01-13 The Maxwell Fireside - Heavenly Hearth

Now that we’re so firmly entrenched in fall it’s lovely to cuddle up next to a nice warm fire. This week’s episode was taped at a lovely home on Fire Island with a real fireplace. If you don’t have the luxury of a genuine hearth you can create a facsimile with a product called sunjel. The little cans of jel will give off a flame that looks like wood flame but doesn’t give off smoke so there’s no need for a flue. You can also get log and grate sets that have boxes to hold the cans of jel that create the effect of a traditional fireplace.

What's better in front of a fire than hot cocoa? Here's my recipe for it:

You’ll need

1/4 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Sugar
Dash Salt
1/3 cup hot water
4 cups milk
1/8 cup Coconut, vanilla or orange rum

Combine the cocoa, sugar, salt and water in a sauce pan and heat until boiling, stirring constantly. Boil for 2 minutes. Add the milk and stir until heated, but do not boil. Remove from the heat and beat with a mixer until foamy. Add the rum and serve.

This should make about 6 servings. If you’re a tee totaler you can eliminate the rum and flavor the cocoa with extract instead.

01-12 The Thanksgiving Caper

Thanksgiving is such a wonderful holiday - a time to reflect on our blessings and to reconnect with family and friends over a delicious meal. For most of us that meal includes the traditional turkey. It doesn't have to though. After spending time with one on my show I find them just a little harder to eat. My wild rice casserole is a delicious alternative to the tradition. Here's how:
You'll need:
1 cup wild rice
1 cup ripe olives cut up
2 roasted red peppers cut up
¼ lb grated cheddar cheese
¼ tsp pepper
1 tsp salt
½ cup salad oil
¾ cup white wine
Soak the wild rice in hot water and leave over night. Preheat the oven 350. Combine all ingredients except wine in a casserole dish and mix well. Heat the wine until simmering then pour over casserole. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, then remove the cover and bake for 15 minutes. Serve hot.
Serves 6 as a side dish, 4 as an entree.

01-11 Quips and Tips from Brini & Verena

What topsy turvy tips Verena has! I like my tips a little more on the practical side. Here are a few of my favorites:

Put a dab of lighter fluid on a paper towel and you can pick up all those ugly skid marks left by your wedgies off of your linoleum.

Lighter fluid will also remove stamps that have been stuck down – just saturate the back of the envelope under the stamp and it will lift right off. Just don’t try and lick it after that…

Having problems moving that heavy dresser across your hard wood floor without scratching it? Try putting some old socks on the legs and it will slide like a charm!

And speaking of socks, try pinning them together at the toes with safety pins before washing them – you won’t end up with mismatched pairs and lost mates.

As odd as Verena’s tips were her chocolate cake recipe was just delightful! As promised, here it is:

Grandma Bea’s Chocolate Cake

You'll need:

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 cups flour
6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup hot water

Preheat the oven to 350°F. In a mixing bowl, cream together your butter and sugar. (Baking recipes always seem to begin with this step, don’t they?) Sift all the dry ingredients together in another bowl and set them aside. Add the eggs to the butter and sugar mixture one at a time, and then add the vanilla. Alternate adding dry ingredients and sour cream in three parts, mixing well after each, then add the hot water and mix well. Pour into two greased and floured 9-inch round pans. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Julie says the cake needs no icing, but we like to gild the lily, don’t we? I suggest cream cheese or butter cream icing. Remember if you’re icing the cake with white icing, coat it with a thin layer and then chill it in the fridge until the layer has set, then ice the cake again and you won’t have little chocolate flecks in the top layer!

01-10 Toasty Tasty Chedder Cheese Wafers

Cheese. It’s one of nature’s wonders, and one of my favorite foods. This week on the show we’re making toasted sesame cheese wafers. It’s a very tasty recipe that was originally featured in an episode devoted to the wonders of this delightful food.

For the wafers you’ll need:

5 oz processed cheese spread
3 Tbs. butter
¾ cup flour
¼ tsp paprika
2 Tbs. toasted sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 400. Sift the flour and paprika together, and then blend in the sesame seeds. Combine the cheese and butter in a bowl and cream together. Add the flour mixture and stir until well blended. The dough will be stiff. On a sheet of wax paper work the dough into a log about 6 and one half inches long and an inch and a half in diameter and wrap in the wax paper. Chill the dough in the fridge for at least an hour and up to one week. When chilled, unwrap the dough, slice thinly and bake for about 15 minutes, or until lightly brown around the edges.

Cheese, milk’s leap to immortality, is one of the most versatile foods in any cook’s arsenal. It can be used in savory or sweet dishes and has such varied flavors, as to confuse even the most devoted epicurean. Some of my favorites are:

Cotswald: This is a cheddar variation from England. It’s rich and robust with a delightful tang. I love it on hearty sourdough bread.

Saga Bleu and Cambazola: These are brie/bleu combinations – both delicious with French bread or fruit.

Gruyere: This is the prince of Swiss cheese. Its rich and nutty flavor are delightful in fondue or on crackers.

I love having people over for cheese tastings. Putting out several cheeses on a board and letting my friends become intimate with them is my idea of a delightful Sunday afternoon. Try it yourself and see how much fun it can be!