New Year Cheer!

In the last week, the ground was green and we've had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year's!

In the last week, we’ve had a wind storm, a rain storm, and now a snow storm that has brought us more than a foot of snow! It will be a white New Year’s!

I always find the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day a perfect time to invite friends and family over for some cheer and small snacks. Cocktail parties are perfect any time; simple drinks and some nibblies to munch on make for an enjoyable evening (for the cook!) that isn’t focused on a large meal.

I have been making this stuffed mushroom recipe for years and always around the holidays. Relatively easy to put together, they always are a hit, and are easy travelers; you can assemble and bake when you arrive. They are, of course,  best right out of the oven, nice and hot.

The pomegranate martini is a based on one I saw Rachael Ray make on an episode of Oprah years ago. I wrote down the measurements, but through the years I’ve developed my own recipe.

However you celebrate the new year, I hope 2013 will be even better for you than 2012!

Stuffed Mushrooms
From Prevention’s The Healthy Cook, p. 550.

16 large mushrooms, cleaned
1 Tablespoon olive oil
3 Tablespoons dry sherry or nonalcoholic white wine
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
1 Tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tablespoon unseasoned dry bread crumbs
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Salt and ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Coat a 9” x 13” no-stick baking dish with no-stick spray and set aside.

Remove and finely chop the mushroom stems; set aside.

In a cup, combine the oil and sherry or wine. Pour 2 tablespoons of the mixture into a medium no-stick skillet, reserving 2 tablespoons. Warm the skillet over medium-low heat. Add the chopped stems and sauté for 6 minutes, or until the mixture is dry.

Add the parsley, Parmesan, bread crumbs, garlic, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and stir in 1 tablespoon of the remaining sherry mixture until moistened.

Spoon the mushroom mixture into the caps. Place in a single layer on the prepared dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the caps are tender and heated through. Halfway through the cooking time, brush the caps with the remaining 1 tablespoon sherry mixture. Serve hot.

Pomegranate Martini
Serves 1, can be easily doubled, tripled, etc.

2 parts vodka
1 part orange flavored liquor
A splash of 100 percent pomegranate juice
Juice of a lime quarter

Cook’s Notes
• While I love Cointreau, the cost is prohibitive most of the time. Triple Sec is a good substitute that is a lot less expensive.
• For the juice, use only 100 percent pomegranate juice, no additional fruit flavors. Trust me, I’ve tried other mixtures, but the Pom Wonderful juice is the best.

Baked Artichoke Dip

With the start of springtime, which at least for me means the start of potluck season, I thought I would bring you my favorite go-to appetizer dish that will make you the star of any party!

This comes from the Horn of the Moon Cookbook by Ginny Callan. The Horn of the Moon was a restaurant in my hometown that served up delicious vegetarian fare that sadly is no longer in existence. When I got older and had money in my pocket, I would skip out on school and hang out with friends and order dishes with exotic, to me at the time, ingredients I hadn’t even heard of. Think chapatis, tempeh, and veggie burgers before they became mainstream. The air would be thick with spices and herbs and yes, there were spider plants in the window that overlooked the river. I even worked there for one day for a summer job, until a call for a more steady paycheck working in the woods took me away. I loved it and to this day, when I’m in town on a Sunday, I still miss eating Sunday brunch eggs with home fries and homemade ketchup even though the restaurant has been closed for more than ten years.

But I have the next best thing, the first cookbook from the restaurant (there are two). The salsa recipe is one I’ve used for years and have tweaked it here and there so it’s now my own. This may sound unappetizing to some, but the Mushroom Tofu Stroganoff entree is so good, even those who turn their nose up at bean curd will like it–and lick the plate! But the Artichoke Dip is the best of the bunch. I first tried it in many years ago in a book club. Another woman (who I grew up with) made it for every meeting because we all loved it so much!

If you have a food processor, that would be easier; don’t try a blender, I’ve tried that too many times and it just doesn’t work. I chop and mince everything very fine and that does the trick. It’s easy to double and you might want to, one plate never seems to be enough!

Baked Artichoke Dip
From Horn of the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan, Harper & Row, 1987

Cook’s Notes:
• I always like to top this with just a tiny bit of cayenne for a little bit of zip and spice.
• Use a pie plate instead of a casserole dish to cook this in, it’s easier for dipping when it comes out of the oven!
• While it says to serve this with chips, crackers or raw vegetables, I find a loaf of sliced French bread to be the best!

• 1 can artichoke hearts (14 ounces), drained
• 4 large cloves garlic, minced (Cook’s note: I use 3 cloves, 4 was too overpowering for me)
• ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons finely grated or Parmesan or Romano cheese
• 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• ¼ cup cream cheese, softened (Cook’s note: This is really important, otherwise it won’t be incorporated in the dip)
• 2 Tablespoons bread crumbs (Cook’s note: I use panko crumbs for some crunch)
• Chips, crackers, or raw vegetables for dipping

Finely chop artichoke hearts or run through a food processor along with the garlic using the steel chopping blade. Combine the ½ cup cheese, lemon juice, mayonnaise, and cream cheese. Mix well with the artichoke-garlic mixture. Put mixture in a 1-quart casserole dish. Sprinkle the top with bread crumbs and the remaining cheese. Bake 20 minutes at 375 degrees until bubbly. Serve with chips, vegetable dippers, bread or crackers.

Makes 2 cups.