farewell festive foods…hello 2011.

Holiday time 2010 was just fabulous.  I was able to visit with so many loved ones and celebrate the season in different ways.  But, oh my.  My jeans are fitting a lot tighter, and I’m actually relieved for the start of 2011 and getting back on track with healthy eating.  I have never seen so many cookies, whoopie pies, truffles, candies, rum balls, hot cocoa…whew.  I get a sugar crash just thinking about that list.  As I’ve told you before, I’m not much for the sweets.  Unless those sweets involve bacon.  Yes, bacon.  Above is a picture of our chocolate dipped bacon with hazelnuts.  We were invited to a “Decadence Party” on Christmas night.  The way we figured it, there isn’t anything more decadent than chocolate, bacon, and nuts together.  All right- I’ll admit it.  I have a soft spot for bacon.  Our wedding cake was even a chocolate bacon cake. 

Yes, those are candied bacon bows.  Thanks to the brilliance of our talented and generous friend, Emily. 

Aside from celebrating with bacon, I always like to be festive and fun when it comes to food.  So, this year for Christmas Eve dinner, we made barbeque ribs with broccoli rice casserole.  Red and green.  : )  Both dishes brought back great family memories for Adam and I.  The original recipe for the BBQ sauce was my grandmother’s, and one often made by my mom throughout my childhood.  We have tweaked it over the years to add a bit more depth and kick, but the basics are still the same.  For Adam, the broccoli rice casserole was a classic in his home involving cream of fill in the blank soup and loads of cheese.  Not the healthiest dish, but a splurge for Christmas Eve dinner. 

For us, the beginning of a great rack of ribs is a serious dry rub.  I opened my cabinet and started pulling out all things smoky, sweet, and hot, plus granulated garlic and onion, dried oregano, and lots of salt and pepper.  This is one of those times when I made more of the spice mixture than I needed so that I can utilize it several more times before I have to recreate it.

While I spiced things up, Adam pulled off the membrane from under the rack of ribs,

and we cut it in half so it would fit in our pan.  Then we rubbed it down with a generous helping of the dry rub seasonings.

We let the rub set for a few hours before taking any more steps, imparting the first layer of flavor to the ribs.

That gave us plenty of time to build our barbeque sauce.

Maybe your family has a traditional barbeque sauce.  It probably has a bunch of these ingredients in it too.

Like so many sauces, soups, and other dishes, I started by sweating onions.  I’ve found that some of my clients don’t love onions, and I used to feel the same way.  However, as I have grown into a passionate and competent home cook, I appreciate the sweetness, girth, and depth of flavor that onions have to offer. 

Once the onions were soft, I added garlic and then all of the other ingredients.  That’s the real beauty of this sauce.  Everything in the pot at once.  Easy peasy.  And then, it just has to simmer for a while.

I always make a big batch of my barbeque sauce and freeze some to make BBQ shrimp or BBQ chicken in a matter of minutes on a busy weeknight.

While the sauce simmered and all the sweet, spicy, hot and tangy notes mingled together, we worked on the broccoli casserole.  Do you use the stems of your broccoli?  If you don’t, I hope you’ll try it!  The stems have a great taste and texture, and incorporating them into your meals will only stretch your dollar further.  We cut all of the broccoli into bite sized pieces, which is important for even cooking.

Adam mixed the florets and stems with a seasoned creamy mixture of deliciousness and combined that with our long grain brown wild rice. 

And then, you may want to look away here.  Remember- this a holiday indulgence- my husband topped it with lots of cheese.

Yup.  That’s a jack cheese mohawk right down the middle. 

We cooked our ribs at 425 for an hour before the first coating of sauce.  Then we turned the heat down and basted the rack with the sauce every fifteen minutes.  Eventually, they reached their beautiful saucy, tender rib destiny.

We plated our ribs up with a serving of this childhood memory.

My goodness.  The mixture of sweet, salty, tangy, spicy, creamy and cheesy all came together.  Merry Christmas to us.

‘Twas the night before Christmas and all in our house had a belly full of goodness.  The flavors were bright and lively.  The textures were tender and soft, but heightened by the crispy bark, or outside crust, of the ribs.  Success.

The eating had really just begun…

Christmas dinner was like a smaller version of Thanksgiving, but on this beautiful table.

We were surrounded by good friends and folks who feel like family. 

I hope you are still reflecting on your holiday adventures like we are- winding down on this Sunday night.  I hope you’re full and ready to buckle down and eat simple, fresh, delicious foods.  Your body is longing for them, as is mine. And I promise to share many healthful, inspiring dishes in the year to come.

Happy New Year, friends.  Thanks for reading.



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