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Holiday Party Dinner: A Crowd-Pleasing Meal

Holiday Party Dinner: A Crowd-Pleasing Meal

It’s Christmas Eve! The holidays approached much quicker this year, maybe because it was the first time I wasn’t in school.

dinner party

 

What kind of traditions do you do? My family has a strange tradition, we go to a Japanese Steakhouse (hibachi grill where they cook in front of you) every Christmas Eve. I really don’t even know how it came about, but we’ve been doing it since I was like 8, so we just keep it up. This year I was ready to change the tradition and find a nice restaurant with a prix fixe menu, but my mom said “We have to keep with tradition.” I don’t know how I feel about that… I get tired of the lack of variety at a Japanese Steakhouse.

We usually go to Christmas Eve mass at 6, but this year we’re going to Midnight mass. Not sure how the old lady (AKA me) will be able to stay up that late, I can barely stay awake in a crowded bar at night! On the way to mass, we creepily drive through neighborhoods and look at everyone’s lights. Okay, its not that creepy.

It doesn’t matter how old I am, we always end Christmas Eve with my dad reading “The Night Before Christmas” to us. Now that we’re older, he improvises and does some ad-lib, which sometimes can be a little inappropriate. haha

We had our family Christmas party yesterday. I made the whole meal and it turned out to be a crowd pleaser:

pork roast

a pork roast with clementines and an orange caramel sauce

roasted honey cinnamon heirloom carrots

tri color carrots

white and green roasted asparagus with balsamic vinegar

roasted garlic red potatoes

And for dessert, a peppermint white chocolate and plain chocolate mousse with crushed peppermint

White Chocolate Peppermint Mousse

WHITE PEPPERMINT CHOCOLATE AND REGULAR CHOCOLATE MOUSSE

Chocolate:

2 cups chilled heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
7 oz semi-sweet chocolate morsels

  1. Heat 3/4 cup cream in a 1-quart heavy saucepan until hot. Whisk together yolks, sugar, and a pinch of salt in a metal bowl until combined well, then add hot cream in a slow stream, whisking until combined. Transfer mixture to saucepan and cook over moderately low heat, stirring constantly, until it registers 160°F on thermometer. Pour custard through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl and stir in vanilla.
  2. Melt chocolate in microwave, 1 minute at a time on 50% power until melted.
  3. Beat remaining 1 1/4 cups cream in a bowl with an electric mixer until it just holds stiff peaks. Whisk one fourth of cream into chocolate custard to lighten, then fold in remaining cream gently but thoroughly.

White: 

1 cup heavy whipping cream, divided
6 oz good quality white chocolate, chopped
1/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
1 tablespoon crushed peppermint candy, for garnish

  1. Heat 1/2 cup cream in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until hot but not boiling. Remove from heat and stir in the chocolate until melted, then stir in the peppermint extract. Cool completely, about 10 minutes in the freezer, stirring once halfway through. Whisk the mixture a couple times to thicken.
  2. Beat the remaining 1/2 cup cream until firm peaks form. Gently fold the chocolate mixture into the whipped cream.

Assembly: 

Spoon the chocolate mousse into 8 glasses of your choice. Sprinkle with crushed peppermint. Spoon the white chocolate mousse on top and finish with another sprinkle of crushed peppermint.

I started with a layer of chocolate mousse and then ended with peppermint white chocolate

I started with a layer of chocolate mousse and then ended with peppermint white chocolate

Everything turned out wonderful, and despite spending 1pm-5pm in the kitchen, I really didn’t feel overwhelmed. The roast is a perfect way to use up all those Clementines that go on sale this time of year. My family was a little thrown off about the tri-color carrots and the white asparagus, but when they tasted it the color didn’t matter. This is a well rounded meal and looks fancy without using a ton of ingredients.

My bro and two cousins, despite being the oldest I"m the shortest!

My bro and two cousins, despite being the oldest I”m the shortest!

Weekend Entertaining: Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

Weekend Entertaining: Cranberry Orange Coffee Cake

I’ve made it back home to Tampa for the holidays, so naturally the first thing I did was started baking in the kitchen. Does anyone else have a hard time picking out recipes? I spent an hour today just looking for different recipes to bake. I sat down around 11am… By the time I went to the store to get ingredients and came back to cook, it was 1pm!

One recipe that was easy to decide on baking was this coffee cake. It has all the Christmas-y flavors you want in a morning pastry (is it a pastry? No, but I can’t think of a better word)

coffee cake

This cake is from Joy the Baker… a great breakfast recipe to serve company. I gifted this to my friends and their family- the colors make it look fancy! The orange zest and juice taste amazing contrasted with the tart cranberries.

For the Cake:

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cup granulated sugar

3 teaspoons baking powder


1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into medium chunks

2 eggs, beaten

1 1/2 cups fresh squeezed orange juice

2 tablespoon orange zest

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh cranberries

1 cup coarsely chopped pecans

For the Topping:

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, cold

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan.  Line loaf pan with parchment paper, leaving a few inches of overhang on each side.  Grease the parchment paper and dust with flour on all sides.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together flour sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.  Add chunks of butter and work the butter into the flour with your fingers.  Try to blend the butter into each bit of the dry ingredients.  The mixture will resemble a coarse meal.

In a medium bowl whisk together eggs, orange juice, orange zest, and vanilla extract.

Add the wet ingredients all at once to the dry ingredients.  Stir together to incorporate.  Add the cranberries and pecans and fold into the batter.

To make the topping combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingertips until crumbly.

Divide the batter between the two loaf pans.  Sprinkle each loaf with topping.  Place in the oven and allow to bake until the cake is golden brown and the center is cooked through.  Insert a skewer into the center of the cake to ensure that it’s cooked through, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the pans for 15 minutes. Use the parchment paper to life the loaves from the pan and allow to cool further on a wire rack.

For the glaze I whisked together 1 cup of powdered sugar and just over a tablespoon of milk.  I drizzled it over the cooled coffee cake.

Cake can be stored, well wrapped at room temperature, for up to 5 days.
coffee cake

 

Simple Roasted Chicken

Simple Roasted Chicken

I don’t know why people are scared of whole chickens. Maybe because it sorta looks like a real chicken? Or maybe its the bones? The amount of meat? Anyone out there have these fears?

Well you really shouldn’t be intimidated by a whole bird. Its actually one of the easiest meals to prepare and it looks really elegant. For this chicken, I just did a basic combination of herbs and olive oil. The oil is essential to keep the chicken from drying out, and it gives the skin a nice bronzed look and crispy flavor.

Use this for your next early holiday party!

INGREDIENTS

1 whole roaster chicken

2-3 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp minced garlic

variety of herbs, amount depends on tastes but start with a teaspoon each:

thyme

oregano

rosemary

marjoram

salt and pepper

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Wash and pat dry the whole chicken. Make sure to remove the bag of “innards” and throw in the garbage.

Rub olive oil all over the chicken, making sure to coat the inside cavity and under the wings/legs. When you’re done, do the same with the garlic.

In a small bowl, mix together the herbs and salt/pepper. Sprinkle evenly over chicken breast.

Put the chicken in a shallow oven dish. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes breast side down, then turn breast side up and roast for another 30 minutes. Check to make sure the chicken is done, an internal temperature of 170 degrees.

 

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