Say, I Love You: Edible Christmas Gifts

Ahhh the Holidays. Time to cozy up with family and participate in cheesy traditions.

I thought that in the spirit of the season, I would compile some of my favorite recipes that I have made as gifts for people over the years. Giving something from the heart is better than buying someone something they will never use. Especially for people at work, homemade gifts can really put everyone in the holiday spirit.

Gingerbread cupcakes I brought to work last year for coworkers

Sweets
Almond Butter Balls
Apple Pie
Butter Cake with Semi-Sweet Chocolate Drizzle
Candied Mango and Mint Popcorn Squares
Coffee Cake
Gingerbread Cookies
Guinness Cake
Lemon Ginger Corncake with Orange Marmalade Glaze
Mini Portable Pies
Peanut Butter Banana Bread
Rosemary And Olive Oil Pound Cake
Sugar Cookies with Glaze
Toasted Almond Banana Bread
Vanilla Rum Cake with Buttercream
Whipped Cream
Zebra Popcorn

Savory
Arugula and Garlic Pesto
Cauliflower Curry
Chocolate Balsamic Vinegar
Guinness Beer Bread
Macaroni and Cheese
Pickled Hot Peppers
Sausage Dip

Candy and Drinks
Homemade Caramel
Matzo Candy Brittle
Mulled Wine
Rich, Creamy, Hot Chocolate

Thanksgiving 2012 with the family

Remember, people want to know you are thinking of them. So no matter how little or big your gift is, homemade holiday cheer is always backed by love. The time you put in, the thought you put into it, your friends and family know. A few sugar cookies won’t break the bank, but they will surely bring a smile to someone’s face.

Remember, accidents happen. Here was my holiday flub while making icing last year. Just laugh, and start again. Happy Holidays!

Macaroni and Cheese Pie

Oh k… so I had to get your attention. I don’t know what to call this recipe really, other than it includes bacon, cheese, bechemel sauce, and noodles. But the inspiration for it was something a friend of mine attempted to make the other weekend, I just upped the ante.

This recipe yields two pies, and has a number of steps, but let me tell you… so worth it. Also, check out a list of my other tailgating recipes.

2 refrigerated pie crusts
16 ounces bacon
12 ounces penne or macaroni pasta
14 large cheese ravioli
6 ounces smoked Gouda
6 ounces double creme Bri
6 ounces Blue Cheese
1 quart low fat milk
1 block cream cheese
2 1/2 tbs flour
1 onion
1 tbs tyme
10 sage leaves
garlic powder, salt, pepper to taste

The key to my pie is to make everything from scratch as much as possible. I have a great pie crust recipe, but did not have time before the football tailgate I was attending to sufficiently make it and let it rest. You are more than welcome to also make the crust. Whether or not you make the dough, or buy it, the first step is simple. The pie crust needs to be perforated, and baked off as to not make it soggy later.

Bake it for about 8 minutes at 425 degrees.  The crust should start to get golden but not dark at all.

A few layers go into this bake, so we have to start all of them. Let me explain. Get your water boiling for pasta and start cooking that; it should take about 11 minutes in which you have plenty of time to get the other elements working. Once the pasta is done, drain it. I would also lay the ravioli out on a paper towel, as those tend to hold water and we don’t want too much added moisture in the pie.

Next, cook your bacon, yes the whole pack, to about halfway done. I like my bacon crispy so for this, I want the strips to be slightly cooked down but still moveable. This will be important when we lattice the top of the pie later. Reserve the bacon fat.

Once the bacon is done, slice up a whole onion and add it to about 2 tbs of bacon fat. Cook the onions down to about half their size until they start to get caramelized. For the last minute of cooking, add the sage and thyme. Once the onions are done, set them to the side.

For the bechemel sauce, add 1 1/2 tbs butter to a pot and 1 tbs bacon fat. Add the flour and start working on a rue. The color should be a light to medium brown, before you add the milk. Once the milk is added, simmer at medium until it starts to thicken.

Next, add the cream cheese and work it down until it is all melted into the sauce. Add salt, pepper, and garlic to taste.

By now, you should have almost all of the components done: the pie crust is browned, onions cooked down, pasta drained, and the sauce is done. What I envisioned for this dish was to have chunks of delicious cheese melted in the pie along with a creamy cheese sauce integrating everything together.

For the smoked Gouda, Blue Cheese, and the Brie, they would be those flavor bursts. Instead of melting them down, I decided to chop up the cheeses and place them in a bowl. Once the cheese was all cut up, I added the penne noodles and tossed everything around.

The rest of the steps come down to assembly. But before you start layering components, turn your oven down to 375.

Take a pie crust and add a spoonful of the bechemel sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the pie. Start laying your cheese ravioli, about 7 per pie.

Once the ravioli is in, add half the onion mixture per pie. Spread it around evenly.

Next, add half the noodle mixture per pie. Press down to sort of smush everything together a bit. It can be mounded a little as well.

Pour bechemel sauce over the top of the noodles, coating every last one and creating a creamy top barrier.

Lastly, add the bacon lattice on top. Tuck the end into the pie crust under the edge noodles.

Bake at 375 for about 20-25 minutes. What you are looking for is the sauce to settle into the pie, the bacon to finish cooking, and the pie edges to not get too brown.

Bring this to your next party or tailgate and you will be the talk of the event! My friend Nicole seems to love it ;)

Cauliflower Curry Over Rice

Cold nights really do call for a stew or soup, and Sunday night was all about snuggling on the couch, watching Animation Domination on Fox with the family, and eating something delicious.

I used to really shy away from curry. I thought it was too complicated to make. Once I got the hang of it, it was not hard. Granted I have had a few misses; dishes I basically had to throw away because the flavor was off, the consistency was weird, and no one in their right mind would eat. But I can confidently say I finally got it and I want to share this dish with you.

1 whole head Cauliflower
1 white onion
1 cup sliced white mushrooms
5 medium sized red potatoes
6 cloves garlic
3-4 inches ginger root
1 cup frozen peas
2 cans coconut milk (or coconut cream… do not get the light kind. It will not come out right)
salt and pepper to taste
red curry powder
yellow curry powder
1 lime
4 stalks green onion
3 tbs vegetable oil
1 tbs coconut oil

My mom is a vegetarian which is why I opted for cauliflower. But you can absolutely do the recipe above with chicken. If you did, I would use about a pound or chicken breast, cut into even cubed pieces.

Add about 4 tbs of oil to a large pan. DO NOT USE OLIVE OIL. I suggest doing about 3tbs vegetable oil and 1tbs coconut oil. You can use all vegetable oil if you like.  The pan should be at medium-high heat. Start by slicing your onion into even half moon slices. You want to make them less then 1/4 of an inch thick. Add the onions and mushrooms to the pan of hot oil. Start caramelizing and sweating them.

Chop the potatoes with the skin on into cubes. Add them to the pan. Stir the mixture; the onions should start get color. You want those to really break down and get sweet.

Take the whole head of cauliflower and chop it off the stem. Since this is the “meat” party, you don’t want to entirely break it down. Cut it to nice florets and place on top of the potatoes. Stir everything around.

One of the things you want to do with curry is get the spices toasted while not burning them. This is why you do not add them into a super hot pan, but rather on top of your vegetables that have begun to cook. At this stage, add about 1tbs of salt, a few grinds of the pepper mill, and both kinds of curry sprinkled over the medley.

Stir everything really well to make sure every vegetable is covered in powder.

Turn the heat down to medium low. It’s time for garlic and ginger. Crush the 6 cloves of garlic in a press and add them to the dish. Do the same with the ginger root to squeeze as much of the fresh juice as possible (I cut the root down into small chunks and crush them in my garlic press). Stir the mixture around.

The reason I am using frozen peas in this recipe is two fold: they are easy to find and this allows for the peas to not get mushy in the stew. By defrosting and cooking in the coconut milk, it allows them to still be present in the finished product. The vegetables should all be wearing down now, which is about the moment you add the coconut milk. Right before you do, add the peas.

Once the peas are added and incorporated, open the coconut milk and pour in the two cans. Stir so that everything is simmering together. Your heat should still be medium-low.

Simmer the mixture for about 20 minutes. The sauce should thicken and the potatoes and cauliflower should be cooked all the way through. When you can poke through either vegetable with a fork, your curry is done.

Slice up your green onions and set to the side. Slice the lime into wedges. Serve the dish with white rice, a sprinkle of green onion, and a lime wedge. This meal should feed about 4 people.

Happy Eating!