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Friday, December 27, 2019

Christmas Eve - the main course

And, we are finally at Christmas Eve dinner!  My niece's kids stole the show.  They're absolutely wonderful kids and are SO much fun to be around!  

Now, here's a sampler plate of most of the food served:

And, here's the menu:

Beef tenderloin
Blender Bearnaise sauce
Creamed spinach
Carrots with orange
Roasted cauliflower
Potato gratin
Yorkshire pudding
Oatmeal bread
Cranberry Sauce
Persimmon pudding

So, let's dig in with a couple of new recipes:

Creamed Spinach

I'd have sworn that I actually blogged about this.  Truth be told there are probably 100 unfinished blogs and it's undoubtedly in that mell of a hess.  This is one that I don't measure but it's so forgiving that that doesn't matter!  BTW - the persimmon pudding is behind the spinach in the photo


two packages of frozen, chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1 T olive oil
1 small onion, finely diced
4 oz cream cheese
couple of grates of nutmeg
handful of grated cheese (I used gruyere but swiss would work just fine)


Saute the onion in the olive oil.  Add in the spinach and the cream cheese.  Stir until the cheese has melted in.  Add the grated cheese and stir it in.  Pour in cream and stir until it's reached a consistency that you like.  This is easy to make ahead and reheat.  

Roasted Cauliflower

Another dinner party staple for us.  Super easy to pop in the oven and ignore until you're ready to serve it.  Here's the link:  roasted cauliflower

Carrots with Orange

I used a David Rosengarten recipe.  It was very good but didn't beat others we've made so I'm not going to post the recipe. 

Blender Bearnaise Sauce

If you've never made hollandaise or Bearnaise because your'e worried about how fussy it is to make, you're missing out  The blender version isn't quite as fabulous but it's one heckuva lot better than a mix or a jar!  Here's a link to my mom's:  blender Hollandaise.

Oatmeal Bread

Here, I used a Better Homes and Gardens recipe for my bread machine.  Again, it was good but not as good as other breads we've made so I'll not post the recipe.

Cranberry Sauce

I used a Bon Appetit recipe here.  And, I do believe I'll be going back to my old faithful cranberry sauce recipe.  Which I see I've not yet blogged about.  Ok, I need to rectify that since it is incredible! 

Yorkshire Pudding

This was a failure on my part.  I used a Tyler Florence recipe.  They were like hockey pucks.  Well, maybe not that dense but they certainly didn't rise.  Next time I'll work on figuring out where I went wrong...

Potato Gratin

This, in our opinion, was the star of the sides.  I read about a dozen recipes and narrowed my focus down to a Fine Cooking and a Bon Appetit recipe.  Then, I smooshed the two together and wound up with a recipe I'll make again and again.


4 large russet potatoes
lemon peel - a couple of strips
4 peppercorns
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 T thyme
bay leaf
1 1/2 c cream
2 T butter
1 large shallot, minced
two big handfuls finely grated Gruyere 


Mix all the ingredients except for the potatoes, salt and cheese in the cream.  Bring it to boil in a small saucepan.  Remove it from the heat and set it aside for 30 minutes.  

Saute the shallot in the butter and set it aside. 

Peel and slice the potatoes about 1/8" thick.  Put the slices in lemon water for about 15 minutes.  Dry then before using.  I liberally salted them when I had them out on the towel

Shingle the potatoes into a baking dish.  See the photo.  This assures every serving gets some nice, crispy edges.

Fish the bay leaf out of the cream.  Combine the shallots, butter and cream in a blender and blend until the mixture is relatively smooth.  Pour the cream over the potatoes.  Top with the cheese.  Bake them for about 60-70 minutes at 350.

Persimmon Pudding

Last but not least.  This is truly an heirloom recipe.  From my great-grandmother to my grandmother to my mother and now on to me.  It's made to be made with Indiana persimmons.  Here's the link:  
persimmon pudding

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Christmas Eve Dinner

And, the rest of the story is...  That in addition to beef tenderloin we had a yummy assortment of food.

Appetizers to start with.  

Dill dip with veggies
Salsa with chips
Wrapped waterchestnuts
Lil smokies with bacon

Beef tenderloin
Blender Bearnaise sauce
Creamed spinach
Carrots with orange
Roasted cauliflower
Potato gratin
Yorkshire pudding
Oatmeal bread
Cranberry Sauce
Persimmon pudding

Here's the appetizer table - after they started being inhaled:

Dill Dip

This is a long-time family favorite.  I dearly love my green tapenade from Bert Green's Store Cookbook (here's the link:  Green Tapenade) but most are not equally fond of the anchovy/herb flavor.  So, dill dip it is.  This is best made a day before.  It's fine to use dried chives and dill but the parsley is really better fresh. 


1 c mayonnaise
1 c sour cream
2 t seasoned salt
2 t chives
2 t dill
2 t parsley


Nine years later and this is still my go-to salsa.  So much better than the stuff you buy in a jar and it doesn't take much more time to toss together than opening a jar does.  Here's the link:  Salsa

Bacon Wrapped Waterchestnuts

This is a REALLY old recipe of mine.  I got it from a co-worker  when I worked at Lincoln National Bank in Fort Wayne, IN.  It's great party food!  

1 can whole water chestnuts, drained
1 lb. bacon
1 jar chili sauce
½ c dark brown sugar
2 tsp. mayonnaise


Wrap each water chestnut in ½ strip bacon and secure with a toothpick. Place on a broiler pan and broil until lightly browned (turning once.)  It’ll take 4-6 minutes per side.  Mix chili sauce, brown sugar and mayonnaise.  Place water chestnuts in an oven-proof baking dish and pour sauce over.  Mix until all are coated.  Bake at 325o for 30-40 minutes.  Serve warm.

Lil Smokies with BBQ Sauce

Mary, who is one of our wonderful co-workers, said she takes this to parties and it's always the first thing gone.  Yup, that held true at our house.  I cannot believe I did not know about this recipe before.  It's easy and it's fabulous.  

1 package lil smokies
thin sliced bacon cut in 1/3rds 
BBQ sauce (we use Sweet Baby Ray's)
brown sugar


Wrap the sausages with bacon and put them in a 9x13 pan in ONE layer.  Drizzle over BBQ sauce then sprinkle with brown sugar.  Bake at 350 for about an hour.  

And of course, photos of our family enjoying the appetizers!

Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Sous Vide and a Beef Tenderloin

Many years ago there were elegant family Christmas dinners.  Those gave way to a more casual dining experience.  Soup and sandwiches on Christmas Eve.  Brunch on Christmas morning followed by presents and then a dinner of turkey tetrazzini.  I volunteered for us to host Christmas Eve and promptly asked what was sacrosanct.  My brother replied with the soup and sandwich menu.  Then, he replied that he guessed nothing was.  There it was.  My permission to once again have an elegant Christmas dinner.  Time to plan.  One of my happy places is with a cookbook in hand.  

I quickly settled on beef tenderloin.  Then, I goofed.  What temperature does everyone like your meat?  Here are the answers:  Pat - well done.  Deb - medium well. Pam - well.  Sam and CJ - medium to medium rare.  Connie and John - medium rare.  Kate - rare.  LOL.  What a conundrum.  Fortunately I have an incredibly brilliant brother and an equally brilliant nephew.  They'd come up with a plan for turkey that'd work just great for tenderloin.  

Sous vide.  I got the Joule out and put a huge pot of water on the stove.  The Joule got plugged in and set at 160 for well done.  Connie had cleaned and cut up the tenderloin into four pieces.  Two at four ounces and two at eight ounces.  I figured I'd be just as happy with medium rare as rare and Sam and CJ would have to settle for their first thought.  Although for future reference, CJ really loves rare.  So, I'll be cooking a rare batch for the two of us!  Each salted and peppered piece was in a ziploc bag and was labeled with permanent marker.  Pat's 4 oz piece went into the water for an hour.  Then once the timer rang, I ladled some of the hot water out and poured in cool tap water.  That immediately took the temp down to 150 for medium well.  Pat's piece stayed in the water and Deb's got added.  

How did that work, you ask.  With sous vide you never cook to more than the temp you've set.  So, Pat's piece wound up being kept warm at slightly lower temps once hers had cooked at 170.  

When Deb's piece was done I put in one of the 8 ounce bags and set the timer for 90 minutes.  And, the temp at 135.  This time I had to take a bit more water out to get the temp down.  Finally, it was time for the last piece.  It was due to come out at 5:15.  Dinner was at 5:45 so there was plenty of time for reverse searing and resting.  Two cast iron skillets were on the stove getting screaming hot.  Two tablespoons of butter went into each followed by the tenderloin pieces.  A few minutes later they were beautifully browned and ready to rest under a foil tent.  

Here's what the medium rare piece looked like.  I've got to say, this was a PERFECT way to cook the tenderloin.  So perfect that we may just do the same next year!

On the side I had a plate with asparagus, crab and Bearnaise sauce for anyone who wanted Oscar style.  The photo is before the crabmeat went into the bowl...

Then, there was a bowl of horseradish sauce.  And, lastly, we'd bought a bunch of beef bones and made a wonderful beef stock so I'd made Yorkshire puddings and gravy.  

The rest of the meal?  I'll have to cover that in another post.

Monday, December 16, 2019

Guido Dressing, Eggplant Croutons and Persimmon Mojitos

Sometimes I find a recipe that replaces an old favorite.  More often than not, though, I make a different version and really wish I'd made the old favorite.  So, it's always a tough call.  Do I try for the BBD (bigger, better deal) or do I stick with old faithful.  When it comes to a basic vinaigrette I've always done the red wine vinegar, tarragon, sugar, Dijon mustard and extra virgin olive oil one.  But, recently I've been experimenting.  First it was a vinaigrette with maple syrup.  Then, one with cumin.  And, then another with sherry vinegar.  Now, I'm pretty well convinced that my favorite vinaigrette is EVOO, sherry vinegar, cumin, maple syrup and Dijon.  And, ya know what?  One of my favorite sister-in-law is named Sherry.  And, she goes by Guido.  So, this is Guido Dressing.  And, BTW, I have six sisters-in-law.  They're all my favorites so don't even THINK I'd play favorites here.  But, I will say that Guido and Ken are amazing cooks.

Now, the next thing I've found is eggplant croutons.  I was feeling pretty darned smart to have thought them up.  Then, after serving the salad tonight, just for grins and giggles I looked them up on the internet.  Yup, a whole herd of recipes for eggplant croutons.  Oh, well.  

I failed miserably on the photo front here.  I was down to my last eggplant crouton and said, "OOPS."  So, you'll just have to visualize here...  And, no, I didn't measure for the dressing.  So, taste it and make sure it meets your taste.

Salad with Eggplant Croutons and Guido Dressing

Serves two

spring mix
1 large leaf Swiss chard
2 oz. semi-hard cheese - we used a Tomme but Swiss or Gruyere would be just fine
2 small beets
1 chicken thigh
1/2 small eggplant
1 egg
Creole seasoning

Guido Dressing
1 T maple syrup
1/2 t cumin
1 t Dijon mustard
3 T sherry vinegar

Put a handful of spring mix in each bowl.  Dice the chard leaves and the stems separately.  Toss the leaves on top of the spring mix.  Dice the cheese and toss it on the greens.

Pan saute the chicken in a small amount of olive oil.  Just as the chicken is done, toss the chard stems into the pan and let them soften a bit.  While the chicken is cooking, make the eggplant croutons.  Peel and dice the eggplant into about 1/2" pieces.  Toss them first in a milk and egg mixture.  Then, into some panko with a bit of Creole seasoning tossed in.  We make our own Emeril's Seasoning.  Brown them well in olive oil.  I put enough in the pan to have it about 1/8" deep then turn the croutons regularly until they're nice and brown and crispy.  

Cook the beets while you've got everything else going on.  My beets were really small with very thin skins so I just cut off the tops and bottoms and popped them into a bowl with a bit of water and nuked them.  Once they'd cooled a bit, I chopped them up and tossed them on the salad.  

Once the chicken is done, shred the meat and put it on the salad.  Top with the dressing and then the chard stems followed by the eggplant croutons.  

While we were cooking we enjoyed a cocktail.  It's about the fifth time we've made this particular cocktail.  Connie actually processed the last couple persimmons and popped the pulp into the freezer so we can have some more soon! 

And, I can't post this without telling a great story.  We went to a new place for dinner the other night.  I ordered a cocktail with bourbon and toasted marshmallow syrup.  Connie ordered one that was their take on the Mai Tai.  It had  a HUGE sprig of mint.  He took it out and wrapped it up and I tucked it carefully into my purse.  It went into the fridge and is happily helping us make cocktails!

Here's what he had to say:

Loosely borrowed from KANGARHUBARB at
Being from Boston, I wouldn’t know a persimmon from a lychee.  However, in Indiana, this is a display of total ignorance.   Persimmons are adored and persimmon pudding is ambrosia, the food of the gods.  Kate proved this by taking it to my cousins’ Thanksgiving feast a number of years ago.  What is this, they asked?  It didn’t matter.  They gobbled every last bit.

The persimmons came from a tree we planted at our prior house.  The tree is still there but the persimmons are no longer ours.  Alas, but we have planted another, and in 10 years or so, we will have our own persimmons again, unless the stupid squirrels eat them all before they fall to the ground. 

Undaunted, Kate bought some Fuyu persimmons at Costco and tried to make the best of it.  It was not the same.  Okay, but not great.  Trying to salvage the persimmons, we turned to cocktails.  This actually worked out very well, but we didn’t follow the prescribed process, so I’ll give you our take on persimmon syrup and a persimmon mojito.

They tell you to make a persimmon syrup, which involves boiling water, sugar and persimmons.  
Instead take a Fuyu persimmon, remove the stem, quarter it, add 4 oz of sugar and pulse it in a bullet or mixer.  Now you have persimmon syrup.

And, at least I did get a photo of the drink.  Lousy photo, but something to post!

Persimmon Mojito (for two)

Mint leaves (it’s December, I found enough off my plants to satisfy, do your best)
Lime zest (they call for a pinch, not too much, not too little)
Muddle those
Add 4 oz of persimmon syrup and a “pinch” of ground ginger, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg
2 oz spiced rum (we used Captain Morgan)
2 oz lime juice
Shake with ice and strain into a glass
Add club soda if you wish (we did not)

Toast the one you love and enjoy