Saturday, December 24, 2011


yes, truffles. Easy peasy way to enjoy a fancy treat or a great gift for a friend.


The list of ingredients is so long, you had better print this page out:

1/3 cup whipping cream
8 oz semi sweet baking chocolate
1/3 cup butter
cocoa and powdered sugar

Directions that are complicated but worth every difficult step:

In a medium sized pan over low heat, melt the chocolate into the cream. Remove from heat and stir in the butter until it melts and the mixture is creamy. Refrigerate for an hour or two until it is firm enough to handle but not overly hard - if it gets hard, just let it come to room temperature.

Dust the palms of your hands with either powdered sugar or cocoa. Work fast and scoop small blobs of truffle mix and roll into balls. Roll them in more powdered sugar and cocoa.

Now wasn't that hard? Nope! My son used to make these for his teachers in elementary school for his annual gift. All I had to do was help with the stove part. It turned out his hands were the perfect temperature for rolling. Some people have too high a body temperature which makes the truffles melt instead of roll. If your hands are too hot, try rinsing them in cold water before rolling (dry thoroughly).

Refrigerate the pretty things until you want to eat them. Before serving, let them come to room temp (doesn't take as long this time because the little balls warm up fast).

They will be incredibly creamy and wonderful. Put them in pretty containers for gifting.

Eating one of these is the most incredibly mindful experience. Take your time. Do not rush. Let the chocolate melt in your mouth until the goodness spreads completely throughout you. Repeat. Enjoy.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Horseradish Cream

Make this early in the day and refrigerate to be served with a standing rib roast. One of my nieces actually prefers the cream to the roast itself, it's that good.

Now, when I eat this I don't worry about the calories as this is an annual treat. But if you just gotta know, you can find the nutrition facts here.

Horseradish Cream


½ c  heavy whipping cream
1/8 c  mayo
1/3 c  horseradish, drained
1 T  mustard, Dijon
1/8 t  sugar
1/8 t  salt
¼ t  pepper


Whip the cream in a cold bowl with cold beaters until soft peaks form. In a separate bowl, combine mayo, horseradish, and mustard. Using rubber spatula, fold in the whipped cream. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir well and transfer to serving bowl.

Easy to alter to taste - more or less horseradish, mayo cream etc. I used more horseradish and a little more mayo tonight and a little less cream. 

Yum is an understatement for this dish. It is impossible to eat without going through a remarkably mindful moment. Enjoy.

Standing Rib Roast

My favorite Christmas cookery tradition is standing rib roast served with horseradish cream (insert swoon here).

One nice thing about this tasty tradition is that the roasts are often on sale at this time of year. Another nice thing is getting to eat the most fantastic roast beef sandwiches in the world ever the next day. The best thing is that prime rib roasts are dratted easy to make!

Make sure you get excellent high quality meat and let your butcher guide you - get prime, not choice or any other such thing no matter how alluring the price difference. If you make this only once a year, do it right. It's not very mindful otherwise. Check out a variety of store and see who has a decent price, you may be surprised.

Standing Ribs of Great Majesty and Tastiness

If you are a calorie counter, you can check on the nutrition facts here.

What you need:

one 3 rib Prime Rib Roast - Each rib will do well for 2 regular appetites, and 3 per rib for light eaters. So, a three rib roast is good for anywhere from 6-9 people. Another way to determine how much to buy is to allow 12-15 oz per person - remember there's bone there too so you really are not giving people 15 oz of meat.

Get the roast from the butcher counter at your favorite store and ask for help in your choice. Ask for the small end of the roast as it is more tender. See pic above to see what a good roast looks like. The fat is necessary so don't trim it. Bone in is essential for flavor, so don't go boneless to save carving work...besides, picking up the rib and nibbling is the best thing ever.

Bring the roast to room temp by letting it sit out of the fridge for a couple hours. This is necessary because of the fast cookery time. Your roast is dratted cold in the middle. You want it to cook? Set it out. If you have cats, put it in the microwave or the unheated oven...just saying.

at least 3-4 t of freshly minced garlic
a good sprinkle of coarse ground sea salt*
about a t or so of fresh ground black pepper

What to do:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

With the tip of the paring knife, make small slits, oh, about an inch long and 1/2 inch to an inch deep, all over the roast. Stuff the little pockets full of garlic.

Sprinkle on the salt and pepper and rub it in good all over. If it looks insufficient, sprinkle on some more. Insert an oven safe meat thermometer in the thickest meatiest part to near center if possible - and it is best to position it so you can see it without opening the oven. Remember, every time you open the oven, you lower the temperature in the oven and increase the time it will take to cook your roast.

Place the roast on a rack in a shallow pan fatty side to the top - the ribs will act as the roasting rack if you don't have one. Roast for 25 minutes on a lower rack in the oven.

Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees and roast til the meat thermometer registers 130-135 for med rare or a little higher if you want it more medium and it's best not to go beyond 145. The roast temp will rise while it sits so don't roast it to the point of doneness or you will have an over cooked roast. If you let it go to 145 it will be medium indeed. It should take about 1 3/4 - 2 hours for the meat to be done once you have lowered the temp. About 2 - 2 1/4 hours for a 4 rib roast. Remember, a larger roast will take longer to cook. Temperature is the important thing, not time.

Remove the roast from the oven and allow to sit quietly and rest with the sound of Gaelic Christmas music in the background before slicing and serving. Rest at least 10 minutes but 20 is better, assuming you didn't let the internal temp get too high in the first place.

The picture to the left is not a pic of my roast, but it's pretty. I'll post a pic of my roast later, I forgot to take a pic when it was done last year.

If you are a gravy maker, this roast makes the most awesome gravy in the world, guaranteed. Drain off most but not all of the fat (leave a couple tablespoons and the good browned bits in the pan. Set the pan over a burner set to medium. Then add either some flour or cornstarch and stir it up a bit. Add some beef stock and stir making sure to scrape up and loosen the browned bits. Allow to simmer and stir a bit til it thickens. It will only take a few minutes. If you have some of that great instant granular roux that Tony Chachere makes, and the gravy needs thickening, use that.

To really send this roast over the top and make your guests swoon in mindful appreciation, make my Horseradish Cream.

*now, there is a vigilante group of cooks that swear that salting the roast before baking will ruin it by making it less tender and juicy. I've not seen any reduction in the tenderness or juiciness of my roasts because of salt. But if you want to make sure, then by all means do not use the salt! Me, I'm salting the thing.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Renee's Hors d'oeuvres

I have been making these since the early 1980's when my friend Renee gave me the recipe. They are not a health food. They are made with many things that I would otherwise never eat. They are also incredibly tasty and a marvelous hot treat for a party. Make sure there is a party as it makes 50 of the things. If you try to eat them all by yourself, I am not responsible for the extra pounds you gain.

If you are interested in calories and such, click here.

The ingredients are all required. Do not make a cheese substitution or they will be a fail. Just pretend you are buying the Velveeta for a friend with dubious taste. Roll your eyes a bit and say things like "I'm glad this is not for MY family, but my friend has broken legs and cannot get to the store, you know." It helps to wear a jacket with a large hood and maybe a scarf to hide your face. You could also make your purchase late in the evening or right when the store doors are thrown open in the morning and the employees are too tired to care about your health. Enjoy.

Renee's Hors d'oeuvres


1 pound of the Hot Jimmy Dean Breakfast Sausage
1 pound of very lean hamburger - Yea! you can have one item be not too bad for you!
2 T minced onion (ok, a little more is good but make sure that they mincing is teensy tiny)
2 T tiny minced parsley or use dried flakes
1/2 t ea - oregano and basil
1 t garlic powder (needs to be the powder and not the actual garlic or you won't get the flavor spread evenly throughout.
1 pound cubed Velveeta
50 slices of that great little cocktail rye bread


Brown the meats with the onion and drain when cooked. Keep the pan on the burner and stir in the seasonings, then add the chunks of Velveeta and stir til it's all melty.

Divide evenly on the rye bread and place on cookie sheets which you then place in the freezer. Once frozen, transfer all to ziplock bags til the party.

Once the guests arrive, remove them from the freezer and pop into the oven on cookie sheets and broil for about 6-8 minutes.

Be mindful as can be with these, they are worth it.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Baked Bacon Wrapped Dates

Ok, repeat those words - Baked Bacon Wrapped Dates. OMG. No, they are not all that good for you, but fortunately, you can be most satisfied with one or two which makes them extremely mindful if you take your time and focus on the incredibly delicious combination of savory bacon and the sweetness of the dates magically transformed to a near candy state through the magic of mindfully applied oven heat. If you are a calorie counter, click here for the per date information. I'll post a pic next time I make them.

To make 12 bacon wrapped dates you will need:

12 pitted whole dates
4 slices of good quality bacon such as meaty applewood smoked bacon

All you have to do is:

Cut the bacon into thirds* and wrap each third around a date. Secure with toothpicks.

Place them in a casserole dish sprayed with Pam, and put them in an oven that has been preheated to 350 F. Bake for about 20-25 minutes. They will be most brown and lovely.

Cool a little bit because the melty hot dates will burn you if you taste too soon...but don't wait too long, maybe 10 minutes. You want to eat these little guys while the date is warm and gooey. They reheat well, so if you are taking them to a party go ahead and bake them at home. Then nuke a minute or two when you get to the party.

Some people like to stuff cheese of a creamy nature inside the date, but I think that is overkill and removes the element of mindful balance from the sweet savory experience. Do it if you must.

Obviously, you can adjust this recipe very easily to increase or decrease the amount you make.

*If the dates are large, you may need to use 1/2 a slice of bacon to each date. Just make sure that the date is entirely wrapped so it doesn't permanently melt to the casserole when it cooks. Too much bacon does not improve the experience, so use whichever length wraps once around the date with just a smidge of overlap. Also, I prefer the smaller dates, in order to keep the ratio of sweet to savory correct, so if you have a choice, pick the smaller dates.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Why on earth do you add salt to boiling pasta water?

Ok, in the post on Pepperoni Pasta, I told you to add salt to the water that you were bringing to a boil for the pasta. I admitted that I had not a single clue as to why but that you were to do so anyway.

Well, one thing about me is that I really do not like Not Knowing Stuff. So I searched the interwebz for the answer. Turns out there are two. Answers that is.

Answer #1 - because a little of the salt is absorbed into the pasta and it enhances the flavor. I am glad it's just a little because I really do not like to salt my food unless it's absolutely necessary.

Answer #2 - this is the more interesting answer because it means I have learned a Scientific Fact! Salt actually increases the boiling point of water which means that when you stick the pasta in there the water is hotter and it cooks faster which is dratted good for the flour and such.

Debunking Answer #2 - unfortunately, you would have to add so much salt to the pot to raise the temperature, the pasta would be most inedible. Here's a link where it is all explained for you with links to actual science and math.

Thus the winner is Answer #1. Salting enhances the flavor of the pasta. But, remember, if you are one of those that uses the pasta water in your sauce (I do that for some sauces), don't add too much salt. I think this is going to have to be one of those "to taste" things.

The next time I am feeling brave, I will boil two pots of water, one with salt and one without. Then there will be a taste comparison by the professional eaters that reside within my home. So, one of these days (not this weekend as I am going on a trip), I'll talk about the results and let you know if it really is important to salt the pasta water.

This sounds like one of those things that will start a Culinary War.