Food for Friday, Part II

Part II – the sublime part!  I’ve been hounding asking Chef Aaron Ward to share a recipe with me for the blog, and I’m just saying how glad I am that my brother-in-law is a chef and lives in the same state.  Now, to inspire him to cook this for us…

While he’s very busy putting together the new menu and overseeing the start of remodeling, and we’re getting closer to announcing the restaurant’s name, Chef Aaron shared this terrific recipe this week.

Spice-Rubbed Pork Tenderloins in Corn HusksIMG_7460
with Cranberry-Avocado Salsa

Ingredients for pork & rub

3 t cumin seeds
3 t coriander seeds
3 t black and green peppercorns
2 shallots, minced
1-1/2 t Kosher salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
3 pork tenderloins, cut into 8 equal parts

12 corn husks (dried), soak in warm water, and dry

Stir cumin, coriander, and peppercorns in a skillet over medium heat until aromatic (about 2 minutes).  Grind spices in a food processor.  Mix this with the shallot, olive oil, salt, and garlic to form a paste.  Rub mixture on all sides of pork; cover and chill overnight.  Tear 4 corn husks lengthwise (into ribbons for tying).  Place pork into remaining husks, wrap and tie both ends with husk ribbons.  Place bundles on a rack, then onto a baking sheet; cover with a damp towel, then foil, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Bake bundles uncovered in a preheated, 350 degree oven until the meat reaches a temperature of 150 degrees, about 35 to 45 minutes.

IMG_7457

Ingredients for salsa

1 yellow bell pepper
1 12-oz. bag fresh cranberries, or 3 C
1/4 C fresh-squeezed orange juice
1/2 C sugar
1 jalapeno, seeded, chopped
2 T orange zest
2 avocados, peeled, diced
1/4 C chopped cilantro

Roast bell pepper over gas flame, or broil until black on both sides.  Put in closed paper bag for 10 minutes.  Peel, seed, and chop pepper.  Combine  cranberries, sugar, and orange juice in food processor and chop coarsely.  Transfer to medium bowl.  Add bell pepper, jalapeno, and orange peel.  Chill overnight.  Before serving, stir avocado and cilantro into salsa.

After resting the pork bundles, place in center of plate and spoon on the salsa.

Good food, for good life.     ~Chef Aaron

IMG_7464Now, I just talked to one of the designers downstairs, and she happens to have a pork loin in the freezer and an open gas flame, so she’s going to road test this one for us.  It sounds like a delicious way to do cranberries with summer flair.  Of course, I’m also sharing pictures of the variety of cranberry stems we offer in the store for your decorating schemes – so many choices!

Thanks so much, Aaron.  We’ll be looking for more interesting recipes from you as you prepare to open the new Christmas Place restaurant!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday Part I

When I lived about 400 miles north of my family, I was pretty good at making sure birthday presents arrived decently close to the actual birth date of the recipient, within a day or two, depending on the vagaries of the carrier of choice.  Since moving into the neighboring zip code, however – I mean even in the same AREA CODE – my ability to send a timely package has completely left me.  Unless we are dining together on the actual day, good luck getting anything from me in the same cycle of the moon.

Consequently, I took it upon myself to institute a new family gifting policy this year – the gift may be as late as you want, but you must add one gift for each delinquent month.  When I mailed my sister’s gift in late June, in honor of her early February  birthday, I made sure to include five gifts.  When she257119 Snowflake potholder delivered my May birthday gift in July, she rightly included three gifts for me.  One of her gifts was a colorful pie baking dish from Follette Pottery in northern Louisiana.  It comes with a 3,000 year guarantee, if I treat it properly.  How many generations removed will that be?

Included with the dish was a little recipe for Ice Cream Bread.  Never thought about it, but it makes good sense, doesn’t it?  Ice cream contains all the sugar, fat, and liquid you’d need for a good cake.  Here’s what you do:  combine 1 pint (2 cups) of your favorite ice cream, softened, any flavor, with 1-1/2 cups self-rising flour.  Pour into a greased baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes.  In the case of this pottery baking dish, place it in a cool oven and bake.  My sister tried it with a pint of Haagen Dazs(r)  Raspberry Something and a Pyrex dish, cold oven, and we all agreed it was delicious!  A smear of chocolate ganache and it would have been heaven.

This would be a real treat for the kids to make at Christmas – without destroying the kitchen trying to manage multiple ingredients.  Let them select their favorite flavor of ice cream – we were thinking that peppermint would be very interesting – when have you had a peppermint cake? – and fun to decorate for your holiday party.

Next, Part II – you’ll see, it’s too sublime, it needs it’s own post.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Awh!

Coming up the stairs just now, the owner was stopped by a little girl, about eight years old, who asked, “Do you work here?”

“Yes,” he replied.

“You make this place look like heaven!” she said.

Awh!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday Part II

Here are pictures of a couple of the new floral stems being used in the Vintage Christmas tree.  Just take your time looking at the photos and the details will start to come out for you.

First, the luscious geranium, placed in the tree next to Santa, with a glittering red dove ornament and fern stem.  It is the contrast of surface finishes, shiny and matte, satiny and glittery, that bring it all together in complementary style.

Gold-tipped Geranium

Gold-tipped Geranium

Next, the gorgeous, metallic velvet holly with contrasting shiny globes and naturalistic berries on the same stem.  We’ve used primarily gold accents here, but this holly will also work well with silver themes.

Metallic Holly

Metallic Holly

Remember, when it comes to adding decorations to the Christmas tree, more is almost always going to be better (and it may not be possible to ever have too much sparkle…well, maybe)!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

So many trees, so little time to take pictures!  How can I keep up when they are decorating over three in a week?  Here are a couple of the beautiful floral elements they are incorporating into today’s Vintage Christmas tree design.

These beautiful silk geranium blossoms vary in color from lighter to deeper red, and some of the petals are tipped in gold leaf – gorgeous!

Geranium Stem with gold leaf tips

Geranium Stem with gold leaf tips

These beautiful holly stems have a golden-green leaf color and are accented with bright metallic red berries in among the natural berries.  Another beautiful choice.

Holly Stem with metallic finish

Holly Stem with metallic finish

As always, the store is filled with a colorful and imaginative array of floral stems for Christmas 2009.  I’m continually impressed with the way our designers mix elements in our trees.  As soon as they remove the ladders and red ribbon keeping me from getting close to the current work in progress, I’ll post some photo examples of their stylish choices.

Are you thinking red and green?  blue and white? burgundy and gold and silver?  purple and lime green and lipstick pink?  You know we have what you need to satisfy that color craving, and I look forward to sharing more ideas with you!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

In my next life, I will be a person who has time to read cookbooks.  There are so many amazing publications from which to choose, so much creativity in recipes and ways of presenting them.  I have mad love for collecting recipes…and no time to enjoy them all.

Here’s a new discovery in The Gallery, The Great Southern Food Festival CookbookThis book covers 75 food festivals throughout the South, from Texas to Florida and Virginia to Kentucky, all states in between, and January to November (everyone’s busy shopping at The Christmas Place in December, of course).  Poke Salat Festival in Alabama, Gautier Mullet Festival in Mississippi (high fashion bad hair??), National Grits Festival in Georgia, RC & Moon Pie Festival in Tennessee, Chitlin’ Strut in South Carolina – we celebrate everything from apples to watermelon and spoonbread to shrimp.285009 Food Festival cook book

Arranged by month, the cookbook includes a few photos along with mouth-watering selections from each festival.  I really want to share from the watermelon treats, but that’s not until next month!  July – hey, it’s the Slugburger Festival.  Let’s see what they’ve got…oh, it’s like elephant stew, but it only serves about 400, depending on how many patties you make from a pound of mixed pork, soy meal, flour, salt, and water.

Okay, I’m still turning pages, but my sister is pathologically afraid of melon in all forms, so I’ll skip the cantaloupe festival.  (Really, it’s like the way some people react to snakes, or those spiders that suddenly appear after they have grown to be three inches in diameter, or cracking gum-chewers.  The girl cannot abide a cantaloupe in her zip code.)  wait, where was I … food … recipes…Grilled Peaches!  I have had these before, and they are amazing.  You just have to try them.

Grilled Peaches

1 peach
juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C sherry vinegar or balsamic vinegar (I prefer to use a really good balsamic – it has to be Bravo’s good)
1/4 C firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 t freshly ground black pepper

Halve the peach; remove the pit; drizzle each half with about 2 teaspoons of lemon juice.  Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

In a small saucepan, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, the remaining lemon juice, and the black pepper and boil until reduced by about half.  Place the peaches cut-side down on a hot, lightly oiled grill.  Cover and cook for about 2 minutes, or until there are grill marks.  Turn over and baste the cut sides with the vinegar mixture.  Cover the grill and cook for about 3 minutes more, or until peach halves are softened.  Enjoy!

Too bad I don’t have a grill.  Maybe I’ll have to see what the neighbors are leaving unattended on their patios, and sneak over after dark…  Doesn’t this sound like a great book to leave under someone’s tree this Christmas?  I’m just saying, only about 150 days to go.

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Christmas at Smokies Baseball

Just a few pictures of the fun we had at the Tennessee Smokies baseball game last night ~ since the team lost, I think we had a little more fun than they did…but it was a marvelous night for a ballgame.  The staff of the Smokies are a delight to work with – and the fact that they really enjoy bringing baseball to East Tennessee shows in their service style.  The stadium is situated high above the highway, convenient but with a good view of the mountains, and I hear the fireworks are spectacular on Friday nights.

Our beautiful Christmas Place & Inn at Christmas Place banner

Our beautiful Christmas Place & Inn at Christmas Place banner

Christmas wreaths adorning the entrance gates

Christmas wreaths adorning the entrance gates

Letters to Santa Mailbox

Letters to Santa Mailbox

(Yes, we do read all the letters – several people at the park mentioned that they love the name Bob.  Hmmm.  Not sure what Santa is expected to do with that.)

Pre-game interviews with Santa and elf Dwight

Pre-game interview with Santa and elf Dwight from The Inn Santa throws out the first pitch

There's always a line to see Santa!

There's always a line to see Santa!

Santa gives autographs

Santa gives autographs

Santa enjoys a Christmas cookie on the big screen

Santa enjoys a Christmas cookie on the big screen

Armchair Viewing

Armchair Viewing

Two lucky winners enjoy watching the game from a pair of lounge chairs!  This pair won a couple of Singing Santa Cds and a batch of homemade Christmas cookies from Mrs. Claus’ Candy Kitchen.

In addition to the decorations we provided at the stadium, the field games were all Christmas contests, like a wreath toss and a wrap-a-package race.  Winners received fudge from our kitchen, a gift card to the store, and a stuffed teddy bear.   The grand prize winner will get to experience a stay at The Inn at Christmas Place, including a night on our Sleep In Heavenly Peace mattresses and pillows and a hot breakfast in the morning.

One of our team, Cody Myers, also got to throw a pitch at the game, but it happened so fast I didn’t get to focus – he’s got a lightening arm, I tell you, too fast for my camera.  Congrats on a great job, Cody!

I’m just saying, that Chicken Man is the stuff of nightmares – shudder.  I would not chase that thing around the field, no way, no how.  Well, maybe in a really big car.  With one of those big cattle guards mounted to the front.  (Why do SUVs in East Tennessee bolt on cattle guards, when it’s clear they are nowhere near any herds of water buffalo, rampaging or otherwise?)  No offense, but men should be men and chicken should be chicken (preferably boneless and skinless), and let’s leave it the way nature did it first.

Hey, sure hope you can join us the next time we do Christmas In July – at the Smokies, or at The Inn, or anywhere else.  It’s a fun thing to do in the middle of summer!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Two for Tuesday

Last week I mentioned spotting one item I particularly wanted to highlight this week.  Well, so did our customers over the weekend ~ we sold out of it before I could get a photo!  You’ll just have to keep anticipating until it comes back into stock.  It is a beautiful thing, kind of round and teardrop and oval shaped with some glittery stuff (you know me!) around the top.  Have I given too much away already?

If you enjoy a natural approach to Christmas decorating, we have just the things you want.  Take a look at this owl and quail, made of real feathers and other natural elements, including pine cones and twigs.

Large owl

Quail 1

Quail 2

I don’t know my game birds well – is this another quail, or could it be a pheasant hen?  Whatever it represents, it’s a beautiful creation.

Here’s the magnificent owl, crowning the top of the Christmas tree – notice the large squirrel just below him; there are also a couple of foxes in this tree.

Owl tree top

Here is a bonus picture of a cute little mini owl, just hanging around the neighborhood.

Owl Mini

I think I have to finish this off by asking, “Hoo-s getting ready for Christmas?!”

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Have you heard of the “ornamotor”?

We use a lot of these in the store, little motors that plug into a light socket and spin an ornament – they’re pretty cool.  A bright red, glittering bird spinning on a tree caught my eye, and I took a little film.  Warning:  turn speakers OFF, this is not a good sound bite, just a good site bite, okay?

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHj1BQx4ydE]

Isn’t it pretty?  You only need a few on your Christmas tree, maybe three to five, to highlight your favorite ornaments and add a little life to your decorations.  Actually, don’t limit your thinking to the Christmas tree – anywhere you use a strand of lights from which an ornament could dangle will work just fine.  Amaze and delight your guests with an ornamotor in the center of your front door wreath!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place

Food for Friday

One day very soon, we’ll be able to share some original recipes from the restaurant here at Christmas Place!  Yes, we are finally under way with our own eatery.  Chef Aaron Ward, General Manager and Executive Chef, joined the team this week, and excavation and renovation begins next week.  We’re so excited to be able to invite you for a meal in the new year.

Until I can sneak a peek at Chef’s recipe book, we’ll stick with recipes available in the store.  You probably suspect that, here in the South, we know how to eat, and we eat very well!  I found Land of Cotton, A Collection of Southern Recipesin the Christmas Gallery, and it features a gold seal titled “Walter S. McIlhenny Hall of Fame Tabasco Community Cookbook Awards.”  That’s a pretty sound endorsement.

Recipe sections cover everything from Appetizers to Potpourri – which might be the most entertaining section of the book.  It covers everything from Cranberry Sauce and Sweetened Condensed Milk (who knew you could make your own??) to Halloween Magic Makeup, Homemade Doggie Biscuits, and Quantities to Serve 50 People (4 cakes, 2 1/2 gallons of ice cream, and 6 quarts of potato salad).

So, you know how I do it, I flip the book open, and here’s the first recipe I see:  Elephant Stew.  Really, not kidding.  When did elephants roam the South lands?  I’m not really sure.  But you really want to see this.  You need to know this.

Elephant Stew285020 Land of Cotton

1 Elephant
Salt
Pepper
Brown gravy
2 Rabbits, optional

Cut elephant into bite-size pieces.  This should take about 2 months.  Cover with brown gravy.  Cook over kerosene fire about 4 weeks at 465 degrees.  This will serve 3,800 people.  If more are expected, 2 rabbits may be added, but do this only if necessary as most people do not like to find hare in their stew.    ~Martha Washington

Do you think that’s from THE Martha Washington?  Was she a big jokester, anyone know?  That’s just a hoot!  A cook book with a sense of humor!

I’d bettter include a nice side dish to serve with the elephant.

Sour Cream Rice Casserole

2 C uncooked rice
3 C sour cream
3 4-oz cans chopped green chilies
12 oz Muenster cheese
Black pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese
Butter or margarine

Cook rice according to directions on box; mix with sour cream.  In a 2-1/2 quart casserole dish, place a 1-inch layer of rice, a layer of chilies, a layer of cheese, and black pepper.  Repeat layers until ingredients have been used.  Top with Parmesan cheese and pats of butter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.  Yields 8 to 10 servings.    ~Milly Noah

I think the flavors are bound to compliment one another, don’t you?

Have a scrumptious weekend, and think about adding Elephant Stew to your Christmas table – but start thinking now, because you’re also going to have to catch one!

~Janet @ The Christmas Place