Saturday, December 21, 2013

Holiday FUN!

It's December 21st -- what would have been my Grampa Callahan's 95th birthday. It is also my good friend, Milady's birthday! So shout out to MAO and all those who celebrate their birthdays on the first day of winter.

Being out here in SoCal, there isn't much to make you think Christmas is literally around the corner. The sun is shining bright, the weather is about 70 degrees and the traffic is still horrific everywhere. And as much as I want to be home with friends and family over the holidays, I can honestly say I am glad I am not traveling. I need a little break.

My friend Nicole (who is ironically traveling back home to Boston today) hosted a FANTASTIC potluck Christmas dinner at her place in Manhattan Beach last night. We had tons of apps/salads, filet mignon, chicken parm, stuffed shells and tons of other sides and desserts. What a spread. I was in charge of making some sweet potatoes, a kielbasa & pineapple appetizer, and a warm spiked Christmas apple cider.

Here are the ingredients I used for everything yesterday -- at this point, the kielbasa was already cooking because I prefer to make that a day in advance so that the flavors all work together. In order to make this simple app, I slice up the kielbasa (choose your meat preference), saute it until its caramelized/brown, and add the slices to a sauce of pineapple chunks/juice, sweet and sour sauce, yellow mustard, honey and a few other things I like to add to make it unique. ;)


I then moved on to the sweet potatoes. I washed, peeled and sliced up about 7-8 sweet potatoes -- and boy were my hands ORANGE and sticky by the end of the day.

 
My mom spent the day "cooking" with me:

 
I have a rosemary bush that grows out front of my condo. It is one of my favorite herbs, so I cook with it often. I personally feel it is unappealing when you get a hard piece of rosemary in your mouth when eating soft sweet potatoes, so I came up with a solution. Using about 4 sprigs of rosemary, I added the pieces to some olive oil and mixed them in the Magic Bullet. Then I poured the olive oil infused with rosemary all over the sweet potatoes!!


I added very minimal sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, cooked for about an hour (covered) at 375 degrees. Then BAM, they are done!! It is so simple and they are so good for you.

 
As for my spiked warm apple cider, I pour about a gallon of apple cider into a crock pot in the morning. Then added some fresh apple slices and cranberries for a bit of tart and a little festive coloring. I added a dash cinnamon, nutmeg and brown sugar to taste. A few hours later, I added more apples and cranberries to freshen it a bit. Then just before serving time, I gave Jim the task of spiking it with Capt Morgan spiced rum since I can't take part in the taste test (don't worry, I made sure to pour myself a glass before it was spiked!!). Serve on the "warm" temp throughout the night. :)

 
Here are Sarah, Nicole and I post dinner and drinks. We were very relaxed and veggin out with Sky the doggie!


Nicole works with SonoSim ultrasound equipment at her work, so I have been having scans done at her office every now and again to assist with their non-profit work (apparently A and B are helping out big time and they don't even know it yet!). It's also beneficial for me to check in on them periodically, too. So I went in yesterday morning while my cider was brewing. Jim and I wanted to make Christmas extra special this year by finding out the genders of both A and B on Christmas morning, so Nicole wrapped up the predictions in this box!! It is taking everything I have not to open it right now! Stay tuned...............

 
4 more days til Christmas, everyone!
xo,
Shaz