New Year Eve Cocktail Favorites

There's no better way to start the new year off with good friends at an intimate yet festive house party. I know some like to go out on the town and get me, I've had my fair share of those New Year's Eve celebrations as well. But over the years I've always ended up feeling like the hassle of transportation, cost of the entire night and ultimate hellacious hangover aren't entirely worth it. To be honest, there's nothing more depressing to me than feeling completely awful and bad about myself on January now my celebration of preference is one that lends itself to at least a slightly lesser hangover. Enter, the house party.

Every good house party, particularly on New Year's Eve, has at least one specialty cocktail. On this special night, those cocktails should definitely include champagne so I thought I would share a couple of my favorite champagne cocktails to help you start 2013 off right. Most are very basic...but the basic yet delicious cocktail is the best friend of a party hostess!
Weekly Menu: December 30, 2012 – January 5, 2013
Sunday: In Pasadena
Monday: In Pasadena
Tuesday: Rose Bowl & Parade in Pasadena!
Wednesday:    Take-Out on Drive Home from Pasadena
Thursday: Christian’s Posole Soup
Friday: Breakfast for Dinner (DIY)
Saturday: Leftovers: Christian’s Posole
New Year's is always a bit of a last minute plan for us....and this year it turned out a million times better than we ever expected. A couple of extra tickets to the Rose Bowl and Tournament of Roses Parade just came our way! Going to the Rose Bowl has been on Christian's bucket list before the idea of bucket lists was even popular. And the Tournament of Roses parade is my absolute favorite parade all year long so we are both super excited to take an impromptu end of year road trip down to Pasadena and start the year off right!

That also means that we won't be cooking our traditional New Year's dishes this year. I usually make Osso Bucco with Cheesy Polenta on New Year's Eve. Then on New Year's Day I always make something with Black-Eyed Peas in the southern tradition of starting the year off with good luck. One of our favorites is this side dish of Black-Eyed Peas with Bacon and Ginger. Whatever you decide to do, I hope you have a wonderful time looking back on 2012 and celebrating the start of a New Year with your loved ones.

Once we return from Pasadena we'll keep it simple as we get back into the swing of our normal routine with one of our old standby favorites...Christian's Posole soup. Another night of easy breakfast for dinner followed by Posole leftovers finishes off the first week of the new year.

Have a happy and safe New Year's Eve everyone!
Christmas Morning Monkey Bread

Growing up as a child, Monkey Bread was a relatively rare but very welcome treat. Nothing was more enjoyable to me than eating with my hands and getting all sticky alongside my parents. I don't think we typically had it on Christmas morning, but as I've developed my own traditions with Christian this recipe has become our go-to Christmas morning staple.

It's a perfect Christmas morning can partially prepare it the day before and refrigerate it and then just do one last-minute step and pop it in the oven first thing while the coffee is brewing and everyone is gathering around the tree. Makes the house smell delicious! Traditional monkey bread doesn't have any orange zest or pecans so feel free to omit but I think these additions really make it special...
Weekly Menu: December 23-29, 2012
Sunday: Taco Night (DIY)
Monday: Christmas Eve Fondue!
Tuesday: Christmas Dinner at Top of the Mark
Wednesday: Leftovers: Tacos
Thursday: Tortellini Soup
Friday: Christmas with family in Sacramento
Saturday: In Sacramento
The holidays are here, the holidays are here! I absolutely love this time of festive and fun, especially since we don't do any traveling and just stay local. San Francisco pretty much empties out during the holidays so it always feels like we have our super festive city all to ourselves! All the time of work doesn't hurt either.

So what are we eating this week?  Well I find that this time of year starts to get a bit heavy with all of the classic, American holiday comfort food so we're breaking things up a bit by starting the week off with a Mexican taco night. Nice and easy but delicious. Then it's time to jump right into one of our favorite holiday traditions...Christmas Eve Fondue Dinner!

We do all three courses...cheese, meat/veggies in broth and chocolate. It's a nice, long, luxurious meal that is perfectly conducive to good conversation with good friends. This year we're having 3 friends who are also in town for the holidays over to join us...but even when it's just the two of us it makes for a very festive and romantic Christmas Eve.
Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies

Over the past three years, these cookies have come to mean Christmas to me. Their soft, cake-like texture. Their not-to-sweet chocolate depth. Their perfectly peppermint-y bite. Tastes like much so that I've already made three batches this year!

I first discovered this recipe a few years ago when researching new cookie recipes for my annual cookie party. I'm not typically a big peppermint fan but come Christmas time I all of a sudden can't get enough peppermint bark candy or peppermint stick ice cream. So I was looking for a way to incorporate this strange seasonal craving into my cookie party and stumbled upon this recipe on a blog called 101 Cookbooks.

Since this recipe makes quite a few cookies, feel free to also freeze half of the dough (or even double the recipe and freeze a full batch) so you have it on hand for when guests stop by unexpectedly during the holiday season. Once you have the dough all lined up on the cookie sheets ready to go in the oven, simply pop the cookie sheet in the freezer instead and once the cookie dough balls are fully frozen you can then put them all in a freezer storage bag. Pop right from the freezer to the oven when you're ready to make them...they might need an extra 1-2 minutes in the oven, but no need to thaw first. Will make your house smell divine while they're cooking, which is nice when guests are visiting as well!

The recipe below is almost identical to the 101 Cookbooks original that I first made years ago, but I've adapted it slightly over the years:

Weekly Menu: December 16-22, 2012
Sunday: Pumpkin Agnolotti
Monday: Leftovers: Chili from the Freezer with cornbread
Tuesday: Leftovers: Pumpkin Agnolotti
Wednesday: Citrus Tofu with Onions & Peppers with Brown Rice
Thursday: Christian's Youth Justice Institute Holiday Party
Friday: Suz's Hopalong Holiday Party!
Saturday: Leftovers: Citrus Tofu with Flour Tortillas & Black Beans
This is a bit of a busy week for us with Christian just returning back from L.A. and both of our non-profits having holiday parties, so there's not a whole lot of cooking going on. The meals that we are cooking, however, are brand new recipes. The first is Pumpkin Agnolotti...sounds fancy, but since it uses canned pumpkin and wonton wrappers it actually looks pretty darn easy.

The second new recipe we're trying out is Citrus Tofu with Onions & Peppers. Trying to keep it healthy when we're not indulging at all of these holiday parties!  We'll turn the leftovers from this into burritos and serve alongside black beans to mix things up a bit later in the week. The rest of our week is filled with leftovers and holiday parties for Christian's work and for the non-profit where I am a board member. Should be a fun, busy week...hope yours is too!  
Gløgg – Mulled Wine for the Holidays!
Gløgg, or hot spiced wine, is the taste of Christmas in the Henricksen household. It's warmth as we sip it and its spicy-citrus aroma filling the house can only mean one thing...Christmas is right around the corner! While Christian didn't grow up with Gløgg, he is of Scandinavian descent so he's our Gløgg maker and has been for the past 7 years. He's gotten so confident in his Gløgg making abilities that he doesn't even use a recipe anymore...but his general approach, which is delicious, is as follows:
Weekly Menu: December 9-15, 2012
Sunday: Homemade Turkey & Rice Soup (DIY)
Monday: Buffalo Turkey Meatballs, Buttered Noodles & Roasted Broccoli Rabe for the Pat’s Game!
Tuesday: Leftovers: Turkey Rice Soup
Wednesday:   Leftovers: Buffalo Turkey Meatballs
Thursday: Easy Breakfast for Dinner...Christian out of town
Friday: Eat Out
Saturday: Work Christmas Party!
The day after our cookie party usually means we're a bit rough around the edges. That means that Sunday is the perfect day to finally get that Thanksgiving carcass and leftover meat out of my freezer and simmer a homemade stock all day to make some soul satisfying soup. I don't have a recipe for you on this one...just winging it based on the leftovers and veggies I have in the house.

Monday night the Patriots are playing the Houston Texans on Monday Night we're having some friends over to watch the game. I'll make our favorite football food...these meatballs are amazingly reminiscent of buffalo wings but with a lot less guilt. I even use 2% fat Greek yogurt instead of sour cream to make the blue cheese dressing. To make it feel like more of a meal than an appetizer I'll make some buttered Parmesan noodles and roasted broccoli rabe to serve alongside the meatballs.  Go Pats!

Christian is heading out of town on Wednesday until Saturday so the rest of the week will be easy, breezy leftovers and other simple dinner solutions.  Saturday I'll pick Christian up from the airport and we'll whisk up to Santa Rosa for my boss' Holiday Party...gotta love this time of year!
Holiday Cookie Party!

The Henricksen Holiday Cookie Party is a long-standing, fabulous tradition. Christian's mom has been hosting her own holiday cookie party since the mid-90s and I was introduced to it back in 2002 when I started dating Christian.  I thought it was such a fun idea and Christian loves cookies so much that we decided to continue with the tradition for our own little family of friends. It's a fantastic way to gather friends together, sample a dazzling array of cookies and imbibe in festive drinks while listening to the Carpenters croon Christmas carols. Be forewarned though, it's a party that almost guarantees a sugar hangover!


So, what's on the menu?  You'll be happy to see it's super easy and low key!

  • Cookies of course...some of your own and a batch from every group of guests!
  • A savory table with decadent cheese & charcuterie platters along with all of the requisite accompaniments such as nuts, olives, figs, etc...
  • A crudité platter
  • Homemade Gløgg (mulled wine)
  • Warm spiked apple cider with homemade whipped cream

But first, let's talk about the cookies.  This is a cookie pot luck, if you will.  So I usually bake 3 cookies and guests are required to bring 1 dish of cookies of their own as well.  It's fun because you often get a peek into their family traditions or discover a fabulous new cookie for your own repertoire. Since we've been doing this for so many years and have many repeat guests, our party tends to get a bit competitive...those who show up with store-bought cookies are ridiculed a bit :)

Weekly Menu: December 2-8, 2012
Sunday: Thai Chicken Peanut Noodle Soup
Monday: Leftovers: Chili from the Freezer
Tuesday: Orecchiette with Braised Broccoli Rabe
Wednesday:  Leftovers: Chicken Noodle Soup
Thursday: Leftovers: Orecchiette
Friday: Eat Out
Saturday: Henricksen Annual Cookie Party!
During the holiday season we try to keep it pretty simple with our dinner menus, relying heavily on old favorites that we can practically make on auto-pilot. So that's exactly what we're doing this week. Sunday Christian will be making a Thai Chicken Peanut Noodle Soup that we've been making for years to welcome me home from Austin. There's nothing more comforting after a plane ride than a steaming bowl of homemade soup! Tuesday we'll make our Orecchiette with Braised Broccoli Rabe (and probably sausage)...if you only try one recipe on my entire site this is the one to try. Particularly during the colder winter months.  It is so satisfying and comforting and super easy to make, absolutely one of our all-time favorites.

The rest of the week we're relying on leftovers (one from the depths of our freezer - Emeril's 5 Bean Chili) and a night out before we get to our annual holiday Cookie Party. We've been throwing an annual holiday cookie party for a little over 7 years now...but we can't take all the credit. This is actually a tradition that Christian's mother started when they first moved to Massachusetts, when Christian was about 16. When I became a part of the family a few years later and went to my first one I immediately fell in love with the idea of it. Bringing friends, neighbors and family together to share their favorite home-baked cookies, enjoy holiday beverages (like our Glögg - warm mulled spiced red wine), cheesy Christmas music and a good time. What's not to love? So while technically we don't serve any dinner at this party the extensive cheese & charcuterie plate and other nibbles beyond the cookies will be enough to hold us over for the night without formal dinner plans.