Have a great Christmas …
and a Happy New Year.
Christmas for One
I wasn’t going to do anything special this year cause I had a case of the Christmas blahs, but, at the last minute I bought a fresh leg of lamb and roasted it off with rosemary, garlic and olive oil. Threw in some diced potatoes and carrots as sides. Washed the meal down with a spiked (vodka) cranberry lemonade. Dessert was slices of a bought dark fruit cake. And, it was, on the whole, a good Christmas.
Because I had a lot of leftover meat (sliced lamb and salami), I baked off a quick batch of enriched (eggs, milk, sugar and melted duck fat) kaisers and hamburger buns for sandwiches.
Lunch plate of nibbles … bought cracker assortment, cheese (smoked Gouda and old white cheddar), Genoa and Hungarian salami and some apple slices (Ambrosia).
Regardless of the way you celebrate this time of year, I hope you were surrounded, virtually or in person, by friends and family (blood or choice).
And here’s hoping for a much better New Year.
I hadn’t planned on doing any Christmas baking because I still had a mini pumpkin pie in the freezer from Thanksgiving. Then, I changed my mind, because it was Christmas, after all.
So I went rooting around my pantry and freezer to see what I could find.
In the freezer, I found a half package of cranberries, left over from making a half batch of cranberry sauce, so I made a fast and easy cranberry loaf.
Cranberry-Orange Quick Bread – makes 1 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan
~1 1/2 cups/170 gm frozen cranberries, partially thawed and cut in half
1 tsp flour
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cups white sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup honey
2 eggs, large
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tsp orange zest
2 tsp unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
Lightly oil or butter the loaf pan. (See NOTE below.)
Toss the cranberries with the flour and set aside.
In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients.
In a medium bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
Stir the web ingredients into the dry ingredients just until mixed. Gently fold in the cranberries. Pour the batter into your loaf pan.
Bake for 45 min to an hour or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the loaf comes out cleanly.
Cool in pan set onto wire cooling rack, to room temperature then slice and serve.
NOTE: My loaf pans are bigger than this so I used a disposable aluminum loaf pan, filled about half way. The excess batter was baked in the wells of a medium sized muffin tin. Both the loaf pan and 3-4 of the muffin tin wells were oiled lightly. The loaf pan took about 55 min to bake while the muffins took 20-25 min.
There were dried cranberries in a jar in the pantry so I used them to make cranberry-orange short-bread cookies.
I was going to be fancy and dip part of the short-breads in chocolate but after tasting the short-breads plain, I decided they didn’t need any embellishment.
Cranberry-Orange Short-breads – makes 28 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars.
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup dried cranberries, finely chopped
1 cup/ 227 g unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup icing or powdered sugar
1 tsp orange zest
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp almond extract
castor sugar, optional
In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, cornstarch and salt. Add the chopped cranberries and toss through to coat. Set aside.
In a large bowl, cream together the softened butter, icing sugar, vanilla and almond (if using) extract, and orange zest, with a hand mixer.
Add the flour/cranberry mixture to the butter mixture and beat at a low speed with the hand mixer until well incorporated, 3-5 min, and then give it another minute or two at a higher speed until it holds together into a ball.
Divide the dough into two even parts. Pat each portion into a 7 inch by 4 1/2 inch rectangle. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Cut each section into 14 x 1 inch wide x 2 1/4 inch long x 1/2 inch thick bars. Alternatively, roll each section of dough into a one inch diameter log, about 7 inch long, wrap with plastic food wrap and refrigerate until firm. Cut into half inch coins.
Bake at 325 deg F/160 deg C for approximately 30 minutes, or until dry and firm but still pale.
Transfer to a wire cooling rack until cool. Serve.
I was reading fanfiction (PLEASE don’t judge me) last week and ran across a selection of naughty and nice Christmas-themed drinks in one of the stories. One of the ones that caught my attention, mostly because it only had a few ingredients, was the Drunken Elf. For colouring the pink lemonade, I used some of my home made cranberry sauce. The results … delicious.
Drunken Elf – makes 1 drink
1 oz Bacardi Golden Rum
crushed candy cane for rimming the glass
2-3 frozen cranberries, for garnish
1 mini candy cane, for garnish
Glaze For Coating/rimming the glass – Combine 2 tbsp icing sugar and 1 tsp water in a shallow plate or saucer. Stir well.
Dip the rim of each glass into the glaze then dip into the crushed candy cane, chocolate shot or Christmas sprinkles. Let dry thoroughly.
In a pitcher, or large measuring cup, add as much of the rum and lemonade as needed per person. Pour into prepared glasses. Add a couple or three cranberries per glass.
Serve with a mini candy cane hanging off the edge off each glass.
For the Pink Lemonade – Add raspberry syrup to your regular lemonade until it’s the colour you like. For a Christmas theme, stir some cranberry sauce into about 1/4 cup of the lemonade. Strain out any berries or seeds and add to your jug of lemonade.
Add some frozen cranberries to your jug before bringing it to the table to serve.
I had planned on a traditional Christmas meal featuring a roast turkey and its accompaniments, but, less than a week before the event, I changed my mind, and decided on a German themed menu. Perhaps because I made gingerbread cookies. Or perhaps because I ran across an eye of round roast while rooting around in the freezer, which had been labelled ‘for sauebraten’. In any case, this is what I ended up with.
For the vegetable side dish, I went outside my comfort zone and chose to try ‘rotkohl’ or braised German red cabbage. I started with the Better Homes and Gardens recipe but added some more vinegar (cider), because the flavour seemed flat after tasting. I also added a heaping tablespoon of home made cranberry sauce. I cooked the cabbage for about thirty minutes until it was limp but still had some chew to it. If you want it more tender, cook it longer.
Braised Red Cabbage (Rotkohl) – serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil*
1/2 onion, finely diced*
2 tbsp packed brown sugar
1/4 cup vinegar
1/4 cup water
1/4 tsp caraway seed
1/4 tsp salt, add more to taste
dash of freshly ground black pepper
2 cups shredded red cabbage
3/4 cup coarsely chopped peeled apple
1-2 tbsp cranberry sauce, to taste
* Substitute with 2 tbsp sauted onion.
In a large skillet, saute the onion in vegetable oil over medium/medium-low heat until soft and just beginning to get golden brown.
Add the brown sugar, vinegar, caraway seed, water, salt and pepper. Cook 2 to 3 minutes until everything is hot, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the shredded cabbage and diced apple. Cook, covered, over medium/medium-low heat 20 to 30 minutes or until crisp-tender, stirring occasionally.
After 20 minutes or so, taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper as needed. If you want a tangier cabbage, stir in some more vinegar. For a sweeter cabbage, add a bit more sugar. For a seasonal touch, stir in some cranberry sauce (home made or bought) and let it melt into the cabbage.
Sauerbraten Dinner – Yes, I forgot to plate the braised red cabbage until after I took the pictures. I may post the sauerbraten recipe I used in the New Year just for my own records. Until then, enjoy the pictures.
For the starch, I stuck with mashed potatoes, but topped them with ‘sauerbraten gravy’ … crushed gingersnaps/gingerbread cookies stirred into the strained braising liquid from the sauerbraten. To be honest, I couldn’t picture this actually turning into a gravy, so I prepared a ‘beurre manie’, a paste consisting of equal parts of soft butter and flour which can be whisked into a hot liquid until it thickens to the degree desired. It turned out that the crushed cookies were more efficient at thickening the liquid than I expected and, in future I would use half the amount that I used because I had to thin my gravy down a LOT to get it to be pouring consistency.
Cooking the meal was a true learning experience, and, on the whole, a successful one. I don’t know that I’d repeat the menu in the future but, for this Christmas, it was a delicious meal.
Cooking for one is a challenge during the holidays. You want something special but an elaborate spread is time consuming and can be expensive. The roast below was economical and the long braising time turned a tough piece of beef into a tender and tasty main course.
The outside roast I cooked was small (1.2 kg) so the cooking time was shorter than in the recipe that inspired it. And, while it was braising, there was plenty of time to make the side dishes. I added some new, Christmas-inspired, treats to the meal to make it special.
Purchased Egg nog with a shot of brandy and a grating of fresh nutmeg
Pot Roast, mushroom gravy over mashed potatoes, pot veggies and salad
Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream and Mincemeat Kolach
The mincemeat ice cream was a simple variation of the cranberry sauce one I made a while ago. To save time, I’ve posted the recipe below.
Mincemeat No-Churn Ice Cream – makes 3 1/2 – 4 cups
3/4 cups whipping cream
1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup mincemeat, plus another tbsp or 2 for marbling
1 tbsp brandy
In a large cold bowl, whip the cream until stiff peaks form.
In a medium sized bowl, combine the sweetened condensed milk, brandy and the mincemeat.
Add a scoop or two of the whipped cream to the bowl with the sweetened condensed milk and fold in to lighten the mixture. Fold in the rest of the whipped cream as gently as possible.
Scoop half of the ice cream mixture into a freezer safe container. Place several dollops of mincemeat over the ice cream. Scoop the rest of the ice cream mixture into the container. Place a few more dollops of mincemeat over the top. With a butter knife gently marble the mincemeat into the ice cream. Put the lid on the container and place into freezer for a minimum of 8 hrs or overnight.
Cranberry Sauce Variation: Replace the mincemeat in the recipe above with home made or jarred cranberry sauce. Use whatever alcohol you prefer … Cointreau or Grand Marnier bring out the orange notes in the cranberry sauce recipe I used.
Cooking the pot roast – The roast is seasoned with salt and pepper and seared before continuing with the rest of the braise.
The pot roast was tender after 3 hrs but it could have been cooked for another half hour if desired.
Mushroom gravy made with sauteed white mushrooms and strained braising liquid.
Even though I have a whole turkey in my freezer, I decided on a comfort meal this year. Something that needs little work and for which leftovers are not a hassle to deal with. I’ll post pictures later.
Christmas for one doesn’t have to be dull and boring. I always set the table for two. This year, I used my mom’s Christmas china … I bought it for her at Canadian Tire many, many years ago. The turkey platter (only $10) picked up at the same place is perfect for this year’s duck. I found the old linen tablecloth tucked away under a stack of ‘good’ dish towels in the bathroom closet.
Duck and orange is a classic pairing but, instead of an orange sauce, I added oranges to my kale salad and dressing. Or rather, Kraft did.
Drippings from roasting the duck made a tasty base for gravy.
I spent a bit over $13 CDN for the duck (2.3 kg) but there’s enough meat for at least 4-5 servings. And the carcass (not in the picture) will end up as stock.