Monthly Archives: December 2015

OUT AND ABOUT FOLLOWUP

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OUT AND ABOUT FOLLOWUP

I loved hearing about what you are hearing, watching, eating, visiting, and reading as December winds down. So, maybe turnabout is fair play.

Hearing:
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The Christmas Standard I noticed on the radio, really for the first time, and yes, I enjoyed it each time it played: Elvis singing Blue Christmas, his baritone so perfect for the song. I relaxed to Adele’s TV Concert – Live From New York. Not since Barbara Streisand has a voice so mesmerized her audience and me.

Eating:
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Son Jeff and I enjoyed an outstanding Christmas Day lunch at McCormick and Schmick’s. We started out with coconut shrimp so delicious, we thought we were in Florida. Jeff ate a 6 oz sirloin and I enjoyed lake perch. Each meal featured all the trimmings and was cooked to perfection. Service was terrific. Thanks Elise – hope I got your name right. The clubby booths are perfect for creating a relaxed private atmosphere for enjoying the extraordinary food. Oh, there was time for lunch at Buddy’s! Jeff grinned ear to ear.

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Watching:
Star Wars: The Force Awakens. OMGosh Jeff and I were mesmerized. It is beyond great! Notice these accolades spewing forth for a genre I seldom, almost never, watch. Casting, acting, costumes, story, special effects, set design: all outstanding. My Oscar vote for best picture can be mailed right now.

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Reading:
Caddie Woodlawn. See my comments on the reading page of this blog. Also For Friendship’s Sake by Emerson and others, a beautiful antique copy gifted to me by a dear friend. It opens with “We have a great deal more kindness than is ever spoken.”
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Visiting:
Frankenmuth and The Henry Ford will have to wait until the next time Jeff and I spend a few days together. Hope to do some exploring in Tulsa, and visit some of my favorite places. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, and I sent my early registration for the April Festival of Faith and Writing. More about that in the future. Stay tuned!

The Nutcracker? Someday.

TEN BEST BOOKS OF 2015/ Paulette’s List

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Only books I read (about 50) are considered for this list. And, it goes without saying, there are many books out there that are fantastic reads, that I didn’t read. Some I wish I had read. Some I rejected for good reason or not.

The following good reads are listed in no particular order. I found these books interesting, thoughtful, well-written and enjoyable.

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1. Some Luck by Jane Smiley
2. Early Warning by Jane Smiley
3. Golden Age by Jane Smiley
Smiley’s three novels trace the Langdon family over 100 years from their beginnings on an Iowa farm to the fate of scattered descendents throughout the United States. Every day life and epic issues coexist, not always peacefully, in this family saga.
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4. The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck.
The nonfiction account of following the old Oregon Trail while driving a mule team and traveling in a wagon is intensely interesting, travel, history, adventure and fun.
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5. Great Kitchens of the Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal.
A fun and imaginative novel following Eva Thorvald from her Minnesota roots to her fame as a unique chef. Each chapter features a single dish and a new events in her life, sometimes narrated by a family member or friend.
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6. Walking With Abel: Journeys With the Nomads of the African Savannah by Anna Badkhen.
A mesmerizing and keenly observed journey with the nomadic herders of the African grasslands. This is nonfiction at its best taking to the reader to an unlikely place and life so different than one’s own.
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7. The Secret Chord by Geraldine Brooks.
King David’s life in Second Iron Age Israel comes alive as never before in the hands of the skillful (favorite) novelist.
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8. Nora Webster by Colm Toibin
This memorable novel takes the reader inside a woman’s grief. He writes with extraordinary insight and compassion.
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9. Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson by S.C. Gwynne.
History more exciting than a novel. Written with care and clarity.
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10. Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.
This novel set in the future is a National Book Award Finalist. Exciting, revealing and hopeful, it is beautifully written.
Honorable Mention: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes. Another memorable novel, just finished. I couldn’t quite kick any of the others off the list, but Me Before You is very good. Review upcoming. And, there is a sequel, After You.

SIMPLY SPLENDID SHORT RIBS

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This year short ribs, rich and delicious, headlined our holiday meal. For many years they have been a special meal in our family at some time or another. So glad they turned out extra scrumptious this year.

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For beef lovers, there is nothing more beautiful than good quality meat, ready to cook.
This beef was purchased at Market Square in Birmingham, located at 14 Mile Road and Southfield. It is gorgeous to my eye.
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The seasoned bone-in-short ribs browned beautifully in hot oil.
Sauted vegetables in the rich red aromatic braising liquid go into the crockpot with the browned ribs. The wonderful smell promises a great eating experience.
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I made these the day before serving. The house smelled fabulous all day with the aroma of the cooking ribs and sauce swirling through the house.

Paulette’s Beef Short Ribs
(This time 3 and a half pounds ribs made 2 and a half quarts meat and sauce.)

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces pancetta, cut in small cubes
3 ½ lbs beef short ribs (butcher cut chunks to fit in crockpot)
salt and pepper, Montreal seasoning
flour for dredging
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot chopped or sliced
½ cup fresh parsley, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes, good quality such as Muir Glen
1 generous Tablespoon tomato paste, preferably in a tube
1 teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon dried oregano
1 bay leaf
2 ½ cups beef broth, (Better than Bouillon)
¾ cup V-8 Juice or red wine
1 pound dried papperdelle or tagliatelle pasta

Heat oil in large heavy pot over medium heat. Cook pancetta until golden and crisp. Season short ribs with salt and pepper and a shake Montreal on one side. Dredge in flour. Remove pancetta and set aside. Brown the short ribs on all sides. Remove browned short ribs to slow cooker.

Saute onions and carrots and pressed garlic. When onion is softened, add tomatoes, tomato paste, pancetta and herbs along with beef broth to the pot. Bring to a boil and transfer to crock pot. Cook on low for up to 8 hours.

Remove lid if you wish to cook down liquids. Skim fat off the liquid. Discard bones and trim gristle/skin. Adjust seasoning as needed. The sauce is a thing of beauty and very flavorful. (I haven’t made this dish for a year or more and had forgotten how totally delicious this sauce is.)

Cook pasta as directed in salted water, drain pasta. Toss pasta with a bit of hot pasta water or oil to keep it from glopping together. (forgot to do this but the terrific sauce saved the day)

Make Ahead: These ribs can be made the day before. Complete the task of discarding fat and bones after cooking and store in pyrex in the refrigerator. Cut short ribs into small serving pieces if needed but meat should be very tender so probably in small pieces when cooked.

After refrigeration, again skim fat if needed. Heat ribs and sauce in the oven at 300 or 350 until hot and bubbly.

Serve pasta on deep platter with short ribs and sauce on top. Garnish with parsley.

The whole family, including the grandkids liked this dish. I liked the make ahead. The short ribs were a big hit all around. You can see what a pretty presentation this makes for a holiday meal.

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(The platter shown here is for the whole family, not one person. Everyone was waiting patiently for me to serve them while I hurriedly took the picture.)

OUT AND ABOUT

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December ticks away like a clock gaining time. Some of you have already filled the month with unique holiday experiences for 2015. The rest of us are shaking our heads. Which of the many remaining opportunities to watch, go visit, eat, read and see will find a way into the remaining days of December?

Here’s Five Areas to Ponder. Please comment and let us know what you are hearing, watching, visiting, eating and reading this month.

1. HEARING
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Will it be Adele’s new album 25, or Handel’s Messiah, or U2 Live In Paris (HBO) The later is currently scheduled to broadcast on Dec. 22, probably to be repeated and available on-demand. And what about the favorite of many of us: Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You?”

2. VISITING
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Here in Michigan The Henry Ford and the DIA are the premiere museums through there are many others. Some Christmas greetings I’ve received mention St. Andrews in Scotland or Woodstock in Vermont as places to Go Visit. In St. Augustine, Florida there’s the dazzling light show in historic downtown. What destination calls you?

3. EATING
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Many families have a favorite restaurant that invites them during the holidays. Buddy’s Pizza draws terrific crowds in the Detroit area. What about a favorite steak house or seafood house? I had a fantastic seafood lunch earlier this month at Streetside Seafood in Birmingham as a gift from my son Jeff. Thank you Jeff. Travelers are posting about Collage in St. Augustine and Columbia in Tampa. And at home? Will I make raspberry Kolaches or cranberry oatmeal cookies this year? Will I have a chance to eat either?

4. WATCHING
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Is there a production of A Christmas Carol in your area this year? High on so many lists is the new Star Wars movie out this week in many cities. There’s a bushel barrel full of movies receiving media attention. It’s hard to pick because so many writers and critics point the viewer in this way and that. Perhaps you have a favorite traditional holiday film that your family always sees. That solves the problem. If not: Brooklyn, Mockingjay Part 2, Joy, The Peanuts Movie, and The Martian are some with broad appeal.

5. READING
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Here’s the toughest category because suggested lists of best books or vacation reads travel a meandering road from A-Z. You could choose to read Phibrick’s Heart of the Sea because the movie is out and according to advance report is it not nearly as good as the book in spite of being directed b Ron Howard. Maybe it’s an adventure better left to pure imagination, no visuals.

Maybe you have a favorite Christmas Story you take refuge in during the holidays. Maybe you teach all the little ones in our family to recite “The Night Before Christmas” and hence no time for reading. Maybe you’ve decided to both see the movie and read the play, “Macbeth”. But if you simply must have the smell of print and glue and stiff new pages for it to be a holiday read, I suggest: Rogue Lawyer, Golden Age, The Martian, Custer’s Trials, Brave Enough, The Givenness of Things (essays by Marilynne Robinson), H Is For Hawk, or The Witches by Stacy Schiff. Just like those other writers, I’m trying to offer the waterfront.

What with all the things this season is to so many of us, most likely you will not have a dull moment. And yet, isn’t there some experience you always wanted to have, but the time is never right or available during the holiday. For me, it’s watching The Nutcracker Ballet. I always dream of it but never get there. What Christmas Experience is on your bucket list? Do tell. Or what was one of your best December experiences this year?

LEMON RICOTTA COOKIES WITH LEMON GLAZE

THERE’S STILL TIME TO BAKE COOKIES

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Suzi Forbes sends along this recipe and tells us she has made it often and it is loved by all. Sounds wonderful. Thanks Suzi! These are just the lemony lift we need.

Ingredients
Cookies:
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 (15-ounce) container whole milk ricotta cheese
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested
Glaze:
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 lemon, zested

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
Cookies:

In a medium bowl combine the flour, baking powder, and salt. Set aside.

In the large bowl combine the butter and the sugar. Using an electric mixer beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, beating until incorporated. Add the ricotta cheese, lemon juice, and lemon zest. Beat to combine. Stir in the dry ingredients.

Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Spoon the dough (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie) onto the baking sheets. Bake for 15 minutes, until slightly golden at the edges. Remove from the oven and let the cookies rest on the baking sheet for 20 minutes.

Glaze:

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon to gently spread. Let the glaze harden for about 2 hours. Pack the cookies into a decorative container.

Recipe courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/giada-de-laurentiis/lemon-ricotta-cookies-with-lemon-glaze-recipe.html?oc=linkback

HOMEMADE GIFTS AT CHRISTMAS

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JAYNE HARWORTH’S DELICIOUS HOMEMADE FUDGE

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This fudge is melt-in-your-mouth delicious and the aroma will feed the habit of any chocolaholic. Jayne has made this fudge for years. She first got the recipe from her husband Ron’s Mom years ago. Profound thanks to Jayne for giving me some and for sharing the recipe with all of us.

4 1/2 cups of sugar
1 can (about 12 oz.) evaporated milk
24 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 jar marshmallow cream (7 oz.)
5 tablespoons butter (I melt this in microwave)
2 teaspoons vanilla
3 ounces unsweetened baking chocolate (melt this in microwave on low so it won’t burn)

Optional: 2 cups chopped nuts if you like nuts in your fudge

Prepare a 9 x 13 metal or glass baking dish by lining it with plastic wrap (I cut two large pieces and overlap in the middle and the edges can hang over.)

In a large pan combine chocolate chips marshmallow creme, melted butter, vanilla, melted baking chocolate and Optional nuts.

In another large saucepan, combine the sugar and evaporated milk (shake well.) Stir it to combine well. Bring the mixture to a boil and stir constantly for seven minutes. Keep the heat set so it is just boiling and stirring it will keep it from boiling over. (I set a timer.) Take boiled mixture off the heat and immediately pour it into the other pan. Start stirring the combined mixtures and keep stirring until all the ingredients are blended. It starts to thicken quite quickly. Once all are blended in, pour into lined 9 x 13 pan and use a spatula to smooth it even. Put in refrigerator to cool. Set timer for about an hour or so. Take it out and use a knife to score it into 16 bars.( I score it in the middle going lengthwise in the pan and then 7 scoring cuts going width which will give you 16 individual bars. Make the scoring quite deep, almost all the way through.) Cover with the overlapped plastic wrap or cut another piece and cover. Put in refrigerator several hours or overnight to completely harden. Then take it out of the pan by lifting up plastic wrap. Peel off the plastic wrap and it should break into individual bars. If it doesn’t, take a knife and cut through. Wrap each bar in plastic wrap and keep them refrigerated. (I buy 1/2 pound candy boxes at a cake store and each box fits 2 slices of fudge. This is a very creamy fudge and is best if it is kept refrigerated most of the time. It will last quite awhile.

You can vary the fudge by using milk chocolate chips if you wish or 1/2 any kind of chocolate chips and 1/2 peanut butter chips. You can also used dried cherries in the fudge mixture.

Note: As you read the recipe you can see how careful Jayne is in her fudge making. I hope to take a page from her book and give more care and attention to my cooking and baking.

The red sprinkles on the fudge picture are my doing and not Jayne’s. It helped the picture to show up better. In another picture you see the little candy boxes she uses. So festive with yarn ribbon.

This fudge is super good!

JUDITH VITALI’S NUT ROLL

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Judith made these delicious elegant rolls for years. Now she is sharing her recipe with us. As I read the ingredients, I can almost smell the yeast and the sugary, salty nuts.

Nut Roll and Assembly (Nut Filling recipe appears below)

sift or whisk together:
5 and 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
2 tbls sugar

add:
1 and 1/2 cups butter
work in until the mixture resembles cornmeal

add:
7 egg yolks
1 and 1/4 cups milk

stir to blend or mix with hands … set aside

measure into warm bowl:
1/4 warm water and 1 pkg dry yeast

stir until dissolved …
add to flour/egg mixture and mix well (if too moist to handle, add sifted flour in small amounts until dough forms into a ball)

cover with clean dish towel and place in bowl and refrigerate for one hour or longer
remove dough from refrigerator and cut into 4 equal pieces or the sizes you wish. You may make four 14 inch rolls, eight seven inch rolls or some other combination.

on a lightly floured board roll out each portion of dough until it measures 14 x 12

spread with filling to 1/4 inch from edges and roll like a jelly roll

place on ungreased sheet pans and let rise, free from drafts, from 45 minutes to an hour

brush with slightly beaten egg white
bake in preheated 325 degree oven for 60 to 80 minutes until golden brown … thickness of rolls determine baking time … obviously smaller rolls will take less time.
when only slightly cooled, frost with buttercream frosting (optional)

Nut Filling

combine in a large bowl:
1 lb confectioner’s sugar
16 oz of chopped walnuts

in separate bowl beat until foamy (about 1 minute):
7 egg whites

add: 1 tsp vanilla
and then add to sugar/walnut mixture.
blend until well mixed

Oh my! A real treat! You make may large or small nut rolls. Which will you choose?

Note: These recipes should be easy to print. Print the first five pages.
What do you make and gift at Christmas. We love to hear!

GOLDEN AGE: LIFE IN THESE UNITED STATES OVER THE LAST 100 YEARS

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Golden Age
Author: Jane Smiley
Publisher: Alfred Knopf (2015)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Family saga
Hardcover Edition: 443 pages
Source: Personal Copy

After three riveting novels, Jane Smiley’s trilogy, the 100-year story of an American farm family comes to a powerful conclusion. Golden Age is the final volume and in it readers follow the Langdon clan from 1987 to 2019. In this novel the structure of each new year encapsulated in a chapter continues.

Writing of the first two novels, Some Luck and Early Warning, I referred to fully drawn characters, graceful prose, and scenes the reader mines for meaning. The final novel is more plot driven and the suspense regarding the fate of the characters builds with each turn of the page.

Smiley’s story telling is clear and economical. It addresses the issues of the time. Through Richie Langdon one of Frank Langdon’s twin sons, she satirizes American politics. He becomes for a time a congressman. Also on stage in this last novel are wars, and their effect on those who survive. At the center of it all are the changes in farming in the Midwest.

This author absolutely nails the details of farm life, the farm scene, and the cruel machinations of the farm business. Jane Smiley knows the subjects she writes about, whether medieval literature, horses, politics or geography: Washington D.C. the Midwest and California to name three locals where much action is set. She seems to understand terror and happiness. So this tale is no mere recitation of facts, but rather characters who take the reader inside issues and enable the reader to experience their never-simple emotions.

She works her magic on a huge canvas, yet each scene, each family unit, each relationship comes clearly into focus. In this final book, the unexpected is more shocking, grabbing and twisting the reader’s emotions. While we were reading everyday life as it evolves through the Golden Age, we discover much has changed, irrevocably.

My three adjectives: brilliant, fascinating, magic. Certainly one of the best books I’ve read this year.

TEN CLASSIC CHILDREN’S BOOKS TO GIFT PEOPLE OF ALL AGES

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The Birchbark House by Louise Erdrich (1999) National Book Award Finalist
This novel is set on an island in Lake Superior in 1847 and details a young girl’s Ojibwa life.

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson. (2014). National Book Award Winner. Poems.

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Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown (2007). Generations have loved this book, so quiet for the end of a day.

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Harry Potter and The Sorceror’s Stone by J.K. Rowling (1999) Book One of the Harry Potter Series.
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The Little Engine That Could by Wattie Piper (2012) Originally published in the 1930. “I think I can…I think I can.”

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Love You Forever by Robert Munsch and Sheila McGraw (1995) This little book almost always brings a tear to the eye. Read it over and over.

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Missing May by Cynthia Rylant (1992) Newberry Medal. Winner of the Horn Book Award for fiction. Rylant’s most emotional moving story.

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Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss (1990). Pure delight. A frequent graduation gift, appropriate for the changes in anyone’s life.
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The Twelve Days of Christmas: a Pop-Up Celebration By Robert Sabuda (1996) A wonderful artful rendering of this timeless song. The most beautiful book I own.

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Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (2012) Astonishing and inspirational. Winner of the 1964 Caldecott Medal for the Most Distinguished Picture Book. Can you believe it is 51 years old?

Books are listed in alphabetical order and not by any age designation. Please consider one of these for someone on your list or to lift your own Christmas celebration to a new level. Books like these make our lives richer.

SPOTLIGHT ON FIVE HOLIDAY COOKING MAGAZINES

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Food and Wine December 2015

Cover Feature: Holiday Parties
Trending: Eggs, Hors d’oeuvres
What Caught My Eye: Spiced Short Rib Tagine, Carla Hall’s Pimento Cheese, Bobby Flay’s Hot Brown Sandwich
How to: Pick Champagne for your Pizza
Round-up: Packed with useful information and good-to-eat food.

Fine Cooking, December 2015/ January 2016

Cover Feature: Holiday Pork Roast
Trending: Meatballs, Cookies
What Caught My Eye: Roasted Rack of Pork, Sweet Rolls,
How To: Eggs Federer, with Swiss chard and Swiss cheese. Swedish meatballs with cranberry relish
Round-up: Pork Roast with creamy morel sauce sold me this magazine.

Eating Well Nov./Dec. 2015 I-Pad Issue

Cover Feature: Holiday recipes: Glazed Delicata Squash and more
Trending: Balance, Cast Iron Cooking- Steak with carrots and turnips
What Caught My Eye: Homemade Gifts, Pear Recipes- Cheese Ball, Spinach Salad, Pear Crostini
How-To: Whipping Up Pudding Parfait and Eggnog Pie
Round-up: West Coast Features, but not exclusively – MN Wild Rice. This magazine gets around.

Bon Appetite Dec. 2015

Cover Feature: Cookies
Trending: The Look of the Food.
What Caught My Eye: Crown Roast of Pork with Apples and Shallots , Firehouse Chicken cooked in cast iron.
How-To: Egg-In-the-Hole Sandwich featured in prep school. (Probably the easiest recipe in the issue and it’s the how-to?)
Round-up: Lots of bits of info clutter most pages. Recipes tend to be complicated. Pretty thin for a holiday issue and even so difficult to navigate.

Cooking Light December 2015

Cover: Comfort Food-classic French Onion Soup
Trending: Cookies (it’s holiday time), Slow Cooker Recipes,
What Caught My Eye: Creamiest Mashed Potatoes, Chicken Agrodolce with creamy polenta. I love sweet and sour. Mini-crab cakes in a muffin tin. The French Onion Soup.
How-To: Folding – incorporate delicate ingredients by hand.
Round-up: Lots of interesting features. Chock full of good stuff to eat! So very readable (pictures, text, format and graphics)!