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Sunday, October 27, 2013

‘Tis the Season…already!

On a Friday night recently, my oldest daughter mentioned she expected twelve adults and twelve kids for dinner and football watching the next night. “What’s for dinner?” I asked. Her reply? “I haven’t thought about it yet.” I would have had a menu planned a week before cooking started, dishes laid out, and so would her sister. She claims that gene missed her, but she pulled it off beautifully—two pots of chili (one vegetarian) with chips, salsa and guacamole. She planned a salad but decided against it at the last minute. Dessert was leftover birthday cake and cupcakes and cookies someone brought. Kids and adults alike loved it.

For me, it’s time now to start planning Christmas, both gifts (half or more of that is already done) and menus.

At Christmas I traditionally have a party for anywhere from thirty to fifty people. With that size group, I avoid anything like canapés—don’t want to make, say, 150 crostini, wontons, or gougeres or anything like that. I focus on things that can be served in bulk. Here are two or my favorites:


This is traditional in my family. When my brother and I were young, our family always went to a certain house on Christmas Eve for a party. I don’t remember what was served except this cheeseball and lots of fresh shrimp. I suppose there was a roast or something. Today, my kids clamor for this.

½ lb. Roquefort

1 pkg. Old English cheese (no longer available—I use an 8 oz. pkg of Velveeta)

l eight-ounce pkg. cream cheese

½ lb. pecans, chopped fine

1 bunch parsley, chopped fine

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 small onion, chopped fine   

½ tsp. horseradish

Let the cheese soften to room temperature and mix thoroughly. Add Worcestershire, onion, horseradish and half of the parsley and pecans. Mix thoroughly and shape into a ball. Do NOT do this in the food processor, as it will become too runny. Even a mixer makes it too smooth and creamy—wash your hands thoroughly and dig in, so the finished cheese ball has some texture and credibility. Roll the ball in the remaining parsley and pecans. Chill. Serve with crackers.

Brie with topping:

I use a 12 inch brie but you can do this with any size, even a slice; just cut down on topping.

Slice away the rind on the upper side of the cheese but leave it intact on the sides or your brie will run \all over the baking dish.

Top with a mixture of one cup dark brown sugar, well mixed with one tsp. cayenne—you can make any amount to fit your brie. Just keep the proportions. I have done ¼ c. sugar with ¼ tsp. cayenne for a smaller round of brie.

Bake until cheese is soft and topping is melted—about 20 minutes in a 350 oven, but watch it closely.

Serve with crackers.

More Christmas ideas to come! Start your planning now!



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