Category Archives: New Year’s Eve

A New Twist on a Traditional Favorite

We cook at home just about every night, and we do so for a lot of reasons: it’s cheaper, it’s healthier, it’s easier and often it’s just as good.  The trick however, become making home cooked meals interesting and fun.

This weekend I took a seasonal favorite, sweet potato and upped the ante.  
Sweet Potato Coins with Arugula Pesto
2 Sweet Potatoes (I used 1 yam – that’s the lighter color)
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, Pepper, Paprika to taste (just a light sprinkle)
We do homemade fries a lot, so this was a nice change.  Cut the potatoes into 1/4″ coins.  I put all of them in a colander and drizzle with olive oil so that all of the coins get an even coating.

Sprinkle the salt, pepper and paprika over the coins on a tin foil covered cookie sheet.
Bake for 30 minutes at 400 degrees.  You could go longer, but 30 minutes gives the coins enough time to be crispy and golden brown.
You could stop now, and eat.  You’ll be happy, I promise.  Or… you can take it up a notch.

Arugula Pesto
2 handfuls of arugula
1.5 tbsp of pine nuts
1 tbsp fresh grated parmesean cheese
1/2 tbsp of olive oil
2 cloves of garlic
Salt and Pepper to Taste

In a food processor blend all of ingredients, using a spatula to scrape down the sides.  This is a dish that you can’t really screw up, because you can continue to taste to check your flavors. I like it garlicky, maybe you want a bit less, so it is very easy to adjust.

A traditional pesto features basil, I went with arugula because we had a lot on hand and it no longer had the crisp bite that I would want for a salad.  No wasting in our house, and this new use for salad greens was a huge success, and a delicious dip for the sweet potato “chips”.

The Best Winter Salad – Seriously

In the winter I am pretty much a salad hater.  I just can’t get behind the arugula and mixed greens that I love in the spring and summer, they all just seem so blech…  Until this weekend.

In full disclosure I did not create this recipe, in fact besides finding the recipe and eating it, I have done nothing constructive.  Mark has made this salad two times in four days and I have enjoyed it everytime.  
Spiced Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad Ingredients
3/4 cup lentils
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and “cubed”
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cup soft goat cheese, crumbled
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

When we first made this it was for an impromptu New Year’s Eve dinner, happily lentils are lucky on New Years Eve.  Also lucky is that all of these ingredients were available prepared.  I am no “Semi-homemade” but, if you want to save time you can find butternut squash already peeled and cut into chunks (Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s) and lentils that have already been cooked (Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Wegman’s).  Major, major time savers.

Otherwise, you can peel the squash and then cut it into 1″ thick rounds until you reach the base of the squash, and then cut the base in half and continue to cube.  I’d recommend keeping the pieces on the larger side, and forgo the urge for perfectly small squares.  The larger pieces stay firmer and provide a great texture.  I promise, it’s really very simple, and nearly impossible to screw up.

Toss the cubed squash with cumin, paprika and salt and bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, and then flip the pieces and cook for another 15 minutes.  
Look at those delicious pieces of squash — ahh, Heaven!
Let the squash cool and then layer it with the lentils, which I had at room temperature, but they could also be warm, and the crumbled goat cheese and argula… Or, you could skip the arugula, it’s still pretty healthy.

To dress the “best winter salad ever” combine the left over oil/juice from the pan the squash baked on, red wine vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

I realize this doesn’t seem too salad-y, but it is a great way to play with new ingredients (lentils or goat cheese), and it is beautiful to see and eat and really affordable to prepare and it keeps well for leftovers.

Share with friends, I am sure this is lucky after New Years, too!

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites

This originally was featured on the DC Ladies Blog but the recipe was too easy and too good to not share!
Earlier I posted savory bleu cheese and pecan cookies, which were awesome and easy and fun to eat for breakfast, if that’s your thing (which, evidently it is mine). Anyway, those cookies were the round 2 to this even easier, and also quite charming, appetizer.  Because the whole thing takes about 8 minutes to prepare and assemble this might be perfect for when you have surprise company or perhaps need reinforcements at a cocktail party.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites
French baguette
Candied Pecans, recipe here
Bleu Cheese crumbles
Your freshly made, or store bought pecans get a good chop and are set aside.
Cut a French baguette into thin slices and toast lightly.  (This isn’t really necessary, but generally speaking there are few things better than warm bread).  With the back of a spoon “spread” the crumbled bleu cheese on top of the baguette slices. 
Sprinkle on top of the bleu cheese and the chopped candied pecans and a light drizzle of honey.

Each bite is like a divine sampling of a cheese platter at the most divine wine bar, and easy to do and made with ingredients that are probably in your pantry!

Happy Holidays – wishing you delicious entertaining!

Bleu Cheese and Candied Pecan Savory Cookies

I love cheese, like looooove it.  I love going to a restaurant and getting to order a cheese plate: with beautiful wedges of fragrant cheese, breads, honeys and perhaps some nuts.  The idea of this arrangement of flavors always seems so sophisticated but perhaps a little intimidating to try at home.

I tested this out last night (in two different way), and success!  These Savory Cookies are perfect for when you entertain, as an a pre-meal snack, or as a gift to a hostess packaged in a cute bag.

1/2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Stick of Butter (4 Tbsp), softened
1/3 Cup of Candied Pecans, grounded
1/4 Cup of Crumbled Bleu Cheese

Candied Pecans
1 1/4 cup of Pecans
1/2 tbsp of butter, unsalted
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

In a non stick pan melt butter, add the pecans and sugar and cinnamon and stir with a silicon spatula over low-medium for 5-7 minutes until the pecans are covered with small flecks of caramel goodness.  Set aside to cool

In a food processor grind up the pecans to a small grind, but now a fine powder.  Set aside.
In a medium size bowl blend the softened butter and then add the bleu cheese, ground pecans and flour.  Side note, you could definitely use regular all-purpose flour, but I opted for whole wheat for its nuttier flavor and texture, and the potential for it to be a little more nutritious.
The dough will be crumbly, and look like a bunch of little tan colored peas.  Sprinkle a little extra flour on your work surface and begin to form the dough into a log.  This is completely visually unappealing.  I’m sorry – please, don’t let it dissuade you from making this recipe…
Cut the dough into 1/3″ slices and lay out on a non-stick cookie sheet or silpat and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. (See those flecks of cheese?  They are going to bubble and melt into amazing deliciousness!)
Let these cool for about 10  minutes after baking and serve with your favorite wine and either a drizzle of honey on top or a small dollop of your favorite pear or apricot preserves (that helps add back the sweetness found on your favorite cheese plates).

 These are great, and they keep nicely, and well, if we’re being honest I ate two for breakfast so they’re all around perfect snack to bake and share.

Brussel Sprout Magic

Dear Dad,

I wish you weren’t so turned off by brussels sprouts, they’re really pretty good.  In fact, they are better than pretty good, they’re really good.  All those years of turning your nose up at them at Thanksgiving when Cousin Karen would bring them seems silly now.   In fact, I like them sauteed with bacon or even served up with Greek yogurt at DC favorite Zaytinya. 

But, dad, they are also good simply roasted.  Here, let me show you.
Love, Carly

True story friends, up until a few years ago I had never tried a brussels sprout.  If you were like me, or my sister up until this past weekend, it is time for a change.  I love this as an easy, low maintenance side dish that requires no effort after prep time.  We served it with out Hanukkah party, but its a mainstay throughout winter when they are in season.

Roasted (Parmigiana – or not) Brussels Sprouts
A bag of brussels sprouts (the quantity depends on how many you’re feeding
A drizzle of olive oil
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
A shaving of parmigiana, optional
 First things first, rinse off all of those little mini lettuce heads.  TO be fair, they just look like heads of lettuce, the flavor is far more rich and intense.  Now its time to prune the sprout, or head, or whatever, it’s time to peel leaves off of the green ball in your hand…

You might notice that there are some weird/yucky/unappetizing black blemishes or dots on the outside leaves.  Fear not!  You are just going to rub back the leaf and then rip it off.  Each sprout will shrink in size a bit, but it’s okay.  It will be pretty again soon.

Ta Da!

Then you’re going to cut the brussels sprouts into thirds.  Insider secret, if after peeling off ugly leaves there is a bit of a white “stem” you can cut that off too.

With all of your sprouts laid out on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, give them a gentle drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Check after 30, I like mine a little browner, if you’re wanting gold then 30 minutes should be just right.

Here is some extra flavor magic: sprinkle on fresh grated parmigiana, or some truffle salt, or perhaps both.  Delicious!

Stuffed Mushrooms for Last Minute Appetizer

Stuffed Mushrooms are the kind of appetizer that takes no time to make, you’re likely to have all of the ingredients in your refrigerator and pantry, and they are delightful bite full of flavor.

Stuffed Mushrooms Ingredients:
15 medium Baby Bella Mushrooms (a whole container)
2 tbsps of Olive Oil
1/3 cup of Italian Bread Crumbs
1 tbsp of Skim Ricotta Cheese
2 tbsps grated parmesean
2 tsps of italian seasoning
Dash of Red Pepper Flakes
Salt and Pepper to taste
Add chopped basil, or parsley, chopped garlic
First rinse and rub all of the mushrooms and let them dry.  Remove all of the stems and reserve.  Take the stems and chop them to a small chop.  

In a small bowl add all of the seasonings, cheese, bread crumbs and olive oil.  Add to that the chopped mushrooms.

With a fork mix all of the ingredients.  This recipe is sort of the exact opposite of baking; you can swap out other ingredients, you can change the seasoning, want more spice, less spice, no cheese, more veggies, this is a great clean out the pantry in a flash recipe.

Prepare the oven to 400 degrees and put parchment paper on a cookie sheet.  Turn the mushrooms cavity down and lightly oil the outside of the mushrooms, and sprinkle to taste with salt and pepper.  With a small spoon, or of course your fingers, stuff the mushrooms to the top.

Bake for twenty minutes.  Allow to cool, just long enough so that when you pop an entire mushroom in your mouth and it’s not so hot that you have to do that “it’s too hot” dance.  Enjoy!