In which I am clever…and it pays off!

I went to some friends’ for a party on New Year’s Eve – I hadn’t really been feeling like going out to a party, but they convinced me and I’m glad I ended up going. It sure beat sitting on the couch and drinking champagne by myself! But I did still want a kind of quiet New Year’s some way or another, so I spent the day of New Year’s Eve in the kitchen, preparing things that would sit in the refrigerator overnight while I was away that I could pop into the oven when I got back in the morning with little to no effort on my part.

For a savory I had a fake bacon and goat cheese egg bake which used English muffins as its bread layers and was sooo yummy! The saltiness of the bacon and the creamy goat cheese are perfect compliments to each other. I would definitely make this again. And it’s good as leftovers, too – which is good because I’m going to be eating it for a while even though I halved the recipe.

Then I had Alton Brown’s overnight cinnamon rolls. These were…okay. I don’t know if it’s the recipe or that I was using a wrong kind of yeast or that I let them sit in the fridge too long, but although they rose and baked just fine, they’re kind of dense and hard. This has been a problem I’ve had in my search for the perfect cinnamon roll – I really want one that’s soft and fluffy and light and I haven’t managed to find it yet.

And then…I had the best blueberry muffins I’ve ever had. They’re Ina’s blueberry coffee cake muffins and they’re fantastic! I feel like I’ve made these before and wasn’t that impressed with them, but whatever the case, I really got it right this time. I made them in an extra large muffin tin and whipped up some maple butter – they’re supposed to be in place of a blueberry pancake – and they’re ever so yummy! I only baked up one try of six muffins so I’ve still got some batter left in the fridge because I thought it would be nice to have fresh blueberry muffins later in the week, too.

I even made a mimosa courtesy of Martha Stewart with fresh-squeezed orange and lemon juice. Very nice! Altogether, my overnight brunch for one turned out to be a good way to celebrate the new year. 🙂

Christmas Eve Dinner! Or, Finally Catching Up on My Blog…

So even though I took the entire last week off, I spent it being alternately busy (usually in the kitchen) and entirely lazy (usually on the couch in front of Food Network). I barely even picked up my computer let alone gathered the energy to tell you about all the food I was making and all the sitting around I was doing. 😉 But now it’s almost time to head back to the real world, so I figured I’d use these last moments of my vacation to catch up on my posting. So here we go!

This year, instead of doing one super, mega, stressful meal for Christmas Eve, I decided to plan for three smaller meals – Christmas Eve dinner, Christmas Day brunch, and Christmas Day dinner. This worked out fairly well – I got my fill of cooking and baking but wasn’t too exhausted to enjoy the food or my time off from work. Christmas Eve we had a creamy sweet potato and chipotle soup, the famous (c. 2006) No-Knead Bread, a maple-roasted butternut squash and apple salad with a maple mustard dressing, poached pears with cinnamon cream cheese pound cake, and sparkling sangria with cranberries and oranges.

The hits were definitely the No-Knead Bread and the cinnamon cream cheese pound cake. The No-Knead bread I would definitely like to do again to see if I can perfect the process a little bit more – everything worked out and came together in the end, but I really had serious doubts and very nearly threw this dough out more than once. I’m glad I stuck with it, though, because it really does work and you get this lovely, almost artisanal loaf of bread with a crispy crust and a moist interior. The cinnamon cream cheese pound cake was more of a sleeper hit – it was good when we were eating it but didn’t seem like anything special…until we found ourselves continually eating it for breakfast (well, alternating with the pies that Claire sent us – yum!).

The soup was really good, too, though my mom said it was too spicy for her – the recipe calls for you to add the chipotle after everything’s cooked so it just gets whizzed up with the other ingredients, but I really wanted the heat to infuse everything so I put it in with everything to simmer. I thought it was good!

I wish I’d saved the sangria for Christmas Day brunch – it was sweet and light and would have been similar to having a mimosa. Oh, well, I’ll know for next time!

Aesthetically, I can appreciate the salad – the flavors are nice, though I don’t think I’d cook the butternut squash quite so long – it was a bit mushier than I would have liked – but my parents and I just really aren’t big into salads. I was trying to get us to be healthy, but I think a salad is just not the right approach. The poached pears ended up being a little bland – I’ve done poached pears before and really liked them, but this recipe just missed a bit. I think there was too much poaching liquid (or I wasn’t using a big enough pan) and that the wine was diluted a little too much by the water. I also think I could have let it go a bit longer – the pears weren’t quite as soft as I’d like.

But altogether a successful, tasty, and quick (relatively speaking) meal for a holiday evening!