Monday, December 29, 2008

Peppermint Bark and Wine

Yum!! My post, however, is a recap of the dinner I made for the fam on XMAS eve. The peppermint bark and wine are just my treats tonight. This year I offered to make XMAS eve dinner to alleviate some of my mother's stress. She doesn't LOVE cooking and I really like experimenting so I thought, why not?

I did a little online research to determine my menu, mixed with a few tried and true recipes I made my decision.

The salad I decided on was swiped from

Pear and Blue Cheese Salad

2/3 cup nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds, or cashews)
1 bunch watercress
1 bunch arugula
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
2 teaspoons whole-grain mustard
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 Belgian endive
2 ripe pears, such as Anjou, Bartlett, or Comice
2 ounces mild blue cheese (about 1/2 cup loosely packed crumbles)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the nuts on a sheet pan in a single layer. Bake, shaking the pan occasionally, until the nuts are toasted and fragrant, about 7 to 10 minutes. Let the nuts cool, and then coarsely chop.

Trim the stems of the watercress and arugula. Wash and dry the leaves.

Meanwhile, whisk the vinegar and mustard together in a large salad bowl. Season with the 1/4 teaspoon salt and some pepper. Gradually whisk in the olive oil, starting with a few drops and then adding the rest in a steady stream, to make a smooth, slightly thick dressing.

Halve the endive lengthwise, cut out core, then thinly slice crosswise and add all the lettuces to the bowl. Quarter and core the unpeeled pears and thinly slice; add to the salad. Scatter the cheese and nuts over the salad, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Toss the salad gently to evenly dress all the greens. Divide among 4 plates and serve immediately

I cheated a little bit and added a few personal touches to this recipe. First, I opted not to buy all the individual lettuce types and used about 10oz of an organic mixed green lettuce. It saved time and was excellent, plus I don't know that you can get all the lettuce types the recipe called for this time of year. I also doubled the nuts(pecans) and used used three pears since I wanted to make enough for about. To add a local flare I used Boetje's mustard. It's made right here in the QC and is a staple in my house. I think I tripled the dressing recipe. I made this for my Mom's day after Christmas party too, it was a hit both nights!

For an appetizer I chose Bruschetta with Tomato Basil Recipe. I've made this before and I found it on

Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil Recipe
6 or 7 ripe plum tomatoes (about 1 1/2 lbs)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
6-8 fresh basil leaves, chopped.
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 baguette French bread or similar Italian bread
1/4 cup olive oil
1 Prepare the tomatoes first. Parboil the tomatoes for one minute in boiling water that has just been removed from the burner. Drain. Using a sharp small knife, remove the skins of the tomatoes. (If the tomatoes are too hot, you can protect your finger tips by rubbing them with an ice cube between tomatoes.) Once the tomatoes are peeled, cut them in halves or quarters and remove the seeds and juice from their centers. Also cut out and discard the stem area. Why use plum tomatoes instead of regular tomatoes? The skins are much thicker and there are fewer seeds and less juice.

2 Make sure there is a top rack in place in your oven. Turn on the oven to 450°F to preheat.

3 While the oven is heating, chop up the tomatoes finely. Put tomatoes, garlic, 1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, vinegar in a bowl and mix. Add the chopped basil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

4 Slice the baguette on a diagonal about 1/2 inch thick slices. Coat one side of each slice with olive oil using a pastry brush. Place on a cooking sheet, olive oil side down. You will want to toast them in the top rack in your oven, so you may need to do these in batches depending on the size of your oven. Once the oven has reached 450°F, place a tray of bread slices in the oven on the top rack. Toast for 5-6 minutes, until the bread just begins to turn golden brown.

Alternatively, you can toast the bread without coating it in olive oil first. Toast on a griddle for 1 minute on each side. Take a sharp knife and score each slice 3 times. Rub some garlic in the slices and drizzle half a teaspoon of olive oil on each slice. This is the more traditional method of making bruschetta.

5 Align the bread on a serving platter, olive oil side up. Either place the tomato topping in a bowl separately with a spoon for people to serve themselves over the bread, or place some topping on each slice of bread and serve. If you top each slice with the tomatoes, do it right before serving or the bread may get soggy.

Makes 24 small slices. Serves 6-10 as an appetizer. Or 3-4 for lunch (delicious served with cottage cheese on the side.)

My twist here was that I used sour dough baguettes, YUM and mined garlic from the jar...rather than breaking my own cloves.

This turned out excellent!!

For the main course I selected a shrimp penne pasta from I had a few issues while making this. Mainly because the original recipe called for several spices. I rang my mom the day before to confirm that she had the ingredients since I cooked at her home. What she neglected to tell me was that some of the spices, such as the ground ginger, were probably 20 years old. Gross! When I got done making the sauce it tasted like 1970. So I tossed it and improvised!

I ended up using:

two can of crushed tomatos and about half the sauce from each can
1/4 a cup of olive oil
Italian seasoning
garlic powder
1/3 cup of fresh cilantro chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 pounds of shrimp shelled
1 box of barilla penne pasta

I boiled the pasta for about 9 minutes then added the thawed shrimp and continued to boil for 2-3 minutes, drained and added the sauce already mixed with the ingredients above.

Luckily this turned out really good. Very fresh and light, which was nice since we snacked so much beforehand.

Besides wine I surprised the family with another dinner drink. I bought fresh apple cider, also made locally. Heated it on the stovetop and added Bacardi Gold. Mike's cousin made this drink when we spent Thanksgiving out East and we both loved it. Although, I'm pretty sure I neglected to tell my family this and took full credit for the yummy concoction. I made this again at the Wilbricht after Christmas party and again, success!!


Dad said...

The meal was absolutely delicious!! The company was even better. All had a good time. Dad.......

The Adventuresome Road to Where? said...

Thanks! Wow! I'm really impressed you learned to comment!