December 31, 2011

Christmas Treats and Feast Part 2

The cooking began first thing Christmas morning.  We had some time to get brunch prepared and ready while the rest of the gang opened presents at their own house, then drive over to us.   As I walked down the stairs, I felt all giddy like a child. I knew what would be waiting for us.  On Christmas Eve, I helped my father-in-law put together a really cool train table.  It has lots of moving parts to lead to hours of fun playtime!

I always look forward to seeing the stockings overflowing with goodies so much that they can no longer hang so they are placed on the floor by the fireplace. And I absolutely love when there are big toys put together by Santa ready for you to play with!  One of the greatest Christmas memories from my childhood was walking out to the family room to tear into presents before the sun was even up, still rubbing my eyes to wake up and to my surprise a brand new bike from Santa waiting for me by the tree.  Talk about excitement and a Christmas gift I'll never forget!

My mother-in-law and I made a simple and delicious brunch that would hold us over until dinner.  She made a very nice spread that included a fruit salad, homemade sticky buns and hashbrown casserole.  I whipped up a breakfast sausage casserole for the first time and it turned out fantastic!  Everything was very delicious and went well with our traditional mimosas!  We dug right in once the rest of the clan arrived.
The baby of the family kept us all entertained throughout the day.  She oo'd and ah'd at opening presents and giggled loudly while she played with new toys.  I think each of us took a turn on the floor with her while she showed us new things.

Christmas dinner was a delight as usual.  This year we each made a few new things to change it up a bit from the normal menu.   A big change that led to some intense discussion was a spiral cut ham instead of turkey.  (Certain people that I won't mention are very critical of ham as they don't care for the texture or possibility of fatty parts.) I welcomed the change to ham this year as I am not a huge fan of turkey anyway.   We also switched out some of the other standard fare such as fancy baked mashed potatoes instead of regular mashed potatoes and we added a new item, Roasted Brussel Sprouts.  Both dishes were full of flavor in my opinion.  It's always nice to discover new dishes to throw into the mix of things.

Our Christmas feast consisted of:
Spiral Cut Ham
Corn Casserole
Fancy Baked Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
Ciabatta Stuffing
Homemade Yeast Rolls

Cheers to a Happy New Year and I look forward to discovering and sharing new culinary treats in the coming year!

December 30, 2011

Christmas Treats and a Feast Part 1

Another Christmas has come and gone.  Is it just me or did it fly by too quickly? I feel like it was a whirlwind of craziness and was over before I realized it.   I baked all kinds of goodies and forgot to take pictures to share with you.  I made candies with a friend that had pretzels with a rolo candy baked until soft, then you press an M & M or pecan on top.  Once it sets it's a delicious salty candy. 

I also made a Peppermint White Chocolate Cheesecake for a friend.  She had mentioned how much she would love to try it.   So out of the goodness of my heart, I made one and it turned out beautifully and surprised her with it.  She was so excited and it made me feel good!   I took a quick picture with my phone before running out the door.

My husband and I traveled to Seattle to visit his family for Christmas.  We always enjoy our short time with them.  We only make it out to the west coast to visit twice a year at most but normally only once for Christmas.  Our very chatty and charming niece who is over a year and a half was very entertaining and filled us with joy.  She tugged at our hearts and provided much cuteness the entire time. I chased her around with the camera of course.  Here is a sampling of pictures I was able to capture of the adorable little child.

My sister-in-law and her husband hosted a scrumptious Christmas Eve dinner.  The delicious 3 course meal started with grilled romaine, ceasar dressing and homemade croutons.  The char on the greens provided a subtle and welcome hint of smoky flavor. I really enjoyed it! The main dish presented was a homemade pasta topped with meaty yet light bolognese sauce.  Dessert was a decadent rich chocolate tart loaded with nuts. 

Stayed tuned for Christmas Treats and a Feast Part 2! I'll share photos of the tasty spread for Christmas brunch and dinner.

December 12, 2011

Quick Corn Chowder

It's that dreaded time of year again.  The season of sickness is here. My husband has been whining.. er sick for almost a week now.  I've done all I can to take care of him and shadow his every germ-ridden move to sterilize anything he touches.  It may seem ridiculous but so worth it to me.  There is no time for me to be sick and rundown.  There's this little thing called Christmas around the corner and we're flying to Seattle.  My Christmas wish is to NOT get sick.  Help me Santa!

I finally broke down and decided to make homemade soup to try and cure his sickness but kept it simple with what I had on hand and improvised where I needed.  After many minutes of staring in the pantry and fridge and creating recipes in my head, I had an idea and started pulling ingredients together to whip up my own version of Corn Chowder. 

I didn't have bacon or onions on hand which definitely gives this soup a lot of delicious flavor.  I was a little hesitant that the end result would be stellar because of the lack of 2 essentials that I'm use to.  However, in my favor, his tastes buds were out of whack so I knew he wouldn't be able to taste the difference.  Although it would bother me just knowing it didn't taste right. 

To replace the bacon, I used a bit of this amazing concoction called Bacon Jam we received as a gift made by Skillet Street Food.  Get some!  It definitely gave the chowder it's expected and necessary smokey flavor.  We were quite pleased with the soup over all.  This spread is yummy on toast.  (** I've used it to make BLT Crostinis which are perfect for brunch or an appetizer.  Toasted French Bread rounds, a dollop of the bacon jam, a small leaf of lettuce, half a cherry tomato and sprinkle of salt) 

If you have bacon I'd use at least 3 strips of cooked bacon crumbled up.  Use more if you fancy the bacon!  I liked the small kick of heat from the red pepper flakes and it helped clear his sinuses too.   Feel free to use more or less depending on your heat tolerance.

2 tbsp unsalted butter
1-16oz bag frozen corn
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 tbsp bacon jam (or at least 3 bacon strips crumbled)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp salt
4 c chicken broth
1 c. water
1/2 c heavy whipped cream

In a large pot, over medium-high heat melt the butter then add in the corn.  Saute for about 5 minutes or until corn begins to defrost.  Add the thyme, bacon, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt.  Saute for about 1 minute or until you start to smell the garlic.   Stir in the broth and water, then bring to a boil.  Then lower heat, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Taste and season with more salt and red pepper flakes as needed.   Stir in cream and warm through for about 3-5 minutes.   If you have a hand blender, I highly recommend you use it to thicken the soup.  Otherwise you can use a Cuisinart and just add about 2 cups of the soup and blend.  Stir back into the pot with the remaining soup.  Serves about 5 healthy portions.