Monday, December 27, 2010

Cozy Christmas

Traditional Christmas Dinner
Williams-Sonoma Entertaining

Usually Scott and I host Christmas Day for ~14 people, but this year we only cooked for 4. This sounds like it would be simple, but choosing the menu was the hard part. Most holiday recipes are written for 8-12 servings. The Traditional Christmas Dinner Menu from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining was for 6 servings, so we had just enough for leftovers. The only change I made was to substitute the oyster stew for a salad. Everything was delicious and I’d definitely make each recipe again. One thing I found amusing was that 4 of these recipes had half and half as ingredient; I ended up needing a half gallon of half and half.

Winter Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing
This salad was very yummy I deviated a little from the recipe and for the greens got a bag of mixed greens that also contained some soft butter lettuce. This salad was full of surprises with cashews, dried cranberries, walnuts, pear, apple, and Swiss cheese. The salad dressing ended up being lemon vinaigrette since Central Market was out of poppy seeds in their bulk section. I borrowed this recipe from Peace Meals but also stumbled upon a variation of it by another name in one of my Southern Living Christmas books. This could also be great as a meal salad with some chicken or pork.

Standing Rib Roast
I splurged and bought the Central Market Prime rib roast since it’s the holidays but a choice cut would be just as good. I made the herb paste a few days before so I’d have less to do on the big day. However the cooking time in the recipe was grossly understated, I was glad I used a meat thermometer to stay on track since even with my oven on convection roast it took an additional 30-60 minutes to cook. I also skipped the madiera jus since I had too many things going on at the last minute but I did make the horseradish sauce (since it could be prepped early).

Yorkshire Pudding
The puddings were easy to make and were very light and tasty. I substituted rosemary for the thyme since I love rosemary and its easier to handle that thyme. And lastly a smear of butter makes everything better.
Potato and Celery Root Puree
This was very light and tasty, I liked the addition of the celery root and they didn’t seem as dense as most mashed potato recipes.

Creamed Spinach
I was amazed by how quick this recipe was to make. I think about 5 minutes in total. Spinach dishes can be really good or just okay…since this one had almost 2 cups of half and half it was rich and delicious.

Bread Pudding
These “individual” bread puddings were really enough for two people each. They were massive and the cream anglaise really was the best part.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Delicious Destination: Belize

Matachica Resort, Ambergris Caye

Back during the summer Scott and I decided to plan a trip to start off the Christmas holiday with some R&R. Our requirements for the trip were that it had to be a tropical location in the Caribbean and a direct flight from Houston. We wanted a place that was romantic and where we could get away from everything. A google search led me to the Matachica Resort in Belize. The photos on the website were beautiful and the reviews on Trip Advisor and Yahoo Travel confirmed that the experience would match the photos.

We had a 2.5 hour flight from Houston to Belize City, Belize. From there we took a propeller plane to San Pedro on the island of Ambergris Caye and Charlie from Matachica met us at the San Pedro airport and took us by boat the resort. The resort is only 5 miles from town, but the roads are sand primary land transportation is via golf cart so travel by boat is the way to go.

Upon arrival we were greeted with a welcome cocktail, settled into our bungalow, and then had delicious lunch followed by some relaxation at the pool. We had no TV or phone, and the main house did have some computers and wi-fi but I turned off my phones and left them that way the whole time.

A typical day was wake up, eat breakfast, short walk down the beach, layout on the beach, eat lunch, go back to the beach, and then finish the afternoon by the pool. Every evening we had a pre-dinner cocktail at the bar, then had dinner, and went to bed. Each meal we worked our way through the menu so we could try as many different items as possible, and all were delicious.
One day we actually went on a fishing/snorkeling excursion just the two of us and our guide. We caught enough snapper for our lunch and dinner which the chef prepared for us. We chose fish tacos for lunch and pouch of with snapper fillet, tomatoes, bell peppers, and white wine burre blanc sauce for dinner. This experience was one of the favorites of our trip.

Our last full day we indulged in spa appointments so we could be fully relaxed before returning home.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Lazy Lasagna

Turkey Lasagna
adapted from Barefoot Contessa

I was not a lasagna fan until I tasted this recipe. Everything Ina Garten makes is delicious and when I first saw this episode on the Food Network for Turkey lasagna I knew it was going to be fabulous. The first time or two I made this recipe I actually used turkey sausage, a combination of mild and hot. One day I was at Central Market and instead chose half hot pork sausage and half mild pork sausage and it really took this recipe to the next level. But go ahead and use the turkey so you can pretend likes it healthy. I also do use lower fat cheeses in the recipe when available.

This is a great make ahead dish that can be stored in the freezer. I’m sure you noticed the crude presentation of a foil baking dish in the photo. I make two of these every year for our annual Labor Day trip. I use the foil pans for the trip so we don’t have to wash dishes and I don’t have to worry about anything breaking during transport. This year we were expecting more people so I had made 3 but some people had to drop out at the last minute so I left the third lasagna in the freezer to be enjoyed at some unknown date in the future. Well that date has arrived. See it’s my birthday and December is always a busy time of year, and we are leaving to vacation in Belize. So in addition to being out of town every weekend this month I just don’t have the time for a proper b-day celebration. But since several friends have inquired and insisted I do something to mark the occasion my compromise was to have a causal low-key girls dinner and thaw out that lasagna. Everyone else was responsible for vino, salad, and dessert (and my wonderful husband washed the dishes). One friend said it wasn't right hat I was making my own dinner, but the work was done back in August, I just threw it in the oven.