baby, it's cold outside! this week's menu and other things

By Monday, December 14, 2009 , , , , ,

Brrr. Jack Frost and his gang of ne’er-do-wells gave Madison quite the sugar-coating of snow, ice and frigid temps this past week. Pickle has been in high heaven "helping" Chris shovel the snow. He would be outside all day if we let him, but it's been too cold to stay out for more than a few minutes.

I've been baking a lot — which is not the norm in our house (I'm a cook, not a baker) — but the holidays scream for homemade treats, don't you think? All this baking has left very little time for cooking, so our menus have been taking a more simplistic slant the last couple of weeks and probably will continue to do so until Christmas is over.

I thought I would share with you some quick tips and tricks to have on hand during the holidays that will help you avoid running to the grocery store every day! These will provide instant platforms on which to build hors d'oeuvres, desserts, potluck fare, etc.

In the freezer:

Puff pastry – this is my go-to staple for many things and there is nothing better to have on hand to elevate a dish than buttery, crisp puff pastry. I use Pepperidge farm or Trader Joe’s most of the time. You've seen my tarts, which would be great cut into strips for a passed hors d'oeuvre. For dessert, make some pastry cream and spread that on a sheet of puff pastry (leave a 1/2-inch border), bake for 20-30 minutes at 350 degrees until golden and when cool, top with raspberries and dust with powder sugar for a perfect, easy and festive dessert.

Filo cups – These gorgeous little cups need just a brushing of butter and a filling of grated cheese (Pleasant Ridge Reserve, gruyere, sharp white cheddar), some caramelized onions and either some chopped prosciutto or cooked, crumbled bacon to make the most divine little mouthful. Just bake at 350 degrees until bubbly and golden brown. Serve hot.

In the fridge:

Cream cheese – set out at room temperature and slather with one of the following: chutney, salty, toasted pecans and apricot preserves, jalapeño jam, or gorgeous lump crab and cocktail sauce (a retro classic). Serve with crackers, crudités and/or crunchy crostini.

Smoked salmon (lox-style)– topped with lemon-zest scented crème fraîche and placed on a pumpernickel crostini; add it to a simple frittata for a perfect addition to a buffet; or showcase it on a tray with cornichon, capers, wafer-thin slices of red onion and cream cheese. Serve it with homemade or store-bought bagel chips and water crackers – perfect for brunch or a cocktail party (screams for Champagne!)

Champagne or Prosecco – nothing says “party” like a bottle of bubbly. Have a few bottles on hand for hostess gifts or to crack open when the tree is decorated, the presents are wrapped or the guests have gone home!

Menu: week of 13 December 2009:

Sunday: whole-wheat panko-crusted chicken cutlets with a fennel, apple & walnut salad in a sherry-maple vinaigrette
Monday: potato, rosemary and garlic pizza
Tuesday: salmon cakes with mixed greens vinaigrette (applesauce for Pickle)
Wednesday: turkey kofte with a side of whole-wheat sesame noodles with broccoli
Thursday: stewed white beans with tomatoes and thyme served on top of bruschetta
Friday: carry out and a movie
Saturday: holiday dinner group

Happy eating, -s.

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  1. Filo cups sound amazing and prosecco is my absolute favorite. Keep warm!

  2. Thanks Devon and happy holidays!