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.


Pumpkin Pie Fudge

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I don't know about you, but after the onslaught of Thanksgiving dinner gluttony, I am usually too full for dessert.  However, there is something in my brain (or stomach-- stomach be quiet already) that tells me I need to cap off the day's eating with something sweet.  I have shared my recipe for Pumpkin Cream Cheese Truffles ---now it's time to share these tasty little morsels.  

The original recipe called for adding pecans to the fudge mixture.  After making the tart I posted this past week, I wanted to top this batch of fudge with some of the candied walnuts I used for the tart.  I won't make it any other way now.  They add a nice, sweet crunch.  Plus, my personal tastes dictate a little texture in my fudge.  If you're not a nut lover, just omit them from the recipe.  The fudge is quite simple to make, but you do need a candy thermometer to make sure you reach the proper temperature. 

This fudge makes for a great last minute sweet for the dessert table or a nice hostess gift if you are joining others for Thanksgiving day.


Bourbon-Caramel Pumpkin Tart

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I couldn't share the basics of the sweet tart dough without sharing a delicious seasonal tart for the holiday table.  So in lieu of a Sunday dinner menu post, I am going to share the tart that we enjoyed last Sunday. And boy did we ever enjoy it.

The recipe called for a different crust baked in a spring-form pan.  It seemed rather cumbersome in my opinion, so I went with my gold standard.  The recipe also called for candied pumpkin seeds, but I fancy the flavor combo of pumpkin and walnut.  Pecans would be a nice alternative too.  The tart is pre-baked and then a thin layer of caramel is spread over the bottom of the crust.  The sweet pumpkin filling is poured and then baked until set.  Once cooled, the remaining caramel is spread evenly over the top creating three dreamy layers of sweet bliss.  Sprinkle the edges with the candied nuts and, well--move over pumpkin pie.  You are still really good, but there's a new dessert in town!


Sweet Tart Dough

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If you are a regular reader you know that I love me some sweet tarts.  Don't get me wrong, I love pies (and cakes, and cookies, and ice cream, and just about anything with sugar in it;), but in my opinion the ratio of crust to filling in a tart is a better than a pie.  Plus, I just think tarts are purty.  I have quite a few sweet tarts on the ol' recipe page and it's about time that my favorite tart dough gets its own little space in the world.  Make some this weekend and place it in the freezer for next week's baking frenzy. And stay tuned for another delicious sweet tart recipe that will be perfect for the holiday table.


Sweet Potato Casserole

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In my thirty-some years of life there has only been one Thanksgiving where this dish wasn't on the table.  Yes, it was traumatic.  It has been and probably always will be one of my favorites on the holiday table.  Mom adapted the original recipe to suit us kids by adding the mini-marshmallows.  It was the only side of the casserole that my serving spoon touched.  But my taste buds have changed and I have moved closer to the pecan topping;)

The recipe calls for sweet potatoes, but I like to use those Southern red yams.  I find that their flavor and color are deeper.  Instead of boiling, I like to roast the potatoes (or yams).  This brings out the natural sugars.  With that pronounced natural sweet flavor, I dial back on the sugar and butter in the recipe.  I save those ingredients for dessert. 

This recipe can be made in advance.  I make it the day before (topping and all), cover with plastic wrap and store in the refrigerator.  Once the bird comes out of the oven, I slide in this dish along with the Cornbread Dressing (that can be made the day ahead as well).  Bake until lightly browned and toasty.


Sunday Dinner

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 Chicken Liver Pâté
Toast Points

My youngest daughter was doing a segment in class about ancestry this past week.  As the older two kids took the Polish and Norwegian parts of their all-over-the-map European heritage for their ancestry projects a few years back, I suggested that she use the German part of her background.  I'm glad I did, because it inspired this menu.

The livers are soaked in buttermilk prior to use. This step serves to round off the sharp and bitter taste of the liver, making for a milder impact on the palette. The apple in the mix lends a welcome note of sweetness. 

This paté is a perfect appetizer for nights this time of year when it gets dark at 5pm.  A piece of toast with liver pate and a beer or glass of wine makes for happy hour bliss.  


Spiced Pumpkin Angel Biscuits

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I am sure many of your have already started your holiday planning and prep.  I certainly have.  Besides the turkey, I think there is another universal element to the table.  That element is some sort of bread to pass at dinner and for those late night turkey sandwiches.  I always roast a turkey, but this year I also want to smoke a turkey.  Therefore, I am going to need a special vehicle for smoked turkey sandwiches.

Like the pumpkin yeast bread, the twist comes from the addition of pumpkin purée for added moisture.  Unlike the bread, you want to use a very light hand when working with this dough.  You want to use the spoon and level method for measuring the flour (too much flour will make the dough hard to work with).  Don't over work/knead the dough, otherwise you will wind up with a tough, doughy interior.  With three leaveners in the recipe, the end result will be layers of flaky goodness.

I use homemade pumpkin purée and homemade pumpkin pie spice, but store bought will work equally well.  I also added a little cardamom for some extra spice.  Not only are these delicious, the dough can be made a couple of days ahead and they can even be cut up to one day before baking (instructions are listed along with the recipe below).  Serve warm with an extra pat of butter, toast leftovers for a special breakfast treat, or reheat them and make that turkey sandwich when the craving hits.

Other breads for your holiday table...


Stir-Fry Cashew Chicken

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As much as I love spending time in the kitchen on most weekends preparing for Sunday dinner, the weeknights don't allow me that luxury.  I am usually shuffling to or from soccer practice, basketball games, and bowling matches for my three children, so I have limited time to get dinner on the table. But rather than pick up some take-out on the way home, I pull out recipes like this one.  Fake-out take-out is what I call it.  It is quick, fairly easy, and very satisfying after a busy day for me and my family.

My oldest son Jack, can't handle the heat like the rest of us can, so rather than using red pepper flakes in the stir-fry, I like to serve it with Thai chili garlic paste on the side to taste. Not only does it add some kicked-up heat, it also elevates the flavor of the overall dish.  Serve as is or over steamed white rice.  This recipe will have you reconsidering that dialed-up take-out meal.


Sunday Dinner

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Coq au Vin

Sunday Dinner Post Take II...  For those of you who receive e-mail subscriptions or if you just randomly clicked on my site this morning, you'll know what that means.  I inadvertently hit the publish button yesterday when I was typing up the post. So please disregard that recipe, since it had yet to be edited.

Funny-- looking back on Sunday dinners past.  We had Coq au Vin more than once on the same weekend.  It must be programmed in my head to serve it at this time of year.  There are several steps to this recipe, but hey it's Sunday (not a busy weeknight) and it's worth it.  Chicken braised in an enriched red wine sauce enhanced with the flavors of bacon and pearl onions gets my cooking motivation in gear.  Potatoes are all you really need, but I like the addition of turnips and carrots for a heartier meal.  And the sauce, oh the sauce... any leftovers are wonderful on a piece of toast with a simple salad for light and easy weeknight meal.

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