Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Dinner 2013

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Happy Holidays whatever your traditions are at this time of year!

We're hosting Christmas Dinner with my side of the family this year.  This means my parents, my sister and her significant other, his mom, her two kids and their spouses. 

I decided I wanted to try something I love but have never made myself before - a Leg of Lamb!  My parents don't care for lamb though, so we're also having ham.  Of course, we'll have appetizers, cookies and wine before dinner with plenty of conversation and family time.  We'll round out our meal with roasted potatoes, salad, cranberry sauce and finish with Poached Pears for dessert.

I have been busily mining Pinterest for recipes for the lamb and pears, here's the results:

We're having this lamb, ham, roasted potatoes which I simply toss in extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper, thyme, fresh rosemary and plenty of whole cloves of garlic and roast at about 450 degrees until they are crisp on the outside and tender on the inside.  I've also decided to make these green beans, which not only pretty but sound delicious too. My sister is bringing the salad for which, I suspect, she'll whip up a fresh vinaigrette.  We're having Mulled Wine Sangria - a recipe from The Chew's Clinton Kelly - which I can hardly wait to try.   Finally I found this recipe for Poached Pears which we'll have for dessert - I think it sounds delightful and it shouldn't pose any problems for the many food issues our family members have these days. 

What are your plans for the holiday?

Friday, December 20, 2013

My Cheerios Breakfast/Snack Mix

My Cheerios Breakfast/Snack Mix 

When I first started my present job, I had a tough time adjusting to a full, 8 hour work day… or rather, my stomach did.  I had only worked a 6 hour day in my previous place of employment and would get home early enough to have dinner on the table by 5 or 5:30pm.  But now, I wasn't even leaving the office until 5pm and my stomach would grumble all the way home.  So, I did the logical thing and started packing an afternoon snack that I either ate at my desk in the late afternoon or in the car on the way home.  I started experimenting with cereal, but found it didn’t stick with me long enough, so I added nuts, but it was still missing something so I started adding dried fruit.  My favorite combination was Cheerios with walnuts and dried cranberries.  Eventually, I decided the combination was a bit dry and needed some salt too, so I started baking it in a bit of oil – this not only allowed the salt to stick – somewhat – but it also made the cereal and nuts toastier and crunchier – yummy! 
Well, I’ve been playing with this combination and tweaking it for almost a year now and I’ve finally arrived at the absolute perfect version of this tasty, crunchy and satisfying snack.  Somewhere along the way, I switched to eating it for breakfast and now I eat it for breakfast almost every day of the week – plus I find myself snacking on it in the evening when I’m watching TV or reading a book (it’s a lot less noisy than the popcorn popper) or as an afternoon snack at my desk if I don't eat it all in the morning. 
I start by setting the oven to 300 degrees and putting some butter and oil in a cast iron skillet or large roasting pan... I especially love the way this comes out when I bake it in a cast iron skillet, but I more often use a roasting pan since I generally make huge batches (which I do, pretty much once a week, then I find out I've eaten it up too quickly and have to make a small batch to get through the rest of the work week - tee hee)... 
... and I put it in the oven while the oven is preheating, so the butter melts and gets all bubbly and sizzly.
Now I add the Cheerios and Walnuts and stir it around so it all gets well-coated in the butter and oil...
I sprinkle in some salt at this point too, not a lot, I'll add more when it's done.  Then I bake it for 15 minutes until the walnuts and cereal are nicely toasted.  Let it cool just a bit, then add the dried cranberries.
And sprinkle on some salt...
It's very tasty while still warm - in fact, it would be a nice snack to serve warm to guests or to enjoy on a quiet snow day watching movies or curled up with a good book.  If you don't end up eating it all immediately, let it cool completely before storing in air-tight containers. 

Here’s the recipe for my final version, but feel free to play with it yourself – I’d love to hear what you come up with:

My Cheerios Breakfast/Snack Mix
2 tbls butter (regular, SALTED butter)
¼ cup cooking oil
6 cups Cheerios cereal
1 cup walnuts
1 cup dried cranberries (or dried fruit of your choice)
Salt to taste

Place butter and oil in a large cast iron skillet or roasting pan.  Place in oven and set oven to 300 degrees.  Remove pan from oven when oven comes to temperature.  Pour in Cheerios and walnuts.  Stir to coat.  Sprinkle liberally with salt and stir again.  Bake in oven for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow toasted mixture to cool.  Add dried cranberries and sprinkle with a bit more salt.  Stir in.  Store in air-tight containers or zip-close bags.
Note:  If you want to make a small batch, the loose ratio I follow is 1/4 cup dried cranberries and 1/2 cup walnuts for every 2 cups of cereal.