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

Holiday Cocktails & Cheesy Spinach Tartlets

The holiday season means holiday parties. Don’t ask me why but expectations always seem to be over-the-top. Forget a casual get-together; it just won’t do. No indeed, our holiday parties should sparkle. If you’re thinking of hosting one this year, you may be feeling a wee bit of pressure. It’s okay, take a deep breath and don’t panic. After all, ’tis the season for holiday magic.

Be it dinner for eight or cocktails for fifty, don’t worry, everything will be smashing. Not only will you figure it out, you might even keep your sanity. First, let’s start by stating categorically and for the record that one-of-a-kind, special and specular do not mean perfect. After all, why settle for perfect when you can have wonderful?

It starts with the company. Collect a group of brilliant, funny conversationalists and the party will be a success. Good company makes for a good party. However, add great food and a beautiful setting and the evening becomes exceptional.

Whenever you put together an eclectic group, it’s a good idea to enlist some kind of conversation starter. Some hosts do it with ugly sweaters or twenty questions. I find that food, yes food, is a fantastic ice breaker. Set out a beautiful cheese board and someone will share a story about a recent trip to France. Smoked salmon with all the fixings will encourage a tall tale of a fishing trip or Christmas Eve smorgasbord.

Keep it simple but elegant. There is no need to buy box after box of hors d’oeuvres from Trader Joes or Costco. Instead, think homemade and two or three, not tens, of different appetizers to pass. Add a few beautiful platters, scatter bowls of olives and nuts or other nibbles and you’ve got it covered.

Every family has its holiday food traditions. From oysters on the half shell to Christmas cakes and sugar cookies, certain foods are inextricably linked to yuletide. When planning your menu, consider bringing a few updated family favorites to the table. That said, you might want to skip the green Jello salad in the Christmas tree mold. Some things are better left in the past.

End on a sweet note. Let’s face it, at least a few of your friends are night owls and don’t know when it’s time to go home. A subtle and delicious hint is to put the savory treats away and pass a tray of holiday cookies. After all, aren’t you suppose to go home after dessert? Even if they don’t get the hint, be flattered. Everyone is having too much fun to call it a night.

Now for the decorations. Start with lots of greenery and boughs of holly. Next, big bowls of simple glass balls are lovely – especially in candlelight. Elegant gold and silver or cheery red – it’s up to you. Of course, you will want to bring out all your favorite decorations. Whether you have a grand army of nutcrackers or Santas from around the globe, your collection is part of your holiday story.

Finally, everything looks better by candlelight. I’m rather fond of red candles for the holidays but it’s up to you. Fat ones, skinny ones, tall and short, more is better so don’t be shy. (Do be careful to place candles where they won’t be knocked over. As much as we love our volunteer firefighters, I’m guessing you’d rather they come as guests – not to the rescue.)

Have a lovely party and bon appétit!

Cheesy Spinach Tartlets
For a delicious little nibble, pass flavorful tartlets at your holiday cocktail party. You can buy and fill phyllo tartlet shells or make your own pastry. Enjoy!
Makes about 24 tartlets

Savory Tartlet Pastry (recipe follows) or frozen Phyllo Tartlet Shells
Olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
8 ounces frozen spinach, thawed, drained and squeezed dry
2 large eggs
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 teaspoon thyme
Pinch nutmeg
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 cup shredded mozzarella
Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

If using Savory Tartlet Pastry, make the dough and divide into 1 1/2 to 2-inch balls. Place the balls in mini muffin tins and, using your fingers, shape each ball into a tartlet shell. Place the tins in the freezer for 15 minutes. If using phyllo tartlet shells, put the shells in mini muffin tins and store in the freezer until ready to fill.

While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and make the spinach filling.

Heat a little olive oil in a skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more. Remove from the heat, stir in the spinach and cool for a few minutes.

Put the eggs in a bowl and whisk until smooth. Add the ricotta, season with thyme, nutmeg, salt and pepper and whisk until smooth. Fold in the spinach and mozzarella.

Spoon the filling into the tartlet shells, sprinkle the tops with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and bake until the filling sets and the top and crusts are golden, about 20 minutes. Cool in the tins for 5 minutes before removing and serving. You may need to use a small knife to loosen the tartlets.

The tartlet shells and filling can be prepped 1 day in advance and stored separately.

Savory Tartlet Pastry
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
4 ounces (1 stick) cold butter, cut into small pieces
3 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces
2-3 or more tablespoons ice water

Put the flour and salt in a food processor and pulse to combine. Add the butter and cream cheese and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Gradually add the ice water and pulse until the dough comes together in large clumps. Remove the dough from the food processor, pat into a ball and wrap in plastic or parchment paper. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to 1 day.

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One Year Ago – Romaine, Radicchio & Avocado Salad with Pomegranate & Walnuts
Two Years Ago – Garlicy Shrimp with Tomatoes & Olives
Three Years Ago – Wild Rice Pilaf with Roasted Mushrooms & Kale
Four Years Ago – Maple-Nut Sundaes
Five Years Ago – Rosemary Cashews
Six Years Ago – Greek Stuffed Mushrooms
Seven Years Ago – Ginger Crème Brûlée
Eight Years Ago – Aunt Anna’s Pecan Pie
Nine Years Ago – White Chocolate & Cranberry Trifle
Ten 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!

What are your favorite holiday cocktail party tips? Feel free to share!

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

The Holiday Season Bucket List & Macadamia Snow Balls


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The run up to Christmas has begun.
There are all sorts of festive activities to get you in the spirit. From a sledding party to a midnight church service there’s lots to keep you busy. So busy that you might want to make a list and check it twice. You don’t want to let the everyday get in the way of holiday magic. So, here’s to getting in the spirit and filling December with lots of traditional holiday fun.

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Need a little help to get started? Here are a couple of ideas:

Christmas cookies. Whether you track down Nana’s recipe cards or try something fancy and new, Christmas and cookies just go together. Should you decide to take it over the top, a palatial gingerbread house is always a possibility.

Deck the halls.
With several inches of snow on the ground and crutches under my arms, my house will not be ablaze in twinkle lights. Nor will I be climbing any ladders. However, I will definitely scatter some of my favorite decorations around the house. What about you?

Carol sing. If you are like me, you tend to hum Christmas carols throughout December. Fellow hummers will want to be on the lookout for opportunities to sing out loud and strong. In the unlikely occurrence that you can’t find a sing-along, invite friends in for a glass of wine and a song or two.

Tree lighting. A tree lighting is an excellent excuse for us country folk to head down to the big city. The sparkling decorations will make you feel like a kid again. Before returning home, be sure to enjoy a great meal in a fabulous restaurant.

Lights tour. If you can’t get to the city, a neighbor lights tour is a good alternative. A favorite childhood event, my family always spent an evening searching for the biggest and best displays. I’m sure we always found them.

Christmas craft. There is nothing like hot glue and pine cones to get you in the holiday spirit. For even more fun, invite the kids. A knitting lesson with Grandma or building a birdhouse with Dad will create lasting memories.

Read a holiday classic. A favorite Christmas story never gets old. Mine chronicles the life and adventures of Saint Nicolas. For years, it was our December bedtime story. Reading it draws me close to my mother and her indominable holiday spirit.

See a live holiday performance. Try a classic – like the Nutcracker. From big city ballet companies to your neighborhood dance studio, there are lots of opportunities to see Clara dance with her prince. Ballet not your thing? A holiday concert or Christmas Revels might be just the ticket.

Visit Santa. For shy kids, boisterous kids and everyone in between, a visit with Santa is a must. Even if you don’t have a child in tow, it’s a good time to visit with friends and neighbors. Seeing Santa will make you smile. And besides, there will probably be cookies and maybe even a sing-along.

Do good works. The end of the year is when many of us write checks to our favorite worthy causes. It’s also a good time to show your thanks for a wonderful life by helping others less fortunate. Drive a friend to the doctor, shovel a neighbor’s walk or share that batch of cookies you baked.

Have a wonderful holiday season and bon appétit!

Macadamia Snow Balls
Bake up a batch of these buttery cookies this holiday season. You’ll be glad you did. Enjoy! 
Makes about 4 dozen cookies

4 ounces macadamia nuts
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cardamom
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
White Chocolate Ganache
About 1 cup coconut

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Line cookies sheets with parchment paper or silicon mats.

Put the nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the flour, baking powder and spices and pulse to combine.

Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar on low speed until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat until well combined. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients and beat until the dough comes together. Cover the bowl and chill until the dough is firm, about 2 hours.

Using a small cookie scoop or 2 teaspoons, make dollops of batter. Use your hands to roll the dollops into balls. Place the balls onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake at 325 degrees until pale golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and cool to room temperature.

While the cookies cool, make the White Chocolate Ganache. Spread warm ganache  on top of each cookie and then dip in the coconut. Let the ganache set before serving or storing.

To store: layer cookies between sheets of wax or parchment paper in an airtight container. The cookies will keep at room temperature for up to 1 week. If making ahead, freeze before frosting.

White Chocolate Ganache
6 ounces white chocolate
1 tablespoon butter
3 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons sifted confectioner’s sugar

Put the chocolate, butter and cream in a heavy saucepan over low heat. When the chocolate and butter are about 1/3 melted, remove from the heat, let sit for a minute or two and whisk until melted and smooth. Add the confectioner’s sugar and whisk again until smooth.

Let cool for a few minutes before frosting the cookies.

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One Year Ago – Ginger-Orange Cheesecake
Two Years Ago – Chocolate Walnut Tart
Three Years Ago – Citrus & Spice Sugar Cookies
Four Years Ago – Peppermint Bark Cookies
Five Years Ago – Mixed Reds & Greens Holiday Salad
Six Years Ago – Snowy Pecan Balls
Seven Years Ago – Chocolate Truffles
Eight Years Ago – Smoked Salmon Mousse
Nine Years Ago – Roasted Beans
Ten Years Ago – Winter Soup with Pasta, Beans & Greens

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

What’s your favorite Christmas cookie recipe? Feel free to share!

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