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Archive for December, 2012

Goat Cheese Appetizers

Goat Cheese Galore

Some people don’t like goat cheese (Chevre).  I’m a real fan, and think it’s one of those foods you can blend with just about any type of flavor.  Here are two beautiful party appetizers that are as delicious as they are stunning to the eye.  One I adapted from a recipe.  The other is an outright cheat after I had something similar at a party.

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

I first came across this eye-popping party treat in a Southern Living holiday magazine in (I think) 2003 (or was it 2005?)  I was in the Pensacola, Florida airport waiting for a flight back to Northern Virginia.  I’ve made it over a dozen times, and it never fails to impress party guests, both visually and in its amazing combination of flavors.  The tangy, slightly sweet tomatoes, creamy cheeses and savory herbs are the perfect match.

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

Sundried Tomato Cheese Torte

Vegetable Cooking Spray

1 cup dried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped in a food processor.

3 cups freshly grated Parmesan Cheese

2 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened

10 ounces goat cheese, crumbled

1 stick butter (salted or unsalted) softened

6 cloves garlic, minced (I used 6 frozen garlic cubes)

1 bunch fresh parsley 

1 cup (about) fresh basil leaves

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Garnish: fresh parsley sprigs

Assorted crackers

choppedsundried

Lay plastic wrap on the bottom of a 6″ springform pan, stretch it tight, and put on the side ring.  Lightly oil the inside of the ring.

Chop the sundried tomatoes (I used a nifty gadget:  food processor attachment for a wand mixer) until essentially diced.   Press the tomatoes into the springform pan nice and even and flat with a spatula.

pressingsundried


Put all the goat cheese, butter, cream cheese, Parmesan cheese and garlic in the bowl of a large food processor.  I have a Hamilton Beach model that has a honkin big bowl. Mix on medium until it gets going, then up the speed to high until the cheese “lays down” and is smooth.  

cheesetortefilling

Scoop out half the cheese mixture onto the tomatoes and smooth it out with an offset spreader or spatula.  Wipe the sides of the springform pan and get this as level and smooth as you can, so it makes a nice, even layered look when you unmold the cheese.

Smoothingcheese

Here’s where I learned to save a lot of time and trouble over the original recipe.  Using scissors, snip the tops off the parsely, straight off the bunch (you washed it first, right?)  Then do the same with the fresh hydroponic basil you bought from the grocery store.  Don’t bother too much with the exact amount of herbs—it really doesn’t matter!!  You essentially want a “handful” of each.  Then crack a generous amount (about a teaspoon) of black pepper directly into the processor bowl.  That’s right…just put the whole herbs right into the bowl.  Why chop them first when you have all that electric power!!

herbsincheese

Put on the lid, mash the button, and whir away until the cheese mix is smooth and a nice, speckly green.

herbedcheese

Spread this on top of the white cheese in the mold.  It should fill the pan the rest of the way.  Level it off, and cover with plastic wrap.  Put it on a plate, so the oil from the tomatoes won’t go all over your refrigerator.  Chill for at least 3 hours before you plan to serve it.

To serve, just pull of the plastic wrap, pop off the springform ring, and flip it onto a serving plate.  remove the last bit of plastic and admire your “hard work.”  Use a cake server to yield perfect wedges.

Note:  if you want a thinner mold, simply substitute a larger springform and increase the amount of tomatoes.bigprocessor

 

Cranberry Goat Cheese Log

I think you can buy something like this at Trader Joes and at some deli in New York City.  I bet they aren’t as good as mine.

1 bag (5 oz) dried cranberries
1/4 cup brandy (any flavor)
2 tsp cinnamon
1-10 oz roll goat cheese (chèvre)

Chop the cranberries in a food processor.  Add the brandy and cinnamon.

Spread the cranberry mixture evenly on a sheet of waxed paper in a rectangular shape that is slightly higher than your cheese log is long and about 6″ long.  Put the cheese onto the berries about an inch from one edge.

Pick up the waxed paper from underneath and roll it around the cheese, pressing as you go, until the berry sheet is completely wrapped around the cheese.  Use your fingers to pat the excess onto the ends of the log.

Transfer the coated log by rolling it onto plastic wrap (because the juices will soak through the waxed paper and cause it to disentegrate).  Roll up the plastic and twist the ends to seal it.  Refrigerate 2-3 hours to allow the cheese to firm up.  Serve with firm crackers.

cranberry log

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Orange Cranberry Scones for Christmas Morning

Orange Cranberry Scones

We missed out on our white Christmas by *this* much.  We drove to West Virginia yesterday (Christmas Eve) to check on our lot near Romney.  The snow started just as we hit Winchester, Virginia, and by Romney it was sticking to the ground.  Our lot on the side of the mountain (at 1400 feet elevation) was lovely, and the promised view finally revealed itself.  Wow.  I can hardly wait to be spending the cold winter days looking out the prow front of our log home, staring at that view.

It's foggy, but the bare trees finally revealed the view the leaves were hiding.

It’s foggy, but the bare trees finally revealed the view the leaves were hiding.

On the way home we looked at lofted storage barns in Augusta, WV, and picked out one that’s very much in our budget, and even better, may be able to be delivered in January.  I didn’t think we’d be able to swing it for a year or more.  Seeing the land in snow, seeing the view, and knowing we’d have a “cabin” on the lot we can stay in during the cold weather has me all revved up about our 2-year plan.

The snow really came down heavy by the time we got some lunch at the new “Italian” restaurant in Romney.  Going over the mountain pass was tough for 2wd vehicles with low tread depth.  We encountered more than one vehicle that couldn’t make it or had slid off the road.   We endured long stretches of agonizingly slow going behind eejits who insisted on driving 15 mph–with the flashers on—(as if that excused them for being slow AND stupid.  I was very thankful for our 4WD Chevy Avalanche.

The snow stopped just this side (east) of Aldie, Virginia.  All we got was a little rain.  We woke to fog and mild temperatures.  We burned our gas fire for “atmosphere” until my hot flashes kicked in.  I’m dreaming of a menopausal Christmas?

Christmas breakfast was fresh, hot, fluffy and FABULOUS orange cranberry scones.  Bake these on Pampered Chef stoneware, especially if you’re lucky enough to have snagged one of the small pizza rounds before they discontinued them.

The Recipe

Orange Cranberry Scones

(This recipe is adapted from a recipe that appeared in 201 Muffins by Gregg R. Gillespie, Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers, Inc., 2001.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 T. baking powder
1/4 c. powdered sugar
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. (1/2 stick) chilled butter
1 teaspoon grated orange zest (1 large orange, zested)
3/4 cup heavy cream (I used half-n-half)
1 large egg, beaten
1/2 cup chopped dried cranberries, tossed with 1 teaspoon granulated Stevia sweetener or Splenda
a little extra cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Spray or lightly oil a baking stone.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large  bowl.  ALWAYS use a larger bowl than you think you need and you won’t make such a mess in your kitchen.  Cut in the butter using a pastry blender, until it looks like meal.

Mix the cream, egg and orange zest in a small bowl, then add to the dry ingredients in the larger bowl.  Mix together until the dough just holds together.  Turn it out onto your lightly floured marble slab (you DO have a marble slab, don’t you?  If you don’t, go to your local countertop dealer and ask for a remnant, and put rubber feet under it).  Knead the dough a few times–not too much, just to make a dough that hangs together.

Make a ball, then put it on the stone and pat into a circle about 1″ thick.  Score with a knife into 1/8 or 1/6 servings about 1/2 way through the dough.

Using the extra cream (you wondered what this was for, didn’t you?) and a paper towel, lightly pat the surface of the dough to moisten it.

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until the center of the scone is slightly firm and the surface is LIGHTLY browned.  My batch took 35 minutes, but YOUR OVEN WILL VARY.  Set your timer 5 minutes early and start checking every 5 minutes.

Serve warm with Fleischmann’s olive oil spread with sea salt and some nice apricot jam.

Yes, I’m still sad. Why is that your problem?

smilingbbsmall

Outward grieving makes other people uncomfortable

I think the reason so many people give us, the (still) grieving “helpful” but (unintentionally)hurtful advice to move on, focus outward, suck it up, or otherwise “get over it” is because OUR GRIEVING MAKES THEM UNCOMFORTABLE

Dad Dec10smallMom Dec10small

.It may be because they love us and don’t want to see us hurt and suffering, and they simply want to make it better. Most men have an incurable fix-it mentality (remember “Men are from Mars”?). Grief is the ultimate state of “broken.” My sweet husband also lost his mother to cancer 10 years ago. He knows the pain I feel, I think.My father died suddenly a year ago, on December 1. He had pulmonary fibrosis, an incurable wasting disease that slowly robs the body of the ability to absorb oxygen. He likely had an embolism or aneurysm, because he simply collapsed and died in a few minutes. Mom succumbed 3 months later to the breast cancer that had recurred, metastasized in her bones. This is my first Christmas without both of them, the first anniversary of Daddy’s death, my first birthday as an orphan.

Being Orphaned at any Age Redefines you as a Person

Becoming an orphan at any age redefines you. I’m in my 50s, but I still relied on my parents for advice, confirmation, support and love. I talked to them daily. Every time I see a flower, work my garden, smell cookies, eat a banana, have an argument or look in the mirror, I miss them. I reach for the phone to call them before I realize they are dead and the grieving pops up again.

Don’t Tell Me How to Feel

Yesterday’ holiday party at work caused the background simmering of sadness to rise to the surface. Well-meaning coworkers who thought they had the right to say so told me it was time for me to “remember my parents through celebration.” When I told them it was too soon, that the anniversary effect was weighing heavily on me, and I had a RIGHT TO BE SAD….MomDadMGDancesmall

On person suggested that I was persisting in my grief because I never had children (and now grandchildren) to distract me…yet another source of sadness for me after 12 miscarriages.

Another person got angry with me.

We All Walk along Grief’s Path, but Differently

Grief is universal. At some point everyone will experience it. Grief is unique. It’s different for everyone. We all have to walk a different path, and not everyone will reach a happy place, unfortunately. We don’t have to walk alone. Some walk with families, friends or lovers to hold them, dry their tears or comfort them. Others walk with their God or their spirit guide.

I walk with Angels , my cats, and my lovely, sweet husband. I know it’s a long, long journey, and sometimes I have to retrace my steps. Sometimes I take a turn and find myself back where I started. The end won’t be the one I planned, but it will be interesting along the way.

Angela

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