Turn up the Twinkle Factor

Close your eyes and let visions of white begin to dance in your heads. We’ve got another classic movie party inspiration guaranteed to make your next ring-a-ding-shindig shine as bright as a thousand Christmas lights!

Welcome to Pine Tree, Vermont

Hearing Bing Crosby croon White Christmas instantly puts us in the mood for hot cocoa and a warm fire. But you don’t have to just dream about the perfect holiday: by incorporating soft textures, a little shimmy-shimmer, and lots of white, you can create your own glamorous and idyllic wonderland.

In the movie, Wallace (Crosby) and Davis (Danny Kaye) bring their entire Broadway show to Pine Tree, Vermont, to help save their beloved General’s inn. And while you won’t need to make room for a cast of hundreds, you’ll want enough space to keep your guests entertained, which starts with your seating. The Bianca two-piece sectional is a fantastic fit for our all-white theme, with a sleek outline that adds design interest and a swanky feel. For a more fluid look, try the Nero two-piece sectional from ROMA. This Art Van Furniture exclusive is also upholstered in white leather, and we like the way the chaise’s round end gives you an unexpected seating spot. Invite a couple of arm chairs to join in and you’ve got a conversation hot spot. Your guests will also get a kick out of the convenient and unique Pantinoire Collection. The versatile nesting tables give you a large and small surface, while the sofa table can easily be turned into a serving station.

Now the movie is also a love story, so make sure the fireplace is going strong so couples can snuggle on the sofa underneath plush white blankets. Keep good cheer flowing all night long by turning a sideboard into a makeshift bar area and serve signature drinks that relate to the movie like Irving Berlin Eggnog or Clooney Cranberry Coolers, so that at the end of the movie everyone can raise their glass and jovially sing, May your days be merry and bright; and may all your Christmases be white.

Serve up one of Annabel Cohen’s palate party pleasers and you may find it hard to get your guests to leave!

Eggnog

There are many recipe for eggnog – I like this one because it’s creamy and mellow with touch of cinnamon.

4 large egg yolks

1/2 cup sugar

2 cups whole milk

1/4 cup rum, brandy, cognac, whiskey or bourbon

1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp. freshly grated nutmeg

1 cup heavy whipping cream

Combine yolks and 1/3-cup sugar in a large mixing bowl and whisk until well blended. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat, combine the milk, cream, cinnamon and nutmeg and bring just to a boil, whisking frequently. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk a ladleful of the hot milk mixture into the egg yolk mixture. Gradually whisk the egg yolk mixture into the hot milk mixture. Chill until cool.

In another bowl, whip the cream soft peaks.  Fold or whisk cream into the milk mixture. Serve cold. Makes 8 servings.

Clooney Cranberry Coolers

1 can (6 ounces) frozen pink lemonade concentrate, thawed

1 can (6 ounces) frozen limeade concentrate, thawed

4 cups cranberry (or cranberry-raspberry) juice cocktail, chilled

1 liter ginger ale

Fresh lemon and lime slices

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl or pitcher. Serve chilled or over ice. Makes 12 or more servings.

Cozy Tomato Cheddar Cider Fondue

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 tsp. minced garlic

1 cup finely chopped (or petite diced) drained canned tomatoes

1/4 cup apple cider

1 Tbsp. cornstarch

4 cups finely grated Cheddar cheese

Heat olive oil and garlic in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the tomatoes and cook until much of the liquid of the tomatoes is absorbed. Dissolve the cornstarch in the cider and add the pan. Slowly stir in the cheese (a handful at a time) until melted. Keep warm (do not boil!). Serve with fresh French bread cubes.  Makes 8-12 servings

Please Sir, I want some more.

We hope you’re enjoying our holiday series and finding some great party and decorating ideas for your next soiree. There was just so much information in yesterday’s “Dickens” post. that we weren’t able to share all of food, travel, and lifestyle writer extraordinaire Annabel Cohen’s tasty treats. So, buckle up your taste buds for a palate advtenture of epic portions!

Yorkshire Pudding

1 1/2 cups flour                                            3/4  tsp. salt

3/4 cup whole milk                                        3 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup water                                                1/2 cup beef drippings (or vegetable oil)

Combine flour and salt together in the large bowl. Using an electric mixer, mix in the milk and eggs. Add water and beat again until the mixture is frothy. Allow to rest for an hour.

Preheat oven to 400°F.  Spray a 9×13 well with nonstick cooking spray. Pour the drippings or oil into melted butter into baking dish and return to the oven. Let the baking dish heat in then oven for 10-minutes. Open the oven and without removing the pan, pour the batter into the pan and bake for 25-30 minutes until puffy and golden. Serve immediately, cutting into squares as your serve. Makes 8-12 servings. 

Lamb Vegetable Soup

1 1/2 pound boneless lamb meat cut into 1–inch cubes (you can use stew meat)

1/4 cup flour                                             2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chopped onion                                2 tsp. minced garlic

2 cups beef broth or water                        1 cup 1/4-inched diced red bell pepper

1/2 cup chopped celery                              1 Tbsp. dried parsley flakes

1 tsp. dried thyme                                     1 tsp. dried rosemary

1 tsp. dried mint                                       2 cups diced potatoes, any variety

1 tsp. salt                                                  1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper

1/2 cup uncooked orzo                                1 cup frozen peas, thawed

2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice

Toss the lamb and flour together in a large bowl.

Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Brown the lamb on all sides (you may have to do this in batches). Remove the meat to dish and set aside. To the same pot, add a little more oil in the pot if there is none remaining and add the onions and garlic and sauté for a few minutes until the vegetables are softened.  Add the meat back to the pot and stir in the broth.

Add the peppers, celery, parsley, thyme, rosemary and mint, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and more water if needed to cover the potatoes and bring to a boil again. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes more.

Add the orzo, peas and additional salt and pepper to taste and cook for 30 minutes more. Ensure that the lamb is tender (if not, continue to simmer until the lamb is tender).  Adjust salt and pepper to taste and stir in the lemon juice. Serve hot. Makes 8 or more servings.

Get Your Dickens On!

The holidays seem to arrive earlier each year, with decorations emerging weeks before Halloween candy even gets passed out. And that means most of us will be busier than an elf on December 24 trying to get everything done. To help reduce the season’s “stresstivities,” we’ve chosen a classic film to serve as inspiration for your next social gathering of family and friends.                      

A Spirited Good Time

Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol is a perennial family favorite, and no matter which version you love, the holidays just wouldn’t be the same without Scrooge or Tiny Tim. At the heart of the story is the message about second chances, but we’re also hooked on the way it captures the quintessential old-fashioned English Christmases: Victorian-styled buildings covered in snow, carolers softly singing in the streets, and lively gatherings with loved ones.  Enjoying your own version of a Dickens Christmas is simple, and you can start by making sure all Bah, Humbugs! get left at the door.

Remember at the end of the film when a newly-transformed Scrooge shows up at his nephew’s house for dinner and all the fun that follows? Have your guests gather around for a sit-down spread and cover the table with stemmed glassware, gilded plates, and gleaming silver.  Think turkey legs, cranberry sauce, bountiful breads, and hearty soup (not gruel) — and don’t forget to save enough space for everyone!  The Antoinette table opens up to a remarkable 120 inches, with a rich walnut finish highlighting the detailed carved moldings that are also mirrored on the exquisite side and arm chairs.

When you’re done feasting, grab some popcorn and settle in to watch the film. Turn off the lights and burn some candles to set the somber mood. To really make your guests feel like they’re in the movie, dial back the thermostat and take the fireplace from a roaring blaze to just barely breathing — and have some fingerless gloves and scarves close by to hand out. Add an interactive element to your viewing by encouraging your guests to shout out their favorite lines, or every time you hear the word “goose,” give someone nearby a good-natured pinch. And by the time Tiny Tim utters, God bless us, every one!—each person will be filled with their own version of peace on earth.

Raise a glass and toast your fellow revelers with mouth-watering recipes from food, travel and lifestyle writer, Annabel Cohen. Recently Annabel was featured as “Detroit’s Ultimate Food Writer” on the Travel Channel’s Food Wars and was the deciding judge comparing Detroit landmarks Lafayette Coney Island and American Coney Island.

Mulled Wine

One bottle red wine             1 orange, peeled and sliced

1/4 cup  brandy                    8 whole cloves

2/3 cup honey                      2 cinnamon sticks

1-inch piece of fresh gingerroot, peeled

Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan over medium heat and bring to a simmer (do not boil). Cook for 20-minutes. Keep warm until ready to serve. Makes 6 servings.

Roast Goose

1 fresh goose (about 12 pounds), neck and giblets removed, but reserved

Olive oil                                                    Kosher salt and pepper

1 whole small apple                                   1 whole small onion

1 orange, cut into 4 wedges                      1 celery stalk, cut into 2-inch pieces

1 cup boiling water                                    1 cup dry white wine

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Cut away the loose fat from goose (usually around the neck area) reserve for another use). Rinse goose inside and out, and pat dry with paper towel. Prick the goose all over with a fork and rub the skin with olive oil and season inside and out with salt and pepper.

Place the apple, onion, orange and celery in the cavity. Use cotton kitchen twine or string to tie the legs together (at the “ankles). Transfer goose, breast side up, to a rack set in roasting pan. Pur the water and wine into the pan. Arrange the neck and giblets in the pan.  Roast the goose for 30-minutes.

Reduce temperature to 325°F. Roast goose for about 20-minutes per pound, basting with pan juices every 20 minutes. After 1 hour, turn the goose over in the roaster (I wear heavy rubber gloves to turn the bird over). The goose is done with juices should run nearly clear when thigh is pierced with a knife or skewer). Turn oven off, crack the oven door open and allow the turkey to rest for 20-minutes before transferring goose (turn over please) to a large platter (heated if possible), carving and serving, discarding the fruits and vegetables in the cavity.