Friday, December 31, 2010

Snow Falling on Cedars: January Inspired Decor and a Creamy Low Fat Baked Salmon

"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other." ~Chinese Proverb

I had the most wonderful day.

First, because it was clear and sunny out.

And second because I received gift cards for Christmas (my favourite thing) enabling me to enjoy an afternoon of guilt free shopping.

With everything currently on sale, what better way to spend the afternoon right before the turn of a new year?

I am fortunate enough to get two weeks off at Christmas so I have energy to burn this time of year - resulting in me taking the time yesterday afternoon to take our tree and all the trimmings down, and leaving the house in my wake looking like the Grinch had just struck.

But no matter, an empty canvas is the best thing on which to create new magic.

And this time of year as we are faced with more months of winter's cold hands upon us, I find it to be as important as ever to surround myself with beauty.

If Autumn is about nesting and hibernating into warm caves of red, gold and, caramel and December is about sparkle, then what must the cold months of mid winter look like?

















Using the picture above as my inspiration, I decided to re-create "snow falling on cedars" in my family room with a goal to put together a living space that exuded comfort, understated elegance, and sense lightness and renewal.
And here's the thing - it's so easy to change up the look and feel of a room without spending a ton of money by adding and subtracting accent elements.

For example, in the Fall I added reds, Asian inspired accent pieces mixed with antique books...





Over Christmas I added red twinkle lights, season inspired decorations and candles.

































And for January, a whole new look...


































Without changing the basics, ie the colour on my walls or the furniture, you can see how I updated the feel of the room by adding "snow falling on cedars" white like twinkle lights, throw cushions and oversized vases, bowls and candles peeking through a lovely white hydrangea.

































Carefully placed oversize items go a long away in creating a look that says casual elegance.

I love the snow on branches wall hanging I found today at Homesense.

































There is so much that can be done to change a room and I think the best tip I have is to keep things fresh.

Put your older decorative items into storage to bring out at a later date and have fun picking up new treasures like these gorgeous artichokes for the mantle.


































And a cozy sheepskin rug in front of the fireplace for little dogs to curl up on.


































With my car loaded down with all these fabulous finds, and visions of a night of decorating swimming in my head, I started to think about the perfect meal to accompany this bounty - wondering: "Could I re-create the snow falling on cedars theme in dinner as well?


People, they don't call me the Kitchen Witch for nothing!

I made the most delicious baked salmon covered in a puff of a cream cheese infused white sauce.

Better still, it was made using low fat ingredients and at 417 calories, 10 grams of fat per serving, I feel no guilt sharing it with any resolution holders among us.

I give this recipe a big thumbs up and will also share that you could easily cut the sauce in half and it would still be good.

Decorating, cooking, blogging *sigh* life is good.

Soon enough I will have to go back to work - and reality - but at least I always have a lovely home to return to at the end of the day...

Now onward to the recipe!

Low Fat Creamy Baked Salmon
For printable recipe click HERE

Ingredients

* 2 lbs salmon fillets
* 3/4 cup nonfat sour cream
* 1/2 cup fat-free mayonnaise
* 2 tablespoons flour
* 2 tablespoons lemon juice
* 1/4 teaspoon dried dill weed or 1 tablespoon fresh baby dill, chopped
* 8 ounces fat free cream cheese
* 1 garlic clove, minced
* 1/3 cup white wine or chicken stock
* salt
* pepper
* paprika

Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F Rinse fish and pat dry.
  2. Place fillets skin side down in a single layer in a greased 9x13 pan.
  3. Whisk sour cream, mayo, flour, lemon juice, dill, cream cheese, garlic and wine in a medium bowl until smooth and spread over fish.
  4. Season with salt, pepper and paprika to taste.
  5. Bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until internal temp is 140 F or middle inside of fish is slightly opaque. Fish will continue to cook for a few minutes after removing from oven
  6. Transfer to serving platter spooning sauce over fish and sprinkling with additional paprika and dill to garnish if desired.







***

This blog is linked to:

Savvy Southern Style

Metamorphosis Monday at Between Naps on the Porch



Friday, December 24, 2010

Christmas Wishes from The Kitchen Witch...

It's not always about food.

Sometimes it's about love...

Ring Out, Wild Bells
A Christmas Poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light;



The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.



Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow:



The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.



Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more,



Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.






















Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife;



Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweeter manners, purer laws.



Ring out the want, the care the sin,
The faithless coldness of the times;



Ring out, ring out my mournful rhymes,
But ring the fuller minstrel in.



Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;

Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.



Ring out old shapes of foul disease,
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;

Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.



Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;


















Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.



***

I believe there is more good in this world than bad.

That people are fundamentally compassionate and gentle underneath the layers of life they have had to bear.

That we each have a purpose and a reason for being here - at this time and in this place. And that with each new day we are given the gift of discovering what that purpose is, uncovering it's deeper meaning.

I believe we are each sacred, our lives, our hearts, and our souls, and that we have been charged at this time in history's humanity, with the possibility to change things.

I believe that the quickest path to changing the world around us is by changing ourselves.

Alfred Lord Tennyson wrote the poem above over one hundred years ago, and yet it's as relevant today as it was when he first put pen to paper.

And so today, on Christmas eve, my thoughts turn in this direction.

To the idea that if we could each make a commitment to start where we stand and try to live the best possible lives we can, the ripples of that decision will carry on and on and on.



We may not have the power to change the world's bigger picture, this is true, but we each have the power to change the world around us.

To walk in the truth of Love, Mercy, and Compassion - whether Christmas is our holiday or not.

I believe this message of love, hope, and peace is universal and is shared by all.



In honour of that I'd like to invite everyone to start Christmas Eve by listening to one of my favourite songs by one of my favourite artists.

I have purposely not chosen a Christmas song, and am instead hoping that anyone who happens to come across this blog will feel the spirit and the hope that lies beneath the trimming and decorations.

Lend your voices, my friends, only to sounds of freedom...

Merry Christmas.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Pecan Tartlettes

It's hard to believe it's already December 21st!

In the spirit of sucking every succulent drop I could from the very marrow of the season, I have cooked, decorated, and listened to Christmas music in a way that takes "Go big or go home" to whole new levels of insanity fabulosity.

The cookies are baked, appetizers and tourtieres (recipe to come tomorrow) prepared, halls decked, presents wrapped, and board games out - adding up to the perfect ingredients for an old fashioned family Christmas.

And yes, there are apparently many similarities between myself and Clark Griswold.

In the spirit of that, I thought I would share this last cookie recipe - another must have in our family's baking repertoire - for pecan tartlettes.

These easy to make, melt in your mouth little bites are favourites because they're not too sweet and go perfectly with my afternoon cup of Lady Grey tea.

















A life affirming indulgence I look forward to when the days grow short and cold.

I hope you enjoy this last cookie of the season and remember to take the time to put your feet up, brew some tea and count your blessings as you sit among the Christmas lights.





















And to all a good night...

Pecan Tartlettes

For printable recipe click HERE





















Ingredients
  • 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon butter, softened
  • 1 cup sifted flour
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • dash salt
  • 2/3 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 325F.
  2. Combine cheese, 1/2 cup butter, and flour. Mix thoroughly and chill, covered, 1 hour.
  3. Divide into 24 small balls and press into sides and bottom of 2 ungreased minature muffin pans.
  4. Combine egg, brown sugar, vanilla, salt and remaining 1 tablespoon butter; beat until smooth.
  5. Sprinkle 1/3 cup pecans equally into 24 tart shells. Divide egg mixture equally among 24 tarts, pouring on top of pecans. Sprinkle remaining 1/3 cup pecans on top of tarts.
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes until pastry is golden brown.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Cranberry Brie Phyllo Triangles (can be pre-frozen)

I won't lie to you.

These little morsels of sweet and creamy delectability are picky, picky, picky.

But in the spirit of "good things take time," I can honestly tell you, they are sooooo worth it!
















Better still, they can be prepared ahead of time and frozen.

I take an afternoon to make these up over the holidays and keep a batch at the ready to serve as an appetizer before our Christmas turkey.

Trust me when I tell you, there are never any leftovers!

Cranberry Brie Phyllo Triangles
For printable recipe click here

Ingredients
  • 1-1/4 cups butter, melted
  • 1 package (16 ounces, 18-inches x 14-inches sheet size) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 1-1/2 cups whole-berry cranberry sauce
  • 8 ounces Brie cheese, rind removed, cubed
Directions

Cut phyllo sheets lengthwise into 2-in. strips; cut each strip in half widthwise. Using five strips at a time, brush each strip with butter and stack on top of one another. (Keep remaining phyllo covered with waxed paper to avoid drying out.)



Place 1 teaspoon cranberry sauce and one to two cheese cubes at the end of each stack. Fold into a triangle as you would fold a flag.



















    Place in an ungreased 15-in. x 10-in. x 1-in. baking pan; brush with butter.

    You can freeze these on the tray at this point and then, once frozen, remove to a freezer bag.

    Bake at 400° for 10 minutes if defrosted, or 20 minutes if frozen or until golden brown. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. Yield: about 4-1/2 dozen.


      Sunday, December 19, 2010

      Christmas Traditions - Nuts and Bolts

      As we struggle with shopping lists and invitations, compounded by December's bad weather, it is good to be reminded that there are people in our lives who are worth this aggravation, and people to whom we are worth the same. - Donald E. Westlake

      Life can be hectic, stressful, and fast moving.

      Year by year, we string the Christmas lights, pull out cherished decorations, and hang our tinsel - all the while shaking our heads in bewilderment that another year has passed.

      "Where does the time go?" we wonder as we look across the table at adult children who were squealing with delight at the sight of Santa Claus just yesterday.

      As our hair grows more gray and our joints a little creaky, we marvel in gratitude that the eyes of the person we vowed to cherish forever are still as blue, and that the love we felt for that little girl or boy sitting so proudly on Santa's knee has not diminished but has instead grown stronger with time.

      When Christmas comes, we are overjoyed to be in the company of friends and family we may have taken for granted once upon a yesterday when we were young and thought we had all the time in the world.

      Such are the nuts and bolts of life.

      And why I have become such a believer in tradition as a way of thickening up the richness of life's moments.

      Familiar ornaments, decorations, smells, and flavours that remind us, "This is where I belong."

      "These are my people."

      "This is Christmas in our house."

      With that being said, I thought I would share some of my favourite traditions with you. Those things that say welcome home to friends and family coming together at this time of year.

      And what better to start with than a tradition that many of you probably share:

      Nuts and Bolts.






















      As far back as I can remember, my mom would make trays of this wonderful little snack every year around mid December.

















      She would set it out in bowls on the coffee table throughout the holidays to snack on and package it up to give as gifts.





















      A tradition I have long since adopted.

      This is a simple recipe - and while I know there are probably many variations out there for Nuts and Bolts, this is the one I grew up with.

      Crunchy little morsels of shreddies cereal, cheerios, pretzel sticks, and peanuts enjoyed while I watched Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus or It's a Wonderful life.

      If you've never made nuts and Bolts,it might be a tradition you'd like to start.

      Especially if you have little ones.

      My son always "made" the nuts and bolts when he was little and many brightly decorated containers went to his teachers and coaches over the years.

      Lou Lou Who: "I'm glad he took our presents. You can't hurt Christmas, Mr. Mayor, because it isn't about the... the gifts or the contest or the fancy lights. That's what Cindy's been trying to tell everyone... and me. I don't need anything more for Christmas than this right here: my family."

      xoxo

      Nuts and Bolts

      Ingredients
      • 8 cups Cheerios cereal
      • 5 cups Shreddies cereal
      • 2 1/2 cups unroasted
      • unsalted peanuts
      • 4 cups pretzel sticks
      • 2 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
      • 1 1/2 cups butter
      • 1 tbsp celery salt
      • 2 tsp onion salt
      • 1 tsp garlic powder
      Instructions
      1. Melt butter and Worcestershire sauce in a large roasting pan.
      2. Stir in spices.
      3. Add remaining ingredients and stir until well coated.
      4. Bake at 200 degrees for two hours, stirring well every twenty minutes.
      5. Store in an airtight container.


      Saturday, December 18, 2010

      Easy and Delicious Holiday Fudge

      Hi everyone!

      Let me start by saying ~PHEW~ it's been a busy two weeks.

      But now that I am officially on Christmas vacation, life will slow down and I can get back to where I love to be the most: my kitchen.

      Although I'm more of a "savoury" than "sweet " kinda cook most days, I've been de-stressing over the last few weeks by doing some easy and tasty Christmas baking and wanted to share my recipe for fudge because it's just so choclatey and good.

      Later today I'll be sharing an old time recipe from my childhood and a festive meal planner for the days leading to Christmas.

      Until then, the halls are decked, board games aready, warm cozy blankets to wrap up in, and my son will be home tomorrow.

      The perfect time for a luscious bite of fudge and a tall, cold glass of milk!

      Easy Holiday Fudge
      For printable recipe click HERE















      (ignore the green sprinkles, they were a mistake)

      Ingredients
      • 3 cups semisweet chocolate chips (can also use milk chocolate)
      • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
      • 1/4 cup butter
      • 1 cup chopped walnuts

      Directions

      1. Place chocolate chips, sweetened condensed milk, and butter or margarine in large microwaveable bowl. Zap in microwave on medium until chips are melted, about 3-5 minute, stirring once or twice during cooking. Stir in nuts.
      2. Pour into well-greased 8x8-inch glass baking dish. Refrigerate until set.

      Thursday, December 16, 2010

      Peanutbutter Cup Cookies

      I have been dreaming about this recipe for a couple of years now.

      Ever since I found it on AllRecipes.com and saw that over 1600 people have given it a five star review and 74,000 more have saved the recipe.

      As an aside, that's what I love about all recipes and sites like it - the comments from reviewers and ratings are always very helpful.

      Anyways, this year while grocery shopping in late November I spotted the miniature peanutbutter cups called for in the recipe and decided that Christmas 2010 would be the one where I would try these cookies for myself.

















      In a world where things don't always live up to expectations, these little nuggets of ooey, gooey, choclatey wonder more than deliver.

      SO much so that I have to make another two batches before my son comes home from school because these ones are now gone.

      I hope you enjoy!

      Merry Christmas!

      Peanutbutter Cup Cookies
      For printable recipe click HERE

















      Ingredients

      * 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
      * 1/2 teaspoon salt
      * 1 teaspoon baking soda
      * 1/2 cup butter, softened
      * 1/2 cup white sugar
      * 1/2 cup peanut butter
      * 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
      * 1 egg, beaten
      * 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
      * 2 tablespoons milk
      * 40 miniature chocolate covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped

      Directions

      1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Sift together the flour, salt and baking soda; set aside.
      2. Cream together the butter, sugar, peanut butter and brown sugar until fluffy. Beat in the egg, vanilla and milk. Add the flour mixture; mix well. Shape into 40 balls and place each into an ungreased mini muffin pan.
      3. Bake at 375 degrees for about 8 minutes. Remove from oven and immediately press a mini peanut butter cup into each ball. Works best if you freeze the peanutbutter cups first. Cool and carefully remove from pan.

      Wednesday, December 15, 2010

      Christmas Baking: Ricotta Snowball Cakes

      I've been doing quite a bit of Christmas baking this year - which is a nice change from the holidays last year where I did all of of my "baking" at the Superstore.

      I hadn't even thought about why that was until last weekend when I was baking the misfit rugelach.

      It occurred to me I was still grieving the loss of our family dog Ziggy earlier in the fall and had made an unconscious decision not to do a lot for Christmas.

      This is interesting to me on many levels because it's not my usual M.O.

      I am the type of person who usually throws myself into activities to keep me busy when I'm feeling stressed or depressed.

      But I guess when it comes to the big things like grief, I actually have the good sense to slow myself down and take the pressure off.

      This is a relief.

      With new life - aka our puppy Max - comes new hope, though, and it's nice this year to be in the June Cleaveresque headspace I'm in.


















      My preferred state of mind for the holidays.

      So far I've baked the rugelach, chocolate fudge, peanut butter cup cookies (recipe tomorrow) and the following wonderfully fluffy and luscious little tea cakes with glorious cream cheese frosting.


















      Sprinkled with a little edible silver glitter they look almost angelic and would be a heavenly addition to anyone's Christmas baking.

      Serve on a snowy winter day with a steaming pot of Earl Gray tea.

      Ricotta Snowball Cakes
      For printable recipe click HERE

      Ingredients
      • 1/2cup cup unsalted butter, softened
      • 1cup cup granulated sugar
      • 1egg
      • 1 cup cup ricotta cheese
      • 1 tsp vanilla
      • 2 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1/2 tsp tsp salt
      • 1/4 tsp baking soda
      • 1/4 tsp baking powder
      Icing:
      • 1/2 cup cream cheese, softened
      • 1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
      • 1-1/2 cups icing sugar
      • 1/2 tsp vanilla
      • Edible Silver flakes or drages
      Directions:
      1. In large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy; beat in egg, ricotta and vanilla, beating well after each.
      2. In separate bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and baking powder; stir into ricotta mixture.
      3. Drop by generous 1 tbsp (15 mL) onto parchment paper–lined rimless baking sheets. Bake in 350°F (180°C) oven until bottoms are golden, 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to racks and let cool.
      Icing:
      1. In bowl, beat cream cheese with butter.
      2. Beat in icing sugar until creamy; beat in vanilla.
      3. Divide into thirds; spread over tops of cookies. Refrigerate until icing is firm, about 30 minutes. (Make-ahead: Refrigerate in airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze for up to one month)
      4. Sprinkle with silver
      Merry Christmas everyone!


      Monday, December 13, 2010

      Blueberry Rugelach

      One of my favourite Christmas shows is the Rankin Bass version of Rudolph.

      Probably because I've always been able to relate to the misfit.


















      That person who doesn't quite look or act like everyone else, and because of it, is set apart.

      But when we focus on exteriors and what we perceive to be beautiful, we run the risk of losing our chance to meet - or taste - people, and cookies, that might at first put us off.















      Pictured above is my first effort at making blueberry rugelach.

      If there was an island for misfit cookies, I'm certain these poor, prehistoric parcels of baked dough would qualify for entry.

      Which is always the case with Rugelach and me.

      I make it every Christmas, and each time I do, I end up with a hot mess as I put together the first batch.

      The dough is too sticky.

      It won't come together.

      It's just not like "other" mixtures.

      And I have to admit, this year I almost abandoned my quest to make these lovely little morsels because my first efforts were so Quasimoto.

      But as I went to throw out a cookie that disintigrated as I attempted to remove it from the tray, I tasted a corner...
















      Despite a rather poor first impression, it was DELICIOUS!

      Even though I had baked many better looking cookies that day, these - as it turns out - were my favourites.

      Which puts a whole new holiday spin on "You can't judge a book by it's cover."

      The difficult little rugelach became easier and easier to work with once I got to know the dough better and felt comfortable working with its unique texture.

















      Which is another lovely holiday metaphor if you think about it.

      So, feeling pleased and peaceful, I conjured up a little celebration...





















      There's nothing quite like watching holiday movies with warm cookies and a cold glass of milk surrounded by the warm ambience of Christmas lights.

      And that's the blog.

      xoxo

      Blueberry Rugelach
      For printable recipe click HERE
















      Ingredients

      • 1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
      • 1 8-ounce package cream cheese, at room temperature
      • 2 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
      • 2 1/2 cups flour
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 3/4 cup finely chopped pecans
      • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
      • 1 cup good quality blueberry jam (I used home made)
      • 1 large egg white, beaten

      Directions

      1. Beat the butter, cream cheese and 2 tablespoons sugar at high speed until fluffy.
      2. Mix in the flour and salt at low speed.
      3. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface; divide into 6 equal portions. Shape into balls, wrap in plastic wrap or wax paper and refrigerate for 30 at least minutes.
      4. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.
      5. On a lightly floured surface, unwrap a piece of dough and roll out to an 8-inch round. You may need to add a little more flour to the dough and work it a bit with your hands to get it to the right consistency to roll out. Don't be afraid to handle it a little - pretend you're a kid again playing with Play Dough.
      6. Spread 2 tablespoons jam over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border.
      7. Cut the dough into 8 pie-slice-like triangles. Sprinkle 2 heaping tablespoons of the pecans on top and then roll up each triangle from the outside in; bend slightly into a crescent shape. Place 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with more of the dough and walnut mixture until the sheet is full. Brush with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar.
      8. Bake until golden, about 22 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.