Category Archives: Holiday

Crazy about Homemade Marshmallows

mint marshmallowsMy friends are beginning to worry. My family is grows more concerned each time they hear the mixer running. They long to call someone for help but all that comes out of their mouths is nommmmummm because they are stuffed with fluffy marshmallows. I made the first batch of marshmallows a few months ago and now I can’t stop. I am even turning others on to my obsession by sharing the  recipe. The vanilla marshmallows were ever so tasty but then came pink swirled peppermint, followed by mocha,chocolate-dipped, zesty lemon and orange, cocoa,  marshmallow cream, mallomar-like cookies, marshmallows shaped like ducks and pigs, and geese, and for Valentine’s Day tart and sweet raspberry marshmallow hearts.  marshmallows

There are many recipes available in books and on-line for basic marshmallows but I was interested in making the type that uses egg whites and I wanted to try to make them without corn syrup.  I tried substituting golden syrup, which is made from cane sugar, and it worked perfectly.  I share the recipe below but I warn you; yo may not be able to stop making them…

Vanilla Marshmallows

Lightly spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray and set aside.

Sugar Syrup
Place 2 cups sugar, 3/4 cup water, and 1 tablespoon golden syrup in a heavy bottom pan. Heat gently and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Raise heat to medium and stop stirring. Place a candy thermometer in the pan and heat to 255 degrees.

In the top of a double boiler (or a bowl over a pot of water), pour 3/4 cup water. Sprinkle the contents of four envelopes of unflavored gelatin over the water and allow to stand for a few minutes.  Heat until the gelatin liquefies.

Egg Whites
In a stand mixer, beat 2 egg whites with 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff but not dry

Once the sugar syrup reaches 255 degrees, combine the warm gelatin mixture fluffwith the hot sugar syrup and pour into the beaten egg whites while beating on high.  Add 1 tablespoon vanilla extract. Beat for about 10 minutes until the mixture begins to get very thick.  Pour mixture into the prepared pan and allow to stand at room temperature for at least three hours.

Mix 1/2 cup of confectionery sugar with 3 tablespoons corn starch.  Dust a cutting board with the mix and turn marshmallows out onto the board. Cut in strips with a sharp knife or pizza cutter and dust each cut side with the sugar and corn starch mix.  Cut the strips into pieces and dust the cut sides.  Store in an air tight container.


Spooky Farmers Market Treats

Apple CreaturesWhen asked to do a Halloween cooking demo at the Winchester MA Farmers Market, I wanted to make something a bit more healthy and fresh then the typical candies and cupcakes and it had to be FUN.   How about Crazy Apple Creatures, Apple Ghosts, and Creepy Finger Sandwiches! These are  super easy to make and are fun to do with even young kids. There are many versions of similar treats online but it is fun to give them a local food twist.

For the Crazy Apple Creatures you need some nice big apples (I used Cortlands from Kimball Fruit Farm), a sharp knife,  creamy peanut butter, creamy nut butter, or cream cheese, plus jam and an assortment of nuts, seeds, raisins, and dried fruit (a used a bag of Fastachi nut mix that I bought at the farmers market). You will also need a about two cups of water mixed with a teaspoon of lemon juice in a small bowl.Apple quarters
Start by cutting the apple into quarters and then remove the core.
Cut a V-shaped piece out of the skin side of the apple as shown here. apple slice
Dip the cut apple in the lemon juice mixture and they are ready for the kids to decorate.  For the Apple Ghosts just peel the apples, cut the same as for Crazy Apple Creatures and decorate nuts or currants for eyes.

The Creepy Finger Sandwiches start with a few slices of whole wheat bread, a rolling pin,  local goat cheese (I used Crystal Book Farm) or cream cheese, a few sliced almonds, and a bit of red  jam, such as strawberry, raspberry, or cranberry (you know we used Doves and Figs).
Cut all of the crust off of the bread and roll flat with the rolling pin.
Spread the cheese on the bread and roll up tightly as you would a jelly roll.
Cut a few shallow slashes to look like knuckles
Place a dab of cheese at one end and top with a sliced almond for the fingernail
At the other end smear a bit of jam for the super creepy blood (eeeewwww)

Cheddar, Fig, & Onion Matzo Brei

cheddar fig onion matzo breiPassover is almost here and one of my favorite dishes is not served at the seder.  Usually the morning after the big family gathering or  on the weekend during Passover we always make Matzo Brei.  It is the French Toast (sha don’t even mention bread during the holiday) of Passover.  A simple dish of matzo and eggs which is usually served with a little sugar or jam on top.  While I love the classic version, I thought it would be fun to mix a family favorite breakfast, cheesy scramble, with matzo brei.  I topped it off with a dollop of fig spread which is wonderful on sweet or savory dishes.  I don’t keep a Kosher kitchen but for those that do these is a fabulous Kosher for Passover sharp cheddar from Cabot that would be great in this recipe (I used the regular sharp cheddar for this version).

4 matzos
5  large eggs
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons butter
4 oz sharp cheddar cheese (shredded finely)
1 small onion sliced thin
salt & pepper to taste
3-4 tablespoons fig preserves

Heat a large skillet and add butter.  When the butter is just starting to sizzle add onions.  Cook onions to tender and translucent but not brown. Beat the eggs and milk in a large shallow bowl. Break up the matzo into pieces and place in a colandar.  Wet the matzo briefly with warm water but do not soak and allow water to drain.  Carefully transfer the matzo to the egg mixture and allow to stand for a few minutes until some of the egg is absorbed by the matzo.  Toss in the cheese and add salt & pepper.  Pour the matzo mixture over the onions and cook on medium, stirring the mixture until the eggs set and bits get lightly browned.  Serve immediately topped with fig jam.



Hamentashen or Popentashen

HamentashenMy family loves Purim with the telling of an exciting story and the wearing of wild costumes.  How could anyone dislike a holiday that features theater, drinking wine, and eating delicious cookies called Hamentashen. Purim celebrates the ancient Jews of Persia’s victory over their enemies. The tale held in the book of Esther includes King Ahasuerus, Esther the brave woman who becomes queen but never forsakes her people, Esther’s cousin Mordecai,and a wicked man named Hamen (for whom the cookies are named).  Why, you might ask, would we name these tasty holiday treats for the bad guy?  Well, I’ll tell you-I don’t know.  Various stories I grew up with included that the cookies were named for Hamen’s three-cornered hat, they were named for his pockets that were filled with bribes, they were named to remember his evil deeds. So nu, they couldn’t have named them Esther’s Goodies or something a little more enticing?  Anyway who cares!  Our costumes are put together and the cookies are baked.  Instead of normal hamentashen, we made tiny little cookies (filled with our homemade jams) that you could pop in your mouth in one bite so we are calling them popentashen.  It is after all a holiday that is celebrated with pride and joy and a healthy dose of silliness. Happy Purim!

Tiny Hamentashen (Popentashen)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
several flavors of jam

In a stand mixer bowl or food processor, place the slightly softened butter cut into chunks and the powdered sugar
Mix until sugar is just blended in (it is OK if there are some lumps of butter)
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix until the egg is incorporated into the butter
Add the flour and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until the large pieces of dough begin to come together (do not over mix!) the dough will be a bit ragged.
Scoop the dough onto a floured board and press the pieces together to form a smooth dough.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4″.  If the dough is too sticky use a bit of flour or if it is too soft to roll you can wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
Using a small round cookie cutter or a cordial glass measuring about 1 1/2″ inches across, cut circles of dough.
Place a drop of jam in the middle of each circle
Press two edges of the circle together and then pull the remaining piece up and press together to form a triangle shape and a nice little pocket to hold the jam.
Cook at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the edges brown slightly
Cool (jam gets very hot in the over) and pop in your mouth!



Chanukah Gifts-Day One

dove menorahI had planned a splashy start to this series of posts-a Chanukah first night feast.  Unlike slick magazine articles (the perfect country Christmas dinner for 25 in the restored barn which is actually written and photographed in June) I like to write in real-time about my real family.  Real families get colds, real families have too much homework, real families eat cheese omelets for dinner on the first night of Chanukah instead of the inventive gourmet spread I had planned.

What was special tonight was not the food or the carefully wrapped boxes, but the love in the tired faces gathered around the menorah’s glowing lights and the soft sweetness in my Mom’s voice on the phone when she talked about holidays and tried to find some good even in a crappy day.  This was a tough year for my family on many fronts, but we have all made it through to this season and are stronger for it and that is my Chanukah gift for the first night.

Give Me A Break!

turnip saladRich, warm, creamy flavors are holiday standards.  This is the time of year when even Scrooge can’t resist indulging in a cheese filled or bacon-wrapped little something.   Layer upon layer of indulgent foods can become tiring unless there is something simple with a bit of bite to break them up.  A green salad is a classic option but some beautiful scarlet salad turnips I found at the farmers market made a unique accompaniment to a traditional holiday meal.  This dish is also great for pot luck parties and buffets as it provides a nice option for raw food and vegan food fans. 

1 large scarlet salad turnipturnip apple close
1 medium tart apple
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp raw, unfiltered honey (or more to taste)
1 tsp caraway seeds

Shred turnip and apple on mandolin or food processor
Blend in cider vinegar and honey
Sprinkle in caraway seeds and toss
Chill until ready to serve

Autumn American Lamb Supper

lamb jam winUPDATE-We won! Teamed up with Chef Michael Scelfo of Russell House Tavern, my lamb roast was transformed into a roulade of lamb belly stuffed with lamb sausage and sous vide overnide until it was meltingly tender.  It was served with a dollop of Doves and Figs Winter Carnival conserve, a brush of cranberry mustard and a sprinkle of micro greens.

A number of years ago at Passover, I arrived at my parent’s new home in Floridalamb supper to find out some terrible news.  My mom had decided that since it was a much smaller holiday crowd then in the past, she would just make a nice roast chicken or
perhaps a small brisket.  “No lamb?” I asked, concern rising in my voice.  As my  mother explained how she was simplifying many things now, tears started to run down my face.  My feelings were sparked in part by longing for my favorite dish, by losing a holiday tradition, and perhaps mostly by the realization that my parents and I were growing older.   Five minutes later Mom and I  were in the car heading to the store to buy a leg of lamb and a big head of garlic and the holiday was restored for me.  The miracles of parting the sea and freeing the slaves from Egypt paled in comparison to the wonders of that lamb dinner.

When I was invited by Boston Chefs, to participate in the American Lamb ProAm, (information and a chance to vote for this recipe) I jumped at the chance.  My first thought was to make the typical spring lamb dinner that I enjoyed so much as a child.  The beautiful crimson-tipped trees and the bounty of fall fruits and vegetables at the farmers market convinced me instead to give my lamb a local autumn flavor.  I have also been following the adventures of  a group learning blog founded by Cathy Barrow called Charcutepalooza which inspired me (and provided excellent help technical advice) to make sausage as part of my dish.

With the exception of salt, sugar, and a few spices, I used all New England local and farm-grown ingredients in my dish.  The lamb that was generously supplied by the American Lamb folks came from Superior Farms I was pleased to read that they are  committed to sustainable farming and their website states that “All lamb livestock are raised outdoors with healthy diets of natural grasses, crops and grains.”

The local ingredients featured in my dish include:
Corn meal grown and ground by Mainstone Farm, Wayland MA
Roxbury and Cortland apples, Bosc Pears-Kimball Fruit Farm, Pepperell MA
Eggs-Golden Egg Farm, Hardwick MA
Cranberries-PJs Cranberries, Sandwich MA
Brussells Sprouts-Grateful Farm, Franklin, MA
White Wine-Hardwick Winery in Hardwick MA
Harpoon Hard Apple Cider from Boston, MA and Vermont
Cabot Sharp Cheddar from Vermont
Kate’s Buttermilk from Maine
King Arthur Flour from Vermont

I hope you will enjoy this delicious fall lamb supper and please vote for my dish starting on Monday at and show your love of lamb and local farm-grown food!

Autumn American Lamb Roast Stuffed with Lamb Apple Sausage lamb roastBoneless leg of  lamb
Lamb Apple sausage (recipe below) or store-bought lamb sausage
Cape Cod Cranberry Marinade (recipe below)

Prepare the marinade
Place the boneless lamb leg in a large plastic bag and pour in marinade
Refrigerate the lamb for two hours, turning several times to make sure the marinade covers the meat fully
After two hours remove the meat from the bag and discard the marinade
Roll open the leg of lamb gently
Cut part way through meat from the inside, if needed, to
make the roast lay as flat as possible-be careful to not cut too deeply
Spread the sausage mixture over the inside of the lamb leg
leaving a small border around the edges
Roll the roast from the short end like a jelly roll
Truss the roll with butcher’s twine
Roast at 425 degrees for 15 minutes and then at 325 degrees until meat reaches desired doneness.
For a medium rare roast, cook about 25 minutes per pound to 145 degrees.
Let roast rest for about ten minutes before slicing

Lamb Apple Sausagelamb sausage meat
1 ¾ lb pounds of lamb meat (leg or shoulder)
1/3 lb lamb fat
2 cups peeled, cored, chopped firm baking apples
½ cup fine ground cornmeal
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 tsp black pepper
2 ½ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground allspice

Equipment needed-food processor or meat grinder and large bowl
of ice

Cut meat and fat into cubes and place in freezer for 30 minutes
Meanwhile peel, core, and chop apples finely in food
processor or with a knife and set aside
After the meat has chilled, grind in three batches in food
processor fitted with steel blade or run through meat grinder
Place the ground meat in a bowl over the ice bowl to keep it
chilled through the process
When all the meat has been ground, mix the cornmeal, spices
and apples into the meat with your clean hands, blending well
The stuffed lamb roast will need about half of the sausage, you can shape the remaining sausage into patties to freeze and cook later.

Cape Cod Cranberry Marinade
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup cranberries (chopped in food processor)
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cracked brown mustard seed (whole seeds can
be cracked in a coffee grinder)
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
3-4 garlic cloves crushed
1 sprig of fresh rosemary

Place all  ingredients in a large bowl
Stir well to combine

Side Dishes

apple cranberry conserveApple Pear Cranberry Conserve
6 cups apples (measure after peeling, coring, and cutting into ½ inch chunks)
2 cups of pears (measure after peeling, coring, and cutting into ½ inch chunks)
3 cups cranberries
3 1/2 cups water
5 cups sugar
1 cinnamon stick

Cook cranberries in sugar, water, and spices until cranberries begin to soften
slightly and pop (about 10 minutes)
Add apples and pears
Cook gently until apples and pears soften and mixture begins to thicken
Boil until mixture gels (will be a softer spread than a traditional jam)
Remove cinnamon sticks and refrigerate, can, or freeze

Cheddar Lamb Fat Cornbread
1 cup stone-ground corn meal
1 cup flour
4 tablespoons lamb fat saved from roasting pan and chilled
1 cup buttermilk
1 egg
2/3 cup cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon baking powder

Heat oven to 400 degrees
Mix together flour, corn meal, and baking powder in a bowl
Stir in cold lamb fat
Whisk buttermilk and egg together
Blend buttermilk and egg into flour mixture
Stir in cheese gently
Grease  9″ cast iron pan or muffin tin
Place in oven to heat for about 5 minutes
Scoop batter into hot pan
Bake 20 minutes for pan and 15 minutes for muffin tin

Brussels Sprouts  Braised in Hard Cider
Clean sprouts and trim stems as needed
Pan sear sprouts in a small amount of olive oil
Add a generous amount of salt and pepper and cover part way
with hard apple cider
Cook on medium heat until sprouts become just tender