To most people, eggnog is a seasonal treat, to be savored occasionally. To me, it’s so much more. It is the best coffee additive possible—cream, sugar, spices–and it makes mornings at least 25% better to know that I have eggnog coffee to look forward to.
Sadly, it’s only available 3 months of the year. For the months in between Eggnog Seasons, I’ve tried to find substitutes, like flavored syrup or (this was a mistake) eggnog powder. It’s just not the same.
This past weekend, I finally got the idea of trying to make some myself. I found a cooked-eggnog recipe (thanks, Alton Brown!) since raw-egg beverages make me uneasy. With a few adjustments—no booze, no raw egg whites on top, and a dash of vanilla–my intrepid sous chef, Little Miss R, and I got to work.
She whipped the yolks and sugar beautifully, while I stirred the half and half until it boiled. (Oh, yeah—that’s another substitution we made, since we didn’t have heavy cream or whole milk. But really, what’s half and half but a mixture of the two?.) We folded the two halves of the recipe together, inhaling the heavenly scent. The eggs did not scramble! We were culinary geniuses! Then back onto the burner it went for a final cooking.
Isn’t that gorgeous?
However. Here’s where it all went wrong. See, I don’t have a candy thermometer, so I wasn’t sure when it reached the magical 160 degrees and needed to be pulled off the heat. Silly me, I thought I could eyeball it.
Note to self: if you have never made a recipe before, you don’t know what it’s supposed to look like, and therefore you are unlikely to achieve optimal results by “eyeballing it.”
Always one to err on the side of caution, I stirred it until it began to bubble at the edges. Oh, good! It was getting nice and thick! I took it off the heat, and it got thicker. I put it in the refrigerator, and it got thicker. Maybe it will separate overnight, I thought—but nope, it got even thicker.
So. As it turned out, Little Miss R and I made an eggnog-y custard. It doesn’t work as a coffee creamer (I tried, and ew), but it’s quite nice on its own. Of course, we’re going to try this recipe again…once I get a candy thermometer.
Do any of you share my feelings about eggnog? Do you have a successful recipe for it? My morning coffee and I would be so grateful for your tips. And if you’ve never tried eggnog in coffee, give it a go once eggnog shows up in stores again. It’s the best. You’re welcome.
As Kristan and I have pointed out recently, some of us simply don’t have the talent for crafts. This was brought home to me anew this past weekend, when I was over at my parents’ house helping them decorate their tree.
I’m not sure which is the finest example of my work. The marker-dotted piece of paper? The wood with three pompons glued to it? The snowman who had to have a scarf when I messed up the paint? Or the one-eyed glue-encrusted clothespin reindeer?
By contrast, my sister made this at the age of 7. I KNOW.
But! I have other gifts. One of them is extreme suggestibility when it comes to new recipes for sweets. Recently at a Facebook party, author Kate Noble mentioned that peppermint bark was her favorite holiday food. She said this with so much emphasis that I had to try making a batch. And when that didn’t quite turn out right, making another.
I hadn’t made anything else holiday-ish yet. Then on Sunday morning I saw a blog comment about Christmas cookies. Instantly I developed an Extreme Urge to make Christmas cookies. My daughter and I made the dough in the afternoon, and in the evening we rolled them out and decorated them.
Now our kitchen counter looks like this.
I have no idea who’s going to eat all this. (Just kidding. I’m probably going to eat all this.)
Anyone else out there have the “I have to try this” urge when it comes to recipes? Or do you have a favorite recipe you always break out this time of year? This is a risky question for me to ask, since I’m probably going to want to make everything you discuss.
But hey, it’ll keep me away from the ornaments.
1. Cookies! I’m not even going to pretend that Christmas is about anything other than family, food and gift giving. But cookies are my absolute favorite. I bake often and eat frequently. I know that in January I will be exercising a lot to make up for it but somehow I’m okay with that. My favorite cookies (in no particular order) are: cranberry and pistachio biscotti, chocolate chip hazelnut cookies, and sugar cookies with frosting and sprinkles.
2. Cuddling in front of the Christmas tree. During December we only use the Christmas tree for light in our living room, it’s cozy and pretty. Sometimes we just sit in there with Christmas music playing, quietly cuddling close under a blanket. It is the best!
3. Watching holiday specials. I like them all. I love the Christmas movies that I’ve watched since I was a kid especially Santa Claus Is Coming To Town and the newer ones like ELF. I’m also a huge fan of the Strictly Come Dancing Christmas Special.
4. Secret Gift Giving. I love to grab those angels off the tree at the mall and help to make Christmas special for someone who might be struggling.
5. Reading holiday books. I have to be honest here, I’m reading all year long but at the holidays I like something more inspiring. I’m looking for the miracle type stories that will leave me crying but in a good way. I’m reading Nancy Robards Thompson’s HIS TEXAS CHRISTMAS BRIDE right now!
What are you top five for December?
Giant pumpkins. Carnival rides. Livestock with blue ribbons. The food.
Oh, the food. Everything fried and battered and candied, with a tongue-in-cheek wink at the wackiness of it all.
It’s the time of year when many Midwestern states are holding their fairs. For a week or so, grounds fill with people and animals and produce and the smells of deliciously unhealthy food. Last year, my husband and I figured our daughter was old enough to enjoy the fair without getting exhausted and having to be carried around all day, so we made the trek to the fairgrounds. Since there’s more to see and do than you could possibly cover in a day, we looked through the fair guide and each picked two things we really wanted to do.
Little Miss R wanted to see rabbits and go on a skyride.
Mr. R wanted to take a train ride and eat a giant corn dog.
I wanted to watch a chicken get a bath (hey, I’d never heard of such a thing) and eat fried Nutella.
As it turned out, we fit in all of these things. And since we’re headed to the fair again this weekend, here’s my past self’s advice for my future self—and for any of you who might be going to a fair soon.
1. The skyride isn’t kidding around. You will be hoisted on a cable dozens of feet up in the air and dragged through the sky over the entire breadth of the fairgrounds. Some people think this is really fun. If you’re afraid of heights (waves hand), it’s really, really not. Save yourself the white knuckles. Grab some fried Nutella and wait for your family on the ground.
2. Fried Nutella is everything you dreamed it would be. Eat it whenever you get the chance.
3. You should definitely go watch a chicken get a bath. In the hands of a certified chicken bather (this is a real thing) (I’m not even kidding), the whole process is fascinatingly smooth. I remember giving baby Little Miss R a bath. It didn’t go nearly that well.
If you live outside the Midwest, does your state have a fair? Does it have the same feel as what I’m describing—all rides and produce and animals and folksy fun? And what’s the most amazing (either delicious or ridiculous) state fair food you’ve come across?
Over the weekend, I was cleaning out my kitchen cabinets. My stepson and his wife are moving from his mother’s place into their own apartment–which means they’ll need lots of stuff for their kitchen. Since I have an over-abundance of dishes, cups, glasses, casserole dishes, etc…I thought I’d noodle around and see what I could give them.
Oh boy, did my cupboards and shelves need a good clean-out. It’s been *cough-cough* years since the last time that activity took place. I did, however, discover a treasure I’d completely forgotten about–the recipe box my mom made up for me when I moved to Canada for good back in the 90′s. That’s it at the top of the page.
Now, Mom had her own recipe box–a big wooden thing that held hundreds of recipes created, refined, or adapted by her over the years. Let me tell you, it was a treasure trove. My mom was the best cook I’ve ever known. She grew up in an Italian household but she had a talent for taking ANY recipe and making it better. Within the family, Mom had the reputation for being the best “American” cook. Trust me, her pies and cookies were legendary.
When she died, my sister inherited the box. That was as it should be, since she’s the oldest and also the best cook among my siblings (I did photocopy all the recipes for my sibs, though).
The recipe box that I re-discovered holds a selection of Mom’s greatest hits and the recipes that I most loved.
I have to say, I got a little teary eyed when I started going through them. I really loved seeing her handwriting again. Recipe from the kitchen of Mom. What could be better?
Naturally, as an Italian-American raised in a first generation household, she did lots of pasta recipes, all learned in her mother’s kitchen. I grew up with hand-made ravioli, manicotti, and lasagne (simply called “home-mades”), and also the best pasta sauces you could imagine (referred to as “gravy” in my southern Italian family). When I was a kid, it was the basic spaghetti and meatballs that I loved best. But as I got older, this one became one of my faves.
Eggplant and black olive sauce on ziti or rigatoni. Yum! So, in honor of my dear mom, here’s her recipe:
2 eggplants 1/4 cup olive oil 1 onion chopped
1 clove garlic minced 1/2 teaspoon rosemary 1/2 teaspoon pepper
4 large ripe tomatoes peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste 1/4 chopped Italian black olives
1/2 cup of fresh parsley minced 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Peel eggplant and cut in 1/2 inch cubes. Put in colander and salt the cubes, set in a sink to drain (do NOT skip this step or you will have a bitter tasting sauce). Rinse eggplant and dry with paper towels. Heat oil in large skillet, add eggplant, onion, and garlic and saute over medium heat. Cook till lightly browned. Add rosemary and pepper – stir for 30 seconds. Add tomatoes and paste and simmer partly covered for 15 minutes (add a little water or broth if it gets too dry). Add olives and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Cook pasta and top with sauce. Sprinkle with parsley and cheese.
**note from my mom: “I very often use canned tomatoes instead of fresh tomatoes.”
Thanks, Mom – love you!
Do you have any treasured recipes from your mother or another family member? Are you passing those recipes on to your children? What are you some of your favorites?