Holiday Entertaining from Drinks to the Main Course

Something to drink, somethings to nibble, something for a side, and something for your Holiday Table!
We have a new food market in Collingswood, McFarlan's Market.  It's been an exciting couple of months for many of us folks who live and eat "In The "Wood" so to speak.  We finally have a lovely food market where you can run in and grab something ready to eat, something for breakfast or dessert, a last minute ingredient for dinner, or find something in the butcher's case to make for a special meal.  There are provisions, groceries, produce, lunch meats, salads, vegan and vegetarian foods, just to name a handful of the delicious things you can find each and every day at McFarlan's.  With the Collingswood Farmers' Market done for the season it's a boon to the town and to me personally to have this market within walking and/or biking distance.   We are truly able to support all things local with our local purveyors of fine foods having opened their doors and cases to the entire town.
At McFarlan's Market Collingswood, you can find spices, fine luncheon meats,
sanding sugars, cheese spreads
made by a local company, Cheese Etc.
These are a few of the things I used in the recipes created for this post.
McFarlan's has sponsored and asked to write a few recipes featuring foods from their shop for the Holiday Season.  I took a few passes through the store to get some ideas and I actually had to stop coming up with festive foods for the Winter Solstice that is upon us.

I dreamed up a non-alcoholic "mock-tail" that will go with with plain seltzer, ginger ale, or sparkling cider.  If you want, it can also be made into a true cocktail, featuring a cranberry and rosemary simple syrup that is topped with seltzer and 2 ounces of your favorite vodka, or gin, or rum.

Nibbles or edible gifts feature a sweet and spicy candied nut mixture.  Make a big batch and store it in an airtight container for a few weeks.  These nuts are addictive and can be eaten as a snack; hors d'oeuvres; over ice-cream; with a cheese plate; in a salad; or tossed into a rice pilaf.

Next I have an easy-to make hors d'oeuvres that features a cheese spread by Cheese Etc, deli smoked turkey, and a hoagie roll!  Or for those of you outside the Philly/South Jersey area - a baguette or sub sandwich roll.

For the main course, I made a boneless leg of lamb that the butcher boned and butterflied for me - all the better to fill with a fragrant mixture of chopped parsley, rosemary, garlic, shallots, Dijon mustard, olive oil, salt and pepper.  Easy and elegant and it takes the guess-work out of how to cook a leg of lamb. The lamb is domestic and local and a real thing of beauty.

As for a side dish, I've whipped up a Festive Rice Pilaf made with long and wild grain rices.  McFarlan's has a nice selection of rice mixtures that you can quickly embellish and turn into an elegant side dish or cold rice salad with minimal fuss.

All of these recipes flow into one another - in that I bought a few ingredients that are used in several recipes.  They feature something vegan; dairy and/or gluten free; non-alcoholic; something to gift or use in variety of ways; some things will keep for up to a month; other recipes are an simple way to step-up your holiday foods without driving yourself crazy or broke!

Cranberry and Rosemary Simple Syrup for cocktails or mock-tails
Cranberry and Rosemary Simple Syrup Ingredients: (Vegan/Dairy/Gluten/Nut-Free)
  • 1 Cup White Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Cold Water
  • 1 Cup Fresh or Frozen Cranberries
  • 2 Sprigs of Fresh Rosemary - stems removed and lightly chopped
  1. In a small sauce pan, heat the cup of sugar and cup of water over medium-high heat to dissolve the sugar.  Stir gently.  
  2. When the sugar is dissolved, add in the cranberries and the chopped rosemary.  Bring the mixture to a boil then reduce down to a bare simmer allowing the cranberries to just "pop" open.  The sugar syrup should begin to take on a cranberry hue. 
  3. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
  4. Strain the syrup into a clean glass jar and reserve the cranberries but discard the chopped rosemary.  Reserve 2 tablespoons of the now candied cranberries and add the remaining cranberries back to the syrup mixture.  Cover tightly with a lid and refrigerate for up to 1 month.

Cranberry Rosemary Mock-tail Ingredients: (Non-Alcoholic; Vegan/Dairy/Gluten/Nut-Free)

  • 3 Tablespoons Sanding or Sprinkling Sugars - in Red, White, or Green, or colour of choice
  • Wine or Champagne Glasses
  • 2 small plates - one with a few tablespoons of water, the other used for the sanding sugars
  • Cranberry Rosemary Simple Syrup
  • 6 Ounces Plain Seltzer or Sparking Cider or Ginger ale per serving - chilled
  1. Rim the wine or champagne glasses first by dipping the rims onto a plate with a few tablespoons of water then dip into the second plate that has the sanding or sprinkling sugar on it.  Set aside to dry.
  2. When ready to serve the drinks, add 2 tablespoons (or more to taste) of the cranberry rosemary simple syrup to the glass, adding in a few of the candied cranberries and a sprig of fresh rosemary.  Top with 6 ounces of seltzer, or sparkling cider, or ginger ale.  
  3. Alternatively, you can add the syrup to a wine glass, 2 ounces of your favorite gin, light rum, or vodka, and top with seltzer.  Garnish with a spring of rosemary and the candied cranberries.

Sweet and Spicy Nuts and Seeds for snacking, gifting,
salad or dessert toppings, or tossed into a rice pilaf
Sweet and Spicy Mixed Nuts and Seeds Ingredients: (Vegan/Dairy/Gluten-Free)
  • 1  Cup Granulated White or Cane Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Kosher Salt
  • 1 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper
  • 1 Tablespoon Paprika (hot or smoked will be even better)
  • ½ teaspoon Cayenne
  • 1 Tablespoon Cumin
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon or Apple Pie or Pumpkin Pie Spice Blend
  • 1 Cups Raw and Unsalted Pecans
  • 1 Cups Raw and Unsalted Cashews
  • 1 Cups Almonds – Whole, Raw and Unsalted
  • Alternatively, you can use Pepita's and/or Plain unsalted Peanuts
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Mix nuts in a colander and rinse under cold running water until thoroughly wet. Shake off excess water.
  3. Add the sugar and spices to a mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
  4. Put nuts in a mixing bowl. Add 1 cup of the spice mixture and stir to completely coat all the nuts.
  5. Use a sheet pan, lined with either parchment or a Silpat. Evenly spread the nut/spice mixture on the sheet pan.
  6. Sprinkle another ¼ cup of the sugar mix over the nuts. If more is needed, sprinkle the remaining sugar mixture over the nuts; otherwise, the extra sugar can be kept indefinitely in an airtight container. The potency of the seasonings will diminish over time though.
  7. Bake in oven for up to 25 minutes. Check the nuts after 15 minutes and stir the nuts carefully; keep the nuts in an even layer. Check every 5 minutes, allowing the nuts to get crisp and the sugar mixture to caramelize and melt but not burn.
  8. Remove nuts from oven when nuts and sugar mixture looks dark brown and shiny. Sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of the reserved spiced sugar blend to the nuts and stir.
  9. Cool the nuts on the sheet pan. When they are cool enough to handle, break the nuts up and put them into a plastic or other airtight container.
  10. The nuts will last in cool dry weather for about 3-4 weeks.  Makes over 3 cups.
Stuffed Bread with Cheese and Meat
Stuffed Bread with Cheddar Pistachio Cheese and Smoked Turkey Ingredients: (Contains Dairy and Meat/Gluten)
  • 2 Long Hoagie/Sandwich Rolls
  • 1 Medium Container of Cheese Spread - such as Pistachio Cheddar
  • 3/4 Pound Smoked Turkey from the Deli Counter
  1. Cut the rolls in half to make it easier to work with them.  Cut off each end of the bread, then using your fingers, pull out the middle of the bread, working from both ends to create a "tunnel" into which you'll spread the cheese filling.
  2. Use a long thin spatula or spreading knife and spread about 2-3 tablespoons of the pistachio cheddar cheese into the center of the the hollowed-out roll.  The center of the roll should have a good "schmear" of the cheese spread. Repeat with the remains rolls.  You should have 4 half-rolls altogether 
  3. Take three pieces of the smoked turkey, bunch the meat up and then and stuff it into each of the cheese filled rolls, filling each roll with meat so that it's evenly distributed throughout the rolls.  Continue stuffing the rolls with the smoked turkey until it's all used.
  4. Slice each roll into small 1/3 to 1/2 inch rounds, creating small slices that showcase the bread, the cheese, then the meat in the center.  
  5. Makes about 18-21 pieces.  These are best made about 1-2 hours in advance and then sliced just prior to serving.  To make more, increase the deli meat by 1/4 pound for each additional roll you are using.  To make the cheese spread go further, you can blend it into cream cheese and/or add some spicy or Dijon Mustard to the mixture.
Festive Rice Pilaf Ingredients: (Vegan/Dairy/Gluten-Free)
  • 1 Box of Near East Long and Wild Rice Blend
  • 1 Small Onion - Finely chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 Red Bell Pepper - Finely chopped (about 1/2 to 2/3 cup)
  • 1/4 Cup and 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 1 and 2/3 Cup Cold Water
  • 1/2 Cup Parsley - Finely chopped
  • 1 Orange - zested and juiced - this will yield about 1 tablespoon orange zest and 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 Cup Sweet and Spicy Nut Mixture - rough chop
  • 1 Tablespoon Craisins (dried/sweetened cranberries)
  • 1/4 Cup Candied Cranberries (reserved from the cranberry simple syrup)
  • Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper - to taste
  1. Chop the onion and bell pepper, set aside. Finely chop the parsley, set aside.  Zest the orange and then juice it over a small bow.  Add the orange zest to the juice.
  2. In a 3 or 4 quart sauce pot, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat until the oil begins to shimmer.  Add in the chopped onion and red bell pepper and saute until the onions turn translucent and the peppers begin to sweat and soften - about 5 minutes.  Add in the wild an long grain rice, and discard the seasoning packet (or reserve for another use); stir the grains of rice into the onion/pepper mixture to toast the rice grains, 1-2 minutes.  Pour in the 1 and 2/3 cup cold water and add a pinch of salt to the sauce pan. Bring the heat up to high and cover with a lid.  Bring the rice mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to a low-simmer and cook until the rice is tender and all the water is absorbed, about 25-30 minutes.
  3. When the rice is done, fluff it with a fork, then gently spread it out onto a sheet pan or shallow tray to cool.
  4. While the rice mixture is cooling, make the dressing in a small bowl by whisking the orange zest, orange juice, 1/4 cup olive oil, pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper together.  Taste and adjust the seasonings, making sure that the salt, orange juice and oil are balanced - not too sweet, acidic or salty. Set the dressing aside.
  5. Once the rice is cool, but not cold, put the rice into a serving bowl and add in the chopped parsley, chopped sweet/spicy nuts, craisins and cranberries, and pour the dressing over the mixture.  Stir to combine.  
  6. Rice can be served at room temperature, warm, or even cold.  Taste and adjust salt and pepper if necessary.  Makes 6 servings.  Will keep for 3 days refrigerated.
Herb Stuffed and Crusted Roast Leg of Lamb
Herb and Dijon Stuffed Roasted Leg of Lamb Ingredients:(Contains Meat but is Dairy/Gluten-Free)
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley - cleaned, and finely minced
  • 1/4 Cup Fresh Rosemary - de-stemmed and finely minced
  • 1 Small Shallot - finely minced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves - finely minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 Tablespoons Dijon Mustard
  • Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Black Pepper
  • 3-4 Pounds Boneless Leg of Lamb - butterflied (ask the butcher to do this for you)
  • Cotton Kitchen Twine
  • Roasting Pan
  • Aluminum Foil
Domestic and Local boned leg of lamb, from the butcher's counter at McFarlans.
All the work was done for me, all I needed to do was season, stuff, roll, tie and roast!
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Take the lamb out of the refrigerator and open it up.
  2. Combine the ingredients, parsley through the Dijon Mustard into a small mixing bowl and stir to combine the ingredients into a paste.  Season with a generous pinch of kosher salt and a few grinds of black pepper.  Set aside.
  3. Open and season the lamb on all sides with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, then spread the herb/Dijon Mustard mixture onto the the center of the lamb, spreading the mixture evenly across the inside of the butterflied leg of lamb.  Next, roll up the lamb starting at one end an rolling towards the other, to create a sort of "log-roll" (or a "Bouche de Agneu!")
  4. Using the cotton kitchen twine, cut lengths to tie around the lamb 3 or 4 times, essentially "trussing" the lamb closed through its width.  Tie one large length of kitchen twine around the length of the lamb. Knot the string, cut away the excess. Spread the remaining herb/Dijon paste over the outside of the lamb to create a crust.  Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Place the lamb into a roasting pan into which you have lined with a layer of aluminum foil.  Place roasting pan into the oven and cook 15 minutes per pound, for about 35-50 minutes. Turn/rotate the pan half-way through the cooking time.  When an instant read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the lamb reads 130-135 degrees, take the lamb out of the oven.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil. The lamb should be medium-rare. For medium well, the internal temperature should reach 140 degrees.  There will be some carry-over cooking so don't keep the lamb in the oven until it reaches 145, as it will be nearly well-done to over-done.  Let the meat rest for 10-15 minutes before slicing.  Cut away the string before carving;  Garnish with chopped parsley and rosemary sprigs.  Serve with any pan juices that accumulated.  
  6. To make a gravy, de-fat the the pan juices and whisk them into a cup of chicken or beef stock.  Thicken the mixture with a slurry of cornstarch or all-purpose flour.  (A slurry is a mixture of a tablespoon of cornstarch or all-purpose flour whisked with 2 tablespoons of cold water)
  7. Serves 4-6 people.
Enjoy your Holidays!  Next month I'll feature some foods and recipes for starting off the New Year with healthy clean eating!  I like to call these recipes Temple Foods, for your body is a Temple.


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