Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

I'm officially on Christmas vacation now, and I'll be back to blogging on January 2, 2007. Until then, Happy Holidays and Bon Appetit!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Smart Foodie Gifts

We're getting down to the wire in terms of holiday gift-buying time, but if you're in search of a couple of small things for your (female) friends, give Smart Women a try. I love their products, "made with integrity for women with brains and integrity." The foodie in me loves the Smart Women Share Their Recipes Gladly recipe cards, featuring fun slogans like Smart Women Never Stew and Smart Women Season Well. I also adore this Smart Women Are Very Entertaining apron, and the writer in me loves the Smart Women Back up Their Words writing set.

It's probably too late for online ordering, but give the store locator a try.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Gingerbread are Coming!

I've been a bad blogger lately, but I have some good excuses! I have joined a new writing group, cranked out stories like it's my job, and made an army of gingerbread! This recipe has been in the LaReau family for probably 25 years (Is that right, elders?) and used to be such an integral part of our neighborhood gift-giving that one of my childhood friends once wrote in a school assignment that one of their family Christmas traditions was receiving gingerbread from the LaReaus!

They're a lot of work, but they're fun. I baked them over the weekend and iced them for two hours until 12:30am last night. I have some sort of pastry-bag-induced-cramp in my right hand today, but I'm hoping it will go a way in time for my next round of cookie-baking.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Holiday Appetizer: Vegetable Antipasto

Continuing with my holiday appetizer suggestions, here's a longtime LaReau family favorite that my mom adapted from a Cooking Light recipe a few years ago. Here's what I love about this recipe:

You can make it a day ahead. Chop the vegetables the night before and store in a zip-top plastic bag. Prepare the marinade and store in a separate small Tupperware container . A couple of hours before go time, pour the marinade in the vegetable bag, mix things up a bit, and store in the fridge.

It's healthy. Very healthy, and colorful too!

It's much cooler than baby carrots and ranch dressing.

Vegetable Antipasto

3 c. (2-inch) sliced asparagus (about 3/4 lb.)
3 c. quartered mushrooms (3/4 lb.) [You could buy presliced to save time.]
Bell pepper strips from red, orange, and yellow peppers [one each]
4-5 sticks mozzarella string cheese, cut crosswise into bite-sized pieces
1 (14 oz.) can quartered artichoke hearts, drained
1 small container grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise

1/3 c. cider vinegar
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
2 T. olive oil
2 t. dried oregano
1 T. sugar
1/4 t. salt
1/4 t. black pepper
3 cloves garlic

1)Steam asparagus for two minutes until bright green, yet still crisp. Cool.
2)Saute mushrooms in olive oil until cooked through. Cool.
3)Combine asparagus, mushrooms and other chopped vegetables in large bowl or zip-top bag.
4)To make marinade, combine vinegar and remaining ingredients in a small bowl and stir with a whisk.
5)Pour marinade over vegetable mixture, tossing gently to mix.
6)Marinate in refrigerator for two hours; stir occasionally. Can be chilled or served at room temperature.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Holiday Appetizer Idea

If you're looking for an easy, healthy holiday appetizer, look no further than these smoked salmon crostinis. (Lauren, this is for you!) I made these for our Christmas party this past weekend and they were a huge hit, as they are every year. I'll be back tomorrow with one more delicious, make-ahead (and even health conscious) appetizer.

Smoked Salmon Crostini

Adapted from Cooking Light, December 2004

My suggestions: Buy your smoked salmon at Trader Joe's to keep this recipe affordable. Make the topping several hours ahead of time and assemble the appetizer right before you head out the door. (Or just put the topping in a bowl, arrange the baguette slices around it, and people can assemble their own.)

1/2 c. chopped fennel bulb
1/4 c. chopped scallions
1 T. olive oil
2 t. chopped fresh dill
1 t. grated lemon rind
1 1/2 T. lemon juice
1 t. black pepper
3/4 lb. cold-smoked salmon, cut into strips
1 baguette, sliced
1/2 c. light garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese (like Alouette or Boursin-in the specialty cheese section of grocery stores)
Combine first 8 ingredients; cover and chill for at least one hour. Spread each baguette with 1/2 t. cheese; top each with 1 T. salmon mixture. Garnish with fresh dill sprigs, if desired. Makes ~15 servings, depending on size of baguette.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Holiday Eats

So Blogger won't let me post the rest of my weekend pictures, so I'm focusing my writing this evening on non-technical things, like print publications! I love the December issues of all the food magazines: Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Cooking Light, Saveur, even Every Day with Rachael Ray. (Cuz that gal gets it done quickly, and who doesn't have a need for speed this time of year?) Even if you're not up for purchasing an entire magazine, you can always make copies at the library, since the current month's issues are non-circulating. Here are my top picks for recipes for this festive time of year:
  • Cranberry Gin and Tonics, Gourmet
  • Spicy Maple Walnuts, Every Day with Rachael Ray
  • Cranberry Upside-Down Coffee Cake, Cooking Light

Monday, December 04, 2006

Holiday Hop Recap

This was my first year attending the Short North Holiday Hop, and I'm happy to report that we had a fabulous time! The streets were packed with people and fabulous eats. (I completely fell off the pre-holiday-healthy-eating bandwagon as soon as we walked into Mac's, but I don't regret it one bit. That was the best burger I've eaten in a long time!) We stopped by the outside of Rosendales, the forthcoming eponymous restaurant of Richard Rosendale, the 2005 American Culinary Federation's top chef, and captain of the 2008 American Culinary Olympic team. We're lucky to have him in Columbus.
Rosendales was offering hot roasted chestnuts, and Rosendale himself was out there carving holiday ice sculptures. In addition to being extremely accomplished at a young age (31) he's quite personable and friendly. I interviewed him recently for an article and it was one of the easier "chef interviews" I've done. If only everyone was that cooperative. (You know, answering my e-mails and voicemails and such--common courtesies that are all too rare with interviewees, especially chefs!) More Holiday Hop photos tomorrow!

Friday, December 01, 2006

Hot Off the Press...

Some fun stories I've written lately:
  • Columbus Monthly readers, check out my article in the December issue about local candlemaker-turned-YouTube star Paul Robinett. If you're looking for great holiday party host/hostess gifts, I highly recommend showing up with one of his holiday-esque creations in hand in lieu of a bottle of wine. My seasonal faves are evergreen, cinnamon, spiced cranberry and mango--the latter to mentally evoke scenes of tropical warmth and sun! (I'll save the grapefuit-scented one for the health-conscious month of January.)
  • Just in time for holiday baking season, you can order blanched (that means shelled and peeled) hazelnuts from Oregon, then make them into a nifty bar snack. Read all about it here. (Anyone who has hunted all over town for blanched hazelnuts, then unsuccessfully tried to shell their own knows what a find this is. This article stemmed from my frustration last year with finding the right variety for my hazelnut toffee.)

Our Chicago flight got canceled today due to inclement weather--what a bummer! Fortunately there are plenty of great things to do in Columbus this weekend, like the Short North Holiday Hop. See you there!