Celebrating 2013

Bramble House New Year's Eve 2013

Bramble House decked out for New Yea’rs Eve. And a Sweetie Pie on the couch.

So we haven’t updated this in a loooong time. But sometimes life gets in the way of blogging. As does the fact that more often than not this year, I’ve forgotten to take pictures, to take my camera somewhere, to capture in digital format all the wonderful things I’ve seen and done.

And that’s okay.

But this time, with paid time off for the holidays for only the second time in my life, I actually had time to document (some) of it.

We had a big party the Sunday before Christmas at Bramble House. It was a crazy week at work for both me and my fiance, we’d had house guests the weekend before and worked a big event the day before. I also baked cookies to mail to relatives, wrapped presents, did a little last-minute shopping, and packed the next day to go to the future-in-law’s for Christmas.

Needless to say – I didn’t get any photos of that party, which had nearly 30 people jammed into our little kitchen, living room, and unheated front porch. Luckily and unluckily, it was 65 degrees out the Sunday before Christmas, which effectively melted the lovely foot of snow we’d gotten the weekend before. This was exceedingly disappointing to me, who is used to the 5-6 month North Dakota winters of snow until April. And it was too hot in the house for a fire, but at least the porch was warm enough.

Speculoos fox

Speculoos fox – one of several forest animal cookies I made for the Christmas party and just about the only photo I snapped before the crazy began.

For once I made just about the right amount of food, except for the bacon-wrapped pork loin, which because of a miscommunication between me and the butcher ended up being about half the size I wanted (thanks, bone-in pork loin!). I made bacon-wrapped pork loin over lard roasted potatoes and garlic, Tereneh’s orange and red onion salad with honey mustard vinaigrette, a veggie tray with dip, speculoos cookies, cheese board with crackers (sharp cheddar, pecorino, herbed cream cheese), white bean spinach roasted tomato dip with corn chips, potato chips and dip (for the picky ones), rice pudding, and norwegian frukt suppe. Friends brought a chocolate chip cookie cake and berries with whipped cream. We also made second horse punch.

After a lovely Christmas upstate (which was a white Christmas! I was so happy) and unwrapping way too many presents with the puppies and eating way too much food, we came home so Chad could work. We were debating what to do for New Year’s Eve, so I decided to throw a last-minute cocktail party. We invited 15 people, but only about 3 people actually came! Which turned out pretty well, actually, despite the ridiculous amount of food I had left over. I went a little over the top.

The start of the table

The start of the table – it was only the beginning.

I made: cheddar olives, meatballs in red pepper sauce, hoppin’ john dip, lard roasted potatoes with malt vinegar sour cream sauce, more speculoos cookies (I had leftover dough from the Christmas party), brined crispy infused pecans and almonds (based off of this recipe, also leftover from the Christmas party), rye crackers with cream cheese and raw cranberry relish and fig and olive tapenade, chocolate-covered dried apricots, and apple cranberry galette with whole grain crust,  plus lemon-garlic infused celery and carrots with Caesar dressing dip. A friend brought festive cupcakes and chips and salsa. I also made hot cranberry pomegranate punch to drink. Needless to say, we had way too much food left over.

Hot spread

L-R: Hoppin’ john bean dip, lard-roasted potatoes with malt vinegar sour cream sauce, meatballs in red pepper sauce (in crockpot.)

However, I did learn a little to trust my own instincts better than recipes that sounded good, but turned out pretty average. The cheddar olives were okay, but not that great. The crust was not super cheddary, despite using 1.5 cups of shredded cheese, 1 cup of which was extra sharp. The fig olive tapenade was also a disappointment. HOWEVER – the raw cranberry relish (which was a total experiment) and the lard roasted potatoes with malt vinegar sour cream sauce were the most delicious things of the evening. The meatballs in red pepper sauce also turned out quite nicely, and they were another experiment.

I also learned how much I love planning for and cooking for parties. Doesn’t matter how many people come – I always manage to have a good time and lately I’ve adored trying out new party foods. Even if they don’t all get eaten in one go.

So, the moral of the story is, I need to throw more parties, both big and small, but I need to get those rsvps in advance. 😉

Here’s a fun and unexpected recipe for you. Stay tuned for more recipes this weekend.

Fig olive tapenade and raw cranberry relish with crackers

Fig olive tapenade and raw cranberry relish with rye crackers and cream cheese.

Raw Cranberry Relish

This one was a total experiment – I had cranberries that needed using, some onions, some peeled garlic (love that stuff), and some nice pecorino in the fridge, just a small hunk leftover from the Christmas cheese board. I also have finally started using my food chopped more recently, which I really enjoy. It makes making this a breeze, although you could also use an old-fashioned meat grinder and come up with the same results. You can substitute any aged Italian cheese (like Parmesan or Asiago) for the Pecorino, or leave it out entirely, although it does add a strongish flavor that goes nicely with the cream cheese. If you leave out the cheese, try adding some orange sections or a few green olives for a different flavor.

1 cup raw cranberries, washed
1 small yellow storage onion
1 clove garlic
1-2 slices aged pecorino cheese

Top, tail, and quarter the onion, tail the garlic, and break up the slices of cheese. Add with the cranberries to the food chopper and pulse until well-chopped (or run individually through the grinder, or mince with a knife, and mix by hand). Add a pinch of salt and a tablespoon or two of sugar. Let rest 30 or more minutes in the fridge to let the sugar work its magic and the flavors blend. Serve cold or at room temp with cream cheese on crackers, such as light rye Wasa. It makes a lovely and inexpensive addition to a cheese board.

2 Responses to “Celebrating 2013”
  1. chris mergener says:

    Glad you are back! I love reading your blog and the interesting recipes that you come up with. Happy New Year. 🙂

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