Tag Archives: Holidays

Christmas Eve Dinner 2022 – An Easy(ish) Family Christmas

It’s the third year of the COVID pandemic, and the first of the Tripledemic, so we once again had a very simple family Christmas Eve dinner, without any friends atoll – though our daughter’s boyfriend did spend Xmas Eve with us.

I had originally thought I’d ordered take out for this dinner, but my oldest daughter objected, so I decided on a simplified Xmas Eve menu that wouldn’t tax me too much. There were, of course, changes, compromises and courses dropped:

1- I decided that we wouldn’t have different dishes or silverware for different courses this year. One fork, one plate. We don’t have a dishwasher, so this was about saving my husband dishwashing time ūüôā

2- I decided against having a soup course. The kids haven’t really liked soup lately, and not having soup would mean fewer dishes to wash.

3- Sorbet. First, I had some grandiose thoughts of making a champagne and strawberry sorbet, then I decided to just get some at the supermarket, but it wasn’t on sale, so I skipped it altogether.

4- The main dish. I had originally planned to make beef bourguignon – an old favorite, comfort food at its best. BUT chuck was not on sale this week and there is no way I’m going to pay $10/lb for what should be a cheap cut. Lately, I found some chuck in the freezer, but by then it was too late. Instead, I made a ribeye roast – because that’s what was on sale this week ($6/lb at a variety of restaurants).

5- I had meant to make a Gateaux Basque for dessert. Indeed, I had meant to make that, at my husband’s request, for Thanksgiving and then Family Christmas before. It didn’t happen then and it didn’t happen now either. Though I had already made the pastry cream, I didn’t want to bother with the cake – so at the last minute I decided to make a Basque cheesecake instead.

6- Photos. Yes, I meant to take them, but as I was busy cooking and serving dinner and didn’t nag my family members to take photos, none were taken :-(.

This is what I ended up serving:

First Course: Mini Quiche

These were bought from Trader Joe’s and they were pretty good. They have both bacon & onion and cheese & mushroom flavors. My youngest didn’t like them, but the rest of us did.

Second Course: Caesar Salad

This is the only salad my youngest likes, and I simplified my life by buying a Fresh Express Caesar Supreme salad kit. My youngest approved, though she felt there wasn’t enough dressing.

Third Course: Bastilla

My oldest had been asking for bastilla from Thanksgiving on, and this time I finally made it. I made a vegetarian one for her, using faux chicken, and a regular one for us. All of us – save my youngest who didn’t even want to try it – loved it.

Fourth Course: Cheese Plate

This was supposed to be our fifth course – served after the main dish – but as my youngest hadn’t wanted to eat either the quiche or the bastilla, she was very hungry and didn’t want to wait for the main dish to be ready to be served. So I switched. I served three cheese that I had bought at Trader Joe’s: triple cream brie, mini Basque cheese and Italian truffle cheese, along with apple slices, quince jelly and homemade bread. I had actually meant to get a baguette instead, but I waited too long and by the time my daughter made it to Safeway, the place was packed – so my oldest came to the rescue and made bread instead. Unfortunately, my youngest ended up not liking any of the cheeses. I’m going to have to try to figure out what cheeses she actually does like.

Fifth Course: Herb Crusted Prime Rib Roast with Roasted Potatoes, Sautéed Mushrooms and Popovers.

I wasn’t excited about making a roast, but it worked out very well. I got the bone-in ribeye roast from Safeway, and it was surprisingly good. I used Lisa’s recipe though I added some oregano to the butter and modified the roasting instructions to fit my need to cook the bastillas, popovers and potatoes. This worked so well that I will probably continue cooking my roast this way going forward.

The mushrooms, I sautéed with shallot and garlic, but were just OK. I used baby potatoes which I cut in two and covered with olive oil, salt, pepper, minced garlic and rosemary. By doing that and keeping them in a plastic bag in the fridge, I was able to prepare them in advance without them oxidizing. I just transferred them to a baking sheet and roasted them as the popovers cooked.

I used Ina Garten’s recipe for Popovers, which is a pretty standard recipe. It worked fine, but next time I’d fill the popover pan all the way to the top for the real spectacular popover effect.

Herb Crusted Prime Rib Roast recipe

  • 6 – 7 lb Bone-In Ribeye Roast
  • 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp minced rosemary
  • 1 tsp minced thyme
  • 1/2 tsp minced oregano

Remove roast from the fridge. Dry all over with a paper towel and let sit, uncovered, for 2 1/2 hours.

Meanwhile, prepare the herbed butter. In a medium bowl, mix the softened butter with the rest of the ingredients.

Preheat oven to 450F. Cover the roast with butter on all sides. Place in a roasting pan bone side down. Roast for 20 minutes. Turn oven temperature down to 325F and continue roasting for about 1 1/2 hours. Raise heat to 425F and roast until the internal temperature reaches 120F for medium rare, about 15-20 minutes. Remove and let rest, covered with aluminum foil or a kitchen towel, for 20 – 30 minutes

Sixth Course: Basque Burnt Cheesecake and Dulce de Leche Granizado Ice Cream

The Basque burnt cheesecake is basically a NY cheesecake that doesn’t have a crust and which is baked at a higher temperature. This turns it into a lighter/airier but firmer cheesecake with a burnt top. The consistency is a bit more ashy than regular cheesecake, but the flavor is very similar. I think I prefer the American type. I based mine on a recipe from Bon Appetit.

Dulce de Leche granizado ice cream is dulce de leche ice cream with shaved semi-sweet chocolate incorporated into it. I’ve tried to recreate the ice cream I grew up eating in Argentina, but to no avail so far. This time, I made it by mixing 2 cups of dulce de leche with 1/2 cup of whole milk and then adding 2 cups of heavy cream. I put it in the ice cream maker, added shaved chocolate and froze it. The flavor was good but the consistency was off. Still, we enjoyed it. It didn’t really go with the cake, but we were all too full to eat dessert anyway, so we had it later.

Basque Burnt Cheesecake

  • 2 lbs cream cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/3 cup flour

Preheat oven to 400F. Let cream cheese and eggs come to room temperature.


Grease a 9″ or 10″ spring form pan. Cover bottoms and sides with two pieces of parchment paper, about 2″ longer than edges of the pan.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the cheese and sugar together over medium-low until the sugar dissolves. Increase the speed to medium and add the eggs, one at the time, waiting until each is mixed in before adding the next one. Turn heat to medium-low. Mix in the salt and vanilla extract. Sift the flour onto the bowl. Continue mixing until incorporated, about 30 seconds. Pour into prepared pan.

Bake for 60 minutes or until the top of the cake is a dark, burnt color. Let cool for an hour and then refrigerate for a few more hours.

Marga’s Holiday Recipes


Thanksgiving 2022 – Menu & Recipes

This year, my sister and her family came to visit us for Thanksgiving. It took me forever to decide in a menu, nothing really inspired me. I knew I wanted to make poultry for dinner – both as a stand for the traditional turkey that nobody likes, and because my mother, who won’t eat poultry, wasn’t coming, so it seemed like a good opportunity. First I thought about making Basque Chicken, and from there do a Basque meal. But I couldn’t find enough vegetarian recipes without peppers to satisfy my daughter’s likes. Then I read a post on FB that mentioned someone was making chicken and dumplings, a recipe I just love and that my father used to make when I was a little kid. So I thought I’d make a menu based on family recipes – but it turns out most of what I used to eat growing up is not special enough for a Thanksgiving dinner. So, I finally decided to make Calypso Chicken, because it was an old favorite, and ended up with an “old favorite” menu. Originally, it was /also/ supposed to include a bunch of persimmon dishes: soup, lassi, sorbet and pie – but this year my persimmons are ripening slowly, so I only managed to get a couple for the soup.

I didn’t sleep well the night before Thanksgiving, however, and I was really exhausted through dinner. That means that I messed up some things as I slept walk through it.

This is what I ended up with.

Salad

So my original intention was to make a salad based on this Pear & Goat Cheese Salad with Caramelized Walnuts and Cranberries recipe I’ve made before and liked. But the road to hell is paved with new intentions. First, I decided to use butter lettuce instead of mixed green because my kids – who ended up not eating it anyway – only like lettuce. Then I decided to cut corners and use a store-bought Raspberry Poppy Seed dressing instead of making a vinaigrette with olive oil and raspberry vinegar. And I decided to use an apple instead of a pear. But when the time came to actually make the salad, I realized I’d forgotten to buy the cranberries and I had ran out of goat cheese. Then it turned out that my brother in law, like one of my daughters, only likes Caesar salad. So I put out the lettuce, all the dressings I had and the caramelized walnuts – forgetting the apple and green onion slices. At least the raspberry dressing was good.

Buttnernut Squash, Carrot and Persimmon Soup

While most of my persimmons didn’t ripen in time, I was able to find two of them ripe enough for this recipe. They gave a very pleasant sweetness to this soup. At first, I felt the soup was too carrot-y, but that flavor profile mellowed the second day. Still, next time I might use just one carrot. It’s slightly modified from superchef’s recipe at allrecipes.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 carrot, peeled & thickly sliced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 20 butternut squash cubes
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • pulp from 2 Hachiya persimmons
  • 1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
  • salt & black pepper to taste

Directions

Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot. Add the onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and bay leaf and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the butternut squash and continue cooking for 5 minutes, also stirring occasionally.

Add the white wine and continue cooking until it evaporates. Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Stir in the persimmon pulp. Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. Alternatively, wait until it cools down a bit and transfer to a blender, then return to the pot. Stir in the vinegar and season with salt & pepper to taste.

Assorted Appetizers

For my appetizers, I reverted mostly to old family favorites. I hadn’t made bacon-wrapped bananas in a long time, and I thought it would go well with the Caribbeanish theme of the dinner. This time I used a maple hickory bacon and it was delicious. I had originally planned to make coconut shrimp, but then I thought I had too many sweet flavors in this meal, so I decided to do shrimp wrapped in cheese and bacon instead – though it was a bit repetitive with the bananas. This time I used Havarti cheese and the maple bacon, and my husband loved them (but he always does).

The goat cheese & caramelized onion tart was a variation on my blue cheese & caramelized onion squares from yester holiday meals. I simply substituted goat cheese for blue and thyme for rosemary. My daughter, who doesn’t like blue cheese, loved it but I think the rest of us prefer it with blue cheese. Still, it’s an easy appetizer to make and you can make the caramelized onions in advance. I used Vidalia onions this time, but any onion will do.

The Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Butter Bruschettas, from a recipe I found at Scrambled Chefs. It’s not really bruschetta but cheesy garlic bread with chopped sundried tomatoes on top. BUT it was very good cheesy garlic bread, mostly because it had a lot of garlic and I used a lot of butter on each slice.

Goat Cheese & Caramelized Onion Tart

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 4 large onions, sliced
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 8 oz goat cheese
  • 2 puff pastry sheets, defrosted
  • 1 Tbsp chopped thyme

Directions

Heat a thin layer of olive oil over medium-high heat in a sauté pan. Add the sliced onions and turn heat to medium. Sauté, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Season with salt and stir in sugar, if using. Continue cooking for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn heat to low and continue cooking until the onions get the consistency and sweetness you want. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 425F. Grease a large baking sheet or cover it with parchment paper.

Set puff pastry sheets on the baking sheet. Spread goat cheese on the sheets, leaving about a 1/2 ” margin. Spread caramelized onions on top of the cream cheese. Sprinkle chopped thyme on top. Pinch the edges of the tarts, making a border. Bake until the the crust is golden, about 20 to 30 minutes.

Sundried Tomatoes and Garlic Butter Bruschettas

Ingredients

  • 1 baguette
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped parsley
  • 5 garlic cloves, minched
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 1/2 to 1 cup Mozarella or other shredded cheese
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 to 2/3 cup chopped sundried tomatoes

Directions

Preheat oven to 350F

Cut baguette into inch-thick slices

Place the butter in a small bowl and stir until soft. Add the parsley, garlic and salt and pepper to taste and mix well. Spread butter on baguette slices. Arrange on baking sheet. Top each slice with shredded cheeses and top with chopped sundried tomatoes. Bake until the cheese starts to brown, about 5-7′

Calypso Chicken & Roasted Vegetables

Calypso Chicken is a dish that you can find throughout the Caribbean in different iterations. I’d made a Dominican recipe originally and repeated it for this dinner. Alas, by this time in the meal I was too tired and full, and went to bed before tasting it, leaving it to my husband to do the honors. He apparently just served the chicken without the sauce, and thought it was just OK, though my daughter said she liked it. We all enjoyed the leftovers the next day, however, when I did heat them up and serve them with the sauce. It’s really a solid dish. I made roasted potatoes, carrots, green beans and asparagus to go with it – I just mixed them with olive oil, garlic powder, oregano and salt and pepper, and I’m told people enjoyed them. There were very few left the next day. I had also planned to make air fried plantain slices, but I was too tired to follow through with that.

Granny’s Sponge cake with lemon frosting

This used to be my favorite cake as a child, one that I would ask my Grandmother and later my aunt Gladys, to make for my birthday. I’ve made it a couple of times before and my daughter specifically asked that I make it for Thanksgiving. While I didn’t eat it the night of the meal, as I was already in bed by then, everyone else enjoyed it and we had the leftovers the next day. I was extremely proud that the cake tasted exactly like I remembered it from my youth. I made it with no whipped cream in the filling and only 1/4 cup of whipped cream for the frosting. I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, and I think my grandmother probably didn’t use it, but it does make it easier to spread. In any case, both the cake and the frosting came out perfectly and I was glad that my sister could try something my grandmother – who died years before she was born – made.

Marga’s Party & Holiday Menus & Recipes