Monday, December 23, 2013

NYE: Sparkle and Shine

This year has really flown by and this holiday season is coming fast with only 1 day for shopping left!  As I look back on 2013 I am so fortunate to have celebrated my first year of marriage, traveled through France and Italy (that post is coming soon, I promise!), and share my success and life with the people I love most.  This year I will be spending the holidays in California for the first time even though I've lived here for almost 11 years.  While my husband and I will be sharing an exquisite surf and turf dinner (check our Instagram for upcoming pics), I will definitely be missing my family and friends on the East Coast.

My lovely friends who I wrote about in November will be ringing in the New Year together...with all nine of their kids!!  I'm sad to miss the festivities again but am very excited to supply the recipes for their adult appetizers, the cocktail and a treat for the kids.  Last year my dear friend Erica from Conflicted Pixie helped us all in guiding us what to wear for the perfect Christmas Eve party while I suggested some great wines to serve.  This year she has out done herself and has found some beautiful, and always affordable, serving ware, glassware, and of course what to wear for this NYE.  Thanks to her my cocktail will be sure to sparkle in these glasses and my appetizers are bound to shine on these serving plates.  

So while they may be celebrating this holiday with their kids, they will be sure to do it in style!  Hopefully next year Greg and I will be able to join them and maybe we'll be adding to the kid count. 

Happy Holidays!

Baked Brie with Savory Fig Chutney

12.5 ounce brie round
4 fresh figs, roughly chopped (dried figs will work too)
1/2 cup fig spread 
1/4 cup roasted and salted pistachio nutmeats, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Salt and pepper to taste
French baguette or water crackers 

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Remove the rind from the top of the brie and dig out a small amount of the brie to make an indent.  Place the brie round in a parchment paper lined baking dish.  Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl add the figs, fig spread, and thyme.  Mix until all ingredients are well combined.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.  Pour the fig mixture on top of the brie.  Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.  Sprinkle the pistachios on top and bake for another 5-10 minutes.  The center should be soft and the fig chutney should be hot.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly, about 5 minutes.  

Carefully remove the baked brie from the baking dish using the the parchment paper.  Using the spatula carefully transfer the baked brie to a serving platter and serve with a sliced french baguette or water crackers.  Makes about 6-8 servings.

Sweet Potato and Chorizo Skewers with Roasted Garlic - Lemon Creme Fraiche Dipping Sauce

2 large sweet potatoes, washed and cut into 1 inch cubes or triangles
8 ounces dry cured Spanish chorizo, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 - 7.5 ounce container creme fraiche
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 garlic bulb, roasted and then chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
20-30 Small wooden skewers

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small mixing bowl place the creme fraiche, lemon juice, and roasted garlic.  Mix until well combined.  Season with a bit of salt and pepper and stir to combine. Transfer the creme fraiche dipping sauce into a small serving bowl and set aside.

Boil a large pot of water.  Place the sweet potatoes into the pot and boil for 3-4 minutes.  Remove the sweet potatoes from the pot and drain well.  Lightly grease a foil lined baking sheet with a bit of olive oil.  Place the boiled sweet potatoes on the prepared baking sheet.  Brush the sweet potatoes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Bake in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, turning half way through, until crispy and turning golden brown.  

While the sweet potatoes are baking skewer the chorizo onto the wooden skewers.  Once the sweet potatoes are done remove from the oven and carefully skewer them onto the chorizo prepared skewers.  Serve hot with the creme fraiche dipping sauce.  Makes about 25-30 skewers.

Basil-Almond Pesto and Mascarpone Cheese Pastry Puffs with Sun Dried Tomato Dipping Sauce

1/2 cup almond-basil pesto
1/2 cup mascarpone cheese
2 sheets pastry puff, thawed
1 - 8.5 ounce jar sun dried tomatoes in olive oil
4 small fresh tomatoes, deseeded and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons plain Greek yogurt
European Herbed Oil to drizzle
Wooden toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees

In a small food processor place the sun dried tomatoes with the olive oil in the jar and fresh tomatoes.  Pulse to combine.   Add the Greek yogurt, season with salt and pepper and pulse to combine.  Transfer the mixture into a serving bowl and drizzle with the European herbed oil.  Set aside.

In a small mixing bowl place the almond-basil pesto and mascarpone cheese.  Stir until well combined.  Set aside.

Roll out the puff pastry until it's about 11x14 inches.  Using a 2-1/2 inch square or round cookie cutter or ravioli cutter, cut out the pastries.  Place about 1/4 teaspoon of the pesto-mascarpone cheese mixture in the center of the pastry.  Bring up 2 opposite corners of the pastry and stick one toothpick in it securing it tightly.  Repeat with the other two corners.  Pinch any bits of the pastry together making sure the pesto mixture is tuck in tight.  

Place the pastry puff on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and bake for about 20-25 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove the pastry puffs from the oven and discard the toothpicks and serve warm with the sun dried tomato dipping sauce.  Makes about 30-32 pastry puffs.

Sparkling Pear and Vanilla Bean Cocktail

2 cups Vodka (1.5 ounces for a single serving)
1-1/2 whole vanilla beans (1/4 of whole vanilla bean for a single serving)
1 - 32 ounce jar pear juice (I use R.W. Knudsen, 3 ounces for a single serving)
2-3 bottles prosecco
2 cinnamon sticks, plus extra for garnish

In a large airtight jar or container pour in the vodka.  Cut the vanilla beans in half and scrape the beans into the jar or container.  Then drop the whole vanilla bean in.  Stir to combine.  Add the pear juice and cinnamon sticks and stir to combine.  Marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.  

Making the cocktail: In an ice filled glass pour about half to 3/4 full of the pear vanilla vodka mixture.  Top with the prosecco and garnish with a cinnamon stick.  Makes about 10-12 servings.

Kids Corner

Because my Gingerbread Cookie Cocktail has been so popular this holiday season on Pinterest and the blog, I thought why not make it kid/non-alcoholic friendly.  Now my favorite cute kids can join in on the sparkly fun of ringing in the new year!

Gingerbread Cookie Ice Cream Float

1-1/2 quarts vanilla bean ice cream, softened
2 cups ginger snap cookies, crushed
1 six pack IBC Cream Soda

In a blender or food processor blend the vanilla ice cream and ginger snap cookies until combined.  Return the gingerbread cookie ice cream to carton and refreeze overnight.

Making the floats: In a glass (or plastic cup) scoop 1 scoop of ice cream into the glass and top with the cream soda.  Serve with a festive straw and spoon.  Makes about 8-10 servings.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Veggie Baked Eggs

This year, I made these veggie packed, baked eggs for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.  I know, most of you think we are crazy to eat before eating some more.  However, it is proven that eating breakfast before indulging in a large meal will not only prep your stomach for the amount of food you will be eating, but also may keep you from piling up your plate with some unwanted (but oh-so-delicious) calories.  Also, it gave us cooks in the kitchen some energy to keep on cooking throughout the day.  

Veggie Baked Eggs

1 tablespoon butter
1 cup crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon dry white wine
1/2 cup leeks, chopped (light green and white parts only)
1 cup curly red kale, chopped
5-6 large eggs
2-3 tablespoons milk
1/3 cup feta cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grease a 1-1/2 quart baking dish with butter and set aside.

Crack the eggs into a small mixing bowl.  Add the milk and season with salt and pepper.  Whisk to combine.  Add the feta and stir to combine.  Set aside.

In a large pan melt the butter.  Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until tender occasionally stirring.  Add the thyme and stir to combine and cook for another 1-2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook until all the liquid has been absorbed.  Add the leeks and cook for about 3 minutes, until tender.  Add the kale and cook stirring continuously for about 2-3 minutes until the kale has wilted a bit.  Season with salt and pepper.  

Pour the vegetable mixture into the prepared baking dish.  Pour the egg mixture on top and give it a good stir to combine all the ingredients.  Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes.  Makes 4-6 servings.

Notes:  My favorite thing about this recipe is that it is so versatile and lots of substitutions can be made depending on your taste.  Here are some additions or substitutions you could use.

Red or green bell peppers
Cheddar cheese
Breakfast sausage

Monday, December 16, 2013

Gourmet Gifts

'Tis the season of gift giving has arrived upon us.  For some have carefully pick out their gifts and have already wrapped them and put them under the tree.  While others are scurrying to finish up the last few people on their list.  And for those of you who are looking for a last minute, easy and inexpensive gift for that coworker, teacher or friend you almost forgot, here are a few ideas which are way more thoughtful and creative than a gift card.  Oh, and they also make great stocking suffers too!

Basket and oil bottle: T.J. Maxx, Spice jar: Ikea, Flour sack dish towels: Bed Bath & Beyond (no longer available).

Winter Blend Coffee

1-1/2 cups medium or dark roast whole coffee beans
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon whole cloves
1 teaspoon whole rainbow or black peppercorns

Place all ingredients into and airtight container.  Cover with a lid and shake to combine.  Grind and use when needed.

Christmas Candy Bark

2 - 12 ounce bags semi-sweet chocolate chips (I use Nestle)
6 - .55 ounce Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, cut each cup into 8 wedges
3 - 1.4 ounce Hershey's Skor Bars, roughly chopped
1-1/2 cups Christmas red and green M&M's
1/2 cup premium quality white chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)

In a medium sauce pan, melt the semi-sweet chocolate chips over low heat, constantly stirring.  Pour the melted chocolate onto a 9x13 foil lined rimmed baking sheet and spread evenly to about 1/4 inch thick.  Sprinkle the Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, Skor Bar and M&M's over the melted chocolate.  Set aside.

In a small sauce pan over low heat melt the white chocolate chips constantly stirring.  Drizzle the white chocolate over the bark.  Refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight until the bark has hardened.

When the bark is ready, remove it from the refrigerator and roughly chop into large irregular pieces.  Serve on a platter or wrap into small plastic bags.

Meyer Lemon-Basil Sea Salt

1 cup coarse sea salt
1/2 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
2 Meyer lemons, zested

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees.

In a small food processor combine the sea salt and basil.  Grind until the sea salt and basil are completely combined.  Add the Meyer lemon zest and pulse to combine.  Pour the sea salt mixture on to a rimmed baking sheet and bake for 8-10 minutes until it has dried out.  Allow the sea salt to cool.  Once cooled enough to handle break apart the sea salt and store in an airtight container or spice jar.  Use as a finishing salt on fish, chicken or salads or simply use it as a seasoning while cooking.

Other Great Gourmet Gifts:
Infused oils
Wine infused compound butter
Five festive beers
Holiday wines