Season's Eatings

‘Tis the season for dinner and cocktail parties, for family gatherings and, in general, lots of good food. It’s often a matter of dusting off our grandmothers’ old recipes for the classic dishes, but maybe it’s time to mix things up a little. Offered below are some holiday party-ready dishes from the Associated Press’ Alison Ladman, but I know Juneau has some superstar chefs and home cooks — visit us online at juneauempire.com to share some of your holiday party recipes.

Melissa Griffiths

Neighbors Editor

New Year’s party with complex flavor, easy to cook

You’re ready to kick off the new year, and you want to do it with a stylishly delicious meal. But you probably don’t have time to master fancy new kitchen skills. Or to shop for a million ingredients.

We’ve got you covered. We created a simple, elegant meal that won’t tax your time or your kitchen cred. We offer up classic French flavor in easy recipes that deliver rich flavor just right for a winter meal. Start with a spiced carrot soup, then move on to a perfectly roasted filet. Finish the evening with chocolate sorbet sandwiches, the perfect partner for the sparkling wine you’ll be drinking.

Spiced carrot soup

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 6

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 pounds carrots, peeled and diced

1 teaspoon five-spice powder

1 quart low-sodium chicken broth or stock

Heavy cream

Salt and ground black pepper

In a large stockpot over medium-high, heat the olive oil. Add the onion and carrots and cook until browned, about 10 minutes. Add the five-spice powder and the chicken broth, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the carrots are tender, about another 10 minutes.

Working in batches if necessary, carefully transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in a bit of heavy cream, just enough to thin to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper, then heat until hot.

Nutrition information per serving: 120 calories; 35 calories from fat (29 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (1.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 5 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 4 g protein; 170 mg sodium.

Peppered filet roast with parmesan roasted cauliflower

Start to finish: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

3-pound Chateau Briand (center cut filet mignon roast), trimmed

Salt and ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

2 heads cauliflower, trimmed into 1-inch florets

1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Generously season the roast with salt and pepper.

In a large oven-safe skillet over medium-high, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil. Add the roast and sear for 3 minutes per side. Place the roast in the oven and cook for 30 minutes for medium-rare.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl toss the cauliflower florets with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the Parmesan, and a bit each of salt and pepper. Spread the florets on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes, or until tender and browned.

Remove the roast from the oven, cover with foil and allow it to rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with the roasted cauliflower.

Nutrition information per serving: 430 calories; 180 calories from fat (42 percent of total calories); 20 g fat (7 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 135 mg cholesterol; 10 g carbohydrate; 4 g fiber; 4 g sugar; 56 g protein; 820 mg sodium.

Chocolate sorbet sandwiches

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Makes 12 sandwiches

24 chocolate wafer cookies

1 1/2 cups sorbet (any flavor)

Scoop 2 tablespoons of sorbet onto the underside of 1 chocolate cookie. Press a second chocolate cookie onto the top to form a sandwich. Repeat with remaining cookies to make 12 sandwiches. Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Nutrition information per sandwich: 90 calories; 15 calories from fat (17 percent of total calories); 1.5 g fat (0.5 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 17 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 11 g sugar; 1 g protein; 90 mg sodium

Ditch a formal dinner and do apps this New Year’s

Not up to putting on a formal dinner party for New Year’s Eve? Can’t blame you. And who cares? Most people would prefer the more casual atmosphere of lots of appetizer-sized nibbles, anyway.

To help you pull it all together, we assembled an easy menu that recasts some classic appetizers in fresh ways. Start off with a roasted take on the traditional shrimp cocktail. Make it funky by serving the shrimp and roasted grape tomatoes in individual spoons. We also have a quick and east pineapple chicken salad that’s served in lettuce wraps.

And for fun, we offer up “Elvis cups” — mini phyllo pastry cups filled with bacon, peanut butter and banana slices.

Roasted shrimp cocktail

Start to finish: 30 minutes

Servings: 8

1 quart grape tomatoes, halved

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze

1 tablespoon horseradish

1 pound large raw shrimp, peeled and deveined

Salt and ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F.

Set the halved grape tomatoes in a colander and sprinkle with the salt. Toss together and let sit over a bowl or in the sink to drain for 20 minutes.

After the tomatoes have drained, spread them on a rimmed baking sheet and drizzle with the balsamic glaze. Roast for 15 minutes. Stir the horseradish and the shrimp into the tomatoes on the baking sheet, then return to the oven and roast for another 5 to 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Can be served on individual spoons or in a wide, shallow bowl with toothpicks.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 10 calories from fat (14 percent of total calories); 1 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 85 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 2 g sugar; 12 g protein; 210 mg sodium.

Pineapple chicken lettuce wraps

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Servings: 8

2 cups shredded cooked chicken

2/3 cup pineapple salsa, strained

2 tablespoons chopped cherry peppers

Soft lettuce leaves, such as Boston or bibb

In a medium bowl, gently mix together the chicken, salsa and cherry peppers. Arrange the lettuce leaves in a single layer on a serving platter. Spoon 1/3 cup of the chicken mixture into the center of each lettuce leaf, leaving enough room on each leaf for guests to grab the leaves and wrap around the filling.

Nutrition information per serving: 60 calories; 10 calories from fat (17 percent
of total calories); 1.5 g fat (0 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 30 mg cholesterol; 1 g carbohydrate; 0 g fiber; 0 g sugar; 11 g protein; 30 mg sodium.

Elvis phyllo cups

The mini phyllo cups can be found in the grocer’s freezer case near the other pastry and dessert items.

Start to finish: 10 minutes

Makes 15 cups

1/3 cup natural peanut butter

2 tablespoons powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 large banana, cut into 15 slices

1.9-ounce package phyllo cups (each package contains 15 cups)

3 slices crisp-cooked bacon, each cut into 5 chunks

In a small bowl, stir together the peanut butter, powdered sugar and vanilla. Place 1 slice of banana in the bottom of each phyllo cup. Top the banana slices with 2 teaspoons of the peanut butter mixture, then garnish each cup with a chunk of bacon.

Nutrition information per serving: 70 calories; 40 calories from fat (57 percent of total calories); 4 g fat (1 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 3 g sugar; 2 g protein; 80 mg sodium.

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