Jewels: all wrapped up in Ritz Magazine

Pretty please? I need help. I’m juggling twenty balls at once here on my own at the moment, and just realized I have not done ANY of my Christmas shopping in advance as I normally do.

Awk! Crowds – I don’t fare well in them. I guess I’ll be doing some online shopping this year (it is cyber Monday – the online version of black Friday), but there is something that feels so wrong about that – like “the thought that counts” is missing. Plus, the thought of staring at a computer screen more hours than I do already is almost as bad as shopping in the chaos.
Normandie Keith and Julie Anne Rhodes
See, the elves would also curb the “one for them, and ten for me” way I tend to shop. I need blinders since this gets very expensive, although one does need party frocks for this celebratory time of year.
I’d like to think the elves would know exactly what my brother-in-law, the hardest person on earth to shop for followed closely by my father, would like – he must have a lifetime supply (enough for twenty people) already of the cologne I buy him every year! What do men like besides fast cars and expensive gadgets (oh, and that, which is obviously not appropriate here)?
Tatjana getting down to business on Christmas morning
I’m absolutely positive the elves would be light years better than I am at gift wrapping. I envy people that turn out exquisitely wrapped gifts , and seem to enjoy doing it! Mine look like the dog did it – sorry Daisy! Oops there is ANOTHER gift I forgot about.
My family are spread out all over the place, which tends to squeeze the joy out of gift giving. It’s so impersonal when you can’t even see the delight (or disappointment) in their faces, and experience the butterflies of anticipation in your belly as they open it. It really makes me want to donate the money to charities in their names instead, but I don’t think that would make me popular, so I send money to my niece and nephew. William has been investing his in the stock market since he was nine years old.
The family (minus Tatjana)
Why do we need to feel so much pressure to give gifts this time of year anyway? Wouldn’t it mean a lot more if I bought my mother that object d’art she’s been lusting after when she least expects it? That to me says “I was thinking of you” more than the obligatory holiday offering. I’m not Scrooge, because I do love the holidays – just not this part of it.
I love the gatherings, the celebrations, and of course the meals. Here’s a new recipe I just whipped up to lots of mmmmmm’s, and not much conversation until the last bit of pomegranate sauce had been wiped clean. The people at POM Wonderful kindly sent me a case of juice to experiment with, and this is the first of my creations. I’m making it for my Dad on Christmas Day – duck is his favorite.
Seared Duck Breast with Pomegranate Cherry Sauce

Why not make something a little out of the ordinary, festive, spectacularly yummy, and deceivingly simple this Christmas party season? Your guests will think your were slaving away in the kitchen all day! You just smile and say “thank you” when they rave

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil, divided
  • 1 large shallot, minced
  • 1/4 red pepper, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger, minced
  • 2 cups Pom pomegranate juice
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1/2 cup cherry preserves
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon five spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 4 duck breast fillets
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped to garnish
  • 1/4 cup pomegranate arils to garnish (optional)
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced to garnish (optional)

Directions:


1). Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium –low heat. Add shallots and red pepper; sweat until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add ginger, and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add Pom juice and cinnamon stick, increase heat to medium, and bring to boil. Continue to boil for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.


2). Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium- low to medium heat. Score the fat of the duck breasts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add breast to hot pan, fat side down. Let brown for 10 minutes, turn and allow to brown an additional 8-10 minutes (depending on how well done you prefer your duck). Remove from pan, tent with foil to keep warm, and allow duck to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly lengthwise.


3). Once sauce is reduced, remove cinnamon stick, strain the sauce into a medium size bowl, discard the onion and pepper bits, and add sauce back to pan. Place pan back over medium-low heat; add preserves and brown sugar, stirring until preserves are dissolved.


4). Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until all lumps are gone. Add to the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.


5). To serve, fan the duck slices out on the plates, drizzle sauce over the top, and sprinkle with mint, pomegranate arils, and green onion. Serve hot.


Serving Suggestions: I like to serve this with a medley of brown and wild rice, and stir-fried cabbage, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms.


Variations: This sauce is divine over lamb too.

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