Starting at Thanksgiving through the end of December, this time of year offers the change to share some of the most delicious meals with friends and family. Here are a few fun ideas to complement your holiday meals this year.
Roasted Balsamic-glazed Vegetables
This recipe is really easy breezy, without specific measurements, so you can prepare as little or as much as you need. And you can adjust the vegetables and herbs to suit your taste, just be careful to use vegetables that require the same cooking time. As a bonus, you can roast the vegetables before your cook the turkey, then reheat them for about 15 while the turkey rests.
1 pound carrots, if possible, look for festive, multi-colored carrots (Check Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods)
1 pound assorted tiny potatoes, including gold, red and purple, skin on
1 pound Brussels sprouts
5 large shallots, or one small red onion, sliced thickly
1 dried bay leaf
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 bunch fresh oregano
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line a large baking sheet with foil. Cut the vegetables so that they’re all the same size. For instance, slice the sprouts and potatoes in half, and make sure the carrots, which take the longest to cook, are cut the same size or a little smaller. In a glass measuring cup, add the olive oil, garlic, bay leaf, and microwave for about 45 seconds to infuse the oil. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and set aside to cool.
Place the chopped vegetables in a large bowl, and pour the infused oil-and-balsamic mixture over the vegetables. Mix well to coat all of the veggies. Sprinkle salt and pepper to taste, add chopped oregano, mix well.
Spread the seasoned vegetables in prepared pan, then roast for about 45 minutes, until vegetables are browned, turning them occasionally.
Perfectly Poached Salmon Pasta Salad
Enjoy a vivid salad that brings together whimsical pasta shapes, aromatic vegetables and fragrant, juicy poached salmon with a lemony vinaigrette.
Poaching the salmon:
1 pound salmon fillet
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white wine
1 large shallot, sliced about 1/8-inch thick
Handful of fresh herbs of your choice. Consider dill, chives or tarragon.
Place the shallot slices on the bottom of a skillet just large enough to hold the fish. Top with herbs. Place the fish, skin side down, onto the shallots and herbs, using them as a resting place so that the fish isn’t sitting directly on the pan. Pour in the wine and water so that the bottom of the pan is covered. If your pan is too large, add a little more liquid but don’t let it cover the fish. In fact, it shouldn’t really be touching the fish.
Cover, and cook on high until the liquid comes to a boil. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook for about 6 minutes or until an instant read thermometer at the thickest part of the fish reaches 125 degrees. Remove fish from the pan and place it on a cloth or paper towel, skin side down. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the fish and set aside.
1 small shallot, minced
1 heaping teaspoon French mustard
1/4 cup capers, drained and roughly chopped
Juice of 1 lemon and zest of 1/2 of the lemon. Save the other half of the zest to drizzle on top of the finished salad.
Salt & pepper to taste
Pinch of sugar
Old Fashioned Cocktail Bundt Cake
While rum cakes are often popular, they don’t leave much to the imagination. This year, you might want to try something a little different. If you enjoy an Old Fashioned cocktail, it’s quite possible that you’ll fall in love with this Bundt cake spiked with bourbon and perfumed with orange and a bit of cherry. This large cake travels well and, as with most liquor-spiked cakes, it becomes even more flavorful the next day.
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/2 cup bourbon
2 teaspoons vanilla extract or Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Bean Paste)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 10-inch Bundt cake pan.
Mix together flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl. Place the ingredients in a fine mesh sieve to sift them together into the bowl.
In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, and mix until smooth, using medium speed. Place the buttermilk, bourbon and vanilla in a measuring cup. Lower the speed of the mixer, then add the dry ingredients while alternating with the liquids, and beat until the batter is smooth. Carefully pour the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing out the top.
Bake the cake for about 50 to 55 minutes, or until a knife comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. Then carefully invert it onto a plate and pour about 1/4 cup of the glaze into the bottom of the pan. Place the cake back into the cake pan. Poke small holes with a fork or knife on the top (which will be the bottom) of the cake. While the cake is still warm, slowly pour about half of the glaze over the bottom of the cake.
Invert the cake (for the last time) onto a serving plate with a rim, and poke holes on the top and sides of the cake, then carefully and slowly pour the glaze over the top and sides of the cake until it’s gone.
Old Fashioned Cocktail Glaze
Prepare the glaze while the cake is baking.
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons orange bitters
1 tablespoon orange zest
5 to 10 maraschino cherries, minced
3/4 cup bourbon
Melt butter in a heavy bottomed saucepan. Add the water and sugar. Boil about five minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. In a tall glass or measuring cup, combine the rest of the ingredients. Once the syrup is off the heat, carefully pour in the bourbon mixture. Stir until well mixed and pour onto the warm cake.
Note that you’re not cooking the bourbon at all, so make sure that you’re away from any open flames so that you don’t rearrange your eyebrows. Also, the alcohol won’t be cooked out of the glaze, so you might not want to feed this cake to toddlers.