Just a Dinner

I’ve spent the last 12 days enjoying Christmas break by spending time in Colorado. Snowmobiling, sledding, hiking, skiing, cooking and, most importantly, spending time with family has occupied much of my time.

Homemade pasta for Christmas Eve Dinner

Sunset as Thunder Mountain

 Yesterday morning my grandmother, aunt, uncle and two cousins departed leaving only my immediate family here. My oldest sister, Sara, and I decided that a gourmet home cooked meal was in order. After debate and planning, a menu was set.

Appetizer: Stuffed Mushrooms

Soup: Japanese Pumpkin, Vanilla, and Garlic Soup

Salad: Baby Spinach, goat cheese, pom seeds, pears and a citrus vinaigrette

Entrée: Cider brined pork tenderloin with rosemary roasted potatoes

Dessert: Chocolate mouse with espresso whip cream and raspberries

 Portobello mushrooms stuffed, baked and cut into triangles

based off of this recipe

The table was set and it was time for the real food to begin….

Japanese Pumpkin, Vanilla and Garlic Soup

Last Friday, we actually went out for a nice dinner to celebrate my sister Katherine’s graduation. The restaurant served this soup and luckily for you and me, they featured the recipe on their website. There was no kabocha squash at the grocery store here so I used acorn. The soup ended up being pretty thick so we thinned with some chicken broth during the final step (part of this might have been because I used an immersion blender to blend the squash so I didn’t add any water then). It was a delicious and flavorful soup!

Main dish

 Cider Brined Pork Tenderloin with Dijon Brown Sugar Glaze

Ina Garten’s Rosemary Roasted Potatoes

Salad with spinach, pom arils, goat cheese, pears and a random dressing of orange juice concentrate (leftover from pork brine), olive oil, red wine vinegar, drizzle of honey, rosemary, dry mustard, salt, pepper, etc….just threw stuff in until it tasted good!

The meal ended with a delicious chocolate mousse. Yum!

Although I’d recommend serving much smaller portions of it than we did….so rich!

 Overall, a delicious dinner!! I highly recommend all of these recipes. I seriously love planning, preparing, and eating fancy meals! I especially love plating the food and setting the table to make it look nice! I seriously can’t wait to be married and have other couples over for dinner parties. Is that weird?

I’m so normal. Weeeeee

The only thing I don’t like is doing dishes and cleaning up. I’ll cook, you do the dishes. Sound like a plan?

What’s your favorite thing to do when you have free time?

I love cooking nice meals. I also love playing games. Quelf, Catch Phrase, spades, Last Word, and Bananagrams are just a few of my favorites!

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten this holiday season?

The chocolate mouse above definitely ranks high on my list!

Homemade Caramel Apple Spice Cider

I’ve never been much of a coffee drinker. On rare occasions when I am feeling in need of the caffeine boost, I’ll drink a cup of coffee, but I make myself consume it black so I don’t actually like the way it tastes and that way I won’t get addicted to it. That sort of makes a little bit of sense, right?

While I definitely enjoy hot tea often, apple cider is my winter beverage of choice. Say what you want about hot chocolate or eggnog, but in my mind apple cider is the perfect beverage on a cold winter’s day. Recently, I’ve become a bit obsessed with Starbuck’s caramel apple spice. But, with my gift card supply dwindling and not wanting to shell out $3+ of my own money, I decided to make my own.

Turns out, their “apple spice” is simply a mixture of steamed apple juice and cinnamon dolce syrup that is topped with whipped cream and caramel sauce. I can do that. And so can you.

The front one is topped with whipped coconut milk. Great if your vegan or dairy-free!

Cinnamon Dolce Syrup

1/2 cup white sugar

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp  ground cinnamon

1-2 cinnamon sticks

1/2 tsp whole cloves

1/2 tsp whole allspice

Peel of one small orange (a clementine cutie works well)

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Simmer on low heat for 40 minutes. Mixture should be very fragrant. Remove cinnamon sticks, cloves, allspice and orange peel from the syrup. Syrup may be stored in the fridge in an airtight container.

For Apple Cider:  

Place 2 tablespoons (more or less depending on how sweet you like your cider) cinnamon dolce syrup in the bottom of a mug. You can add a little caramel sauce in the bottom of the mug at this point also. Fill mug with apple juice. Microwave for about 1 1/2 minutes until throughly heated. Topped with whipped cream and caramel, if desired. Serve and enjoy!

Beverage is best enjoyed by a fire.

I’d certainly argue that this is way better than Apple Spice at Starbucks. It has more flavor for which I give much of the credit to the orange peel. I also love that you can easily control the level of sweetness.

Then again, I’m not exactly unbiased.

What is your winter drink of choice? Anyone like eggnog?

I haven’t actually tried it since I was 10 or so, but I remember thinking it was the nastiest thing ever. I’m afraid to try it again!

I hope everyone is enjoying getting ready for Christmas! I can’t believe it is so soon.