Welcome to my table. We’re just having a small family affair this year, but we’re happy to share it with you? And yes, those ARE paper plates. I don’t consider that low class, I say it’s showing love to my guests. First of all, paper doesn’t break, so everyone can relax and just enjoy the food and the company and not worry about knocking a glass over, dropping a plate, or banging a treasured platter against the ceramic sink and chipping it. Want seconds? Just help yourself to a new, clean plate. And when dinner has been served, enjoyed, relished, savored, and devoured, nobody (not one of the men – ha! right, women, or children – or more importantly ME, who hates to do dishes) has to gather up and scrape the food, fill the sinks with hot suds, don a dish towel, or ask where the dessert plates go. It all goes into the waste pale and out to the curb. Only the food has to be dealt with, and in a few minutes we can all scoot off into the living room and gather around the television for a movie, drag out a fun board game, gather around the stereo and sing Christmas carols, or grab our jackets and pile in the car for a trip around the neighborhood to look at Christmas lights. Paper is pretty, and blessedly low maintenance.
On the Menu:
Prime Rib (served with horseradish sauce and au jus)
Steamed Artichokes (which aren’t usually in season until March, so they may not be available – in which case I substitute a yummy Brussels Sprouts dish)
Creamed Spinach with sliced baby portabella mushrooms
Fruit Salad (ambrosia)
a Relish Platter to nibble on until the roast is perfect
a warm, fruit cocktail sour dough Friendship Cake for dessert (because it is the only fruitcake I figure I can get them to eat),
or… (if I’ve forgotten to get my starter stared back around Halloween)…
warm Gingerbread with whipped cream on top
or… A wonderful Pumpkin Roll (homemade of course)
* * *
PERFECT PRIME RIB
A Prime Rib Roast can be a scary endeavor, but be brave. Don’t let it intimidate you. It’s scary for all of us the first time, because it is sooooo expensive, and overcooking it will totally ruin it, but there are some tricks to the trade that make it a cinch. And truly anyone can do it!
The first trick is to cook it “low and slow,” and the second is to use a meat thermometer, preferably one of the professional expensive ones with a wireless digital read out – totally worth the expense!
You’ll need a roast with half as many ribs as you have guests…so 8 guests equals a 4-rib roast. Most butchers prefer you to place your prime rib order with them a week or two in advance.
Choose well marbled meat from a reputable butcher.
If possible (or affordable) have it professionally dry aged.
Pick the roast up from the butcher at least a day or two before your meal. Salt the roast liberally on all sides with kosher salt the day before, rewrap loosely and keep in the fridge. (NOTE: some folks say this dries out the meat, but the first Prime I made wasn’t dry at all. As a test I skipped it the next year and really didn’t notice a difference. However, I did notice the butter sticks to the surface better if it has been salted, and the salted roast also seemed to end up with that wonderful crust at the end, better than the unsalted roast.)
Bring your roast out of the fridge a couple hours ahead of baking to allow it to come to room temperature.
In the meantime preheat your oven (or roaster) to 220 degrees, and make the following:
Seasoned Butter Rub
Combine 1/4 cup butter
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Tablespoon Thyme
and 4 garlic cloves minced in a bowl. Mix well.
Spread this butter mixture evenly over entire roast and then place several Bay Leaves around on top.
Place roast, ribs down on a rack and into a roasting pan with tall sides, like you would use to roast a turkey. Insert meat thermometer so the tip is in the thickest part of the beef, not resting in fat or touching bone, and somewhere in the center half way between the ends. Place roast in oven (or roaster), uncovered. (Note: Some roasters, mine in particular, run hot, so I put an oven thermometer in mine where I can see it from the little window, and I check it often to make sure the temperature inside is what I want it to be).
Slow-roast the prime rib for about 4 to 5 hours (for a 3 rib roast), until the internal temperature reaches 125 degrees F (for medium rare) and 135 (for medium/medium well). After the first hour in the oven turn the oven temp down to 200 degrees. After another hour in the oven, turn the temp down to 170 degrees. My 4 rib roast took about 5 hours to bake. Go by temp not by time. If you have the time, you can roast at 170 degrees for the whole time. Use a digital or remote read thermometer to monitor the temp. Begin closely monitoring the internal temperature about an hour before the estimated end of the roasting time and check back often, like every 10 to 15 minutes.
Once temp is reached, remove roast from oven, and increase oven temp to 500 degrees. Once the oven is heated, return the roast, uncovered, to the oven for 10 to 15 minutes to produce that nice crust on the outside. Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes .
Remove Ribs and string, and carve slices of prime rib for guests. Serve with horseradish sauce and au jus.
AU JUS GRAVY
Place pan on stove on medium heat. Place 2 tablespoons of beef roast drippings (if there are any, if not use butter or bacon fat melted) plus 1 to 2 tablespoons flour to the pan. Stir with a wire whisk until the flour has thickened and is smooth. Continue to cook slowly and stir constantly so that the flour taste cooks out, but don’t let it burn. Slowly add 3 cups of beef broth, or 2 cups broth and 1 cup cream, or beer, or wine to the gravy. Season the gravy with salt and pepper and herbs d province if desired.
1 to 2 Tbsp prepared horseradish (or more to taste)
1/4 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp chopped chives or the greens of a green table onion
Mix ingredients together. Place a tablespoon or two each into small bowls and serve to guests with their roast.
Makes about 1/2 a cup.
* * *
CHEESY HASHBROWN POTATO CASSEROLE
1 can (10 3/4 ounces) Campbell’s® Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
8 ounces (1 container) sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted (1 stick)
1 bag (32 ounces) frozen hash brown potatoes (about 7 1/2 cups)
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (about 8 ounces)
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 cups crushed corn flakes mixed with 1/4 cup melted butter
Stir the soup, sour cream, butter, onion and cheese in a 3-quart shallow baking dish and then add the potatoes and toss until mixed well. Season with the black pepper. Spread in a 9 x 13″ pan. Sprinkle the potato mixture evenly with the crushed corn flakes and butter. Bake at 350°F. for 45 minutes or until the mixture is hot and bubbling.
NOTE: Sometimes I like to add 1/2 block of softened cream cheese and a minced clove of garlic to the sour cream and soup mixture, and about a teaspoon of salt.
* * *
Cut off stems and trim the thorny tips from artichoke leaves. Rub cut ends with lemon juice (to help prevent discoloring). Place chokes stem end down in a large Dutch oven sized sauce pot and fill about 2 inches deep with boiling water. Turn heat on medium high. Place lid on pot and steam artichokes for about an hour, replacing water as it evaporates. Check often.
To test for doneness, lift the lid (don’t burn yourself) and try to pry a leaf from the side of one of the chokes. If it lifts out easily, they are done. If there is resistance, continue to steam and check again in five minutes.
While chokes steam, make the following dipping sauce in a small bowl.
Artichoke Dipping Sauce
1½ cups mayo
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp minced cilantro
1 tsp lemon pepper.
Serve an artichoke to each guest with about 1/3 cup of sauce to dip the leaves into.
* * *
COLLEEN’S FAVORITE BRUSSELS SPROUTS
2 packages of fresh Brussels sprouts, quartered or sliced
1/2 bunch of Asparagus, touch ends removed, chopped into 1″ pieces (optional)
½ lb thin sliced bacon
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ cup slivered almonds, toasted
Place bacon on cookie sheet in 400 degree oven and cook until crispy. Break into pieces. Add onion and garlic to the bacon fat and sauté in oven until translucent. Toss in Brussels sprouts and stir to mingle all ingredients well. Let roast in oven for about 8 minutes, until Brussels sprouts are brighter colored. Turn oven down to 350 and add asparagus. Roast until brussels sprouts are desired tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and toss in almonds. Shave some parmesan cheese on top for garnish.
(*Sweet golden raisins counteract the bitter taste of the Brussels sprouts and really add a neat balance to the dish, but picky eaters may not like raisins, so if you use them, make sure you chop them up really small so no one can’t tell that they are in there – ha!).
* * *
CARMELIZED BAKED ACORN SQUASH
Acorn Squashes, cut in half, seeds and membranes scoooped out (you’ll need half as many squashes as you have guests)
2 Tablespoons butter per squash half
2 Tablespoons Brown Sugar per squash
pinch of salt per squash
Bake in 350*F oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until squash is completely tender. If your squashes won’t sit level you can make a ring out of a rope of tin foil and then use them as stands to set your squashes on to hold them level while they bake.
* * *
1 ½ cups heavy cream
½ cup finally chopped yellow onion
3 pounds baby spinach, freshly washed
1 carton baby portabella mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into quarters
3 Tbsp butter
Combine the cream and onion in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer. Let cook until the cream has thickened and reduced by half, and the onion is soft, about 10 minutes.
Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add about a quarter of the spinach to the dry pot. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted. Add more spinach to the pot and repeat until all of the spinach is wilted.
Set a strainer in the sink and transfer the spinach to the strainer. Drain off the excess liquid. In the meantime sauté mushrooms in butter until tender. Return the spinach to the pot with the mushrooms. Add the reduced cream mixture, season well with salt and cayenne pepper, and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
* * *
Traditional Yorkshire pudding cooked with roast drippings.
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup milk
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 eggs, beaten*
2-4 Tbsp of roast drippings
* If you double the recipe, add an extra egg to the batter.
Sift together the flour and salt in a large bowl. Form a well in the center. Add the milk, melted butter, and eggs and beat until the batter is completely smooth (no lumps), the consistency of whipping cream. Let sit for an hour.
Heat oven to 450°F. Add roast drippings to a 9×12-inch Pyrex or ceramic casserole dish, coating the bottom of the dish. Heat the dish in the oven for 10 minutes.
For a popover version you can use a popover pan or a muffin pan, putting at least a teaspoon of drippings in the bottom of each well, and place in oven for just a couple minutes.
Carefully pour the batter into the pan (or the wells of muffin/popover pans, filling just 1/3 full), once the pan is hot. Cook for 15 minutes at 450°F, then reduce the heat to 350°F and cook for 15 to 20 more minutes, until puffy and golden brown.
Cut into squares to serve.
(Recipe courtesy of http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/yorkshire_pudding/#ixzz3MlqgYWNC)
* * *
The next recipe for Amish Friendship Cake, makes a nice Christmas gift for your neighbors, coworkers, the mailman, hairdresser, etc. You give them a small loaf of the bread and a small container of the starter, along with the instructions for how to keep the starter going, and also the recipe for the bread. You just have to remember to start it around Halloween!
I’ve included both the pink liquid recipe and the sour dough recipe.
AMISH FRIENDSHIP CAKE (The Pink Liquid Stuff)
There are 3 steps to this Amish Friendship Cake. First you have to make the initial Starter. This process takes 30 days to make. The whole process, if starting here takes 60 days. The third step is to make the Amish Friendship Cake.
1 cup pineapple chunk, drained
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
Combine ingredients in a glass gallon jar. Cover loosely with 3 layers of paper towels rubber banded to the opening of the jar, and with a wooden spoon inserted through the cover to stir contents daily – DO NOT REMOVE PAPER TOWELS OR SPOON TO STIR! Note: leave jar on the counter & DO NOT REFRIGERATE!
Stir daily for 14 days.
1 cup maraschino cherry, including the juice
1 cup sugar
2 tablespoons brandy
Replace with new paper towel cover and stir daily as above.
Strain the fruit from the juice using a plastic strainer (DO NOT USE A METAL STRAINER).
The resulting “juice” is the “starter” for the Secondary Starter. Divide fruit in thirds and freeze the fruit for another use. You can use this fruit to add to the other Amish Friendship Bread that is made with a sour dough starter.
1 1/2 cups Amish starter (from above)
1 (20 ounce) cans sliced peaches in juice
2 1/2 cups sugar
Put first three ingredients in a gallon jar, covered loosely with spoon inserted as above. Stir once a day for 10 days.
On the 10th day, add:
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 (20 ounce) cans pineapple chunks in juice
Stir every day for 10 days.
On the 20th Day, add:
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 (10 ounce) jars maraschino cherries, and juice
1 (20 ounce) cans fruit cocktail, and juice
Stir every day for 10 days.
On the 30th Day, strain the fruit from the juice using a plastic strainer (DO NOT USE A METAL STRAINER). Divide fruit in thirds. Freeze 2/3 of the fruit for another use. Use the remaining fruit for the following cake. Divide the liquid into 5-6 jars, each containing 1 1/2 cups of juice. Give jars of starter to friends, along with the recipe for the secondary starter and the Amish Friendship Cake listed below.
Amish Friendship Cake
1 yellow cake mix
2/3 cup oil
1/3 of the fruit (prepared with the starter above)
1 cup nuts, chopped
1 (3 1/2 ounce) box instant vanilla pudding
Mix all ingredients together, and bake in a greased Bundt pan at 350 degrees, for 50 minutes or until done. Serve warm with whipped cream, or cool and frost with a cream cheese frosting. Refrigerate until ready to serve.
AMISH SOUR DOUGH STARTER
3 cups sugar
3 cups flour
3 cups milk
Day One: In a large clean glass bowl or gallon sized wide mouth jar combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk. Stir with a wooden spoon. Cover loosely with a clean cloth dish towel or paper towel or paper plate. Keep at room temperature. DO NOT USE ANYTHING METAL TO CONTAIN, COVER, OR STIR, DO NOT REFRIGERATE, AND DO NOT COVER TIGHTLY.
Day Two: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Three: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Four: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Five: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk. Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Six: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Seven: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Eight: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Nine: Stir once with a clean, dry wooden spoon. Replace cover. Keep at room temperature.
Day Ten: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup flour, and 1 cup milk. Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon. At this point you can remove 3 cups of mixture and place 1 cup into each of 3 plastic containers to give to three friends, along with the following instructions for keeping the starter going, and the recipe for Friendship Bread. They, and you, will keep the starter going with the following instructions:
Day 11: Place starter in large clean glass bowl or gallon sized wide-mouth jar. Cover loosely with cloth or paper towel or paper plate and set on counter at room temperature.
Day 12 through 15: Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon once every day and replace cover loosely.
Day 16: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour. Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.
Day 17 through 21: Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.
Day 22: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour. Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.
Day 23 through 26: Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon and replace cover loosely.
Day 27: Add 1 cup sugar, 1 cup milk, and 1 cup flour. Stir with a clean, dry wooden spoon.
You are now ready to bake the bread.
Give away two cups of the starter to two friends, along with a small loaf of the bread you bake with your starter, plus instructions for keeping the starter going (day 11-27), and the recipe for the bread. Reserve a cup of the starter for yourself and keep it alive for another batch.
This is a great “sour dough” for many baked things (breads, cakes, pancakes, etc.), so even if you don’t want to keep making this bread, you can keep it going for making lots of other things.
Amish Friendship Bread (with fruit)
1 cup oil
½ cup milk
3 whole eggs
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups flour (an extra Tablespoon if using drained fruit)
1 cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ tsp salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 (5-oz) box instant vanilla pudding
1 (12-oz) can fruit cocktail (for fermented fruit from the first Amish Friendship Cake recipe), well drained and patted dry with paper toweling
1 cup chopped nuts
Cinnamon and Sugar mixture
Mix oil and eggs, add vanilla, and stir into the 1 cup of remaining STARTER. In a separate bowl mix flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt, baking soda, pudding mix, and nuts. Stir in oil and egg mixture, and add fruit. Stir to mix thoroughly.
Pour into two large, well greased 9 X 5 loaf pans, or 4 to 6 mini loaf pans, or one Bundt pan that has been well greased and sprinkled with a mixture of cinnamon and sugar and a dusting of flour. Sprinkle more cinnamon and sugar on the tops of the loaves.
Place in preheated 325 degree F oven for one hour or until bread springs back with touched and toothpick inserted comes out clean.
* * *
COLONIAL GINGERBREAD with whipped cream on top
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup dark molasses
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup butter or margarine (1 stick), softened
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp ground fresh ginger root
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp salt
Preheat oven to 325*F. Grease and flour a 9 x 9″ pan. Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix with a mixer until well blended, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times during blending. Pour batter into greased bundt pan (or 9 x 13″ pan) and bake for about 45 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, but don’t let it over bake or it will be dry.
*If you like your gingerbread a little more moist and sticky you can make the following glaze and pour over the warm bread, even poking a few holes into the bread with a kabob skewer.
1/2 cup dark molasses
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1 cup boiling water
pinch of salt
2 Tbsp butter
1 tsp pure Vanilla extract
Place cornstarch and molasses in a small heavy sauce pot over medium high heat. Add boiling water and salt to the mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and cook another 20 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla, stir and then pour over warm gingerbread. The gingerbread can be enjoyed just like this, or you can sprinkle chopped nuts on top. I like mine with a heaping dallop of whipped cream.
Whipped Cream Topping
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup powdered sugar
dash of salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Blend all ingredients in a small bowl with the mixer on medium speed. Beat until soft peaks form and keep their shape. Keep in refrigerator until ready to serve, or frost cooled cake and then keep cake in refrigerator until ready to serve. I used Red Hots candies and mint leaves to decorate my cake, and then dusted it with a little nutmeg.
Besides the obvious and most centerpiece activity – shopping for, giving, opening ,and playing with presents, there are several other activities that are traditional in our Christmas season: the Shoebox, the angel-tree, making cookies, writing a Christmas letter and mailing out with Christmas cards, doing crafts, attending school parties, programs and functions, going to all the community events like the parade, the college festival of lights, the downtown square event in our town and in the nearby towns, the festival of lights at the 501 Ranch, and whatever else we find out about.
On Christmas Eve it is a tradition to eat 3 types of chili and tamales, open one present (from the same Aunt year after year – and she always sends pajamas), driving around to look at Christmas lights, and watching Christmas movies (A Christmas Story) until, according to the NORAD website, Santa is in the USA and getting close!
There’s also the Advent Calendar that is a yearly custom for the kids:
The Advent Wreath is always part of the season:
After Christmas dinner there is always a puzzle:
And this year we added a hay ride, and made a fire outside to sit around before it got dark, then making a fire in the fireplace inside and sitting around it playing with our toys and watching Christmas movies (National Lampoons Christmas Vacation, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, It’s a Wonderful Life, and others) and snacking on Christmas goodies: