Over the River to The Woodstock Inn

On the seventh day before Christmas, our annual holiday pilgrimage brought us to the popular destination of Woodstock, Vermont – a charming, quaint and quintessential New England town, established in 1761 by settlers from Massachusetts and situated along the Ottauquechee River.

12 Days of Christmas SongThere we visited the Woodstock Inn & Resort, a local landmark that opened in 1892, beautifully decorated for the holiday season. It’s most unique decoration? A 9-foot tall, 7-foot long giant, homemade gingerbread house that festively greets you upon entrance into the lobby, consisting of about 180 pounds of flour, 150 pounds of confectioners sugar, more than 350 rooftop shingles and 700 bricks on the wall.

According to the Inn’s pastry Chef Lerome Campbell – its architect and creator – the gingerbread house took approximately 320 hours to make over the course of a 3-week period. Built around a wooden frame, it is mostly edible with ceilings nearly high enough for most people to stand up. What a truly miraculous creation during such a magical time of year! See our photos below.

Please note that the details of the gingerbread house were gathered from a staff member at the Inn, in addition to the following local news article from NECN: “Giant Gingerbread House Towers Above the Rest.”

Biggest Gingerbread House

Biggest Gingerbread House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And…on the actual day of Christmas, Santa gave to us…some Christmas morning recipes:

Vermont Cheddar Quiche (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook A Way of Living, 2009)

Vermont Cheddar Quiche Recipe
Photo taken from Simon Pearce cookbook

“A deep 9-inch pie plate or baking dish is required for this thick quiche. Your choice of fillings – such as ham and spinach, or crab and leek, or any combination of vegetables – would work well.”

Ingredients for the crust (option: you can use any market brand frozen pie crust)

1 ½ cups King Arthur (or any quality) all-purpose flour

1 stick cold unsalted butter

1 large egg

1/3 cup ice water

Instructions for crust:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Cut butter into small pieces. Cut butter into flour until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Add egg and ice water and mix until dough forms. Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and let rest for 20 minutes. Roll out dough to a circle a bit larger than baking dish. Line baking dish with dough and crimp edges. Refrigerate dough-lined baking dish for at least 1 hour.

Ingredients for cheese and choice of filling:

24 ounces extra-sharp Vermont cheddar cheese, grated and divided into thirds

8 ounces filling of your choice

Instructions for cheese and choice of filling:

Fill dough-lined baking dish with one-third of grated cheese. Place filling of your choice on top of cheese. Layer remaining two-thirds of grated cheese on top of filling.

For eggs and cream:

8 eggs

2 cups whipping cream

¾ tsp. salt

¼ tsp. black pepper

Mix eggs and cream together and season with salt and pepper. Create a well in the center of the cheese and filling mixture in the baking dish and pour in the egg mixture. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, or until done.

German Sour Cream Coffee Cake (from a colonial kitchen cookbook, 1979)

Christmas CardIngredients:

2 sticks butter, room temp.

2 scant cups sugar

2 eggs room temp.

1 cup sour cream (Stonyfield whole milk Plain Yogurt also works)

2 tsp. vanilla

2 cups flour

2 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

Topping:

½ cup finely chopped pecans

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 tbsp. brown sugar

Instructions:

Grease bundt cake pan or angel food cake pan. Cream butter and sugar until light and set aside. Beat together 2 eggs, sour cream, and vanilla and then blend into the butter and sugar mixture. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and combine with the other combined mixture. Pour half of the batter in the pan. Sprinkle with half of the topping. Add remaining batter and sprinkle remaining topping. Bake at 350 degrees for 55-60 min. Insert clean knife to test if done. Cool before turning cake out of pan.

Field-Greens Salad with Warm Goat Cheese (taken from the Simon Pearce cookbook A Way of Living, 2009)

Goat Cheese Salad RecipeIngredients for the salad:

4-ounce log of goat cheese

½ cup panko bread crumbs

2 tbsp. melted butter

1 tsp. fresh or dried thyme

1 tsp. fresh or dried parsley

½ tsp. minced garlic (optional)

Mixed field greens for four

Cherry tomatoes

Cucumber slices or endive spears

Cut goat cheese into four even slices and set aside. Combine bread crumbs, melted butter, herbs, and garlic. Press the herb-crumb mixture onto all sides of each cheese slice. Place cheese slices in a single layer on a small baking tray, brown under a broiler, and set aside.

Ingredients for house vinaigrette:

¼ cup lemon juice

¼ cup malt vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 tsp. dried basil

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. freshly ground pepper

1 ½ cups olive oil

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley

Instructions for house vinaigrette:

Add first six ingredients in a blender and pulse to combine. While blender is running, slowly stream in the olive oil until well combined. Add parsley and pulse for 10 seconds or until vinaigrette is creamy and smooth.

To construct salad:

Mix and toss field greens with vinaigrette to taste. Place greens on chilled plate. Place warm goat cheese on the salad. Arrange sliced tomatoes around the greens and place cucumber slices or endive spears on top.

French Breakfast Puffs (taken from The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook, 2009)

Ingredients:

Cinnamon Sugar Muffin Recipe3 cups all-purpose flour

3 tsp. baking powder

1 tsp. salt

½ tsp. ground nutmeg

1 cup sugar

2/3 cup butter

2 eggs

1 cup milk

Ingredients for sugar coating:

½ pound butter (2 sticks)

1 ½ cups sugar

3 tsp. ground cinnamon

Instructions:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg. Set aside. In a separate large bowl, cream together the sugar and butter. Add the eggs and mix again. Alternate adding one-third of the flour mixture and one-third of the milk to the creamed mixture, beating well after each addition. Fill the muffin cups two-thirds full. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Remove the muffins from the pan and set aside.

To make the sugar coating, melt the butter in a bowl or glass pan. In a separate container, combine the sugar and cinnamon. Dip the warm muffins in the butter, coating thoroughly. Then roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture.

Helpful hint: After cooling completely, puffs can be frozen in plastic bags and reheated.

Magical Moments of Christmas Classics

Best Christmas Movies“I think cinema, movies, and magic have always been closely associated,” film director Francis Ford Coppola once said. “The very earliest people who made film were magicians.”

With Christmas day nearly upon us, it is certainly difficult to dispel the feeling of magic that seems to linger in the air and permeate our soul with just a flicker of light, warmth of a fire or viewing of a holiday film.

Indeed, we couldn’t agree more with Mr. Coppola – a great amount of magic can be found in movies, particularly in the holiday classics that, by their very nature, capture the Christmas spirit and – more often than not – remind us of all the good we have in our lives. It’s amazing how certain scenes in particular have the ability to evoke such powerful sentiments, leaving us with unexpected chills or causing us to think or reflect on something in a way we never have – or at least have forgotten to do.

So, in the magical spirit of Christmas, we’ve compiled a list of ATG’s top ten holiday movies (from oldest to most recent), in addition to those moments and quotes that left us with that good, “magical” feeling – either that, or those that were just plain funny!

We hope you enjoy and hope you will share with us some of your favorites in the comment section below, as well as on Twitter and Facebook using the hashtag #MyATGMoment (i.e. #MyATGMoment in Love Actually: Where Jamie goes to Aurelia’s house with her dad and sister, and the whole town marches to her restaurant). Share and we’ll choose a few to highlight in a separate post!

The Shop around the Corner (1940) Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullivan and Frank Morgan (yes, he was the Wizard of Oz) – Before Jimmy Stewart established himself by playing the all-time classic character George Bailey (see below), he gives an outstanding performance in this oft-forgotten Christmas tale.

  • Our ATG Moment: Alfred Kralik (Jimmy): “There might be a lot we don’t know about each other. You know, people seldom go to the trouble of scratching the surface of things to find the inner truth.”

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and the best director to ever come out of Hollywood, Frank Capra – The single best Christmas movie ever made, and one of the greatest messages of all time: the impact we have on people, our community and the world we live in.

  • Our ATG Moment: Clarence (the Angel): “Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”

 Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Edmund Gwenn – While for many folks this is the all-time best Christmas movie, we think this is the best portrayal and message of Kris Kringle ever on the silver screen.

  • Our ATG Moment: Kris Kringle: “Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind… and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.”

We’re No Angels (1955) Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray – Some may not consider this a Christmas movie, although one could argue (because of its message) that it is up there with all the other classics. What better Christmas message than revealing the goodness in the wicked and the wickedness in the seemingly good?

  • Our ATG Moment: Joseph (Bogey): “We came here to rob them and that’s what we’re gonna do – beat their heads in, gouge their eyes out, slash their throats. Soon as we wash the dishes.”

Dr. Seuss – How the Grinch Stole Stole Christmas (1960) Chuck Jones (of cartoon fame) and Boris Karloff  –This family classic is a timeless story that, true for many other of Dr. Seuss’ works, will still hold up over 100 years from now.

  • Our ATG Moment: Narrator (Karloff): “He puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought… doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps… means a little bit more!”

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) Burl Ives and Bumbles – A holiday original with timeless messages to all children (and adults), and another must watch every Christmas.

  • Our ATG Moment: Mrs. Claus: “Eat, Papa, eat.”

Mixed Nuts (1994) Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn and Rita Wilson (Director: Nora Ephron) – While it never received the reception it deserved, this movie has a very funny plot with interesting characters and a great final scene (and song).

  • Our ATG Moment: Phillip (Martin): “Just remember that in every pothole there is hope. Well, you see, pothole is spelled P-O-T-H-O-L-E. So if you take the P, and add it to the H, the O, and the E, and rearrange the letters… or contrariwise, you remove the O, T, and the L, you get “hope”. So, just remember, in every pothole there is hope!”

The Santa Clause (1994) Tim Allen and Judge Reinhold – Really funny premise with a great underlying message of the importance of believing.

  • Our ATG Moment: Dr. Neil Miller (Reinhold): “Scott, what was the last thing you and Charlie did, before you went to bed Christmas Eve?” Scott Calvin (Allen): “We shared a bowl of sugar, did some shots of brown liquor, played with my shot guns, field-dressed a cat, and looked for women…”

Best Christmas Movie QuotesElf (2003) Will Ferrell, James Caan and Zooey Deschanel – Director Jon Faureau met his goal in creating a modern day timeless classic. It’s perfect from start to finish, and extremely funny.

  • Our ATG Moments (too hard to choose just one!): Buddy (Ferrell): “This place reminds me of Santa’s Workshop! Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.”
  • Buddy: “We elves try to stick to four main food groups: Candy, candy canes, candy corns and syrup.”

The Family Stone (2005) Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Claire Danes and Dermot Mulroney – With a phenomenal cast, everyone is likely able to identify with at least one of the characters and laugh out loud at some of the funniest scenes and sequence of events ever seen in a “holiday” movie.

  • Our ATG Moment: Ben Stone (Wilson): “Don’t dilly-dally there, pretty lady. We’re all gonna be down here talking about you.”

Wishing for a Miracle This Holiday Season

Eric Metaxas Miracles Book Review“We must think about these things,” writes Eric Metaxas* in the opening pages of the book Miracles. “We must wonder about them and about our lives and about life in general. It is healthy to wonder. We have a deep need for wondering. ‘Wonder’ is of course the root of the word ‘wonderful,’ so we must wonder generally and we must wonder specifically.”

And that is certainly what he inspires us to do in his new book about miracles, a thought-provoking, logical and thorough account of “what miracles are, why they happen and how they can change your life.”

Challenging the notion that science is at odds with faith and miracles, Metaxas begins by providing an easily accessible look into the science behind the creation of our universe – explaining how science has given us more and more evidence for the “miracle” of our very own existence. Indeed, a deeper examination into the mere creation and presence of our moon is sure to leave many readers questioning the notion that we exist purely “by chance.”

But, as one might expect for a book about miracles, it is not strictly science he uses as evidence. Metaxas takes us on another thoroughly explored journey into the miracles in the Bible, including Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. Skeptics and believers alike with questions relating to the crucifixion and oft proposed “swoon theory” – and even the very core of Christianity itself – are sure to receive answers, if not at least give a second thought to the hypothesis he proposes.

Indeed, Miracles is more than just a book about Christianity, faith and belief in God. It is an exploration into the very existence of our world, of humans and of the meaning of life.

Proof that miracles existSo, this holiday season, as we prepare to celebrate what can be described as yet another miracle (the birth of Christ), ATG puts forth Miracles as a top pick for anyone and everyone who has ever wondered about the meaning of life. If nothing more, it causes us to question our beliefs – no matter what they are.And perhaps that is a small “miracle” in and of itself.

Since this has been posted, Metaxas has appeared on various news sites and has published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, which has become the most popular piece ever on the WSJ website. See below for just a sampling:


*Eric Metaxas is the author of two critically acclaimed New York Times bestselling biographies on Bonheoffer and William Wilberforce. He is also the founder and host of Socrates in the City, a Manhattan speaker series on “Life, God and Other Small Topics” (more to come on that at a later date).

Of mention: In discussing miracles, it is worth mentioning the book Miracles by C.S. Lewis, considered to be a world-famous literary critic and the most important Christian writer of the 20th century. Published in 1947, it seeks to tackle the philosophical question of miracles in a comprehensive examination of naturalism vs. supernaturalism. 

For more information, we recommend visiting these links:

Lighting the Way to the Digital Age: The Collaboration of Innovation

Anyone who regularly reads book reviews and keeps current on the rapidly evolving technology world is likely to have heard of a newly published book by Walter Isaacson, the famed author of Steve Jobs’ biography and president of the public policy think-thank, The Aspen Institute.

In fact, Isaacson’s new book has been reviewed by a countless number of publications, garnering significant attention and accolades – and it’s not difficult to understand why.

Walter Isaacson The Innovators Book Review Entitled “The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution” (October 2014), it is Isaacson’s first book that profiles not one, but multiple people, who throughout history have contributed to the technological wonders of today – namely, the computer and the internet.

Named one of Amazon’s 2014 Best Books of the Year (#18) and ranking number 11 in the 2014 National Book Awards Longlist, it offers a fascinating exploration into the minds, personalities and creative spirit of technological innovators, beginning with Ada Lovelace – Lord Byron’s daughter – who pioneered computer programming in the 1840s. Moving on to later, perhaps more well-established figures – including Vannevar Bush, Alan Turing, John von Neumann, J.C.R. Licklider, Doug Engelbart, Robert Noyce, Bill Gates, Steve Wozniak, Steve Jobs, Tim Berners-Lee and Larry Page – Isaacson shows how it was the collaborative effort of many minds and geniuses who transformed our world with the creation of a digital revolution.

For further insight and a sampling of the reviews, please see below:

“In many respects, the book could have been called ‘The Collaborators.’  Each chapter reinforces the core premise that Mr. Isaacson made after 15 years of research: That every technology innovation, whether programming code, transistors, personal computers or the Internet, was built by groups of people (usually by borrowing from past ideas).” …

“Ms. Lovelace’s role in tech for example, is so paramount that her story is the opening and closing chapter.  An English mathematician and writer, she wrote the first-ever computer algorithm, put forth the idea that humanities and technology should coexist and dreamed up the concept of artificial intelligence.”

  • “Geek Squad” (New York Times, reviewed by Brendan Koerner, October 2, 2014):

“Stubbornness is just one of the personality traits ubiquitous among the brilliant subjects of ‘The Innovators.’ Isaacson identifies several other virtues that were essential to his geeky heroes’ success…[t]he digital pioneers all loathed authority, embraced collaboration and prized art as much as science.” …

“Few authors are more adept at translating technical jargon into graceful prose, or at illustrating how hubris and greed can cause geniuses to lose their way.”

“Ada Lovelace’s mid-19 century writings were so brilliantly visionary about the potential of a general-purpose computer that she is acknowledged as a major-tech-world hero.” …

“The United States Defense Department named a computer language after her.  There is an Ada Lovelace Day in Oct, a nifty Ada Lovelace Google Doodle and many books about her, including Ada’s Algorithom, a new biography by James Essinger.”

  • Kirkus Reviews* of The Innovators:

“Isaacson reiterates one theme:  Innovation results from both “creative inventors” and “an evolutionary process that occurs when ideas, concepts, technologies, and engineering methods ripen together.”

“Isaacson weaves prodigious research and deftly crafted anecdotes into a vigorous, gripping narrative about the visionaries whose imaginations and zeal continue to transform our lives.”

*Kirkus Reviews is an American book review magazine founded in 1933.

For more reviews, please visit the below links:

Cata: Teeming with Tapas and Tonic

“Variety is the very spice of life that gives it all its flavor,” the English poet William Cowper once said. And variety and flavor are certainly what you’ll find at Cata – a tapas restaurant located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan that opened in September 2012.

Cata Restaurant ReviewOffering a unique combination of tapas – including deviled eggs with fried oysters – and a drink menu featuring twenty-two different types of gin and tonics – each made with a different gin – it is easy to see why this has become a popular destination, receiving not one, but two, favorable reviews in the New York Times (see here and here).

Cata’s menu is wide, varied and full of flavor, including everything from chickpea fritters, quail eggs benedicts and curried cauliflower couscous to raw and baked oysters, duck ravioli and smoked lamb ribs.

Each drink is mixed and matched with a variety of tonics, including Schweppes, Fever Tee and Q, among others. Examples include “the cinnamon” – made with Hayman’s gin, Fever Tree and a stick of cinnamon; “the kaffir lime” – made with Farmer’s Organic gin, Fever Tree and leaves; and the “grapefruit” – made with Bluecoat gin from Philadelphia, White Rock tonic and fresh citrus. A particular favorite? “The Lavender.”

Quench your thirst this holiday season by indulging in Cata’s wide variety of cocktail and culinary offerings. For more information, visit their website here: www.catarestaurant.com.

Stirring It Up With Conviction

Christmas time and cocktail time are nearly synonymous, both offering a warm, fuzzy feeling that more often than not leave you wishing for and wanting more.

How fitting, then, that we are in the midst of a cocktail renaissance, which has emerged over the past decade, at least according to several recent news articles:

The Wall Street Journal declares: “That we’re amid a craft cocktail renaissance is without dispute – intriguing new bars and amazing new ingredients surface weekly.”

And the New York Times observes: “We’re living in a Golden Age of creativity for bartenders, many of whom are energetically pushing boundaries in both culinary and scientific ways…”

Indeed, if there has been one thing I have discovered in my reading of the cocktail renaissance, it is just how seriously some people take their cocktail creations.

One such example comes from a neat little cocktail book – Cotton Cocktails* (March 2014)– which offers cocktail recipes with insightful, interesting tidbits of cocktail history, information and anecdotes. In it, authors Peaches and Jeffrey Paige (owners of Cotton Restaurant in the Millyard District of Manchester, NH), narrate the story of a customer who made the waitress cry after she asked him if he preferred his martini with gin or vodka.

“’All Martinis are made of gin with a splash of dry vermouth,’ he responded pulling out his business card on which was written ‘The Exact Way a Martini Should be Made’ on the back, with the saying ‘The Way God Intended’ on the front.”

Liquid Intelligence Cocktail Recipes

Liquid Intelligence (November 2014) is another cocktail book we found to be particularly interesting due to its unusual scientific angle. In fact, the book itself – written by prominent food science writer, educator and innovator Dave Arnold – can at times seem like a classroom science textbook, full of great resources on everything from kitchen equipment to books on apples, coffee, cocktails and stores for ingredients.

Mr. Arnold has previously taught at the French Culinary Institute and Harvard University, founded the Museum of Food and Drink in NYC in 2004, and regularly investigates “temperature, carbonation, sugar concentration and acidity in search of ways to invigorate classic cocktails.” In Liquid Intelligence, he writes:  “A little dose of science will do you good. Think like a scientist and you will make better drinks.”

And he isn’t kidding. The sheer enthusiasm and passion he conveys in his introduction was enough for us to decide to purchase the book. You’ll see why, after reading the below:

“I approach cocktails like everything I care about in life:  persistently and from the ground up.  I ask myself what I want to achieve, and then I beat down every path to get there.  I want to see what is possible and what I’m capable of.  In the initial phases of working through a problem, I don’t much care if what I’m doing is reasonable.  I prefer to go to absurd lengths to gain minute increments of improvement.  I am okay with spending a week preparing a drink that’s only marginally better than the one that took me five minutes.  I’m interested in the margins.  That’s where I learn about the drink, about myself, and about the world.

“I am not unhappy, but I am never satisfied.  There’s always a better way.  Constantly questioning yourself – especially your basic tenets and practices – makes you a better person behind the bar, in front of the stove, or in whatever field you choose.

“I love it when my dearly held beliefs are proved wrong.  It means I’m alive and still learning.”

For further inspiration, insight and information on cocktail creations, as well as a guide to some of NYC’s best new bars, please see the links below:


* Interested in trying out some of Cotton’s recipes? See a few of our favorites, below:

Blueberry Basil Mojito

Blueberry Basil Mojito Recipe
Photo Taken From Cotton Cocktails

Ingredients:

2 sprigs Fresh Basil

2 Lemon Wedges

1 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar

2 ounces Cold River Blueberry Vodka from Maine (made with the famous Wyman’s wild Maine blueberries)

1 ounce Cointreau

2 ounces soda water

Fresh Blueberries, to garnish

Instructions:

In a 10-ounce rocks glass muddle the basil, lemon wedges, and sugar.  Fill the glass with ice and add the vodka and Cointreau, then top with soda water.  Stir to mix and garnish with fresh blueberries.

Simple Eggnog (yields approximately 1 ½ cups)

Ingredients:

2 egg yolks

1 cup milk

½ cup heavy cream (light cream is just as good)

¼ cup sugar

Pinch of Kosher Salt

¼ cup or less of Brandy (optional)

1 tsp. vanilla

Freshly grated nutmeg, to taste

Instructions:

Mix egg yolk in heavy saucepan and then stir in milk, cream, sugar, salt and brandy (if desired).  Cook over medium to medium-low heat, stirring constantly until mixture reaches 160 degrees F (use a simple cooking thermometer) or for about 7-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Pour into glass bowl and place bowl in ice water to cool (10 minutes or so).  Refrigerate and serve within two days with fresh whipped cream.  Note: This eggnog is dessert-like delicious, so creamy and so easy to make, the recipe can be doubled or tripled etc. for a dinner party. 

Almond Crusted Turkey Schnitzel With Vermont Cheddar and Bourbon Applesauce (served over mashed potatoes)

Turkey Schnitzel Recipe
Photo taken from Cotton: The Cookbook

Ingredients for the Schnitzel:

2 ½ cups fresh breadcrumbs (Note, fresh breadcrumbs make a difference)

½ cup slivered blanched almonds, roughly chopped

½ tsp kosher salt

½ tsp black pepper

1/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 large eggs, beaten for egg wash

Four 4-5 ounce turkey cutlets (can use chicken cutlets), gently pounded to even thickness

1/3 vegetable oil (we recommend using half olive oil and half butter instead to sauté cutlets)

Four ¾-ounce slices of Vermont cheddar cheese

1 Recipe for Bourbon Applesauce

2 Tbsp. Toasted slivered almonds for garnish

Ingredients for the Bourbon Applesauce:

2 ½ pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and cored

3 tbsp light brown sugar

¾ cup Bourbon

Instructions for Schnitzel:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Mix breadcrumbs, chopped almonds, salt and pepper and place in shallow bowl.  Place flour in another shallow bowl and the beaten eggs in a third shallow bowl.  Dredge each cutlet into the flour, then the egg wash, and finally the almond-breadcrumb mixture.

Heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat. Brown the cutlets until golden brown, approximately 3-4 minutes on each side.  Transfer to large ovenproof platter or sheet pan and top each cutlet with a slice of cheddar cheese and 2 tbsp. of applesauce.  Bake 5-6 min.  Sprinkle with toasted almonds on top and serve immediately on top of mashed potatoes.

Instructions for Applesauce:

In a heavy saucepan, combine the diced apples, brown sugar, and bourbon.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often for about 20 min until apples are soft.  Stir vigorously to mash apples.

For other delicious holiday treats, we recommend you try:

Christmas Baked Brie (1997 recipe)

Ingredients:

1 package puff pastry (Frozen Pepperidge Farm), thaw according to directions

1 wheel of a really good brie (do not remove white rind)

About  ¼-½ cup raspberry jam (we recommend: Trappist or Bonne Maman Red Raspberry Preserves)

1 egg and 1 tbsp. water, beaten together

Instructions:

Lay puff pastry flat.  Use one or two sheets depending on size of brie wheel.  If size requires two, wrap bottom first.  Spread jam on top of brie. Fold pastry up and over to seal cheese in.  Flip over again.  Place on baking sheet or ovenproof dish.  Spread egg and water all over pastry.  Bake 400 degrees for about 30 minutes – untie golden.  Let sit about 30 min. before serving.

Note:  We spread a very thin layer of butter on top of brie before spreading the jam on top

Winter Greens Salad with Spicy Walnuts and Cranberry Vinaigrette

Ingredients for cranberry vinaigrette:Winter Greens Salad Recipe

2/3 cup fresh cranberries

¼ cup sugar

½ cup cider vinegar

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

¼ cup orange juice

¾ cup canola oil

¼ tsp. salt

Fresh cracked black pepper

Instructions for cranberry vinaigrette:

Combine cranberries, sugar and vinegar in saucepan over med. heat until cranberries pop.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Puree cranberry mixture in blender and pour into bowl and whisk in oil a little at a time.  Dressing should become smooth and emulsified.  Season with salt and pepper and refrigerateuntil needed.

Ingredients for spicy walnuts

1 ½ tsp. butter (melted)

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon

2 tbsp. honey

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Instructions for spicy walnuts:

Combine butter, cayenne, cinnamon, honey, salt and walnuts in a small skillet and toss well to coat.  Cook over medium heat until nuts are lightly browned.  Remove from heat and let cool stirring to keep nuts from sticking together.

Ingredients for salad:

1 head butter lettuce

4 cups winter greens: romaine, endive

1 crisp red apple, sliced into 1/8-inch wedges

½ small red onion, thinly sliced

Instructions for salad:

To assemble salad:  Arrange lettuce leaves on individual salad plates. Combine greens, apple and walnuts in bowl. Toss with enough cranberry vinaigrette to coat lightly. Top with red onion and serve.

Traversing Through Time with Timeless Treasures

Beautiful Christmas CardsThere’s no other month quite like December. Its ability to captivate us with the sheer joy, cheer and merriment of the holiday season, while also nudging us ever so slightly to the realization that yet another year has passed, is certainly unique – but somehow inevitable, each time it rolls around.

Indeed, it is the month of December in which time in all of its confounding and mysterious forms can be most intensely experienced – signaling both the end of one year and the beginning of another – and filling us with a sense of both longing and renewed hope as we reflect back on the past and eagerly anticipate the promise of a New Year. How true the Aristotelian principle that “every moment is both the end of an era and the start of something new.”

But, as we try to cling to the joy of a season that so quickly evades our grasp, there exists a great amount of joy and hidden messages in the past, if one only looks. In fact, we can learn things from the past – things timeless and true that are beckoning to be brought forth with us into the present.

Take, for instance, Mary Campbells’ quaint little book, The New England Butt’ry Shelf Almanac, a timeless treasure that brings forth the warmth of a more simple time; in the chapter “December” she writes:

“The noonday sun, low in the southern winter sky, bathes the Old Kitchen with a warm light.  There is an air of happy busyness about the house for presents are being wrapped, cards are handwritten…cookies are baked…wreaths are fashioned, friends greeted.”

Butt'ry Shelf Almanac Book ReviewThere is something comforting and soothing to know that, while the passage of time has certainly brought forth boundless amounts of change in our fast-evolving world, the simple moments of a “southern winter sky” and the baking of cookies* documented nearly 46 years ago, when the book was published, are still readily applicable today.

Another more current, nevertheless timeless, treasure that our family has come to cherish during the holiday season is A Family Christmas by Caroline Kennedy, in which she shows through a selection of writings old and new, poems, lyrics, Bible passages and more, how “[t]he literature of Christmas ranges from the miraculous to the tragic, the profound to the ridiculous, but always represents the connection to something larger than ourselves.”

Indeed, a particular favorite of ours is the letters written by soldiers during the World War I Christmas Truce – during which “time stood still” as German and British soldiers ceased fighting to celebrate Christmas – taken from The London Times on January 2, 1915. How miraculous and profound is the line:

“…So there you are; all this talk of hate, all this fury at each other that has raged since the beginning of the war, quelled and stayed by the magic of Christmas.  Indeed, one German said, ‘But you are of the same religion as me, and to-day is the Day of Peace!’”

It is books such as these that provide a much-needed reprieve from the relentless march of time, felt particularly strongly in the month of December before the ringing in of a New Year. Transporting us back to the “bygone” days and comforting us with their classic, timeless wisdom, such books enable us to see things in a new light – carrying part of their past into our present – and reminding us that, if one only looks, there are treasures all around.

Caroline Kennedy A Family ChristmasIndeed, as recorded in Mary Campbell’s Almanac, Renaissance pioneer Fra Giovanni Giocondo wrote to Countess Allagia Aldobrandeschi on Christmas Eve in 1513, saying:

No heaven can come to us unless our hearts find rest in today. Take Heaven!

No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in this present instant. Take Peace! 

The gloom of the world is but shadow. Behind it, yet within reach…is Joy.

There is radiance and glory in the darkness, could we but see, and to see we have only to look; I beseech you to look.

 

 

Do you or your family have any favorite timeless, holiday treasures? We’d love for you to share them!


*For the most delicious old-fashioned sugar cookies with butter frosting, pictured below, try our recipe:

Best Sugar Cookies Recipe
This year’s batch!

Ingredients for cookies:

1 cup butter (2 sticks)

1 cup sugar

2 eggs (room temperature)

1 tsp. vanilla

2 ¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ tsp. salt

½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. baking soda 

Instructions for cookies:

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Add remaining dry ingredients. Chill dough at least 2 hours. Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temp. Roll cookies out on wax paper, sprinkled with flour to the thickness you like (we do about 1/8″). Cut with cookie cutter. Bake in 375-degree oven for 8-10 min. Let cool before frosting with butter frosting.

Ingredients for butter frosting:

4 tbsp. butter, softened

2 cups confectioner’s sugar

4 tbsp. milk

1 tsp. vanilla

Instructions for butter frosting:

Cream butter and then add half of the sugar along with half of the milk combining slowly; add the remaining sugar and milk a little at a time. Stir in the vanilla – and voila! Spread on cookies and add some sprinkles for a festive, holiday touch!

Cioccolato: Il Cibo Degli Dei*

World-renowned Chef Thomas Keller** writes in the introduction to Mast Brothers Chocolate: A Family Cookbook (2013), “I could tell that they were men who shared my sensibilities, who worked with a rigor that bordered on obsession because that was the only way they knew. They sourced their ingredients meticulously and refined their recipes over and over until they arrived at the right results.”

Flipping through the Mast Brothers Chocolate book, written by brothers Rick and Michael Mast – or the “pioneers of bean-to-bar chocolate” with a flagship factory and retail shop in Brooklyn, NY – one will likely become captivated by their compelling narration on the background and history of chocolate, interspersed amongst a variety of delicious, mouth-watering chocolate recipes, ranging from American classics such as brownies, cupcakes and cookies to more sophisticated truffles, chocolate meringue pie and more.

Mast Brothers Chocolate Bars
Mast Brothers Chocolate Bar & Book

Filled with beautiful, artistic pictures and personal anecdotes – including a recounting of adventures and inspirations along the coast of Maine, at Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, at a neighborhood butcher shop in Brooklyn, and in a three-masted schooner, which they sailed across the Atlantic to source Cocoa beans in the Dominican Republic – the Mast brothers explain the secret behind their craft and how their method and strategy separates them from other chocolate connoisseurs. They write:

“We live in a time when consumers want to know the origins of their heirloom tomatoes, the diet of the cows butchered for their burgers, and the first name of their local brewer.  Chocolate somehow has avoided this microscope.  The large majority of all chocolate is uniformly bland, loaded with poor ingredients, and made by only a few companies, on a mega-industrial scale…

At Mast Brothers, we have handcraft chocolate in a way that seeks to highlight the unique characteristics of its exceptional ingredients, cacao and sugar….”

Needless to say, we strongly agree with the suggestion Chef Keller makes at the end of his introduction: “Take Rick’s advice. Shake it up and evolve. Be fearless and experiment. Embrace continuous improvement in the pursuit of ultimate simplicity.” What a great message as we head into a New Year!

You can quickly get a sense of the Mast brothers’ passion, artistry and conviction just from visiting their website, here.

And while it was certainly hard to choose just one, we’ve selected a recipe from A Family Cookbook that we thought to be a timeless, Christmas chocolate classic:

Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:

1 cup butter (2 sticks), room temp.

2 cups brown sugar

2 eggs, room temp.

2 cups all-purpose flour

6 tbsp. cocoa powder

2 tsp. baking power

1 tsp. baking soda

1 tsp. sea salt (or Kosher salt)

15 ounces dark chocolate, chopped (we have used Lindt, Ghirardelli and Cadbury Dark chocolate bars)

2 ½ cups rolled oats

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bowl, cream butter and brown sugar. Add eggs, flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda and salt and combine. Add chocolate and oats and combine. Spoon cookie dough on baking sheet and bake 10-12 minutes. (Of note: You can also sprinkle the cookies with a few more oats prior to baking for a beautiful garnish! Also, we mixed ¼ cup of smooth peanut butter because we tend to like chocolate peanut butter everything – the cookies turned out just fine and delicious!)

Best chocolate covered pretzels
Anderson’s Candies Pretzels

Of mention: All this talk of chocolate has reminded us of the Chocolate Covered Pretzels we’ve ordered each Christmas for the past 20 years from Anderson’s Candies in Baden, Pennsylvania. There’s a reason why we order them all the way from western PA – they’re just THAT good!


*“Cioccolato: Il cibo degli dei” translates into “Chocolate: The Food of the Gods” in Italian. We couldn’t help using the Italian, as it’s a lot of fun to say – listen here!

**Thomas Keller, world-renowned chef and owner of esteemed Per Se restaurant in NYC and French Laundry in Napa Valley, is the first and only American-born chef to hold multiple three-star ratings from the prestigious Michelin Guide, as well as the first American male chef to be designated a Chevalier of The French Legion of Honor, the highest decoration in France. You can expect to learn more about him in future postings, but for now we highly recommend checking out his website, here (his ‘philosophy’ section, in particular).

The Heart and Soul of All Things

There is something invigorating that comes from being elevated – from being up high and embracing a view that offers a fresh, new perspective.

Looking over a hill
Standing atop an Italian hill

Take, for instance, the profound appreciation of nature and beauty that comes from hiking along a ridge of the Maine Coast in the summer, looking out to the Atlantic ocean and world beyond.

Or the captivation and awe that comes from being transported back in time, standing atop one of the Seven Hills of Rome, overlooking “Il Foro Romano,” what was once the epicenter of political and social life in ancient Rome.

Or even the excitement that comes from sitting atop a rooftop bar in New York City overlooking the Empire State building, marveling at the energy, diversity and seemingly endless possibilities that encompass the 13-mile-long island city of Manhattan.

In fact, it was just this view that recently inspired this first posting. I was sitting atop NYC’s largest outdoor rooftop bar, 230 Fifth, sipping a specialty cocktail and listening to one of my brothers recount his dining experience at a tapas restaurant in the East Village that served 22 different types of gin and tonics and the “best deviled eggs” (with fried oysters) he’d ever had. “That is what is so amazing about New York City,” he remarked, “You get to have the best of the best of everything at your fingertips.”

230 Fifth Restaurant and Bar Review
Our view from 230 Fifth

It is this very comment that comes to mind when I think of All Things Good, as it is our hope that this site will bring the “best of the best” to your fingertips – whether it be a thought, opinion, restaurant, recipe, song, book or idea.

Our goal is to be an “elevated” place where one can find beauty and information that teaches, enlightens and inspires – and that delivers substance and value by digging through the abundance of information, material and content that surrounds us to reveal and share that which has the most substance, value and profundity. In other words, to provide an “elevated” view of living, of life and of the world.

Mark Twain once wrote: “The common eye sees only the outside of things, and judges by that, but the seeing eye pierces through and reads the heart and the soul, finding there capacities which the outside doesn’t indicate or promise and which the other kind couldn’t detect.”

It is with a “seeing eye” that All Things Good strives to get to the heart of the matter – capturing the perspectives gleaned from “up high” and revealing all the good, beauty and inspiration found in our world today.

(As for that tapas restaurant with the “best deviled eggs” and specialty gin and tonics, you can learn more by making your way over to “Around the Table” – a page dedicated to bringing you the best of all things culinary, seasonal and celebratory.)