Thursday, December 23, 2010


The 2011 Il Moya Tree
 Oh, for sure, we:  "Need a Little Christmas"

It's Christmas, go ahead and be that child that hides inside all of the rest of the year!

Remember:  you can't cure all of the world's problems - try to at least make a dent in one - be charitable, give of your time, yourself, and your money if you can.  And, if you are still shopping - do it at an independently owned small business, please!!!

Sing Carols, get misty - eyed at the little ones wonder at it all, and INDULGE!!  It's the Holidays and it's a long winter.

Be kind to one another - there can be a bit of stress popping up now and then!

Let's all bring out the best we can be.

And - you Foodies - I know that you are shopping and cooking and creating and planning - and enjoying every minute of it!  Good for you/us!!

See you in 2011. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Surviving and Thriving during the Holidays with a Cocktail and the Easy and Fabulous Gypsy Stew!

The Last of our Potato Crop!

Sharing this picture totally out of pride that we got away with harvesting just a few more delicious potatoes on December 8th!!  That's it now, though. 

OK, on to other things. . .

One of the "rules" we've learned over the past few years - at this time of the season when you feel the stress piling up - is STOP!  Catch your breath and ask yourself why you aren't appreciating this "most wonderful time of the year".  Be honest in figuring out why you are stressed and crazed.  There are many, many reasons that you find the holidays the most stressful time of the year - many of these reasons can't be addressed here (valid though they be) - so let's concentrate on the, "things we can change".  Like for instance,  is your stress level up because you have to find the "perfect" gifts for your nearest and dearest?  If so, read on . . .!

First Rule:  political and economic issues aside for just a moment, anything you buy in a big box cheap import store or even a chain department store  - the giftee can buy themselves!!!  If you are really looking to WOW someone, find some original, one of a kind gifts:  So, that means, shop at your locally owned, independent stores.  OR, if you are thinking of something more personal, make something - there are so many wonderful foodie gifts that would get used, and would be appreciated, and would show that you actually took the time to make something wonderful for someone - especially, if in fact, the recipient is a Foodie.  Think about the gifts that have WOWED you in your adult life.  They were probably unexpected, unique and definitely NOT something you would buy yourself.  Sieze that rule!!!  And maybe they weren't even the most EXPENSIVE gifts you ever received either.  Definitely sieze that rule! 

Think about Nut Butters - they are delicious, they keep in the refrigerator for ages and they are great for Midnight Snackers (I've heard!).  For bakers, nothing beats a lovely bottle of real Vanilla Extract (put really good split vanilla beans in a pretty bottle, fill with good vodka, let it steep).  And for all of us who cook, Vinegars are always welcome - and also keep well.  I like to do Red Wine Vinegars (keep using up the last few sips of that bottle of good red from last evening by adding it to your developing vinegar - as the French do).  To the Vinegar you can add garlic for a bit, herbs, hot peppers, . . .use your imagination.  Lastly, a good Cordial is always welcome after dinner on a cold night - or at any other time of day, frankly.  Cranberry Vodka cordial is gorgeous and delicious and "just right" for the Holidays.  The possibilities are endless.

And of course, as you plan your gift giving, find a program, not for profit organization, shelter, any service setting -  in your community - and put a little aside to share with those organizations.  Maybe someone you know would love to see a donation made in their name? Times are tough for the programs that regularly do the "hard stuff". 

For us, it's pretty much always animal protection organizations and food programs, but pick what means the most to you and give, for yourself and for others - these will be gifts you will truly give to yourself.

Now, onto recent recipes that have proven to be fabulous, warming and most importantly, easy.

Cocktails are an important part of life in our home - a nice cocktail at the end of a challenging day is a wonderful treat, but nobody likes the "same old/same old".  Here's one we found while going through a pile of years of clipped recipes.  Seeing that we needed to do research, we made a couple of these little glasses of happiness immediately!

POMEGRANATE MANHATTAN (From the late, great Gourmet Magazine, June 2005)

For two small cocktails:                                                                          

3 oz Bourbon
3 oz pure pomegranate juice (we use POM)
1 teaspoon superfine sugar
4 dashes Angostura Bitters

Fill a shaker halfway with ice, add all ingredients and shake well - you want to dissolve that sugar!
Strain into cocktail glasses with a maraschino cherry.  Enjoy!

Now this next recipe will have you and everyone around the table moaning and dipping and slurping - come on, how can you pass that up?

Gypsy Stew (I am told there are many variations of this low cost, feed a crowd recipe; I would love to hear about them)

In a Dutch Oven place:

1 stewing chicken, cut up
1 large can of Chicken Broth (original recipe calls for College Inn - we have gone a bit upscale from time to time but the College Inn works great)
8 medium onions, quartered
1/2 bottle inexpensive Sherry (really, inexpensive is the way to go!)

Cook the Chicken and stock and onions and sherry in the Dutch Oven on the stove top - don't boil it, but keep it at a nice even simmering heat; when it is cooked - probably about an hour - allow it to cool.  Pick the meat from the bones.  Discard bones and skin (or make "cracklin's" from the skins, just a thought!). Put the chicken back into the broth and onions.

Add to the Chicken mixture in the pot:

8 tomatoes, quartered (in non-tomato season, which is when we mostly eat this, we add 1 large can of tomatoes with the juice; we use kitchen scissors to cut the whole tomatoes up a bit)
add the other 1/2 bottle of Sherry -inexpensive, remember
3 - 5 dried red peppers (we have used fresh hot peppers and/or a mixture of fresh hot and not hot, too)

Simmer this mixture for about 1/2 hour; if you are using fresh tomatoes it will take a bit longer than a half hour.

Now for service:

Put a couple of slices of sharp cheddar cheese in the bottom of a large soup bowl
Ladle the stew over the cheese into the bowl

Serve with good, crusty bread and a green salad.  You will need plenty of bread, and plenty of cheddar cheese.  The broth is absolutely amazing and tastes even better the next day.  There is some sort of magical interaction between the broth, the chicken juices, the inexpensive sherry and the veggies that makes an elixir that you will really want to just eat with a spoon.