The Vic’s Broccoli Salad

My family doesn’t experiment when it comes to holidays. Our crazy themed get-togethers throughout the year are your opportunity to try out a new recipe. Then, it’s welcomed. But don’t be walking through the door with something funky on Thanksgiving or Christmas. It will stand uneaten.

Broccoli Salad

This Christmas, I was charged with bringing “something green.” I pulled out my mom’s tried and true Broccoli Salad recipe, well-loved by the aunts/uncles/cousins for years. It was a hit! The entire batch was eaten, save one portion that we put back for Gran to enjoy with leftovers.

In the spirit of honesty, this concoction can be defined as “salad” only in the South, where a hearty helping of mayo makes its way into many a recipe. Gran still refers to Miracle Whip as “salad dressing.” Let’s not get weighed down with titles, mkay?

The Vic’s Broccoli Salad

1 cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons vinegar (I used apple cider vinegar)

1/4 cup sugar

5-6 cups broccoli florets

1/2 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup salted sunflower seeds (buy them shelled, obviously!)

1/4 cup red onion, super finely chopped

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1 cup frozen peas, thawed

Optional for Vores: 1/2 cup cooked bacon, crumbled

*Whisk together the mayo, vinegar and sugar until smooth.

*Combine the broccoli, raisins, sunflower seeds, onion and cheddar with the dressing and mix well. Fold in the peas.

*Top with the bacon, if desired. I put bacon on about 3/4 of the recipe, and left a little uncovered for me!

*Chill thoroughly before serving.

Mom says you can sub in dried cranberries for the raisins or chopped ham for the bacon. I hope your family loves the recipe as much as ours does!

Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust and Fresh Whipped Cream

I did it again. Every year, I walk past the eggnog display at the grocery and get that warm holiday feeling. Visions of crackling fires and a sparkling tree enter my mind. It’s Christmas in a cup! The carton makes its way into the buggy. I get it home, swig a few times from container (don’t judge!) and then…what do I do with all that super sweet eggnog? Solution:

Eggnog Cheesecake 2Eggnog cheesecake! This recipe for mini-cakes makes use of the tons and tons of gingerbread dough sitting in our fridge, right by the eggnog. (Here’s my favorite gingerbread recipe from Southern Living.) If you use the slice-and-bake kind, we’ll keep it as our little secret. Happy baking!

Eggnog Cheesecake

Eggnog Cheesecake with Gingerbread Crust

8 ounces of gingerbread cookie dough, about 1 cup

1 8-ounce block cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup natural or organic sugar

1 4-ounce container of applesauce, about 1/2 cup

1/2 cup eggnog (I used So Delicious Coconut Nog)

2 tablespoons all purpose flour

1 tablespoon sour cream

1 egg + 1 tablespoon egg white

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 pint whipping cream

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon sugar

*Divide the cookie dough into 12 each portions. Roll into a ball, then press each into a greased muffin tin, forming the dough up around the sides to make a small crust.

*In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy.

*Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.

*Pour about 1/4 cup of batter into each prepared muffin cup. You should have a small amount of room at the top. (The cookies will rise a little, the cheesecake will not.)

*Bake at 325 for 30 minutes, or until the cheesecakes are set. Allow to cool, then remove from the molds. Refrigerate.

To make the whipped cream: Put your mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel, in the freezer for a few moments to get it extra cold. Add the cream, vanilla and sugar to the bowl and use a hand mixer or stand mixer with the wire whip attachment to beat the cream. When stiff peaks from, you’re done! For me, this takes 2-5 minutes.

Top your chilled cakes with the cream, dust with cinnamon and enjoy!

Baby’s First Latke

I’m about as dull and WASP-y as they come. My heritage is entirely Western European. I attended a private Christian school in the heart of the Bible Belt. For us, Catholics were “diverse.”

College, travel and the working world have opened my eyes to amazing cultures–some across the world and some right in my backyard. This week, my Mom and I jumped at the chance to celebrate one of those “backyard cultures” with precious friends. We learned all about Hanukkah and loved it.

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The event’s purpose was two fold: education and celebration. We received updates on the current situation in Israel first-hand from a Birmingham Jewish Federation member who recently traveled there as a show of support and solidarity. You can read about his trip in this USA Today article. To say I was touched was an understatement.

Han Collage

We celebrated Hanukkah by hearing its story and traditional prayer, then lighting the menorah. It was reverent and beautiful.

I’ve also discovered that I am smitten with latkes. I cornered the chef to discuss what went into those fabulous pancakes. Shredded potatoes, pureed potatoes, onion, Kosher salt and matzo meal were on the list. I must learn how to make these, stat! My mom and I were intrigued by the idea of sour cream and apple sauce with pancakes, but it’s perfection.

We left with a traditional dreidel and a handful of gelt. (chocolate!) Many thanks to the Jewish community in Birmingham for opening your doors to WASP-y neighbors. We loved sharing that special night with you.

 

Vegan Beet Root Spread

Not too long ago, I arrived in my office to find this:

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Well hello, there! Justinn is forever bringing me treats from her CSA box, so much so that I’ve taken to calling her my Hippy Godmother. (Never mind that she’s way younger than me!) Fabulous veggie treats just appear!

This particular week, I got 1/2 a cabbage, turnips and some delicious beet pesto.

That pesto! The jewel tone. The depth of flavor. I was smitten.

Fast forward a couple of weeks, when my uncle brought BAGS of pecans from his farm. What to do with the excess? A riff on that yummy pesto, obviously.

Beet Pesto

Isn’t it just gorgeous? This combo of pecan, roasted beets, basil and salt was straight up amazing. It was just the right touch for this sandwich: egg white, Daiya, beet spread and avocado on toasted Ezekiel bread.

Sandwich!

I was super-stoked to take a taste from my batch to Justinn. I mentioned that it was sweeter than the version she gave me and we compared ingredients. Turns out, she added lemon and garlic to hers. In retrospect, that’s pretty standard pesto stuff. Without it, I don’t think my version gets to be called “pesto,” but it’s a delicious spread for sure!

Beet Gift

Vegan Beet Root Spread

1/2 cup pecan halves

1 cup roasted beets

1/4 cup basil leaves, loosely packed

1/4 teaspoon salt

Dash of black pepper

*Preheat the oven to 350. Place the pecans in a single layer on a cookie sheet and toast for 8-10 minutes. Watch these like a hawk! There is a fine line between toasty and burnt.

*Throw the rest of your ingredients in a high speed blender or food processor and blend away until super smooth.

Music for a Wedding Ceremony and DJ Reception

Wedding Music

Will you give me an indulgent non-food post?

I have a dear friend who decided to run away to Mexico to get married. She was a sorority sister and a bridesmaid in my wedding, so I really wanted to do something to help her for her big day. She tasked me with music.

Our weddings were definitely different. Vore and I married at church with a violin and piano. Our reception was at brunch, so a jazz band seemed like a perfect fit. The images you see of us above are our first dance, Sea of Love by the Honey Drippers.

This ceremony will be performed outside on a guitar, and the reception will feature a DJ. The theme for reception music was “fun stuff everyone knows and can dance to.” Here’s what I came up with:

While guests are being seated:

Bocelli: Romanza of Love
Bach: Gigue
Handel: Largo 
Seating of the Mothers:
Schuberts: Ave Maria
Bridal party:
The Sound of Music: Edelweiss
Pachebel: Canon in D
Walk down the aisle: 
Wagner: Bridal Chorus
Slow (good for 1st dance also) 

Righteous Brothers: Unchained Melody

Harry Connic Jr: It Had to Be You
Iz: Somewhere Over the Rainbow (Maybe to dance with your dad?)
Louis Armstrong: What a Wonderful World (again–maybe your dad?)
Etta James: At Last
The Mommas and the Pappas: Dream a Little Dream
Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald: Stars Fell on Alabama
Medium: 
Van Morrison: Brown Eyed Girl
The Jackson 5: ABC
Frank Sinatra: The Way You Look Tonight
The Dixie Cups: Going to the Chapel
Temptations: My Girl
Michael Jackson: The Way You Make Me Feel
Neil Diamond: Sweet Caroline
Beatles: Twist and Shout
Leonard Skynrd: Sweet Home Alabama
Dexy’s Midnight Runners: Come on Eileen 
James Taylor: How Sweet It Is
Ani Difranco: Wishin’ and Hopin
Amii Stewart: Knock on Wood
Bill Withers: Lean on Me
Joan Jett: I Love Rock N Roll
John Cougar Mellencamp: Jack and Diane
Fast: 
Otis Day and the Knights: Shout!
Erasure: Chains of Love
Village People: YMCA
Wild Cherry: Play that Funky Music
Commodores: Brick House
B52s: Love Shack
Dead or Alive: You Spin Me Right Round
Young MC: Bust a Move
James Brown: I Feel Good!
Toni Basil: Mickey
Chubby Checker: The Twist
Kenny Loggins: Footloose
Last Dance: 
Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes: I’ve Had the Time of My Life
If you’re married, what was the music like at your wedding? Do you have suggestions for songs we should add to the list above?

Polenta, Please!

Polenta BitesTis the season for gatherings! Heading to a party often means bringing a snack to share with the group. What to make?

I’ve found that at get togethers, bite size treats usually disappear first. It’s logical. Who wants to shuffle a knife and fork when you are already trying to hold an appetizer, napkin and glass of wine? So when I make party treats, they are usually either mini or in dip form. Because you know I have to have the most-eaten party snack.

I developed these two-bite polenta cakes for the Magic City Post. Bake a small amount the polenta mixture in muffin tins to create “crostini,” then get to topping. This time around, cream cheese acts like the “glue,” holding your toppings in place. I’ve also tried jelly + crumbly cheese + pear sliver with great success. Trust me, they disappear quickly at parties!

Here’s a round up of my holiday recipes for MCP: 

Sour Cream Polenta Crostini

Honey Walnut Goat Cheese Dip

Pumpkin Spice Baby Bites

What’s your go-to party treat?