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Christmas Duck, Duck, Hot Potato!?

So for Christmas Day this year, for the first time in many a year, it was just the four of us plus my brother’s girlfriend. Normally there is some combination of relatives and friends joining us, so it was kind of nice, and odd at the same time, to just have our immediate family. Because it wasn’t 20 people, Mom and I were trying to think up something simple to do for dinner. Filling, yet not too much food. Tasty, yet not Ham or Turkey (as we both JUST finished our leftovers from the previous few weeks), and not Chicken Parm since we did that for the work party Friday night. Choices choices choices. The only thing we knew we were doing for sure was Mom making her Twice Baked Potatoes. Yum.

So we are minding our business, going through the grocery store, and Mom spies a duck. Hmmm, this could be good. It’s a small critter that won’t make us keep eating it for days after, it’s tasty, it’s enough for 5 people but shouldn’t take days to prep and cook… I think we have a winner here! 🙂 So we got a 5 pound Whole Duck to decide how to cook. YAY! I get to be creative with a new food, WOOHOO!!!! (No, I was not at all excited about this prospect, I swear!) 😉

Then we had to decide what to make with the Duck. Dad loves Duck but hates it à l’Orange. So that helped eliminate one thing. Mom voted no on Maple Syrup as the main flavor. Another one bites the dust. And brother Drew voted yes on Duck. Isn’t he just a helpful thing?!?  So I started looking up recipes on my handy dandy Evo Design, and saw a repetition of “Red Currant” across the recipes. So I decided to run with that. And keep running. And running. And finally smell something yummy (or so I hoped).

When prepping a duck, I highly recommend buying a frozen one that looks similar to a Thanksgiving Turkey. Why, you ask? Because it does the giblets and nasty innards  the same way as a Turkey – frozen and easy to remove. Just the way I like them, where I don’t have to play “Operation: Turkey Bird!” without the red nose. So first you remove the innards and icky stuff. Then thaw the bird in cold water for about 90 minutes (~5 lb. Duck) sitting in a pan. If the innards were stuck, they should still be gunked together but more easily removed after 90 minutes. Discard if you’re like me and think they’re gross, or reserve for later if you think they are delicious and functional. Either way, now you rinse the bird with cold water, make sure any excessive chunks of fat and “extras” are removed, and pat the bird dry. Set Mister Duck in a pan that is just larger than the bird, then prep the sauce.

Since I was in the mood for using Red Currant on my Duck Sauce, I compiled a group of ingredients that I thought would go spectacularly with that flavor profile. I used half of a jar of Red Currant Jelly (about 1/2 cup), 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract, an overflowing 1/8 cup Cherry Creek Montage (blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chancellor Noir wines),  2 tablespoons Maple Syrup, 1 teaspoon Majoram, and about 1/4 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Mix these together with 1/2 of a stick of Unsalted Butter, softened and sliced into small pieces.

Once these are mixed completely, use a baster and cover your Duck in the sauce, as well as inject it into the breast and legs of the Duck. Make sure you have some sitting in the inside of the Duck as well, to keep the flavor cooking fully through the Duck later on.

Voilà, raw Duck à la Courant Rouge (hehehe, French play on words, weeee!):

To cook the Duck, I let it simmer (re-basting with extra juices every 45 minutes) in the oven for about 2 hours at 350. After it’s been sliced off the bone by Master Cutter Dad:

Then we add in the sides:

Mom made her Twice Baked Potatoes. She bakes potatoes sliced in half for about 45 minutes at 350. Then once the insides are tender, she scoops the potatoes out, being careful to maintain the shape of the potato skins, and adds 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup shredded cheese. She mixes this up well, then scoops the mixture back into the potato shells. Then bakes the potatoes for and additional 25 minutes at 350. Easy peezy.

I made Parmesan Asparagus and Roasted Butternut Squash. These are super easy. I rinsed the asparagus, placed it in a 9×13 pan that was sprayed with Pam, and then sprayed the asparagus with Pam as well. Then I sprinkled the asparagus with grated Parmesan cheese, added small slices of cut-up unsalted butter, and sprinkled a tiny bit of Dill Weed over the entire thing. Baked for about 18 minutes at 350, until tender. For the Butternut Squash all I did was slice the squash into 6 pieces (scooping out the few seeds) and topped with cut-up unsalted butter. Baked this for about 40 minutes at 350. Then you are done! 🙂

While Mom thought the Duck was a bit too fatty, everyone else thoroughly enjoyed it. I had recreated the ‘Duck sauce’, minus the butter and olive oil, using the remaining Red Currant Jelly directly in the Jar, and heated it up for about 45 seconds in the microwave. Everyone dipped the Duck in the sauce. This also, according to my Brother, tasted delicious over the leftover Prime Rib (from Friday night’s Catering Party). So it was a raw-meat-less sauce that can be re-used with other meats, woohoo! 🙂

If you do not like fatty and gamey meats, I do not recommend eating Duck. Mom is proof. But if you do like those kinds of meats (or just any thing spelled m-e-a-t) then this is something fun to try for a smaller group of adventurous eaters! 🙂

As the final piece, we also made a Blueberry Pie, which I am shamed to say I did not take a picture of, particularly shamed since Drew & Alicia helped out! (I missed a perfectly good blackmail picture moment, darnitall!) For the pie, it is very simple. Buy 1 box of Jiffy Pie Crust (the kind you just add water to), 1 can of blueberry filling, and chopped pecans. Then just make sure you have brown sugar, flour, sugar, rolled oats,  cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, unsalted butter and almond extract in the house!

Beth: mix the Jiffy Pie Crust mix with about 1/8 cup of water, mixing with a fork until doughy. Spread out on floured surface, adding flour as needed, and rolling (I use my hands not a pin, to each their own) out the crust until it will fit your pie dish (Pam-sprayed!).
Drew: mix 1 cup rolled oats, 1 cup brown sugar, 1/4 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, and 1/8 cup chopped unsalted butter (chilled but not hard); mix ingredients until well blended and not too lumpy. Add in 1/2 cup well-chopped pecans, and mix well. Set aside this topping.
Alicia: in a bowl mix togther the jar of blueberry filling, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 teaspoon vanilla and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Mix well.
Beth: Take the pie dish that you’ve put your crust in, and spray the crust with Pam. Then take a fork and lighly poke the bottom of the crust until you have about 4 sets of prongs along the bottom. This will keep the dough from baking with a bubble crust look. While it’s cool to see, it’s difficult to add your filling to it! Bake the crust for about 15 minutes at 375, until just starting to harden.
Alicia: Remove the pie crust from the oven, let cool 5 minutes. Then add the blueberry filling mixture.
Drew: Top the blueberry filling with the oat-and-pecan streusel topping, until completely covers the pie filling. Spray with Pam for good measure. Bake for 30 minutes or until top of streusel is browned, still at 375. Let cool & enjoy!

Let me know how you like anything/everything! Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Still Cooking Away,

Come get it while it’s hot!

So in my immediate family, if you are going to do a party with food, there is a certain rhyme to the reason. Beth (me) is the plotter, cooker & baker; my brother Drew is the sous chef (aka my workslave) & taste tester; my Dad does the meats, and is backup sous chef & taste tester; and Mom buys the groceries, then does all clean up. It is a well oiled machine. With occasional hiatuses (hiatii?) into either the insane or the hilarious.

Case in point today (Friday the 23rd). I ended up basically catering a work dinner party for my mom’s team & their families. Sans mon frère, insert sad face…

So mom & I go grocery shopping at 8:30am (on my day off mind you), and find everything on our list except Andes Baking Chips. As in Andes Mints, made into chocolate chip sized morsels of deliciousness. So we call my dad, who asks me “andes chips, what are they like potato chips or something?”. I don’t know what was more funny: a) my expression at this (mom lol’ed), b) the cashier dude trying not to comment, or c) the fact that dad was in fact serious inhis question. So like a good daughter, I not only repeated it back to him like 3 times, I also broke it down for him real simple: “andes, like the chocolate mint, in chocolate chip format, in a greenbag, in thebaking aisle, that say ‘Andes’ on them, and ‘baking chips’, too. Love you.” Apparently this got it through. At this point, pretty sure option b above was winning the match. 🙂 I love my family. We are definitely a special one, too…everywhere we go. 😉

So after the groceries are all bought, I start cooking. Mom wanders into various rooms setting up ‘the scene’ for the party, while making sure I don’t need any help. I answer these inquiries with a daughterly-loving response of “Doing fine, now out of my kitchen!” Side note: we are in my parents’ house, however I claim all ownership of the kitchenwhile here. Hey, mock if you want, but trust me, we are all happier this way… 😉 Anyways back to the food. I start making my Pizza Dip. My new favorite appetizer. Cream cheese, shreddedmozzarella & italian spices get blended together, spread evenly in a dish, topped with a jar of pizza sauce, then the remaining shredded mozz. Fridge until 5 minutes from eating then zap it for 5 minutes. Voilà, presto, it’s done.


Easy pizza dip

So next I decide to make the Mac & Cheese. Make 1 pound of shells al dente style, and while that is going, combine (& beat) 1 stick unsalted butter, 1/4 cup milk, 12 oz ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese.


Mac & Cheese 1

Then I add another 1/4 cup (or so) milk, and 6 oz sharp shredded cheese and blend some more. It will look like this:


Mac & Cheese 2

In a greased (Pam!) baking dish (13×9 works), pour your drained al dente noodles, then mix in really well your cheese mixture. Make sure every shell has a good amount of cheese coverage. Then top it with sliced cheese until all the dish is covered. I used CoJack cheese, andhalved the slices to distribute, since I was using an oval dish.


Mac & Cheese 3


Bake at 325 for about 20-25 minutes and it will look like this (and smell deliciously cheesy!):


Baked Mac & Cheese

Next up, Imade maple-bacon-wrapped water chestnuts. Wrap bacon around whole water chestnuts, stick a toothpick in each to hold the bacon, then drizzle maple syrup on them. Bake about 30 minutes at 325. Here is the final result:


Bacon Water Chestnuts

Next up: lemon-pepper and coconut shrimp dishes! Use raw shrimp, thawed in cold water, trust me! Peeled and de-tailed the lil’ buggers (and one stabbed me the little meanie!), rinsed them again, ghen divided into 2 groups. Half went into a boiling pot of water with 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 teaspoons lemon pepper. Shrimp float and are bright white & pink when they’re done. Takes about 30 minutes or so. Serve those with basic cocktail sauce (yes, I cheated on that sauce). The other half got complicated. Beat 3 eggs in one bowl, then mix well with the shrimp til they’re all coated well. In another bowl mix 1 cup Panko Crumbs with 3/4 cup coconut flakes. Bring a deepset saute pan filled with 1 inch of canola oil to ‘hot’ over medium-set heat. To test, drop a piece of coconut in, if it sizzles and starts to brown, you are good to go. Take the shrimp and coat them in the panko mix, then carefully, carefully ace in the hot oil. Let brown about 2 minutes then flip, let brown again about 2 minutes, then remove to a pan covered in paper towel. This lets the grease drain. I used 51-70 count sized shrimp, and did about 15 shrimp at a time in the pan, and roughly 5 pan-fulls. After the next batch was flipped, then I would transfer the done shrimp to aplatter from the paper towel. Seemed to time okay. Meanwhile your sauce. Mix together 1/4 cup coconut flakes, 1/3 cup orange marmalade, znd 1/4 cup french vanilla coffee creamer (liquid only). Let this sit in the fridge a few hours, it will taste so good with the coconut shrimp!


Coconut Shrimp pan


Coconut Shrimp!

Next on the list is Chicken Parmigiano. Dad was doing Prime Rib, too, but this was my entrée contribution. Use breast tenderloins to alleviate slicing & pounding needs… Dredge chicken in flour so fully-but-lightly coated. Place in greased pan, close together. Top with spaghetti sauce and shredded mozzarella cheese, with a dusting of grated parmesan on top. Bake about 40 minutes at 325.


Chicken Parm

Next up is mashed potatoes. Microwave rinsed and speared (fork stabbed into both sides of tater) a bag of red potatoes for 25 minutes. These will be hot so be careful. In a bowl, mix/beat the potatoes with 2 sticks unsalted butter, 1/2-2/3 cup milk, and 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper. Best until desired consistency, I like mine thicker so useless milk.

Finally, the mixed veggies. I put about 1/8 inch of olive oil in the bottom of a baking pan, then added sliced zucchini, yellow squash and broccoli (small branches), baked for about 20-25 minutes at 300, until nice and soft. Serve as is, or you can drain thd olive oil. Oh and I did a salad too, iceberg lettuce, baby tomatoes, drained quartered artichoke hearts & cut up bsby corn (asian food section, the stalk looking corn). 🙂 Whew! Dinner for 16 (9 kids, 7 adults) is now done!

Here is the final production (done in a total of 4 hours, not counting reheats):




Dinner 1


Dinner 2

For dessert, I actually made a chocolate cookie, then had 8 of the kids decorate them for me before we baked them. Easy peezy lemon squeezy cookie recipe, too. Melt 1 cup margarine, mix with 1 1/2 cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract, and 1/2 of a 3 oz package of sugar-free instant chocolate pudding mix. Then add in 1/2 teaspoon each salt, baking soda, baking powder, and 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder. Mix well. Then add in 2 cups (or so) flour, until mixture is thick and hard to stir. Shape dough into balls, flatten on cookie sheet, then decorate with sprinkles, chocolate chips, and the infamous Andes baking chips! Observe the pros below!


Sprinkle attack 1


Sprinkle Attack 2

That is all for today, hope you enjoyed, and Happy Christmas & Merry Holidays!

Craft You Later,

Snowflakes falling in my globe!

So a friend of mine has a great blog with her sister, twodelighted, and a few entries ago they posted this great craft idea where they recreated the Anthropologie $45 Snow Globe (non-liquid). And not for $45. Yay for DIY genius!!!

I decided to attempt it, so I went to Hobby Lobby and spent a whopping $17.82. I bought a high-temp glue gun, glow-in-the-dark glue sticks, 2 mason jars with lids (one wide-mouth & one smaller), white glitter, a 4-pack of miniature evergreen trees, a pack of miniature light strands, and a pack of miniature white doves.

Gotta love trying to craft something and finding out that WHOOPS there was a dust bunny living there, or AYEYAYAY how does a grease splat appear there in the middle of my beautiful creation?!? So in the interest of avoiding the Home Alone face-slaps, I started off by wiping the jars down with a cottonball soaked with rubbing alcohol. Next I cut the light strand into 4 equal lengths, and hot-glued one length around each of 3 trees to look like a Christmas tree. Then I hot-glued a few doves on each of the trees. Taking the lids off the mason jars, I hot-glued the trees in the middle of the round inserts of the lids (not along the edges – give the tree space!). I spread a little extra hot glue around the base of the lids, and on the trees, then sprinkled the glitter all around – over a large bowl! Man that stuff spreads around like wildfire in a drought! Let this dry about 5 minutes, which lets you de-gunk your fingers from all that glue you have on you now (don’t lie, you know it’s there!).

I took the excess glitter, and about 1/4″ inch more, and dumped it into the actual mason jar. Then I took the tree-decked-out lid and carefully put it (upside down) into the jar, and screwed the lid on tight. Up-end the snow globe and watch the glitter fall all around your pretty trees – and not all over you! 🙂 Best part is that you can adjust whatever you need to as you go, just make sure that you shake the jar (upside down, lid-side-up) a few times to make sure no glitter is lying in wait, ready to scream FREEEEEDOM!!!! once you take the tree-lid out. 😉 That is my clean advice for you. Nice thing is that I have enough to make one more smaller jar, if I just pick up 1 more $1.29 jar from Hobby Lobby! So thanks to the girls of twodelighted, for under $20 I have 3 Snow Globe Jars that would have cost over double that each from Anthropologie! Take a peek and let me know what you think of my attempt!

Next up for the Snow Globe Project: figuring out how to make them with liquid and non-clumping glitter! 😉

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