Roasted Chestnuts

Fresh Chestnuts, ready for the oven.
Slice an 'X' through the Chestnut shells prior to roasting. 
Skip this step and you'll be sorry...

Ever roasted chestnuts? Fresh from the oven, with a dash of sea salt, they're quite delightful.

And, pretty easy to do, if you follow directions. Last Christmas I bought a pound of fresh Chestnuts and decided to give this tradition a try. The outcome was not nearly as cozy and romantic as I expected.

They explode! In unison!

When you remove them from a hot oven and they hit the cooler air it's like 4th of July all over the kitchen. So, that was not good. But, the remnants were quite tasty.

Our jazzy Christmas table settings.
Roasting Chestnuts:
  • Slice a criss cross into the shells.
  • Place on a baking sheet.
  • Cook in a 375 (F) oven for about 30 minutes
  • The criss-crossed shells will curl back letting you know when they are done.
  • As soon as they are cool enough to touch, pop them out of their shells. (It's a lot harder to remove them when they're cool.) 
  • Spritz with a buttery flavored cooking spray.
  • Sprinkle with sea salt.
What I've learned:
* In the mountains, try a cooler oven. Bake at 375 (F) vs. the 425 you see in directions all over the web.
** No need to soak them in salt water. That's a waste of time since the moisture and salt permeate the shells, not the chestnuts, and you're throwing the shells away.

Fun Facts to Know and Tell: 
Chestnuts are one of the healthiest nuts you can nibble. Low in calories, low in fat, rich in vitamins, minerals and protein. Nutritionally similar to brown rice with loads more flavor.


Sparklers, Sangria plus a Miracle on Bourbon St.

A Toast to the Holidays! Live, Laugh & Loaf.
I'm feeling SUPER special today because my lame cooking blog is getting some attention! A PR agency (from New York City!) sent me pics and recipes for holiday cocktails.

Yeah, yeah, I'm being a little facetious. It's easy to become overly-sensitive when you live in Utah, where no booze is allowed to cross state lines. (Bye-bye free samples.) Where everyone just assumes you're a hick. Even when you're not.

I used to work in New York. Produced many a television commercial there. Not always by choice! As low woman on the totem pole, I got saddled with a December TV production project every single year. Because my boss.. and, my boss's boss... and, my boss's boss's boss much preferred to stay home for the holidays.

But, enough about that. Manhattan is a magical place at Christmas time. So, I was delighted to see these very clever uptown concoctions. Ideal for the many parties we've been invited to.

  • 4 oz. VOGA Sparkling Pinot Grigio
  • 1 oz. Vodka
  • .5 oz. Raspberry Liqueur
  • .5 oz. Soho Lychee Liqueur
* It's practically impossible to substitute the unique flavor of Lychee, an exotic Asian fruit. (To get close, mimic a combo of grapes, strawberries and watermelon.)
** If you have never tried a sparkling Pinot Grigio before, you might be surprised. Less sweet than champagne. Delightful.

  • 2 bottles VOGA Merlot (Or, try an old vine Zinfandel)
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 1/3 cup Triple Sec (orange-flavored liqueur)
  • 1 blood orange (cut into sections)
  • 1 very tart apple (cut into sections)
  • 1 cup of cherries
  • 1/4 cup fresh pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
Let this percolate in your refrigerator overnight, allowing plenty of time for the fruit flavors to blend.

Miracle on Bourbon Street
  • 1 sugar cube
  • 4 dashes of angostura bitters
  • 1/2 shot of bourbon
  • Top up with VOGA Premium Sparkling Pinot Grigio

Midnight Kiss
Midnight Kiss
  • 2 oz. VOGA Italia Sparkling
  • 1 oz. apple cider
  • .5 oz. ginger vodka
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 1 apple (sliced)
VOGA is a collection of Italian wines, very reasonably priced, all quite tasty. Bottled as such to attract attention. Will it work? I dunno. Especially with the name VOGA, which sounds like vodka... and a bottle that looks like vodka. Well, I'm stumped. And, slightly relieved I don't have to produce their t.v. commercials.

But, who cares? Wow your buds with some clever uptown libations. 'Tis the season.


Skier, Snowboarder Bodacious Breakfast

Here's a best kept secret about skiing and snowboarding.. the pros recommend a high carb breakfast to give you the energy to play this hard all day long. (You'll burn 1,700+ calories and you won't even notice.)

Think about it! Just how often in our healthy-eating-obsessed US of A do we get permission to dive headfirst into a high carb meal??

Well, today you get to do just that! Provided you can prove you bought yourself a lift ticket.

Ski Bum Bodacious Breakfast:
* This is a great 'weekender' breakfast for house guests, prior to hitting the slopes. Serves 8 normal people or 4 Lindsey Vonn wannabes.

  • 4 cups, uncooked, hash browns*
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups chopped ham, or cooked bacon, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup lite sour cream
  • 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese 
    • Add a little oomph with 1/2 c. cheddar and 1/2 c. pepper jack cheese.
  • 1/2 cup chopped shallots 
  • 2 chopped green onions, tops and all
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rounded bottom glass or coffee cup. (More on that, later.)
How To:
*Sighs heard 'round the world* With this recipe, you really do have to follow directions.
  1. Spray a 9 x 13 baking dish, press a very thin layer of hash browns (about 1 cup) into the dish.
  2. Bake @ 350 (F) for about 10 minutes, until the hash browns are crisp. (This is your crust. :)
  3. Melt the butter, brown the shallots, turn off the heat. If you use a very large pan, this warm pan can double as your mixing bowl when you stir up the rest of the goodies. 
  4. Mix in hash browns, ham, milk, sour cream, green onions and cheese. 
  5. Pour this mixture over the crispy hash browns in your baking dish.
  6. Grab that rounded bottom drinking glass and make 8 depressions into this delightful mess. Crack 1 fresh egg into each of the 8 depressions.
  7. Pop it in the oven. Bake @ 350 F for 30-40 minutes.
1 full ski day burns 1700 calories!
Hash Browns:
I use the refrigerated grocery store brands, to save time. Shredding your own is great. Buying dehydrated or frozen works okay, too. Refrigerated or shredding your own, of course, provides the most nutritional value.

Ham and Bacon:
There is much ado these days about nitrate-free meats. A BETTER BET is to simply purchase low sodium products.
~ No bacon or ham brand is nitrite-free, no matter what the label suggests. (Sorry to burst your bubble, but this also includes Whole Paycheck Whole Foods.)
~ Nitrite is toxic to microbes, including the bacteria that causes botulism, so it's an important preservative that hasn't caused a true health risk since the 1970's (after which nitrate levels were drastically re-formulated.)