New Year’s Eve

How many years makes a tradition? I’m thinking 3. That’s because this was our third year having Baked Alaska with penguins on top for dessert on New Year’s Eve.

This year’s celebration was pretty low key. We were less exhausted than last year but not quite as ambitious as the year before.

We had dinner and a bottle of bubbly around 6:00. Shane made pizza, and Rose and I made  a mini Baked Alaska (recipe here) with penguins and Sno-Caps on top. We filled it with Dulce de Leche ice cream because there are several pints of it in our freezer. As it turns out, Dulce de Leche compliments the flavor of meringue just perfectly.

Shane went to bed early with the baby (and got up with him the next morning). Rose and I stayed up until midnight (but not a moment later) playing games and discussing the possibility of adult diaper-wearing among Times Square revelers, and Taylor Swift’s ability to tolerate the cold.

And that wraps up 2014 for us.

Wishing you many happy dinners in the new year. xo

 

Christmas 2014!

Note: click on photos for a larger view, and click here if you’re wondering who all these people are.

We only had 20 people this year, which made it a relatively quiet Christmas dinner. Ha ha. (Read about previous Christmases here)

Really, 20 made for a more manageable group, but I wouldn’t say it was any less chaotic than usual. My mom wouldn’t have it any other way.

Dinner started with Crostini and three different toppings. A traditional fresh tomato topping called Piccanti, from the New Basics Cookbook. Muhammara, a Syrian spread made with toasted walnuts, roasted red peppers, tomato paste and a whole bunch of other yummy stuff. And a green topping, made with lima beans, mint and lime.

After crostini we had the Big Prize drawing for our annual Christmas Lottery. Christmas Lottery is not a Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa, like many think. It’s literally a lottery run by Shane, the kids and I.

There are two prizes, the Big Prize, which is the lesser prize, and the Grand Prize which is a big deal. Some of the Grand Prize gifts over the years have been: a whole prosciutto, a magnum of Jameson whiskey, an industrial bubble machine, Bacon of the Month Club, half a wheel of Parmesan cheese, you get the picture.

The Big Prize is a (much) lesser gift, that hints somehow at what the Grand Prize will be. This year the Big Prize was a $10 gift card for Dunkin’ Donuts. Can you guess what the Grand Prize was?

The main course followed the first segment of Christmas Lottery. We had pork, which I can’t tell you much about except that many people said it was the best pork ever.

Accompaniments were my late uncle Jerry’s stuffed peppers, made by his son Josh, buttery mashed potatoes by Shane, and later, a fennel and orange salad with spinach.

I loved that this meal followed my 5-dish rule, which is that no meal needs more than 5 different dishes. If you have more, you can’t really absorb all of the taste information and you recall it as a possibly delicious but generally un-remarkable “meal blur.”

(Note: there may or may not be some scientific evidence behind this theory, and dessert is excluded from the rule.)

The Grand Prize drawing for Christmas Lottery 2014 followed the main course. The lottery was won by Wayne who claimed the uncharacteristically un-foodie prize of a “Five Star Restaurant Fun Pack,” which is a pack of 5 chain restaurant gift cards including Olive Garden, Ninety-Nine, Outback, TGI Fridays and we’ve already forgotten the last.

Because my sister did not arrive early enough to make her Buche de Noel, Iris’ Kourabiethes and André’s Molases Chip Cookies were joined on the dessert table by a bunch of green-frosted donuts (from Dunkin’s!)

And that’s it, until brunch the next day (see last photo). Merry Christmas!

 

All about the salads

Chickpea_Avocado_Salad_IMG_3276This week was all about a couple of yummy new salads. Other hits were Shane’s french fries (made in the Fry Daddy) and Rita’s Vegetable Garden Lasagne from the freezer.

But about those salads. The Sesame Almond & Avocado Spinach Salad  was delicious but all agreed it needed more olive oil. Oddly the Avocado Chickpea Salad needed more oil too, and more lime juice.  Both are hearty enough to pass as “meal salads” and are totally worth playing around with and doing again.
Avocado_Almond_Salad_IMG_3264

Stay tuned for next week’s plan and Christmas! Remember, kids are never to young to help out.

Helpers_IMG_3258

 

 

 

This week’s highlights, picks, and pans

WarmCornSalad_IMG_3238Challah_IMG_3243We pretty much stuck to the meal plan I had outlined for the week with a couple of insignificant exceptions. The clear winners this week were the Warm Corn Salad from Keeper’s cookbook and the Fennel & Orange Scented Challah from the New York Times, which was not on the menu but which we gladly devoured on Friday night.

The crustless broccoli and cheddar quiche was underwhelming. We all felt it would be much improved with the addition of more cheese and, you guessed it, a crust.

Pasta with Tomato Ginger Salsa & Creme Fraiche is always a hit and really is quite perfect for a weeknight, though I didn’t manage to get it on the table in 15 minutes as hoped.

Shane chose a top sirloin cut from the stash of beef in the basement freezer on Friday. It’s a cut we don’t usually buy and I like that having half a cow in the basement is expanding our beef-cooking repertoire. And by “our” I mean Shane’s.

Here’s the plan for next week:
Monday: Sesame Almond & Avocado Spinach Salad which I’ve never tried before but looks great, Weekday Grilled Chicken, Potatoes
Tuesday: Pizza Night
Wednesday: 5 Ingredient Turkey Chili (to test out for Christmas Eve, and because the vegetarian won’t be home for dinner), tortillas or quesadillas & salad
Thursday: Veggie lasagna from the freezer & a simple salad
Friday: Avocado Chickpea Salad (another new recipe), Steak from the freezer stash, Potatoes or Pasta (Shane and/or Rose’s choice)

 

This week’s plan

Keepers_Book_IMG_3230I thought it might be fun to post this week’s meal plan at the beginning of the week instead of the end. We’re trying some new recipes from the book Keepers, which my sister got me for my birthday because it’s all about weeknight meals.

The menu is below. Check back in later to see how we’re doing.

Monday: Roasted Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary & Sweet Potates, Warm Corn Salad with Butter and Lime (both from Keepers), and these brussels sprouts.
Tuesday: Crustless Broccoli and Cheddar Quiche (Keepers), Sausages, and a simple salad.
Wednesday: Pasta with Tomato Ginger Salsa & Creme Fraiche, and a simple salad.
Thursday: Pizza delivery night.
Friday: Store-bought gnocchi with the Drews’ summer pesto (from the freezer), Some kind of steak from that half a cow my family purchased, and a salad with tomatoes in it because my folks like tomatoes with their steak.

A weekend-long first birthday celebration

People often ask me if I’m glad I had Sid, him being a surprise and all. If you’ve ever seen me with my son, you know that that’s a completely ridiculous question. A person could not possibly adore another person more.

With that in mind, we spent the entire weekend celebrating the little guy’s first birthday.

The party started on Saturday with a bagel and cream cheese brunch followed by Tunnel of Fudge Cake (recipe below) with whipped cream. Oh yeah, the kid likes cake.

That night, we had a totally over the top meal of Oktoberfest Stew,  Polpette Frite, pasta and salad.

A few hours after dinner, Shane served up some hot wings, because he’s never made wings before, and this seemed like the perfect opportunity to try his hand at them.

Sunday morning we had a hearty brunch of eggs benedict (florentine for the vegetarian) and pancakes with the “Drews‘” homemade maple syrup.

Dinner was ad-hoc soup by my mom who makes the best ad-hoc soup, after which we cleaned up and collapsed.

Happy Birthday baby boy, you are so worth it.

• Tunnel of Fudge Cake •
from Pillsbury
35 min prep time, 4hr 30 min total time

Cake
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups butter, softened
6 eggs
2 cups powdered sugar
2 1/4 cups all purpose or unbleached flour
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups chopped walnuts *walnuts are essential to the success of this recipe and must not be omitted

Glaze
3/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup cocoa, sifted
3-6 tablespoons milk

Instructions
Heat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour 12-cup fluted tube cake pan or 10-inch tube pan. In large bowl, combine sugar and butter; beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually add 2 cups powdered sugar; blend well. By hand, stir in flour and remaining cake ingredients until well blended. Spoon batter into greased and floured pan; spread evenly.

Bake at 350°F. for 40 to 50 minutes or until top is set and edges are beginning to pull away from sides of pan. Do not over-bake or your cake won’t have the tunnel of fudge. Personally, I think you can’t go wrong taking this out after 40-45 minutes. Also, a cake-tester won’t work, since the center is supposed to be all gooey. Cool upright in pan on wire rack 1 1/2 hours. Invert onto serving plate; cool at least 2 hours.

In small bowl, combine all glaze ingredients, adding enough milk for desired drizzling consistency. Spoon over top of cake, allowing some to run down sides. Store tightly covered.

 

 

The week in review

It was an exciting week here at The Steady Table. The little guy turned one. One! How cool is that? We celebrated with pizza (it was a Tuesday after all) and ice cream for dessert.

In the dinner department, we stuck to our meal plan and timing. For the most part, we did pretty well.

On the menu this week? Monday: My favorite chili (a vegetarian and a turkey version). Tuesday: Pizza from Upper Crust, a simple salad and three flavors of Talenti gelato. Wednesday: A delicious new pasta dish by Shane (which I will post for you when we make it again, soon). Thursday*: Salmon with dill sauce, potatoes, roasted peppers and a delicious and hearty salad. Friday: Pasta with creamy gorgonzola sauce and a complicated green bean dish.

In the middle of dinner tonight, my parents’ friend Greg arrived with an entire somewhat-local, pasture-raised, grass-fed cow that needed to be divvied up. So, more on that later.

* Thursday’s dinner was cooked by our guests, Ann & Gail, which was pretty great of them.