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Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Chinging in the New Year!

Yes, it's almost time for that special moment, when the ching of champagne glasses helps chime in the New Year.  Here are a couple of suggestions for filling those flutes.

Pink Pussycat Punch

1 part pink champagne
1 part cranberry juice

A drink made famous at K2's Pink Pussycat Lounge Swanky Soiree.  It goes down easy and, if you're not careful, quick.

One-Two Punch

1 part Cava (Spanish sparkling wine)
1 part pomegranate juice (Pom)

What makes this drink not only delicious but "healthy" for you too is that both liquids are big with the anti-oxidants. So enjoy your holiday sipping and fight those pesky free radicals while you're at it.

Ann’s Prosecco Punch

1 bottle Prosecco
1 cup pomegranate juice (Pom)
1 cup limeade
citrus slices or pomegranate seeds for garnish

This is one of the most popular items at Ann's birthday parties (besides the company of the birthday girl herself, of course).  If you find the cost of pomegranate juice a bit pricey, you can always substitute cranberry juice or just add in some liberal splashes of grenadine (which we all learned last week is a concentrated form of pomegranate juice).

Ann said it's best to experiment with the measures to find what works best for you.  For me and the Rents, we found that 1/2 cup of Pom and 1-1/2 cups of limeade to a bottle of Prosecco was the ticket.  Tangy and fantabulous.

I hope you get a chance to enjoy one (or all!) of these tasty libations.  Here's wishing you all a very Happy New Year and thank you again for your readership. 

Starting in January, will be bringing you some recipes to help while you're chiseling away at the holiday packing.  Looking forward to another year of fun and food in the kitchen!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Tis the Season...for Pie

For those who celebrate on December 25, hope you had a lovely Christmas yesterday.  I had the folks over for dinner and whipped up one of my favorite desserts made up from two of my favorite seasonal things, eggnog and pumpkin!  It's pretty easy to put together and SOOOO good, it makes you want to leave plenty of room for dessert.

Eggnog Pumpkin Pie

1 can (15 oz) solid pack pumpkin
1 1/4 cups eggnog (use your favorite brand)
2/3 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp salt
1 unbaked pie crust (9" deep dish)
nutmeg, to sprinkle

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients.

eggs and sugar
then eggnog and spice

Pour mixture into the pie crust and sprinkle with nutmeg.

Bake at 375 degree for 60-65 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean.

Cool on a wire rack to room temperature and then store in the fridge until ready to serve.


If you don't have pumpkin pie spice handy, you can mix your own.

1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ginger
1/4 tsp clove

This will make 2 3/4 tsp, more than you need for the recipe.  I usually double the mixture and then I have it on hand for when I make pies or you can halve the recipe and you'll only be a 1/8 of a tsp short of what the recipe calls for.

For this pie, I used soy nog instead of eggnog and it worked out just as well.

If you are feeling extremely domestic, you can always make the pie crust from scratch (

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

An Educational Treastise on Pomegranates

So when I was picking up ingredients for some punch recipes to share with you next week, I couldn’t help but notice an absolute plethora of pomegranate-flavored items on the shelves. Pomegranates have been around for centuries but only now seem to be breaking out onto the flavor scene as a Superfruit. So I thought I’d do a little digging and share some pomegranate info bits with you (and yes, this is my way of getting out of cooking while I finish getting ready for Christmas).

I first remember pomegranates from the Greek myth of Persephone. Cliff Notes – Hades (god of the Underworld) had a thing for Persephone who was the daughter of Demeter (goddess of the Harvest). He did a grab-n-go with Persephone and took her down below to his place. Demeter had a missing-her-daughter meltdown and caused all green things to die. Her big brother Zeus couldn’t have everything dying so told his younger brother Hades to let the girl go home (and for those doing the math, yes that makes Hades and Persephone related) BUT the Fates had a rule that anyone who ate or drank in the Underworld has to stay there. Persephone didn’t have any food, but Hades tricked her into snacking on six pomegranate seeds.  As a compromise she had to stay with him as his wife for six months of the year but got to go home to mom for the other six and that’s how we got the seasons. The End.

The name "Pomegranate" comes from the Latin for apple (pomum) and seeded (granatus). This influenced the common name for pomegranate in many languages, for example, in German it’s Granat (garnet) + Apfel (apple) = Granatapfel (garnet apple).

Pomegranates are native to Iran and Northern India, though they are cultivated in parts of California and Arizona for juice production. Pomegranate juice has been a popular drink in Persian and Indian cuisine for a long time.

Grenadine syrup (used in mixing cocktails) is actually thickened and sweetened pomegranate juice (yum).  So without pomegranates there would be no Shirley Temples.

Pomegranates are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin Bs, calcium, phosphorus, potassium and fiber. Pomegranates have a high content of potent anti-oxidants and its anti-oxidant count is 2-3 times higher than those found in red wine or green tea.

A new study has shown that drinking pomegranate juice frequently is beneficial in fighting – and reversing – atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) by reducing the oxidation of bad LDL cholesterol.

Pomegranates can be used in both savory and sweet dishes, like Persian Pomegranate Soup (Ash-e Anar) or pound cake, you can make a molasses out of it or your own homemade grenadine.

Pomegranates are red and pretty.

Okay, will be back again after the Christmas holiday with more treats for the New Year and New Year celebration.  Wishing you all safe travels, warm memories, and good cooking!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Crack Chicken-n-Crackers

This next recipe is c/o my good friend Ann.  She made it at her last birthday party and after seating myself conveniently next to the bowl and eating away at half of the dip, I understood why she called it "crack" chicken.  Easy to assemble and muy delicioso too, it makes for a great party dip (and the leftovers make for a great sandwich spread too).

Ann's Crack Chicken

1.25-1.5 lbs cooked chicken breast, chopped well
8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup ranch dressing
1/2 cup hot sauce
1/2 cup finely shredded mozzarella

Bake the chicken breasts at 425 degrees for 40-45 minutes.  To help keep them moist, I sprayed them with I Can't Believe It's Not Butter spray and for a little extra kick sprinkled them with fresh cracked black pepper before wrapping them in foil to bake.

Once the chicken is cooked through, set it aside to cool to room temperature, or a temp that won't burn your hands while handling.

In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the softened cream cheese, ranch dressing, hot sauce, and cheese.

Once the chicken is cooled, chop it up and add it to the mix.  Blend well.

Serve with your favorite crackers and voila! Instant party hit.

As a short-cut, you can use canned chicken (like tuna only chicken of the land, not of the sea).

If you prefer, you can substitute bleu cheese dressing for the ranch. 

You can serve with any type of cracker, but I recommend a buttery-based cracker, for no particular reason other than it tastes really good with a buttery cracker.

Now for a twist on this recipe, I used my friend Will's Gunshot Sauce. It's not a hot sauce, but a new vinegar-based BBQ sauce that he developed and is available online at  Gave the crack chicken an added flavor depth that's really quite tasty.

I'll tell you what, Will left some sample bottles with me his last time through town and they are looking for a good home.  The first 12 people to send their address (for purposes of this blog and not to be sold or used for other nepharious purposes) to, I will send you a free sample of Gunshot Sauce.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Fun with Rum (pahpum-pahpum-pum!)

For those who enjoy the holiday spirits like I do (wink wink), I thought I would share a couple recipes from K2 Christmas parties past.  My favorite thing about the winter is the taste and smell of holiday spices which is why I keep a couple of nautical men handy for mixing up my Just Made This Up for My Party Christmas brews -- Captain Morgan and Sailor Jerry.  They're comparable in price and similar in taste (though Sailor Jerry tends to have a smoother finish and slightly richer taste), so either one will do for these.  Though I tend to mix my drinks on a "to your taste" basis, I have attempted to provide exact measurements, good luck with those.

Pirate's Wench
8 oz highball glass
1 oz spiced rum
7 oz Ginger Ale
Crushed Ice

8 oz highball glass
1 oz spiced rum
1 oz orange juice
6 oz Ginger Ale
Crushed Ice

Okay this one is accompanied by a hand gesture (which is hard to do in writing, but here goes) -- you splay your fingers like you're opening a Spanish fan and say "Fahn-dahn-go" in a slow snooty voice...seriously, try it, you'll like it.

Red Rum
8 oz highball glass
1 oz spiced rum
7 oz blood orange soda
Crushed Ice (did I mention I like crushed ice?)

This one also had a hand gesture too -- crook your index finger up and down a la The Shining (or like you're pressing on a hair spray bottle) and say "Red Rum Red Rum" in a scary voice......okay, I can feel you looking at me funny, but when you're making this gesture from across the room, you know the barkeep will have exactly what you want waiting for you when you get to the bar.

So those are my made-up ones, but here are some other combos you can try:

Spiced Apple Cider
Put a big pot of cider on the stove and simmer over low heat during the party.  Throw in a couple of cinnamon sticks and keep the spice rum handy for your guests.

Spiced Eggnog
Regular ole eggnog with a shot of spiced rum.

Hot-n-Spicy Cocoa
Get your favorite hot chocolate mix, be crazy and mix it with hot milk and a dash of spiced rum.

So just a few suggestions on how to stay warm this winter.  Salut!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Fruit Cake for the 2010s

Poor Fruit Cake!  Forever the butt of Christmas jokes, the scapegoat of the holiday season, and the gift that keeps re-giving.  Well I'd like to help it out a bit and present to you, the New and Improved Fruit Cake, one that you will NOT want to give away.  Found this recipe in a my Sweet & Natural Baking book.  No unnaturally colored dried fruit, no refined sugars, and no way you can resist it.

Fruit Cake

1 cup of pineapple chunks (canned, drained)
1 cup fresh or thawed frozen cranberries
1 cup dried currants
½ cup chopped pecans
1-2/3 cup fruit juice reduction (see recipe below)
1 cup buttermilk
3 large eggs
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp ginger
¼ tsp allspice

6 mini loaf pans or 2 regular loaf pans

Fruit Juice Reduction

For this recipe, you’ll need 2 (12 oz) containers of frozen white grape or apple juice concentrate. Thaw and place in a deep saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil until concentrate is reduced to 1 cup (8 oz). Remove from heat and cool to room temperature before using.

Speaking from experience, do not boil over high heat! Unless you enjoy the smell of burnt concentrate, you want to start it and keep it at medium high heat. Bring it to a gentle boil. After about 5-7 minutes I poured it into a glass measuring cup to check and see how close I was to 8 oz. If you’re not quite there, just pour it back into the saucepan for another minute or two.

Preheat oven to 350° then lightly grease and flour the loaf pans.

In a medium-sized bowl, combine the pineapple, cranberries, currants, and pecans. Set aside ¾ cup of the mix.

In another bowl, whisk the fruit juice reduction, buttermilk and eggs until well combined.

Sift the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger and allspice.

Add the wet ingredients to the mix and whisk until smooth.

The batter will resemble pancake batter, full of perky bubbles.

Fold in the fruit-pecan mixture (but not the ¾ cup you set aside!).

Divide the batter between the loaf pans, smoothing the tops, then sprinkle the reserved fruit-nut mix on top of each.

Place the pans on a baking sheet. Bake 40-45 minutes (if using small pans, 50-55 minutes if using big pans) until the loaf top springs back to the touch.

Cool loaves on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then run a knife around the inside of the pans to loosen the cakes and cool completely.

If properly wrapped, you can keep the cakes at room temperature for up to 3 days.


If you can't find dried currants, you can substitute raisins, golden raisins, or chopped dried cherries.

I didn't want to buy a whole quart of buttermilk, so instead I used powdered cultured buttermilk.  You can find it in your baking section and the whole container makes up to 3 3/4 qts.  Just keep it in the fridge between uses.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Fancy Crackers

Okay, tonight I'm giving you a quick-n-easy party snack idea...we'll call them Fancy Crackers.  Basically you take a cracker, spread a nice soft cheese across the top, and finish with a doink of fruit preserve (for the record, doink = more than a smidge, less than a dollop).  Voila!  Fancy Crackers!  I know it sounds simple, but doesn't take a lot of time and your guests will be impressed that you made the effort to fix 'em up a little sumpin-sumpin special.

For your Mix & Match pleasure, here are some ideas for combo elements. 

Cracker Types (and Brands)
Be bold, be daring, try a cracker you haven't tried before, your guests will be blinded by your genius.

Wheat (Triskets, Carr's, Wheat Thins, Wheatables)
Buttery (Club, Town House)
Sesame (Carr's)
Multigrain (Breton, Wheat Thins)
Rye (Ry Krisp, Ryvita, Wasa)

The key is to get something soft and spreadable to provide a nice base for the doink.

Cream Cheese
Flavored Cream Cheese
Goat's Cheese

Fruit Preserves
You want something with a little texture to keep your cracker interesting and give it some depth and texture variety, especially since you're plunking it down on a nice smooth cheese. So stay away from jellies because they won't give you any of that, but look for jams, chutneys, confits, conserves, or marmelades (anything with tasty chunks or lumps), and branch out with more "exotic" flavors to kick up your fancy level.

Cranberry (chutney)
Pineapple (chutney)
Orange (marmelade)
Pepper Jelly (had chunks so not a strict jelly)
Black Currants
Red Currants
Snosberries (if you can find them) :)

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peppermint Pops

Before we get started, wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Wendi for all of her hard work in making TCC the totally fabulous recipe resource that it is (yes, we are just that modest).  We all wish her very well and I will not let the knowledge that Big Sister will be watching throw me off my game (hey Sis!).

For December, will be bringing you some holiday party treats since 'tis the season for appetizers and wee bite-sized foods.  To start, here's one of my favorites, Peppermint Pops.  Came up with the idea because I was inundated one Christmas with an excessive amount of candy canes and looking for something to do with them.  There's an easy way to do this and a take-some-time way, your choice.

Peppermint Pops

5 candy canes/peppermint sticks, crushed
white cake mix, prepare as directed
white cake batter from scratch:
2 3/4 cups flour
5 tsp baking powder
1 3/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup shortening
2 cups sugar
12 oz. skim milk
1 tsp clear vanilla
7 eggs, whites only
mini cupcake tins
mini cupcake cups
powder sugar
colored sprinkles (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Put your candy canes/peppermint sticks in a ziplock baggie and using a meat mallet, beat the candy, crushing it into very small and/or fine pieces.

If you are using a box mix, follow directions on box to prepare.  If you are making the cake batter from scratch, mix the flour, baking powder, salt and shortening together in a mixer until it takes on a mealy consistency.

FYI -- in the original recipe I use, all ingredients are measured by weight, but since not everyone has a kitchen scale, I converted it to standard measuring cups and teaspoons.  If you do have a kitchen scale, weight measurements are listed below. 

Measure together 6 oz. of skim milk and the vanilla.  Add to the flour mixture along with the sugar.  Beat to a creamy texture.

Measure together 6 oz. of skim milk and the egg whites.  Gradually beat into mixture until the batter is smooth.

Gently fold in the crushed candy.

Spoon into miniature cupcake holders, filling 3/4 full (any fuller and they will mushroom as they bake).

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until lightly golden on top and spring back to the touch.  Remove cupcakes from the cupcake tin and allow to cool.

Okay, for the glaze, I don't use exact measurements, but mix powder sugar and water until I reach a stiff, yet slightly runny consistency. 

Once the glaze is done, spread some on top of each pop and cover with sprinkles (if you desire).


You may need to give people a heads up that there is paper on the Pops!  If you're using white baking cups, they are practically invisible on the baked cakes.  And while fiber is something everyone needs, your guests might prefer not to be pulling paper out of their teeth while they trying to enjoy your holiday treats.

White Cake Batter Weight Measurements
12 oz flour
.75 oz baking powder
.25 salt
6 oz shortening
15 oz sugar
12 oz skim milk
1 tsp clear vanilla (yeah this one doesn't change)
8 oz egg whites

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Change: A blog post by Wendi, in 500 words or less

Change is inevitable, as readers of TCC you know how we like to change things up. Recipes, blog format, hairstyles... Going into the new year you will have another change coming your way.

Today is my last day as one of the primary bloggers for TCC.  Due to the world outside of the blog, I have found myself unable to post to the quality that is the set standard for TCC.  K2 has been very gracious with the amount of time and effort she has put forth, making up for what I have not been able to do.  Because she's been so amazing, it makes this transition much less painful.

I have been so lucky to have been a part of this experience.  It makes me sad to have to say goodbye, but I leave knowing that our readers are in very capable hands.

I look forward to being the occasional guest blogger as time permits and will continue as a faithful reader. Thank you for letting me be a part of TCC's kitchen invasion for the past year and a half.


"just because everything is different, doesn't mean anything has changed" - Irene Peter

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Stone Soup

Hope that everyone had a great Thanksgiving with feasting aplenty!  We spent lots of quality time in the kitchen, and came up with and tried out some new recipes that we'll be sharing.

Today's recipe reminded us of the story of Stone Soup.  If you aren't familiar with this tale...a stranger comes to town, villagers don't want to share food so he sets a pot to boil with a stone in it.  Out of curiosity a villager asks what he's doing, says he's making stone soup, but it needs a little flavoring, so the villager gives him a carrot.  Then one by one more villagers come out, ask the same question and throw a little something into the pot.  When all is said and done, they have a tasty soup for everyone to share.

Now we didn't ask strangers for food or throw rocks in our pot, but our friends Meredith and Lonny had a hodge-podge of fall veggies in the fridge that we decided to bring together to see what we came up with.  Ended up with a tasty treat and hearty soup for everyone to share. 

Rosemary Root Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
4-5 medium potatoes
3 large turnips
1/2 medium rutabaga
4-5 medium carrots
1/2 large kholabi
2 parsnips
2 tbsp olive oil
3/4-1 cup white wine
64 oz. veggie stock (or broth)
1-2 cups water
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
salt and pepper to taste

Peel and large chop all of your root veggies and set aside.

In the bottom of a large soup pot, saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil.  Once the onion is translucent, add in the white wine and stir well.

Pour in the veggie stock (or broth).

Add in the chopped root vegetables. Add in enough water to make sure that the veggies are "covered."  You want to be able to dunk them in the liquid, you don't want any sitting above the liquid line.

Bring everything to a boil in the pot, then drop the heat to low.  Add in the rosemary sprigs and allow to simmer until veggies are to the desired tender consistency.

The rosemary leaves will cook off the stems.  The stems can be removed at any time after that happens.

Serve up with a bit of parmesan and some nice wheat bread.


* The recipe makes a little over a gallon of soup.  We kept half out for eating and froze the rest.  If you don't want to make that much, cut the recipe amounts in half.

* You can use any combination of root vegetables, these were the ones we had on hand.  The recipe should be used as more of a guideline than a point of fact.  Be creative!

* For those looking for post-Tday recipes, add in your leftover turkey to the soup, it'll go great with the root vegetables.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Green Beans & Carrot Salad

For those looking for an alternative to green bean casserole, here's a fresh change of pace.  It's light and crisy, fresh vegs with a tasty sun-dried tomato dressing.  It adds a nice splash of color to the dinner plate too.

Green Bean-Carrot Salad

12 oz. green beans
8 oz. carrots
1 red bell pepper
1/2 med red onion


2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp sun-dried tomato paste
1/2 tsp sugar
salt and pepper, to taste

Set a large pot of water to boil.  Trim the ends of the green beans and once the water is boiling, blanch the beans for 4 minutes until just tender.

Drain the beans and rinse them under cold water until they're cool.  Let them sit and continue to drain until you finish prepping the other veggies.

Peel and cut the carrots into matchsticks.  Alternately, you can use pre-cut bagged carrots.

De-seed the red pepper and cut into thin strips.

Peel the onion and cut into thin slices, separating the layers after you cut them.

Mix all the veggies in a bowl together.

In a small bowl or measuring cup, mix the oil, vinegar, sun-dried tomato paste, sugar and salt and pepper.  You can either use a small whisk or fork.  Another quick way to mix it is to put the ingredients in a small jar, screw on the lid tightly and shake like a mad person.

Pour the dressing over the veggies and mix until evenly coated with the dressing.  Let the dish to sit for a little while to allow the flavors to blend before serving.

TCC wishes everyone a Very Happy Thanksgiving and Much Happy Eating!  Bon Appetit!