Christmas Eve: Groundhog Day

Because 2020 and we are all feeling a bit worn out this year is not creative at all. When I asked my friends what they wanted for our very small gathering this year, Spinach Lasagna was the winner. Just like last year.

Further discussions found that they had never seen Groundhog Day...so that’s this year’s movie choice and it all seems so very appropriate.

From 2019:

One of my favorite nights of the year. Friends come over for Christmas Eve dinner and then we watch a movie. Tonight: Strictly Ballroom, a quirky Australian treat by Baz Luhrman.

This year I had a request to make Spinach Lasagna again, I haven’t made it for a few years. I really like it because I can prep it ahead and the night of the party I’m not stuck in the kitchen.

On the board:

  1. Spinach Lasagna
  2. Green Beans Tossed w/Butter & Lemon Pepper
  3. Garlic Cheese Bread
  4. Ice Cream Sundae Bar

This recipe takes about an hour to prepare and another hour to cook. It easily serves 6 – 8. I made it on Sunday and refrigerated. It will need additional cooking time to bring the center up to temperature.

Spinach Lasagna

Sauce:

  • 3-15 oz cans tomato sauce
  • 2-6 oz cans tomato paste
  • 14 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp oregano, crushed
  • 2 tsp basil, crushed
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled & finely grated
  • pinch of sugar (reduces acidity of the tomatoes)
  • Optional: ½ lb ground beef and ½ spicy Italian sausage, browned

Saucepan Continue reading

Holiday Gifts: Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Someone asked me for this recipe this morning and after I shared it with them, I decided to make a batch myself.

From June:

I really like these cookies, they’re simple to make and gluten-free. But one thing about them is they a terribly sweet. So I decided to see what would happen if I cut the sugar down considerably.

They turned out super – not too sweet and super peanut butter flavor.  Changes are in blue.

Peanut Butter Cookies (Revisited)

(makes 12-18)

  • 3 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 3 tbsp packed brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup peanut butter
  • 1 egg

baking sheet

Cream ingredients together and drop by spoonful onto a baking sheet. Dip a fork in sugar and press down the dough. Bake at 300 degree F for 10-13 minutes.

This usually gets a good, soft cookie, but I wanted to try for a crispier outside. But they are prone to burning. So at the 13-minute mark, I turned off the oven and let them sit for 5 more minutes. They turned out perfectly – crisp on the outside and gooey on the inside.

Going to make them again soon.

Holiday Gifts: Gluten-Free Chocolate Walnut Cookies

What to do when you’ve made a big batch of Spritz Cookies and now you have leftover egg whites? How about some Chocolate Walnut Cookies?

I get requests for these cookies all the time and bonus, they are gluten-free and taste like little brownie bites.

Notes: To separate eggs, the easiest way I’ve found is the Nigella Lawson method of using your hand. It is quick and easy.

The original recipe for these called for regular cocoa and 3 cups of powdered sugar, that sounded much too sweet, so I reduced that first thing and since I love dark chocolate I used 1/2 dark and 1/2 regular cocoa. Continue reading

Dinner Menu: Cranberry Pepper Steak and Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes

Cranberries are on sale now, so it seemed a good time to re-up this recipe.  You can use sirloin steak, or ribeye or NY strip. Works well on chicken breasts, too.

My love of cranberries has been well documented here. So no wonder this is one of my favorite dinners. The potatoes are very creamy – you can make them more calorie friendly by reducing the amount of butter, you probably won’t miss it with the creamy dressing.

  1. Cranberry Pepper Steak
  2. Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes
  3. Sliced Carrots
  4. Grapes

Cranberry Pepper Steak

  • 1/2 cup canned whole cranberries*
  • ¼ tsp chili pepper flakes
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 lb sirloin steak
  • ½ tsp crushed garlic
  • ½ tsp chili powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp pepper

saucepan, broiler pan

In saucepan, combine cranberries, pepper flakes, & vinegar.  Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, cook until thickened and reduced by half. Rub sirloin on both sides with garlic, chili, salt & pepper (use more of each if desired).  Cut into 4 pieces, broil (or grill) 5 minutes on each side for rare.  Spoon sauce over cooked steaks & serve.

Bleu Cheese Mashed Potatoes

  • 4 large russet potatoes
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
  • ½ cup blue cheese dressing

saucepan

Wash and cube potatoes (peeling optional – I never peel mine, just scrub really, really well), add to saucepan and cover with water.  Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are fork tender (about 20 minutes).  Drain well.  Add butter, salt, pepper and dressing.  Mash potatoes until fluffy (I find a hand mixer works best)

*I keep fresh cranberries in the freezer. If you want to use fresh, add 1/4 cup of sugar and dash of orange juice as a substitute for canned.

Trying My Hand At Pizza

I’ve been trying my hand at pizzas. I’ve been using this dough recipe (here), I split it into four equal pieces, each makes a nice hand-tossed crust enough for two. I make a simple tomato sauce – adding basil, oregano and garlic to a can of tomato sauce.

Top with fresh mozzarella (never use shredded here) and usually pepperoni, though I have some fresh grilled onion and green peppers I may add to the next one.

I bake at about 450 to 475 degrees.

It’s taking me a bit to get the bottom of the crust the way I like it. I finally started using the lowest oven rack and that seems to be the final trick to get the crisp crust I like.


 

Thanksgiving Files: Turkey Two Ways

This year we were warned that with smaller family gatherings, small turkeys would be scarce. So when I went turkey shopping, I was not surprised the smallest turkey I could find was about sixteen pounds.

I know for many, that IS a small turkey, but I’m used to buying a couple of twelve-pound turkeys, cooking one if Thanksgiving is going to be small, or both if it’s a larger crowd. I think they cook up better and are less likely to get dried out.

What to do with this large bird? I decided to slice it in half and cook it two separate ways. They cook up similar to a spatchcock bird. Continue reading