Holiday Sweet Bread: Challah

holiday-challah

Challah:  Holiday Fruit Bread

This is a wonderfully fragrant, moist and yeasty bread.  Lovely to look and even better to eat!  Give yourself plenty of time to enjoy the process from mixing to kneading to baking and serving.  Glyn

 1/4 cup dried apricots diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup Granny Smith apple diced

1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 tsp dry yeast

1/3 cup sugar
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup butter (melted)

2 Duck Eggs (or 3 XL chicken eggs)
1 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
4 cups all purpose-flour

1 egg (for brushing)
1 tbs. sugar

  1. Soak the cranberries and apricots in the boiling water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving both fruit and water.
  2. Let the water cool to warm. Measure. If needed add additional warm water to make 1/2 Cup.
  3. Pour the yeast onto the warm water and stir.
  4. Combine the duck eggs, sugar, salt, butter, cinnamon and cardamom. Mix well.
  5. Stir in the yeast and water.
  6. Add the reserved fruit and 1 cup of flour
  7. Gradually add the remaining flour to create a slightly sticky but manageable dough.
  8. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead 10 minutes, adding additional flour if needed smooth elastic dough.
  9. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turn to oil both sides. Cover with dish towel and place in an oven with light on.
  10. Let rise till doubled (about 1 and 1/2 hours)
  11. Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  12. Shape the dough as you wish. Braided, spiral, round loaf, or small individual loaves. Place on baking sheet.
  13. Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with 1 tbs. sugar.
  14. Let rise again for 30 minutes.
  15. Preheat Oven to 350.
  16. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  17. Cool on a rack. Serve warm, toasted or at room temperature.

Servings: 12           Yield: One Loaf

Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 3 hours

Oven Temperature: 350°F

Nutrition Facts

Serving size: 1/12 of a recipe (3.6 ounces).

Calories 293.7
Calories From Fat (20%) 57.74
Total Fat 6.54g 10%
Saturated Fat 3.07g 15%
Cholesterol 128.8mg 43%
Sodium 219.7mg 9%
Potassium 130.71mg 4%
Total Carbohydrates 51.7g 17%
Fiber 2.58g 10%
Sugar 8.82g
Protein 6.83g 14%

Braised Oxtails

Braised Oxtails 4

Here’s a variation on Osso Bucco made with oxtails rather than veal or beef shanks. It’s a lovely, savory, slow-cooked main dish perfect for a cold winter day. And if you don’t have time to make it all at once, do the active part in the evening, refrigerate over night, and cook on low in a slow cooker for 6-8 hours the next day.
You can use either red or white wine with this dish. Just make sure its a dry wine.
To keep it gluten-free, serve with polenta or rice. Otherwise, use your favorite noodles.
Bon Appetit!
Glyn

Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
3 lbs beef oxtail
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
1 1/2 cups chopped celery
1 cup chopped carrot 1 tbsp chopped garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste (or dried tomato powder)
1 cup dry wine (red or white)
salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:
1 Preheat the oven to 300 F.
2 Pat the oxtails dry.

braised oxtails 1
3 In a heavy, lidded casserole, heat the olive oil to medium high.
4 In batches, sear the oxtails on each side. Remove to a plate.

Braised oxtails 2
5 In the same pan, saute the onion, garlic, carrot and celery until lightly browned.

braised oxtails 3
6 Remove from the burner and stir in the tomato powder or paste.
7 Return the oxtails to the casserole, placing them on top of the vegetables (in one layer if possible).
8 Add the wine.
9 Cover tightly and place in the pre-heated oven if you are cooking it all in one day.
10 Cook slowly for two hours,
11 If you are cooking in two stages, refrigerate overnight and use a crock pot or slow cooker the next day to complete.

Servings: 8
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Oven Temperature: 300°F
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
Inactive Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours and 35 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/8 of a recipe (6.2 ounces).
Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Main Dish, Meat

Nutrition Braised Oxtails

What to do with the left-over bubbly?

 

beef in champagne 1

Beef in Champagne

Like many cooks and entertainers, I tend to over-shop at holidays. This year, in addition to a half-full bottle of completely potable California “Champagne,” I found myself with a pound and a half of Crimini mushrooms, a quart of whole cream, assorted nuts and cheeses, and enough produce to stock a small market. Much of it will keep long enough to see us through this week, but the mushrooms were staring down their “use-by” date, and the champagne (even when stored with a spoon in the neck of the bottle to preserve the bubbles) was loosing it’s charm.

Enter Beef in Champagne — a gluten-free, low-carb riff on beef burgundy (or stroganoff). It takes about two and half hours to prepare but it also sits for four hours. So if you get it into the oven in half an hour and set your oven to go off after two hours, you can leave and then reheat it at dinner time.

To keep things low-carb, serve it with mashed cauliflower or spaghetti squash. Or, if your New Year’s resolutions permit, serve with potatoes or over noodles.

Pair it with a nice salad, and a crisp dry wine — even champagne!

Enjoy,
Glyn

Ingredients:
4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 lb stew beef chunks, cut intoi inch cubes
2 cups sliced yellow onions
4 cloves garlic, chopped
18 oz mushrooms thickly sliced 1/2 tsp dried thyme leaves
1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 tsp black pepper to taste
1 1/2 cups Champagne or White Wine
1/2 cup sour cream (OPTIONAL)

beef in champagne3

Procedure:
1 Heat half the olive oil in a heavy sauce pan or oven proof lidded casserole.

2 Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent and slightly golden in color. Remove to a bowl.

3 Turn the heat to medium high. Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté until they have released and re-absorbed their liquid — about 15 minutes.

beef in champagne2

4 Season with salt, pepper and thyme. Remove to a bowl.

beef in champagne4

5 Pat the beef cubes dry. In the same pan, add the remaining olive oil and sear the beef. If it is too moist to sear, just cook until the liquid evaporates.

beef in champagne5

6 Return the onions, garlic and mushrooms to the pan with the beef, Stir well.

beef in champagne 6

7 Add the champagne and let it bubble for a moment or two.

beef in champagne 7

8 Lower the heat, cover tightly and simmer for two hours. (Or bake in a 275 degree oven.)

9 Let sit for up to four hours (or overnight in the fridge.)

10 Reheat before serving, cooking down the sauce to your preference.

11 For an even richer dish, stir in a half cup of sour cream.

beef in champagne 1

Servings: 4
Degree of Difficulty: Moderately difficult
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 2 hours
Inactive Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 6 hours and 15 minutes
Nutrition Facts
Serving size: 1/4 of a recipe (14.8 ounces).
Recipe Type
Gluten-Free, Low-Carb, Main Dish, Meat

Nutrition Information:

beef in champagne 8.jpg

A Body and Mind in Sync

solstice quote

First Day of Winter. December 21st. 3:30pm on the eastern edge of the central time zone. It’s grey, foggy and wet. The dusk is so deep that the holiday lights have come on. Today is the shortest day of the year in the northern hemisphere; a moment when the wheel of the year turns again toward the lengthening of days and the coming of Summer.

In previous years, I was at work on this day. I would have noted the ever earlier sunset and perhaps have driven a bit more carefully on the way home through the wooded hillside of Pennsylvania; conscious of the altered routines and challenged circadian rhythms of my fellow creatures. But the Solstice would have remained an external phenomenon. It would not have had the power to alter my daily rounds.

Today is different. I have walked these hours through a liminal landscape. My brain has been aware of the time of day, the events on the calendar, the household chores at hand. My body, however, has insisted that I listen to the rhythms within. I have been sitting quietly. Reading, thinking, deeply aware…deeply at peace. And when after lunch I felt the pull of sleep, I did not fight it. Wrapped in an afghan, I stretched out on the sofa and slept, allowing my body and brain to operate for once in tandem, cradled and motionless in the arms of the gathering dark.

Today is a special day. My heart, body and genetic memories know it. They always have. But today, my mind has known it too, and joining my spirit, has entered into the deep peace of winter.

This is good. Very Good.

Scrooged: Misanthropes Among Us

Scrooged

Unlike most other adaptations of Dickens’ Ebeneezer Scrooge, Bill Murray’s portrayal of Frank Cross in “Scrooged” leaves us with little doubt as to his basic character. This Scrooge is not just a misanthrope, he’s a jerk. There may well be all sorts of mitigating circumstances in his past, but the fact remains that this guy actively enjoys bullying, humiliating and generally riding roughshod over everyone in his path. In fact, his redemption, when it comes, is not achieved by his learning something about human decency. Nor is his heart softened by the realization of his connections to the lives of others. Frank Cross has to be terrorized into rejoining the human race.

Thing is, it works. Which makes me wonder…

Spiritually speaking, what would it take to put the fear of God into most of us?  Not in the sense of punishment, eternal damnation and all that stuff. In the long run, those things never work; they just temporarily change our behavior.

Fear, in the biblical sense, refers to awe and reverence. In that context, to fear God means learning (among other things) to recognize our place in the creator/creature relationship and to respond appropriately. It takes us down a few notches in our estimation of our own centrality in the universe. It also has the effect of reminding us of the necessity of others in our journey through life. It’s hard to become fully human all by yourself.

But becoming fully human is exactly what we have to do. It won’t be easy and because few of us are naturally altruistic, we might have to start from the perspective of enlightened self interest instead. After all, unless we learn to get along, we’re likely to destroy ourselves and our world. But maybe, together, we can learn to offer each other the respect we deserve, and to reverence the image of the divine which we all bear. What a great Christmas Gift that would be.

It’s A Wonderful Life

wonderful like

Unintentional narcissism seems to be the abiding sin of our age. We are so wrapped in in monitoring how we feel, what we need or want, or what others think of us that we seldom stop to think about what our presence might mean in this world.

We don’t do it because we are selfish. Most of the time, we’re not even aware that we are doing it. We are narcissists because we are afraid. Afraid that we are not good enough. Afraid that no matter how hard we work or deeply we love, loss and sorrow are only a heartbeat a way. It’s a very effective method of wasting time and never quite engaging reality. It’s also a humdinger of a way to live and die without ever recognizing that life is wonderful — even when we don’t know it. Even when we are to tired, or worried, or angry to notice, this is still a wonderful life.

Because life is wonderful all on its own. And as George Bailey comes to know, while that wonder is enhanced by our presence and participation — especially in the our impact on the lives of others — life’s wonderfulness is not contingent on our efforts. In other words, we don’t have to make life wonderful. It just is.

So today, let’s all throw our hands in the air, take a deep breath and jump headfirst into the wonder. It’s there for us, just waiting to be noticed.

Movies in Advent ~ White Christmas

white christmas1

We watched White Christmas last night, and today I am wondering just what it is that makes this film so enduringly endearing.

In a word, “Values.”

Yes, it’s nostalgic, simplistic, dated, and corny. The romantic angle is implausible. The plot concerns Christmas only in that it takes place over the holiday season. It doesn’t even endorse our culture’s obsession with consumerism and Rockwellian family gatherings. But it does remind us that those who have endured and survived genuine hardship most often have the best sense of perspective.

Because the main character of the film is not any one person. It is the relationship forged in the forced community of an army at war. These folks have been tried in the fires of world-threatening conflict, and the experience has taught them the value of friendship,loyalty,and respect.

So when a group of hoofers and grunts give up the comforts of a fireside Christmas Eve to say “thank you”, we understand. Maybe we even get a bit teary.

Unlike the fear-based, comfort-driven and often selfish motives of modern life, “White Christmas” celebrates real human values. We need that more than ever.

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