I’ve been mulling over this year’s Christmas Dinner Menu for our big blended family. My goal is always to use recipes that are delicious, tasty, and pretty — but are no-brainers to make and serve.
For the main dishes, I decided on my never0fail, always juicy slices of Tri-Tip roast in au jus; and a nice center cut of grilled Norwegian salmon from Whole Foods, our favorite cut of fish. This should please the beef eaters and the fish eaters alike.
I recently discovered some delicate, amazing-tasting fresh “pasta purses” stuffed with cheeses and truffles at, of all places, Sam’s Club. After cooking them in boiling water, I gently ladled them into a quick rich sauce made of cream, a little garlic, Parmesan cheese and basil. To. Die. For. And silly easy. I now have my perfect fancy-but-simple Christmas side dish to put on the menu.
Finally, to add some freshness and crunch to round out the meal, I thought I’d make a salad. But I didn’t want an old boring salad. Then – faster than a speeding reindeer it came to me! I’d make a Christmas Wreath Salad. I’d arrange the greens on a plate like a wreath, dot it with red berries, both fresh and dried, sprinkle with nuts and top with feta cheese “snow” and tuck a bow at the bottom of the plate. Then, what could be more festive to drizzle on this pretty salad than a vinaigrette inspired by my favorite cranberry-orange relish?
As I write this, it seems the whole country is blanketed with snow and ice. Here in Denver it is a balmly… 1 degree. Our front yard proved to be the perfect place to chill the salad and snap some photos. Let me assure, I didn’t dawdle with the camera outside for long. In fact this was probably the fastest — and coldest – food photography session I’ve ever done. Greg and I sampled this trial-run salad as a one bowl supper tonight by topping it with some warm, sliced deli roast chicken. Big, Holly Jolly win.
By the way, if you are looking for an uplifting, fun gift for teachers, girlfriends, moms, grandmas or cooks in your family … may we suggest copies of We Laugh, We Cry, We Cook?
Our memoir is truly one of those perfect, generic, happy gifts that anyone on your list will enjoy. The recipes at the end of each chapter add extra value. The book is available online everywhere, and in most bookstores; but if you would like an autographed, wrapped copy check out Rachel’s last blog post with instructions on how to contact us.
Christmas Wreath Salad with Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette
About 4 to 5 cups of salad greens (I used chopped romaine and arranged spinach leaves on top of the “wreath mounds)
½ cup of whole nuts (I used pecans and pistachios)
¼ cup of dried red berries – cherries or cranberries
½ cup of fresh red berries – slice strawberries or pitted fresh cherries
1/3 cup crumbled feta or goat cheese (or if you prefer, grated white cheddar, parmesan, swiss or other white cheese)
On a large round plate, put a small bowl for the salad dressing in the middle. Arrange salad greens around the bowl to make a “wreath”, then dot the wreath with nuts, dried berries and fresh betters. Finally sprinkle with feta “snow”. Fill the bowl in the middle with the following vinaigrette and serve chilled.
Cranberry Orange Vinaigrette
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 medium navel orange or 2-3 clementines, peeled and broken apart
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon mustard
1 teaspoon grated onion or dried minced onion
½ t. garlic powder
2/3 cup olive oil
Put all ingredients into a blender or food processor and process until smooth, and turns a gorgeous raspberry red. Keep in fridge until ready to serve.
I have been working out fairly consistently since last August, thanks to the encouragement of my good friend Ingrid. I get up by 7:00 am (a great feat for this non-morning person) and meet Ingrid at a local gym at 8:00 where we exercise while solving the world’s problems and…often talk about great food. (Perhaps this is why the pounds aren’t just dropping off of us?)
Here’s our conversation from last week, both of us huffing and puffing on ellipticals, side by side.
“Becky!” says Ingrid. “I was visiting my friend in California who is a vegan, like your daughter. And I came up with the best recipe for a pizza.”
“Let’s hear it.”
“Well, you start with a pizza crust and then sprinkle it with almond cheese.”
“Does almond cheese tastes good? Because I think soy cheese tastes like shredded rubber bands, and I’ve been looking for a good vegan cheese to use when I cook for Rachel.”
“It does! And it melts. Then you cook some garlic and onions in a pan with a little olive oil until they just start to brown and caramelize. Put these on top of the almond cheese, top with a few unsalted pistachios and — hey, Becky, why did you stop walking on your machine?”
I looked down and sure enough, I was so caught up in Ingrid’s description, that I’d completely frozen, thinking of nothing but how those flavors might taste together, my head in a pistachio-caramelized onion pizza cloud.
“Sorry,” I said, resuming my exercise. “What can I say? I brake for food. Even descriptions of it.”
After our gym session, I didn’t even change out of my gym clothes before heading to Whole Foods and gathering the ingredients. I chose garlic Naan bread instead of pizza dough because I was in a hurry to try this feast.
Let me just say, this new pizza recipe may cost me a few extra miles of exercise.
And it will be totally worth it. You have to try this!
2 pieces Naan Bread (I love Whole Food’s Garlic Naan Bread. But it is not vegan, so if you want to be pure vegan here, you may want to use Whole Food’s pizza dough.)
1-2 T. olive oil, divided
1. c grated almond cheese (or Mozzerella cheese, but if you are a vegan and haven’t tried almond cheese, it is the best tasting vegan cheese I’ve tried thus far)
1 red onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c. roasted, unsalted pistachio nuts
Using a grill pan and a little olive oil, grill the Naan bread on both sides until it is crispy and has light golden grill marks. Set aside on a heavy duty cookie sheet or clay pizza pan.
In a skillet, saute the onions and garlic in a tablespoon or so of olive oil until onions have started to caramelize but still have a little bite/crunch to them.
Put 1/3 cup grated cheese on each piece of Naan. Top each with half of the onion-garlic mixture. Sprinkle each pizza with 2 T. roasted, unsalted pistachios.
Bake at 375 until cheese melts. (The almond cheese takes a longer to melt than does “real cheese,” and I actually ended up nuking the pizza in the microwave a few seconds to get it to “melty” consistency. It is much better than soy cheese, very good –but not as yummy as the Real Mozerella McCoy.) Cut in wedges and serve alongside fresh fruits for a light supper or beautiful appetizer to go with your next wine party!
*Besides being handy behind a stove top, Ingrid is also a social media whiz, and serves as a social media consultant for my husband’s literary agency. (Click on her name to read her most recent article on blogging tips.)