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Holiday Entertaining

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Stuffed Portobella's


    I still remember the first time I tasted a large portobella mushroom used more as the base of a dish rather than an ingredient in it. I was not too adventurous when it came to food at the time, but I was struck with how the lowly mushroom had been transformed and elevated! I have seen restaurant entrees that use these brown beauties in place of a hamburger bun. That is genius really when you think about it.

    Today we are not going to wrap a portobella mushroom around a piece of meat. What we are going to do is create a real work of art with a portobella stuffed mushroom cap. You're gonna love this one.

    They look like earthenware bowls, don't they?! What's inside them is even more nutritious than the container tho. Think super greens combined with onion, pine nuts, feta and couscous, scooped inside. This doesn't have any meat in it whatsoever, but you'll definitely need a knife and fork to eat it.

    Can you picture it next to the Roasted Vegetable Lasagna that we featured yesterday? I think these would make a fantastic accompaniment. You can find the recipe and all the instructions here.

    Get ready to dig in, these are fantastic.

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Roasted Vegetable Lasagna!

    One of the things I like the most about planning a vegetarian Christmas meal is the fact that we get to go outside the box a little. Traditionally a Christmas dinner meal would include ham or turkey as the main meat dish. Even in Italian families, the pasta dishes are rarely the star of the show. Today, since we already have permission to break the mold, we are featuring a sumptuous roasted vegetable lasagna and we're going to place it at the center of the meal.

    RoastedVegetableLasagnaslidEven tho this is quite non-traditional, it contains some very traditional Italian lasagna ingredients. It is most noticeably without meat of any kind. In its place tho is some roasted goodness that will really broaden your lasagna horizons. I bet you didn't know you even had lasagna horizons, did you? It is, nonetheless, fact. You do. :)

    You'll still have the savory cheese mixture in each layer,  and you'll even still have the long lasagna noodles to divide the layers. It's the other fillings that will have you smacking your lips and going back for more, tho.

    So, if you dare to step outside the traditional fare for the Christmas meal, check out this pretty simple recipe here for a real vegetarian treat.


  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Green Bean Salad with Basil, Parmesan, Shallots, and Balsamic

    Hello, and welcome back to Merry Stockings blog where we talk all year long about all things Christmas! Some people ask me if it's difficult to write about Christmas throughout the whole year, and really, it's not hard at all. I love everything there is about Christmas and all the festivities and cheer that go along with it. And, besides, there's sooo much to talk about!

    We've been unpacking our very vegetarian Christmas meal now for a couple of weeks, and we're not even at the main course yet! Like I said, there is SO much to share, it's easy to get carried away. And, if you happen to be reading this in the "off" season (I know, no such thing) then you are tucking all these ideas away in the your Christmas notebook for future use. If you happen to be reading this during the Christmas holiday season, well, this is for you too! As we say in our house, it's never too early or late to start planning for Christmas!

    green bean saladWe continue today into the vegetable sides portion of our vegetarian Christmas meal. Growing up the big traditional veggie dish was the green bean casserole. Oftentimes that has bacon in it, but today's entry will have you forgetting all about your mama's green bean casserole. And, you're gonna love it.

    When I was just out of college, my idea of eating a vegetable like cauliflower was to bread it, deep fry it and then smother it in cheese sauce. Hey, I was eating cauliflower, right?! Well, my taste buds have grown up, and I must say, there is not a thing I can think of that parmesan cheese does not improve upon.  And, this goes for green beans, too. Considered a staple vegetable on most American tables, it can stand a little sprucing up, no?

    Well, sprucing up we will do then! Close your eyes and imagine crispy cooked brilliantly green green beans tossed in a light sauce that includes shallots, basil, olive oil and parmesan cheese. It is utterly divine. Now, open your eyes and go here for the recipe. You will not be sorry, promise.

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Warm Beet Salad

    beet-salad-citrusI have only learned to like beets in the past year. Growing up we only had the canned, pickled kind that served as our salad. Hmmm. I choked them down with lots of milk or iced tea, but once I got out on my own, beets never found their way into my menus. That is, until I tasted them roasted! OMG, there is seriously some magic that happens in the oven with beets.

    Today's contribution to our very vegetarian Christmas meal is a colorful, nutritious beet salad. It's always a good idea to have your basic greens salad, everyone loves that, but including this warm beet and citrus combo into your repertoire will have your guests believing you are a true gourmet chef. And, really, again, the ingredients do most of the heavy lifting. I promise you, you won't be spending hours slaving over this one.

    This salad is not only vegetarian, it is also vegan and gluten free, a total WIN. And, it looks so elegant, doesn't it?! The citrus vinaigrette that is drizzled over the top is the bright finishing touch, and if you have some left over it's also great over chicken or fish....or sweet potatoes! You can find the recipe for the salad and dressing here.

    If you are a beet hater, you might want to try this one. You will be doing your body a huge favor and I think your mouth will agree.

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Curry & Maple Sweet Potato Soup

    curry_maple_sweet_potato_soupAre you a soup person? We tend, like most, to gravitate toward soup in the cooler months, but I know people who love soup year round. Even in hot weather, ending the day with a warm bowl of soup seems just right. We always make big batches so that we not only have enough for lunch the next day, but also have enough to put up several single serving jars in the freezer.

    In our series this month into a vegetarian-style Christmas dinner, we've learned about Roasted Red Beet Hummus, Holiday Jalapeno Poppers, and Pear & Gorgonzola Puff Pastry Squares. Last time we started on the soup/salad category with a yummy Potato Leek Soup, and since soup is such a great course to include in your Christmas meal I offer you today another very warm and savory soup ~ Curry & Maple Sweet Potato Soup.

    We have grown to love sweet potatoes in our house. Finding out they have so much nutritional value has moved this starch out of the only-for-Thanksgiving category, and into the every week category. Sometimes it's as simple as cutting the sweet potato into round discs, sprinkling with cinnamon and baking, and other times we get into a soup like today's recipe. I think it will make a fabulous addition to our very vegetarian Christmas meal. In fact, this recipe will also put a smile on the faces of your vegan friends and family too.

    Combining the natural sweet and rich flavor of a sweet potato with warm spices like curry, nutmeg and cloves make such a delightful combination, too. Your whole house will be a place you'll never want to leave, and I bet your guests will feel the same way. There is something about these warm spices that instantly conjures up a warm and cozy feeling.

    You can find the recipe for this simple soup here.

    Stay warm!

  • A Very Vegetarian Christmas ~ Appetizer #3

    I have been a long time fan of savory appetizers ~ you know, garlic and brie, bruschetta, and holiday poppers to name a few. There is nothing like a deep and satisfying savory taste to prepare your palate for the scrumptious main meal. But, what if we could introduce a bit of sweet along with the savory? I think it might be simply delightful.

    ecolove_peargorgonzolabitesContinuing with our very vegetarian Christmas meal ideas, I've got something really special for you today. Let's take a bit of Gorgonzola (savory) and a bit of pear (sweet), and put those on top of a puff pastry square (delicious). And, then what if we topped it all with walnuts that have been glazed in a riesling carmel drizzle (savory and sweet)? Is your mouth watering? Do you think that would go over with your guests?

    Not only does it taste light and sweet and savory all at once, the puff pastry is just such an elegant base. When you add the crunch of the glazed walnuts, the pronounced depth of flavor in this appetizer is quite striking. You can get the exact recipe and all the instructions right here.

    While this recipe doesn't qualify as vegan, it definitely will please both your vegetarian and omnivore guests alike. You may want to make a double or triple batch of this one, I have a feeling it's going to disappear right before your eyes.

    TIP: Some puff pastry has trans fat in it, but the Trader Joe's brand is pure! No need to add the bad stuff in when you've got such a winning mix of other ingredients, right? Hooray for Trader Joe's!

    Photo and recipe courtesy

  • Roasted Garlic and Baked Brie

    roasted garlic 2

    It doesn't matter how old you get, sometimes you just have to learn some lessons the hard way. I have decided that I simply have to stop saying "there is no better combination than . . . " when it comes to brie cheese.  This is getting crazy, I'm going to have to make brie cheese it's very own section in my Christmas notebook recipes!

    In honor of my self-declared Brie Cheese Week, I bring you yet another delectable brie cheese recipe.  Unlike the recipe I posted yesterday than can serve as either an appetizer OR a dessert, today's recipe is clearly defined as an appetizer, through and through, to the moon and back, appetizer.  Garlic, altho not impossible to flavor a dessert with it, is your classic appetizer ingredient, but today it is the star of the show. Brie will just have to take second place today I guess.

    I have a good friend who loves to serve appetizers before dinner, even on weeknights when nobody is coming over. One of her all-time favorites (and go-to recipes in a pinch) is roasted garlic. Popping several heads of garlic in the oven to roast and serving them with crackers, well there is just nothing better. Ooops, there I did it again. Let's just say that this is another to-die-for recipes that you really don't want to miss.

    Combine the mellow, sweet flavor of roasted garlic with some baked brie and your family and/or guests will be encouraging you to start your own cooking show, it is THAT good. I had roasted garlic with baked brie on a date with my oldest son once, and it forever changed my mind about eating garlic straight up. Garlic is one of those ingredients that is almost completely transformed when it's baked. The cloves become soft and spreadable, and the flavor is smoky and mellow and sweet. It is still advisable, however, that if you are with your honey to both partake. :)

    You can find all the to-do's here. The fruit chutney is a nice addition and makes the dish look very Christmas-y, but trust me, it's just as fantastic without it.

    Happy Brie Cheese Week!

    Photo courtesy

  • Honey Nut Glazed Brie

    honey nut glazed brie

    I've decided that this is Brie Cheese Week. Since our dinner appetizer last night and the post I wrote about it, I have discovered just way too many mouth watering things you can do with brie. If you've ever had brie, I'm suspecting that there'll be no complaints over spending a few posts on this creamy, melty, sinfully delicious cheese.

    I didn't think there'd be any better combination than brie, puff pastry and raspberry sauce, but I gotta admit that the sound of walnuts and honey might be hard to beat. The great thing about this "appetizer" recipe is that it can either be an appetizer OR a dessert. I love recipes like that!

    Spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg and served over granny smith apple slices, this would not only make a fantastic share-able Christmas contribution to a party, but in the fall months it could cheer just about anyone up with the summer-is-gone blues. Garnished with red and green grapes, this recipe is not just delicious but also so very pretty to look at!

    You can find the base recipe here, but I encourage you to make a couple of minor changes to make it extra special. First, use Kerrygold butter instead of the "butter spread", and before pouring the spiced walnuts over the top, pop the cheese into the microwave or oven to get it hot so it's melty and gooey. Believe me, when it comes to cheese, there is nothing better than melty, gooey brie! I guarantee you will NOT be sorry about these change, they will improve the flavor immensely!

    Happy Brie Cheese Week!


    Photo courtesy

  • Cranberry Brie Appetizer

    The huzz and I just got home from a fun dinner date at Crave, a popular restaurant here in the twin cities. It's located right next to our favorite theater, but interestingly enough we've only been there one other time. So, we thought it'd be the perfect place to revisit tonight for our weekly date night. And, we were definitely not disappointed.

    We started the night off with a Baked Brie in Puff Pastry appetizer. Oh Lordy, was it ever melty and gooey and delicious. I thought briefly how great this would be made miniature style and served at a holiday party, or really any party any time of year. I do have a couple of quick and easy go-to appetizer recipes that I can put together in just a few minutes, but today I want to share with you this delectable brie finger food that is sure to please even your pickiest guest.


    While it is true that anything made with brie cheese is simply amazing, these babies are like a melty, tart, buttery party in your mouth. And, they aren't too bad on the eyes either ~ just look at them! Is your mouth salivating like mine is? The appetizer that the huzz and I had tonight was more like a popover in puff pastry with brie in the middle. They served it with whole cranberries on the side. Now, I'm not complaining one bit about what we had, but I gotta admit that these cute little gems are dancing around in my head tonight. And, I'm so full!

    You can find the recipe for these adorbs apps right HERE. You can thank me later. Just make sure that you save some for the guests!

  • Christmas Morning French Toast For a Crowd

    Christmas french toast bakeThe name of the game on Christmas morning for this girl is simplicity. Especially when there is family in from out of town, a dozen kids sleeping over, and adults up late the night before still assembling toys . . . complicated just will not do.

    Here's a French Toast Bake that is quick, easy and will have your family eating out of your hand. Since this is a Christmas blog, we're touting this recipe as perfect for the King of all celebratory days ~ Christmas Day ~ but really, this recipe is fabulous any time of year when you have lotsa mouths to feed early in the morning. Best part? You put it together the night before, refrigerate, then just pop it into the oven in the morning! It cooks while you sip coffee in front of the Christmas tree. :)

    This recipe in it's original version, however, was a sugar bomb. Being the health freak that I am, I just couldn't recommend it when you're  feeding the people you love the most. But, do not fear, I've made some healthy tweaks so now it can be enjoyed freely!

    • 1/4 cup melted butter
    • 1 cup coconut nectar sugar
    • 1 loaf of thickly sliced bread
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 1/2 cup milk
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • Powdered sugar for sprinkling
    • Cinnamon for sprinkling
    • Raw honey
    1. Melt butter in microwave & stir in the coconut sugar.
    2. Pour butter/sugar mix into bottom of 9 x 13 pan....spread around.
    3. Beat eggs, milk, & vanilla, and set aside. Cut off the crust of the bread (your kids will adore you for this).
    4. Lay single slices of bread in pan, and spoon half of the egg mixture over the bread, topping with cinnamon
    5. Add second layer of bread, and spoon on remainder of the egg mixture.
    6. Cover and chill over night.
    7. Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Remove foil for the last 15 minutes.
    8. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with melted raw honey.


    Photo courtesy and recipe adapted from:


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