Saturday, December 30, 2017

Some Cookie Recipes that Fell by the Wayside

I know I have been writing blogs about healthier eating. Let's face it though, one cannot eat healthy all the time. A little indulgence here or there is just fine. 

In actuality, I meant to have these cookie recipes out on this blog before Christmas, so everyone might be able to use them for the holidays. Very obviously, that did not happen. With a Wine Tasting and Food Pairing event just before Christmas, and with guests arriving, blogging just did not happen. But, maybe these recipes can stay on the back burner until later on, or next Christmas.

One cookie recipe I had been wanting to try for years was Speculaas, sometimes also spelled Speculoos. Where they originate from is up for grabs, as far as I can tell: Dutch, Flemish, Belgian, German, French. The reason I had wanted to try making these cookies is because of the Biscoff Cookies I had tried. Mine came out more highly spiced and far less sweet than these commercially made cookies, but the recipe is delicious, and the cookies are great with a cup of coffee.

My Springerle Rolling Pin making Speculaas
My Springerle Rolling Pin making Speculaas
Traditionally, the cookies are a highly spiced shortbread type, rolled thin and stamped with a windmill cookie mold. Any cookie mold will work just fine, or you can just roll the dough and cut out shapes. I chose to use my Springerle rolling pin, creating a lot of small cookies stamped with patterns. My Springerle pin has all sorts of animal pictures carved into it. 

The first thing needed before making these cookies was Speculaas Spice Mix. I looked through countless recipes for "traditional" Speculaas Spice Mixes and all had some things in common, while there were those few that had something different or other.  In general, something like a Pumpkin Pie Spice mixture will work, though there are some spices that are almost always a part of Speculaas that are not in Pumpkin Pie spice, namely coriander seed and white pepper.

Speculaas Spice Mix
Speculaas Spice Mix

Speculaas Spice Mix

Makes about ½ cup

3 tablespoons Ceylon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground nutmeg
1½ teaspoons ground ginger
1½  teaspoons ground coriander seeds
1½  teaspoons ground white pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1 teaspoon ground cardamom seeds

Combine all spices in a glass jar with tight fitting lid and shake well. Store in a cool dark place. Use approximately 1 tablespoon spice mix to 1 cup of flour in your recipe, according to your taste. 


Speculaas Cookies, ready to bake
Speculaas Cookies, ready to bake
Next, I took a tour of the internet looking at what kind of recipe constituted Speculaas. I read in many places that these were shortbread cookies, which is generally taken to mean there are no eggs to bind the ingredients. Yet for all that, many recipes called for eggs. I opted to keep the recipe without eggs. In most places, Speculaas are described as a thin, hard cookie. To stamp the cookies with shapes, such as windmills or other, there has to be enough thickness to be able to press down on the stamp (or Springerle Rolling Pin!). I opted to roll the dough about ¼-inch thick, and then pressed evenly with the Springerle rolling pin. Many recipes called for a very low oven and very long baking times, to dry out the cookies and make them crisp. Others baked them at high temperatures for shorter periods to achieve the same thing. I took a middle-of-the-road approach here. I used a 325 oven for part of the time, then lowered it even more for the rest of the time. The cookies came out wonderfully well, and very spicy and delicious, so I am quite content with the recipe.

Speculaas
Speculaas

Speculaas Cookies 


Made about 60 cookies

12 tablespoons (170 g) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup (213 g) light brown sugar, packed
⅓ cup (80 g) water
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups (284 g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (44 g) white rye flour
½ cup (40 g) finely ground almond meal
¾ teaspoon (3 g) salt
½ teaspoon (1 g) baking soda
3 tablespoons (11 g) Speculaas Spice Mix

In a stand mixer, beat the butter with the brown sugar until very light and fluffy. Combine the water and vanilla extract, then begin adding to the butter mixture by teaspoonfuls, beating continuously and waiting until the water is completely incorporated before adding more. 

Separately, whisk together all the remaining ingredients to combine. Add the dry ingredients into the bowl and mix on low speed until the dough comes together into a mass. Turn out of the bowl and form into a large ball or roll, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate the dough for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment.

If using a Springerle rolling pin, or other cookie stamps, roll out the dough to about ¼-inch thick with a regular rolling pin. Use the Springerle rolling pin and dust well with flour. Roll the Springerle pin, pressing evenly over the cookie dough and leaving the dough about 1/8 to 3/16-inch thick. Cut out the cookies and set them about an inch apart onto the prepared parchment lined cookie sheets. Gather up the scraps and re-roll them as needed, to use up the dough.

If cutting out the cookies with cookie cutters or just cutting into small rectangles, roll the dough with a regular rolling pin to about 1/8 - 3/16-inch thick and set the cookies an inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake the cookies for 15 minutes. Rotate the cookie sheets and lower the oven temperature to 275 degrees, leaving the cookies in the oven. Bake the cookies for an additional 20 minutes, until very crisp, but not browned.

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Another kind of cookies I made for this year's holidays are Chocolate Cherry Cookies. I based these on a recipe I first encountered on Facebook (see that recipe here, called "Maraschino Cherry Almond Chocolate Cookies"). My reasoning was that my husband has had a "favorite" Christmas cookie his Mom always made, and I have been making them each year since I met him, 28 years ago. These were called Cherry Bon Bons, and while tasty, they are a pain to make! The dough was difficult to work with, and it needed to be formed around a well-drained whole Maraschino cherry, then my husband liked them rolled in the little, hard "rainbow nonpareils" that ended up all over the counters and floor before I was done rolling the formed dough in them. 
Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

The recipe I found seemed to have the things my husband likes best all in one cookie: maraschino cherries, cherry juice in the dough, and even better, chocolate chips, too! As I looked at the recipe, the dough part sounded very similar to the dough for the Cherry Bon Bons. Instead of wrapping it around the cherries, the cherries are chopped up instead. So far, I was really happy with this concept. I made the recipe a bit larger and changed some of the amounts by slight bits and the whole thing came out so great that I am hard pressed to think of ever going back to the Cherry Bon Bons again, no matter how cute they are!

Chocolate Cherry Cookies
Chocolate Cherry Cookies

Chocolate Cherry Cookies 

Makes about 66 cookies

1 (10-ounce) jar maraschino cherries, drained, syrup reserved
3 sticks unsalted butter, softened
½ teaspoon almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
1½ cups confectioners' sugar
3½ cups all-purpose flour 
3 - 4 tablespoons maraschino cherry syrup
1½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make sure the cherries are well drained before starting the recipe. Set them into a sieve or colander and drain, then set them on paper toweling to wick out more moisture. If there is too much residual liquid in the cherries, this will add moisture to the cookie dough and they may not set up so nicely in the oven. Once the cherries are well drained, chop them and set them aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer beat the butter with the almond extract, salt and confectioners' sugar until creamy. With the mixer on low speed, add in the flour until nearly all incorporated, then adding in 3 of the tablespoons of cherry syrup. If the dough is too dry to come together, add the remaining tablespoon of syrup.  Add in the cherries and the chocolate chips. Mix just until combined.

Make 1-inch balls, or use a cookie scoop and place the balls about 1½ - 2 inches apart on a parchment lined baking sheet. Bake for approximately 14 minutes, or until set but not browned. When done, slide the whole parchment sheet with the cookies onto a cooling rack. They will easily release once cooled slightly.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.
 
 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Flavorful Fish Recipe from the Middle East

I've been testing and trying out flavors of the Middle East, as well as working to amass the tastiest low-cal dishes for our health regimen. Luckily, it seems to be a relatively easy task, and in the same week I read about Chreime (or Chraime), and then saw it on television.
Chreime or Fish Stew
Chreime or Fish Stew


Chreime is a fish stew. It has either tomatoes or roasted red bell peppers, or both. It is best with a nice firm, white fish like halibut, snapper or cod. But where, exactly, this dish originates is debatable, apparently. In the show I saw, they said it was originally a Jewish dish from north Africa, but that it has sort of become a dish of Israel.

Cooking Chreime or Fish Stew
Cooking Chreime or Fish Stew
I have no roots in Israel or the Middle East, so this is only recounting what I heard or read, but however this dish came to be, it sounded like something that would tempt my husband - who generally does not eat fish. As it happened, one recipe is in one of the many cookbooks he got for me to explore Middle Eastern cuisine (just because I commented that I didn't really know much about that whole section of the world's cooking!). 

When a recipe is well known, there are always going to be similarities. I like to adjust amounts to my own taste. Some recipes use what is to me an extraordinary amount of cumin. I do not care for cumin. If I can actually taste cumin as a stand-out flavor - it's just way too much. Some recipes call for a whole lot of smoked paprika. This is great, as I love it, as does my husband. Others call for just a little bit. Some recipes add lemon juice, some not. As I mentioned, some use red bell pepper, some use tomatoes and some use both. Some use onion, some do not. Some use stock, some add water, some do not. 

What is generally included is the fish of course, and cumin, paprika (smoked or plain or hot!), something as a red base (tomatoes, red bell peppers, roasted red bell peppers, tomato paste, etc) and lots of garlic. So here is what I put together to make this dish, and I have to say, that it is truly flavorful, absolutely delectable, and lo-cal! And best of all, my husband loved it! What better way to enjoy a dinner?

Chreime or Fish Stew
Chreime or Fish Stew

Chreime, or Fish Stew

Serves 4

1 pound firm white fish fillets (haddock, snapper, cod)
6 - 8 cloves garlic
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 red bell peppers, roasted, peeled, chopped, 
    (OR 1 large jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
½ cup water or fish stock
1½ tablespoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 - 2 tablespoons lemon juice
large handful cilantro, coarsely chopped 

In a small bowl or with a mortar and pestle, smash together the garlic with the salt, until it makes a paste. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the oil and add in the onion. Cook, stirring, until the onions are soft and translucent. Add in the peppers, tomato paste and stock (white wine can be used, if preferred), stirring to mix. Sprinkle on the paprika, cumin and lemon juice, then add in the garlic paste and bring to a simmer. Nestle the fish fillets in among the sauce and cover. Cook for about 10 minutes (more, or less, depending on the thickness of the fish fillets), or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. Sprinkle on most of the cilantro and stir in, reserving some for garnish. Serve immediately, with either brown rice or couscous.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.
 

A Stew with Middle Eastern Flavors

I mentioned in my blog of November 14, 2017 that my husband took my chance comment that I knew little of Middle Eastern cooking and flavors completely to heart and bought me about 8 or more cookbooks on different Middle Eastern foods from varying countries. Many of these dishes are easy to make as a healthy addition to our diet, using additional vegetables and skimping on the breads.
 
Middle Eastern Beef Stew
Middle Eastern Beef Stew

I used some of the flavors I saw being used repeatedly in recipes, such as cinnamon and cardamom, making an excellent and light-on-calories but high-in-flavor supper meal using beef or lamb. It was so delicious in fact that I made it twice in as many weeks. The first time I used beef stew meat, and the second I used a chuck roast, cut into large chunks. The first time I added Brussels sprouts to the stew towards the end of cooking time, and the second time I opted to steam the Brussels sprouts and serve them alongside, for prettier presentation. It made no difference to the flavors, but visual appeal is half the battle, when going for something low cal that tempts.

I used celery in the stew itself, and quite a lot of it. I figured it is a good filler vegetable; few calories but holding its own on stomach space 😀. I served this stew with a little rice, and I always use whole grain brown rice, or red rice or pink rice or other whole rice blends. Altogether, it made a most excellent meal with excellent flavors. If preferred, couscous is a great combination also, though couscous does not generally contain the whole grain.

Middle Eastern Beef Stew

Serves 4 to 6
Middle Eastern Beef Stew
Middle Eastern Beef Stew


1 pound beef stew meat or a chuck
    roast, cut into chunks
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
¾ teaspoon salt
1 large onion, chopped
⅛ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
½ teaspoon freshly ground black 
    pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon, preferably true 
    cinnamon (usually "Ceylon")
1 teaspoon rosewater, optional
2 cups celery, chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 can (14.5 ounces) petite diced 
    tomatoes
1 bay leaf
2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved or 
    quartered

Pat the meat dry with paper toweling. It will not brown quickly if wet. Heat a large skillet and add in the oil. Brown the pieces of meat, about half at a time. Once browned, remove them to a heavy Dutch oven or other oven-proof pot with lid. 

In a small bowl, or using a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic together with the salt. Set aside.
In the same skillet, cook the onions until they are softened and translucent. Add a little more oil, if needed. Remove the onions to the pot. Pour in the wine to deglaze the pan and scrape up all the great color in the pan. Pour this into the pot, then add in all the remaining ingredients, except the Brussels sprouts. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot and lower the heat to the lowest setting and cook gently for 1½ to 2 hours. Check for tenderness. Check for flavor. Cook for another 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the Brussels sprouts and (preferably) steam them for about 7 to 10 minutes. Try to keep them steamed just to "al dente" and not over cooked. They taste their very best when they are just under the point of being too soft, and still retain their vibrant color. Sprinkle with salt and serve with the stew, over a little cooked brown rice.




My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.
 

 

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Healthy Recipes for the New Year

I may have mentioned that my husband and I have been on a healthy eating regimen for the last half year. Between us both, we have shed 100 pounds, and still have lots to go. In order to accomplish this, we have not been counting calories, nor have we been tightly following any of the popular diet crazes that exist just now.

My philosophy is that all we need is to reduce the amount of processed foods to almost none. This means no boxes or packages of "helpers," use very few cans, and preferably those with either 50% less or no salt. I limit cans to corn (which we eat rarely, due to the high amount of corn in our diets these days), tomatoes (paste, sauce, diced), and some beans (VERY well rinsed). I do occasionally use mushrooms from cans, but more often I just cook fresh mushrooms, or dried.  I make things from scratch at least 95% of the time. And lots and lots of vegetables, very little bread, and made from freshly ground wheat or rye, with no butter. My philosophy says that if the bread isn't good enough to eat without butter, then it's not good bread. We eat fruit, in small portions.

A couple of standby meals for us have been vegetable soup and one of many different takes on a Tarka (or Tadka) Dal. After trying a few recipes from my cookbooks and one from vegrecipesofindia.com, I started improvising and making my own mixtures. These can be as simple or as complex as you choose to make them.

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup
I made a pot of vegetable soup today, as we have both been feeling so over stuffed as to be uncomfortable. My vegetable soups are made with whatever is on hand at any given time. Sometimes I have more ingredients in the fridge, and sometimes I am running low. My method is to use as many non-starchy vegetables as possible, and then using a handful or so of some whole grain such as long-cooking barley. Other times I toss in a handful or two of some of the Indian lentils (Masoor Dal, Toor Dal, Moong Dal, etc). These thicken the soup slightly, and are filling, while at the same time giving a nice dose of complex carbs. I usually start out with a good stock that I have made previously, but even starting with a pot of water works. I use about 6 to 8 cups of stock or water. And after that, it is all up to what is available. 

Everything But the Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup

Serves 4 - 6 (or 2 people, for various days of lunches)

Everything but the Kitchen Sink Vegetable Soup

These are things I most always use, and make up the basis of the flavors:
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 2 - 4 minced cloves of garlic
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
  • 1 - 2 carrots, diced
  • 2 - 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 green or red bell pepper, chopped
  • pinch saffron
  • 1 bay leaf
And then these are additions that can be added in, depending on what's in the fridge, and what you are in the mood for. I never use everything on the list at one time:
  • 1 cup cauliflower (grated, as my husband can't see it that way!)
  • 1 - 1½ cups chopped cabbage
  • 1 cup chopped fresh green beans
  • 1 cup chopped fresh sugar snap peas
  • 1 cup cubed winter squash, peeled
  • 1 cup cubed zucchini
  • 2 handfuls baby spinach
  • 2 cups chopped kale
  • ¼ - ⅓ cup long-cooking barley
  • ¼ cup red lentils (masoor dal), split pigeon peas (toor dal) or split mung beans (moong dal)
  • tomatoes, chopped
  • cilantro, chopped
  • parsley, chopped
If I missed anything on your "favorite vegetables" list, you can add or substitute. I avoid potatoes, as they are mainly gratuitous starch. I salt the soup at the end of the cooking time, and sparingly. 

Toor Dal with Tomatoes & Spinach
Toor Dal with Tomatoes & Spinach
I mentioned the lentil dishes I have been making, and they are pretty much a staple also, as they are great complex carbs, and add protein to our diet. I make a good sized pot of these lentils, and again, use them over a two - three day period, for lunch. I cook one day, and then have food for the next two. This gives me time to do other tasks on the off days, such as writing this blog! This Dal recipe is quite simple, but extremely flavorful.

Toor Dal with Tomatoes & Spinach

Serves 4 to 6
Toor Dal with Tomatoes & Spinach
Toor Dal with Tomatoes & Spinach

1 cup Toor Dal (split pigeon peas)
2 Roma tomatoes, diced
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 Serrano pepper, minced (eliminate seeds for less heat, or add more chilies for more heat)

1 tablespoon ghee or oil
1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 dry red chili pepper, whole
12 curry leaves (murraya koenigii) 
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
3 - 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt
3 ounces spinach (or substitute kale)
 

Rinse the lentils repeatedly, until the water runs off clear. Place them into a pot with at least 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. The lentils will produce a thick scum, which should be skimmed off. Reduce heat to a simmer. Add in the tomatoes, turmeric and the Serrano pepper and allow the lentils to cook for about 40 minutes, while preparing the flavorings. 

In a skillet, heat the ghee or oil until very hot. Add in the mustard seeds, and if the oil was hot enough, they will begin sputtering and popping all over the place. Cover the pan, shaking it to keep the mustard seeds moving until they slow down considerable, similarly to popcorn. Remove lid and add in, stirring, the cumin seeds, the dried chili pepper and the curry leaves. Saute for about 1 minutes, then add in the onion, garlic and ginger and cook for about 3 to 5 minutes. Add this mixture to the cooked lentils along with the spinach and the salt and stir well. Serve with rice, preferably whole grain rice.



My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest at AHOFpin.
 

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Welcome to my December Newsletter

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A Harmony of Flavors December 2017 Newsletter
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Christmas, Treats, Nut Pita, ethnic
It's Time for the Holidays, Friend

For those of us who celebrate Christmas, however it is celebrated, it should be a time of Joy and Peace. These are wishes I extend to all my subscribers and viewers. For me, Christmas has always been a special time of family and friends, fun and food and keeping the joy of the season firmly in my heart. My way of expressing the love and joy of this season has always revolved around foods. My grandmother celebrated Christmas Eve by fasting from anything meat or dairy, making Christmas Eve Dinner a challenge. She made a fish and rice casserole that is not among my favorite memories. Yet her house was always warm and welcoming and she more than made up for it on Christmas Day!

Over the years I have created many new recipes, incorporated other cultures into my repertoire of foods and treats. I have made Guatemalan Tamales many times over the years, though I haven't lived in Guatemala for 36 years. Most years I make Nut and/or Poppy Seed Rolls, as did my Slovakian Grandmother. This year I am attempting to make Speculaas (Speculoos) cookies, with my very own Speculaas Spice Mix. check my blog in the next few days to see the results of those. I am always looking for more new traditions to incorporate. My fondest wish is for all peoples, all over the world, to feel the peace of this season in their hearts.


Please check "A Harmony of Flavors" website and "A Harmony of Flavors" blog site, continually being updated with new recipes. There is a lot to choose from!
Holiday Wishes, Merry Christmas
cookies, holiday cookies, Christmas Cookies
Christmas Cookies

For me, Christmas Cookies are an absolute must, and I try new ones each year. This year my new recipe will be the Speculaas, mentioned above. There are so many "favorites" at this point in time that it gets harder to decide which ones to make. These (pictures above), that I am linking here below, are ones I have been making since I began making Christmas Cookies nearly 50 years ago, favorites my children grew up knowing. Some are ones I grew up with myself, like the "Russian Tea Cakes." My Mom laboriously produced Spritz cookies each year, pressing them through a hand press. I have given up on that task, and just make the Spritz recipe as a Rolled Butter Cookie. The Cinnamon Cookies and Cardamom Almond Cookies were ones I started making while just beginning my own baking journey.

Clockwise from top left:
  • Cardamom Almond Cookies. In my years as a new wife, living in Guatemala, a friend gave me a jar of cardamon. Never having had the pleasure of tasting cardamom prior to this, I resolved to find ways to use it, and discovered a cookie recipe that called for cardamom. A great way to introduce oneself to this spice, as these cookies are amazing.
  • Cinnamon Cookies. One of the first cookie recipes I learned as a young wife, these have stayed a favorite in my household ever since. Very cinnamon-y, these are one for anyone who loves spice cookies. They can be made without the glace cherry if you choose. They are delicious, no matter how.
  • Rolled Butter Cookies. AKA "Spritz," I roll and cut these into small cookies to be iced. Icing is gilding the lily, as these have excellent flavor all on their own. They are so quintessentially "Christmas" to me, that these can never be left out. These were on the table every Christmas throughout my childhood, and then throughout my children's' childhoods, and now are an absolute favorite of my husbands, as well as my own!
  • Russian Tea Cakes is what I knew these cookies as, while I grew up. Later on I knew them as "Snowballs." Call them what you will, these shortbread type cookies just melt in your mouth. I continue making them to this day.
All these recipes I have detailed above are ones I have made so many times I can't even count them anymore, so they are really tried and true.

Below is a button to connect with a really great Bonus Recipe for this month.

CLICK HERE for a Bonus Recipe
Happy Holidays from A Harmony of Flavors
appetizers, holiday foods
Christmas Eve

It seems that everyone has different ways to celebrate Christmas Eve. For us, Christmas Eve and New Year's Eve have been evenings of "grazing" on many appetizer dishes. This is not necessarily everyone's preference, but if you have guests, while it is a lot of effort at times, preparing a lot of dishes this way, it does also have the advantage of the likelihood of everyone finding something they like. Plus, many can be made well in advance and just reheated.

Some favorites that have been on the menu at our house every single year are things like Smokies in Puff Pastry and Bean & Cheese Dip (absolutely great with Wheat Thins). My husband absolutely must have sweet gherkins and baby corn. Some kind of cheese and crackers are de riguer. And some newcomers to these festive foods are things like Spinach Artichoke Dip, Cheese Twists, Pepper & Cheese Spirals. If you really want something special to impress, with the added plus that they already look so festive, try my
Savory Brie & Rosemary Cheesecakes.

All these are things I make often, if not always. But my list of appetizers is long, and there are plenty that lend themselves well to any gathering. If you need a recipe it is highly possible you will find something to fit your needs.
prime rib, twice baked potatoes, green beans, cloverleaf rolls
A Festive Holiday Meal

This is a holiday meal often requested at my house, whether for Christmas or New Year's Day, or just for someone's birthday celebration. The foods are spectacularly tasty and truly lovely. Prime Rib is expensive; there's no denying that. But if you find the way to splurge on a good prime rib roast, give this high-temperature roast recipe a try, because it has been perfect all four times I have made it, to date.

Clockwise from top left:

High Temperature Prime Rib Roast. With this recipe, the roast is in the oven for a preset amount of time at 500 degrees, then the oven is turned off and the roast is timed for 2 more hours. Residual heat does the remainder of the cooking. Under no circumstances should the oven door be opened until the time is completely elapsed. Take this into consideration when planning other dishes, unless you have a second oven.

Twice Baked Potatoes. These are pretty, festive and relatively simple. They can be made ahead, wrapped and refrigerated a day ahead, if needed. Just remember to either bring them to room temperature before baking, or allow a bit of extra time in the oven.

Cloverleaf Rolls (from Basic Potato Roll Dough). A very simple dough recipe that makes soft and beautifully flavored rolls. Cloverleaves are formed by making three small balls of dough to fit into each well of a muffin tin. Once puffed and baked, they create these beautiful little rolls, making quite the statement at table.

Green Beans with Gorgonzola. These green beans are a family favorite. Plus, the Gorgonzola goes wonderfully well with the flavors of the Prime Rib Roast.
Holiday Wishes, Merry Christmas
dulce de leche, cheesecake, chocolate, pecans
And, a Most Splendid Cheesecake for Dessert
I came up with this idea a few years back, and it came out so spectacularly, both in flavors and in presentation, that for a holiday showstopper, this is a must try. I wanted a cheesecake that was not too cloyingly sweet. Check. I wanted to make it a "salted caramel style" yet not too salty. Check. I wanted the cheesecake to have melt in the mouth creaminess. Check. Do try this. You won't regret it!
dulce de leche
Making Dulce de Leche
Dulce means "sweet" or "candy" and Leche means "milk" in Spanish. So, "sweet milk, or a "milk candy" could both be possible translations. It is similar to caramel, but without the oozy runny-ness. One cannot be substituted for the other.

If perhaps you might like to try making the magnificent Dulce de Leche Cheesecake above, then making some dulce de leche is needed, first. The "recipe" if one can even call it that, is absolute simplicity. And if you, like me, tend to leave things and not get around to using it right away, some of the recipes out there where the cans of sweetened condensed milk are opened and poured into a pan on the stove or in the oven, then this method is by far the most preferable.

Set a couple of cans of sweetened condensed milk, wrappers removed, into a crock pot, covered by water at least an inch or so. Set on low and let it run for 8 to 9 hours. I set it just before going to bed. Turn off the crock pot once the time is up and leave the cans in the water until it cools. Use a marker to note what is in the can and the date you made it!

author, Chris Rawstern
Celebrating Christmas here in the US, I wish to extend greetings to all my subscribers and friends this holiday season. I hope you will visit all my sites and try some new (or old) recipes, learn something new about an herb or spice or other subject, or maybe just daydream. However it is accomplished, I endeavor to provide articles of interest. Not everyone cooks these days, due to time constraints, though I did cook meals for my family back when I had 4 youngsters and worked 2 jobs, so I know it can be done. It requires some real attention to detail, to be sure. Many of my newer, more complex recipes have been created now that I am retired and have extra time on my hands, yet many are easy and quick.
Holiday Wishes from A Harmony of Flavors
Please forward this newsletter to any friends who may find my stories, articles and recipes of interest. Subscribe to this Newsletter by hitting the Subscribe Button below. Follow me on Facebook, check out my A Harmony of Flavors website, and A Harmony of Flavors blog. Find all my food (and lots of other) photos on Pinterest at AHOFpin.
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