Christmas

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses and Vanilla Pecan Butter

I was not always a fan of brussels sprouts. Let’s face it, they can be bitter, every children’s cartoon depicts them as a the grossest food there is and when you eat one you’re basically eating a miniature head of cabbage. If you have previously had a bad brussels experience and written them out of your meal repertoire then these pomegranate molasses brussels sprouts will make you a believer. A full-blown brussels believer.

That’s my gift to you and your families this holiday season. The best gifts are those you didn’t know you needed. I bet you didn’t list “the love of brussels sprouts” on your holiday wish list, but you are going to taste these and say, “Wow, best gift of the season. No one can top this.” You’re welcome.

The tenderness of the brussels sprouts pairs perfectly with the crunchy pomegranate seeds. The lime and orange zests perk the dish up and help provide a nice contrast to the sweetness from the vanilla pecan butter. Speaking of the vanilla pecan butter, now this stuff is tasty. Mixing a couple tablespoons of it into the roasted brussels sprouts adds sweetness from the vanilla, texture from the toasted pecans and richness from the butter.

You will have leftover vanilla pecan butter from this recipe and you will definitely be happy about that once you spread it on some warm pumpkin pancakes. Don’t forget about the brussels sprouts in all your excitement though! Serve this festive side dish this holiday season and everyone at your table will be asking for seconds of the brussels sprouts. Now who thought that would ever happen?

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pomegranate Molasses and Vanilla Pecan Butter
 
Yield: 4 servings
Ingredients
  • ¼ cup pecans
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
  • Seeds scraped from 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 pound brussels sprouts, trimmed
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 shallot, sliced in thin strips
  • 3 tablespoons pomegranate molasses
  • ⅓ cup pomegranate seeds, about ⅓ of a pomegranate
  • 1 lime, zested
  • 1 tablespoons orange zest
  • Salt and pepper
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Evenly spread the pecans on a baking sheet and place in the oven until toasted, about 5 minutes. Once toasted, remove from the oven then chop once cool.
  3. In a small bowl combine the butter and vanilla bean seeds then add the pecans. Stir until combined. Cover and refrigerate the vanilla pecan butter until ready to serve the brussels sprouts.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  5. Line a medium roasting pan with aluminum foil. Add the brussels sprouts then toss with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, or until lightly golden brown.
  6. While the brussels sprouts are in the oven heat a small skillet over medium heat. Sauté the shallot until caramelized. Set aside.
  7. Remove the pan from the oven then pour the pomegranate molasses over the brussels sprouts. Stir to combine then return the pan to the oven for 10 more minutes, or until tender.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven. Move the brussels sprouts with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl then add the pomegranate seeds, sautéed shallots, lime zest and orange zest. Top with a tablespoon or two of the vanilla pecan butter before serving.
Notes
*Store the extra vanilla pecan butter in the fridge. Perfect on pancakes or other yummy treats I will share later this season.
*To trim the brussels sprouts peel off the few outer dark leaves then carefully trim the stem. Be sure not to trim it too much or the sprouts will fall apart.

Recipe slightly adapted from Bobby Flay.

Baked Crab Dip

When I was younger my extended family had a big Christmas party every year. There were gingerbread house contests, karaoke, full-family renditions of “The Twelve Days of Christmas,” and even a visit from Santa. A Christmas gathering still happens every year, but now that my generation of “kids” are older between work, distance and college, not everyone is able to make it, including myself this year. Even though I can’t be there I will certainly be thinking of all my family, especially my cousins, and how I’m amazed we ever ended up with actual gingerbread houses considering how much of the candy and frosting supplies we used to consume.

 

Being the food-obsessed person I have been all my life I will be missing all the family favorites everyone cooks each year. Last year my cousin had the fabulous idea of creating a cookbook of all our family recipes so now I have all the tasty traditions right on my bookshelf. Although it’s not as special to have the food without my whole family around, it still tastes every bit as delicious.

One of my absolute favorites is my Aunt Georgia’s crab dip. I could eat an entire bowl of this cheesy, creamy appetizer. You can serve it with crackers, but I love it with slices of crusty bread. Perfect for any holiday party since it’s incredibly easy and can be made ahead. Oh and did I mention that waiting for the bubbling cheese to cool down enough so I don’t burn my tongue makes me drool with anticipation? There’s been a lot of drooling on Lemon & Mocha lately; I would apologize, but then cheesy goodness like this dip might not make an appearance so I’m sure you will let it slide.

Baked Crab Dip
 
Ingredients
  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • ½ cup light sour cream
  • 8 ounces lump crab
  • 1 tablespoon mayonaise
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl combine all the ingredients except the cheddar cheese.
  3. Lightly coat a casserole dish or cast iron skillet with cooking spray and add the crab mixture.
  4. Evenly spread the cheddar cheese over the top of the crab mixture.
  5. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Serve warm with slices of crusty bread or buttered crackers.

 

World’s Smoothest Chocolate Fudge

It’s official, holiday season is well underway. Decorations have taken over the stores, holiday party invitations have been received and here in New England it has been absolutely frigid. As ridiculous as I believe it is that the grocery store had Christmas themed candy on November 1st I am definitely guilty of early holiday enthusiasm including Christmas shopping and streaming my holiday music playlist well before Thanksgiving. Whether you are having trouble getting into the holiday spirit or you’ve been humming Christmas carols since August this fudge is sure to get you excited.

This here is the world’s smoothest fudge. I am allowed to make this claim because I have tried every fudge ever made across the globe including the one your grandma made last year. Although it was tasty, it does not hold a title quite like this one. Surprisingly simple, this fudge uses condensed milk instead of granulated sugar to lend to its smooth texture. The simplicity, delightfulness and versatility of this fudge recipe makes it a great holiday gift idea for family, friends, coworkers, neighbors and yourself. After you make this recipe and taste the rich chocolate you will be very torn. Part of you will want to keep it all to yourself because it’s habit forming. But part of you will want to give it all away because, well it’s habit forming and then we would have to add new pants to our holiday wish list. So make some, have some and spread the chocolately love.

One variation is to add chopped walnuts to the fudge. This is how my stepmom usually makes it, but she always leaves some without for me since I don’t like nuts interfering with my chocolate experience. However, I have some exciting variations I’m experimenting with so I will be sure to share in plenty of time for you to make this holiday season. Go and make this chocolate fudge now so you are ready to handle the dangerously delicious novelties I’ll have for you in a couple weeks.

 

Worlds's Smoothest Chocolate Fudge
 
Ingredients
  • 1 ounce Baker's unsweetened baking chocolate
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • One 12 ounce bag semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • One 14 ounce can Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
Directions
  1. Line an 8" x 8" pan with wax paper and set aside.
  2. Melt butter and the baking chocolate square in a double boiler over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Pour in half the bag of chocolate chips and stir with a heatproof rubber spatula to help melt. Once partially melted add the rest of the bag of chocolate chips and stir until fully melted.
  4. Carefully stir in the condensed milk to combine and remove from the heat. Stir in the vanilla.
  5. Pour the chocolate mixture into the prepared pan and smooth the top with the spatula.
  6. Refrigerate until the fudge is set then cut into bite size pieces. Best eaten straight from the fridge.
Notes
Variation: Add ½ cup chopped walnuts right before pouring chocolate mixture into the pan.