how to win friends and feed people

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Beef and Bean Chili

Like most things in my life these days, the holidays usually revolve around The Food. What kind will there be? Will there be enough? Who is making it? Can I make it? Can we make sure there is salad? And chocolate? And breakfast? What about Second Breakfast?

You get the idea.

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Washed Brussels

At some point in the last 4-5 years I started taking a more active role in the meal planning at my parent’s house during Christmas. We’ve added more people to the fold during those years, and those people have gotten bigger and hungrier as time has marched on. I think we’ve hit a nice rhythm: My brothers usually get up and make some kind of breakfast, which usually includes coffee, more coffee and eggs and pancakes and hopefully bacon. I usually make a vat of chili and some kind of pie, my sister-in-laws usually make some roasted veggies and salad, and everybody contributes some kind of cookie or homemade bread or grain. Maybe I’m romanticizing it in my head, but its really nice and warm and comforting to have everyone I love around me, making food and eating it, and there are full bellies and full hearts. I’m especially looking forward to it this year, since its the first Christmas I haven’t lived just up the road from my childhood home, I miss the comforts of familiar places. I also usually bring half my kitchen and a car full of groceries with me when I travel home, which won’t be possible this year, so we’ll see how that goes.

In the spirit of What I Eat When I’m Home For Christmas, I wanted to share my favorite holiday recipes with you, with the hope that this list will inspire you in the way you feed you’re loved ones. I’ve included several links, but these are all my favorites, some newer and some older, and they’re all crowd pleasers.

I recently helped with a cooking demo that focused on making healthy(er) versions of holiday treats, and these two were my favorite, from the Minimalist Baker website:
Almond Meal Cookies with Coconut and Chocolate Chips
No Bake Almond Butter Cup Bars think peanut butter cups, but with almonds.
(I’m hoping to make at least 1 of these recipes at home this holiday)

Here’s a quick list of what you’ll find in the post:
Cranberry Orange Breakfast Rolls
: Find that post here
Mushroom Pesto Hand Pies
Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
Beef and Bean Chili


Mushroom Pesto Hand Pies
Make about 12 pies, depending on their size.
These are really, really good, the perfect savory pie. I made these for a Christmas holiday and once for a party in the summer, they got rave reviews each time.

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Baked Pies

Ingredients:
(Roasted mushrooms adapted from here)
1 recipe all-butter pie crust
1.5 pounds mushrooms (I like a mixture of cremini and white)
4 large garlic coves, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons butter, cubed
3 tablespoons olive oil
squeeze of lemon juice
1/2 cup-ish of basil pesto (recipe here if you have fresh basil)
Olive oil
Egg wash: 1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon of water

Method:
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. In an oven proof baking dish, toss the mushrooms with the garlic, butter, olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with a pinch of kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Cover the dish with foil and roast for about 30 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly and the mushrooms are tender. After roasting, set the dish aside to cool.

While the mushrooms are roasting, prepare the crust. Roll the pie crust onto a floured surface, t0 about 1/8 inch thick, and cut 24 3×3 inch squares (you may need to adjust the math here, depending on how big you want your hand pies to be). You will probably have to combine and re-roll out the dough to get as many pies as you wish. After you have all your squares, place the dough on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper in the fridge.

Place the pesto in a medium bowl and set aside. On a cutting board, dice the roasted mushrooms until very small. Next, combine the diced mushrooms with the pesto, adding any delicious leftover liquid from the mushroom pan, if the consistency needs help. You want it to be a paste like consistency, but not too thin.

If you turned your oven off from earlier, preheat to 400 degrees again. Now, assemble the pies: On one square, place 1-2 tablespoons of the mushroom pesto mixture, and top with another square of dough, then crimp the edges with a fork. Brush the top with the egg wash, and cut a slit in the top (see photo). Repeat until you’ve used all your pie dough. (leftover filling? it would make excellent bruschetta!) Place the assembled pies on a parchment lined baking sheet and refrigerate for about 10-15 minutes, it helps the crust set. Next, bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the crust is a delicious golden brown on the bottom and the edges. Let cool, serve warm or at room temp.


Shredded Brussels Sprouts Salad
Slightly adapted from this Instagram post
This serves at least 4, and is still delicious the next day. I made this over Thanksgiving and then for a Christmas party and it was a huge hit both times.
Important Note: I used a mandolin to shred these Brussels. I think its pretty necessary to get them the right size, but BE CAREFUL. I bought a mandolin for the express purpose of making this recipe, and promptly sliced my thumb open on the first sprout. You could probably get similar results with a food processor, but I liked the consistency of the mandolin. So use it, but use it carefully!

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For the salad:
1 pound shredded Brussels sprouts
1/2 Granny Smith apple, diced small
1 minced shallot
Slivered almonds
Finely grated pecorino romano

For the vinaigrette:
2 tablespoons olive oil
juice of 1 Meyer lemon
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
2 teaspoons agave
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
small pinch of red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Method:
Rinse and sort your Brussels. With a mandolin, very carefully shred the Brussels and add them to a large salad bowl. Layer with the apple, shallot, almonds and top with the cheese. In a small bowl, whisk all the vinaigrette ingredients together, adjusting for taste. Pour at least half the vinaigrette over the salad, toss, taste, and add more as needed. I find that it tastes better after sitting for a few minutes. Will last at least 1 day in the fridge after assembly.


Beef and Bean Chili
Adapted from here
It can hold its own quite well, but its also delicious topped with shredded cheddar cheese and a side of biscuit.
Serves 6-8, at least. I usually double this recipe to feed a crowd, and its even better the next day. A staple for the West family at Christmas.

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Finished chili in bad lighting

Ingredients:
Olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped small
3 pounds ground beef
4 carrots, scrubbed and diced small
4 medium sized garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup of chili powder
1 1/2 tablespoon cumin
2 tablespoons paprika
1 tablespoon dried Oregano
1 1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
Scant 1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
Two 19-ounces cans of red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups+ beef broth or stock
salt and pepper to taste

Method:
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot or dutch oven, heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pot and add the diced onions and the ground beef, stirring occasionally, until the beef is cooked/no more pink remains. While the beef is cooking, scrub and dice the carrots, then add them to the beef and onions, cooking for 5 more minutes. Add the garlic, cook for 2 minutes more. Add the remaining spices, brown sugar and vinegars, stirring well until evenly distributed. Next, add the beans, the sauce and the beef stock. Salt to taste. Let simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting flavors as needed. At this points its ready to eat, but I find the flavors are better the longer you can let it simmer. If you’re a slow cooker type person, I’m sure this would be a great recipe for that. It probably keeps for 6ish days in the fridge, but we eat it all before then.

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