Saturday, December 24, 2011

~Christmas Eve Dinner~

*Last night I experienced some computer problems.  My computer is old and needed some reformatting.  Then, somehow the Internet Explorer icon disappeared.  Anyway, I am now back up and running again. Thank you Ben for your help! *

Here I sit at my computer in full view of my living room.  The Christmas tree is sparkling and presents are stacked like Jenga blocks around the tree. Santa is going to be very happy with us this year.  Gabriel and Sarah made sure to leave out an extra-big slice of chocolate ganache cake for Santa's enjoyment.   

Our Christmas Eve dinner was vegetarian, as expected.  Our main feast was held on Christmas Eve this year in order to celebrate Christmas Day in a laid back fashion.  Yes, we will be feasting on leftovers today.  Hey, don't they say that food often tastes better the day after?  This also means that I get to spend a little time away from a room that is not yellow, aka my kitchen.  I hope that you and your family had a cheerful Christmas Eve.

Later on today I will be making a spun-sugar croquembouche (crossing fingers). This will be my second attempt with the mock "Eiffel Tower".  I'm staying positive and hoping that it does not turn into the Leaning Tower of Pisa. 

 See you soon!

Christmas Eve Menu

Spinach-and-Watercress Dip-appetizer

Mushroom Wellington Cups-main dish

Sauteed Kale with Lemon-side dish

Potatoes Anna-side dish

Chocolate Ganache Cake-dessert

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles-dessert

Spinach-and-Watercress Dip

picture from

Martha Stewart Living, December 2006
  • Yield Serves 6 to 8


  • 1 pound spinach, tough stems discarded
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest, plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 bunch watercress, coarsely chopped, plus small sprigs for garnish
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 8 ounces assorted heads baby lettuce, leaves separated, for serving


  1. Wash spinach; drain, but do not dry. Transfer to a large stockpot. Cover, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel, and squeeze out excess liquid. Let cool slightly; coarsely chop. Set aside.
  2. Heat oil in a medium saute pan over medium heat. Add onion, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a plate, and let cool slightly.
  3. Whisk together yogurt and lemon zest and juice in a medium bowl. Stir in spinach, onion, and watercress; season with salt and pepper. Garnish with watercress sprigs, and serve with lettuce leaves for dipping.

It's a good thing or... is it?

Overall, this was a decent dip. However, I felt that it needed a little something.  Maybe some cayenne pepper?  I used non fat Greek yogurt so it was pretty healthy.  Also, rye bread squares were used for dipping in place of the lettuce leaves.  I especially enjoyed the lemon flavor.  Very refreshing.

Mushroom Wellington Cups

picture from

Martha Stewart Living, December 2011
  • Prep Time 30 minutes
  • Total Time 1 hour
  • Yield Serves 6


  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 4 to 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 1/4 pounds small cremini or button mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2/3 cup dry white wine
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • Coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 5 sheets (12 by 16 1/2 inches) frozen phyllo dough, thawed
  • 2 ounces store-bought pate


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large skillet over high heat. Cook mushrooms for 6 minutes. Add garlic. Cook until mushrooms are golden brown, about 1 minute more. Add wine. Cook, stirring and scraping browned bits from bottom of pan with a wooden spoon, until wine evaporates, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add cream. Cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool for 15 minutes.
  2. Lay 1 phyllo sheet on a work surface (keep remaining phyllo covered with a damp towel). Lightly brush sheet with melted butter. Top with 1 sheet; brush with butter. Repeat with remaining 3 sheets, leaving top unbuttered.
  3. Cut phyllo stack into six 5 1/2-by-6-inch pieces. Nestle each into a cup of a standard muffin tin. Spoon 2 heaping tablespoons mushroom mixture into each. Bake until golden, 14 to 16 minutes. Top each cup with a bit of pate before serving.

     It's a good thing...or is it?

    This mushroom wellington recipe included pate.  However, we enjoyed ours pate-free.  Even if we ate meat, I can tell you right now that my kids would not eat pate.  Trust me, I'm finally beginning to understand their palates.

    The phyllo dough cups made for an interesting presentation.  A small mound of cremini mushrooms and sauce were spooned into the center of the cups until they were a golden brown.  The mushrooms tasted of onion (I used pearl onion instead of garlic) and white wine.  Actually, mushrooms prepared in this way would be delicious spooned into dough and baked as mini pies. 

    Potatoes Anna

    picture from

    Everyday Food, December 2003
    • Prep Time 20 minutes
    • Total Time 1 hour 20 minutes
    • Yield Serves 8


    • 6 medium russet potatoes (2 3/4 pounds total), peeled
    • 6 tablespoons butter, melted
    • Coarse salt and ground pepper


    1. Brush bottom of a 10-inch cast-iron skillet with 1 1/2 tablespoons butter. Starting in center of pan, arrange potato slices, slightly overlapping, in circular pattern, covering surface. Brush with another 1 1/2 tablespoons butter; season well with salt and pepper. Repeat for two more layers.
    2. Place over high heat until butter in pan sizzles, 2 to 4 minutes.
    3. Transfer to oven; bake until potatoes are fork-tender, about 1 hour. Remove from oven. Run a small spatula around edges of potatoes; slide large spatula underneath potatoes to loosen. Carefully invert onto a plate, and cut into wedges.

    Cook's Note

    Brushing each layer with butter and seasoning with salt and pepper creates a delicious buttery flavor throughout.

    It's a good thing...or is it?

    This is a French dish that includes a few simple ingredients.  Russet potatoes, butter, salt and pepper make for a hearty side dish that is easy to prepare. 

    The buttery potatoes went over very well during dinner.  Gabriel and Sarah made sure to tell me that some ketchup was need.  I'm not one to ruin tradition but I could not resist adding ketchup to my potatoes as well.

    Chocolate Cakes with Ganache Glaze

    picture from

    Martha Stewart Living, December 2011
    • Prep Time 1 hour
    • Total Time 6 hours, 5 minutes
    • Yield Makes two 8-inch cakes
      Serves 16


    • Unsalted butter, room temperature, for pans
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder, plus more for pans
    • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1 1/2 cups sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
    • 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • Salt
    • 2 large eggs
    • 3/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 3/4 cup warm water
    • 3 tablespoons safflower oil
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
    • 2 batches Ganache


    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter two 8-inch round cake pans and dust with cocoa, tapping out excess. Sift cocoa, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and 3/4 teaspoon salt into the bowl of a mixer. Beat on low speed until just combined.
    2. Raise speed to medium, and add eggs, buttermilk, warm water, oil, and vanilla. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes.
    3. Divide batter between pans. Bake until set and a toothpick inserted into center of each comes out clean, about 35 minutes. Let cakes cool in pans set on wire racks for 15 minutes. Turn out cakes. Let cool completely.
    4. Transfer 1 cake to a wire rack set on a rimmed baking sheet. Pour half the warm ganache over top; pour in center, then slowly but steadily pour around edges, allowing ganache to drip down sides and cover cake. Let stand for 15 minutes. Transfer cake to a cake stand. Repeat with remaining cake and ganache.
    5. Let cakes stand until set, about 3 hours at room temperature or 1 hour in the refrigerator.

    Cook's Note

    Unglazed cakes can be stored at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap, for up to 2 days. Glazed cakes can be stored at room temperature for up to 1 day.

    It's a good thing...or is it?

    This show-stopping, high-gloss ganache cake is sure to catch your eye. This dessert not only looks gorgeous but it also has good taste. Both very rich and moist, one needs not to overindulge here. A little goes a long way.

    The ganache cake recipe, along with the peanut butter truffles, came directly from the December 2011 Living magazine (Ganache 101 page 94).  The ganache101 article discusses the art of ganache making, includes yummy recipes, and provides a few pointers.  I added a festive, powdered sugar bow on top for decoration.  The template can be downloaded from Martha's website.  The bow stencil is also featured in the December 2011"Good Things" section. 

     Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffles

    Please refer to the December 2011 Living magazine for instructions on page 94. 

    The rich, bittersweet chocolate and peanut butter truffles are a confectioners' dream.  These tasty, chocolaty morsels pack a punch!  Just one bite was good enough for me.

    In October, I made bourbon-pecan truffles for our bake sale.  It was then that I learned a trick for truffle making that prevents the situation from becoming a sticky mess.  Ready? Here is the trick.  Keep a chilled glass at your side while working with the ganache.  This provides a place for you to effectively cool down your hands while you are baking.  Warm hands + chocolate = syrup. Not good. 

    Photo Gallery

    It's Christmas Eve and it's getting late.  For the sake of time, I have not grouped the pictures together based upon their recipe.  Sometimes I would go back and forth on a recipes that I was preparing to save time.  So, they are posted in that order. 

    Keep in mind that ganache is mentioned a few times in the photo gallery.  Sometimes it is used in reference to the chocolate cake and at other times for the truffles.  Both recipes included the ganache.

    The ganache cake ingredients.

    The cake batter is being poured into a Dutch cocoa dusted baking pan.  Wow, that was a mouthful.

    The heated cream was drizzled over the bittersweet chocolate.  After ten minutes it was whisked to perfection.  Below is what it looks like before mixing.  This was for the ganache cake glaze.

    After the ganache was thoroughly mixed, the chocolate was added to the peanut butter (for the truffles).

    The ganache is showing off its shine. Ooh la la. 

    The truffles were dusted with Dutch cocoa powder.

    The peanut butter truffles.

    I also made several chocolate barks today.  Shown below is the cranberry-pistachio version. 

    While I was at Joann's (a craft store) the other day, I noticed Martha Stewart treat boxes.  These boxes were just what I needed for my holiday treats.  I used my 50% off coupon for extra savings.

    The holiday treat boxes included peanut butter truffles, lime and macadamia nut bark and pistachio-cranberry bark. 

    The spinach-and-watercress dip was our appetizer.  The rye toasts were delicious with this.

    Gabriel was a wonderful cremini mushroom slicer.  Here he is using our mushroom slicer for the task.  Once the mushroom was inside the slicer, Gabriel helped me to squeeze the contraption closed.  He's a muscle man!   

    Here's a look at the mushrooms while they were being sauteed.  As you can see, it was getting steamy in the kitchen. The sauteed mushrooms perfumed the kitchen nicely.

    The cremini mushroom wellington cups are now ready for serving.

    Our chocolate ganache cake.  Atop the cake is a stenciled bow.  

    A holiday toast to you!

    Gabriel sat at the dinner table for about two minutes.  He was more interested in other things such as waiting for dessert.

    Our little chocolate lover enjoyed the ganache cake very much.  Her mommy did too. 

    ~Dinner Was Served~


    Anonymous said...

    "chocolate ganache cake for Santa's enjoyment"? What ever happened to milk and cookies?

    If Santa eats too much of that sort of food, he won't be able to fit down a chimney!

    The Green Mama said...

    Dear Amateur Cook,

    Hahaha! I know, I know. Poor Santa and his chocolate ganache cake. What happened was that we made cookies a few days before Christmas Eve and several were to be reserved fo Santa. Well, we ate them all. So, I made sugar cookie dough (with brandy inside too)but then I never had a chance to make them. Oh well. I've heard he has a thing for chocolate anyway. :)