Holiday Special – Christmas Brunch

Throughout December I’m sharing different menus to help you create beautiful feasts for the holidays. You can find helpful hints and a beautiful Mediterranean menu and recipes for a fabulous cocktail party. I’ve put together seven fun plates for a Feast of Seven Fishes Tapas Party. Then again, maybe you’re serving turkey for Christmas? Well, I’ve got a great menu for you. And if you’d rather go with roast beast? I’ve got you covered with a delicious menu for beef or pork tenderloin.

But today … it’s all about Christmas Brunch.

Whether you have a long, lazy morning in bed followed by a leisurely coffee and a few presents or rise before dawn with over-excited little ones … brunch is a great alternative to a big Christmas dinner. Especially, if you cooked up a huge feast on Christmas Eve.

Keep it very casual. Let everyone stay in their pajamas … all day if they like. Serve the food buffet style and relax. There is no need to hurry.

Start with a toast to Santa and your good fortune with a colorful Mango Sparkle. There are two versions, one with and one without alcohol. If you need something cozy, warm up with a mug of Mulled Cider.

Hopefully, you’ve got a good bakery or bagelry nearby, there is nothing better than bagels and lox. (No one said you had to make everything from scratch.) It will only take a few minutes to create a beautiful platter of smoked salmon, capers, red onions and a small bowl of cream cheese. (Don’t forget to soak the onions in cold water for several hours or overnight to take the bite out!)

If you want to get fancy … A beautiful Asparagus & Goat Cheese Tart will make a delicious addition to your party. Unless you’re looking for something a little heartier like Spinach & Ricotta Pie. If you’ve got a small group, Brie & Sundried Tomato Omelets are a great choice. Don’t forget to make up a batch of Baked French Toast. This yummy casserole is perfect for anyone with a sweet tooth.

But if you’ve got a crowd, forget the individual omelets and whip up a big batch of Scrambled Eggs. If you like, dress up the eggs with some grated cheddar or crumbled goat cheese and a few chopped chives. Who doesn’t like cheesy eggs? With a strip or two of crispy bacon and/or a few sausage links, you’ve got everyone’s favorite breakfast feast!

Large or small crowd and especially for a late brunch, I like to add a simple Salad and some fresh fruit to the buffet table.

Complete your feast with a sweet treat. Don’t hesitate to pick up muffins and scones at the bakery. You’ve got a lot going on. However, if you were born to bake, try a batch of my Ginger Scones or an Apple Crumb Cake. For something creamy and sweet, give my Honeyed Apricots with Creamy Yogurt a try.

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

What are you cooking for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

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Holiday Special – Roast Beast for Christmas Dinner

Throughout December I’m sharing different menus to help you create beautiful feasts for the holidays. You can find helpful hints and a beautiful Mediterranean menu and recipes for a fun and fabulous cocktail party and perfect dishes for a Feast of Seven Fishes Tapas Party for Christmas Eve.

Will you be serving a big dinner on Christmas or a festive holiday brunch? Big crowd or intimate gathering, I’ve put together some great suggestions for a tasty  Holiday Brunch.

If it’s dinner I’ve got you covered with two traditional favorites. Will you be serving turkey for Christmas? Well, I’ve got a great menu for a beautiful turkey dinner.

Then again … maybe you’re like the Whos down in Whoville and will feast on Roast Beast.

Enjoy a few nibblies while the beast roasts!
Set out a few Roasted Almonds  and a small bowl of Tapenade or Smoked Salmon Mousse or both. Serve the Tapenade and Mousse with chunks of cucumber to keep the hors d’oeurvres light and bright.

Kick off your feast with a great salad!
Salad is a great way to start your holiday feast. Try my colorful Fennel & Feta Salad or keep it simple with Caesar Salad with Parmesan Croutons. Maybe you’ll go with one of my favorites, Mixed Greens with Butternut Squash.

Move on to the main event!
You can’t go wrong with Beef Tenderloin with Red Wine & Mushrooms or maybe you’d prefer Pork. For veg, try roasting Brussels Sprouts or Carrots. Add a timeless holiday favorite like some Decadent Cheesy Potatoes or try my Wild Rice Confetti Pilaf.

Perhaps you’d like to avoid the last minute fuss and muss in the kitchen.
A slow braised, one pot dinner is a great solution for the holidays. Some of my family’s favorites include Carbonnade á la Flamande (Beer Braised Beef & Onions), Braised Beef Bourguignon or Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta

For a sweet finish!

A warm and comforting Apple Bread Pudding is perfect on cold winter evening. Then again, a decadent Triple Chocolate Parfait is always welcome. If you’ve got kids (or kids at heart) at the table, you can’t miss with Christmas Cookies and Frosty the Snowman Cupcakes.

Bon appétit and Happy Holidays!

Wild Rice Confetti Pilaf
Serves 10-12

1 cup each of wild and brown rice
4 cups chicken stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon butter
Olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Fresh parsley and toasted slivered almonds, for garnish

Bring chicken stock to a boil, add a little salt and the rice and cook until tender, about 40-50 minutes. Reserve.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion, carrot and celery until the vegetables are tender and lightly browned. Add the thyme and garlic, season with salt and pepper and cook for an additional minute or two.

Add the white wine, raise the heat to medium high, bring to a boil and simmer until reduced in half.

Add the butter and stir to combine. When the butter has melted, add the rice to the skillet and toss to combine and warm through. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and slivered almonds and serve.

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

What are you cooking for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Holiday Feasting & Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms & Creamy Polenta

No, a hurricane is not tearing up the coast. A nor’easter is not bearing down. The current whirlwind of frenzied activity is nothing more (and nothing less) than our final preparations for Christmas. Not only is the big guy coming to town but friends and family will be dropping by as well. Our halls are decked, the stocking are hung and you can’t find a double-A battery or heavy-duty extension cord for miles. What’s more, the larder is filled to overflowing.

What wonderful dishes will be on your holiday table? Will you do your best to keep it simple or put on an extravagant Christmas spread? One that puts Martha to shame. How about traditions? Is your great-grandmother’s famous goose on the menu? What about that infamous green bean casserole? If you’re like me you like to switch it up every so often.

Long before I was born, long before my parents were born, the Nye’s served turkey for Christmas dinner. It was Tradition with a capital T. Maybe that’s why I can still remember my mother announcing that she would no longer cook turkey for Christmas. We were just finishing up Thanksgiving dinner. She’d anticipated dissent and waited until everyone was full and happy. The room got quiet, forks full of apple pie stopped in mid-air but Mom plunged ahead. She was brilliant. With great enthusiasm, she shared her plan to cook the biggest, most beautiful rib roast she could find for Christmas. She cheerfully mentioned Mr. McIntyre, the local butcher extraordinaire. She touted the joys of a traditional English feast. Her pitch was so good I began to wonder if she was going to invite Tiny Tim and the rest of the Cratchit family to join us. With her inimitable charm and beautiful smile, she made it clear that this was no proposal and not up for debate.

Even if her decision was unilateral, that Christmas dinner was delicious and enjoyed by all. It also ushered in a new era for our family’s feast. Since then the only constant to our Christmas dinners is that they continue to change. Not necessarily every year but just often enough to keep us from getting set in our ways.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for tradition. My tree is decorated. My stocking is hung. However, a surprise or two is a great way to liven up your holiday table. Nervous? Don’t be. You may face a short-term insurrection when you announce that (after countless decades) you’re not getting up at 4 a.m. to put a turkey in the oven. Don’t worry; any grumbling will stop as soon as everyone takes their first bite of your delicious feast.

Whatever you serve, your holiday meals should be as easy as they are delicious. As far as I’m concerned, Mom was right. (Isn’t she always!?!) Turkey with all the trimmings seems more than a bit nuts with so much going on. Instead try a simple beef tenderloin or roasted salmon filet. It will be as delicious as it is easy. Then again, maybe you’ve got lots of people coming and going, a cousin who’s always late and no idea when everyone will sit down to dinner. If that’s the case, slow cook stews and braises are a great solution.

Whether you stick to the tried and true or experiment with new dishes, I wish you a warm and wonderful holiday and,

Bon appétit!

Braised Lamb with Artichokes and Mushrooms and Creamy Polenta
Everyone coming to your house for the holidays? No need to stress and worry over dinner. Let the lamb bubble in the oven while you enjoy a relaxing evening and each other’s company!

Serves 6

About 3 pounds boneless leg of lamb, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup dry red wine
1 cup canned crushed tomatoes
3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons fresh thyme
2 teaspoons chopped, fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
12 frozen artichoke hearts
Chopped parsley
Creamy Polenta (recipe follows)

Preheat theoven to 350 degrees.

Season the lamb with salt and pepper. Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole or Dutch-oven over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on both sides, about 5 minutes per side. Remove and reserve.

Add a little more olive oil to the pot if necessary; add the carrots, celery and onion and sauté until the onions start to become translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1-2 minutes more. Add the red wine, tomatoes, chicken stock and herbs and bring to a simmer.

Return the lamb to the pot, bring to a simmer, cover and transfer to the oven. Cook, turning the lamb 2 or 3 times, for 1 hour.

Sauté the mushrooms in a little olive oil over medium-high heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and artichoke hearts to the lamb. Continue cooking until the lamb is very tender; an additional 30-45 minutes. If dinner is delayed for any reason, it’s okay to turn down the heat and let it simmer a little longer.

Remove the lamb from the casserole and cut across the grain in thick slices. Serve with a dollop of Creamy Polenta, a spoonful of vegetables and sauce and a sprinkle of parsley.

The lamb can be made a few days ahead. Cook for 1 hour, add the mushrooms but not the artichokes and cook for 15-20 minutes more. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate. To reheat, bring to a simmer on top of the stove, add the artichokes and transfer to a 350 degree oven. Cook for about 30 minutes or until piping hot.

Creamy Polenta
6 Servings

1 cup instant polenta or grits
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup cream
1 ounce grated Pecorino Romano
1 ounce grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Make the polenta according to package directions. When the polenta is smooth and creamy, add the butter, cream, grated cheeses and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until the butter and cheeses are melted and well combined. Serve immediately.

Print-friendly version of this post.
One Year Ago – Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes
Two Years Ago – Savory Bread Pudding
Three Years Ago – Triple Chocolate Parfait
Or Click Here! for a complete list of and links to all the recipes on this blog!

What are you serving at your holiday party? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new stories and recipes.

Want more? Feel free to visit my photoblog Susan Nye 365 or click here for more recipes and magazine articles or here to watch me cook!I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2011

Holiday Special – Turkey for Christmas Dinner

Throughout December I’m sharing menus to help you create beautiful feasts for the holidays. You can find helpful cocktail party hints as well as a beautiful Mediterranean menu and recipes to ensure that your open house it is both fun and fabulous. I’ve got perfect dishes for a Feast of Seven Fishes Tapas Party for Christmas Eve and more.

Will you be serving a big dinner on Christmas or a festive holiday brunch? Big crowd or intimate gathering, I’ve put together some great suggestions for a tasty  Holiday Brunch.

If it’s dinner, I’ve got menus for two traditional favorites. Are you looking forward to a beautiful  roast beast? I’ve got you covered with a delicious menu for beef or pork tenderloinAnd today … 

… let’s talk turkey!

Are you among the 22 million who eat turkey for Christmas? Here are a few menu tips and recipes for a delicious turkey dinner with family and friends.

First – enjoy a few nibblies!
You don’t want to spoil anyone’s appetite but a few Sweet & Spicy Nuts, some Spicy Olives and a dab or two of Smoked Salmon Mousse will keep keep hunger at bay while the turkey roasts.

Kick off your feast with a great salad!
Salad is a great way to start your holiday feast. Mixed Greens with Roasted Grapes, Olives & Feta is a festive combination of sweet and savory. Mixed Greens with Roasted Mushrooms, Gorgonzola & Toasted Walnuts combines the woodsy flavor of mushrooms with a sprinkle of salty gorgonzola and toasty walnuts.

Move on to the main event!
Of course the star of show is a wonderful Turkey roasted to perfection. Cranberry Sauce is optional but I’m guessing most families will insist! Simplify the meal by combining the stuffing and veggies. Savory Butternut Squash & Swiss Chard Bread Pudding is one of my favorite festive cold weather dishes.

For a more traditional feast, serve the turkey with my Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pearl Onions and Decadent Cheesy Potatoes.

For a sweet finish!
Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie was a long standing tradition at our house when I was a kid. THen again, many families bake gingerbread for the holidays. Gingerbread Cupcakes are a sweet little take on this traditional favorite. Will there be lots of kids at your table? If yes, add some fun to your feast with Frosty the Snowman Cupcakes.

For an elegant, creamy dessert, the kind that everyone dreams of, try my Ginger Crème Brûlée. I’ll be making it on Christmas Eve again this year. Another creamy delicious option is my White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle. It is just wonderful.

Bon appétit and Happy Holidays!

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

What are you cooking for Christmas? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

Holiday Special – A Feast of Seven Fishes

The Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve has always intrigued me. I’m not Sicilian but I love seafood as well as all things Italian. That said … is Christmas Eve really the best time to tackle a seven course dinner? With all that’s going on, cooking seven elaborate courses as well as eating them … well, it seems a bit daunting.

But what if we reinvented the Feast and turned it into a Seven Fishes Tapas Party? A combination of easy, quick fix and do-ahead dishes might be just the ticket to a wonderful Christmas Eve feast.

Think long and lazy.  Enjoy a lovely glass of champagne or a crisp and cold dry white wine while you nibble. No one’s in a hurry, it’s okay to take some time between plates. It will give everyone a chance to visit and reconnect. Just remember to pace yourself. By serving very small portions everyone will be able to enjoy each and every dish.

If a seven course dinner (even if each plate is very small) seems like much too much, feel free to make yours a feast of fewer fishes or divide and conquer the menu. Let your friends and family volunteer to pitch in with the do-ahead dishes as well as the quick-cook recipes.

Kick off the evening with Smoked Salmon Mousse. It takes all of five minutes to whip up. Skip the toast points; instead serve it with cucumbers chunks for a light and bright start to your feast.

Next, enjoy some raw oysters on the half shell. Ask your fishmonger to open the oysters for you … maybe he will, maybe not but it doesn’t hurt to ask! If not, I found these simple instructions on line.

Serve the oysters with a simple sauce of raspberry vinegar and shallots. To make the sauce combine a 2:1 ratio of vinegar and diced shallots and season liberally with freshly ground pepper. Let the sauce sit for about 30 minutes before serving to combine the flavors.

Moving on, everyone will enjoy my Mediterranean Shrimp. It’s another quick fix dish but you can make it in advance, cool to room temperature and refrigerate. Remove from the refrigerator about 1 hour before serving to bring to room temperature.

Everyone loves lobster. Lobster Salad will be an easy addition to your feast. You can buy the lobster already cooked and removed from the shell. Toss it with a yummy tarragon vinaigrette and serve on a bed of spicy arugula.

A New England favorite, Steamed Mussels or Clams in Wine with Shallots and Garlic will warm everyone up. Sauté shallots, garlic and a few red pepper flakes in extra virgin olive oil or butter. Add dry white wine and bring to a boil. Toss in the mussels or clams, cover and steam until the shells open, 5-10 minutes. Serve the shellfish with chunks of warm crusty bread, the broth is wonderful!

A small spoonful of Butternut Squash Risotto topped with a Seared Scallop or two will delight your friends and family. If you don’t want to wait for risotto, toss small portions of angel hair pasta with Pistou and top with Scallops.

And finally, Swordfish with Caponata will remind you of summer sunshine on a cold winter’s night. Make the Caponata in advance. If you don’t want to get the grill going outside, roast the veggies in a 375 degree onion. Serve the Caponata warm – give it a quick sauté or reheat in a 375 degree oven for 15-20 minutes. Sear the swordfish on a hot grill pan and finish in a 375 degree oven for a few minutes.

And for dessert? Hopefully you’ve got some  Christmas Cookies  left. Serve them with tiny cups of Hot White Chocolate.

Bon appétit and have a wonderful feast!

For lots more seafood recipes Click Here!!

What are you serving at your holiday party? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below.

Want more? Click here for more seasonal menus! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. © Susan W. Nye, 2011

In the Kitchen … Tips for a Sane Christmas

Are you a nut when it comes to Christmas? Do you do and overdo absolutely everything? Does the following sound like you?

The lights and decorations in your yard are so bright they can be seen from Pluto.

Inside, your house looks like the cover of a glossy magazine.

Not only do you bake k’zillion cookies but each and every one is a miniature work of culinary art.

Christmas Eve dinner is at least five courses and you do another one on Christmas Day.

And don’t forget the magnificent holiday brunch you serve to the entire neighborhood around 11:00 on Christmas morning.

… the list can go on and on and on …

Here are a few tips for a sane Christmas from an admitted crazy person:

Christmas is Sunday this year. If you are having visitors you can count on a three or four day weekend. Your friends and relatives will start to arrive on Thursday evening and stay through Monday… some through New Year’s Day, so pace yourself.

It’s not too early to think about menus. Maybe your family has an age old tradition of turkey or beef tenderloin for Christmas so your menu is done. Or maybe not. Could be your budget can’t handle beef tenderloin for sixteen this year … don’t worry about it. There is always a yummy and frugal alternative. When it comes to turkey, it might be time to trim back on some of the trimmings. Just because Nana always served eight side dishes and four desserts doesn’t mean you have to!

And don’t forget, you still have the rest of the week(end) to consider and plan.

Once you have your menus, you can start to stock up. Check your recipes and make two lists. The first is for all the non-perishables and hardy ingredients you’ll need. Pick them up now. The second is for fresh produce, fish, chicken and meat … send someone else to store to pick up these ingredients. With a little organization, you can avoid a daily trip to the supermarket .

It’s not too early to stock the freezer. Whether it’s a gallon or two of soup or a couple of quarts of classic Bolognese sauce, everyone’s favorite lasagna or casserole, six dozen cookies or a batch of brownies, you can make it now and enjoy it later.

Divide and conquer. No one said YOU have to make-cook-bake everything. Spread the fun and let everyone lend a hand. Your cousin who can’t boil water can set the table. I’m guessing your ‘tweens and teenagers love to bake, let them at it. And you can’t tell me you don’t have a friend or sister-in-law with an extensive repertoire of hors d’oeuvres and appetizers or a world-famous potato gratin. If not, you can find yummy cakes at your local bakery and great appetizers and sides at your favorite deli. Don’t forget to order in advance!

As for the rest of the week(end)… Whether you’ve got college kids home for the holidays or middle-age kids up for a ski week, let everyone take a turn at dinner! What to do about the guy or gal whose specialty is making reservations? Let them take everyone out to dinner. Not in his or her budget? Well it’s time to develop a new specialty quickly … or order pizza!

Breathe deep. If at any time you start to feel rushed, frazzled or overwhelmed, step back, take a couple of deep breathes and relax. Or better yet laugh. Even if you can’t think of anything particularly funny, let out a little ha, ha, ha. Okay, a little louder now, ho, ho, ho! Repeat until you are relaxed and smiling again.

Anyway, what’s the worst that can happen? A healthy dose of perspective is a good thing any time and priceless during the holidays. So the turkey takes longer than expected. Your family will not disown you if dinner is served at 7:30 instead of 7:00.

And if the dog makes off with the pecan pie? Not only will you have a great story to tell for years to come but the ice cream for the pie à la mode will go great with a little Death by Chocolate Sauce. If you don’t already have a jar in your refrigerator, it takes minutes to make.

Even if you update or simplify your menu, I guarantee, everyone will be back next year. And if your nephew falls into a deep despair because you didn’t bake Grammie’s sweet potato casserole, the one with the mini marshmallows? Well, maybe he’ll volunteer to make it next year.

Happy holidays and bon appétit!

More Tips, Tricks & Tools

What are your favorite tips for a sane holiday? I’d love to hear from you! Let’s get a conversation going. To make a comment, just click on Comments below. I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new story and recipe every week.

Want more? Click here for lots more to read, see & cook! In addition, I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good. ©Susan W. Nye, 2011

Sweet Holidays to You & Ginger Crème Brûlée

It was a long time ago but looking back, I am filled with sympathy for the poor postman who came to our house everyday on Jackson Road. It wasn’t the dogs in the neighborhood, they were friendly. It was the holidays. Throughout December in freezing rain, sleet and snow he dragged his overloaded bag down slippery sidewalks and clamored over snow banks to reach our front door. Not just Christmas cards, he came bearing gifts. A few were from distant relatives but most were from business friends and colleagues of my dad’s. There were weighty ceramic crocks filled with cheese from Wisconsin and boxes of fruit from Florida.

One year the mailman brought us a fruitcake. I guess it was our turn.

It is not clear which was heaviest, the five pounds of cheese encased in thick crockery, the bushel of oranges or the fruitcake. Hailed as deluxe and coming all the way from Texas, that cake was studded with pecans and chock full of icky-sticky, brightly colored candied fruit. I know because, against my mother’s better judgment, I insisted that we try it

Mom was pessimistic and tried to dissuade me. But already a budding foodie and curious about most things culinary, my argument was simple. We liked fruit. We like cake. We liked my grandmother’s blueberry cake which combined fruit and cake. It only made sense that we would like this fruitcake from Texas.

I can’t be sure but I think I caught her in a moment of weakness. I’m guessing Mom was contemplating re-gifting and no doubt feeling guilty about it. She shouldn’t have been. As far as experts can determine there are only a couple hundred fruitcakes in existence. It only seems like more because they continually circle the globe in an endless cycle of re-gifting.

When I found her at the kitchen table with the fruitcake, Mom was checking her list in hopes of finding a good candidate for this hefty delight. Of course she couldn’t give it to the mailman. He’s the one who’d brought this plague of a gift into our house in the first place. The milkman, the cleaning lady and my great-aunt Bess were almost certainly on the list of possibilities. I interrupted her dithering and suggested that we try some. To her credit, Mom tried to explain the truth about fruitcake but I was seven or eight and innocent enough to think that cake was … well … cake.

That was the first, last and only time I’ve eaten fruitcake from Texas. Fancy tin or not, I’ve not been fooled again.

This doesn’t mean I’ve turned my back on sweet yuletide treats. Far from it. Over the years I’ve discovered that some, like ribbon candy, look better than they taste. Others, like sugar cookies and Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie are nothing less than holiday kitchen icons. And yes, I’ve been drawn in by some new trend or a glossy photograph on more than one occasion. The first time it was Bûche de Noel. I was in high school and spotted one of these magnificent cakes on the cover of Ladies Home Journal or maybe it was McCall’s. Thinking it would give our Christmas Eve table a little continental flare, Bûche de Noel became my contribution to the family feast. After a few years, I got bored with the Bûche but have continued to create an ever-changing parade of festive holiday treats. Everything from cookies, cookies and more cookies to chocolate cakes and crème brûlée have made their way into and out of my oven.

And yes, I do take requests.

Best wishes for a sweet holiday and bon appétit!

Ginger Crème Brûlée
This is my latest favorite Christmas Eve dessert. I served it for the first time last year and it was so good it’s on for an encore! Enjoy!
Serves 6-8

3 cups heavy cream
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 large egg
5 large egg yolks
1/2 cup brown sugar
Pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon dark rum
1-2 teaspoons sugar for each serving

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Stirring occasionally, bring the cream and ginger to a simmer in a heavy saucepan over low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let it steep for about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine the egg, egg yolks, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon with an electric mixer on low speed.

With the mixer on medium speed, very slowly add the warm cream to the eggs. (If you add it too quickly or in one go, the warm cream could scramble the eggs.) Add the vanilla and rum and combine. Strain the custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a large measuring cup. Pour the custard into 4- or 6-ounce ramekins until almost full.

Arrange the ramekins in a baking or roasting pan. Carefully pour boiling water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Bake for about 40 minutes or until the custards are set. Add more water to the pan if needed.

Carefully remove the ramekins from the water bath, cool to room temperature and refrigerate for at least two hours.

To serve, sprinkle 1-2 teaspoons sugar evenly over the top of each custard and heat with a kitchen blowtorch until the sugar caramelizes. Let the crème brûlées sit for a minute or two until the caramelized sugar hardens and serve.

Print-friendly version of this post.
One Year Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Two Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Three Years Ago – Chicken with Mushrooms, Tomatoes and Penne

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

I’d be delighted to add you to the growing list of blog subscribers. To subscribe: just scroll back up, fill in your email address and click on the Sign Me Up button. You’ll get an email asking you to confirm your subscription … confirm and you will automatically receive a new stories and recipes.

Want more? Feel free to visit my photoblog Susan Nye 365 or click here for more recipes and magazine articles or here to watch me cook!I hope that you will take a minute to learn about my philanthropic project Eat Well-Do Good.

© Susan W. Nye, 2011