Friday, November 27, 2015

Cranberry Sauce with Port and Cinnamon

Happy belated Thanksgiving! I don't know about you, but this holiday sure did sneak up on my this year, then it flew by! I took Wednesday off from work and used the day to run  errands, grocery shop and cook (Pumpkin pie, check. Cranberry sauce, check. Applesauce, check.)

On Thanksgiving morning, I went to the gym (it was open from 8 to 2) and swam for 40 minutes -- my favorite way to start the day. Later I watched the National Dog Show (a Thanksgiving tradition) while I dusted the living room and vacuumed during the commercials. Then I prepared the wild rice pilaf for supper before going on a walk with my husband, our niece, Lindsay, and the pups. It was an absolutely beautiful, warm day -- perfect for a walk!

This year my husband's sister offered to cook the turkey, gravy, stuffing and corn casserole and bring them to our home for supper, which was greatly appreciated. Our side dishes, in addition to the corn casserole, stuffing and rice pilaf, consisted of steamed haricot verts, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and applesauce. It was a delicious meal enjoyed by all who were present. My mother-in-law, who was home with a cold and bad cough, was sorely missed.

This year I tried a new cranberry sauce recipe I'd like to share. If you do the traditional turkey or ham for Christmas dinner, this cranberry sauce would be a perfect accompaniment. I found the recipe at but added more sugar. If you like your sauce less sweet, try 1/2 cup, or even the 1/4 cup called for in the recipe. Start with the smallest amount, taste it and add more sugar if desired. 

Cranberry Sauce with Port Wine and Cinnamon

1 cup ruby Port
2 cinnamon sticks
1 cup dried sweetened cranberries
1 bag (12 oz) fresh cranberries, rinsed and sorted
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
  • In a heavy, medium saucepan, bring Port and cinnamon sticks to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. 
  • Add dried cranberries and simmer until slightly softened, about 3 minutes.
  • Add fresh cranberries, water and sugar. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until sauce thickens and is darker in color and berries collapse, stirring often, about 20 minutes.
  • Transfer to a bowl and let cool. Discard cinnamon sticks.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Easy Homemade Guacamole

It might seem a little odd to go from Christmas wreaths to a guacamole recipe in the month of November, but I had a hankering for guacamole recently and thought it would be a nice recipe to share on the blog. I tend to associate guacamole with margaritas and summertime, but it can (and should) be enjoyed year-round. Try serving it at your next holiday cocktail party -- it is green and red after all! I found the little corn chip dippers at Trader Joe's.


2 avocados, coarsely chopped
1/2 cup minced red onion
1 medium jalapeno chile, minced (remove seeds and ribs if you want less heat)
1 plum tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 to 3 tablespoons lime juice

In a bowl, combine all ingredients. Season with coarse salt and mix to combine, mashing slightly.

If you're making guacamole a couple of hours in advance of when you'll serving it, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, pressing the plastic directly onto the surface of the guacamole to remove as much air as possible and prevent it from turning brown. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Christmas Wreaths

I am so looking forward to the holidays! It has been pretty warm where we live until recently. Usually the cooler temps help put me in the mood for Christmas. Looking at all the pretty decorations online and browsing my Christmas board on Pinterest -- and pinning new ideas -- also gets me in the holiday spirit.

Cindy's recent post on Rough Luxe Lifestyle featured transitional holiday wreaths, and was my inspiration for posting this collection of wreaths that I particularly like. From traditional to contemporary, any of these wreaths would make a lovely addition to a front door or hung over a mantel. I'm not sure which is my favorite. Take a look and let me know if you have a favorite or two.

Holiday greenery doesn't have to come in the shape of a wreath.
I love this look of mixed evergreens and pinecones in a basket!

These shiny bell wreaths are fun for indoor decorating.

If you're crafty, you can make a jingle bell wreath like this one from Martha Stewart to hang over a doorknob. By the way, this photo is one of my favorite images on my Christmas Pinterest board. I love the French doors with their white ceramic doorknobs and ornate silver escutcheons!

You could also make a beautiful pinecone wreath like this one. I made a pinecone wreath many years ago and enjoyed hanging it every Christmas. Sadly, I eventually had to throw it away as it started to come apart and look raggedy. My wreath wasn't nearly as full and perfect as this one, but I loved it just the same! Unadorned pinecone wreaths are one of my favorite holiday looks, and they can stay up well beyond Christmas through the rest of the winter months.

You can't get more Southern than a magnolia leaf wreath!
They're seasonless, but look equally pretty at Christmastime, either plain or with bits of evergreen and a bow added.

This unique moss wreath would add a bright pop of color to a front door.


A felted wool "snowball" wreath -- handcrafted in Nepal -- is a fun, contemporary spin on a holiday wreath, and perfect for an all white interior or black front door.

  West Elm 

Which wreath would you choose for your home? 

Monday, November 9, 2015

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

I've had this recipe in my three-ring recipe binder since 2009, but just made it for the first time last week. I have so many recipes waiting in the queue; it's fun to pull out my book from time to time and try something new.

I'm sure you've heard of quinoa, but may not know much about it. It's pronounced "keen-wa" and is a good source of protein, containing all 9 essential amino acids. Did you know that quinoa is a seed, not a grain, though it is frequently referred to as a whole grain? It is actually in the same food family as spinach, Swiss chard and beets! It is gluten free, cholesterol free, and very easy to prepare. Learn more about it here, here and here.

I altered this soup recipe from the original, omitting the zucchini (which my husband appreciated), increasing the amount of carrot and celery, reducing the amount of veggie stock and substituting water to make up the balance, and not using the cilantro (again, my hubby appreciated this). This soup is heavy on cumin, a spice that has a very distinctive flavor and aroma. If you're not keen on cumin, lessen the amount or omit it. I happen to love it, but my husband thought it was overpowering in this soup.

If you wish to use the zucchini, dice two small zucchinis and add along with the corn, pepper and garlic. If you like cilantro, add 1/3 cup chopped cilantro at the end of step 4 when you season with salt and pepper.

Quinoa Vegetable Soup

1 cup quinoa, rinsed and drained in a fine seive
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
4 carrots, peeled and finely diced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
1 cup frozen yellow corn kernels
1 red or green bell pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons coarse salt
8 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
1 28-ounce can whole, peeled tomatoes, chopped, liquid reserved
1 tablespoon ground cumin (less, if you wish)
2 teaspoons ground coriander

1. Heat a large, heavy skilled over medium heat. Add rinsed and drained quinoa and stir constantly for 10 minutes, until moisture evaporates and quinoa becomes golden. Set aside.

2. Heat oil in a large, heavy stockpot over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and celery. Saute for 12 minutes. Add corn, red or green bell pepper, garlic and salt. Saute 3 minutes longer, or until vegetables begin to release their juices. 

3. Add stock and water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the toasted quinoa and simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes or until quinoa is almost tender.

4. Add tomatoes and their juice. Stir in cumin and coriander. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes or until quinoa is tender. Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and more salt, if desired.                 

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