One of the things I loved the most about our snow days, was cooking. Especially for impromptu dinner guests. It was absolutely wonderful the couple of times we had friends stay for dinner – the spontaneity takes the pressure off of everything having to be perfect and it is a fun challenge to make a meal out what happens to be in the pantry and refrigerator.
I set out a cheese board with olives, goat cheese I had rolled in Herbs de Provence, that a friend thoughtfully brought back from France for me, my favorite sharp cheddar cheese, and some delicious, fun cranberry pumpkin seed crisps. I opened a bottle of wine, made a salad with beets I had roasted the night before, set the table, prepared the salmon and served the cranberry pie I had baked on a whim, for dessert.
BEET AND FETA SALAD
4 to 6 beets, tops and ends removed, cut in half
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup olive oil
1 teaspoon grated zest
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
3 tablespoons chopped shallots
3 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
Heat oven to 400F. Place beets in a shallow baking pan. Cover with foil. Roast 40 to 45 minutes or until tender. Uncover. Let cool 15 minutes. Remove skins and slice beets.
For dressing, combine olive oil, lime zest, lime juice, yogurt, shallots, and mint. Whisk to mix.
Divide salad greens among plates, arrange the beets and feta on top and drizzle with dressing.
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, September 2013
ROAST SALMON WITH MUSTARD-TARRAGON SAUCE
2/3 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup spicy brown mustard
5 to 6 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Heat oven to 450F.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Mix the mayonnaise, mustard, tarragon, brown sugar, lemon zest and juice together, in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Place salmon, skin side down on the prepared baking sheet. Spoon mustard sauce on top of salmon, then spread to cover each piece completely. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast just until salmon is opaque in center, about 10 to 15 minutes.
Serve with remaining mustard sauce.
Recipe adapted from Bon Appetit, December 2008
CARAMELIZED BRUSSELS SPROUTS WITH LEMON
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cups brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons water
juice of half a lemon
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil, in a skillet over medium heat.
Arrange brussels sprouts in a single layer, drizzle with remaining olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook for 3 minutes. Remove lid and sprinkle sprouts with water. Cover and cook 2 minutes more. Sprouts should be just tender when pierced with a fork, and beginning to caramelize. Remove cover and increase the heat slightly. When sprouts are well-caramelized, drizzle with lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
Recipe adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, December 2011
CRANBERRY SURPRISE PIE
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup walnuts, chopped
2 tablespoons plus 3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter melted
2 large eggs, beaten
1 cup flour
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Heat oven to 325F. Butter a 9 1/2 inch pie plate.
Pour the cranberries into the bottom of the pie plate and sprinkle evenly with the walnuts and 2 tablespoons of the sugar.
Mix the eggs with the melted butter, 3/4 cup sugar, the vanilla and the flour. Pour over the cranberry mixture.
Bake for 50 minutes at 325F.
Recipe adapted From One Good Deed, 2012