December 27, 2011

We Ate Our Way Through Christmas!

I hope that everyone is enjoying their holiday season!  I love the holidays, and really look forward to this time of year.  For four months, (October through January), there is so much to celebrate, so many family gatherings, traditions, and always lots of great food.

We seemed to eat our way through Christmas this year, starting on Christmas Eve, through dinner on the 26th!  Every bite was delicious.

Christmas Eve we went to my husband's Grandmother's house for baked ziti, sausage and meatballs, salad, and yummy Christmas cookies and cakes.  His Grandmother gave me her recipe for her Boiled Raisin Cake, which I will have to make before winter is over.  Filled with delicious, plump raisins and spices, it tastes like the holidays.

We spend Christmas morning with my in-laws.  My mother-in-law made a delicious, and somewhat healthy, brunch.  We had a refreshing fruit salad, Brie and Egg Strata, homemade cinnamon rolls, sparkling apple cider and hot tea.  Everything was fabulous!  The strata was wonderful; layers of fluffy eggs, tender veggies and potatoes, mixed with gooey brie cheese... yum!  The cinnamon rolls were incredible! She made them the day before, then warmed them and made the icing on Christmas morning... the house smelled like cinnamon and dough, like a delicious bakery.

For the first time, my husband and I hosted Christmas Dinner.  We had a total of 15 people from my family, and his.  The menu included: baked ham, cranberry chutney, green bean casserole (my own recipe), oven-roasted brussels sprouts, mashed potato casserole, sweet potatoes, balsamic succotash, and potato-cheese pierogies in caramelized onions (part of my family's Christmas tradition).  Desserts included a (Cooking Light) Peppermint Ice Cream Cake, almond cookies and homemade chruscik.

There was a ton of food! Luckily, we were able to use some of the dishes the next night, along with a perfectly roasted turkey and a spiral-cut ham, with my father-in-law's side of the family.

As you can imagine, there were many, many recipes from our holiday celebrations worth sharing.  To prevent this post from being the post that never ends, I will only be sharing a few tonight... I'll save the sweet stuff for tomorrow...

This was only the second time ever that I have made a baked ham.  So, I nervously scoured the internet for cranberry ham recipes, in hopes of: 1. being able to use the fresh cranberries that I bought at Thanksgiving, didn't get to use and tossed in the freezer, and 2. making a delicious ham.  Finding no cranberry ham recipes that I liked, I decided that I would separate the two, and make a delicious ham, and cranberry chutney as an accompaniment.  Matt's uncle makes homemade cranberry sauce for Thanksgiving every year, so the pressure was on! I was thrilled when I heard him say that the chutney was "bangin'"!!

Cranberry Chutney
Everyday Food, November 2005

1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely minced shallot
1 tbsp peeled and finely grated fresh ginger*
1 (12oz) bag fresh cranberries, rinsed and picked over
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
Coarse salt and ground pepper

In large saucepan, heat oil over medium-low. Add shallots and ginger; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are softened, about 5 minutes.
Add cranberries, sugar, vinegar and 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer, stirring often, until most of the berries have burst and mixture has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes.
Season with salt and pepper. Let cool completely. Serve at room temperature or chilled.
*I did not have fresh ginger, so I used about 1/2 tbsp. powdered ginger.
I made this chutney the day before, and chilled it in the refrigerator. About two hours or so before dinner, I removed it from the fridge and put it in dishes on the table so that it was room temperature by dinner time.

Growing up, every year we ate green bean casserole during Thanksgiving dinner. The version we ate was, I think, the original Campbell's soup recipe with full-fat Cream of Mushroom soup, cans of french-cut green beans and French's onions.  While nostalgic and tasty, I wanted to see if I could make one of my favorite dishes a little healthier and perhaps a little more delicious. I think that I accomplished my goals! This recipe is a definite 'keeper'.

Green Bean Casserole
Serves 8

2 (12oz) pkgs frozen green beans, cooked per pkg directions*
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. fresh thyme
1/2 tbsp butter
1tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 (10.75oz) can 98% fat-free Campbell's Cream of Mushroom soup
1/4 cup reduced-fat milk
French's onions, for topping.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place olive oil and butter into a large saucepan over medium heat.  Saute shallots and garlic until shallots are translucent. Add fresh thyme, pepper and soup. Slowly add milk, stirring constantly. Turn heat down to low, and allow soup mixture to come together. Cook green beans per package directions in microwave. Remove from microwave and place beans into large bowl. Pour soup over beans, tossing to mix completely, then pour mixture into an oven-safe 2qt. dish. Bake for 25 minutes. Stir, top with onions, and bake uncovered for 5 minutes, or until onions are browned. Serve warm.

*I used Bird's Eye Steamfresh green beans, and cooked them in the microwave for 4.5 minutes, each package.
I made a double batch of this casserole the day before and refrigerated overnight (divided into 2 separate oven-safe dishes). About half an hour before they needed to be baked, I took them out of the fridge to warm up a bit before putting them into the oven.

As I mentioned above, I had only made a baked ham once before Christmas dinner. I relied on a glaze recipe that I found online at The flavors were simple, familiar and delicious. I did not follow their baking directions. Instead, as per package directions, I baked mine in a 325 degree oven for 15 minutes per pound. Before putting the ham into the oven, I made sure there was about 1/2 inch of ginger ale in the bottom of my roasting pan, and covered the pan with foil.  Every 30 minutes, I checked on the ham, basting the top of the ham with the ginger ale, always making sure that there was about 1/2 inch of liquid in the pan.

Ham with Cola and Maple Glaze

1 fully cooked ham, about 6 to 8 pounds
whole cloves, optional (I did not use them)
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup cola (I used Cherry Coke)
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

Combine maple syrup, brown sugar, cola, mustard, ginger and cinnamon in saucepan; bring to a simmer and continue cooking over low heat for about 2 minutes. About 20 minutes before ham is done, spoon about half of the glaze over top of ham, then about 10 minutes before done, spread remaining glaze over ham.

My ham turned out to be very moist, and is making us some very good ham sandwiches... Any ideas for recipes that use leftover ham?!?

There is still so much to share!! I could keep going, but it's making me hungry, and I want to keep this a bit shorter than a cookbook... Tomorrow, I'll share the recipe I used for the Peppermint Ice Cream Cake (Cooking Light!!!) and the homemade Chruscik.

Recipes I mentioned tonight:
Brie and Egg Strata
Cinnamon Rolls
Cranberry Chutney
Ham with Cola and Maple Glaze

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