Figgy Pudding - Snowy Palms Style

It is hard for me to understand why normal and intelligent people of sound reasoning would eat dried fruit, which we must all agree, is fruit picked and packaged just short of it rotting on the vine or tree. Raisins and prunes are vile gag inducing things that in nature would be reduced to topsoil if they weren't picked and wickedly sold as "good for you" snacks to the gullible among us.

Not content to leave well enough alone, there are those of equally questionable judgement or intelligence that take other fruits - good, edible and tasty fruits, then intentionally desiccate them and serve them up as snacks and or energy food to others of questionable intelligence. It is madness pure and simple.

With the above in mind I have always shied away from Christmas Pudding, Christmas-Gag-Me-With-A-Fruit-Cake (which also includes Wedding Cake), along with cinnamon buns, cakes and cookies that harbour or even potentially harbour little dried bits of pre-rotted fruit waiting to send my swallower into full reverse should I accidentally try to ingest one or more of them. Sadly, people do try to trick me by lying in telling me that the little-bitty things in the baked good they placed in front of me are pieces of walnut or pecan (which I love). Tricksters! Liars! Evil-doers all!!! I maintain vigilance always on matters of dried fruit and I always will, you can not easily get that stuff past my lips. Figgy Pudding was also included in my avoidance.

So it was with much trepidation that I sampled some Figgy Pudding at one of Prince George's best restaurants, North 54. After being cajoled and berated into submission by those around me to "Oh for goodness sake, TRY IT" - I was drinking Hester Creek at the time and my resistance was weak, I ordered it and I liked it. It did not turn the private dining room into a vomitorium, which I must say was my expected outcome and one I was preparing for, instead, I consumed the entire offering and then set out to bring a version of it to Snowy Palms Resort's kitchen that would not induce a gag reflex in anyone that hates dried fruits and the recipe below was the outcome. Tres yummy. Tres, tres yummy...

The difference is that the figs and dates are blended to a puree thus eliminating the potential adverse outcome of attempted ingestion of a swallower-blocking dried fruit nugget in hiding.

I Give You Figgy Pudding

14 large, dried figs (I use Turkish figs)
10 dried dates
1 ½ cups water
½ tsp baking soda
½ cup dark rum
¼ cup brandy
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
pinch ground cloves (optional)
½ tsp salt
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted (or use canola oil - same, same)
1 Tbsp lemon zest
½ cup chopped toasted walnuts (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional) why anyone would add these is beyond me...

8 - 1 cup ovenproof ramekins

2 cups brown sugar
2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp cinnnamon
3 Tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 350˚ F

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cloves and salt; set aside.

Place the figs, dates, baking soda, and water in a saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover pot and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the rum and brandy to the boiled figs and dates. Bring to a boil, then immediately remove from heat. Set pot aside and let cool to room temperature, then puree with a blender (immersion or countertop).

Beat the eggs, vanilla and brown sugar until they are thoroughly blended.

Then mix in the graham cracker crumbs, melted butter (or oil), fig puree and lemon zest, then lastly add the dry ingredients you have waiting from procedure above.

Now would be a good time to add the nuts and/or raisins if using.

Pour the finished mixture into 8 buttered and floured individual ramekins. Place ramekins in a high-sided baking tray and add hot water to bring the water level to half way up the ramekins (it is now a water bath method).

Place tray in preheated oven, bake for 25 to 35 minutes or thereabouts (your oven may vary time required). Now is a good time to start making the sauce.

Test with toothpick or thin blade knife to ensure they are fully cooked.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and let cool for 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle run a small knife around the edge to release the puddings from the ramekins then turnout the now emancipated puddings onto a cooling rack as you prepare the serving plates.

Note: One is not like the other in the picture below.  The ones on the left were baked in the water bath with buttered and floured ramekins, the ones on the right were baked in the oven as normal, not in a water bath as a test - they failed. SO USE A WATER BATH!

Prepare the sauce by stirring the sugar, cream and cinnamon in a saucepan over medium-low heat, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove from heat then add the butter and stir until incorporated.

Pour a little sauce onto the center of each serving plate, place pudding onto sauce, then pour more sauce over the puddings. Top with whipped cream. Serve warm.

Christmas Cake?  Wedding Cake? Never! Never! Never!

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Strawberries, Dark Chocolate, Love; What more needs to be said...

I came home after work today and since I had pre-made dinner for tonight yesterday, I had some time available to me to make a dessert. With the strawberries in the fridge and a passel of dark chocolate I was given for Christmas I made some happy-glad morsels that are a hit in this house. Dark chocolate dipped strawberries! Who wouldn't like them?

I had 3 pounds of fresh strawberries I bought yesterday, and a pound of dark chocolate which has a ton of nutrition as we all know, okay calories (same-same), so the mating ritual began in earnest.

I melted the chocolate in the microwave, first breaking it up into small pieces and setting it at medium power for 1 minute.  I removed it, gave it a bit of a toss, and then placed it back in the microwave for another 1 minute, stirred it a bit and then once again for a minute.  When I removed it the last time it was a little melted and some solid chocolate remained so with some stirring and residual heat it came together into a very nice little pool of liquid love. Strawberries love to dive in little pools of love you know.

I had already placed the berries into cold water to clean them of dirt and fuzzy stuff (seeds) and then placed them on a thick towel to allow them to dry. Once dried they will accept the chocolate easily.  If not dry they will rebuff the melted chocolates advances so ensure the berries are dry completely before tossing or telling them to get in the pool.

I use a cookie tray lined with parchment paper to place the dipped berries on.  To prepare the tray place a drop of melted chocolate on the tray at each corner and then place the parchment paper onto the tray. The chocolate will set up and act as glue to prevent the parchment from sliding off the tray. This is very important.

Parchment paper is very slippery and so is a cookie tray and combined with strawberries, when placed upon them, it can add up to an unfortunate incident should you tilt the tray ever so slightly. This I know to be true folks.  I have seen such a mess on my floor and it is not a sight you want to behold. So glue your parchment paper to the cookie tray. Use my lack of brilliance as your guide...

Dip the berries into the melted chocolate, holding them by their hair, er, stems.  Hold the dipped berry over the bowl to allow to drain a bit then place on the tray. Repeat procedure until all the berries are coated with dark chocolate love. As a group they will be very happy to chill out in a cool place for an hour or so to allow the chocolate to set.

If you get the chocolate too hot it will not keep set at room temperature, which is not a good thing if you are looking to present them at a party. I am no chocolatier by any means and it is a special skill that takes a long time to master so if you don't melt it correctly just be prepared to keep it in a cool place until it is served. No one will complain. Trust me.

Place the finished product on a serving tray to serve to all those assembled chocolate lovers then sit back and enjoy the looks on their faces as they quickly snarf down all the dark chocolate covered happy-glad parcels.  You don't eat a chocolate dipped strawberry daintily or slowly. You snarf them, so you can get more before they are all gone and that is acceptable etiquette, never mind what Eloise would say.

For this batch our little buddy came over to sample and to give me his opinion of my efforts. When he is in the house grandma and grandpa are blessed with giggles, screams and hugs. Life as it should be.  When I watch someone eat what I have taken time to make and when they enjoy it to the fullest it makes all the effort worthwhile, I just wish I had more of the family close by to do it for...

Apparently our nearly 2 year old judge has deemed them acceptable and the chocolate on his face, hands. clothes, the floor, towels, and the dog are his way of telling me that he is satisfied with this version of grandpas dipped strawberries...

Oh, Susan likes them too....

Almost Caprese Salad - On A Stick

This dish is a winner when Snowy Palms throws a shindig; a platter of them gets hoovered up faster than a Milk Dud at a fat camp.

While not a Caprese Salad due to the substitution of balsamic with lemon juice and the addition of prosciutto, plus it's on a stick, it still qualifies to be labeled great.  If you can find fresh made mini bocconcini cheese then you can really kick it up a few notches, but for us mere mortals who can't purchase locally produced fresh bocconcini or mozzarella for that matter, Saputo minis are a great alternative. Oh to be close to Edmonton's - The Cheese Factory for the fresh cheeses, especially the cheese curds on Friday's...

1 package (19) cocktail sized Saputo Bocconcini

19 fresh grape tomatoes
19 pieces of fresh basil leaves
19 pieces of sliced prosciutto

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp dried oregano
2 tsp dried basil
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Drain the bocconcini

Add the dried oregano, dried basil, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper

Toss well then set aside to marinate at room temperature for 1 hour

Assemble the salads-on-a-stick starting with the tomato, prosciutto, fresh basil leaf then finish with the marinated bocconcini.

Place finished salads-on-a-stick on serving tray then spoon remaining marinade over the finished pieces and garnish with some small basil leaves. If you wish this would be the time to lightly drizzle some balsamic vinegar on them if you so desire.

This is sofa king good it should be a lot harder to make.
Snowy Palms Resort