Twelve Days of Christmas: Five Golden Rings

On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Five Golden Rings!
Four Calling birds, three french hens, two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree.

Okay so don’t hate me, but I had to skip the fourth day of Christmas… I’ll try to come back to it, I swear, but I just could not find something that I wanted to make for that theme… I had finally settled on calling bird sugar cookies, but can you believe that no one had a bird cookie cutter??? I got frustrated and decided to skip it for now.  I will introduce you to something fun I discovered while perusing Pinterest a few weeks ago: a pizza ring! This recipe is great because its easy, quick, and you can prepare it the night before and simply toss in the oven before serving.  So easy.  You can make it a variety of different ways, adding your own type of sauce, veggies, meats, cheeses, etc.  For my version, I used sweet basil marinara sauce, pesto, chopped spinach, chopped baby tomatoes, pepperoni, mozzarella cheese, and parmesan cheese.  I found this wonderful recipe at ducksinarow[dot]com.  You can chick on the link to see their variation of this recipe.

What you’ll need: 2 cans of Pillsbury crescent rolls, 1 jar of marinara sauce, spinach, shredded mozzarella cheese (plus more for topping), 1 tbsp of pesto, 1/2 cup of chopped baby tomatoes, pepperoni and parmesan cheese.

Preheat oven to 375 F Degrees.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly coat with non stick cooking spray.  Lay out the crescent roll triangles on the baking sheet in the shape of a sun.  You will want to make 2 layers of this.  I cut a few of the triangle down since I found them a little big for my pan.

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Mix sauce, shredded cheese, pesto, and spinach in a medium bowl.  Spoon the sauce mixture onto the crescent roll sun in the shape of a circle.  Top with pepperoni and shredded cheese.

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Fold the crescent roll triangles over the middle of the sauce mixture and lightly press to the other side.  This will make your ring.

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Top with shredded mozzarella and parmesan cheese and bake for 20-23 minutes.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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I brought this in for a work potluck.   I prepared it the night before and then ran home to bake it about 40 minutes before the potluck.  It was a hit and my co-workers demolished it! If preparing ahead, just make sure to cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Happy baking!
On the sixth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

The Twelve Days of Christmas: Three French Hens

On the third day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
Three french hens,
Two turtle doves,
And a partridge in a pear tree

I have been insanely busy – there is just not enough time in the day for me to get everything done.  In fact, I don’t even have time to write this blog post, but I am doing so, because dammit I’m going to make time! I will finish this 12 days of Christmas even if it kills me (which, I mean, it won’t… sorry… I just felt like being dramatic).  So, questions I’m sure you’re dying to know the answers to: 1. Have I sent out my Christmas cards yet? No. But I will by Wednesday; 2. Have I finished Christmas shopping yet? No.  And I don’t want to talk about it; 3.  Have you wrapped any Christmas gifts yet? No.  Because I actually haven’t started Christmas shopping, meaning I have nothing to wrap; 4.  Have you finished your homework assignments yet? Noooooooooo.  And I am avoiding them like they are an infectious disease; 5. How’s your house looking? Dirty; 6. Is work driving you bonkers yet? Yes… when do my holidays start again??

Sheesh.  I’m tired.  I’ll be happy for this coming weekend when I can finish my baking, shopping, wrapping and cleaning.  I feel I just need a day off from my daily rustle and bustle to get myself organized.  Which brings me to this recipe… it comes with a bit of a story.  Let’s talk raw chicken.  Up until about a year ago, I could barely handle raw chicken without gagging.  I have the look, fell and smell, and I am INCREDIBLY paranoid about salmonella. So here’s what went down while trying to cook the three french hens themed recipe from my 12 days of Christmas blog post series:

Friday Night – I got home, poured myself a glass of wine, and pulled my thawed Cornish Hens out of my bag.  I had had a busy day at work, so I didn’t have much time to research how to cook cornish hens.  So, I got to work.  Remember that whole “can’t handle raw chicken or I will barf” thing?  Well once I realized that I would have to pull the chicken neck out of the body and chop part of it off, I almost had a heart attack… I started getting a little queezy, there was blood, I panicked, re-froze the hens, and ordered pizza.  I promised myself I would conquer the hens on Sunday.

Sunday – My company Christmas party was Saturday night… I spent. the day on the couch, watching movies and playing video games.  Dinner time came around and I needed grease and was no way ready to face the hens… I again, ordered pizza (please don’t judge me).

Monday Night – Okay hens, it’s on like donkey kong.  I threw together the glaze, covered the hens, and tossed in the oven.  I ignored the blood.  I made some fantastic roasted potatoes and a goats cheese and pear salad.  I meant to add some roasted pecans to the salad, but I burned them to a crisp – note: 350 F Degrees in the toaster oven is not the same as 350 F Degrees in a regular oven; well, at least not in mine.  I couldn’t save them.  The hens were done, potatoes roasted, and my belly was rumbling.  It looked really good.  In my panic, I pretty well dismembered one of the hens to make sure it was cooked.  It was.  While eating the hen, I noticed small amounts of red and pink near the bones – I called my boyfriend’s dad in a panic, asking him: 1. if I am going to live, and 2. If it’s normal?  He assured me that often game will have a little more vein around the bone and might be a little pink here and there.  As long as they juices ran clear, I should be fine.  Of course, I continued to panic – my boyfriend then began to panic.  The hens tasted REALLY good, but I couldn’t get over my fear, and after a few bites, I abandoned my hen, and moved on to my potatoes and salad –  my boyfriend made pogos.

Sooooo I don’t really know if this recipe turned out. The part of the bird that I actually ate was lovely… I really need to invest in a meat thermometer.  Anyway, the recipe is below.  Baking Fail.

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The pear and goat’s cheese salad is pretty easy – this version had spinach, chopped pears, walnuts, and goats cheese, but my favourite way is with roasted pecans and dried cranberries.  To roast your pecans, preheat the oven to 350 F Degrees and bake for 8 to 10 minutes.  Don’t leave half way though and get distracted by a movie – keep an eye on them they can burn easily.  I top it with a light raspberry vinaigrette.

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The potatoes were very easy.  I tossed them in Kraft Sundried Tomato and Oregano salad dressing, a little EVOO, salt, pepper and garlic powder, and tossed in the oven.  I baked them for about 45 minutes at 400 F Degrees.

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Honey Spiced Cornish Hens

For the hens I first made the glaze. I combined 1/4 cup honey, 1/8 cup olive oil, 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 1/2 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp onion powder, 1/4 cup red wine, one whole star anise, and 1/2 cup whole black berries into a large skillet.  Bring to a boil, and then let simmer for about 10 minutes.  Remove the berries and star anise and let the glaze cool.  Brush the glaze on both sides of the hen and place on a foil lined baking sheet.  Bake at 400 F degrees for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a meat thermometer read 165 F.  Let the hen sit for 10 minutes before serving (I covered mine in foil).  One hen will serve two.  You can find a version of this recipe here.    

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The next recipe will be better… I promise.  I feel I need mom supervision when working with whole hens/chickens/turkeys/etc., so I will ensure that Ken’s mom is around the next time I decide to attempt this.  I hope everyone is a little more organized this holiday season than I am!! Ken and I had a blast at my company Christmas party this past Saturday night.

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On the fourth day of Christmas my true love gave to me…

The Twelve Days of Christmas: A Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the first day of Christmas my true love gave to me,
A partridge in a pear tree.

This year I decided to do something really fun for Christmas: I’m going to make 12 different recipes all following a “Twelve Days of Christmas” theme.  By now, I’m sure most of you have figured out that I am an absolute Christmas freak, and since I love everything food, I thought, why not do something super exciting that will allow me to make and try 12 different recipes!?  Over the next few weeks I will be posting a bunch of recipes/treats/etc, one for each verse in the Twelve Days of Christmas Song, until we get through each and every single one of them. The theme of today’s recipe is, of course, a partridge in a pear tree.  I found this recipe in the December issue of Woman’s Day Magazine.  For the pear, I made a cranberry poached pear, simmered with cinnamon stick, star anise, vanilla bean  and a whole naval orange.  The partridge portion of this recipe is a partridge pie crisp, egg washed and sprinkles with white sugar.

To make the pears, first combine 6 cups of cranberry juice cocktail and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a large saucepan or pot.  Simmer on medium heat until the sugar has dissolved into the juice. Next, add your spices; this recipe calls for two cinnamon sticks, one vanilla bean cut in half vertically, and two whole star anise.
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Peel 4 to 8 bosc pears and add them to the saucepan.  You will want to make sure your pears are quite firm as they will hold their shape much better when simmering.  Bosc pears work well when poached as they are a firmer pear to begin with, especially in the winter.

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Quarter a large naval orange and ass to sauce pan.  Simmer the mixture of medium-low heat (at a very gentle boil) for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the pears can be easier pierced with a fork.  For best results, cover the sauce pan with a circle of parchment paper, cutting a small hole in the center in order to allow some of the heat to escape.

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While the pears are simmering, make a your pie crust.  I decided to use a homemade pie crust put you can just as easily purchase a pre-made one if you are pressed for time.  cut up one stick of butter (1/2 cup) into small cubes and freeze for at least 15 minutes.  Add 1 1/4 cup all purpose flour and 1/2 teaspoon of salt into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter to the salt and flour mixture and pulse no more than 10 times.  Sprinkle 2 tbsp of ice water of the mixture (or more if needed… I used 3 tbsp) and process for no more than 20 to 30 seconds.  The dough should stick together when pinched.  Shape the dough into a disk, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour.  Don’t have a food processor?  Browneyedbaker.com explains how to do it here.  Once your dough is set, remove from fridge and let it sit for a few minutes in order to allow it to warm up a little bit.  Roll it out, and use this template to cut out your partridges.

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Cut out a partridge for every pear you are serving.  Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Brush each partridge with a beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Place a small black sprinkle on the head for it’s eye.  Bake at 375 F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Once the pears are done, discard the orange and spices and remove from heat to allow the pears to come to room temperature.  Remove from the saucepan and place on a platter.  Return the liquid to a gentle soil and allow to simmer until reduced to 1 cup (about 45 minutes).  Spoon the syrup over the pears and serve with the partridge crisp and homemade whipped cream.

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Making homemade whipped cream is very simple! You have to excuse the pictures of the cream I made as my apartment was pretty steamy and I waited much too long to actually take the picture.  Place the bowl of a stand mixer in the freezer for 10 minutes.  Add 1 cup of cream, 1 tbsp. of sugar, and 1/2 tsp of vanilla extra to the cold bowl.  Whip using the whisk attachment until medium peaks form, about 1 minute.  You may also use a hand mixer for this, but it will take more like 3 minutes for the peaks to form.

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Cranberry Poached Pears and Partridge Crisps

Ingredients

for the pears

  • 6 cups cranberry juice cocktail
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 whole star anise
  • 1 naval orange, quartered
  • 1 vanilla bean, cut in half lengthwise (or 2 tsp vanilla extract)
  • 4 – 8 whole Bosc pears, peeled

for the partridge crisps

  • 1/2 cup of butter, cut into small cubes
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp ice water
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • granulated sugar for sprinkling
  • black sprinkles

for the whipped cream

  • 1 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 1 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

  1. In a large saucepan, combine 6 cups of cranberry juice cocktail and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar.  Heat and stir until sugar is combined.  Add 2 small cinnamon sticks, 2 whole star anise, 1 vanilla bean and naval orange.
  2. Add pears and cover with a circle of parchment paper.  Cut a small circle in the middle of the parchment paper cover in order to let some heat escape.  Allow the pears to poach in the cranberry liquid for 20 – 25 minutes on medium low heat (or until you can easily pierce with a fork.
  3. Remove the sauce pan from heat, discard the orange and spices, and allow the pears to come to room temperature.  Remove from the liquid and place on a platter.
  4. Return the liquid to the heat and simmer for approximately 45 minutes.  The liquid should be reduced to about 1 cup, and should be like a thick syrup.  Pour over poached pears to serve.
  5. Make the pie crust:  place butter in freezer for at least 15 minutes. Add flour and salt to the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  Add the butter cubes and pulse no more than 10 times.  Sprinkle the ice water of the mixture and process for no more than 30 seconds.  Form the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least one hour.
  6.   Using this template, cut out a partridge shape for each pear.  Brush with beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.  Add a black sprinkle to the head for the eye.  Bake at 375 F degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.
  7. Serve with whipped cream:  place the bowl of a stand mixer in the freezer for 15 minutes.  Remove from cold and add cream, vanilla and sugar.  Beat on medium speed until medium peaks form (about 1 minute)

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This recipe took me a while to complete… likely because I was in the midst of baking other Christmas treats while I was making it.  Note that you can prepare this in advance.  Refrigerate the pears in the cooking liquid for up to 2 days.  To serve, simply remove the pears from the liquid and place on a platter so that the pears may come to room temperature, then reduce the liquid as instructed above.  I have to say that this recipe was pictured in the magazine and it is MUCH pretty than mine… and the sauce is like, 3 shades darker.  But it tasted amazing! Anyways, happy baking!

On the second day of Christmas my true love gave to me…