By Jenny Stauffer

This month, I thought you all may enjoy some easy, elegant dishes that celebrate the holiday season.  No, I do not normally cook like this, but I usually have to bring a side or an appetizer to some event or another, and these are tried and true crowd-pleasers.  Some have multiple steps, but most can be made ahead of time to make it easy!

Cheers and Merry Christmas!  I hope you enjoy!


Brie with Red Pepper Jelly, Bacon and Green Onions

*My childhood best friend’s mom, Meredyth Champ, loves to cook.  She sends me recipes often and they are always a hit.  This appetizer is divine, colorful, and it is super easy.
1 wheel of Brie, top rind removed
3-4 green onions, sliced, green tops includes
3-4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
Red Pepper Jelly

Microwave Brie for 30 seconds to a minute just until soft.  Watch carefully!  Dollop a bit of jelly on top ( 1/3 cup or so).  Sprinkle green onions and bacon on top.  Serve with choice of crackers.  (I use Carter’s wafers, usually).

Roasted Tomatoes with Blue Cheese Salad

* Another Meredyth Champ recipe that I have made for Christmas and New Year’s.  It is a pretty salad with the red and green colors, and the warm, cheesy tomatoes atop cool, crisp greens is just delicious!  I would think feta or goat cheese would also be a good variation.

4 basil leaves
3 large Roma tomatoes, halved
small garlic clove, minced
1 ½ T olive oil
1 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

– Combine above ingredients in a bowl to marinate for a few minutes.
– Heat grill pan or skillet
– Reserve dressing for the salad (sometimes I make more)
– Place tomatoes, cut side up, in the pan.  Roast for a few minutes (do not let them blacken), then turn.
***(This step can be done ahead of time.)
– When ready to serve, heat oven to 375-400.  Place tomatoes, cut side up in a pie dish.  Sprinkle with ½ cup or more of blue cheese.  Bake until blue cheese melts.
– Serve atop mixed greens and/or Belgian endive.  Sprinkle reserved dressing on top.
*Serves 6.
**I do plate and serve these.  You could also arrange all on a platter and serve buffet-style.

Mom’s Marinated Tenderloin

½ cup soy sauce
6 T honey
4 T regular vinegar
3 tsp garlic powder
3 tsp ground ginger
1 ½ cup canola oil
2 green onions, chopped
3-4 lb. Beef tenderloin

– Combine all of the above ingredients in a shallow pan or Ziploc bag.  Refrigerate overnight, at least 12 hours.
– Remove from refrigerator and let come to room temperature.
– Bake 350, basting until medium.
– Remove and let the beef rest before slicing.
*Alternately, you can refrigerate the cooked meat, slice it the next day, and serve on a platter with small butter buns.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potato Casserole

5 pounds baking potatoes, such as Russet, Idaho
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, cut into chunks, at room temperature
1 cup sour cream
1/2 cup or so of milk, heated
1/2 teaspoon pepper (eyeball)
Chopped fresh chives or parsley, optional

From “Thanksgiving 101,” by Rick Rodgers
– For a lighter version, replace sour cream with a reduced-fat version and cream cheese with Neufchatel cheese.
– FILL a large pot halfway with cold water. Peel potatoes, cut into chunks about 1 1/2 inches square, and drop them into the pot. Add more cold water to cover potatoes by 1 to 2 inches.
– Boil the potatoes until fork-tender, 20 minutes or more.
– DRAIN potatoes well and return to the warm pot. Add cream cheese. Using a hand-held mixer, mash the potatoes until the cream cheese melts. Beat in the sour cream and milk. Season with 1 teaspoon salt and the pepper. Dot with butter and sprinkle with paprika, if desired.  Transfer to a buttered 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Cool completely. Cover tightly with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for up to 1 day.
– PREHEAT oven to 375 degrees. Bake casserole until potatoes are heated through, 30 to 40 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with chives.
*Yield: 8-12 servings

Let us know what you think! Enjoy!