Uncooked macaroni and cheese to the left, cooked to the right.
Creamy macaroni and cheese. I can’t think of many things that look less appetizing than shredded cheddar, cottage cheese, and cold milk mixed with dry pasta. It is white and lumpy with yellow elbows swimming about. But I put my faith in Julia Moskin and the 1,500 people that gave this recipe a 5 star review and was rewarded. The effort is minimal, and the output intensely cheesy. Those 1,500 people were on to something.
Roasted squash and radicchio salad. Luisa waxes poetic about this salad, and every word is true. It’s been a while since I made Delicata squash and I think it needs to be in the rotation more. The flesh is dense and a really nice texture. I used the smoked paprika but I would definitely try smoked chili powder next time. I also didn’t want to buy a whole container of buttermilk to use a third of a cup, so I used some yogurt and thinned it out more with additional lemon juice and olive oil.
Cashew morning buns (from Baking with Less Sugar, pictured at top). I lay awake worrying about these, because I decided to let them rise overnight in the fridge in the “goo” and thought I made a terrible mistake and I would wake up with bloated buns. But the buns rose as they should have and baked up nice and golden. The “frosting” is in the bottom of the pan as they bake, and it reduces into a perfect goo. Oh also I forgot the cashews that were supposed to go in these and didn’t realize until Christmas Eve so they became mixed nut buns and worked out fine. I think I’m ready to claim these for a Christmas morning tradition.
Superb pork loin boldly cooked with bay and vinegar with mashed potatoes and celeriac (from Jamie Oliver’s Great Britain). I think Jamie oversold this a bit, but it was still an easy main to put together with good flavor. I forgot my meat thermometer that goes in the meat as it cooks at home and should have taken it out earlier (which I didn’t think was necessary because my loin was 1.5 lbs heavier than the recipe called for). So it was a little more done than I prefer, but still a flavorful pork.
Lacinato kale gratin. This was a last minute decision and definitely is correctly dubbed a “genius recipe” by Food52. Insanely easy and super good. The crispy bits of sharp cheddar on top with the crunchy kale were the best part. (served with the pork above for Christmas dinner)
Cabbage, celeriac, and apple salad with pomegranate and lemon vinaigrette (inspired by this white salad). I used about 2 pounds of cabbage, one peeled celeriac and 2 apples: all finely shredded. I juiced 1 lemon and added an equal portion of olive oil with a bit of salt. I dressed everything and topped it with the seeds of a whole pomegranate.
Sticky toffee pudding (from Baking with Less Sugar). This was my first time making and eating sticky toffee pudding, but it was a simple dessert to throw together (the sauce was just three ingredients that needed to be stirred). As I’ve been finding while cooking through this book the desserts aren’t as moist as their sugary counterparts, but they have great flavor and just the right level of sweetness.
Coffee toffee. I almost never make candy, but if I do it is this toffee. You do need a thermometer (not a meat thermometer, those don’t go high enough), but other than that all they take is some stirring and spreading. The hint of molasses and coffee in the toffee cuts the sweetness a bit, the crunch is contrasted with creamy chocolate, and the whole thing is topped off with nuts (which also smartly hide imperfect chocolate spreading).
Chocolate pots de creme (from Baking with Less Sugar). Something was just slightly off to me about these. Maybe they were supposed to be saltier than I like, but honestly I love salt and I tasted more of it that I felt I should. But I brought them into work for a coworker who loves chocolate and hates cake (she didn’t even want one at her wedding) and they went over great.
Dairy free chocolate and nut cookies. I wanted to make a dairy free option to go along with the pots de creme, and these cookies just happened to need 4 egg whites (and the pots needed 4 egg yolks!). They are essentially a very nutty chocolate meringue, and I liked them even more than the pots de creme. Given how much sugar they contain they are not healthy by any means, but an aggressively chocolate cookie that works for some dietary restrictions. (Another great gluten-free option I’ve made are these, but they contain dairy)