Archive | December 16th, 2012

Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread, Skating and Snow: It’s Holiday Time at the Westin la Cantera

Hot Chocolate, Gingerbread, Skating and Snow: It’s Holiday Time at the Westin la Cantera

Ice skating is happening at the Westin la Cantera regardless of how warm or cold it is.

Need a little Christmas now? Look no further than the Westin La Cantera, 16641 La Cantera Parkway, where the resort’s annual Hill Country Holiday festival is under way.

Snow is generated every evening, while a synthetic ice skating rink, Frost, is open day or night, no matter the temperature outside. The price is $10 a person for 45 minutes and includes skate rental.

Bandera cowboy Makin’ Dust leads the fun, which includes caroling and stories. Magik Theatre offers the children’s special, “Pirate’s Holiday,” and crafts galore are held. For a full schedule of events, click here.

Decorate your own gingerbread man.

On a recent visit, we encounter two special sources of fun that we took home with us. One was a decorate-your-own gingerbread man idea that is easily done with a few basic essentials: a gingerbread man, a cup of glaze and edible decorations, such as candy sprinkles and chocolate chips. Give each kid something safe to spread the glaze with and let them loose. They can eat the end result.

We also fell for pastry chef Henry Wesolowski’s dense hot chocolate, which felt like molten lava as it coated your throat with a dense unctuousness on its way down. We hadn’t had a cup of hot chocolate this rich or this good since the early days of Metropolitain at the Quarry.

The chef was kind enough to share the recipe.

Chef Henry’s Authentic Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
4 ounces 61% bittersweet chocolate, broken in small pieces

Chef Henry’s Authentic Hot Chocolate

In a saucepan bring the water and milk to a boil. Add sugar, stir until dissolved. Add in chocolate pieces, stirring until dissolved.

Serve with your favorite homemade whip cream or marshmallows.

Makes about 3 cups.

From Henry Wesolowski/Westin La Cantera

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Carrot and Courgette Salad

Carrot and Courgette Salad

Carrot and Courgette Salad

Never heard of a courgette? Don’t worry. It’s the French word for zucchini, and it’s used in several countries across Europe, where it is preferred to the Italian term.

This recipe comes from Ireland’s Avoca Cafe, where the emphasis is on freshness and full flavor. So, use organic carrots, young zucchini that are not fat with water. Also, use your food processor to grate both of them, and this salad comes together in minutes.

Do not overdress the salad. Instead, let it sit for 30 minutes before serving and stir it once or twice. You may find yourself adding a touch more salt when you serve it, just to give it added flavor.

Carrot and Courgette Salad

5 carrots, peeled and coarsely grated
5 young zucchini, coarsely grated
A bunch of cilantro, chopped (reserve a sprig for garnish)
4 tablespoons French dressing (recipe follows)
1 tablespoon roasted pumpkin seeds or pepitas
1 scant teaspoon poppy seeds
Zest of 2 oranges, divided use
Juice of 1 orange
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Put the grated carrots and zucchini in a bowl and mix with the cilantro, dressing, seeds, most of the orange zest and orange juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let set 30 minutes for the flavors to come together, stirring once or twice.

Just before serving, garnish with the remaining orange zest and reserved sprig of cilantro.

Makes 4-6 servings.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

French Dressing

1 cup sunflower oil
1 cup olive oil
1 cup peanut oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons grainy mustard
2 scant teaspoons honey, or less, to taste

Place oils, vinegar, salt, pepper, garlic, mustard and honey in a bowl, and whisk until emulsified. This can be stored in a bottle and shake vigorously before using. It will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Makes about 2 1/4 cups.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes


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Tangy Onion Jam for Holiday Appetizer, Fancy Burger

Tangy Onion Jam for Holiday Appetizer, Fancy Burger

With holidays near, most of us are planning for our traditional favorite foods, snacks and desserts. But, something a little different is always welcome on the table, too.

This Onion Jam, from “The Winter Pantry,” (Harper Perennial, $16) can play several different roles. It tastes good on top of a winter vegetable casserole or tossed in with roasted beets, or as a topping for a burger. You also could pack it into jars, seal and give it as a hostess gift for the holidays.

An especially good appetizer I tasted recently used a version of this jam on top of buttery, toasted slices French bread. On top of the onions was a grilled half of a one of Aurelia’s Chorizo “Besitos,” a delicious small (cocktail sausage size, or a little larger) version of this Spanish classic sausage.

Aurelia’s Chorizo is owned by Leslie Horne and produced in Boerne. These sausages, as well as larger versions, and has the wonderfully spicy flavor one expects from an authentic Spanish chorizo. Its flavor is demanded in many great dishes, such as the Spanish classic, paella. They are available at Central Market, some H-E-Bs and also may be ordered online here.

Onion Jam

2 pounds yellow onions, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup lightly packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup port
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste, but about a half teaspoon

1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Honey (add as needed if you want more or less sweetness)

In a large skillet cook the onions in the olive oil until softened, around 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining ingredients and simmer the mixture until thickened, about 75 minutes. Serve at room temperature.

Makes about 3 cups of jam.

Lightly adapted from “The Winter Vegetarian”



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