Gourmet Veggie Mama

Tag Archives: Holidays

From Gingerbread to Champagne

Merry belated Christmas to you and yours! I had best intentions to stick to a regular posting schedule, but that all went out the window as we bounced from family in town to our own little Christmas celebration. And, let me tell you, Christmas with a 2-year-old is fun, but it is also exhausting.

I made gingerbread the night before Christmas, so we’d have a special breakfast to munch on in the morning (and, let’s face it, a nice, warm snack that evening).

gingerbread

That’s tasty!

Although I recall my grandmother making a mean gingerbread, that recipe is likely lost to the ages, so I used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated’s Baking Illustrated, and it was predictably delicious. Moist, dense but still fluffy, and nicely spiced. Next time I think I’ll add some crystallized ginger for more of a kick.

Today is Cocktail Thursday, and, alas, I seem to have lost track of my days in the holiday madness, so I don’t have a new cocktail for you this week. But, it also happens to be the Thursday before New Year’s Eve, so the natural choice is, of course, champagne. I’d never dream of drinking anything else on NYE!

Champagne

Cheers!

If you are in the market for a nice bottle of bubbly to celebrate, I humbly offer my two cents. Veuve Clicquot yellow label is a classic, and predictably good, but also predictably overpriced. In my opinion, it’s about a $30 bottle, so don’t spend much more than that on it. If you have a good wine shop nearby, you may be able to find a bottle of Egly-Ouriet Brut instead, which is a much better value with a similar taste profile. One of my favorite stateside choices for sparkling wine is Schramsberg’s Blanc de Noirs, which I was actually able to score at my local grocery store. Their J. Schram is also flipping fantastic, but more of a splurge.

As far as bang for buck goes, I recommend Chandon’s Blanc de Noirs,* which weighs in about around $20 a bottle. Pretty much all of J Vineyards‘ sparkling wines are brilliant, too.

* I can’t say the same for their more widely available sparklers, as I have never been more hung over in my life than the day after I finished the bar exam and enjoyed (maybe a bit too much) of their Blanc de Blancs. But that’s neither here nor there.

I’m not yet sure what we’ll be toasting with this New Year’s Eve, but you can bet it’ll be one of those bottles.

What are your plans this NYE? Are you planning to crack open a special bottle?

Christmas Delights

It has often been said that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. As a busy mama to a toddler (and constant disaster factory) during this most hectic of seasons, I’d like to amend that statement just a bit. Let’s just say, if your well-laid plans go out the window at the last minute, cross your fingers and hope to succeed in unexpected ways!

I was fortunate enough to succeed in unexpected ways recently, when my last-minute shopping didn’t get done because of some disaster or another. I didn’t have enough ingredients for the double batch of shortbread cookies I was planning to make for a cookie exchange the next day. Oh, fudge. Literally.

Serendipitously (or perhaps not, given the season), Lightly Crunchy had just posted a couple of recipes for 5-Minute Fudge. I had 5 minutes! What I did not have, however, was sweetened condensed milk. I did have evaporated milk, though, and sugar, and a quick search told me I could boil them down to make a substitute. Tempting fate? Probably, given that I have had more than my fair share of failed fudge in my candy-making career. But, all’s well that ends well!

fudge

These are the ugly end pieces, but they are still delicious.

I decided to make a bit of a variation on the original recipe, using Kahlúa and pecans, and the result was a hit at the cookie exchange. So were the shortbread cookies, of which I still made a single batch. Even though I hadn’t been able to find silver dragées to decorate them with per my very specific vision, and they didn’t come out as cute as I had hoped, I was still pleased with the product (inspired by December’s Bon Appétit cover photo of Dori Greenspan’s Speculoos Buttons).

shortbread

Not bad. Not bad at all.

I just made a batch of my spiced shortbread dough, divided it in half and rolled it into logs in plastic wrap and froze the logs for a couple of hours. After brushing the logs with egg white, I rolled them in decorative sugar and then sliced them into cookies. After they were baked, I added a dot of royal icing and a smidge more decorating sugar (wishing all the while it was silver dragees instead).

I wouldn’t call any of that a failure. In fact, I’d call it a smashing success, since I just made two more batches of fudge to hand out to the neighbors tomorrow. I only have one dirty pot in my sink, and I’m only missing about 15 minutes of my time, which includes the time it took to wash the pan in between batches. Hooray for unexpected success!

One batch is of the Kahlúa pecan fudge (recipe follows), and the other is of Heidi’s classic 5-minute fudge, minus the currants. Although I’m sure the non-boozy fudge is lovely, I have a feeling the kids ended up with the short end of the stick on this one!

Kahlúa Pecan Fudge
Author: 
 
Ingredients
  • 1 can sweetened condensed milk
  • 3½ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • ¼ cup Kahlúa or other coffee liqueur
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
Instructions
  1. Combine the sweetened condensed milk and chocolate in a saucepan over medium-low heat. Melt, stirring constantly to ensure the chocolate doesn’t burn.
  2. Stir in the Kahlúa and pecans and remove from the heat.
  3. Line a 9×9 pan with plastic wrap and pour the chocolate mixture evenly in, using a spatula to spread it into the corners.
  4. Chill in the refrigerator until set. Cut into small squares to serve.
Notes
Based on this recipe from Lightly Crunchy: http://lightlycrunchy.wordpress.com/2012/12/18/5-minute-fudge-with-variations/

 

Happy New Year!

Where I’m from, New Year’s Day means black-eyed peas. Eating them on New Year’s brings good financial luck for the coming year, so it’s definitely not something I like to skip. Thankfully, I love black-eyed peas, and I have been able to adapt the recipes from my childhood (made with ham and/or chicken broth) to be just as delicious vegetarian.

Hurray for 2012!

Today we were up at 5 am to catch a flight back home from Texas, where we were visiting family. However, that was no excuse. As soon as we got home, I had to get the peas into a quick soak so they could be ready for lunch. It was totally worth it, too — they were delicious.

Nora heartily agreed.

Plus, I’d hate to risk the bad luck.

Every year at this time, I wonder why I don’t make black-eyed peas more often. This year, I just might have to!

Happy New Year, and may you all have good luck, financial and otherwise, in 2012.

Black-Eyed Peas

3 cups fresh black-eyed peas, or 1 1/2 cups dried, soaked* and drained
3 cups vegetable broth
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Bring all ingredients except the salt and vinegar to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until peas are almost tender, stirring occasionally, about 40 minutes. Stir in salt and simmer, covered, for an additional 20 minutes, or until peas are tender. Add vinegar and season to taste with additional salt and pepper.

* I recently read that you don’t technically need to soak dried peas, including black-eyed peas, but I still do. If you’re pressed for time, you can do a quick soak by covering the peas with 4 times their volume of water and bringing to a boil, then turning off the heat and letting them stand, covered, for a hour.

New Year’s Kiss

Today’s cocktail was based on a recipe originally called the Danish Christmas Cookie Martini, but since Christmas is over, I figured it needed a new name. This is basically the only intriguing recipe I found for a holiday cocktail this year, so I gave it a shot.

Clink.

The hubby and I liked it, but it was a little on the sweet side, so I’d nix the sugar rim, unless you’re just really into sweet. If champagne isn’t your thing*, maybe give this a try instead on New Year’s Eve.

* Who are you? Champagne is awesome.

New Year’s Kiss
Based on this recipe, with a couple of tweaks

2 oz Stoli Vanil or other vanilla vodka, chilled
1 oz Di Saronno amaretto
splash of ginger ale (to taste), chilled

Mix ingredients in a shaker with ice. Give one brisk shake to mix and pour into cocktail glasses. Makes 2.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Holiday meals for vegetarians tend to be all about the side dishes. While I love sides, sometimes one wants something a little more substantial — something that serves as a centerpiece for the meal. A few years ago, I threw together a stuffed acorn squash with quinoa, mushrooms, and smoked mozzarella, which turned out to be just perfect for that purpose. I’ve made it several times for holiday meals, and it’s always a hit with the veggie crowd (that is, if there’s anyone other than me not partaking in the turkey or ham).

This year, we had Christmas dinner with my in-laws, and my future-sister-in-law (whom I love to pieces) who is also a vegetarian was in attendance, so I made a couple of stuffed squashes for us to enjoy. We weren’t jealous of the ham, but everyone else envied our “centerpieces”!

Maybe I'm projecting, but they are pretty!

This year I used smoked gouda instead of mozzarella, and added caramelized onions and toasted pine nuts courtesy of my husband-slash-sous chef. They were beautiful and delicious, and between these, the bounty of yummy sides we all stuffed ourselves with, and the bread pudding I made for dessert (more on that later), no one went away hungry. In fact, we were all still pretty stuffed by the time tamale night rolled around later that evening.

Tamales!

My sister-in-law made those beauties, including pork, chicken, and black bean versions. She made her own masa and everything — fabulous! Add a slice of pecan pie after a few of those bad boys, and I was stuffed and ready for early bed.

You don’t have to stuff yourself silly to enjoy the acorn squash, though. It’s definitely easy enough to be a meal for any day, and the stuffing can be switched up in any number of ways.

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 2

2 medium acorn squashes
1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed and cooked
one medium onion
1-2 cups shredded smoked gouda*
1 cup shiitake mushrooms**
dash of milk
handful of toasted pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 400°. Cut a thin slice off the bottom of each squash, so that it sits stable when you flip it over. Cut a wide opening around the stem and pull the “cap”off. Scoop out the seeds and strings. Place the squash cut (top) side down in a little water and bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.***

Meanwhile, halve the onion and thinly slice it. Heat a little olive oil over medium heat and sauté until translucent. Turn the heat down to medium low and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until golden brown and caramelized, about 30 minutes total. Chop the mushrooms and sauté them in a little olive oil over medium heat as well, just until they’re tender and giving off their juices.

In  a saucepan, combine the cooked quinoa, onions, mushrooms, a tablespoon or two of milk, and about a cup of the cheese. Stir together over medium low heat until the cheese melts, and add salt and pepper to taste. Add more cheese to get the consistency of the stuffing to your liking. I tend to like a lot of cheese for that great smoky flavor that goes so well with the mushrooms. Stir in the pine nuts.

Preheat the broiler. Set the cooked squash right side up in a baking pan and stuff with the quinoa mixture. Top with a nice layer of shredded cheese and put under the broiler for a couple of minutes until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown.

* Or smoked mozzarella. Really any smoked cheese works great here.

** You can easily substitute cremini or other mushrooms here — whatever strikes your fancy.

*** This can be done up to a couple of hours ahead — just set the squash aside until you’re ready to stuff it, and a give it 5 minutes or so extra in the oven to warm up before you broil it.

Merry Christmas!

From my family to yours, I hope you enjoy a wonderful holiday filled with family, friends, laughter, and good times… and, of course, delectable food and drink. May the children in your life delight in their gifts, the attention of adoring relatives, and just the general magic of the season. May you have good food and good conversation around the dinner table, and may no one drink too much and spoil everyone else’s fun. But, do enjoy a nice glass of wine for me, and hug your loved ones. Merry Christmas!

White chocolate cranberry cookies

Merry Christmas Eve! In honor of the occasion, I’m sharing my favorite Christmas cookie recipe: white chocolate cranberry cookies. I’m not the biggest fan of white chocolate, and cranberries in baked goods aren’t really my thing, but these are delicious. Go figure.

Maybe it's the brandy.

Enjoy!

White Chocolate Cranberry Cookies

1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 egg
1 Tbsp brandy
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 375° and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.* In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, and white sugar until smooth. Beat in the egg and brandy. Combine the flour and baking soda and stir into the sugar mixture. Mix in the white chocolate chips and cranberries. Drop by heaping spoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven. For best results, take them out while they are still doughy. Allow cookies to cool for 1 minute on the cookie sheets before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

* Alternatively, make half of these, and freeze half of the dough in pre-formed balls so you have ready-to-bake cookies for another day!

Adventures in egg nog

I took the plunge and made my own egg nog, and I have to say, the results were much better than store-bought. Of course, it was also much more time-consuming than just picking up a carton, but I’d say it’s worth it for once a year. So, if you’re feeling festive, make homemade egg nog your cocktail this week!

Creamy egg-y goodness.

I did decide to go with a cooked version, since I was a little skeeved out about drinking something with raw eggs in it. Call me a wimp if you must. I know the risk of salmonella is minimal, but raw just isn’t my thing.

I might also add a smidge more bourbon while you’re fixing up your glass if you’re with… errrm… difficult relatives, since this isn’t too strong by itself. Drink up and be merry!

Egg nog
From this Alton Brown recipe, with my modifications

4 egg yolks
1/3 cup sugar, plus 1 Tbsp
4 cups whole milk
1 cup half and half
3 oz bourbon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
4 egg whites

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks until they lighten in color. Gradually add the 1/3 cup sugar and continue to beat until it is completely dissolved. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan over high heat, combine the milk, half and half, and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove from the heat and gradually temper the hot mixture into the egg and sugar mixture. Return everything to the pot and cook until the mixture reaches 160°. Remove from the heat, stir in the bourbon, pour into a medium mixing bowl, and set in the refrigerator to chill.

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the egg whites to soft peaks. With the mixer running, gradually add 1 Tbsp of sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Whisk the egg whites into the chilled mixture. Serve chilled and sprinkled with additional nutmeg, if desired.

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