Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday food, Part 2

I hoped to have my Christmas dinner menu planned out weeks ago, but I only finalized it yesterday. After many lists, several runs to several grocery stores, and way too much time spent watching the Food Network, here's what I will be serving tomorrow:

Pear and Pomegranate Salad with Gorgonzola and Champagne Vinaigrette (from Guy Fieri)

Brined Pork Loin with Molasses-Mustard Glaze (from Bobby Flay)

Brussels Sprouts with Lemon, Mushrooms, and Parmesan Cheese

Good ole' mashed potatoes (no fancy recipe here...just some yukon golds mixed with lots of butter and salt)

Wish me luck! The pork loin looks like it will be challenging, but with almost 40 people giving it 5 stars, and my favorite celebrity chef as the mastermind, I feel like I can't go wrong.

Happy Holidays, Everyone!! Hoping nothing gets burnt, and a good time is had by all.


Sunday, December 12, 2010

Holiday food, Part 1 (Christmas Eve Crab Dip)

Now that the majority of my shopping is finished, and the decorations hung, I get to turn my attention to one of my favorite things about the holidays: food, of course.

I've been known to break the cardinal rule about cooking for the holidays, which is "cook what you know." Instead, I like to use the holidays as a time to experiment a little--usually with fancy cuts of meat or dishes that require long cooking times; things that I wouldn't bother attempting if it weren't a special occasion. Since my holiday guests are my husband, my kids, and my parents, I have a pretty forgiving audience if one of my experiments flops.

Last year I attempted short ribs for the main meal, and while they weren't bad, they weren't amazing either. This year, I'm still up in the air about what I will serve for the main course. But one thing I am absolutely sure about is that my Christmas Eve jalapeno crab dip will be in the oven the night before. OK, so it's not really's Emeril's. But I've made it so often it feels like mine.

Since this dip is pretty decadent, and pretty expensive to make (especially if you buy lump crabmeat from the seafood counter instead of the canned fish aisle), I only make this on Christmas Eve, which just adds to the specialness. The thing that's a bummer is that my daughter can't eat it, so eventually I'm going to have to come up with a new Christmas Eve tradition that's dairy- and shellfish-free. But for as long as she's perfectly happy with a candy cane and a gingerbread cookie, I will continue serving up this cheesy, spicy deliciousness.

Hot Jalapeno Crab Dip (adapted from Emeril Lagasse, and The Food Network)


1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1/2 cup chopped pickled jalapenos
1/4 pound Monterey Jack cheese with jalapenos, grated
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon hot sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Crusty bread


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine the crabmeat, garlic, jalapenos, Monterey Jack, Worcestershire, hot sauce, salt, and mayonnaise in a medium-size mixing bowl. Toss gently to mix. Spoon the mixture into a medium-size baking dish. Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly on the top of the crabmeat mixture. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes. Serve atop slices of fresh, crusty bread.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A great gift to give or receive

If you're stumped about what to give for Christmas, or what to put on your own wish list, I have an idea for you: a quality chef's knife.

I got one for my birthday last year, and it really changed the way I approached cooking. Suddenly chopping vegetables was fun instead of tedious. Gone were the days of sawing and hacking my way through meal preparations; now my knife was gliding through onions, peppers, and potatoes with a satisfying whoosh and a crunch. I still could use some help with my technique (and I hear there are great classes available to help with that), but I'm no longer shying away from recipes that require a lot of chopping.

One of the reasons it took me so long to get a great knife was that I felt I would need to invest in a whole chopping block of cutlery. But most great cooks and chefs will tell you that you don't need a whole arsenal of knives - only one great chef's knife, and perhaps a few specialty knives such as a paring knife or serrated bread knife.

A great chef's knife will cost around $100, maybe a little less or a little more. The one I have is a Global 8" chef's knife, and I love it. Any food store like Williams-Sonoma or Sur la Table will have a good selection. It makes a great gift because it's something anyone who likes to cook will appreciate, but most will hesitate to spend money on it for themselves. And it's a worthwhile investment because it should last forever if properly cared for.

Happy chopping everyone!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

My favorite "I really need some greens" salad

I recently had the good fortune of traveling to Costa Rica for a friend's wedding (which is why I've been so neglectful of my poor blog). It was an amazing trip, but I don't think I ate a vegetable for five days, unless you count salsa. Between snickers bars at the airport, breakfast croissants heaped with cheese, bacon and eggs, and mountain-sized piles of rice, beans, and chicken, I wasn't exactly doing my best to eat healthy, well-rounded meals. Hey - that's what vacation's about, right?

So when I returned home, I found myself craving a giant bowl of greens. Enter my favorite salad: the arugula & spinach cobb salad. I love this salad because it contains good healthy greens (arugula and spinach vs. iceberg), as well as some decadent ingredients (bacon and avocado) that make it feel like a meal instead of a side dish. It's a good way to detox from decadent eating without getting too crazy on the healthy stuff.

This cobb salad can take on different forms, depending on what you have on hand. Here is a breakdown of what a typical "I really need some greens" cobb salad consists of:

Must haves:

Lots of baby arugula
Bacon, cooked well-done and crumbled.
Chopped avocado
Chopped hard-boiled eggs

Might haves:

Chopped tomato
Baby spinach
Sliced red onion
Meat/seafood such as turkey, chicken or shrimp


Some champagne vinegar
A few squeezes of fresh lemon juice
A healthy teaspoon of dijon (I always use Grey Poupon)
Some sprinkles of salt
Some dashes of pepper
Good olive oil

*I believe the correct ratio is 1 part vinegar to 2 parts EVOO. Whisk it all together and adjust ingredients to taste. It's OK if it tastes pretty tart - it just means you'll need less of it.

After eating this salad, I feel ready to face the world, and the gym, again. With Christmas approaching, I plan to fit this salad into heavy rotation over the next few weeks.