Christmas Eve Fondue Party!

There are two Christmas Eve traditions in the SavoryGirl household:  Everyone gets to open one small gift and we celebrate the night before Christmas with a 3-course intimate fondue party, complete with board games, crackling T.V. fireplace and all! I know a 3-course fondue party sounds like it may be a bit of an effort, but to be honest, beyond cutting up all of the things you want to dip in the fondue it's a super easy and very festive  meal.
Paula Deen’s Rum Pumpkin Pie with Praline Pecans

It's that time of year again...time to overbook our schedules with cocktail parties, gift exchanges and eat way too much yummy food! You know, those foods that you love but only have at this time of year...for me Paula Deen's Rum Pumpkin Pie with Praline Pecans that I make every Thanksgiving is at the top of that list. I first tried this recipe years ago when I began hosting my own big Thanksgiving dinners for friends and I haven't gone back to plain old traditional pumpkin pie since! So what makes this pie so addictive? First, the depth of flavor that just the slight bit of added rum adds. It doesn't seem like 2 tablespoons of rum would make that big of a difference, but trust me, don't skimp here. Second the perfect layer of whipped cream covering the entire top of the pie is essential.  No more single dollop of whip cream per slice...a whole layer on top of the freshly made topping is the way to go. Lastly the praline pecans...make more than the recipe calls for and sprinkle on top liberally. This sweet, crunchy, nutty addition adds the perfect amount of textural distinction to an otherwise melt in your mouth creamy pie. If you're feeling ambitious and want to make your own pie crust, Paula's Perfect Pie Crust is a fantastic recipe...buttery and flaky. Of course, there's no shame in store-bought pie crust...just buy the frozen sheets of  rolled out dough that you put in your own pan which is much better than the kind that is frozen and already pressed into a tinfoil pan. Whatever you decide about your crust, make sure this pie is filling'll be the talk of your Thanksgiving party and have everyone wishing you made two. Seriously...this is the only dessert that I've ever hid from people so I can have the leftovers all to myself!
Lucky New Years Day Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Good luck for the year if you eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day!

Good luck for the year if you eat black-eyed peas on New Year's Day!

Every New Years Day for years now I've been making something with Black-Eyed Peas.  It's a Southern tradition that eating them on New Year's Day brings good luck for the year, and while I'm certainly not Southern I like fun food traditions so I've adopted this one as one of my own. Unfortunately, most of the recipes I've tried over the years have underwhelmed me.  They've either been too complicated for the end result, too unhealthy with loads of bacon, or just downright bland.  Until last year!  So since I've finally found a go-to Good Luck recipe I thought I would share:
Weekly Menu: December 28, 2014 – January 3, 2015
New Year's Eve Osso Buco

New Year's Eve Osso Buco

Sunday: Dinner at the 49ers v Cardinals Game at Levi Stadium
Monday: Dinner with a friend at Maven
Tuesday: Leftovers: Beef Barley Soup
Wednesday:   New Year's Eve! 
Thursday: Cioppino Boil at Montara Beach with a friend
Friday: Leftovers: Beef Barley Soup
Saturday: First party of 2015 at a friend's place!
One more week of crazy, busy holiday socializing ahead of us and I can't wait!  This last week has been perfect as far as holiday seasons go and instead of being exhausted by all of the activity as I often am, I'm feeling energized.  So bring on the last week of 2014 and let's ring in 2015 right! Of course, all of this socializing means I'm not much help in terms of a cooking dinner menu this week.  And the couple of days I do have to eat at home I'm pulling some beef barley soup I made over the weekend to use it up and save on groceries. It was a total impromptu, DIY recipe using things I had on chopped up beef that I marinated in an old bottle of red wine in the fridge, smashed garlic, black pepper and rosemary.  Then I dried it off, tossed it in some flour, salt and pepper, browned it and then deglazed the pan with a bit more red wine.  From there I simply added beef broth, cooked barley (that's been in the freezer forever!) and chopped up carrots, corn, peas, string beans, fingerling potatoes and spinach. Season to taste and there you go...easy breezy, delicious soup to use up some of those leftovers and feed you for days to come! Typically for New Year's Eve I cook one of my all time favorite meals, Osso Buco with Cheesy Polenta. But honestly I have a few options to consider for this year and while I'm not sure which one I'm doing just yet a dinner party doesn't appear to be in the cards.  While usually a girl of traditions like me would be sad about this, this year I'm embracing it.  Out with the old and in with the new!  You all know I've had a really tough year so I'm looking forward to 2015, a new me and new traditions to make this one of the best years yet.  Happy New Year safe, happy and healthy...and may 2015 ring in a year of fantastic cooking and eating for you and all of those you love! As always, if you need a few more recipes  visit my menu archives and recipes to find other meals to round out your week. Happy cooking...
Cookie Party 2014!
SavoryGirl's 2014 CookiesOne of my all-time favorite nights of the annual Cookie Party! I've been hosting a holiday cookie party for almost 15 years now. The idea originally came from my ex-husband's mother who always hosted a Cookie Party for her neighbors but over the years I've evolved it a bit and made it my own. The funny thing is, as my website name suggests, I'm more of a Savory than Sweet girl. So while I love the cookies and the energy that my guests put into one-upping their cookies from the year before what I really look forward to is the cheese and meat. This year my guests pressured me into a formal vote for the tastiest and most creative cookies...we've never done that before so it added a new competitive element that I'm sure will drive the cookies to even greater heights next year!

Here are some photo highlights from this year's party, starting with the photo collage above. SavoryGirl's 2014 cookies!  I always make 3-4 cookies for my party but typically 2 of them are old family traditional cookies.  This year, however, I decided out with the old and in with the new and mad all new cookies! So I made Chocolate Pistachio Thumbprints with Chocolate Ganache which I thought were a delicious combination of salty sweet and while they look fancy they're actually quite easy to make.  I also made Tahini Cookies rolled in black sesame seeds and demera sugar.  I was pretty excited about the idea of these but they underwhelmed me in texture although others seemed to like them.  Lastly I made Chai Spice Cookies which were divine...and they just happened to be gluten free too. These actually won the informal "tastiest cookie" award at the party so they're definitely a keeper.  Super easy and really delicious! Jacob & Chad's Salted Choc Chip, Birdnests & Icebox Cookies
Next up, Jacob and Chad's cookies...they had to go and match the host and bring 3 cookies!  Love it.  Jacob's Salted Chocolate Chip Cookies gave my Chai Spice Cookies a run for their money in the "tastiest cookie" contest.  Don't worry...I'm working on getting the recipe! They also brought along BirdNests which you see in the middle there. These were quite yummy but really decadent so after a bite or two I was done! Their third cookie was a classic, buttery icebox cookie.
SavoryGirl’s Favorite Mexican Dishes

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!  In honor of this fun, yet often American abused holiday I thought I'd stay away from the bars and instead share a collection of some of my past favorite Mexican recipe posts. If you've been following SavoryGirl at all you likely know by now that I think I may have been Mexican in my past life.  It's hard to go two weeks without one of my weekly dinner menus including something Mexican inspired and it's almost guaranteed that I am making some version of Huevos Rancheros for breakfast on the weekends.  So let's take a spin through SavoryGirl's Mexican past creations...

First up is my all-time most popular post...Eva Longoria's Chicken Tortilla Soup.  It's a little hard for me to swallow that a once in a blue moon recipe that I ripped out of a People Magazine while traveling has been the most popular post on my blog for the past 2  years, but I can indeed stand behind the recipe.  This soup is better than most that I have in great Mexican restaurants.
Weekly Menu: March 31 – April 6, 2013
Sunday: Whole Roasted Chicken, Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe & Pancetta and Asparagus Shiitake Sauté
Monday: Brown Rice & Beans with Ginger Chile Salsa
Tuesday: Leftovers: Lemony Chicken & Orzo Soup 
Wednesday: White Fish with leftover Parmesan Bread Pudding & Grilled Asparagus
Thursday: Leftovers: Brown Rice & Beans with Ginger Chile
Friday: Leftovers: Fish Tacos with Sauteed Brussel Sprouts
Saturday: Eat Out
We're not big Easter people, but since this Sunday is Easter and we do like a reason to celebrate and cook good food we're amping up our typical Sunday dinner and making it a bit more indulgent than usual.  Mostly in terms of this delicious Bon Appétit recipe I just found for Parmesan Bread Pudding with Broccoli Rabe & Pancetta...gluten free it is not, but like I said we're splurging a bit.  Served alongside a nice whole roasted chicken and a seasonal sauté of asparagus and shiitakes...sounds like the perfect Easter dinner to me!

Monday we'll get back to our more traditionally healthy routine with another new recipe from Bon Appétit that is a simple yet yummy sounding twist on beans and rice.  We'll then turn our roast chicken from Sunday into a lemony orzo soup and finish off the week with some white fish served alongside leftover parmesan bread pudding and more of that delicious spring asparagus that we can't get enough of these days.

Happy Easter everyone...hope you have a wonderful, delicious day with family and friends.
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...