Sparking Cranberry Bites: The Perfect Thanksgiving Appetizer!

Take the tartness of cranberries, add in a little sweetness and some creamy brie, and you have one amazing Thanksgiving (or Christmas) appetizer!   Better yet, it’s amazingly easy to make – something to cherish in the midst of the holiday cooking flurry: Simply prepare the cranberries 1-2 days before, then your elegant appetizer is ready to throw together Thanksgiving afternoon.

Sparkling Cranberry Bites

  • 2 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup good maple syrup
  • 1 cup granulated sugar

Brie of choice
Crackers of choice (*We like Carr’s® Table Water Crackers or Assorted Biscuits for Cheese)

  1. Rinse cranberries and place in a medium bowl. Heat syrup in a small sauce pan just until warm. Pour over cranberries when syrup is warm, not hot, or cranberries may pop. Cool, cover, and let soak in the refrigerator overnight.
  2. Drain cranberries in a colander. Place sugar in a large bowl or baking dish. Add cranberries in 2 batches and roll around until lightly coated in sugar. Place on a baking sheet until dry, about 1 hour.

Serve with warm or room temperature brie on crackers. To warm brie, bake in often preheated to 350°, just until melted – about 10-20 minutes depending on size of brie round.

(Recipe from http://clarecooks.wordpress.com)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge (YUM!)

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Fudge
Makes 36 squares

For Cookie Dough

  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, soften to room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 2 Tbsp half-and-half (or milk or cream)
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
For Fudge
  • 1/3 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/3 cup half-and-half (or milk or cream)
  • 4-5 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
  1. Line 8×8 square baking pan with aluminom foil or parchment paper. Set aside.
  2. For the Cookie Dough, combine butter and sugars in the bowl of a stand or handheld mixer.  Beat on medium speed until light and fluffy.  Mix in vanilla, salt, and half-and-half.  Add flour and mix until just combined.  Do NOT overmix.
  3. To prepare the fudge base, combine brown sugar, butter, salt, and half-and-half in a medium saucepan.  Stir over medium-low heat until butter is melted and brown sugar is dissolved.  Remove from heat. Slowly stir in powdered sugar, 1 cup at a time, until mixture is smooth and sugar is incorporated throughout.  Stir in vanilla.  Add more confectioners’ sugar if desired.  The more powdered sugar you add, the thicker, firmer, and sweeter the fudge will be. I used 5 cups.
  4. Add cookie dough to the fudge base and stir to combine.  At this point, the mixture should have cooled to room temperature.  If not, continue to stir until it is no longer warm to the touch.  Fold in mini chocolate chips and spread fudge into prepared baking pan.  Chill until set, about 3-4 hours.  Cut into squares and enjoy!

*Fudge will keep for about 1 week in the refrigerator.

(Recipe courtesy of ohsoshabbybydebbie.com)

Set a Festive Fall Table

Naturally, we love good food.  But we also love to enjoy it with people we love.

Fall, particularly, is a time to celebrate: family, friends, the harvest, and the changing of the seasons.  So a festive table setting is only appropriate, and we love these ideas from HGTV:

Add Glitz:
For a sophisticated but not over-the-top look, balance the sparkle of metallics with natural elements, like fall branches or fresh fruit. Erinn’s Tip: “Metallics add a great modern touch to a fall tablescape. Deep copper and bright bronze are a lovely additional to a traditional table. I prefer to bring in natural, textured elements like these seed-beaded placemats so the table doesn’t get too glitzy.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian. See more of Erinn’s designs in HGTV’s Designers’ Portfolio.

Contrast Colors:
A humble pinecone adds an organic touch to each place setting. Erinn’s Tip: “Have fun with materials; contrast ceramic with glass, wood and gleaming metal. Forgo the old standby tablecloth and opt for glamorous, polished silver chargers and chocolate-brown linen napkins.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

Add an Aromatic Centerpiece:
Who said a centerpiece needed to time-consuming, expensive or even floral? Erinn created this arrangement by grouping scented candles with an earthy potpourri. Erinn’s Tip: “During the fall, natural elements are the best decorations. This potpourri creates a lovely centerpiece and its subtle fragrance is a great addition to the table. Look for large, chunky potpourris and add elements from your own backyard, like pinecones and seed pods, to the mix.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

Accent with Glass:
Golds and ambers pair beautifully with the traditional browns and oranges of fall. Erinn’s Tip: “Glass vases can be found very inexpensively in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes at your local housewares store. They’re fantastic for adding a splash of luminescent color to the room. So go wild! Bring a bunch home, try them out and return what you don’t use.” Photo courtesy of Bobbi Fabian.

A Day in the Life: The Perfect Steamboat Summer Day

You’ve heard it, probably many times before, “I came to Steamboat for the winter, but stayed for the summer!”  A cliche, perhaps, but a true one.  Steamboat summers are just as fabulous as the winters, if not more so!

How so?  Check out A Day in the Life: a typical summer Steamboat day.  Come on, could it get any more perfect than this?

7:00am You’re up early – so much to do!

7:45am Breakfast (coffee and a bagel?  Winona’s waffle?  Anything goes!)

9:30am You’re on the gondola, bike in tow.

9:45am The beautiful view, no matter how many times you’ve seen it before, catches your eye and you stop to take it in before jumping on your bike for an exhilarating ride to the bottom.

11:30am Sweaty, you head to grab lunch with a smile.  (No need to shower if you’ve got more planned for the day – Steamboat’s a home for outdoor enthusiasts!)

1pm – The heat of the day has set in and you grab your tube and head to the Yampa. Fun, water, and relaxation ahead!

3:30pm A couple hours on the river has left you parched.  Happy Hour anyone?  There are plenty of riverside options in Steamboat.

5pm You suppose a shower is probably due and you head home (and your friends, by now, are thanking you).

6:30pm Dinner out or in?  It’s Friday, so out it is, and you head to the same happy hour spot for some good food.

7:30pm Rodeo!  Hey, it’s a Steamboat tradition – and a fun one at that!

Sound like a day on vacation?  Hey, in Steamboat, it’s just the norm.

Get outside! An outdoor grilling menu

Summer entertaining - keep the cooking outside!June means barbeques, family gatherings, rehearsal dinners, showers – not to mention Father’s Day!  You want great food for your guests, but who wants to be in a hot kitchen?

We’ve put together some great grilling recipes below from Food Network – an entire menu to keep you outside, and out of the kitchen!  Start guests off with a refreshing summer cocktail (try a Tropical Temptation – summer in a glass!) and Jumbo Stuffed Shrimp (below), followed by BBQ Chicken, Grilled Vegetables, and Zesty Grilled Lime Bread.  Finish up with an easy dessert and you have a perfect outdoor meal!

Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Cilantro and Chiles
Serves 4

Ingredients:
8 jumbo shrimp, in the shell (about 1 1/4 pounds)
3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional for seasoning
Freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 large jalapeno, with seeds
2 scallions (white and green parts)
1 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Directions:
Prepare an outdoor grill with a medium-high fire. Without removing the shells, slit about 3/4 of the way through the shrimp down the ridged back and remove the vein that runs down the center. Rinse and pat the shrimp dry. Whisk thyme leaves, lime juice, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and black pepper, to taste, in a shallow nonreactive bowl or dish. Lay the shrimp cut side down in the lime mixture and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

In a food processor, pulse the garlic, jalapeno, scallions, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt to make a coarse paste. Add the cilantro and pulse just enough to incorporate into the mixture. Spoon the mixture into the opening in the shrimp and close the shrimp. Grill the shrimp shell side down (to keep filling from falling out) for 3 minutes. Turn to the other shell side, cover, and grill another 2 minutes or until the shrimp turn pink and are slightly firm to the touch. Sprinkle with salt and serve.

Cook’s Note: Shrimp cooked in the shells are more intensely flavorful. Leaving the shells on provides a buffer against overcooking, a misfortune many shrimp suffer. Shrimp, even these jumbos, continue to cook once removed from the grill. It’s always best to cook them just until opaque and let the delicate shellfish finish cooking off the heat.

Jumbo shrimp in the shell can be a knife and fork sort of deal unless you’re outside and it’s summer and you are feeling very relaxed. Serve these with lots of napkins if your crowd is the peel-and-eat type.

Grilled Vegetables
Serves 6

Ingredients:
3 red bell peppers, seeded and halved
3 yellow squash (about 1 pound total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 zucchini (about 12 ounces total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
3 Japanese eggplant (12 ounces total), sliced lengthwise into 1/2-inch-thick rectangles
12 cremini mushrooms
1 bunch (1-pound) asparagus, trimmed
12 green onions, roots cut off
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh basil leaves
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary leaves

Directions:
Place a grill pan over medium-high heat or prepare the barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush the vegetables with 1/4 cup of the oil to coat lightly. Sprinkle the vegetables with salt and pepper. Working in batches, grill the vegetables until tender and lightly charred all over, about 8 to 10 minutes for the bell peppers; 7 minutes for the yellow squash, zucchini, eggplant, and mushrooms; 4 minutes for the asparagus and green onions. Arrange the vegetables on a platter. The key to getting those great grill marks is to not shift the vegetables too frequently once they’ve been placed on the hot grill.

Meanwhile, whisk the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, parsley, basil, and rosemary in a small bowl to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle the herb mixture over the vegetables. Serve the vegetables, warm or at room temperature.

Bourbon BBQ Chicken with Sixteen Spice Rub
Serves 4

Sixteen Spice Rub:
3 tablespoons ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons ancho chili powder
3 tablespoons pasilla chili powder
3 tablespoons ground cumin
3 tablespoons ground coriander
3 tablespoons ground ginger
1 tablespoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon ground fennel seed
2 tablespoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons onion powder
1 tablespoon allspice
1 teaspoon chile de arbol
3 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Barbecue Sauce:
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 medium Spanish onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup bourbon, plus 2 tablespoons
1 cup ketchup
1/3 cup water
2 tablespoons ancho chili powder
1 tablespoon paprika
1 heaping tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 canned chipotle chile in adobo, chopped
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon molasses
3 bone-in, skin-on breasts
3 bone-in, skin-on thighs
3 bone-in, skin-on legs
1/4 cup canola oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
Make the rub: Whisk all the spice rub ingredients in a small bowl.

Make the bbq sauce: Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a heavy-bottomed medium saucepan. Add the onion and cook until soft, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in 1/2 cup of the bourbon and cook until reduced. Add the ketchup and water, bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.

Cool for about 5 minutes, then transfer the mixture to a food processor and puree until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour into a bowl, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bourbon and allow to cool at room temperature. The sauce will keep for 1 week in the refrigerator stored in a tightly sealed container.

Heat the grill to medium heat. Brush the chicken with the 1/4 cup of oil and season on both sides with the spice rub. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Grill the chicken slowly, with the lid closed, until golden brown on both sides and fat has rendered. Begin brushing the chicken liberally with the bbq sauce during the last 10 minutes of grilling.

Arrange on a serving platter and serve.

Grilled Break with Zesty Lime Butter
Serves 4

Ingredients:
2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
2 teaspoons chili lime seasoning
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 loaf French bread, cut in 1/2 lengthwise

Directions:
Preheat a grill pan over a medium-high heat.

Combine butter, chili lime seasoning and lime juice in a bowl and mix well to blend.

Using a butter knife lightly coat both halves of bread with the lime butter. Place on grill and grill about 4 minutes.

Slice and serve with chicken.

**Easy Dessert Tip:
Grill S’Mores on the Grill!  Lay out graham crackers, chocolate, and jumbo marshmallows. Let your guests cook and eat as they wish!

Making the Perfect Scone

Making the Perfect Scone: Take your time!

Scones: we love them, who doesn’t it?  Buttery, often sweet – what’s not to love? But if you’re wanting to make them at home, they often prove to be a rather poor comparison to the lovely scones found in restaurants and bakeries.  So we’re here to help!

No, we’re not giving away the farm and revealing our ultra-tasty scone recipe, but we wanted to provide a few simple tips for the next time you make scones at home. The key: take your time!  Making scones is not a quick process.

First, a bit of Scone History:
Scones are traditionally connected with Scotland, Ireland and England, but exactly who deserves the honor of invention, no one knows for sure. Originally, scones were made with oats, shaped into a large round, scored into four or six wedges (triangles) and griddle-baked over an open fire (later, a stovetop). With the advent of oven baking, the round of dough was cut into wedges and the scones were baked individually.

Today’s scones are quick breads, similar to American biscuits. They are traditionally made with wheat flour, sugar, baking powder or baking soda, butter, milk and eggs, and baked in the oven—both in the traditional wedge form and in round, square and diamond shapes.

How to Make the Perfect Scone:
1.
Use the right flour. Use a soft, low protein flour, such as aquality pastry flour. You want soft, tender scones and too much protein leads to too much gluten which makes your scones chewy.

2. Keep your ingredients cold. Temperature is critical to buttery, flakey scones. Start with very cold butter—it should chip when you cut it into chunks and your liquids should be ice cold. Before you start, measure your milk or water and put it in the freezer for ten minutes. Consider chilling your mixing bowl before mixing. Work with the dough quickly to keep it cool.

3. Don’t work your dough too much. Kneading converts the protein to gluten. Mix only until the ingredients come together into a combined mass.

4. Use a folding technique to produce flaky, layered scones. Roll the dough out to about 3/8-inch thick. Fold the dough in half and in half again and again. Roll the dough out to about 3/4-inch thick before cutting the scones.

5. Use a ruler. For appearance’s sake (if you would like nice, neat scones), use a ruler both as a straightedge to cut against and to measure equally-sized scones.

6. Leave the cut edges of the scones alone. Patting the edges with your fingers melds the edges so that the scone will not rise as nicely or have a flakey, layered structure.

7. Don’t over-bake your scones. Over-baking for even a minute or two will dry your scones out. As soon as the edges begin to turn brown, remove them from the oven. Immediately, place the scones on a wire rack—the hot pan will continue to cook, and therefor dry, the scones.

Storage tip: can be frozen for up to three months. Reheat them at 300 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. Probe the inside of the scone to make sure that it is warm.

Ready to try?  Check out this recipe from Food Network: Dried Cherry Almond Scones.  They’re delicious!

A Day in the Life: Steamboat Mud Season

Spring on Emerald Mountain

Steamboat’s “Mud Season” for locals often brings a time of much-needed peace.  The bustle of the ski season is past (for now), and those with seasonal or tourism-related jobs get a bit of a break.  What’s it like for a typical Steamboat “Local” during this time? We can’t speak for everyone, but we’d wager it often goes a bit like this:

6:45am: Alarm goes off!  Mental note: De-program your alarm.  But for now, you hit the snooze and roll over (no work today!).

8:30am: Eyes open.  You should probably think about getting up.

9:16am: You finally do get up.

9:45am: You’re showered, dressed, and hungry!  Head to Winona’s – hey, cash is low, but they have great Mud Season specials.

11:00am:  The day is all yours, and now you have the energy to do something.  Town is empty, so…how about a hike?

11:25am: You park at Emerald, hiking gear on.  An hour on the trails (they’re empty, a bit muddy, but a good workout!) and you’re sweating.  Sure, you skied all season, but that didn’t provide a lot of cardio!

1:00pm: Nap time.

3:00pm: Hunger. Winona’s leftovers!

4:02pm:  You’re feeling s bit of boredom creeping in.  Who to call, what to do?

4:40: After a phone call to a few pals, you’re happy-hour bound! What better than an evening at your favorite spot, with good friends, for some half-price drinks and apps (they count as dinner, right?).

7:10pm: Home. You let out Fido, fill up his dish, and are ready for some TV.

9:55pm: Lights out!  You decide to call it a night, to be ready for an early morning ride.

A Spring Menu, Winona’s Style!

Get outside and celebrate spring!

Spring is in the air, which inevitably brings the gathering of family and friends, whether to celebrate  Easter, the first time eating outside after the long winter, or simply the sight of green grass!

Below is a fresh, inspired spring menu, Winona’s Style: That is, delicious, simple, and fabulous to eat!  It’s perfect for an Easter dinner or restive spring meal.  So dig out your apron and get cooking!

Smashed Peas With Mint Bruschetta (Real Simple)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1/2 baguette
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Directions

  1. Thinly slice half a baguette. Place the rounds on a baking sheet and broil them until they’re golden brown (about 1 1/2 minutes per side).
  2. Process the peas in a food processor until roughly chopped. Stir in the mint, oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Spread the mixture on the rounds. Garnish the bruschetta with fresh mint leaves, if desired.

Salmon with Brown Sugar & Mustard Glaze (Martha Stewart)
Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 cup red-wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup whole-grain mustard
  • 1/4 cup packed dark-brown sugar
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 side salmon (about 3 pounds), skin removed, cut into 8 fillets
  • 1 bunch watercress (about 3/4 pound), thick stems trimmed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving

Directions

  1. Heat broiler, with rack in top position. In a small saucepan, heat oil over medium-high. Add shallot and cook, stirring often until softened, 3 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until slightly evaporated, 1 minute. Add mustard and brown sugar; stir until warm and combined, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and remove from heat. (To store, refrigerate cooled glaze in an airtight container, up to 1 day.)
  2. Place salmon fillets on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and season with salt and pepper. Transfer 1/2 cup glaze to a small dish and brush on top of salmon. Broil salmon until glaze is bubbling and fish is opaque throughout, 5 to 10 minutes, depending on thickness; brush remaining glaze over fillets. Serve salmon along with watercress and lemon wedges.

Strawberry & Asparagus Salad (Food Network)
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups (1-inch pieces) fresh asparagus
  • 8 cups arugula
  • 2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

Directions

In a small bowl whisk the lemon juice, oil, honey, and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Set aside.

Bring a small pot of water to a boil over medium heat. Add the asparagus and cook for 3 minutes. Remove and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Put 2 cups of arugula on each serving plate, top with strawberries and asparagus and drizzle with the vinaigrette.

This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.

Mashed New Potatoes with Fresh Mint (Food Network)
Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds red new potatoes, scrubbed
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cut in chunks
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Directions

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the potatoes and cook, uncovered, for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. Drain the potatoes and put them in a mixing bowl while they are still nice and hot. Add the chopped mint and mash so the potatoes are chunky and green in spots. Fold in the butter and stir everything together so the butter melts. Drizzle with the olive oil and season with a healthy amount of salt and pepper.

Lemon Cloud with Strawberry-Mint Compote (Cooking Light)
Serves 6

Cloud:

  • Cooking spray
  • 3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon rind
  • 6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 4 large egg whites
  • Dash of salt

Compote:

  • 2 cups quartered small strawberries
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Preparation

  1. To prepare cloud, preheat oven to 350°.
  2. Lightly coat a 1 1/2-quart soufflé dish with cooking spray. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons sugar, shaking out excess. Place dish on a baking sheet.
  3. Combine 1/2 cup sugar and cornstarch in a medium saucepan, stirring with a whisk. Stir in lemon rind, juice, and egg yolks. Place over medium heat; cook for 3 minutes or until thick, stirring constantly. Remove from heat; immediately scrape mixture into a glass bowl. Cool to room temperature.
  4. Place egg whites and salt in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed 30 seconds or until foamy. Increase mixer speed to high. Gradually add 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating just until stiff peaks form. Gently stir one-fourth of egg white mixture into egg yolk mixture; gently fold in remaining egg white mixture. Spoon into prepared dish. Bake at 350° for 25 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. Remove from oven, and cool to room temperature on a wire rack. Cover and chill.
  5. To prepare compote, combine strawberries, 2 tablespoons sugar, and mint; toss gently. Cover and chill. Serve with lemon cloud.