It's been really cold here in New England. On night's like these, I am so thankful to have a safe, warm house to retreat to at the end of the day. With the chaos of the holidays winding down, jack frost making himself known, and bf sound asleep on the couch, I knew Friday night wasn't going to consist of going too far beyond my living room.
Sometimes you have plans to make a fancy-shmancy appetizer. Sometimes that fancy-shmancy appetizer completely fails 20 minutes before you are supposed to be somewhere. So you scramble and use what you have to whip something up. Sometimes, you end up with something pretty great! That's what happened here. These bites are sweet, spicy, creamy, and crunchy all in one bite. They come together in a matter of minutes and are perfect for a party. You can easily swap out the chutney flavor or the cheese you use to change up the flavor profile.
I attended a holiday party last weekend and offered to bring an app. I got ambitious, tried to make three different things (none of which came out) but thankfully, on a whim, I had already made these bar nuts. As soon as I put them out, they had a gravitational pull and people stood around them all night. It's no wonder, they are salty, sweet, spicy...the perfect nut (although I always say that's me teehee)! Since they were such a hit, I decided to gift them to friends and family this holiday season. My friend Dennis has been doing this for years with a similar recipe. I love the idea, it's something different and a nice break from the never ending cookie tins (no offense to you cookie exchangers). As a bonus, they could not be simpler to make. I'm writing this on Christmas Eve, if you (like me) still have some last minute gifts to figure out, consider whipping up a batch of these, they'll come together in no time! Or heck, they would be delicious any time of year!
I like to bring a hostess gift when I go to a party around the holidays. I feel like it's a nice gesture, and it's often unexpected. I'm always looking for ideas for these gifts, but I have to admit whenever I see a "hostess gift ideas" list, I always wonder...who are these people friends with? The gifts are often expensive (I saw one suggestion today for slippers that were $300), I mean they're hosting me for a party, not giving me lodging for a whole year. Some of them are just odd (seriously...a hair dryer?) I don't want to weird anyone out, just let them know I'm grateful for their efforts.
I've rounded up a few tried and true hostess gifts. They are inexpensive, and some you can even grab on the way to the party. I've added some that you've seen before, but tried to give you some tips about how to freshen them up a bit.
I'm sure a lot of great chefs draw inspiration from amazing trips, delectable dinners at swanky restaurants, and of course seasonal ingredients. I'm also sure that a lot of them stumble upon a delicious concoction because their significant other randomly declares that he wants hot chocolate and while they would love to make some, they have been dragging their heels to go to the grocery store and cupboards are.. well bare to say the least.
Well not bare exactly, we have truffle butter, three types of gouda, pear balsamic vinegar and figs. We just don't have any...you know... normal food...like Swiss Miss.
When possible I like to make homemade hot chocolate anyways, so I was hoping I had some bakers chocolate stored somewhere, no such luck. I was about to tell bf he was out of luck when I found Nutella stuffed behind some boxes of pasta (oh yeah, we had that too). So I gave it a think, and decided that not only would I make some good hot chocolate, but I would make the bomb-diggity-best thing you ever drank hot chocolate. Okay, I may be overselling it, but seriously, it was good. I gathered up what I had on hand, and the result was a phenominally rich and decadent chocolatty, nutty, boozy, butterscotchy (or if your bf pepperminty) treat.
Am I the only one who felt like this week should have ended two days ago? Winter in New England has finally settled in. It's cold, it's dark at 4:30 pm, and the magical snow from last weekend is now streaked with dirt and mud.
I've been craving bolognese this week, I'm not sure why. There's a restaurant down the street from my house that makes a great one. It's hearty and flavorful and really warms the soul. Every day I plan on trying to convince bf to go for dinner, but by the time I get home from work, I don't want to go out and face the world again. So as I was leaving work yesterday, I made the decision to make bolognese instead. I know what you're thinking- how can you make bolognese after work? Isn't that like an all day, can't leave the stove, Sunday kinda thing? The short answer is...yes...normally. This one however comes together in 45 minutes, and it's just as good as if you spent all day. So here it is, Ina Garten's Weeknight Bolognese.
I feel like American kids hate Brussels Sprouts because they're suppose to. No one really knows why, but you are just not supposed to like them. The big joke here is that when you become an adult you're supposed to LOVE them. I'm serious, all of my friends absolutely love Brussels sprouts. Therefore, I have to reveal my dirty little secret...I really don't like them. I mean, I'll eat them, but if you notice, I'm probably just pushing them around on my plate. The thing though is, I want to like them. I really do. So, I decided to try Sarah Leah Chase's Maple Glazed Brussels Sprouts and Chestnuts, it has maple syrup and bacon...so what could be bad about that? Plus it's the holiday season so the whole chestnuts roasting on an open fire thing was definitely playing in my head.
Sometimes I have big food plans. Roasted Turkey Roulade with Maple Chestnut Brussle sprouts? That was on the menu yesterday. You'll notice however, that's not what I made. Sometimes I have big food plans, but then sometimes it snows and I lock myself out of my car. Sometimes I just want a big bowl of comfort food. We've all been there, right?
Ah New England, the region of the country where you go from the sweet sun of summer to the golden leaves of fall. Soft snow falls on Christmas Eve and crisp rains and green plants welcome the Spring. I am so fortunate to live in a place where we get all four seasons.....(insert record screech sound).....yeah right. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE that we get all four seasons, but it's not like they are all given equal dispersement across the months. The reality is that we have winter for about half the year, and then the other three seasons split the remaining half. What this means is that most of my existence is spent in colder weather. It's fine when you get crisp fall nights to roast marshmallows on the fire pit, but it's not so great when it's pitch black at 4:30 pm every night. The desire to eat comfort foods increases significantly. I am always on the hunt for good, hearty, yet modern recipes for the cold weather, you can only eat so much meatloaf and beef stew.
I've been on a cookbook binge lately. A few months ago, Ina Garten posted a list of her favorite cookbooks. You can bet I made note of that and have been working to collect them ever since. So far her recommendations have not disappointed. I have been cooking out of her cookbooks for some time and have come to trust her recipes emphatically. You gotta mix it up though, right? So I decided to try a new recipe from Danny Meyer's Union Square Cafe Cookbook. This is the second recipe I've tried from the book (I made the Pumpkin Risotto on Halloween and it was phenomenal). I've never cooked a rib eye before, but I have to say this did not disappoint. The fresh rosemary was fragrant and the whole dish was perfect for the holidays (or a random Tuesday night). I paired it with Ina Garten's Rosemary Hassleback Roasted Potatoes, because...how bad could that be?
Recipe: Seared Rib Steak With Rosemary and Arugula
Book: Union Square Cafe Cookbook