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December has been a very rough month. As you know, we lost our brother on December 1. Honestly, this hit me harder than I expected. After returning from his funeral, I came down with a bad head cold. Cara and I have both been working non-stop, in addition to getting Rodney’s memorial video into its final state, copied and shipped out. There has been zero time to shop for presents, but yesterday we had the day off and took advantage of it to celebrate with a home-cooked feast. Cara bought a large lamb steak, which we opted to sear rather than stew. To the menu we added colcannon (Irish-inspired mashed potatoes with shredded cabbage), gourgeres (see November posting for recipe), sweet roasted winter vegetables, green beans with lemon and mushrooms, and mulled white wine. I served a small amount of Trader Joe’s cranberry sauce on the side. My recipes, such as they are, and a few pictures follow. Note that unless I am baking, I often fly by the seat of my pants and therefore measurements are approximate. Feel free to adjust to suit your taste.

To make my dairy-free colcannon, I used approximately 3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped, and cooked for 20 minutes in salted boiling water, drained and mashed with one tbs. of olive oil, 1/2 tsp. garlic powder, and enough coconut cream to reach the desired consistency (at least 1/2 c.); seasoned with salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. I serve a bowl of shredded cabbage on the side so that each person can add however much they want to their plate.

Sweet roasted winter vegetables: In a 9″ glass baking dish, add approximately 2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped; 1/2 pound baby carrots sliced diagonally; 1/2 small onion peeled and diced; 1/2 head cauliflower, broken into florets; one green apple, peeled, seeded and chopped; 1/2 cup fresh cranberries; 1/2 pound cubed winter squash. Sprinkle with a little salt. Pour over the juice of 4 mandarins (sub. orange juice, but it isn’t as sweet), 3 tbs. brown sugar, 1 tbs. raw blue agave, 3 tbs. port wine and top with several blobs of cold coconut oil. (You can use butter if you aren’t dairy free like me). Roast at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour, turning 2-3 times. Adjust sweetness if necessary. Set aside covered with foil until ready to serve. (Next time I plan to use water chestnuts for contrasting texture.)

Green beans with lemon and mushrooms: I used approximately 1/2 pound of fresh green beans washed, trimmed and halved on the diagonal; 4 ounces of fresh crimini mushrooms, cleaned and sliced; 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced; 1/2 tsp dried marjoram, the juice of 1/2 lemon, and salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste. Heat 1/2 tbs olive oil (you can use butter if you aren’t dairy free) in a non-stick skillet and add garlic, sautee for two minutes. Add green beans and sautee for 3 minutes, then add mushrooms, marjoram and lemon juice. Sautee/cook until green beans have reached the al dente stage. I’m not certain how long this took because I was simultaneously dealing with searing the lamb, but approximately 8-10 minutes total. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Feel free to double this recipe as leftovers are nice.

Seared lamb. I sear meat because I do not own a BBQ grill (wish I did). I learned the technique watching a YouTube video years ago. Success is really contingent upon the size of the meat, but it’s basically the same process I use for filet mignon or any thick cut meat. The lamb steak I used was 1.34 pounds and 2 inches thick (thank you Trader Joe’s). We marinated it at room temperature with olive oil, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, dried oregano and tarragon, and freshly cracked pepper. I have a large heavy skillet, which I preheat until very hot. Place the meat into the hot skillet and cover with the lid. Set your timer for 5* minutes. Turn meat ONCE (remember what Dad said..) I like to cook lamb just a wee bit longer (medium rare) than I do filet mignon. Set your timer for another 5* minutes and replace the lid. When the 5 minutes have passed, remove the meat to a serving platter and allow to stand several minutes before slicing into serving portions. *Cooking times will be adjusted depending on the thickness of your meat.

Mulled white wine: I was given white wine as a gift so we decided to transform it. To a small crockpot, I added the entire bottle of wine, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. mandarin juice along with the segments of 3 mandarins, 1/2 c. fresh cranberries, 2 cinnamon sticks, 2 cloves, and 2 cardamom pods. I let this cook on low for 4 hours while I worked on all of the above. It came out really wonderful! Next time we will use peaches instead of mandarins. I think the fragrance will be sublime!

Please feel free to comment. I would enjoy hearing the feedback. Bon appetite!