Friday, December 30, 2011

A Not So After-Christmas Christmas

"I feel it in my fingers, I feel it in my toes.
Christmas is all around me, and so the feeling grows."
(Billy Mack)

Merry 6th day of Christmas! I hope everyone was able to spend quality time with loved ones over the holiday weekend. In the Christian tradition, Christmas is a mini season -- preceded by Advent -- that continues after the first day on December 25. I love not feeling like Christmas is over immediately after Christmas Day. This year, my family celebrated my mother's birthday on Christmas Eve, and most of us got together again on Christmas Day, but we didn't have our surf and turf Christmas dinner until Monday, December 26.

Christmas Dinner Menu

Manchego Cheese, Olive Oil Torta, Marcona Almonds,
Grapes, Fig Spread, and Salami
Shrimp Cocktail
Steamed Lobster
Roast Prime Rib with Dijon and Peppercorn Crust
Creamed Spinach Gratin
Roasted Baby Red Potatoes with Oregano
Brussels Sprout Hash
Sautéed Mushrooms
Corn on the Cob
Bûche de Noël
Iced Ginger Spice Spritz Cookies
Peppermint Candy Cane Fudge
Rainbow and Sugar Cookies
Italian Prosecco
Sparkling Cider
Coffee and Green Tea
Manchego Cheese, Olive Oil Torta, Marcona Almonds,
Grapes, Fig Spread, and Salami

  This appetizing Spanish spread consisted of Manchego cheese, Ines Rosales Torta de Aceite -- sweet olive oil torta with sugar, salt, and anise -- broken into small pieces, Marcona almonds, red grapes, Dalmatia fig spread, and salami. I could definitely make a meal of this (minus the salami).

Shrimp Cocktail

Always a crowd-pleaser, shrimp cocktail is pretty standard fare so there isn't much else to say about this appetizer.

Steamed Lobster

I bought fresh lobsters at Stew Leonard's that morning, along with a cut of bone-in prime rib to serve 8 adults and one toddler. If you plan on preparing a large surf and turf dinner with lobster and prime rib, note that it will be quite expensive; but this was a special occasion.

Roast Prime Rib with Dijon and Peppercorn Crust

I don't have the recipe for this, but it's becoming my sister's specialty. She first served this prime rib last Christmas at her place, when it got rave reviews, so she wanted to make it again this year. Again, everyone loved it. It is crusted with dijon, peppercorns, and garlic, and served with au jus and horseradish cream sauce.

Creamed Spinach Gratin

For one of the side dishes, we made Ina Garten's Spinach Gratin (pictured in the photo above and in the first photo). Even after I felt completely full, I wanted to somehow eat more of this. Add butter, heavy cream, and Parmesan and Gruyère cheeses to something green and you can't go wrong in my book.

Roasted Baby Red Potatoes with Oregano

We thought about making mashed potatoes or another gratin, but I had my mind set on roasting potatoes -- I love the ease and flavor of roasted vegetables, as I mentioned in my Thanksgiving post -- and found an easy Tyler Florence Roasted New Potatoes recipe. Simply roast on a baking sheet after coating with olive oil and sprinkling with oregano, salt, and pepper.


I love biscuits. Most of the time, I roll out the dough and cut it with round biscuit cutters, but I wanted to skip a couple of steps so I used the Easy Baking Powder Drop Biscuits recipe, which turned out really tasty. Sam helped by spooning the batter onto the baking sheet, and this was one of my father's favorite things to eat that night, along with the prime rib. I can imagine a lot of additions and variations to this recipe, which I will surely try in the future.

Brussels Sprout Hash, Sautéed Mushrooms, and Corn on the Cob
My sister made the Brussels sprout hash -- it was really good so I'll have to get the recipe -- and the sautéed mushrooms. I forgot about the corn on the cob until right before dinner so it didn't turn out very well; plus I had purchased them 2 days earlier but should have gotten them the same day at Stew Leonard's. (There are photos of these sides in the plated pictures above.)
Bûche de Noël

On the day of our Christmas dinner, I began to think that my desire to create a Bûche de Noël for dessert -- a traditional French Christmas cake shaped like a yule log -- was overly ambitious and not going to happen, since I had never tried it before and would have people other than myself tasting it. I decided to go for it, since I had a well-reviewed Bûche de Noël recipe and all the necessary ingredients for this flourless chocolate version. I'm so glad I did, because it turned out really well -- rich and chocolatey, but light and fluffy -- and was completely finished that night! I picked berries and leaves off of the bush right outside our front door, and dusted the cake with powdered sugar "snow."


Iced Ginger Spice Spritz Cookies, Peppermint Candy Cane Fudge,
and Rainbow and Sugar Cookies

Last but not least are the cookies that we snacked on throughout the day and night. I repeated recipes I've used in Christmases past, such as the Ginger Spice Cookies I made with my cookie press and iced with drizzles of red and green, and Peppermint Fudge from an old Martha Stewart Kids magazine issue. (The recipe is available online, although the magazine is no longer published.) Finally, we enjoyed rainbow cookies from Stew Leonard's -- so much better than the ones from Zaro's Bakery in Grand Central Terminal -- and sugar cookies made by my brother's girlfriend Tina.

Tomorrow is already New Year's Eve! I'm going to see The Rockettes' Magical Journey at Radio City Music Hall in the afternoon -- and hopefully squeeze in a viewing of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree -- have a casual pizza dinner, and then cross the East River to Roosevelt Island for a low-key party hosted by my friend Christine. Does anyone else have exciting plans? Be safe, and have a happy and healthy new year!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Craft Supplies and Books, Books, Books!

"Simplicity is making the journey of this life with just baggage enough."
(Author Unknown)

Moving is the ultimate chore. After I moved back into my parents' house in August, my room was full of boxes, bags, and clothes that needed to be put away. By the time September rolled around (when the first set of photos were taken, below), I was able to have stored some items in the attic, donated bags of clothing, shoes, and accessories, and had my space fairly well-situated.

Now it's December and I regret to inform you that I've retrogressed. It's difficult to organize when there's little time during the week to get anything done at home, and when weekends are always full and hectic, especially this time of year! However, I can share the progress I've made on craft supplies and books.

Craft Supplies

I successfully organized my craft supplies in one area. I haven't used them in quite a while, but hope to soon. I won't have time for any Christmas craftiness, but I have some DIY wedding projects in the future which I cannot even begin to think about right now. Some day, I'd love to have an arts and crafts room or mini ceramics studio... or how about 3 gift-wrapping rooms like Spelling Manor?

Let's call this the Creative Center
Cart with drawers under desk
Close-up of cart
Craft tools
Yarncrafting supplies
Smaller desktop drawers


It's easy for me to let go of clothing, which I do at least once a season; but I contend that keeping books I'm not currently reading is not the same as keeping clothes I haven't been wearing. But for the sake of space and the love of knowledge and storytelling, I have decided to let go. I've been giving books to friends based on requests* -- Christmas gifts, anyone? -- and will donate the rest to a library, book drive, or one of the organizations I work for. I'll hold on to a very small collection, mostly cookbooks, so that I'll have room to grow again.

Reader #1
Reader #2
Reader #3
Reader #4
Reader #5 and Reader #6

In several months I'm going to have to move again, and I want to take a pared down number of possessions from this place, especially since there will be (and are already) many new things to bring along... and I might be living in a shoebox in Brooklyn.

I can't believe Christmas is almost here. Tomorrow, Thursday, December 22, is the Winter Solstice -- the shortest day and longest night of the year -- and also the first day of winter. Although it means that the coldest, seemingly longest season is only starting, after tomorrow the days will get longer and the nights shorter!

*If you're interested in free books, please let me know and I'll provide you with a list to choose from.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Fall 2011 Events

"So much time and so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it."
(Willy Wonka)

I have been quite busy this season with special events for work. In September, I had a young professionals cocktail reception; in October, a 125th anniversary celebration and a donor cultivation event; and in November, a ribbon cutting ceremony. But no rest for the weary, because there are big plans underway for the annual fine wine dinner and auction, coming up in just a few months. And somewhere in the midst of this is a wedding.

I've previously shared about Thanksgiving, The Black Eyed Peas concert, and apple picking, but more activities that kept me occupied this fall are described below.

Fall Bridal Extravaganza

The Fall Bridal Extravaganza, held at the Westchester Marriott in Tarrytown on Monday, September 19, was my first and only bridal show. I was not that impressed -- with "extravaganza" in the name I had expected more -- but at least I came home with a bag full of complimentary magazines.

Wedding accessory vendors
Free bridal magazines and tote bag

Chloe's 1st Birthday

We celebrated the first birthday of Chloe, my friend Michelle's daughter, at Kum Gang San in Flushing on Saturday, October 15. In the Korean dol custom, the birthday baby wears a traditional hanbok and hat, and is placed in front of a selection of items. The item the baby chooses is said to predict her future. Chloe picked a golf club and a stethoscope. A golfing doctor? Highly probable.

Chloe with Peter and me in background (Image: Angela R.)

Crate & Barrel Wedding Party

I attended a Crate & Barrel Wedding Party at The Westchester in White Plains on Sunday, October 23. I just love Crate & Barrel; I went for fun since I had already created a registry. They served an appetizing spread as I meandered around the store which was closed to the public. Before I left, they gifted me with a lovely glass vase.

Eggs, panini, freshly squeezed juice, and more
Gift bag
Pretty pink peonies on box

Hope for New York Happy Hour

On Thursday, October 27, I went to the Hope for New York Young Supporters Happy Hour at BAK with a few friends. HFNY serves the poor and marginalized of NYC. It began with seed money from Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and is now funded by individual and corporate gifts, special events, and Easter offerings received at partner churches.

BAK's Korean spicy chicken tacos

The Space Tour Starring Team StarKid

I stayed for the opening of the Space Tour show at Irving Plaza on Saturday, November 26. I wish I could have stayed for StarKid, but I had a post-Thanksgiving dinner to rush to at my sister's place. I'm not a Gleek, but I'm glad I got to see Darren Criss (aka Blaine) perform!

Darren Criss performing with Charlene Kaye

Now the holiday season is in full swing. I've started to write Christmas cards, but still have gifts to buy, cookies to bake, and places to go. I love this time of year; I just wish I had more time to enjoy it!

Friday, November 25, 2011

Giving Thanks

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever."
(1 Chronicles 16:34)

Another Thanksgiving has come and gone. We have so many things to be thankful for, not only on one day of the year, but at all times! One of the things I'm thankful for is my family. My father actually had to go to the ER on Thanksgiving Day for eye problems, but he'll be fine. I suppose I should be thankful that I was the one tasked to plan and cook everything this year!

Thanksgiving Dinner Menu

Roasted Rosemary Turkey
Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Cayenne
Carrots with Thyme
Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread
Kim Classic Stuffing
Turkey Gravy
Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish

Pumpkin Pie
Cherry Pie & Mini Cupcakes 
Argentine Torrontés
Sparkling Cider

Roasted Rosemary Turkey

I've been involved with cooking Thanksgiving dinner for many years, but mostly as a sous chef to my father and sister, or pastry chef. This year was the first time I really dealt with a turkey head-on (not literally), by myself. I bought a 12-13 pound fresh turkey a few days before Thanksgiving and kept it in the refrigerator. I thought about brining it the night before, but didn't. It was, after all, my first time with the bird and I wanted to take things slowly. 

I took in various recommendations and read a few recipes before deciding ultimately to just wing it. As suggested by Esther of Ambitious Deliciousness, I placed carrot, onion, celery, orange, and rosemary inside the cavity after stuffing it. I massaged the turkey with my own rosemary-garlic-orange-oil I had infused on the stove and then cooled, an idea I got from the November 2010 issue of Martha Stewart's Everyday Food, which featured a roasted turkey brushed with rosemary-lemon oil. Then I roasted it in a 325°F oven with a timer set to go off every 60 minutes so that I could baste and rotate. The turkey was well-done after 3 3/4 hours, which I confirmed with a handy dandy digital thermometer, and then it rested at room temperature while I cranked up the heat and baked cornbread.


Brussels Sprouts with Maple and Cayenne & Carrots with Thyme

Roasting is such a wonderful and easy way to prepare vegetables. For the Brussels sprouts, I used a recipe from the October 2011 Everyday Food. After roasting them in a 400°F oven with extra-virgin olive oil and coarse salt, I added a little pure maple syrup mixed with cayenne pepper for a sweet but subtle kick. For the carrots, I simply roasted them with extra-virgin olive oil, coarse salt, and freshly ground pepper, and then tossed them with finely chopped fresh thyme.


Creamy Garlic Mashed Potatoes

I enlisted my brother David and his girlfriend Tina to help make the mashed potatoes using an Alton Brown recipe. I had purchased red and gold potatoes for this dish. They peeled the Yukons, and kept the skin on the red potatoes for color. If you don't like garlic or creaminess, this recipe is not for you: it calls for several cloves of garlic, heated in a pint of half-and-half, mixed with Parmesan cheese.


Jalapeño-Cheddar Cornbread
The cornbread was the last item to be cooked, after the turkey was done. When I took it out of the oven, I thought it was a disaster, but it just hadn't finished baking so I put it back in the oven and we started eating dinner. After 10 minutes, it was done and delicious! I used the Classic Cornbread recipe from Everyday Food, and stirred in 3/4 cup fresh corn kernels, 1/3 cup chopped pickled jalapeño peppers, and 1 1/4 cups grated cheddar to the batter, and then topped it off with more cheddar before baking.


Kim Classic Stuffing & Turkey Gravy

These are special Kim recipes. Even as my father was getting ready to go to the hospital on Thanksgiving, he was chopping onions since I had assigned him the stuffing. He also made the gravy from the turkey neck and giblets.

Cranberry-Pomegranate Relish

This is a cranberry sauce recipe I began using last year, when I brought it to a Thanksgiving potluck and also made it for our family dinner. It's from the November 2010 issue of Everyday Food, made with fresh cranberries, pomegranate juice and seeds, brown sugar, and shallot. It has a great combination of sweet, tart, and savory flavors.


Pumpkin Pie

For dessert, I baked a Libby's Famous Pumpkin Pie with a homemade pie crust. Super yummy, even though I was stuffed! I also had some cherry pie that my cousin bought from Crumbs, along with mini cupcakes. I had thought about making something other than pumpkin pie, since it's ubiquitous this time of year, but then again so is turkey. Both are synonymous with Thanksgiving, so I knew I had to make a pumpkin pie.

Ready for pie and coffee


I almost forgot about the wish bone. I had broken off the larger half, but forgot to make a wish! I'll make a wish right now...

Happy Thanksgiving! Whether you were surrounded by dozens of people, had a small dinner like we did, or were alone or in another part of the world, I hope you were able to count your blessings.