Sunday, December 28, 2008

A New Years Celebration!

There is nothing like bringing in the New Year with family and friends. For a simple and delicious New Year's Eve dinner you might like to try all or part of the menu I served at a holiday celebration this past weekend. Recipes follow the party photos.

Smoked Salmon with toast points
Crab dip with crackers
Assorted cheeses with sliced ficelle bread
Entree and Sides
Beef Tenderloin with Bernaise Sauce
Mashed potatoes with Parsnips
Steamed Broccolli with Hollandaise
Baby Greens with roasted pine nuts and sliced pear
Brownies, Lemon Bars and Seven Layer Bars
Fresh Fruit
Getting ready.

Here come the appetizers!
(Even in a small kitchen, there is room for everyone.)

Appetizers in the living room.

A little cooking help is always appreciated.

The mashed potatoes are ready!

Is it time to eat yet?
(This is a good view of the small passage way from our tiny kitchen to the living room.)

A toast!
(Seat everyone together, even if your dining room is tiny. This makes for good conversation, more fun and a warm comfortable feeling. Here, three generations of family and friends - 12 adults plus 2 young children - are seated at the same table.)

Dinner is served!



Bourbon-marinated roast tenderloin
(from the Chicago Tribune 12/18/96)

Cooking time: 35 minutes
Yield: 12 adult servings

1/3 cup bourbon
1/4 cup each: packed light brown sugar, soy sauce
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon oil (I like to use Extra Virgin Olive Oil)
1 small onion, finely minced
1 teaspoon each: minced fresh rosemary, Worcesterchire sauce
1 bay leaf
1 beef tenderloin, 4 to 5 pounds

1. Combine bourbon, sugar, soy sauce, mustard, oil, onion, rosemary, Worcestershire sauce and bay leaf in small bowl; stir to dissolve sugar.
2. Transfer marinade to a large, heavy-duty plastic food bag. Add meat, seal tightly and refrigerate 12 hours or overnight, turning bag over several times. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.
3. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Remove meat from marinade and blot dry. Place in shallow roasting pan. Bake until temperature, tested with instant-reading thermometer, reaches 130 degrees for medium rare, about 35 minutes; or longer as desired. Tent with foil and let stand 10 minutes before slicing.

Mashed Potatoes with Parsnips
(My recipe so proportions are approximate)

1 5 pound bag of medium red potatoes
4-5 medium to large size parsnips
1 stick salted butter
2 cups half and half (more if desired)
Salt to taste

1. Peel potatoes and parsnips and cut into large pieces. Place potatoes and parsnips in a large pot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil until a fork can be inserted easily into potatoes and parsnips.
2. Drain potatoes and parsnips in a colander and let sit for a few minutes. In same large pot used to boil potatoes and parsnips, melt butter then add half and half and stir. Add potatoes and parsnips along with salt to taste (I like about 2 teaspoons).
3. Mash potatoes and parsnips by hand or use a mixer. Add salt as needed to taste. Serve garnished with parsley.

Hollandaise Sauce and Bernaise Sauce

This is as easy as it gets. Buy the Knorr hollandaise and bernaise sauce mixes and follow the directions.

Salad with Baby Greens, Roasted Pine Nuts and Pear
(My recipe so proportions are approximate)

1 bag baby greens
3 Bartlett or Bosc pears
1/2 cup pine nuts
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 bottle Robb Ross Red Wine Vinegar and Oil Dressing (available at most grocery stores)
Salt to taste

1. Saute pine nuts in a dry non-stick pan on medium until brown; about 2 minutes. Let nuts cool.
2. Cut pears into thin slices length wise.
3. Place green, pears and pine nuts into a large salad bowl. Sprinkle with olive oil add a pinch of salt and mix to coat greens with oil. (I do the mixing with my hands, this seems to work best.)
4. Add 1/4 of the Robb Ross dressing to the salad and mix again to coat the greens. Serve salad on dinner plate or separately.

Everything Else Including Desserts and Appetizers

Call me lazy, but I buy all my desserts and appetizers. It makes things much easier and I'm able to enjoy my guests and the party. Of course, many of you are much more talented and organized than I am so you can probably whip those appetizers and desserts together in a minute. I'd love to have your recipes!

Happy New Year!


Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Jewel Box™ Home!

Wreath at the front door

I heard the bells on Christmas Day,
Their old familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!
- Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Christmas Bells in Flower-de-Luce, 1867

At last the decorating is done and its time to celebrate. I wish you all good things during this holiday season. And as always, may your home be filled with beauty and joy and may you always be surrounded by the company of family and friends.


Christmas Roses

Christmas Amaryllis

The Christmas Tree

The White Ceramic Manger Scene

The Mantle and Stockings

A place to relax and enjoy the holiday

Christmas decorations on the tree

The Italian Nativity

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Christmas Decorating 1, 2, 3!

A Holiday Decorating Tradition

In my family holiday decorating doesn't begin until a week or so before Christmas. My mother started this tradition over 50 years ago. When I was a child, holiday greenery and smaller decorations began appearing in the days before Christmas and Santa brought the tree on Christmas eve after my brother, sister and I were in bed. Although my mother died over 20 years ago, one of her most treasured memories was our amazed faces on Christmas morning when we woke to a decorated tree surrounded by presents. My father felt differently - he didn't like the Christmas Eve all-nighter - but it was only once a year so he went along with my mother's plan. Funny thing, I don't remember the presents I received, but I do remember how happy my parents looked while we tore into our gifts.

Decorating for Christmas in One Week or Less

I have continued the general spirit of the tradition my mother started. Decorating does not begin until a week or so before Christmas ( but the tree is up before the 24th, I know my limits.) So how is it possible to decorate in such a short period of time? All you need are three things (1) a holiday wreath, (2) a Christmas tree and (3) Christmas flowers.

Over the next few days I will be knee-deep in decorating, so I don't yet have any photos to share, but for inspiration take a peek at the lovely wreaths, flowers and trees from Country Living Magazine.

Holiday Wreaths

Christmas Trees

Christmas Flowers

Tips for 'Decking the Halls'

And when 'decking the halls' keep these tips in mind -
  1. Think outside the red and green box. Traditional holiday colors are red and green, but other color schemes work equally well - consider white and green, or all white.
  2. Christmas trees come in all shapes and sizes. If you are feeling overwhelmed this year do something smaller. Or put up a large tree, but keep decorations simple - lights only is a beautiful look or try lights and ornamental balls in a single color but varying sizes.
  3. Poinsettias are not the only flowers that say Christmas. Poinsettias are the traditional holiday flower, but amaryllis and paperwhites in pots are also lovely.
  4. Ornaments do need to be fancy or store bought. Tie a red ribbon to a demitasse silver spoon or a beautiful little jewelry box. Both will add sparkle to the tree and cost nothing.
  5. Keep your tree skirt simple. Buy several yards of red velvet and wrap around the base of your tree for an inexpensive but rich-looking and lovely tree skirt. White or green velvet will look just as nice. These simple skirts make beautiful backdrops for your ornaments and nicely frame the tree.
I hope to have photos of my home this coming Sunday.

Happy Holidays!