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Archive: Dec 2013

Wine-Inspired Christmas Dinner

  1. Wine-Inspired Christmas Dinner

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    Still wondering what to serve for Christmas dinner?  This wine-inspired menu is perfect…simple, delicious and your oven does most of the work!

    Prep what you can in advance and once the  tenderloin and veggies are in the oven, you can relax and visit with family and friends until dinnertime!   Finish the salad while the tenderloin rests … serve and enjoy!

    Recipes serve 10, but if you have a smaller crowd, make the full recipe for delicious second-acts!  The tenderloin is delicious chilled on crusty rolls, the cabernet roasted veggies are excellent in roast vegetable soup!

    Baby Greens with Herbed Goat Cheese Rounds and Pinot-Balsamic Drizzle

    Yield: Serves 10

    Prepare the dressing and cheese discs a day in advance and keep in the fridge until ready to finish the salad.


    • 5 tablespoons fresh thyme -- leaves
    • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh rosemary -- leaves
    • 2 ½ tablespoons fresh parsley
    • 5/8 cup hazelnuts -- toasted and finely chopped
    • 10 ounces goat cheese (log form)
    • 15 cups mixed baby greens
    • ½ cup Pinot Noir wine
    • ½ cup Balsamic vinegar
    • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil (use a very good, fruity, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil!)
    • grey salt
    • freshly ground black pepper
    • 10 slices toasted baguette rounds (optional)


    Finely chop thyme, rosemary and parsley and place in shallow bowl.

    Heat a small frying pan over medium-high heat, add hazelnuts and turn off heat. While the pan is still hot, gently roll the hazelnuts around the pan to lightly toast. Allow to cool and then finely chop. Add chopped hazelnuts to chopped herbs and stir to combine.

    Divide goat cheese log into disks (for a 4 ounce log, divide into 8 disks -- unflavored dental floss works wonders for this task!).

    Press each disk in herb-hazelnut mixture to coat, covering both sides and edges. Place herbed goat cheese rounds on a plate and place in refrigerator for 10 minutes. (these can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated until ready to use -- up to 24 hours )

    To make Pinot-Balsamic drizzle, place the Pinot Noir wine and Balsamic vinegar in a small sauce pan and heat to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until reduced by half. Immediately remove from the heat in order not to over-reduce the liquid.

    Place greens in a salad bowl, drizzle with the olive oil, add salt and pepper and toss. Evenly divide greens among serving plates (approximately 1 1/2 cups per serving).

    Spray a small, nonstick frying pan with non-stick cooking spray. Over medium-high heat add the chilled goat cheese rounds and cook for approximately 2 minutes on each side until light brown and the cheese begins to soften.

    Place two goat cheese rounds on top of baby greens. Drizzle with the Pinot-Balsamic reduction. Add additional grey salt and freshly ground pepper if desired, and serve with toasted baguette rounds.

    Pepper Crusted Beef Tenderloin with Zinfandel and Morel Cream Sauce

    Yield: Serves 10

    A delicious main course for your holiday dinner. If serving less than 10, make the full recipe so you have left-overs...this roasted tenderloin is delicious served on small crusty rolls slathered with horseradish sauce!


    • 2 heads garlic -- (roasted)
    • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
    • 1/8 cup kosher salt
    • 1/3 cup freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 ounce dried morel mushrooms (typically come in .35oz. packages…so would need three packages)
    • 2 cups Zinfandel
    • 4 ½ to 5 pounds beef tenderloin -- whole, trimmed
    • ¼ cup beef broth
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    • ¼ cup half and half (can use regular or low fat half and half, but not non-fat)


    Roast the garlic by cutting off the tops to expose the cloves, placing in a small roasting pan coated with non-stick cooking spray, drizzle with 1/2 tablespoon of the olive oil. Cover and roast at 350 degrees or until garlic is golden brown and soft. Let cool and squeeze out the cloves, discarding the papery skin. (this can be done ahead of time and the roasted garlic cloves kept in the refrigerator or freezer)

    Meanwhile, place dried morels in a glass bowl. Cover with Zinfandel and let soak for 30 minutes. Strain with a coffee filter and reserve liquid. Rinse mushrooms to remove any grit, drain on paper towels and slice into 1/2-inch pieces.

    To prepare the tenderloin, place roasted garlic cloves into a small bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and the salt. Smash to make a paste. Spread the paste over the whole tenderloin and then sprinkle with the black pepper to coat.

    Let beef rest at room temperature for 20 minutes to take chill off the meat and let the flavors begin to penetrate.

    Place tenderloin in a roasting pan coated with non-stick cooking spray and roast uncovered at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes or until the tenderloin reaches 125 degrees internal temperature at its thickest portion. Remove from oven, place on a cutting board, tent with foil and let rest for about 10 minutes to let the juices redistribute throughout the meat.

    While the tenderloin rests, place the roasting pan on stove over medium-high heat. Add reserved Zinfandel, the beef stock and the morels. Reduce heat and let simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by half and mushrooms are tender. Stir in the butter and cook over low heat for an additional 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the half and half to combine. When cream has fully incorporated and warmed through, pour into a sauce dish.

    To serve, slice the tenderloin and top with the Zinfandel and Morel Cream Sauce

    Oven-Roasted Cabernet Glazed Winter Vegetables

    Yield: Serves 10

    Amazingly simple and utterly delicious! Double the recipe so you can use leftovers in roast vegetable soup!


    • 1 ¼ bunches carrots (I like to use the kind with the green tops still attached)
    • 5 each parsnips
    • 1 ¼ each red onion
    • 1 ¼ pounds baby Yukon Gold potatoes
    • 1 ¼ bulb fennel
    • 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
    • 2 ½ sprigs fresh thyme -- leaves removed
    • 1/3 cup Cabernet Sauvignon
    • kosher salt -- to taste
    • black pepper -- to taste


    Cut green tops off of carrots, leaving approximately 1/4-1/2 inch of green stems, and peel. If small in diameter, leave whole. If large, slice in half lengthwise.

    Peel Parsnips and slice crosswise into 1 inch rounds.

    Peel red onion and cut into wedges.

    Clean baby Yukon Golds and cut in half.

    Trim fronds and root end off of fennel and cut into wedges.

    Place vegetables into a roasting pan coated with nonstick cooking spray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with thyme, salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Pour Cabernet over vegetables and roast at 375 degrees for approximately 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender, nicely toasted and the wine has reduced to a thick glaze.

  2. Holiday Brunch

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    Friends of ours graciously open their home every year for a Christmas Eve brunch, hosting  family and a large group of friends.  In the flurry of the season, it is a wonderful time just to stop and enjoy the moment.  Whether you decide to go big or small, a holiday brunch is the perfect way to celebrate.  Here is a  menu we created for Christmas morning a few years ago that has become a tradition in our family.

    Celebration Cocktail

    Yield: 1 cocktail

    This cocktail is based on the Bellagio elegant alternative to a holiday mimosa!

    To make a non-acoholic version, replace the sparkling wine with sparking cider or sparkling white grape juice!


    • 1 ounce Alize Red Passion Liqueur
    • 1 ounce Passion Fruit Nectar
    • 4 ounces White Italian Sparkling Wine (Prosecco)


    Place Alize and passion fruit nectar in a shaker with ice. Stir or shake to chill. Strain into a champagne flute.

    Top with sparkling wine.

    Garnish with pomegranate seeds if desired


    Mini Spinach, Bacon and Feta Frittatas

    Yield: 48


    • 8 large eggs
    • 1/2 cup whole milk
    • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup chopped fresh spinach
    • 1/3 cup crumbled feta
    • 6 slices thick-cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
    • chopped roasted red peppers, optional


    Whisk the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt in a large bowl to blend well. Stir in the spinach, feta and bacon.

    Spray 2 mini (24-cup) muffin tins with nonstick cooking spray.

    FIll prepared muffin cups almost to the top with the egg mixture.

    Place filled muffin tins in a 375° pre-heated oven and bake approximately 8-10 minutes until the frittatas puff and are set in the center.

    Loosen the frittatas with a rubber spatula to remove from muffin tin. Serve immediately. Garnish with chopped roasted red peppers if desired

    Chicken-Apple Breakfast Sausage

    Yield: 12 sausage patties

    Finally, a breakfast sausage as healthful as it is delicious!


    • 1 1/2 pound chicken, ground
    • 1/2 cup grated granny smith apple (unpeeled)
    • 1/2 cup grated onion, drained
    • 1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons poultry seasoning


    Mix all ingredients together. Chill for 20 minutes.

    Spray a large frying pan with nonstick cooking spray. Form chicken mixture into 3”x1/2” patties and cook over medium-high heat until browned and cooked through (approximately 4 minutes per side).

    Note: add a teaspoon of roasted and cracked fennel seed for an Italian sausage. Kick it up with a half-teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a spicy sausage!

    Bananas Foster Bread Pudding

    Yield: Serves 8-10+

    A decadent dish based on a classic ... delicious for brunch or dessert!


    • 8 tablespoons butter
    • 2 cups packed light brown sugar
    • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 6 firm-ripe bananas, peeled and into 3/4-inch thick slices
    • 1/2 cup dark rum
    • 1-pound loaf soft bread, torn into 1 1⁄2 -inch pieces (such as sweet challah)
    • 4 eggs, beaten
    • 3 cups half-and-half
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
    • pinch of salt


    Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 cup of the brown sugar and the cinnamon. Cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves, about 2 minutes.

    Add the bananas and cook until the bananas start to soften and brown, turning so they cook on both sides, about 3 minutes. Carefully add the rum and shake the pan back and forth to warm the rum and flame the pan. (Or, take the pan off the heat and carefully ignite the rum with a match and return to the heat.) Shake the pan back and forth, basting the bananas, until the flame dies. Remove from the heat and let cool.

    Place bread pieces in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the remaining 1 cup of brown sugar, the eggs, half and half, vanilla and salt. Pour this liquid mixture over the bread pieces and stir until the bread is well coated. Let sit for 10 minutes to allow bread to soak in the liquid, mix with hands to break up bread cubes.

    Stir in the cooled banana- rum mixture. Pour the bread mixture into a 9x13-inch baking dish that has been coated with nonstick cooking spray.

    Put the filled baking dish inside a large roasting pan. Place the roasting pan in a 350-degree oven and carefully pour hot water into the roasting pan until it comes about 1⁄2 way up the sides of the filled baking dish, being careful not to pour water on the bread pudding mixture. (This ‘water-bath’ method will ensure even cooking). Bake for approximately 90 minutes (lightly cover with foil after 60 minutes if the top begins to brown too much).

    Carefully remove the roasting pan from the oven and let cool until you can take the baking dish out of the water. Serve warm or at room temperature with whipped cream, vanilla ice cream or Custard Sauce (recipe follows). Once cooled keep covered in the refrigerator.

    Custard Sauce:

    1/8 cup sugar

    3 egg yolks

    1⁄2 cup skim milk

    1⁄2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    In a medium saucepan mix together the egg yolks and sugar until creamy. Stir in the milk and vanilla. Once all ingredients are combined, cook over low heat until the custard thickens and coats the back of a wooden spoon (approximately 7 minutes). Serve warm or chilled.