Christmas 2011 Menu

Christmas Eve:

Arugula and fennel salad with a citrus dressing
Chicken Pot pie with homemade crust
Roasted stuffed acorn squash

My brother’s AWESOME apple pie
Mexican hot chocolate by the fire 🙂

Maybe some Kahlua as well.. oh yes, why not !

Christmas Day:

Pumpkin bread french toast with a warm Fruit compote
Toasted Almond coffee
Bacon and Tofu sausage (Don’t ask)  LOL !!

Hmm… I am ready !

Christmas 2011

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas 🙂
Ah.. 2011 Christmas is almost around the corner. I can’t believe it. I am still getting over Thanksgiving 🙂
Growing up, Christmas was a huge huge part of our lives. My dad being in the Indian Army, we got to travel a lot. Every two to three years we would just pack our bags and MOVE. My siblings and I really had the privilege of growing up in a very diverse environment. You’ll be surprised when I tell you how diverse a country like India can be. 28 states and counting, more than 15 languages.. I can’t keep up.. 🙂
My parents growing up made sure that we celebrated ALL festivals irrespective of whether they were a religious celebration or a cultural one. This is something that my husband and I follow as well as we raise our son. We celebrate all festivals with a lot of vigor and enthusiasm but I have to say, my favorite is Christmas. 🙂
Christmas day at our house is rather low key as compared to the rest of the holidays year around which kind of works out perfectly. It normally starts with some of us waking up real early and patiently waiting for every body to get downstairs and having their first cup of coffee or tea. Then it starts with a MAJOR discussion around whether we should open the presents first or eat breakfast. (Lifelong challenge in our lives!!).
After that dilemma is solved, all the presents are opened and we are stuffed, it’s about lazying around and just being. Just being together. Just being there with each other, around TOGETHER.  And then of course lunch ensues 🙂
I don’t know why that is but I just feel like Christmas is my holiday. It’s a religious holiday which I am totally aware of 🙂 but I feel there is more to it. It’s about togetherness, it’s about counting your blessings, it’s about a new tomorrow, it’s about hope and happiness and sharing. It’s about family and food.
See I told you, my holiday 🙂
So whatever reason it is that you celebrate this holiday (well, if you do) I wish you togetherness. I wish you a new and a better tomorrow. I wish you enough blessings that you get tired of counting. Most above all, I wish you health, hope and a presence of mind. Because everything else will follow.
Merry Christmas.

Black eyed peas Chili

To serve 4
1 cup of black eyed peas (soaked for about 20 minutes in warm water)
1 pound of lean ground beef/turkey/chicken, browned in a Tbsp of OO and drained (if you want vegetarian chili, omit this and use 2 cups of beans instead)
2 Med ripe tomatoes
Handful of grape tomatoes (roasted with a little OO in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes)
1 Tbsp of chives chopped
2 cloves of garlic
1 Med white onion chopped fine
2 Tbsp of tomato paste
2 Bayleaves
1 cinnamon stick
2 Tbps OO
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste
Boil the peas in enough salted water to cover them and cook till done.They shouldn’t be mushy but should be cooked through. Drain and keep aside. In a deep pot, sautee onions, garlic and tomatoes (not the grape tomatoes). Cook for about 4-5 minutes on medium heat and add the chives, bayleaves, cinnamon and the tomato paste. Cook for an additional 5 minutes. Add the peas and the meat.  (if you want vegetarian chili, omit this and use 2 cups of beans instead, also add a cup of veggies like carrots, parsnips, radishes chopped). Add 2 cups of water and the seasonings and simmer for about 20 minutes covered on low- med heat. Add more water if the chili looks too dry. You can add additional water depending on how thick/thin you like your chili. Add the grape tomatoes and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Make sure not to mush the grape tomatoes.
Enjoy with a side of corn bread or some rustic french bread.

Roasted balsamic beets- Serve cold or warm

To serve 4
3-4 beet roots (washed, scrubbed, peeled, quatered)
2 Tbsp of balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp of OO
1 Tsp of chives chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste
Mix the above and roast uncovered in a roasting pan in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes till desired doneness on the beets.

Serve chilled or warm.

Ginger Parsley shrimps

To serve 3-4
1 pound of medium (31-40 count) Shrimps
1/2 cup of Italian flat leaf parsley chopped
1 Tbsp of ginger root (peeled and minced)
2 Tbsp of cornstarch ( to add texture and crunch to the shrimp)
2 Tbsp OO
1 Tsp of butter
Juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper taste

Mix all of the above except the OO and the butter.

In a pan on medium heat, add the OO and heat through. Add the shrimp to the pan in a single layer and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side.


Garlic and Lemon Clams with roasted tomatoes

To serve 4
Littleneck or steamer Clams – 1 pound (scrubbed under running water with a hard bristle kitchen brush)
1 Med spanish onion chopped fine
1/2 cup of chopped flat leaf italian parsley
2-3 cloves of garlic – chopped fine
1 cup of dry white wine
1 pat of butter
Juice of a Lemon
2 Tbsp OO
salt and pepper to taste

Sautee onions, half of the parsley and the garlic on a medium heat in OO and butter till the onions turn pink.

Scrub the clams well to remove any dirt/grit

Add the wine and a cup of water and let the mixture come to a boil on high heat. Add half of the lemon juice and the clams and lower the heat to a medium and cover the pan.

Cook for about 7-8 minutes in the covered pan. Open the cover and see if all the clams have opened up. If not, give another couple of minutes. Discard the clams that are still closed.

Beautiful campari tomatoes

Add a couple of Tbsps of OO, salt and pepper and roast the tomatoes in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 12-15 minutes till desired doneness.

Done !

Broil slices of french bread/baguette rubbed with butter, a clove of garlic and salt and pepper for about 3-4 minutes

To serve, add lemon juice and the rest of the parsley.

Spinach and garlic tomato sauce

To serve 5-6

2 pounds of ripe ripe ripe tomatoes chopped/ 4 cans of chopped/crushed tomatoes (or use a mixture)
1 Tbsp of tomato paste (for the concentrated tart, sweet tomato flavor)
3-4 cloves of garlic smashed and minced
1 medium white onion chopped fine
2 Tbsp of basil chopped fine
2 Cups of fresh baby spinach
1 Tsp of dried oregano
Salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

In a deep pot, add a Tbsp of OO and heat for a couple of minutes on medium heat. Sautee garlic and onions till translucent and slight pink. Add the tomatoes, the paste, basil, oregano and the seasonings. Stir well. Add a cup of water and simmer on medium covered for about 20-30 minutes.

If the water evaporates fast, lower the heat and add another half cup of water. Stir well. The sauce should be semi-solid and a little chunky (not bite sized). Add the oregano and the spinach and let the leaves wilt for about 3-4 minutes.

Your sauce is ready to be devoured!
If you love tomatoes, this is your sauce!!

Traditional Chicken Meatballs

To serve 6

1 pound of ground chicken
1 egg beaten
2 Tbsp breadcrumbs
2 Cloves of garlic smashed and chopped fine
2 Tbsp parsley chopped fine
1 Tbsp of sundried tomato chopped fine
2 Tbsp of fresh basil chopped fine
2 Tbsp of fresh grated Romano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix all the above and let rest in the fridge in a covered container for about 30 minutes. Take it out and mix well. If the mixture looks a little soggy, add breadcrumbs by a Tbsp. Bind the mixture together and make small balls. (Depending on the size you like, you should be able to feed 5-6 adults).

On a pre-greased cookie sheet, bake the meatballs in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for about 15-20 minutes. Half way through, shake the pan so as to move the balls to ensure cooking from all sides.

Pierce a fork through and split open a meatball to show no signs of pink. The meatball should be cooked through and should be a cream/light grey color.

Serve with a dipping sauce or with your favorite pasta sauce.
Try with my Spinach and garlic tomato sauce.