Friday, December 30, 2011

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Three- Three French Hens

Perry Como singing The 12 Days of Christmas.  Because sometimes, Christmas should be delightfully laid-back.

And laid-back is exactly how I felt after making the following deliciousness.  Laid-back.  And full.  Very full.

On the third day of Christmas, my true love gave to me three French hens...

On the third day of Christmas, I made Stuffed Cornish Hens.
(serves 4)*

1 pkg long grain and wild rice mix
2 celery ribs, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
2 tbs butter, divided
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 4 oz can mushroom stems and pieces, drained
4 Cornish game hens

Cook the rice according to the box directions.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Saute the celery and onion in 1 tbs butter until soft.

Combine celery and onion mix, cooked rice, soup, and mushrooms in a bowl.

Sprinkle salt and pepper both on and inside each hen.  Stuff with rice mixture, which is, by the way, extremely delicious.

Place in a greased roasting pan.  If you have a roasting pan with a rack, use that.  I do not.

Cover with foil or with the roasting pan's lid.  Bake for 40 minutes.

Melt the remaining 1 tbs butter.  Remove the foil/lid from the pan and brush the melted butter over the hens.  Bake for another 25-35 minutes, or until the temperature of the hens is 180 F and the stuffing is 165 F.

Let cool slightly, and enjoy!

*The original recipe calls for 6 hens, but I only made 4.  Since I still made the same amount of stuffing, I had some left over.  I baked that along with the hens in a separate Corningware dish and had it on the side.  Excellent, excellent idea.

... two turtledoves...

... and a partridge in a pear tree.

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day Two- Two Turtledoves

To start out, a lovely, fun rendition of The 12 Days of Christmas by Straight No Chaser.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, two turtledoves...

For the second day of Christmas, I made Turtle Fudge.
from Diana's Kitchen
(serves rather a lot)

3 c. sugar
3/4 c. unsalted butter
1 small can (5 oz) evaporated milk (Note: I couldn't find this, so I estimated a little less than half of a 12 oz can)
1 bag (12 oz) semisweet chocolate chips
30 caramels, cut in squares (I had a bag of caramel chips that I never used for another project, so I just used these)
1 jar (7 oz) marshmallow creme
1 c. pecan halves
1 tsp vanilla

In a large saucepan, combine sugar, butter, and evaporated milk.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly.  Continue boiling, still stirring constantly, over medium heat until the temperature reaches soft ball stage on a candy thermometer (234-240 F).

Remove from heat.

Add chocolate chips, stirring until melted.  Add the remaining ingredients, stirring until well combined.  Pour into a greased 13x9x2 baking pan.  Cool to room temperature and cut into square.

**This recipe didn't work out the greatest for me.  I'm not sure what happened exactly, as I've successfully made fudge several times before.  The texture turned out oddly, but the taste is still good, so... oh well.  I'll still eat it.

12 Days of Christmas Cooking Challenge: Day One- Partridge in a Pear Tree

To introduce this segment, let me explain.  A few weeks before Christmas, I devised the grand scheme that it would be a fun idea to cook the 12 Days of Christmas.  Unfortunately, a few days later, I realized that we would be in Cleveland for Christmas, at Alec's parents' house.  Where, granted, there is a fully-equipped kitchen.  But... honestly, we really didn't spend that much time at the house.  Because there are a ton of delicious places to eat in Cleveland!

I tried to resign myself to the fact that I would wait till next year to undertake this project.  But, really?  I can't wait for anything.  So I just started late, and am currently working on catching up to where we are now: Day 5.

One thing I learned early on in this challenge is that the 12 Days of Christmas start on or after Christmas, depending on the tradition.  I'd always lived under the assumption that they were the 12 days leading up to Christmas, but no!  For the sake of catching up, I'm going to say that my 12 days started on the 26th of December.  The 12 Days is also known as Christmastide or Twelvetide, and marks the period leading up to the Feat of Epiphany on January 6th.

To start this out right, here's one of my favorite renditions of The 12 Days of Christmas, John Denver and the Muppets!

On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me, a partridge in a pear tree...

For the first day of Christmas, I made Wine-Poached Pears with Honey, Ginger, and Cinnamon Syrup, in a Phyllo Cup.
from Food Network
Serves 4

1 750 ml bottle Moscato wine
2 c. simple syrup (2 c. sugar + 2 c. water, brought to a boil and simmered 5 minutes, till sugar dissolves)
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 tbs honey
1 3/4-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped.
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
4 firm, ripe Anjou pears, peeled

3 sheets phyllo dough
1/4 c. melted butter
2 tbs cinnamon sugar

Vanilla ice cream, if you want (and why wouldn't you?)

In a large saucepan, combine wine, syrup, cinnamon sticks, honey, and ginger.  Scrape in the seeds from the inside of the vanilla bean, then add the vanilla bean in too.  Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until honey has melted.  Add in the pears and simmer, turning occasionally, until tender.  The original recipe claimed 15-20 minutes, but my pears were rather large, so it took longer.  Pierce with a fork to test tenderness.

 Remove the pears and allow to cool.  I put them in the fridge for later.

Continue to simmer the liquid until it thickens significantly, darkens, and is reduced by at least half.  Again, the original recipe said 15-20 minutes, but mine was not nearly thick enough by then. It should be a definite syrup-y consistency.  Strain the solids from the mixture and cool to room temperature.  Again, I stuck this in the fridge for later.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

For the phyllo cups, you will need to thaw the phyllo sheets according to the box directions.  Stack the layers carefully, brushing each layer of dough with the melted butter and sprinkling with the cinnamon sugar.  Cut into quarters, so you have four rectangles of dough.  Place four custard cups face down on a baking sheet and grease tops and sides.  Hopefully you, unlike me, have custard cups of the same size.  If not, oh well.  Drape the phyllo rectangles over the cups.  Bake for 12 minutes.

Let cool slightly, then carefully remove the phyllo cups from the custard cups.  Let cool completely.

To assemble, place a pear in the middle of each phyllo cup.  Spoon as much syrup as you want over the pear.  Add ice cream, as desired.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beggar's Alley

If you're into St. Louis burlesque, you've probably heard of the Beggar's Carnivale.  It's a truly wonderful vaudeville/burlesque show and carnival, complete with a live band, out-of-town guest performers, vendors, and a hoochie-coo tent with sexy and dangerous sideshow acts!  When it first started, it was a monthly event held at 2720 Cherokee.  But, as it has grown in both size and popularity, the Carnivale has moved to the historic Casa Loma Ballroom and now takes place every other month.  This month, it happens to fall on New Year's Eve, and there is a huge New Year's Ball in the works!

It's an incredibly fun and unique event that I definitely recommend checking out.  Also?  I sell cupcakes (and assorted sweets) there as one of the vendors!  It's been a great opportunity to try out new flavors, do some experimenting, and really, it's helped to improve my decorating skills.

But why do I bring up Beggars?  Well, funny you should ask.  This weekend, there is a special Beggar's Alley show, featuring the sideshow acts usually kept safely away in the hoochie-coo tent.  Plus, you can see the show for only $5!  You'll have plenty of money left over to buy a cupcake or two.  I just know it.

The show starts at 9 on Friday at El Lenador.  You can find more information, including a list of performers, here.

Vagabond Opera, featured guest performers at the October Beggar's.  So good I bought a CD!