Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Fat is Flavor!

It's true.  And I won't have it any other way.

My daughter had her 18 month old check-up a few weeks ago, and she's risen from the 3rd all the way to the 8th percentile - woohoo!  Dr. Bell asked about breastfeeding and cow's milk - both of which my daughter drinks without a problem - and clarified that she should only be drinking whole cow's milk.  That was very important.  I laughed out loud, and told him we girls were a whole everything kind of family.  He looked at us all, smiled, and said: "With you girls, that's probably just fine."

See?  Fat doesn't mean fat.  (Not that it didn't boost my ego just a little bit.)  But fat is healthy - and flavorful and good.  And you can't keep me away from it!  Given the choice between a "healthy" version and a full-fat, take a guess at which one I go for...  FATTY-FAT-FAT!!  Because ten times out of ten, it will taste better.  And what's more?  Your body compensates by telling you that you're full sooner.  I'd rather have less of something wonderful than more of something gross.  Wouldn't you?

Things you can always find in my fridge: heavy cream, whole milk, real butter, cream cheese, some kind of Italian cheese, and bacon.  Always.  (And even though she's a constant and great eater, my daughter is still only in the 8th percentile.  See?!)

And realize, that in my recipes, I always, always mean the following:
milk = whole milk
butter = butter!!  (not margarine, butter spread, or anything else)
cheese, cream cheese, etc. = full fat versions of these things
heavy cream = heavy cream (not half & half)

So here's a recipe with three of my staple ingredients, cream cheese, Italian cheese, and bacon.  (And really, what isn't better with these things?)  It was a hit at the party - which means there's only a measly peasly bit left.... my apologies for the crummy picture.  But take it to heart that it just means it's great.  Really great.

Spinach-Artichoke Dip With Bacon
Preheat oven to 325*

In a stand mixer, combine:

  • 16 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 9 ounces chopped spinach (frozen is fine)
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped 
  • 6+ slices cooked bacon

Pour into a serving dish - I use an 11" tart pan - and sprinkle with more Parmesan and bacon.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve immediately with crackers of your choice.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

What Did You Do Today?

When I woke up this morning, I thought: "I'm going to throw a party tonight!"  Seriously.  I know, I'm a little nuts.  But I needed [wanted] some good friends and good food.  And so I did.
The menu was simple: date rolls (a Christmas tradition), poundcake, almond croissant bread pudding, pâté, and spinach-artichoke dip with bacon.  And hot cider.  Mmmmm.
Gratefully, I have a well-stocked pantry, and only needed to make a quick trip to the store for only one item.  (One Mommy, two littles = 10 minutes.  A miracle if there ever was one.)
So we ate, we gabbed, the girls played with little friends, then everyone went home and I fell asleep while putting the girls down.  Now isn't that just a perfect day?

Date & Nut Rolls
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup chopped dates
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 1/2 cups mini marshmallows
Stir in:
  • 1 3/4 cups fine graham cracker crumbs
Mix well and roll into about 4 logs.  Dough will be very sticky.  Cover in fine shredded coconut and wrap tightly with saran wrap.  Store in fridge and slice in rounds when ready to serve.  

*History:  This recipe comes from my Great-Great Aunt.  When my mother first made them, she would roll individual bite-sized balls...  it took forever!  When she was pregnant with me, she started making the logs, and we've been doing it that way ever since.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December First!

To say that I like December First is a bit of an understatement.
It may even be better than Christmas.
It is the welcoming of the season, the snow; of clean white beauty and joy in the world around us.  I love it.
Traditionally, we start of the morning with cream of wheat parfaits (1 cup whole milk + 1/3 cup cream of wheat - simmer about 2 minutes until it begins to thicken.  Layer in a pretty glass with raspberry preserves and whipped cream).
We open an advent calendar to begin the countdown.  This year, I decided to put a little activity in each bucket - story time with a Christmas book, singing carols, making cookies; we started off the season by bringing treats to some friends!  We open some gifts, have some [more] treats, and make the house look like Christmas.  It's a lovely all-day affair.  This year, we'll be vacationing over Christmas so we didn't cut down our tree, but that is also a December First activity.
We did hang our garland with lovely glass icicles and  my favorite glass mercury ornaments (and my fairy - I've never found an angel I like, but this pretty little thing just... fits).

In honor of the start of this wonderful season, today's recipe is one of my favorites.  I serve it as breakfast, though some people insist that it is a dessert.  Warm comfort, and just makes you want to share.  It's that good.  If you've never had good bread pudding - and trust me, if you didn't like it, it's because it wasn't good - give this one a shot.  After all, it's Christmas!

Almond Croissant Bread Pudding

Preheat oven  to 350*.

Microwave until hot (about 3 minutes):

  • 1 1/3 cups whole milk
  • 1 1/3 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 T. sugar
Whisk in:
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons amaretto (in a pinch, amaretto syrup will do, but it will make your pudding a bit sweeter)
In a buttered deep dish pie plate:
  • 3 croissants, cut into 1" pieces
  • pour liquid on top
  •  sprinkle liberally with sugar (coarse sugar is divine and gives a lovely crunch, but lacking that, granulated works just fine)
Bake until set and golden, about 40-50 minutes.  It will deflate when you serve it.  Best warm.