Monday, December 19, 2016

Warming Up with a Poem and Some Festive Treats

Christmas Sparrow
by Billy Collins

The first thing I heard this morning
was a rapid flapping sound, soft, insistent—

wings against glass as it turned out
downstairs when I saw the small bird
rioting in the frame of a high window,
trying to hurl itself through
the enigma of glass into the spacious light.

Then a noise in the throat of the cat
who was hunkered on the rug
told me how the bird had gotten inside,
carried in the cold night
through the flap of a basement door,
and later released from the soft grip of teeth.

On a chair, I trapped its pulsations
in a shirt and got it to the door,
so weightless it seemed
to have vanished into the nest of cloth.

But outside, when I uncupped my hands,
it burst into its element,
dipping over the dormant garden
in a spasm of wingbeats
then disappeared over a row of tall hemlocks.

For the rest of the day,
I could feel its wild thrumming
against my palms as I wondered about
the hours it must have spent
pent in the shadows of that room,
hidden in the spiky branches
of our decorated tree, breathing there
among the metallic angels, ceramic apples, stars of yarn,
its eyes open, like mine as I lie in bed tonight
picturing this rare, lucky sparrow
tucked into a holly bush now,
a light snow tumbling through the windless dark.

"Christmas Sparrow" by Billy Collins, from Aimless Love. © Random House 2013.


Just in case you may have wondered- do I really cook all my posted recipes-indeed I do! 

Today I revisited three appetizer recipes I was taking to a party. I updated each one of them posting the revisions below.
Featured clockwise then to center
Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Medjool Dates
Cooking Tip-This go around I refrigerated the dates several hours. I found chilled dates made it easier to slice and pit. There are 2 dozen dates in one container.

Bacon and Cheese Stuffed Dates
These delicious bite-size appetizers are prepared in less than 30 minutes. Holiday entertaining is a bit easier with make ahead directions. Follow all the preparation steps except do not bake the dates. Place stuffed dates in an airtight container, cover, and chill for up to 24 hours. Bake as directed just before serving. Recipe from Midwest Living
  • 4 slices bacon, crisp-cooked, drained, and finely crumbled, or 1/4 cup chopped prosciutto (2 ounces)
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced green onion (2)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese (2 ounces) or herb goat cheese
  • 1- 3 ounce package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 24 Medjool dates, pitted
  • Milk or half and half
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.
  • In a medium bowl stir together bacon, green onions, and garlic. Add blue cheese or herb goat cheese, cream cheese, mustard, and pepper to bacon mixture. Stir to combine. If needed add a teaspoon of milk or half and half to mixture.  
  • Using a sharp knife, make a lengthwise slit in each date. Spread each date open slightly. Remove pits. Fill each date with a rounded teaspoon of the bacon mixture. Place dates filling sides up on a baking sheet. 
  • Bake, uncovered in the preheated oven for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 24 appetizers.
Brie Tarts
Only three ingredients needed to make this appetizer. They can be made ahead by filling tart shells with brie and jelly. Place tart shells back in their tray and return to the freezer until ready to bake. Place tart shells on a parchment covered baking sheet and bake as directed. 
  • Brie cheese
  • 2 boxes phyllo mini shells (Athens brand) 
  • Hot pepper jelly or jalapeno jam 
  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.   
  • Cut small pieces of brie and place each piece into a thawed phyllo mini shell. Top with a 1/2 teaspoon of pepper jelly. Place tarts on baking sheet.
  • Bake 6 to 7 minutes, or until cheese is melted and shells are golden.

Cranberry Feta Pinwheels 
Recipe makes 3 dozen pinwheels
  • 8 oz. softened cream cheese
  • 4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
  • 1/3-1/2 cup chopped green onion
  • 1 tsp. herbes de provence
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts, toasted
  • 1 pkg dried sweetened cranberries
  • 3 TB. half and half
  • 4 spinach tortillas (I used Mission Garden Spinach and Herbs brand)
  • In a food processor pulse feta cheese 3 times.
  • In a medium sized bowl add feta cheese, cream cheese, herbes de provence and half and half.
  • Mix well and stir in cranberries and walnuts by hand. 
  • Divide and spread cream cheese mixture evenly between four spinach tortillas.
  • Roll tightly lengthwise and wrap in clear plastic wrap. Refrigerate several hours. for one hour.
  • To serve, cut each roll into approximately 12 slices.

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