Merry Christmas + {this week on s&h..}

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Wishing you all a happy, peaceful and merry Christmas this week!

I hope that, by now, you are all somewhere cozy by a fire surrounded by your favorite people, animals, and treats.

I’m getting things ready for Christmas dinner and singing along to carols and waiting for Meet Me in St Louis – my favorite holiday movie – to start on TCM. And then Christmas in Connecticut!

Now is a good time to indulge, reflect, and forgive.

And if you are still stuck for ideas for holiday snacks, this post has you covered. And if you’re up for making delightful mini mince pies… lots of people will thank you!

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I’m pretty sure that we’re not waiting until Christmas Day to eat the bûche de Noël.

And tonight we are making a buckwheat, mushroom, and quince stuffed big bird chicken with a quince glaze (I’m all about the quinces this season), a brie baked with cranberries, some twice baked sweet potatoes with chives and sour cream, an arugula and grapefruit salad, and these Russian rum ball-style sweets (known as kartoshka).

Happy celebrating (…and happy eating!) – I’m toasting you with my hot chocolate!

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Quatre quarts pumpkin cake with cinnamon icing

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It seems to be that time of year when it’s hard to step away from the oven.

It’s a lot of fun, but you always want to have some simple and quick recipes up your sleeve for entertaining friends and family who may be in town for the holidays.

That’s where the quatre quarts cake come in – it’s a classic French pound cake that uses four ingredients in equal (1/4) weight proportion.

For example, when using 3 standard eggs in a recipe such as here, weigh them using a kitchen scale. They should weigh about 6 oz altogether, giving you the base weight for the rest of your ingredients: flour, sugar, and oil/butter. I have converted these into cups in the recipe below, for ease, but now you know the basic trick!

The quatre quarts has endless variations, giving you a base to make a loaf or cake with added fruit or nuts or other seasoning flavorings.

My house is still not over the pumpkin ‘thing’ that has been such a large part of this festive season, so this is a pumpkin spice cake variation with the most delicious cinnamon-vanilla icing.

Pumpkin cake with cinnamon-vanilla icing

You’ll need

  • 1 cup AP flour
  • 1/4 cup spelt flour (you can substitute whole wheat)
  • 2 T softened butter
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (a bland and sweet variety)
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup raw cane sugar
  • 2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t nutmeg
  • pinch of kosher salt

for icing:

  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 2 T heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a cake pan or line it carefully with parchment.

2. Melt the butter and whisk together vigorously with oil, eggs, and sugar. In a separate bowl, sift together the dry ingredients first, then add them to the rest of the batter.

3. Pour batter into the cake pan (it will be fairly thick) and smooth out the top with a knife.

4. Bake for approximately 25 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean. Let the cake cool slightly before turning it out and icing.

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5. To make the icing, simply whisk together the confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and heavy cream. If the icing is too thick, add a little bit more cream.

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The icing will have attractive little flecks from the vanilla and cinnamon.

Notes: This a bit of a ‘wetter’ pound cake with the addition of the pumpkin puree, but because you’re baking it thinner than you would in a loaf pan, it still cooks through in about the same time.

Enjoy the cake with tea or coffee; it will keep well for a few days covered and at room temperature.

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Le chocolat chaud {with a twist}

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Around this time of year, I like to make some extra rich chocolate chaud with oversize peppermint marshmallows (okay, that part is très américain), put it in a travel mug and drive around after dusk looking at everyone’s Christmas lights. This never fails to put me in the holiday mood.

Hot chocolate – the rich, velvety French kind – is generally a very cheering thing. I find that, at times, it’s more effective than caffeine.

My first cup of le chocolate chaud at Fouquet’s, followed by subsequent religious trips to Angelina’s, as a child, made me bounce off the walls a bit. The sugar! The cocoa! It was glorious. I don’t think I could ever finish the whole thing.

Being an adult now, in most things – though, perhaps, not when it comes to hot chocolate -I also enjoy bicerin, the Piedmontese coffee and chocolate concoction.

And so, this is a little combination of both – a cozy drink to enjoy with family and friends.

Tips: To make this a truly thick French chocolate, I like more chocolate and less milk but, of course, adjust to taste.

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 Le chocolate chaud (hot chocolate) with espresso 

(serves 1)

  • 5 T shaved bittersweet chocolate (Guittard or Callebaut is best)
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1/2 t brown sugar
  • 1 shot of espresso
  • 1/4 t vanilla bean paste
  • marshmallows (optional)

1. As with all the best simple things, use the best ingredients that you can find. Shave the chocolate using a microplane or a grater.

2. Whisk the cold heavy cream vigorously until soft peaks form and set aside.

3. Bring milk to a slight simmer on medium heat, reduce heat just as it starts to foam and whisk in chocolate, sugar, and espresso.

4. Whisk continuously until chocolate and sugar are melted.

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5. Top with whipped cream and marshmallows and serve immediately (like you could wait!).

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Almond tuile cookies + home for the holidays

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Tuiles are meant to resemble little roof tiles and while they are delicate buttery cookies, they stack neatly, like the tiles that they are, and fit into mason jars for easy storing, shipping, and festive gifting.

Read my story & recipe over on VRAI Magazine and surprise someone who is far away from home this holiday season with a sweet treat.

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Bruléed Grapefruit

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It’s been a while since we’ve done breakfast together.

So striking and so pleasingly retro, yet so perfect for today and every day.

Caramelized brown sugar + pink grapefruit + a sprinkle of fleur de del to create a whiff of that salted caramel flavor.

How to win breakfast: Bruléed Grapefruit

Just preheat the oven as soon as you get up, then halve the grapefruits, sprinkle liberally with light brown or raw sugar  (though this would also be great with maple sugar, as a variation), and broil and torch these beauties.

Sprinkle with a pinch of fleur de sel or another mild, flaky salt and serve immediately.

et voilà! 

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So what else could you brûlée?

How about Crème brûlée oatmeal for the ultimate morning indulgence..

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‘Tis the season: wreaths + holiday party inspiration

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There are a few surefire ingredients that make for a good holiday party.

They include: cheerful guests, delicious food, fragrant evergreens, seasonal hot toddies & oranges studded with cloves, and many, many photo-ops.

All of the above was in abundance at the And North & James’s Daughter Flowers wreath workshop and brunch at Isa last weekend.

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While Lisa was showing us how to work some magic with juniper branches, eucalyptus, and what may have been sea anemones though I am no expert, we tucked into sumptuous banana bread French toast with maple walnuts and worked on our own wreaths.

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I love that if you give fifteen people the same ingredients, whether you’re cooking or making wreaths or bouquets, everyone will come up with something vastly different.

And that’s half the fun.

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Thank you to Emma, Katie, Stephen, Nat, Lisa, Tim, and everyone for a wonderful day bonding over a shared love for the Hudson Valley and an enthusiasm for all things festive & pretty.

{Holiday Gift Guide 2014!} presents for foodies & travelers

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Welcome to s&h’s first holiday gift guide!

I’m so excited to share some of my favorite things & ideas for lovely presents for the chic foodie travelers in your lives.

1. The girls of Flower Girl NYC are not only great gals, but also make the most wonderful and creative floral arrangements around. Take your best friend to a class, if you are in New York, or just indulge your mom with a handmade soap. For Friend/Mom

2. I love Kusmi tea, though it can be hard to find here in the US. The Paris rose green tea and the fruity Anastasia black tea are favorites, and the tins are gorgeous. For Friend/Host

3. This is my new favorite thing – the Mighty Purse is a great travel companion and charges your phone on the go. For Mom

4. I met Dina and Wendy at the Basilica Farm+Flea where I purchased their absolutely stunning Foraging&Feasting book – part cookbook, part illustrated reference volume. I’m so happy that they recently won the Independent Publishers’ Gold Medal. For Friend/Cook

5. For an avid traveller, here is a travel guide set for those eager to explore Europe on a bike (useful for those traveling along on foot too!). London, Barcelona, Copenhagen… I’m getting itchy travel feet. For Dad

6. Virginia Ruth handcrafts these handkerchiefs – which also double as chic cloth napkins! – in Tennessee. For Dad/Host

7. This L’Occitane advent calendar is full of bubbly Provençal and Paris-themed treats. For Friend/Daughter/Niece

8. Virginia Sin’s plates (seen here) are impeccable and a food stylist favorite. This oyster plate is definitely on my wish list! For Cook

9. Crown Maple in Dover Plains, NY makes amazing syrups, but also maple sugar pearls for holiday baking and sweet treats like these maple-glazed nuts. They can package it all up for you into a ready gift set too. For Host/Cook/Everyone

10. And a splurge for yourself: Subscription service OuiPlease will deliver a box of hand-picked French goodies to your door six times a year. Volume 1 is themed “Paris, I Miss You,” which is true, bien sur. 

Simple pleasures: watermelon radish and apple slaw

IMG_1873It’s funny how the holidays are supposed to remind us of the simpler things in life since those are the things we should really be thankful for each season, but festive occasions can still tend to the overcomplicated and unnecessarily stressful.

That’s why I think that the week after a holiday weekend is a particularly good time to go back to simpler pleasures, taking a moment to enjoy them all.

And to use the last bits of that cranberry sauce too.

Watermelon radishes are such a gorgeous treat, plus they remind me of watermelon and, thus, summer, which can’t be so terribly far away…

Watermelon radish and apple slaw

You’ll need:

  • 1 large watermelon radish
  • 2 lady apples
  • 2 T cranberry sauce {I used some leftover pomegranate-cranberry sauce from Thankgiving}
  • 1 t lemon juice
  • olive oil
  • salt, pepper
  • fresh thyme (optional)

1. Use a mandolin – very carefully – or a sharpened chef’s knife – to slice the watermelon radishes and lady apples very thinly. Cut into quarters.

2. Whisk together the lemon juice, cranberry sauce, and enough olive oil to form a light emulsion. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

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3. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl, mix well, and top with a little bit of fresh thyme for seasonal flavor, if desired.

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{postcard from Hudson..} Basilica Farm + Flea

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This past weekend, our bellies full of good food and drink, we headed up to Hudson, New York for the second annual Basilica Farm + Flea.

The Flea is a gathering of local artisans, craftsmen, cooks, and farmers, as well as a celebration of the wonderful community of all of the above that exists here in the Hudson Valley.

The event was full of old friends and so much inspiration for Christmas projects, gifting, and beyond.

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Post-Thanksgiving post

IMG_1842I am having a kale smoothie as I write this, but make no mistake, I will be tucking into that leftover pie come teatime.

Thanksgiving was lovely – from snowy walks with my favorite borrowed puppy (not mine!) to football excitement and neighborhood cheer, it all came together beautifully.

The hustle and bustle of the kitchen is much more familiar to me than having a full house, and I did not feel rushed at all this year having spread out the cooking over two days.

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It also helped that we kept the menu fairly traditional this year: Stone Barns turkey, Dad’s mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts with roasted garlic and pistachios, a farm fresh spinach and pomegranate salad (which was a great refreshing starter), cranberry-pomegranate sauce (this may have been my favorite)… and pumpkin-carrot bread (adapted from this muffin recipe), a bigger and better version of the goat cheese & quince tart (this time with a goat cheese & quark filling), and a deep dish cinnamon apple pie made with five layers of fresh Pippins, my favorite baking apple.

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All in all, every year, I grow more appreciative of having the opportunity to travel home (or having people come visit you) to enjoy a cozy weekend full of exactly the things we are all most grateful for having.

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And sharing our homes and our tables with others on this day is really what this great holiday is all about, to me.

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I hope you enjoy your weekend  – and your leftovers {ps. these mini turkey shepherd’s pies are still my favorite thing to make} – and lets hold on to those holiday moods throughout December.

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