farris family baked potato bar aka christmas eve

festive table

festive table

if i can i always like to host christmas eve. this sometimes is a hard sell on the rest of the family.  steph likes to do her tradition of cashew chicken, mom always likes everyone under the same roof on christmas eve, if dinner isn’t at her place i think she fears this might not happen, and of course its hard for dad not to cook up his own meal.  then of course there is trying to come up with a menu that will suit everyone.  this year i created a baked potato bar for the fam. i actually got the idea from work.  the kids used to love baked potato bar and i figured that’d give a wide range of options for everyone’s taste buds.

waiting for dinner

waiting for dinner

what is a baked potato bar? baked potatoes and lots of toppings; broccoli, cheese, sour cream, dill dip, green onions, bacon bits, along with a big ol’crock pot of beans and sausage! i seasoned the potatoes with olive oil and sea salt. good thing steph showed up early to help. this turned a little messy doing five potatoes that way.  i’m used to just my one baked potato prep mess. i also decided to do up a big crock pot of beans and sausage.  i knew dad would want some sort of official meat and ever since i saw the english put baked beans on potatoes i’ve been a bit sold on that practice.

toppings

toppings

mmm good

mmm good

my plate!

my plate!

after the main course the fam has a tradition of playing the christmas game. kind of like monopoly but with reindeer, Scrooge and getting stuck at places called gift wrap. dad of course always starts complaining how he doesn’t like the game when he gets stuck at traffic jam, roll 7 or doubles to get out!!  while we played we nibbled on yummy holiday cookies.  this was the easiest dessert every.  leftover cookies from my holiday cookie party frozen and then thawed out for christmas eve….thanks friends for baking my dessert!!!

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Sunday Night Dinner: April 1- A Hearty “winter is coming” Meal

As you know Sunday night is a prime night for TV viewing at our house. While Mom, Dad and Lynley have been Madmen-ing it, John and I have chosen a different viewing path—Game of Thrones on HBO.

For the premiere of season two I wanted to tie-in with the show theme a bit (and eating a heart was CLEARLY out of the question.) I decided to make a “winter is coming” meal (since that’s a big phrase and plot point in the series). It turned out to be like 80 degrees that Sunday in April (I guess that was the April fools joke on me), so I thought I should have changed the phrase to “summer is coming,” but I still went with my winter theme weather be damned.

The meal: Pepper and garlic baked potatoes, Italian veggie sausage and onion, red wine mushrooms, broccoli and carrots.

I grew-up eating two kinds of baked potatoes: mom’s and dad’s. Mom’s were simply scrubbed clean, wrapped in foil and baked. Dad’s were scrubbed clean, smeared with butter, sprinkled with garlic salt and ground pepper and baked.  I like them both for different meals, but for a winter is coming dinner you need that warm kick of pepper and garlic.

Plus when you wrap the potatoes in foil they look like vegetable knights in armor. (Don’t forget to poke holes through the foil so the potato can steam!)

While the potatoes were baking (and they took about an hour and half at 400 degrees F.) I started the rest of the meal.

Dad’s red wine mushrooms are so good on top of baked potatoes. I love the way the sauce seeps into the buttery potato and seasoned skin. You can slice the mushrooms, but I prefer to remove the steams and leave the caps whole. Use as many mushrooms as you like. John doesn’t eat mushrooms, so I use just enough for me. Cut red onion slices; about half as many onions as potatoes. I like my onions thick and chunky, but you can slice them thin too.

Pour around two tablespoons of olive oil in your frying pan. The frying pan should fit the amount of mushrooms and onions. You want the veg to be snugish in the pan.

Turn the pan on medium heat and place the veg in the pan. Sprinkle garlic salt and pepper, then let the mushrooms and onions cook for a few minutes. Wait for the snap and crackle of oil to start before adding a drink or two of red wine to the pan.

Also add a tablespoon of Worcester Sauce (or tamari). Turn the mushrooms down on low and place a lid on top. Let them simmer for as long as you like. A drunk mushroom is a good mushroom in my book, so if the pan starts to look a little the dry (the sauce will thicken as it cooks) feel free to give them another drink!

You’ll know they’re ready when the mushrooms and onions have absorbed the wine and look dark. You really can just let them cook away as you prepare the rest of the meal, it won’t hurt them!

There are a few ways to eat a baked potato. I’m in the group that tends to cut the potato up and then mash it out on my plate. John likes to cut his in thick chunks to eat (no mashing). I learned my method from my mother. Although she just topped our potatoes with a little butter, the cut and mashed potato is really good for topping with other things like yummy mushrooms, sprinkle cheese, you name it!

For dessert we had homemade cinnamon apple cobbler with ice cream. Was I stuffed? Yes I was. Did we get dishes done before the show started? Yes we did!

And don’t forget…winter is coming.