Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Dinner Party Delights for the Holidays

For me, this month has felt like a complete blur.  It's been a whirlwind of busy, non-stop working, studying and getting ready for my new job and I guess the holidays, which, OMG are just around the corner.  One week away today! What the...!?  Okay, don't let panic set in just yet.  Fortunately I took full advantage of my time off and finished nearly all of my Christmas shopping before December 3rd.  I even got a dinner party out of the way and now it's all about juggling last minute details (and last minute gifts).

If you're stuck in a crunch and need some holiday decorating or dinner party meal ideas here are just a few I share with you ...

Above Photo: My centerpiece candle wreath.  I used the same jars I made last year to decorate the table.  I placed an over-large candle in the center of a basket, added the Christmas jars, a few pine cones and voila.  A simple, quick centerpiece wreath.

A "snowman" place setting for each guest at our dinner party. I found this idea online, somewhere ... but now can't remember where for the life of me.  I thought it was such a neat idea and so simple but clever. Our guests loved it!

Snowman Dinner setting: Large plate, small plate for the head, black napkins and dinner knife for the top hat, fork and spoon for the arms, napkin for the scarf, and chocolate eyes and carrot nose.

Our Christmas tree is very red this year.  Yep, that's a red tree ... it wasn't intentional but I wasn't paying attention really while I was decorating. By the time I realized it, it was too late.  For anyone who has decorated a tree before you know, once you have those lights and ornaments on, there is just no turning back (not until after January 1st).

Carrot Upside-Down Tart
Original recipe from The Vegetable Cookbook, p. 104

1 lb young carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks
2 tbsp organic honey
3 1/2 tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
1 small bunch fresh thyme, chopped
12 oz ready-made puff pastry, thawed if frozen
All-purpose flour, for dusting
Salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 400F.

2. Cool the carrots in a saucepan of boiling water for 10-15 minutes, until just tender.  Drain, toss with the honey, butter, and thyme, and season to taste with salt and pepper.  Spoon over the bottom of an 8-inch tart pan or round cake pan with a depth of about 1 1/4 inches and roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes or until the carrots are caramelized.

3.  Roll the pastry out onto a floured work surface into a round large enough to fit the pan and with an extra 3/4 inch edge.  Lay the  pastry carefully over the carrots and tuck the edge down between the carrots and the side of the pan to make a border.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden.

4. Remove the pan from the oven and turn out upside down onto a plate.  Serve immediately.

I also made, what may have been one my best cupcake recipes yet, vanilla/peppermint marble cupcakes and vanilla/pomegranate marble cupcakes (these were the best!).  I simply took a regular vanilla cupcake recipe, followed the steps as usual but then divided the batter to make a pomegranate flavoured batch to swirl into the vanilla.  I then did the same for the peppermint marble.

Topping each pomegranate-vanilla cupcake with real pomegranates was a perfect touch. Using festive red and green colours made these really perfect for a Christmas dinner party!

Christmas is less then one week away ... better get baking!

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