In the Kitchen: City Girl-Approved Holiday Recipes

The holidays can be hectic. They’re hectic if you’re hosting, wrapping, shopping, planning or just dressing up for the holidays. But it doesn’t have to be. Sure, you can kill yourself trying to read-up on how to marinate a deep fried turkey with sugarplums enough to feed forty people but wouldn’t just be easier (and perhaps, more fun) to learn how to handle some simple dishes you can bring along to any party? My guess is yes.

Feeling saucy? This dessert should be on everybody's "must have" list this season.
Feeling saucy? This dessert should be on everybody’s “must have” list this season. (Read more here.)

Keep reading for some of the best recipes I’ve found that you can use to impress, family, friends, co-workers, boyfriends, girlfriends (and even yourself) over the course of the next few weeks with suggestions on where & when to use them!

For the B.Y.O.B.: Gingerbread Apple Cocktail

"Say, what's in this drink?" (Photo credit.)
“Say, what’s in this drink…” (Photo credit.)

2 oz. Domaine de Canton// 1 oz. vanilla vodka// 2.5 oz. apple cider// A few drops of lemon juice// Orange zest// Agave syrup

Line a chilled martini glass lightly with agave syrup on a dish followed by spiced graham cracker crumbs. Place all ingredients except for orange zest in a shaker and shake vigorously. Strain into glass. Freshly grate orange zest on drink and serve immediately.*

*Multiply to accommodate a larger crowd and garnish each glass individually.

For the casual gift exchange with friendsCaramelized Onion Tarts with Apples

Because tart basically means flatbread and flatbread is basically pizza and who doesn't like pizza? (Photo credit.)
Because tart basically means flatbread and flatbread is basically pizza and who doesn’t like pizza? (Photo credit.)
2 tablespoons olive oil// 2 medium onions, sliced// 2 red apples (such as Braeburn or Gala), cut into small pieces// kosher salt and black pepper// 2 sheets frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce package), thawed// 1/2 cup creme fraiche or sour cream

Heat oven to 400º F. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Stir in the apples, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until just tender, 2 minutes.

Place each sheet of pastry on a parchment-lined baking sheet and prick all over with a fork. Spread with the crème fraîche, leaving a ½-inch border. Top with the onion mixture and bake until the pastry is crisp and browned, 30 to 35 minutes. Cut into pieces before serving.

For the coffee and dessert get-together: Christmas Trifle

Fewer things are more festive than trifle. (Photo credit.)
Fewer things are more festive than trifle. (Photo credit.)

3 pints raspberries// 1 quart heavy cream// 1/2 cup granulated sugar// 1 teaspoon vanilla extract// 1 large or 2 small store-bought pound cakes, cut into 1 inch pieces// 2 cups lemon curd// 24 ounces frozen sliced peaches, thawed

In a food processor, puree 1 pint of raspberries and strain through a fine mesh sieve, discarding the pulp. Whip heavy cream and slowly add sugar until the cream is silken. Add vanilla extract and raspberry puree and continue whipping, just until combined and soft peaks form. Layer half of the pound cake in the bottom of a large trifle dish. Spread half of the lemon curd over the pound cake. Top the lemon curd with half of the peaches and one pint of raspberries. Dollop half of the whipped cream over the fruit and spread gently.Repeat layers, reserving a few peaches and raspberries for garnish. Chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

For the family gathering: Maple Roasted Sweet Potatoes

This is a side worth sharing. (Photo credit.)
This is a side so worth sharing. (Photo credit.)

2 1/2 pound(s) sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces (about 8 cups)// 1/3 cup(s) pure maple syrup// tablespoon(s) butter, melted//1 tablespoon(s) lemon juice// 1/2 teaspoon(s) salt// Freshly ground pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400°F. Arrange sweet potatoes in an even layer in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. Combine maple syrup, butter, lemon juice, salt and pepper in small bowl. Pour the mixture over the sweet potatoes; toss to coat. Cover and bake the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes. Uncover, stir and cook, stirring every 15 minutes, until  tender and starting to brown, 45 to 50 minutes more.

For game dayCaramelized Onion, Gruyère and Bacon Spread

Like Onion dip? Time to let me upgrade ya. (Photo credit.)
Like Onion dip? Time to let me upgrade ya. (Photo credit.)
Cooking spray// 3 1/2 cups chopped onion// 2 ounces Gruyère cheese, shredded and divided// 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, divided// 1/3 cup canola mayonnaise// 1/3 cup fat-free sour cream// 1/4 teaspoon salt// 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Preheat oven to 425°. Heat a large cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan lightly with cooking spray. Add onion to pan; sauté 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reduce heat to low; cook 20 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Cool slightly. Reserve 2 tablespoons cheese. Combine remaining cheese, caramelized onion, 1 tablespoon chives, and the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl. Transfer the mixture to a 1-quart glass or ceramic baking dish coated lightly with cooking spray. Sprinkle with reserved 2 tablespoons cheese. Bake at 425° for 20 minutes or until browned and bubbly. Sprinkle with remaining 1 tablespoon chives.

For the girls’ wine & cheese nightCranberry-Hazelnut Bread

...or for a French Toast brunch. (Photo credit.)
…or for a French Toast brunch. (Photo credit.)
1 cup hazelnuts// 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, plus more for the pan// 1 ½ cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled// 1/3 cup granulated sugar// ¼ cup packed light brown sugar// 1 tablespoon baking powder// 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt//1/2 cup whole milk// 2 large eggs// 1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest// ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract// 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries

Heat oven to 350° F. Spread the hazelnuts on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven, tossing occasionally, until fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Rub the warm nuts in a clean dish towel to remove the skins (discard the skins); coarsely chop. Butter an 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, sugars, baking powder, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the butter, milk, eggs, orange zest, and vanilla; add to the flour mixture and mix until just combined (do not overmix). Fold in the hazelnuts and cranberries.Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 55 to 65 minutes (tent with foil if the top browns too quickly). Cool in the pan for 30 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

For the self-hosted dinner party: Pork Chops with Herb-Mustard Butter

You fancy, huh? (Photo credit.)
You fancy, huh? (Photo credit.)
4 (1/2-inch-thick) bone-in pork loin chops// 1 teaspoon salt// 1/2 teaspoon pepper//1/4 cup butter, softened// 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley// 2 tablespoons honey mustard// 1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

Sprinkle chops evenly with salt and pepper, and place on a wire rack in an aluminum foil-lined broiler pan. Stir together butter and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl until blended. Top each chop with 1 rounded Tbsp. butter mixture. Broil 5 inches from heat 8 to 10 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted into thickest portion registers 155°.

Bon appétit! And don’t forget to let me know which is your favorite!

For more on what I’ve been up to, what I’m gifting & what I’m watching, follow me on Foursquare, Instagram & Pinterest.

xo, Vanessa

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Vanessa M. Gatlin

-Blogger, dancer, fashionista -Self proclaimed "political junkie" with a strong interest in international affairs -2011 graduate of Emmanuel College in Boston

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