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.
Cookie Party 2014!
SavoryGirl's 2014 CookiesOne of my all-time favorite nights of the year...my 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.
Tapas Party!

Tortilla Espanola

I'm part of a lovely rotating monthly ladies dinner party and August was my turn to host...so I decided to forego the traditional sit-down dinner and throw a Tapas Party!  This was particularly fun for me because it allowed me to go down memory lane a bit to when I studied abroad in San Sebastián, Spain and pull out some of my old favorite recipes from my time there that I haven't made in years.  It also gave me the opportunity to really cook a lot...which, yes, is a lot of work, but I truly do enjoy and haven't done in a while.  So what did I make?  Here's a quick rundown with recipe links included...

Tortilla Española...truly no tapas party is complete without this (above).  It is a signature Spanish tapa that you will find at every single tapas bar throughout the country.  While it doesn't sound particularly exciting (essentially a potato & onion omelet), trust me on this one...it's always a huge hit.  This one always feels a bit scary for people to make, review the step by step photo recipe attached in the linked recipe...it's really pretty simple and straightforward if you take it one step at a time.  And just be bold with the flip...own it and it will go perfectly! Traditionally it's served on top of a thin slice of bread but you can eat it on it's own as well (which I prefer).

Shrimp, Salmon and Egg Pintxo - this was my favorite of the entire spread!  Not surprising since it's a pintxo which is the Basque version of tapas and I studied abroad in Basque country.  So this was more reminiscent of the tapas that I ate while living abroad. Slightly more complex and often including amazing seafood.  The viniagrette that you make for this pintxo is to die for and I've been putting it on everything else since (it makes a ton though so you could 1/2 it if you want to). KILLS me that I've lost my pictures of my favorite tapa...guess that means I need to make it again ASAP so I can share the photo!

Pancetta Fig Crisps - ok, I took some liberties with the word "tapa".  This technically isn't Spanish but it is an appetizer that I've made several times and is always a huge hit so I decided to include it. Delish as always.

Pancetta Fig Crisps

Next up a a few "DIY" tapas:
Cocktail Animals…My Own Little Dose of Happiness
My Newest Little Cocktail Animals!

My Newest Little Cocktail Animals!

I haven't seen a cocktail animals in years...and honestly, haven't thought about them for years either.  Until the other day when I found myself at Kona Club tiki bar in Oakland with some friends and my drink came served to me with a little plastic pink elephant alongside the required paper umbrella.  Surprisingly, the sight of this cocktail animal stopped me in my tracks and immediately brought me back to childhood.  Yes childhood.  No, I wasn't an underage drunk and my parents weren't big drinkers either.  So what gives?  And then it hit me...as a child my mom had this big metal cookie tin (a red animal crackers one I believe!) just filled to the brim with every colorful cocktail animal and adornment you could imagine.  Blue monkey?  Of course!  Green lion?  Tens of them!  Red mermaid? Definitely.  Wow did I love playing with that tin of cocktail animals as a child...likely having no idea what they were really for until I got older and started hanging them from our glasses around the dinner table for fun.
Cocktail Animals in their Native Setting

Cocktail Animals in their Native Setting

So as I sat in that dark tiki bar...a lifetime removed from lying on the floor in my parents living room playing with a tin of cocktail animals it stuck me.  Sometimes the greatest joys in life are about the littlest details.  As I sipped on my tropical drink the fact that there was a yellow giraffe partially poking me in the face (ok, ok...I was on drink two and had moved on from the pink elephant) brought my intense joy.  Because it triggered such a simple, happy memory that I didn't even know I had.  So much so that I continued to play with and think about those cocktail animals for the rest of my Sunday and they continue to happily sit perched on the bar in my kitchen as I type.  Ah, the simple things.

So next time you're having a party or even just feeling festive (or the opposite and need some cheering up!), try adding a few cocktail animals to your drink and enjoy your own little dose of happiness. Tropical tiki drinks entirely optional.

Now to go pester my mom to see if she still has that tin of cocktail animals...I need to grow my budding happiness collection!
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!

Weekly Menu: January 20-26, 2013
Sunday: Mini Buffalo Chicken Meatballs & Broccoli Rabe Provolone Grinders for the Pats Game!
Monday: Halibut on Mashed Fava Beans with Mint and Roasted Red Pepper Salad
Tuesday: Leftovers: Mini Buffalo Chicken Meatballs & Broccoli Rabe Grinders
Wednesday:   Curried Red Lentil & Swiss Chard Stew
Thursday: Leftovers: Lentil & Swiss Chard Stew
Friday: Breakfast for Dinner 
Saturday: Eat Out
Pats game, baby! Sunday's a big day with our boys in the AFC Championship so we're having some of our fellow Massholes over (yes I consider that a term of endearment!) to root them on. We'll be having my now famous Mini Buffalo Chicken Meatballs that I originally saw way back when on a Martha Stewart show...who knew Martha knows football party food! In addition to these spicy, yummy little meatballs we'll also be making Broccoli Rabe Provolone Grinders...that's right people, grinders. Not hoagies, not subs...grinders. That's the way we roll in Massachusetts. Of course we'll have other snacks as well but those are our main dishes along with good 'ole Sam Adams beer. Go Pats!!

The rest of the week we'll get back in our healthy groove with a new fish recipe...Halibut on Mashed Fava Beans with Mint and a  Roasted Red Pepper, Spinach Salad. Then on Wednesday we'll make one of our old winter standbys, Curried Red Lentil & Swiss Chard Stew. We'll finish off the week with an easy breakfast for dinner as we head into our weekend.

Most importantly...Go Pats!!!!!!!!
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!
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 :)

Keeping it Simple for the 4th…

The Fourth of July has been one of my favorite holidays for as long as I can remember...but the funny thing is that it's one of the few holidays that I love that isn't all about the food for me.  Thanksgiving?  Definitely about the food.  Christmas Season? Cookie Party,  Fondue and Roast Beast. Easter?  A delicious brunch.  New Year's Eve?  Osso Bucco. New Year's Day? Black Eyed Peas.  You see, the thing that keeps me up the night before most holidays is child-like excitement over what I'm going to be cooking and/or eating the next day.  Of course it's about family and friends (and let's be honest...presents) as well but food always plays a central character on holidays for me and it has since I was a child.

The Fourth of July, however, was always a bit different.  I grew up having a big family picnic in a local park every Fourth of July...so it was the one holiday where my mom and I weren't cooking at home and weren't responsible for the entire meal.  Sure we'd make a few nice dishes to bring along but other members of the family chipped in too so it was casual, easy and really more about being in the park and hanging out with family that we really only saw on this one day a year.  Well, it was also about my Aunt Nixa's amazing Puerto Rican rice that she made every year...but I've yet to wrangle that recipe from her!

Weekly Menu: February 5-11, 2012
Sunday: Superbowl!  Mini Spicy Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
Monday: Vegetarian Cassoulet with Roasted Red Pepper & Spinach Salad
Tuesday: Grilled Halibut with Lemon Sauce, Bulgur & Mustard Greens
Wednesday: Leftovers: Cassoulet
Thursday: Coriander Chicken Tostadas with Grilled Fennel
Friday: Eat Out
Saturday: Leftovers: Chicken Tostadas
Oh, the big day is here!  Time for lots of screaming at the T.V., nervous drinking and indulgent eating while we watch our Pat's in their 7th Super Bowl.  Since I'm a New Englander I actually want to watch the game, which means that I need relatively easy food for our Super Bowl party.

So for Super Bowl Sunday I'm making some ridiculously good (and somewhat healthier than wings) Mini Spicy Buffalo Chicken Meatballs since I can make them in advance and then just cook them off at the last minute.  I'll also probably make a slow cooker Mac & Cheese, chips and homemade guacamole decorated like a football field and put out a veggie plate.  Add some beer, bubbly, Pat's gear and good friends and you have yourself a Super Bowl party!

To make up for the Sunday indulgence we're trying to keep the rest of the week relatively light.  So instead of a traditional meat-laden cassoulet we're making a vegetarian version and then a nice, simple fish dinner with healthy grains and greens.  Then we're finishing the week off with a bit of Mexican flair....this recipe calls for homemade refried beans, which are easy enough and yummy but feel free to use low-fat canned ones if you're in a rush.

Go Pat's!