Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, Hannukah or the solstice in December, there are holidays at this time of year, and company comes.
With the shortest day of the year coming up on December 21 – the winter solstice – it’s worthwhile to celebrate a gradual return to longer days by lighting the candles, turning on the twinkly lights and inviting in family, friends and neighbours.
These short, often cloudy days and long hours of darkness can be mighty depressing otherwise.
So, follow your instinct and brighten your evenings with friendship, and the natural companion: food and drink.
Whether you try some new teas, fancy coffees, a glass of beer or wine, or a punch full of natural juices splashed with sparkly soda, serve it with some tasty snacks or a meal which can be mostly prepared ahead of time.
That way, you can relax as well and enjoy the company of your friends or family.
If it’s a meal you’re preparing, try to keep it as simple as possible, so you can enjoy the company as well, and always remember to do as much preparation as possible ahead of when the doorbell rings, announcing that company’s here.
These healthy appies can be prepared entirely ahead of time, ready to just pop into the oven when your guests arrive. And, much of the main dish can also be prepared ahead of time, giving you time to enjoy your guests before finishing off the sauce.
Whatever your plans for December, do celebrate the beginning of longer hours of daylight by getting together with family and friends.
And, from my home to yours: Merry Christmas.
These spinach, cheese and herb balls make a popular appetizer and would travel well to a (nearby) friend’s party because they don’t have to be served piping hot. I’ve used cheddar cheese instead of the mixture of Swiss and parmesan and it was terrific too. I used fresh parsley, chives and tarragon, but other herbs would also be tasty. Use lots.
- 10 oz. (300 g) pkg. frozen spinach
- 1 small onion
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1/4 c. (60 ml) fresh herbs
- 1/4 c. (60 ml) Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 c. (60 ml) Swiss cheese
- 3 eggs
- 1 c. (250 ml) crumbs
- 1 tsp. (5 ml) black pepper
- 1/2 tsp. (3 ml) salt
- Pre-heat oven to 350° F.
- Thaw and squeeze liquid from the spinach or steam fresh spinach and do the same.
- Mince a small onion, garlic and fresh herbs. Grate cheese.
- Beat eggs in a medium-sized bowl and add all other ingredients, mixing together well.
- Form into about 30 one-inch balls.
- Bake at 350° F for 15-20 minutes or freeze to cook later.
PORK WITH A CREAMY SAUCE
This is a great combination of flavours: the sharpish flavour of a good blue cheese like Gorgonzola or Danish with the sweetness of fresh grapes, drizzled over tender slices of pork. Accompany with brown and wild rice and fresh green beans or your favourite vegetable for a special dinner. Recipe can be doubled. Try pairing this with the 2014 Sandhill Sangiovese, a wine grape you won’t often see in Canada; or with Sandhill’s elegant Howard Soon 2015 Chardonnay: both fabulous wines.
- 2 garlic cloves
- 2 tsp. (10 ml) jalapeno pepper
- 1 lb. (454 g) pork tenderloin
- drizzle of olive oil
- salt & pepper, to taste
- 1/4 c. (60 ml) heavy cream
- 1 tbsp. (15 ml) good blue cheese
- a handful of seedless green grapes
- garnish with minced fresh parsley
- Mince fresh garlic with jalapeno pepper. (I keep some jalapenos from the garden in the freezer so it’s easy to chop off a piece and mince it up for any dish I’m making.)
- Clean the pork tenderloin of its covering of silverskin as well as you can.
- Drizzle the meat with olive oil and sprinkle all over with freshly-ground black pepper and sea salt. Press mixture of garlic and jalapenos into it all over.
- Pre-heat oven to 400° F.
- In an oven-safe frypan such as a cast iron one, sear the pork over high heat, turning it until all sides are brown.
- Place frypan in the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, turning the pork halfway through.
- Remove the frypan from the oven, lift out the meat and let it rest on a cutting board.
- Put the hot frypan over medium-high heat, add the heavy cream and bleu cheese and reduce it by half or until the sauce is thickened.
- Slice grapes in half and add at the last minute, stirring until the cheese is all melted and sauce is creamy.
- Slice pork and arrange the slices on a serving dish.
- Drizzle the sauce over the pork and garnish with fresh, minced parsley.