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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  • November 29, 2010
    7:34 pm

    The family gathering together is the highlight for sure. Our parents are the worst to shop for because what don't they have already (and they always say they don't need anything)?!? Delish recipe Julie Anne, and mega healthy with the pomegranate!cupcakewww.thefamily-table.blogspot.com

  • November 29, 2010
    9:48 pm

    I would love to have a job shopping for people 24/7 – cant think of a better job – though it probably doesnt pay that well. I have bought quite a few presents this year online – purely because they have been cheaper that way and it is convenient.Rachel Day

  • November 29, 2010
    11:57 pm

    Love this hairstyle!!!!Carly Guerrero

  • November 29, 2010
    11:57 pm

    Very funny Carly – I cringe!

  • November 30, 2010
    3:35 am

    Really? I am serious though, it was the 80s and you pulled off a lot of looks and style that others couldn't.Carly Guerrero

  • November 30, 2010
    4:54 am

    I like to shop when it's not busy, if that's possible. That usually means when the shops open in the morning. But, online shopping is a necessary evil, so it seems. You generally have your purchase within a few days to a week, it's less expensive and you don't have to work your way through crowded shops who are not set up with wide enough aisles for wheelchairs, scooters and the like. I started early this year and just have a few little things left to purchase, hopefully this week. But yes, I did indulge in a bottle of fragrance for moi. Well, actually two bottles. I only buy this once a year, so while it was a little splurge, I budgeted for it. I'm worth it! Hope you indulge in some special items too! Party frocks, new appliances for the kitchen, camera attachments, whatever your heart tells you. Just believe you are worth it! And you are! By the way, love the photo of Tajana opening a present. I love watching little ones at holiday time. That's what makes it so special. Even at the shops, I love to watch the little ones sit on Santa's lap and talk to him with such openness.

  • November 30, 2010
    6:26 am

    Hey Ruthee – oh yes indeed, I did indulge my inner photographer today. Camera is finally on the way after over a year of yearning for it. Now lets hope it doesn't take a year to learn how to use it!

  • November 30, 2010
    1:26 pm

    p.s. you got my vote systa!cupcake

  • November 30, 2010
    4:46 pm

    Jewels, I agree with Carly…you look great in that top photo. I also hate shopping this time of year because of the crowds…I finish the Christmas very early…usually Halloween when the stores are empty ha ha (that is the perfect shopping day). The last 2 years we've said no to "guilt gifts", and instead have been only buying for the kids and if something really stands out for someone special, instead of trying to figure out what to buy someone who bought me something. Breaking the cycle. 😉 I think most people in my circle were relieved.

  • November 30, 2010
    5:06 pm

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmKarina Wilson

  • November 30, 2010
    7:39 pm

    YUM!Nick Byfield Ward

  • November 30, 2010
    11:41 pm

    swishy!John J. Smith

  • December 1, 2010
    2:41 am

    My dad wraps my pressies, I am crap at it too, LOL! And yeah, men are difficult for gifts!Isabel Ortiz Bernad

  • December 1, 2010
    4:46 pm

    YummyLinda Barnett

  • December 1, 2010
    8:36 pm

    I don't mind Christmas shopping online, takes the stress out of going and getting it and I can buy bargains and check out offers. I have loads of friends and if I had the money I would love to buy them all a little something, instead I make all my Christmas cards so when they get my card they know my heart has gone into making something unique for them, sometimes I pop in a little handmade gift as well, like a bookmark.Loved the recipie by the way. Exactly 2 weeks ago as I write I was sitting in Asia de Cuba @ The Mondrian in LA and tried Duck for the very first time (okay so there was a divine man involved as well 🙂 ). Trouble is my family don't like duck. I love pomegranate so i would like to try that sauce at some point in time.

  • December 1, 2010
    8:57 pm

    Hi Amanda – the sauce goes grrrrrrrrrrrreat with lamb too. Made it with rack of lamb yesterday to rave reviews.

  • December 1, 2010
    8:59 pm

    where do you buy duck breast?Cat Lincoln

  • December 1, 2010
    9:00 pm

    I heard duck is pretty greasy (?). I've not tried itCarly Guerrero

  • December 1, 2010
    9:01 pm

    Carly – duck breast has a lot of fat around the edges (just cut that off and eat the meat, but cook with fat on for best results). Cat – I got them in the frozen meat section at Gelsons.