Another Holiday Special – What’s for Christmas Dinner?

I’m dashing out in a few minutes for one last Christmas present … and then on to the supermarket to shop for tomorrow night’s Christmas Eve dinner.

I will not be cooking on Tuesday. If you are, you might want to take a peak at a few of my suggestions for Christmas dinner. I put these menus together last year. Hopefully one or another will help you solve any last minute cooking dilemmas.

Have a wonderful Christmas and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What are your holiday cooking plans? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

 

 

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Another Holiday Special – What’s for Christmas Eve Dinner?

Are you cooking this Christmas Eve? I’m soooo looking forward to cooking with the Nye girlies. My brother’s daughters, my nieces are fantastic twenty-somethings. Although their level of enthusiasm varies, they are all interested in cooking.

I like the tradition of fish for Christmas Eve. After all, I am a New England girl through and through. A few years ago, I posted a menu for a feast of seven fishes. Feel free to give it a try.

We’ll be keeping things a tad bit simpler at my house …

Kaela is the oldest of the three and most enthusiastic cook. We had a quick discussion about the menu between football plays this past Sunday. For the main course we’re going with Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce. I was thinking of serving the fish with Lemon Roasted Potatoes but Kaela convinced me that Lemon Risotto with Spinach & Herbs was a better choice. (In either case, it’s a good thing we all like lemon.)

But let’s back up the train here.

For starters, we’ll need some tasty apps. Something with mushrooms sounds good … like, well, Spanish Stuffed Mushroom or Mushroom Crostini. Or, if we decide to go with two fishes, then Shrimp & Cucumber Bites or Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce or Peanut Sesame Dipping Sauce  would be perfect. I’ll set out some Rosemary Cashews and maybe some Olives or Tapenade.

When it’s time to head to the table, we’ll want a great salad. Kaela has made a beautiful Kale Salad for the past two years. (It’s a busy kitchen with lots of chatter so, while I’ve sort of watched her make it, I’m hazy on the recipe. It’s quite simple with kale and lots of lemon and extra virgin olive oil. Here’s my interpretation. Or we can try my colorful Romaine & Radicchio Salad with Avocado, Pomegranate & Walnuts.

We’ll finish the evening with something sweet. I’m still up in the air for dessert. My mom always baked Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie. When I was a teenager, I took over dessert and baked a Bûche de Noël. Over the past few years, I’ve baked a Flourless Chocolate Cake and Ginger-Orange Cheesecake for Christmas Eve. I’m thinking about Ginger Mousse.

The girlies are coming for lunch tomorrow – so we can iron out all these last, little details.

Have fun countdown to Christmas and a great weekend! Happy holidays and bon appétit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What are your holiday cooking plans? I’d love to hear from you. Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

All About Christmas Eve Traditions & Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce

My family has always enjoyed a bit of pandemonium on Christmas Eve. In fact, I think we thrive on it. From one generation to the next, the one constant has been overexcited children. For little kids, the day always seems to move at glacial speed. I generally started the day by jumping up and down and dancing in front of the tree. It didn’t take long for Mom to toss me into my snowsuit and outside. Her message was clear – time to build a snowman or take my sled over to the neighborhood hill. That was fine; I had lots of company. Most of kids on the street had received similar instructions.

My grandparents would arrive in the late afternoon and whisk us into the back of their car for church. My sister Brenda and I never missed the opportunity to ride in Grandpa’s Lincoln with the fancy electric windows. Those rides might have been Grandpa’s greatest gift to his only daughter. With my baby brother snoozing in his car seat and Dad behind the wheel, Mom could sink into the passenger seat of the family station wagon, close her eyes and enjoy a few blessed minutes of peace.

After church, excitement rose to a fevered pitch. Nana and Grandpa would stay for a quick visit but usually begged off dinner and headed home. They knew what was coming. For some unknown reason, or at least unknown to me, about half way through dinner, Santa stopped by. It was a neighborhood tradition. Each child received a small present and Santa’s promise that he’d be back with more if we cleaned our plates and went right to bed. The visit did nothing to slow down the dancing and prancing of the Nye sisters. After swallowing one or two more mouthfuls, Mom gave up and urged us into our jammies. Dad read the Night Before Christmas and we were off to bed.

My family is now in one of those in-between periods. In fact, we’ve been here for a while. There are no small children or babies to dance and prance with unbridled excitement and anticipation. That said, even without small children around, we do find ways to keep things hopping. Last year, it was a trip to the emergency room. Dad, I hope you’re listening when I suggest we skip the ER this year.

(By the way – the white haired gent is my dad … he had no interest in helping but couldn’t stay away from the fun.)

I think it was three maybe four years ago that we began a wonderful new Christmas Eve tradition. My twenty-something nieces come over to help me cook. I’m guessing Kaela’s move from the dorm to an apartment might have been the initial instigator. Her sister Emily did not want to be left out and joined the party. It is wonderful fun and, with two sous-chefs, the dinner is extra special. 

I love the idea of bonding in the kitchen – of passing recipes and stories from one generation to the next. The girls arrive around four, still a bit jet-lagged but filled with enthusiasm. We agree tasks and claim work spaces. There is a lot of laughter and more than a few questions. Music fills the air and, in keeping with the occasion, there is a little dancing and prancing plus a glass of wine or two.

When we started, Kaela described our time together as a cooking lesson. However, in just a few short years, both nieces have become quite accomplished. More than a lesson, it is a special time for us to share news and retell old stories.

Until the rest of the family arrives. Then we all we go into host mode. Kaela and Emily pass fresh-from-the-oven hors d’oeuvres and pour glasses of wine while I take care of any last minute dinner details. There is more laughter and lots of chatter. While there is no rush, dinner is served with plenty of time for everyone to get home and into bed before Santa arrives.

Have a wonderful holiday and bon appétit!

After dinner – Gramps and the Girlies

Lemon Roasted Salmon with Tarragon Sauce
Although I fall far short of seven fishes, I like seafood on Christmas Eve. I usually start with gravlax or smoked salmon and then serve shrimp for the main course. It’s time to switch it up! Enjoy!
Serves 8

1 (about 3 pounds) salmon fillet
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Tarragon Sauce

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees

Melt the butter and whisk in the juice of 1-2 lemon wedges. Let cool for a few minutes.

Place the salmon skin side down on a sheet pan and brush with lemon-butter. Arrange the remaining lemon wedges around the salmon, season everything with salt and pepper and slide the pan into the oven.

Roast the salmon at 450 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes or until it is almost cooked through. Slip a spatula between the fish and the skin and, leaving the skin behind, carefully transfer the fish to a serving platter and loosely cover for 10 minutes. The fish will continue cooking while it rests.

Return the lemons to the oven and continue roasting while the salmon rests.

Serve the salmon with roasted lemon wedges and Tarragon Sauce.

Tarragon Sauce
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 cup mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/4 cup chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot or red onion
1 clove garlic, minced
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Put the sour cream, mayonnaise and mustard in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the tarragon, shallot, garlic and lemon zest, season with salt and pepper and whisk to combine.

Best if made ahead, covered and refrigerated for a few hours. Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before serving.

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One Year Ago – Gingerbread Decorations
Two Years Ago – Sticky Buns
Three Years Ago –
Cranberry Coffee Cake

Four Years Ago –
Fish Stew Provençal

Five Years Ago –
Twice-Baked Potatoes

Six Years Ago – Baked French Toast
Seven Years Ago –
Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta

Eight Years Ago –
Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine Mushroom Sauce

Nine Years Ago – Potato, Leek & Kale Soup
Ten Years Ago – Salmon & Lentils

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you serving this Christmas Eve? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Another Holiday Special – A Cozy Souper Supper

A cozy supper is the perfect end to any day filled with holiday fun. Maybe you have been out and about visiting Santa, touring the neighborhood looking at lights, trimming the tree or sledding. Whatever has kept you busy, unwind with family and maybe a few friends and a souper delicious supper.

Here are a few favorite soups to consider –

Hearty Sausage Soup with Beans & Greens
Potato & Cheddar Soup
Spicy Shrimp Chowder
Moroccan Chickpea Soup
or Nana Nye’s Fish Chowder

Add a festive salad – 

Romaine, Radicchio & Avocado Salad with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Roasted Beets with Goat Cheese Salad
or keep it simple with a big bowl of mixed greens tossed with Classic Vinaigrette

Finally, top it all off with a sweet treat – 

A selection of your favorite Christmas Cookies
Gingerbread Cupcakes
or Apple Bread Pudding

Bon fête and bon appétit!

Want more? Try my Cocktail Party Menu, any and all of my favorite Christmas Cookies, or one of my seasonal menus. Feel free to create your own menus with the help of my extensive recipe index.

What are your favorite soup recipes? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

© Susan W. Nye, 2018

Another Holiday Special – The Cocktail Party

Will you be celebrating the season with a festive cocktail party? If it’s been awhile since you entertained a crowd, this could be your year. December is a great time to entertain. After all, your house is decorated and spirits are high.

Not sure what to serve? Keep it simple with a few serve-yourself platters and a couple of one or two bite savories to pass. Here are a few ideas:

As for those platters –

Arrange a three or five beautiful cheeses on a cutting board. You’ll want to include a variety of textures and flavors. Combine a firm cheese like a beautiful aged cheddar, add a soft cheese like a triple-crème brie and don’t shy away from a fabulous blue cheese. Stilton is always a good choice or try my Warm Gorgonzola with Caramelized Onions & Walnuts. (You can prep it in advance.) Feel free to add a Spanish Manchego, a smoked Gouda or a log of goat cheese.

You can’t go wrong adding some prosciutto, pâté and artisanal sausage to your cheese board. Alternatively, you can create a separate charcuterie platter.

A seafood platter is a great idea. You can go crazy with oysters, shrimp and crab or keep it simple with gravlax or smoked salmon. Embellish the salmon with wedges of lemon, thinly sliced onion and capers. A little caviar or chopped egg would also be nice.

Finally, a vegetable platter with a wonderful dip or two is a good idea. Most of your guests will consider it dinner, so a few veggies will be appreciated. As for dips, can I suggest Roasted Beet & White Bean Hummus, Sun-dried Tomato Aioli and/or Spicy Red Pepper Aioli?

Now, what to pass?

Cook up a couple of one- or two-bite savories. (BTW – if you aren’t hosting but heading to a potluck, any one of these delightful little treats will be welcomed.) Could I suggest – Cheesy Spinach Tartlets, Spanish Stuffed Mushrooms and Roasted Shrimp with Rémoulade Sauce.

Don’t forget to scatter small bowls of Spicy Olives and my favorite Rosemary Cashews an strategic spots. At the very least, put one of both on the buffet table and on the bar.

Finally, finish the evening with a sweet treat. Who wouldn’t enjoy a Christmas cookie, brownie or mini cupcake or all three? Fill a tray with rows of Macadamia Snow Balls,  Gingerbread Cupcakes and Sweet Dream Bars. For a smooth and creamy treat, fill tiny dessert glasses (even a shot glass) with Chocolate Mousse or White Chocolate Mousse and topped with a raspberry.

Bon fête and bon appétit!

Want more? Try one of my seasonal menus or create your own with the help of my extensive recipe index.

What are your favorite recipes for cocktail party nibbles? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

© Susan W. Nye, 2018

The Long Columbus Day Weekend Special

I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to the long weekend. Oktoberfest ends on Sunday – so you might want to hoist a beer and grill some sausages. Or you might want to create a beautiful Italian feast.

Let’s start with the Italian feast…

Start with a lovely antipasto platter. Before it’s too cold to cook outside, assemble a beautiful platter with your favorite Grilled Vegetables & More. You might want to create a second platter with one of my favorites – Tomato & Burrata Salad.

Now for dinner. We all love pasta, so why not toss up some spaghetti (or your favorite pasta) with Pesto alla Genovese. Complete your main course with a few Garlicky Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives.

Finish the evening with a wonderful chocolaty dessert … something like my Chocolate Walnut Tart.

As for Oktoberfest, I have a few suggestions if you want to take your celebration in a Bavarian direction. Only a few and I’m going to flub a little because I don’t do a lot of German cooking …

Fire up the grill and start the evening with Homemade Bratwurst Bites with Horseradish Mustard. Alternatively (and stealing a page from Eastern Europe), you might like my Savory Blinis with Smoked Salmon.

Moving to the table, I’ll recommend my Roasted Carrot Salad. Although hardly German, it is delicious.

For the main course, well, I admit it – when I think of Oktoberfest I think of Sausages with Sauerkraut. You’ll want to add some Potato Salad. However, Roasted Pork Loin with Apples & Onions and Smashed Potatoes would be a very nice alternative. Or more Austrian or Eastern European, try my Pork Stew Paprika with buttered noodles.

Now, for dessert, everyone will love my Applesauce Cake with Brown Butter Icing.

Have a great weekend. Bon Appétit – Buon Appetito – Guten appetit!

For a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog Click Here!!

What’s up with you this weekend? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! © Susan W. Nye, 2018

Celebrate Democracy & Vietnamese Salad

This Fourth of July, let’s embrace and celebrate our democratic republic – the Great American Experiment. Back on July the 4th 1776, the founding fathers declared independence from a tyrannical, and some say mad, King George. At the time, they could only hope that the experiment would last. From day one, it’s been far from perfect and always evolving. Sometimes the nation takes a step forward. Take for instance, Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation in 1863. Sometimes, it takes a step backwards. Consider McCarthyism and the Red Scare in the 1950s.

In spite of the ups and downs, our democracy has held. Our deep belief in equality, that all people are created equal has been central to our success. We cherish the fundamental rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity. It is what continues to make us patriots 242 years after the founding fathers signed the Declaration of Independence.

The United States was founded by immigrants. From the pilgrims at Plymouth Rock, to the laborers who built the railroads and programmers who created Silicon Valley, the United States has always been a proud melting pot of diversity. Eight of the signers of the Declaration of Independence were not born in the United States. They were farmers, lawyers and doctors who crossed an ocean in search of a new life. We are a nation that has grown and prospered with each new generation of immigrants. Some came for adventure but most were in pursuit of a better, safer life.

I lived in Switzerland for seventeen years. It was an interesting experience for many reasons. For one, I was an immigrant, a foreigner, a legal alien coming from a nation of immigrants. With dozens of United Nations agencies and just as many multinational companies, Geneva is a wonderfully diverse city. At work and at play, people from vastly different cultures come together. On street corners, in restaurants, in the supermarket, people of every nationality and race speak a multitude of languages. Like communities across the U.S., this cultural melting pot made the town all the richer.

One summer, I was the assistant coach for a tee-ball team of five-year-olds. A few were Swiss but the vast majority were immigrants, just like their coaches. Many, but not all, were Americans. I’m guessing their parents signed them up to maintain a link back to their homeland. For the others, it was a chance to try something new. Overall, they were just a jumble of kids who wanted to have fun. While I have no proof or statistics, I’d hazard to guess that their talent was as varied as any tee-ball team you’d find in the U.S. Given the superb (?!?) coaching they received, I’m sure they had more fun than the average U.S. tee-ball team.

I joke about superb coaching because I was one of the worst softball players to darken the doors of my middle and high schools. However, I figured out one thing and passed it on to my five-year-old charges. Keep your eye on the ball, hold the bat tight and swing. Ignore the noise from the crowd. Don’t worry if that cute little Belgian girl likes you. Stop thinking about ice cream after the game. Keep your eye on the ball and you will hit it every time. Like magic, they did.

This 4th of July and every day, keep your eye on our shared American values. Hold tight to the belief in equality for all people. Don’t allow the country’s high standards for liberty, justice and opportunity falter. These beliefs are at the very core of our national identity.

Have a wonderful Independence Day and summer. Bon appétit!

Vietnamese Salad
A refreshing salad is perfect on a hot summer night. Serve this one with your favorite grilled fish or chicken. Enjoy!
Serves 8

4 heads baby bok choy, sliced thin on the diagonal
1 head romaine lettuce, roughly chopped
About 5 ounces arugula
3-6 radishes, finely chopped
1/2 European cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 carrot, cut into curls (use a vegetable peeler)
2-3 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 red or yellow bell pepper, finely chopped
1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
1/2 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves, cut in julienne
Garnish: 1/2 cup roasted, salted peanuts, roughly chopped

Put the vegetables and herbs in a large bowl and toss to combine.

To serve: toss the salad with just enough Vietnamese Vinaigrette to lightly coat. Transfer the salad to a large, deep serving platter or individual plates and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

Vietnamese Vinaigrette
Makes 1 cup

Grated zest and juice of 2 limes
2 cloves garlic
1-inch piece fresh ginger
1-inch chunk red onion
1-2 teaspoons honey
1 teaspoon or to taste chili sauce
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup or to taste extra virgin olive
2 teaspoons sesame oil

Put the lime zest and juice in a blender or small food processor, add the garlic, ginger, onion, honey and chili sauce, season with salt and pepper and process to chop the vegetables and combine. Add the vinegar, fish sauce and soy sauce and process until smooth.

Add the olive and sesame oils and process until well-combined. Transfer to a clean, glass jar. Let the vinaigrette sit for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in the refrigerator to combine the flavors. Give the vinaigrette a good shake before using.

Store extra vinaigrette in the refrigerator.

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One Year Ago – Tomato & Burrata Salad with Grilled Bread
Two Years Ago – Grilled Shrimp & Vegetable Salad
Three Years Ago – Fresh Berries with Creamy Lime Custard
Four Years Ago – Grilled Tomato Crostini
Five Years Ago – Strawberries with Yogurt Cream
Six Years Ago – Watermelon & Feta Salad
Seven Years Ago – Grilled Salmon with Lemon-Basil Aioli
Eight Years Ago – Mediterranean Shrimp
Nine Years Ago – Grilled Hoisin Pork

Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What’s your summer travel story? Feel free to share!

Want more? I’ve got links to lots more to read, see & cook. © Susan W. Nye, 2018