Cooking With Honey – BLT And Blue Salad

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I made this salad on Christmas Eve and will make it again on New Year’s Eve.  It’s best if you make the dressing well in advance so the flavors have time to blend. My family tells me that the leftovers  are even good the next day!

Yield:  4 – 6 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup sour cream

1 cup mayonnaise

2/3 cup buttermilk

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash of Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon minced garlic

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

6 ounces blue cheese, preferably Maytag, crumbled fine

6 cups hearts of Romaine lettuce (about three heads) You may substitute iceberg lettuce

1/2 cup toasted hazelnuts (For how to toast, see below) You may substitute pine nuts

6 ounces crispy bacon

3 Roma tomatoes, finely diced

2 scallions, chopped

Directions:

Whisk together the first 10 ingredients except for the blue cheese. Once mixed, stir in 4 ounces of the crumbled blue cheese; cover and refrigerate until service. Overnight is even better. Taste for and adjust seasoning with salt and fresh ground black pepper.

Tear or slice the lettuce into chunks. In a mixing bowl, toss the lettuce with as much dressing as desired as well as half the bacon, tomatoes and toasted nuts.

Place the salad mixture into individual bowls or on plates, pour on dressing as desired,  and sprinkle with remaining blue cheese, bacon, tomatoes and nuts. Garnish with chopped scallions. Enjoy!

How to toast Hazelnuts:

Preheat oven to 350° F.

In a baking pan toast hazelnuts in one layer in middle of oven 10 to 15 minutes, or until lightly colored and skins are blistered. Wrap nuts in a kitchen towel and let steam 1 minute. Rub nuts in towel to remove loose skins (don’t worry about skins that don’t come off) and cool completely.

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Cooking With Honey – Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

mushroom lasagna

I love this recipe for this time of year! Nothing out of season and intensely fulfilling, both in taste and texture. Perfect to have on hand for lunches or late night snacking. Enjoy!

Yield:  6 servings

Ingredients:

Kosher salt

Good olive oil

3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles

4 cups whole milk

12 tablespoons (11/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon honey

1 1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms

1 cup freshly ground Parmesan

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Add honey and set aside off heat

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan.

Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Holidays With Honey – Honey Baked Ham

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This is one of the most popular recipes on my blog and in my cookbook, Cooking with Honey

It’s perfect for holiday dinners, and your guests will be vying for leftovers.

FYI, Cooking with Honey is still available for holiday delivery for $10 including shipping. Email me at rtbee@me.com with your orders.

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Ingredients:

1 fully-cooked shank half ham , bone in (pre-sliced is best)

1/4 cup white sugar

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/2 cup honey

¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

1⁄8; teaspoon paprika

1 dash ground ginger

1 dash ground allspice

Directions:

First you must slice your ham, if it is not already sliced. Use a very sharp knife to cut the ham into very thin slices around the bone.

Do not cut all the way to the bone or the meat may not hold together properly as it is being glazed. You want the slices to be quite thin, but not so thin that they begin to fall apart of off the bone.

You may wish to turn the ham onto its flat end and cut around it starting at the bottom. You can then spin the ham as you slice around and work your way up.

Mix the ingredients together in a small bowl. (I like to make double this recipe for a nice large ham).

Lay down a couple sheets of wax paper onto a flat surface, such as your kitchen counter. Pour the honey/sugar mixture onto the wax paper and spread it around evenly.

Pick up the ham and roll it over the sugar mixture so that it is well coated. Do not coat the flat end of the ham, just the outer surface which you have sliced through.

Turn the ham onto its flat end on a plate. Use a kitchen torch with a medium-size flame to caramelize the sugar.

Wave the torch over the sugar with rapid movements, so that the sugar bubbles and browns, but does not burn. Spin the plate so that you can torch the entire surface of the ham.

Repeat the coating and caramelizing process until the ham has been well-glazed (don’t expect to use all of the sugar mixture).

Serve the ham cold or re-heat.

Dickensian Winter

It’s snowing again! It looks like a real Dickens Christmas outside!!

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Cooking With Honey – Ina’s Favorite Holiday Appetizer

Ina Garten’s favorite holiday appetizer is easy and delicious. It has only two ingredients.

Guess what?  One of them is honey!

Baked Brie

This picture and recipe are reprinted from The Food Network.

Serves  5-8

Ingredients

1/4 wheel brie

4 tablespoons honey

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the brie on a sheet pan covered with parchment paper and drizzle with the honey. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes, or until it starts to ooze but not melt.

Serve with crackers.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens rediscovered the great Christian festival that  had been on the wane in Great Britain since the latter part of the eighteenth century.  The fact is that  Dickens more than anybody else revived the English Christmas traditions which had nearly died out.

the man who invented christmas

Professor Les Standiford, author of  The Man Who Invented Christmas, says: “Dickens is responsible for Christmas as we know it. He obviously didn’t invent it as an idea, but what he did with A Christmas Carol began the process that led to what we have today.”

Christmas was barely celebrated at the start of the 1800s and December 25 was just a normal working day.“The holiday was still suffering the effects of the Puritan era and seen as a Pagan enterprise,” says Professor Standiford.

“The publication of A Christmas Carol added an emotional component to Christmas and changed it. We will never know what Christmas would be like without Charles Dickens, but it would never have been quite the same as we enjoy today without him.”

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Although Dickens celebrated the festival of Christ’s birth in numerous works, it is A Christmas Carol, published on 19 December 1843, that has preserved the Christmas customs of olde England and fixed our image of the holiday season as one of wind, ice, and snow without, and piping hot turkey, and family cheer within. Coming from a family large but not-too-well-off, Charles Dickens presents again and again his idealized memory of a Christmas associated with the gathering of the family which “bound together all our home enjoyments, affections and hopes” in games such as Snap Dragon and Blind Man’s Buff, both of which his model lower-middle-class father, Bob Cratchit, runs home to play on Christmas Eve.

Pickwick papers

Idealized images of snow-carpeted streets evoked by Dickens are to blame for our preoccupation with white Christmases, according to experts. The author persistently wrote of a Britain smothered in snow, which is actually rare in the UK.

A decade of unusually cold weather during his childhood influenced his description of Britons “scraping the snow from the pavements in front of their dwellings, and from the tops of their houses” on Christmas morning.

Six of Dickens’s first nine Christmases were white, including one in the winter of 1813-14 during which the ice on the River Thames was thick enough to bear the weight of an elephant.

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The Christmas tree, a German tradition, was introduced into England by Queen Victoria’s consort Prince Albert in December, 1840, the couple having been married just the previous February. The tree, lit by candles still in European countries, complemented the holly and mistletoe that the Anglo-Saxons ever since their arrival in Britain in the fifth century had used to decorate their homes at the mid-winter festival. Before Prince Albert’s innovation, better-off English homes had used the “kissing bough” as the main decoration for the season. Two hoops were joined to make a globe, decorated with greenery, oranges, and apples, and, of course, mistletoe.

victorian christmas tree

The Christmas cards we send each other bear mute testimony to the pervasive influence of the Dickensian Christmas, as if our cultural notion of the holiday is permanently arrested in the early 1830s in rural England, when Dickens, then just a cub reporter for the True London Sun was racing around the countryside covering political events. Christmas was never far away for Dickens at any stage of his life; it is there in his first book, The Pickwick Papers (which contains the prototype of A Christmas Carol, “The Story of the Goblins Who Stole a Sexton,” the curmudgeon being the delightfully named Gabriel Grubb) and somewhat more gloomily in his last, The Mystery of Edwin Drood.

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One of his sons wrote that, for Dickens, Christmas was “a great time, a really jovial time, and my father was always at his best, a splendid host, bright and jolly as a boy and throwing his heart and soul into everything that was going on…. And then the dance! There was no stopping him!”

Isn’t that the true spirit of Christmas even today?

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Hang A Bee On Your Tree!

A bee ornament is a natural addition to your Christmas tree. These ornaments range from the silly to the sublime! All are available online.

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And of course we can’t forget our Batty friends!

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Ghosts On Christmas Eve

Ghost-of-Christmas-Present

By Jerome K. Jerome

It was Christmas Eve.

I begin this way because it is the proper, orthodox, respectable way to begin, and I have been brought up in a proper, orthodox, respectable way, and taught to always do the proper, orthodox, respectable thing; and the habit clings to me. Of course, as a mere matter of information it is quite unnecessary to mention the date at all. The experienced reader knows it was Christmas Eve, without my telling him.

It always is Christmas Eve, in a ghost story, Christmas Eve is the ghosts’ great gala night. On Christmas Eve they hold their annual fete. On Christmas Eve everybody in Ghostland who IS anybody–or rather, speaking of ghosts, one should say, I suppose, every nobody who IS any nobody–comes out to show himself or herself, to see and to be seen, to promenade about and display their winding-sheets and grave-clothes to each other, to criticize one another’s style, and sneer at one another’s complexion.

“Christmas Eve parade,” as I expect they themselves term it, is a function, doubtless, eagerly prepared for and looked forward to throughout Ghostland, especially the swagger set, such as the murdered Barons, the crime-stained Countesses, and the Earls who came over with the Conqueror, and assassinated their relatives, and died raving mad.

Hollow moans and fiendish grins are, one may be sure, energetically practised up. Blood-curdling shrieks and marrow-freezing gestures are probably rehearsed for weeks beforehand. Rusty chains and gory daggers are over-hauled, and put into good working order; and sheets and shrouds, laid carefully by from the previous year’s show, are taken down and shaken out, and mended, and aired.

Oh, it is a stirring night in Ghostland, the night of December the twenty-fourth! Ghosts never come out on Christmas night itself, you may have noticed. Christmas Eve, we suspect, has been too much for them; they are not used to excitement. For about a week after Christmas Eve, the gentlemen ghosts, no doubt, feel as if they were all head, and go about making solemn resolutions to themselves that they will stop in next Christmas Eve; while lady spectres are contradictory and snappish, and liable to burst into tears and leave the room hurriedly on being spoken to, for no perceptible cause whatever.

Ghosts with no position to maintain–mere middle-class ghosts– occasionally, I believe, do a little haunting on off-nights: on All-hallows Eve, and at Midsummer; and some will even run up for a mere local event–to celebrate, for instance, the anniversary of the hanging of somebody’s grandfather, or to prophesy a misfortune.

He does love prophesying a misfortune, does the average British ghost. Send him out to prognosticate trouble to somebody, and he is happy. Let him force his way into a peaceful home, and turn the whole house upside down by foretelling a funeral, or predicting a bankruptcy, or hinting at a coming disgrace, or some other terrible disaster, about which nobody in their senses want to know sooner they could possibly help, and the prior knowledge of which can serve no useful purpose whatsoever, and he feels that he is combining duty with pleasure. He would never forgive himself if anybody in his family had a trouble and he had not been there for a couple of months beforehand, doing silly tricks on the lawn, or balancing himself on somebody’s bed-rail.

Then there are, besides, the very young, or very conscientious ghosts with a lost will or an undiscovered number weighing heavy on their minds, who will haunt steadily all the year round; and also the fussy ghost, who is indignant at having been buried in the dust-bin or in the village pond, and who never gives the parish a single night’s quiet until somebody has paid for a first-class funeral for him.

But these are the exceptions. As I have said, the average orthodox ghost does his one turn a year, on Christmas Eve, and is satisfied.

Why on Christmas Eve, of all nights in the year, I never could myself understand. It is invariably one of the most dismal of nights to be out in–cold, muddy, and wet. And besides, at Christmas time, everybody has quite enough to put up with in the way of a houseful of living relations, without wanting the ghosts of any dead ones mooning about the place, I am sure.

There must be something ghostly in the air of Christmas–something about the close, muggy atmosphere that draws up the ghosts, like the dampness of the summer rains brings out the frogs and snails. And not only do the ghosts themselves always walk on Christmas Eve, but live people always sit and talk about them on Christmas Eve.

Whenever five or six English-speaking people meet round a fire on Christmas Eve, they start telling each other ghost stories. Nothing satisfies us on Christmas Eve but to hear each other tell authentic anecdotes about spectres. It is a genial, festive season, and we love to muse upon graves, and dead bodies, and murders, and blood.

There is a good deal of similarity about our ghostly experiences; but this of course is not our fault but the fault ghosts, who never will try any new performances, but always will keep steadily to old, safe business. The consequence is that, when you have been at one Christmas Eve party, and heard six people relate their adventures with spirits, you do not require to hear any more ghost stories. To listen to any further ghost stories after that would be like sitting out two farcical comedies, or taking in two comic journals; the repetition would become wearisome.

There is always the young man who was, one year, spending the Christmas at a country house, and, on Christmas Eve, they put him to sleep in the west wing. Then in the middle of the night, the room door quietly opens and somebody–generally a lady in her night-dress–walks slowly in, and comes and sits on the bed. The young man thinks it must be one of the visitors, or some relative of the family, though he does not remember having previously seen her, who, unable to go to sleep, and feeling lonesome, all by herself, has come into his room for a chat. He has no idea it is a ghost: he is so unsuspicious. She does not speak, however; and, when he looks again, she is gone!

The young man relates the circumstance at the breakfast-table next morning, and asks each of the ladies present if it were she who was his visitor. But they all assure him that it was not, and the host, who has grown deadly pale, begs him to say no more about the matter, which strikes the young man as a singularly strange request.

After breakfast the host takes the young man into a corner, and explains to him that what he saw was the ghost of a lady who had been murdered in that very bed, or who had murdered somebody else there–it does not really matter which: you can be a ghost by murdering somebody else or by being murdered yourself, whichever you prefer. The murdered ghost is, perhaps, the more popular; but, on the other hand, you can frighten people better if you are the murdered one, because then you can show your wounds and do groans.

Then there is the sceptical guest–it is always ‘the guest’ who gets let in for this sort of thing, by-the-bye. A ghost never thinks much of his own family: it is ‘the guest’ he likes to haunt who after listening to the host’s ghost story, on Christmas Eve, laughs at it, and says that he does not believe there are such things as ghosts at all; and that he will sleep in the haunted chamber that very night, if they will let him.

Everybody urges him not to be reckless, but he persists in his foolhardiness, and goes up to the Yellow Chamber (or whatever colour the haunted room may be) with a light heart and a candle, and wishes them all good-night, and shuts the door.

Next morning he has got snow-white hair.

He does not tell anybody what he has seen: it is too awful.

There is also the plucky guest, who sees a ghost, and knows it is a ghost, and watches it, as it comes into the room and disappearsthrough the wainscot, after which, as the ghost does not seem to be coming back, and there is nothing, consequently, to be gained by stopping awake, he goes to sleep.

He does not mention having seen the ghost to anybody, for fear of frightening them–some people are so nervous about  ghosts,–but determines to wait for the next night, and see if the apparition appears again.

It does appear again, and, this time, he gets out of bed, dresses himself and does his hair, and follows it; and then discovers a

secret passage leading from the bedroom down into the beer-cellar,- -a passage which, no doubt, was not unfrequently made use of in the bad old days of yore.

After him comes the young man who woke up with a strange sensation in the middle of the night, and found his rich bachelor uncle standing by his bedside. The rich uncle smiled a weird sort of smile and vanished. The young man immediately got up and looked at his watch. It had stopped at half-past four, he having forgotten to wind it.

He made inquiries the next day, and found that, strangely enough, his rich uncle, whose only nephew he was, had married a widow with eleven children at exactly a quarter to twelve, only two days ago, The young man does not attempt to explain the circumstance. All he does is to vouch for the truth of his narrative.

And, to mention another case, there is the gentleman who is returning home late at night, from a Freemasons’ dinner, and who, noticing a light issuing from a ruined abbey, creeps up, and looks through the keyhole. He sees the ghost of a ‘grey sister’ kissing the ghost of a brown monk, and is so inexpressibly shocked and frightened that he faints on the spot, and is discovered there the next morning, lying in a heap against the door, still speechless, and with his faithful latch-key clasped tightly in his hand.

All these things happen on Christmas Eve, they are all told of on Christmas Eve. For ghost stories to be told on any other evening than the evening of the twenty-fourth of December would be impossible in English society as at present regulated. Therefore, in introducing the sad but authentic ghost stories that follow hereafter, I feel that it is unnecessary to inform the student of Anglo-Saxon literature that the date on which they were told and on which the incidents took place was–Christmas Eve.

Nevertheless, I do so.

Holidays With Honey – Sausage And Cheese Bread

sausage bread

This is perfect for snacking or an appetizer!

Yield:  1 loaf, about 14 pieces

Ingredients

1 recipe Basic Pizza Dough, recipe follows

2 tablespoons yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoons olive oil

3/4 pound mild Italian sausage, remove from the casings

1 cup diced yellow onions

1 teaspoon chopped garlic

1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves

1 tablespoon honey

1 1/2 cups shredded mozzarella

1 egg plus 2 teaspoons water, beaten together

Directions

Preheat oven to 375 degree F, and sprinkle 1 tablespoon of the cornmeal onto a large baking sheet pan.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook until browned and no pink is left, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and crushed red pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove the skillet from the heat and add the honey, basil and parsley, stirring to combine. Cool the sausage mixture completely.

Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of cornmeal onto a lightly floured surface and place the pizza dough on top of the cornmeal. Roll the dough into a 10 by 14-inch rectangle. Spread the cooled sausage mixture over the dough, leaving a 1-inch border around the edges. Sprinkle the shredded cheese over the sausage. Brush the 1-inch border of the dough with the egg wash. Starting at a long end, roll the dough, jelly roll-style, into a log shape, pinching the edges closed as you roll. Place the bread, seam side down, on the prepared baking sheet and brush the top of the bread with the remaining egg wash.

Bake the sausage bread for 35 to 40 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked through. Allow bread to stand 10 to 15 minutes before slicing. To serve, slice the bread into 1-inch pieces and serve warm.

Basic Pizza Dough:

1 cup warm (110 degrees F) water

1 (1/4-ounce) envelope active dry yeast

1 teaspoon sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

3 cups bleached all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, sugar, and 1 tablespoon oil and stir to combine. Let sit until the mixture is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 1 1/2 cups of the flour and the salt, mixing by hand until it is all incorporated and the mixture is smooth. Continue adding the flour, 1/4 cup at a time, working the dough after each addition, until all the flour is incorporated but the dough is still slightly sticky. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth but still slightly tacky, 3 to 5 minutes.

Oil a large mixing bowl with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil. Place the dough in the bowl and turn to oil all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set in a warm, draft-free place until nearly doubled in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Use as directed.