Sunday Dinner

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Mini Fig and Blue Cheese Tarts

Bibb Lettuce Salad with Bacon and Croutons

Caramel Pudding

With the food train still rolling through the end of the holiday season, I thought I would post a recipe for the appetizer table.  These mini tarts pack a ton of flavor and are just the right size for someone whose other hand is occupied with a beverage at, say, a New Years party.  Savory blue cheese, sweet fig preserves and a nutty crunch all nestled in a flaky tart with a balsamic reduction drizzle is a winning combination of flavor and texture.  They pair nicely with a variety of wines and are substantial enough to provide a proper prelude to a main dish.  


Happy Holidays

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Merry Christmas from my kitchen to yours!


Sunday Dinner

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White Bean Dip with Pita Chips

Spinach and Sausage Lasagna
Mixed Greens Salad with Balsamic Vianigrette
Country Bread with Roasted Garlic Spread

Affogato with Amaretti

After devoting yesterday to an all day high school bowling tournament two hours away (driving in the wintry mix was a joy-- not) and knowing that I have plenty of baking and cooking to do over the next couple of days, I am keeping this Sunday dinner nice and easy.  In fact, I already have the lasagna in the freezer from a couple of weeks back and my daughter has already made the vinaigrette (along with a batch of gingerbread cookie dough for our traditional gingerbread house decorating), so all I had to do was whip up a batch of this easy-peasy dip and brew a pot of espresso for dessert. 

I love this dip because I always have all the ingredients on hand.  (Yes, even the rosemary.  I have a large year-round topiary that I bring indoors during the winter.)  It comes together in minutes, so it is perfect for last minute entertaining this time of year when you might have unexpected guests dropping by.  I love the flavor that rosemary lends to cannellini beans, so I use a little bit along with dried oregano.  I also dial back on the olive oil.  If you use a quality oil, the flavor is all you need without the added greasiness and fat.  Serve with some pita chips, grissini, or even crostini and you have a great appetizer.


Holiday Sweets

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Rather than post another sweet treat for the holidays, I thought I would pull out some favorites from the archives.  From bars to tarts and eggnog to chocolate, I think there is a little something here for everyone.  The cakes and tarts are excellent choices for your holiday dessert, as are the bars and brownies.  The cookies and confections are wonderful to share with friends and neighbors.


Homemade Lofthouse Cookies (Holiday version)

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I bumped into a friend this past weekend who kindly asked what I was baking.  I told her that I was making Lofthouse cookies with a holiday look.  She replied, "I will be looking out for that post." I told her the recipe for Lofthouse cookies was already on the blog.  Then I thought to myself, why not put it out there again with the holiday pizzazz? So for those of you who are new to the blog or if you just haven't been able to browse through my recipe page, here it is again but with another look.  And really, these cookies are good enough so as to merit another post☺.


Spiced Cranberry Puddings with Brandy Cream

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I will not be in the kitchen this Sunday to prepare our dinner, but I didn't want that to stop me from sharing another seasonal recipe and links to Sunday dinners past.

These are little individual upside down cakes that are steam baked in a bain marie.  This method makes for a very moist and tender cake texture.  Since I use my spiced whole berry cranberry sauce that has plenty of spice and flavor, I keep the cake simply flavored with a little vanilla extract.  The sauce comes in with an a little extra spice and another kick of brandy.

Serve warm with the sauce poured on top or on the sides.  These cakes have all the warmth and flavor of the holiday season.


Mixed Salad with Kumquats and Pecans

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I apologize for the lack of a Sunday dinner post this past week, but it was one of those Sundays where I did not have a recipe to share.  One where I either didn't have a photo or I was trying a new recipe.  This salad would be an example of the latter.  I was looking for a mixed green salad that would be suitable for the current season.  

The star ingredient in this salad is the kumquat.  What is a kumquat?  It is a citrus fruit that is about the size of a large olive.  Unlike an orange, the skin is sweet and the flesh (what little there is) is slightly sour.  When both are eaten, it lends a very refreshing flavor to the palate.  To soften the skins of the kumquats, they are macerated in the vinaigrette before tossing.  To balance the tanginess of the fruit, thinly sliced red onion and toasted pecans are added.  I also added a good handful of dried red cranberries for more sweetness and texture.  The dressing is a simple white wine vinaigrette that can be made up to one day in advance (always a bonus).

Full of color, seasonal ingredients, texture, and full of flavor, this salad hit all the points I was looking for.


Bagel, Lox, and Egg Strata

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We are big fans of lox and bagels, so I figured this recipe would be enjoyed.  Layers of bagels, cheese, salmon, and chives--it's like getting all the stuff you put on your bagel in one dish.  And what makes it even better is that you can make it the night before. So all you have to do is pop it in the oven the next morning.  Serve with some fresh fruit and/or a simple green salad for a nice brunch or early luncheon.  It's the perfect dish to have on hand when hosting large gatherings of family and friends during the hustle and bustle of the holiday season

Since this recipe is all about the bagels and lox, do seek out some quality products.  Or you could really out do yourself and make your own plain bagels and gravlax☺.


Fiesta Chicken and Rice

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The busy weeknight schedules are in full force.  If we can all sit down together at the table before 7:30 in the evening, that's a win.  And with limited time to prepare the meal once I get home, this recipe is also a win.  Like the Skillet Lasagna, this is a one pan meal that can come together in about a half an hour. To make it even easier, I make sure I have all the ingredients prepped ahead of time.  So when I walk in the door, I can get right to cooking without having to peel, chop, or drain.

I swapped out the green bell pepper for Poblano peppers and kicked up the spice and heat with some adobe sauce. (See my tip here for storing chipotle peppers and adobe sauce.)  Serve with lime wedges, sliced avocado, and a few tortillas for a winner-winner-chicken-dinner.


Sunday Dinner

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Warm Cajun Shrimp Dip

Pumpkin-Bourbon Crème Brûlée

I don't know what I look forward to more, the traditional Thanksgiving day eats or the Sunday after Thanksgiving meal.  I can't recall a Sunday after Thanksgiving that I didn't eat or make Turkey and Sausage Gumbo.  Mom used to make it for us years ago and now that I have children of my own, they look forward to it as much as I did (and still do).  The only variations to the menu are the appetizer and/or dessert.  We had this dessert several weeks ago, and after enjoying it as much as we did, I knew it would be the perfect ending to this meal.  

The original recipe didn't call for bourbon, but the combination of pumpkin, bourbon, and spices is really a great combination.  Since the custards are baked, the alcohol is cooked out.  The custards can be made up to two days ahead, so that does help out with the Sunday dinner work load.  The custards can even be brûléed up to an hour in advance.  Torch them before dinner and they are ready to go at the end of the meal.

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