Vegetarian Eats for the Big Game!

Ok...so I'm not super excited about the Superbowl this year. I mean my Pats were only one game away from making it in, and let's be honest, it wasn't a very respectable loss. So while I certainly go big for the Superbowl when the Pats are in it, this year I'm trying my best to keep it a bit simpler and healthier. My Pats are worth the calories and effort...the Niners and the Ravens, not so much. So I thought I'd include a few more veggies in our spread this year. Yes, some will be smothered with cheese, but hey, it's a start.

So first up...those delicious looking Spicy Broccoli Rabe & Provolone Grinders above. Yes, Grinders. I'm from MA, after all...no Subs or Hoagies here!. I made these for the first time this year and while they may slightly disappoint that guest who sees them and excitedly asks if they're Cheesesteaks, they are pretty fabulous.

The soft french rolls are slathered with a homemade spicy white bean spread (store-bought spicy hummus will do in a pinch), piled high with crispy oven roasted broccoli rabe, smothered in melty provolone and sprinkled with red jalapenos. Yum.  I know I certainly didn't miss the meat. The original recipe can be found here...but, like I said you can simplify buy using store-bought spicy hummus instead of making your own spread (although the homemade stuff is yummy). I also simplified by oven roasting the rapini rather than cooking it the way they suggested.  I think it works even better (adds some crisp!) and dirties way fewer dishes, which I always like. C'mon...you know you want to grab one!

Next up...some snack-y finger food without all the calories of nuts. Pan fried shishito peppers!  These little peppers are relatively easy to find these days since they've really grown in popularity.  They're not spicy peppers, but slightly sweet and so delicious when cooked up this way. So simple and easy...they're best warm, but they go fast so cook up a big batch!

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 crazy...trust 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 1st...so 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!
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 breakfast...you 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...
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 Christmas...so 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:

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:
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 :)

Cranberry-Pepper Jelly

If you've been reading my blog at all over the past week or so, you're probably sick of hearing me talk about this Cranberry-Pepper Jelly! But I promise, this will be it on this topic...at least until next year. I know it probably seems odd that I'm providing the recipe in this post after Thanksgiving, but this condiment is so yummy and versatile that it lives well past Turkey Day. Fantastic on turkey sandwiches of course, but also great with baked brie or really paired with any cheese. It also makes a nice cracker dip along with some cream cheese. This cranberry-pepper jelly knows no bounds and it's super easy to make as well. The recipe is from the 2011 Thanksgiving issue of Bon Appétit with only a couple of very minor SavoryGirl adaptions.

So first things first...the ingredients. Super simple ingredients here along with a heavy-bottomed pan and you're ready to go:

A SavoryGirl Thanksgiving, 2012

I love Thanksgiving...good friends, family, food, football and fun.  What's not to love? To be honest, though, I didn't always love it...when I was a kid it seemed kind of silly to me how my mom slaved away all day just for one meal. But ever since I've been the cook I totally get it. Yes it can be a lot of work but it's the work of love. All that effort is worth it for the "ooohs and aaaahs" when you walk in with the Turkey. Or watching your husband's face as he takes that first bite of your famous Sweet Potatoes that he loves so much but only gets this one day a year. Personally, I also love the strategy and planning that Thanksgiving takes...and that's the key to actually enjoying this holiday as host. So not only am I sharing my menu, but I am also sharing my detailed cooking and timing plan to get it all done and downloadable shopping lists. That's right, time to start enjoying your own Thanksgiving party!

You all know by now that I love to cook and hopefully you agree that I am a pretty good judge of recipes as well...therefore I can almost guarantee that my menu below is going to be delicious. I've been hosting large Thanksgiving dinners for years now and I can proudly say I haven't had a dud yet (knocking on wood as I type!). Some of the dishes below are old favorites but many are new.  Since I have a bit of a smaller crowd this year I'm keeping appetizers more simple than usual (and yes one leans Mexican!) but otherwise this year's menu is pretty typical of a SavoryGirl Thanksgiving. You can also check out my previous SavoryGirl Thanksgiving Menu, if the one below doesn't suit your fancy.

Last year the Pancetta Crisps, Succotash, Kale Salad and Cranberry-Pepper Jelly were big hits out of the new additions...one of which is making a repeat performance this year along with the turkey brine recipe and my ever-present sweet potatoes.

My Favorite Shakshuka Recipe

Shakshuka. Not only is it fun to say, but it is delicious! What is it, you ask?  It's eggs poached in a chunky, spicy tomato sauce and it's so popular that many different countries claim it as their own. Tunisia, Morocco, Israel...wherever it originated, I'm pretty thankful! Since I've been making it for a while now I've made it my own, so I wouldn't necessarily say this is a traditional shakshuka recipe but I love it.

So what's not traditional about my recipe?  Mostly the addition of olives, substitution of goat cheese for feta cheese, and sprinkling Italian gremolata on top instead of parsley alone. I also make it a bit spicier than most so if you're not a huge fan of spice dial back the jalapeños some.  Shakshuka is traditionally served with pita bread, but I like it with grilled rustic whole grain bread. Sometimes I even push my Italian influence on the dish a little further and serve it over polenta, yum.

So whether you go the more traditional route or try this SavoryGirl twist to Shakshuka I promise it will become a favorite in your household as well.  Enjoy!
SavoryGirl’s Childhood Button Sandwich

This is a really fun post for me...why? Well because this honestly might be the very first SavoryGirl original recipe that I ever created! I was about 6 years old and home with my dad and best friend, Aimee, while my mom was out grocery shopping. We were hungry and after surveying the ingredients that were available in the cupboards I created this sandwich...which I promptly named "The Button Sandwich" because of the way the perfectly lined up marshmallows reminded me of buttons. I have to say 25+ years later and it's still a winner in my household, and we don't even have kids yet!

So what makes it so special? Well honestly it's the simplicity but complementary nature of the ingredients. Who doesn't love apples with peanut butter? Who doesn't love a fluffer-nutter sandwich? Well this beauty combines the best of both worlds! Creamy peanut butter (on both slices of bread please!), applesauce and marshmallows...delicious.