I wanted to do a big Christmas dinner, but I didn't want to be in the kitchen all Christmas Day. I also wanted to try something different than the usual rib roast and Yorkshire pudding. So I decided to do dinner on Christmas Eve and to do some easy, low-prep dishes for Brunch on Christmas Day.
I ordered a half fresh ham through Whole Foods to try cooking a Christmas ham for the first time, but I made a few mistakes. I wanted to cook it in the slow cooker with brown sugar and cider to make a glaze, but I didn't realize that "fresh ham" is not really what we consider ham - without the curing or smoke, it is more like a pork roast - so I didn't really get the flavor that I wanted. I also couldn't get the whole thing to fit in my (very large) slow cooker insert, so I had to chop a chunk off - which actually ended up being a good thing because I roasted that piece and it came out better.
Just because it's cold outside, doesn't mean you can't still make burgers. And they don't have to be the standard plain burgers, either. Here are two recipes that put a bit of a twist on the classic burger.
First up - a Middle Eastern inspired spiced lamb burger with a creamy yogurt sauce.
To make the patties, combine bread crumbs, lamb, turkey, onion, an egg, parsley, garlic, coriander, cumin, cinnamon, allspice, salt, and pepper. Use a grill pan, griddle, or electric grill to cook the burgers.
Make a sauce with yogurt, scallions, parsley, mint, oregano, lemon zest, lemon juice, cumin, coriander, sugar, and pepper.
Place the burgers inside pitas and stuff with fresh tomatoes and the yogurt sauce.
For a Southwestern twist, we have Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers with Avocado Mayonnaise.
To form the burgers, simply combine ground turkey, jarred salsa verde, breadcrumbs, and an egg. Combine avocado, mayonnaise, and garlic to make a sauce. Cook the burgers on a griddle (turkey falls apart too much to grill) and top with Pepperjack cheese and the sauce. If they are in season - green tomatoes are also an excellent topper.
As I stated in my Announcement Post, I am hosting this month's Food 'n Flix with inspiration from the movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I wanted to get a little wacky and fun and colorful (and a little naughty) so I made this beautiful stained glass jello and boozed it up a little.
The process starts out with setting a few different colors of jello - you can use less colors (red and green for Christmas, for example) but I wanted to be pretty colorful. I also added alcohol, which you can leave out.
Once the jello is fully set, cut it into cubes and toss together gently in a 9x13 glass pan. Put it back into the fridge to make sure it stays cold.
The recipe calls this "mac and cheese", but I feel like it is more of a "cheesy casserole". Either way, it is tasty and good for you - packed with protein rich quinoa and tasty veggies. You can make it even healthier by using fat free milk and fat free cheese. It is also totally customizable to your tastes!
Start by sauteing whatever veggies you want to use. I went with leeks and tomatoes as suggested by the recipe, but you could do onions or shallots, bell peppers, corn, spinach, anything you want.
Add the quinoa and allow to toast a little bit to get extra flavor.
I have been going to Maple Avenue Restaurant (located on, you guessed it, Maple Ave) for lunch pretty regularly the past couple of months. I am so sad that I didn't discover this place sooner, because it is awesome! It is super tiny (like 20 seats max) and not much to look at, but the food is super fresh and seasonal and local and just great all around. I don't know much about the chef, I haven't been to one of their "meet the farmers" events, and I haven't even been for dinner, but I just love this place. They have a super awesome lunch deal of 2 courses for $20 which, considering a main is like $22 usually, is a pretty good bargain. The menu changes all the time, so it's likely that dishes I post about here won't be on the menu any more, but they can give you an idea of what you can expect.
The baked mac and cheese - this is one of their most popular small plates, and for good reason! Really good pasta, cooked to the perfect al dente, with gruyere and cheddar, topped with an herbed panko crust.
I am hosting Food 'n Flix this month and I have chosen the classic 1971 film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory. As far as children's movies though, this one is pretty creepy: five "lucky" children are invited to tour the famous Wonka factory with its eccentric owner, but start dropping like flies once they are in there - falling victim to various horrible fates that may or may not be remedied off screen. Then there is that super creepy spy, Mr. Slugworth, and the nightmare fuel that is the tunnel scene.
It's not all scary, though - there are musical numbers, funny quips, and tons and tons of candy. (And it's nowhere near as creepy as the Tim Burton remake...) We watched this movie constantly when I was little, requesting it as "Wee Wonka" because we couldn't pronounce it properly yet. One of the reasons we loved it so much was that our semi-distant relative played Charlie! Peter Ostrum is my grandfather's cousin's son (I think...) and only ever appeared in this one movie. He went on to become a Vet for large farm animals and have 2 lovely children.
Gene Wilder's iconic character has even become a popular internet meme, sarcastically asking to hear more about whatever boring crap you keep spouting.
So - sit back and enjoy the crazy journey through the Chocolate Factory, make a bunch of desserts, and get back to me.
How to Participate:
1. Watch the chosen film (Willy Wonka - 1971). Taking inspiration from the film, head into the kitchen and cook or bake or make something.
2. Post about it on your blog with a link back to THIS post and a link to Food 'n Flix. Use of the logo is optional.
3. Your post must be current (during month of film). And of course we don't mind if your post is linked to other events...the more the merrier.
4. Have fun with it!
5. Email your entries to me at: firstname.lastname@example.org and include:
~Your blog's name
~The name of your dish and the permalink to the specific post you're submitting
~Attach a photo of any size (or just give me permission to "pull" one from your post)
~Indicate "Food 'n Flix Submission" in the subject line
Deadline for submission is: Saturday, December 29th (11:59 pm Eastern)
*watch for the roundup to be posted on December 31st!
What, you may ask, is "Rainbow Booze"? This is what a call all the fun, fruity, and candy-like alcoholic recipes that I made for a recent party (okay, not that recent - I am really behind on this post...) I had been wanting to try out these things for awhile, but not by myself, so I hosted a party and let the taste testing begin!
My favorite recipe was probably the Spiked Rainbow Jello Mold. I just love alcoholic jello, I don't know why.
All you need is six boxes of Jello in rainbow colors, some unflavored gelatine, sweetened condensed milk (optional - only to make the jello more opaque), and some very cold alcohol. I think flavored rum is the best way to go because it has the least alcohol taste. I used coconut rum, but you can use whatever you like. (Full recipe below.)
Next up were two candy based concoctions - Gummy Bears infused with Rum, and Vodka infused with Jolly Ranchers.
This is a super quick and easy weeknight meal that works any time of year. Orange zest and juice tie the kebabs and pasta together and the sweet and tangy sauce for the chicken is delicious. Couscous cooks ridiculously fast, but you could use quinoa instead if you have more time to cook. You could also add whatever vegetables you like to it to change it up.
In my ever-continuing quest to find healthier foods, I stumbled across this recipe. Cupcakes, that are diet-friendly, in my favorite tropical flavor combo, made with only 5 ingredients! Yeah - these are awesome.
For the cake part, you only need 2 ingredients (only 2!) - cake mix and canned crushed pineapple. That's it! The pineapple takes the place of the eggs and oil making these super low-fat.
I LOVE roasted beets - sweet and rich and beautiful, like healthy edible jewels! One of my favorite ways to serve them is in a salad with watercress and fresh mozzarella. But I have made that so many times that I wanted to try something a little different. This version uses goat cheese, a slightly more complex dressing, and a different method of roasting.
Usually I just wrap the beets in foil and roast them. This method involves first placing the beets on a bed of salt and herbs. It imparts just a little bit more flavor to the beets.