Friday, December 19, 2014

Nothing says "Merry Christmas!" like . . .

Pictures by Christmas trees
Chats with Santa Clause
Kids in Santa hats
Little Wise People
Playing with the nativity
Advent Calendars
Looking at Christmas lights
Christmas colored food 
This kale salad might not be typical christmas fare but it's a good change from the artificially colored red and green food and the plethora of sweets.  I've been making it all fall and realized it's a great and colorful addition to a holiday menu.

Pomegranate & Apple Kale Salad

Fill a large bowl with chopped kale (tough stems removed).  Pour a little olive oil over it and use your bare hands to massage the kale for a few minutes or until all of the leaves are moistened.  Let it set for 10-30 minutes.  Drizzle a light vinaigrette over the kale (I use a blush wine vinaigrette but anything that's light and slightly sweet works well).  Add chopped apples (I like tart Granny Smith), pomegranate seeds, and chopped walnuts.  Toss.  Sprinkle with goat cheese or bleu cheese before serving.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Your Potluck Friend

One of the things I love about the holiday season is going to parties and potlucks and seeing old friends.  If you need a dessert to feed a large crowd or bring to a potluck, the Bundt cake is your friend!  I used to be scared of them because of this disaster but since I found the Baking Pam spray (with flour), I have been a big fan.  It's great for people (like Big) who don't love a ton of frosting and you can slice it thin or thick, depending on how many people you want to serve.  It's also an easy item to have people serve themselves at a potluck.

For your holiday parties, consider the recipe pictured above - a buttermilk cake with butternut squash grated into the batter (don't be weirded out - it's awesome) which I served with pumpkin ice cream.

Another great one is the "All in One Holiday Bundt" with ginger, pumpkin, apple and cranberries.

Or, try out the Gingerbread Pumpkin Guinness Bundt cake.   Gingerbread . . . pumpkin . . . beer . . . not a typical combination but an altogether yummy cake.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Slow Cooker Beef Ragout with Polenta

We've had some rain and cooler weather and I can't quite get over how dark it is by 5pm!  It's time to use your slow cooker, that's for sure.  Although this is similar to dishes I've made in the past, it's a little different take on it - super simple ingredients and a tasty result.  I'm making it again this week because we're going to have soccer playoffs in the evening!

Slow Cooker Beef Ragout with Polenta (6 servings)

1 lb lean ground beef
1 (14oz) can diced tomatoes with Italian seasonings
3 medium carrots, sliced 1/2 in. thick
2 medium onions, cut into thin slices
1 lg red bell pepper, cut into 1 in. pieces
1/2 cup beef broth
salt and pepper to taste
6 cloves of garlic, minced
1 (16oz) tube refrigerated polenta
Parmesan cheese
6 T prepared pesto (optional)

In a large skillet, brown the ground beef and drain the fat.  Transfer to a slow cooker and stir in the tomatoes, carrots, onions, bell pepper, beef broth, salt and pepper, and garlic.

Cook for 6 hours on low or 3 hours on high (give or take depending on your slow cooker).

Slice the polenta into 1/2 inch thick pieces.  Place on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and broil for 5-7 minutes or until lightly browned.  Flip over, sprinkle with parmesan cheese, and broil another 4-5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and the polenta is lightly browned.

Place the polenta on a plate, top with ragout, and about 1 tablespoon of the pesto.  Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese.