Saturday, December 21, 2013

Simply DELICIOUS (and simple) Christmas Dinner. Because you have already done enough!

The baking is done.  The gifts are wrapped.  The stockings are stuffed.  The house is clean and fully decorated.  Now it is NOT time to start a cooking marathon for dinner!  We just did that for Thanksgiving -- and it was worth all the effort.  But for Christmas, we can have a beautiful, elegant meal without much fuss at all.  It starts with local foods.  And it starts with a beautiful roast.  Here is our menu and some ideas for alternatives that should make your day a bit easier.


This is made the night before.  Use your favorite recipe for Breakfast Strata -- which is sort of a puffy egg and cheese and bread dish.  It has to "soak" for several hours -- so prepare it on Christmas Eve and refrigerate.  It will be ready to pop in the oven in the morning.  We have plenty of farm fresh eggs and bacon to add to this dish.  Add some cheese from one of our fine local cheese makers (my favorites are Robinson's, Smith's Country Cheese, Westfield farm).  And of course it would be worth your while to seek out Zion Roasters in Gardner to get some of the best coffee around (grab a few extras for hostess gifts if you need them)!



A nice local, farm raised roast is as good as it gets.  Some suggestions are Prime Rib Roast (my personal favorite and oh, so easy), Encrusted Eye of the Round, Rubbed Brisket (we have one customer that is making two of these for her dinner), Sirloin Strip Roast, Top Round -- your very traditional roast beef! Or, how about a brined fresh ham??  Stop by or arrange a time to pick up  your Christmas Roast.  We have what you need!

Local Vegetables

Seek these out where you can.  At this time of year, some local farmers are selling only to their long-term customers but you can browse Mass Local Food to see where some of these producers are located. Winter Squash, Brussels Sprout, Potato, Creamed Onions.  Keep it simple.  Let the flavors of the foods come through!d

Local Wine and Beer 

There are now many local wineries in Massachusetts.  Talk to Joe at the Westminster Pharmacy -- he will not steer you wrong -- he is very knowledgeable and should have whatever you are looking for (just in case you can't drive to the wineries yourself).  For your beer, it is worth the trip to Wachusett Brewing Company to fill up your growler!  Store hours for Christmas Eve from 9:00 until 3:00 with free tastings.


And of course, dessert from Honeybee Baking Company.  Robin is one of our most talented local bakers and ANYTHING you get from her will become your new favorite.  She is located in Princeton and takes orders on Mass Local Food -- and can be found at the Westminster Farmers' Market during the summer.  But for now, give her a call and see what she has.  If you contact her for your dessert, I would recommend that you also try the ginger scones for a light meal or a compliment to your delicious (easy) breakfast (we really only need breakfast and dinner on Christmas day -- so the scones would be a nice tea at some point in the day).

Have a Great Christmas Day and Eat Local!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

English Muffins are Making My Family HAPPY.

Here is my updated cooking method (and a bit more detail) about my homemade English Muffins (and again, a Thank You to Carol McGee for the inspiration).

I put my dry ingredients in a gallon sized twist tie bag.  I can make 10 of these in 10 minutes plus a short amount of clean-up time (and remember, I get my King Arthur flour from Johnson's Egg Farm for $20 for 50 pounds -- cheapest price anywhere).  Look for a restaurant supplier near you.  Now, my dry ingredients that go in the bag are the exact same as the dry ingredients for my pizza crust which makes this extra handy.  The only addition is 1/8 tsp of baking powder which I add to the dry mix when I am making English muffins. 

Dry Mix -- write this in sharpie right onto your bread machine
2 pounds flour (I weigh this on a kitchen scale).
1 Tablespoon Sugar (I use brown sugar because this is what I need for pizza crust)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 Tablespoons yeast.

Put the dry ingredients in the bread machine pan (you may have to adjust to use less flour).
Add the following (and write this on your bread machine, too):
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water

I measure the milk into a large measuring cup and then top up to 2 1/2 cups water.  This gives me 1 cup of milk and 1 1/2 cups water but I don't like how wide the top of the measuring cups are these days.  I think the large cups are not accurate because of the surface tension -- so I prefer to measure all my liquid in one go if possible.

So, by now, I have about 2 or 3 minutes into the dough at this point.  I pour the liquid in slowly so my bread machine can handle the super-sized dough ball. 

After 20 minutes, my bread machine starts a rise cycle.  Normally I take my dough out before the rise and put it in the empty dry-ingredients bag.  I twist tie it and put it in the fridge until I'm ready to use it.  This eliminates the next 70 minutes of not being able to forget the dough.  I can forget it in the fridge. 

When I'm ready to make the dough (it should have at least for hours to rise in the fridge as it rises much more slowly), I remove the dough and let it warm a bit. 

Now for my new cooking trick.  I take one of my large, heavy baking trays, flip it upside down and sprinkle with cornmeal from four star farms in Northfield.  I then roll golf ball sized lumps into balls and place 12 on the baking tray.  Then I flip each ball of dough so it has some cornmeal on both sides.  Now, for the final trick, I place another large, heavy baking tray on top of all the English Muffins.

Put them in a preheated 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Everyone in my family is loving these and they are now the favored after-school snack.  They taste good the following day (not all fresh breads are good the next day) and make a very quick meal as bruschetta (we used to call them E.M. pizzas but isn't this so much more fun?) for lunch or dinner and of course are great for breakfast. 

Have fun and try something new!