large head of cauliflower (3-4 lbs)
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 cups 2% milk*
1 cup half & half *
1 3/4 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (about 3 firm slices of whole wheat* or white sandwich bread)
1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg*
1 1/2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup Parmesan

Strip kale leaves from stems and center ribs (discard stems and ribs). Tear or cut leaves into 2-3 inch pieces.
Cut and discard greens and core from cauliflower, then cut cauliflower into 1 1/2-inch florets.
Have ready a large bowl of ice water. Butter the baking dish.
Cook kale in a pasta pot of boiling salted water, uncovered, in 2 batches until almost tender, about 3 to 5 minutes per batch. Transfer with a slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking, then transfer with tongs to a colander to drain. Gently squeeze excess water from kale by handfuls and transfer to baking dish. NOTE: If using Tuscan kale do not squeeze too hard. Press on dishtowel or paper towels to remove moisture.
Cook florets in 1 batch in pot until crisp-tender, about 3 to 6 minutes, then transfer with slotted spoon to ice water to stop cooking and drain well in colander. Nestle cauliflower in kale.
Preheat oven to 375°F with rack in lower third.
Melt butter in a 3-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat. Whisk in flour, then cook roux, whisking frequently, 3 minutes. Whisk in milk and half & half and bring to a boil, whisking constantly. Reduce heat and simmer béchamel sauce, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes, then stir in 1 teaspoons salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg and 1/4 cup (of the 3/4 cups) of grated Parmigiano cheese. Pour sauce over kale and cauliflower.
Toss together bread crumbs, oil, rest of the cheese, and 1/8 tsp each salt and pepper, then sprinkle evenly over mixture and bake gratin in oven until sauce is bubbling and crumbs are golden, 40 to 45 minutes.
If you wish the crumbs to be more golden, broil gratin under a preheated broiler, about 6 inches from heat, watching carefully, 1 to 2 minutes.

Truffled Pommes Anna

4 Sep

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Growing up, we always made pommes anna together as a family for special occasions. We had them for birthdays and graduations, all sorts of milestones. I still reserve this dish for these types of celebrations. So I decided to serve Pommes Anna – with an even fancier twist – for a housewarming of sorts at my friend’s Jamey and Phil’s new mountain condo. It was also a fun group activity peeling potatoes, slicing with a mandolin and arranging layers. I put the hardest part of the dish on Phil – flipping the pan before serving.

You can certainly skip the truffle butter and salt but its an over the top addition that will knock the socks off any guest. Truffle butter is easily available at The Fresh Market and you can purchase truffled salt at The Savory Spice Shop.

Get slicing!

Truffled Pommes Anna 

 

  • 3 to 4 pounds, potatoes
  • 1 small container, truffle butter
  • 1/2 stick, salted butter
  • truffled salt (optional) and pepper

Melt butters together. Brush the bottom of a nonstick pan. Meanwhile, peel and slice potatoes into thin and even slices (1/8 inch). Try to make the first layer as pretty as possible. After each layer, brush the potatoes with butter and season with salt and pepper. Once the pan is full, cover the top with foil and put something heavy and heat proof on top of it (heavy cast iron pots work well). On the stovetop, brown the bottom layer of the potatoes for about 5 to 10 minutes on medium high or until the bottom is brown.

 Then, transfer the entire thing to the oven for about 30 minutes at 350 degrees. Once the potatoes have cooked through, let the dish cool down a bit and then flip onto a large platter.

Warm Fresh Summer Corn Salad

21 Aug

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I hope you’re eating enough fresh corn right now. If not, you’re going to regret it. It’s so delicious raw, cut off the cob and sautéed or grilled and slathered with compote butters. I highly suggest getting creative. Or just using this simple recipe for a warm salad of corn, onion, feta and lime juice.

Hop on it. Pronto.

Sweet Summer Corn Salad

  • 5 ears of fresh corn, kernels cut off
  • 3 tablespoons (or more), olive oil
  • 1/2 red onion
  • salt & pepper
  • parsley, chopped
  • feta cheese crumbles
  • 1 lime

Sauté onion in olive oil. Once tender, add corn and cook until bright yellow and sweet. Season with salt, pepper, parsley, feta and a good squeeze of lime juice.

Margaret’s Mountain of Slaw

1 Aug

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My friend Margaret knows a thing or two about potlucks, lentils and leafy greens. I’ll let you make your own conclusions – but it’s why we all love her so. For Jessica’s party, she made the most massive mountain of coleslaw. She had to make it at her mother’s house because of the need for a more serious food processor and kitchen! While this recipe is called “Not Your Mama’s Coleslaw,” her mother did remind her that coleslaw was always left over at potlucks. She was, indeed, correct. But the slaw was just as good the next day for a hangover brunch!

The addition of blue cheese is so delicious. Make sure to try this!

Not Your Mama’s Cole Slaw, Smitten Kitchen
Adapted from Ina Garten

1/2 small head green cabbage
1/2 small head red cabbage
4 large carrots, scrubbed or peeled and shredded
1 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
2 cups (16 ounces) mayonnaise, low-fat is fine, as is swapping half with yogurt
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2 cups (6 ounces) blue cheese (optional)

Prepare the vegetables: Halve the cabbage halves and cut out the cores. Slice the cabbage as thinly as you can with a sharp knife. Alternately, you can use a mandoline to cut the thinnest slivers or use your food processor’s slicing blade (lay the cabbage horizontally in the feed tube) to do the job in just seconds. Transfer chopped cabbage into a large bowl, discarding any very large pieces. Stir in the shredded carrot and parsley, reserving a few tablespoons of parsley for garnish.

Make the dressing:
Mix the mayonnaise, mustards, vinegar, celery seed, salt and pepper in a smaller bowl. Stir in blue cheese, if using. Toss the cabbage mixture with dressing to taste –- you will probably not need all of it, but it keeps in the fridge for weeks (even longer, but I’m embarrassed to admit how we’ve tested this theory) –- and adjust seasonings as needed.

Do ahead: Vegetables can be prepped and dressing can be made days in advance. Mix them an hour or so before you’ll serve them to allow the flavors to meld

Jalapeno Roasted Potatoes

24 Jul

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I saw this recipe in this month’s Bon Appetit magazine and knew I had to make it. I love spicy foods and my friends can sometime get angry with me for going overboard with a jalapeno! This recipe has a kick but it perfect for a casual night with hamburgers or hotdogs!

Jalapeno Roasted Potatoes, Bon Appetit July 2014

 

  • 3 pounds fingerling potatoes, halved crosswise if large
  • ½ cup olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup Sherry vinegar or red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced into rounds, seeds removed if desired
  • ¼ cup (lightly packed) torn flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat oven to 450°. Toss potatoes with ¼ cup oil on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Roast, tossing once, until golden brown and tender, 30–35 minutes. Let cool slightly, then lightly flatten.

Meanwhile, whisk vinegar and mustard in a large bowl. Gradually whisk in remaining ¼ cup oil until emulsified; season with salt and pepper. Add potatoes, jalapeño, and parsley and toss; season with salt and pepper.

 

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