Sweet & Savory for the Holiday Season

I have a dear friend who is fond of the saying, “You can’t buy Happiness, but you sure can bake it!” Truer words were never spoken.

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It makes me very happy to cook and bake to share with friends and family alike and no other holiday calls for baked goods like this season of Yuletide. Early on the day of December 24, Tom joins me in the kitchen and it has become one of our holiday traditions to make lots of pans of these cinnamon rolls for neighbors and family to enjoy on Christmas morning.

With visions of sugarplums at the forefront, apart from the cinnamon rolls, today I share one of my most requested recipes of this season: Pistachio Blondies! The bonus here for many is that this recipe happens to be Gluten-Free!

I top these with a fresh raspberry and a dusting of powdered sugar, but they are also delicious with a drizzling of melted chocolate on top!

I actually “borrowed” this recipe from my friends at High Rock Farm in Gibsonville NC, and have since adapted it a bit. The original recipe calls for High Rock Farms Chestnut flour – a wonderful pantry staple to keep on hand if you are baking Gluten-Free; even if G-Free recipes aren’t your thing, you’ll love the rich nutty flavor the taste of the chestnuts bring to this easy bar cookie.  You can order the chestnut flour directly from the farm ; it is sold out for the season, but keep checking back as they will be restocking after the first of the year. Meantime, know that the recipe works equally well with almond flour. It also works with regular all-purpose flour, but honestly the nutty flavor of the Chestnut or Almond  flours is what makes these so extra special!

The original recipe calls for High Rock Farms delicious sugared pecans, but, instead, I like tossing in a cup of so of ground toasted pistachios to give these bars that little something extra. Local eggs yield the best flavor and the best rise, so pick up a couple dozen or so while you are at local farmers markets this Saturday and you’ll be set for holiday guests – Enjoy!

Following the blondies is a little something savory for the season.

IMG_1011I simply LOVE potato latkes and rather than serve them as a side as my mom used to do, I make a stack of latkes on each plate as  the main course. This year, the post hits after the eight days of the Hanukkah holiday as come and gone, but it matters not. A latke dinner is a delicious way to keep the celebrations going strong.

There are lots of variations on the theme – making these root veggies pancakes with sweet potatoes, zucchini, carrots or butternut squash alone or in a colorful combination – are all good. But, for me, when it comes to Hanukkah latkes, simple white baking potatoes are the star ingredient.

I share this family recipe with you with the memory of how I  used to stand around the counter adjacent to the stovetop in our kitchen with Daddy and my brother Jaimie eating latkes as fast as my mom could get them browned and flip them out of the pan.  It was like a little Hanukkah tradition for us. And then after our “appetizer course” of sorts, Mom made more to serve with our dinner meal.

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When I was little,  I can remember my mom and grandma deftly grating the potatoes and onions on a box grater, but today a food processor with a shredding disc makes short work of the task at hand.

 

 

IMG_1001I now like the onion or shallot in my latkes finely minced and to that end, I switch out the processor shredding blade for the steel knife once all of my potatoes are done and with the machine running drop the shallot halves through the feed tube onto the spinning blade. Centrifugal force takes charge and the shallots are minced faster than it took you to peel them. Again local eggs make a difference you can taste and will love.

Enjoy these holiday recipes and all the recipes that have become traditions for your family as well! Cheers to a Happy Holiday Season one and all.

Heidi’s Gluten-Free Pistachio Blondies

6 local chicken or duck eggs

2 cups organic sugar

1 1/3 Cups Chestnut Flour or Almond Flour

1/2 cup melted butter

1 Tbsp. vanilla

1 cup finely ground toasted pistachios

Blend eggs and sugar together in a mixer or food processor until light and fluffy. Add in flour and vanilla and blend; and then add the ground pistachios and stir to combine. Pour into a parchment paper lined 9×13 baking pan. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 mins.

Cool on a rack and then use the parchment to easily lift the sheet of blondies out of the pan. Trim the edges ( these are the treat for the cook!) and then cut into even squares. Dust with powdered sugar for serving.

Heidi’s Potato Latkes

6-8 Russet or Yukon Gold Potoates

1 shallot

3/4 to 1 cup all purpose flour ( you may use an all purpose gluten free blend as well)

2 local chicken or duck eggs

salt and pepper

Oil for frying

Peel and shred the potatoes. Place the potato shreds in a bowl of cold water to cover while everything else is being prepped. The cold water will keep the potatoes from turning brown. Best to shred just before you are ready to fry, so that there is not much down time during which the potatoes are just standing.

Dice or mince the shallot. Drain the potatoes well and then add the shallot, flour and eggs. Blend together until the potatoes are coated with the egg and flour mix and season with salt and pepper. I find it easiest to do this mixing with my hands. Its about proportion here, so you really have to get a feel for it, If the potatoes are too wet, you may need more flour, if they are dry, you may not need quite as much.

IMG_1013Heat a 1/4 inch or so of oil in a large skillet. I like to use organic canola or grapeseed oil, but vegetable oil also works well. As the oil is heating, place a clean dry wooden spoon in the pan. When tiny bubbles form around the tip of the spoon, the oil is hot enough for frying. Take a small handful of the shredded potato mix (yes, use your hands – its how I remember my Grandma doing it) and carefully drop it into the pan pressing it flat with a spatula. Don’t overcrowd the pan.  Depending on the size of the pan, I suggest only frying 3-4 latkes at a time.  Fry the latkes until browned and crisp and then flip to brown the other side.

Remove the browned latkes from the pan and onto a paper towel lined plate to drain slightly.  Once they are all cooked, remove them from the layers of paper towels and stack them up on your plate to enjoy!

THE HEIDILOGOCOOKSLooking ahead…Once we ring in the New Year, we’ll start back up with both my At Home with Heidi and On the Farm series of cooking classes. I am delighted to share the news that my first On the Farm class of 2018 will be with Shelley Eagan of Proffitt Cattle Company at the Kings Mountain ranch on January 20, 2018.  Class starts with a farm tour at 4 pm, then the group will come back to the Proffitt’s large open kitchen to cook 5 courses with the ranches wonderful grass fed and finished certified organic beef. Assorted Table Wine Shop will be on hand as well, to pair each course with a wine pairing. Cost is $85 per person. To make your reservations now, simply email me and I’ll be right back in touch with all the details and we’ll get you on the class list!

 

 

 

 

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