Christmas Party Ideas: Yankee Swap/White Elephant with a Twist

Yankee Swap, White ElephantWe’ll be having our 31th annual New Deli Christmas Party soon. We always play a few games, and always do a “White Elephant” (AKA “Yankee Swap” or “Snatchy Christmas Rat”). But we wanted to do something a little different this time around, so below I’ve posted a link you can use to change things up as well.

Not Much New Deli Staff! Christmas 2008

New Deli Christmas 2008 (Stephanie’s taking the picture)

Just for extra fun, I had to post the above picture of Tom, Todd, Tyler, and Rose (plus us), taken back in 2008. My, how things have changed. Ty’s now got a job, Rose is happily married and in college, and we’ve gone from having just a few people on staff, to having 11 employees. Wow!

This might have been the funnest Yankee Swap ever- there were numbered cards with cute little poems on ’em, like,

  • “#1 Lucky you, you’re # 1- You get to start all the fun. So grab a gift and grab it quick.
  • #3. Number 3 it’s plain to see. It’s your turn to pick which gift `twill be. And when your choosing job is through, swap with 1 and then with 2.
  • #7 is a lucky number it seems, You choose a gift that has some green. Poke it, and shake it until you get back. Now trade with someone wearing black.

Etc. Fun stuff!

I had a little trouble finding the ready-to-go directions online. A word search led me to a bogus website that mentioned this fun Yankee Swap, but it didn’t link to anything. (That website did sent me some span emails the next day though- that’s all :/)

So I figured I’d post this, with an easy-to-print Word document attached, for you to print a copy for yourself. This particular list goes all the way up to 50; we only needed 25 numbers when we played, but it’s completely flexible that way.

Here’s the Word document: Christmas Party Ideas, Yankee Swap, White Elephant

Have fun!

Chicken Paprikosh

This is one of the first recipes my son wanted after moving into his own place. I don’t think it’s that it’s the most amazing recipe ever, but that we had a lot of good memories of meals shared, enjoying this dish. Chowing down on a hearty helping of this after soccer practices… that kind of stuff!

Chicken Paprikosh with VeggiesThis dish can be thrown together easy, with some pasta on hand, and a bit of sour cream, chicken, and spice. The sour cream adds richness, but yogurt can be substituted. For a more authentic Hungarian flavor, toasted caraway seeds can be added. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 to 4 c. cooked, boned chicken
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red pepper
  • 12 oz. or so dry fettuccini (or choice of pasta)
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/4 c. flour
  • 1 TBS. paprika
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. pepper
  • 1/2 TBS. chopped, fresh garlic
  • 1 1/2 c. chicken stock
  • 1/2 c. sour cream
  • (optional) 1 tsp. toasted caraway seed

Chicken for this dish is best “pulled”, or torn, into pieces, as more sauce clings to it this way. Prepare the chicken ahead of time, or grill 3 or 4 half breasts, to yield: > 3 to 4 c. cooked, boned chicken, pulled (torn) into 1 to 2″ chunks

Also prepare peppers, chopping into 1/2″ diced pieces: > 1 green pepper > 1 red pepper

Grill the diced peppers in very hot skillet for a few minutes, in a little olive oil, with a splash of water to steam them a bit. Set cooked peppers aside.

Cook the following until tender, rinsing, cooling, and tossing with a bit of olive oil to keep it from clumping: > 12 oz. or so dry fettuccini (or your choice of pasta)

In iron skillet or saucepan, mix: > 1/4 c. olive oil > 1/4 c. flour > 1 TBS. paprika > 1 tsp. salt > 1/2 tsp. pepper > 1/2 TBS. chopped, fresh garlic

Slowly add: > 1 1/2 c. chicken stock

Bring mixture to a boil. Boil and stir for 2 minutes. Turn off heat, adding last: > 1/2 c. sour cream > The cooked chicken chunks > Diced, cooked peppers > (optional: 1 tsp. toasted caraway seed, crushed)

Serve over the cooked pasta, with a side dish of steamed green vegetables, as desired, for extra color.

Cheap Kitchen Cupboard Redo

I figured I’d share this success story with you, in case you’ are also dealing with old kitchen cupboard shelves made of particle board. If you’re like me, there’s not a spare Kitchen Renovation Fund- getting new kitchen cupboards is out of our price range!

Particle Board Shelving Needs Redo

Organizing- 10 Good Will Boxes!First job: cleaning those cupboards out. I found stuff I’d forgotten about. Like, a bulging can of pineapple that expired in 2005. Not sure when it started oozing pineapple goo onto the cupboard shelf. Shame on me!

Once everything came out of the cupboards, I realized how nasty the shelves had gotten. After all, the shelves are 30-year-old particle board. Nothing like the fancy, wipeable shelves they have now. So… I researched. Contact paper’s not going to stick to that stuff. Plus, the first product I tried was so thin, pots and pans would just tear it up.  But check out the “After” pic! Someone on some forum mentioned using adhesive tiles for such shelving. It was easy enough to put in, and it’s super durable. I’m so excited that the shelving looks way nicer. And… my husband’s excited that it was way cheaper than a whole cupboard-replacement venture.Adhesive Tile Over Particle Board ShelfThe outside of the shelves still looks pretty decent. A friend suggested paint, but I wasn’t too keen on that. My daughter-in-law has had enough bad experience with those for me to want steer clear of that. Yes, she and our son had professionals paint their first kitchen cupboards. Including the finishing protective coat. They still started chipping within the first few years. In their second kitchen, the cupboard were already painted. They looked bright and cheery. The first year. But those too started chipping…

I’ve continued to keep the outside of our old cupboards in decent shape by using citrus oil on them occasionally. It nourishes the wood and brings back the shine. Cheapest redo ever!

Mushroom Soup, Creamy, Gluten-free

We used to make a more traditional mushroom soup at The New Deli, using a roux of flour and butter. But why use flour if you can go gluten-free, and let something else give the soup body?

Now we caramelize a pile of onions in butter until golden, then puree that with some mushroom powder. This porcini powder from Amazon is super flavorful. It’ll last a while, which is good, since it is a bit pricy!

We also tried to make our own mushroom powder, which is what the French use in some of their fancy recipes. It can be made with dehydrated mushrooms (see nomnompaleo’s recipe here), but it was way too much work when we tried to dry our own mushrooms… (I’m sticking with already-made porcini powder!)

Creamy Gluten-Free Mushroom SoupINGREDIENTS

  • 3 lb. onion
  • 2 TBS. minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)
  • 2 TBS. (1 oz.) mushroom powder
  • 2 TBS. Worchestershire
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 c. cream
  • 1-2 lb. mushrooms
  • Optional: fresh thyme
  • Enough liquid to get to right consistancy

PREPARATION

Saute the onion and garlic in butter until golden and somewhat caramelized: > 3 lb. onion > 2 TBS. minced fresh garlic > 1/2 c. butter (1 stick)

Add: > 2 TBS. mushroom powder

Stir mushroom powder in; bring back to a boil, then puree until smooth (in blender, food processor, or with immersion blender).

In hot skillet, brown the fresh, sliced mushrooms in a bit of olive oil, not adding too many at a time, or they’ll just steam. Use: 1-2 lb. mushrooms

Add to the pureed onion mix in pot, stirring until smooth: > 2 TBS. Worchestershire sauce > 2 tsp. salt > 1 c. cream > Optional: fresh thyme > the grilled mushrooms > Enough liquid to get to right consistancy

Serve with a swirl of sour cream or yogurt if desired.

 

 

Hazelnut Orange Pilaf

This rice salad reminds me of fall– the flavors seem warm and comforting!

In the old days (yes, I’ve been cooking a long time), we had to get raw hazelnuts in bulk, with the skins on. That meant roasting them and then rolling them in a towel to get the bitter skins off. A tedious job. Or, my mom had another method, adding baking soda to some boiling water and soaking them in that. How much easier now, that I can just pick some up, already toasted and ready to use, at Trader Joe’s!

Bulgar Wheat w/Hazelnuts & Orange ZestThis is a hearty side dish that goes well with roasted chicken around the holidays. Prepare much of it ahead of time, mixing it all together just before serving. Serves 9.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c. boiling water
  • 2 c. cracked wheat or bulgar (found at health food stores)
  • 1 c. hazelnuts
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. fresh parsley
  • 1/2 c. almond oil (or Virgin olive oil)
  • 2 TBS. frozen orange juice concentrate (or substitute freshly-juiced, and reduced)
  • Zest from 1 orange (or 2 drops orange extract)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/2 bunch green onions, chopped
  • 1/2 TBS. salt

Prepare the cracked wheat the morning or the night before serving, letting cool in the refrigerator with the lid on, without stirring. Add the following to a large bowl: > 2 c. boiling water > 2 c. cracked wheat or bulgar (found at health food stores)

Cover and let sit 10 minutes before refrigerating. Next, toast the following nuts at 400° for 10 minutes or so, until golden. Rub off skins inside a clean towel afterward (they don’t all slip off; some skin will probably remain): > 1 c. hazelnuts

Chop nuts coarsely, by hand or in food processor, after they cool. (Already toasted, chopped hazelnuts are convenient. If available, skip the above steps.)

Set aside nuts, then process coarsely in food processor (or chop by hand): > 1/2 c. raisins > 1/2 c. fresh parsley

All the above, and the dressing below, can be prepared ahead of time. To serve, mix all the above with a mixture of the following: > 1/2 c. almond oil (or Virgin olive oil) > 2 TBS. frozen orange juice concentrate (or substitute fresh squeezed orange juice, boiled some to reduce) > Zest from 1 orange (or 2 drops orange extract) >  Juice of 1 lemon > 1/2 bunch green onions, chopped > 1/2 TBS. salt

Peach Ice Cream (Peachy KEEN!)

It isn’t surprising that this ice cream tastes awesome. After all, how can you go wrong with sugar, cream, milk, and fresh peaches?! Take it to the next level with organic peaches… so good.

Homemade Peach Ice Cream, EasyI tried a few different sources for good organic peaches, since I just can’t seem to grow ’em in the Bay Area (not in my yard, anyway…). Nope, the ones in the farm box I received at my doorstep were not ideal. And Trader Joe’s weren’t so hot either. Of all places, Safeway had ’em. They must’ve been picked at just the right time- they were so fragrant and delicious.

I had some extra, and we added them to this recipe. I figured it was just a bit healthier since we were adding organic peaches to the mix. And we used organic cream and milk. A treat!

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 c. milk
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 1/3 c. approx. mashed, peeled peaches (about 4 or 5)
  • 2 c. cream
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

Microwave 4 minutes, or heat in pan: > 2 c. milk > 3/4 c. sugar

In separate bowl, stir well: > 1 egg

Stir hot milk mix into eggs, stirring well. Microwave 30 seconds, stir, repeat (or reheat in pan just until cooked, but not boiling).

Add to the above: > 2 1/3 c. approx. mashed, peeled peaches (about 4 or 5) > 2 c. cream > 1/8 tsp. salt

Fresh Mozzarella Salad (w/Salt-Infused Garlic)

Some folks think there’s something magical about our Italian dressing at the deli. Well, it’s true that food can often taste better when someone else makes it. But still, why is that homemade New Deli Italian dressing so dang good?!

I think part of it is that the garlic and herbs are mixed together with the salt first. The garlic absorbs some of the salt, and the saltiness dissipates into the dressing. The salt seems to be a vehicle to carry the flavors along.

Sounds kind of mystical! But, try it. If not in the Italian dressing recipe, try on a small scale with fresh mozzarella. So delicious!

Salted garlic + olive oil + fresh motzCostco carries an imported fresh buffalo milk mozzarella that’s deluxe. Or, regular fresh mozzarella will do! Serves 6-8 or so, as a side salad.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • fresh cracked pepper
  • several fresh basil leaves (or sub other green herbs)
  • 1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lb. fresh mozzarella
  • 6 oz. spring greens
  • 3 tomatoes, wedged

Marinate the garlic in salt, letting it steep for at least five minutes. Use: > 2 cloves garlic, minced > 1/2 tsp. salt

After steeping, add: > 1/3 c. olive oil > parsley > fresh cracked pepper > 1 lb. fresh mozzarella

To serve, put a handful of spring greens on salad plates, top with the marinated mozzarella and tomato wedges.

Paella: Rice Dish w/Seafood (or Fave Meat)

Rice-cooker, step aside. There is more than one way to skin a cat (ew- sorry, PITA). What I mean is, there’s more than one way to cook rice!

Paella is a Spanish rice dish, typically made in a “paella pan”. (My iron skillet works just fine.) I add a bit of turmeric to this too- it’s got many benefits, including being anti inflammatory. Plus, when turmeric is coupled with black pepper, its healthy effects are squared to the tenth power! (Or something like that…)

Paella w/ Saffron, New Deli StyleCoax flavor out of a pinch of saffron threads by steeping it first (like a tea infusion). Also, use leftovers, if desired, in place of seafood in this dish. Makes around 6 servings.

INGREDIENTS

  • Pinch of saffron (about 18 threads)
  • 1 lb. uncooked sausage
  • 1/2 c. onion
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • 1/2 TBS. paprika
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary (or to taste)
  • 1 c. tomato pieces (or sub red pepper)
  • 1 1/2 c. rice (short grain or Aborio)
  • 3 c. boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 c. green peas (or 1 TBS. parsley, for color)
  • 1 lb. scallops, shrimp, or other favorite

PREPARATION

  1. Steep saffron in boiling water in small bowl; set aside. Use: > pinch saffron (about 18 threads) > 1/4 c. boiling water
  2. Cut raw sausage into pieces and grill in iron skillet, setting aside when browned. Use: > 1 lb. uncooked sausage (of choice)
  3. Cook the onion and olive oil in an iron skillet over medium heat until tender. Use: > 1/2 c. onion > 1/4 c. olive oil
  4. Add to onions, heating until fragrant, stirring well: > 1/2 TBS. paprika > 1 tsp. oregano > 1/2 tsp. turmeric > 1/2 tsp. black pepper > 2 cloves garlic > 1/2 tsp. fresh rosemary (or to taste)
  5. Add the tomatoes to the onion/seasoning mix and heat, stirring occasionally, until liquids are reduced and tomatoes caramelize some. Use: > 1 15-oz. can tomato pieces (or sub red peppers, diced)
  6. Add the rice and stir well. Use: > 1 1/2 c. white rice (short grain or Aborio)
  7. Add hot water, cover pan with foil, and simmer for 20 minutes. No need to stir, but shake the pan a bit, so the rice cooks evenly and absorbs the liquid. Use: > 3 c. boiling water
  8. Add to the pan last, burying the raw seafood under the rice, so it’ll cook. Also add the saffron water. Simmer without stirring for another 8 minutes or so, until rice is al dente. Use: > 1 lb. scallops or shrimp > the saffron water
  9. After 8 minutes or so, stir in the salt, and add green peas for color (or some fresh-chopped parsley). Also add the reserved, cooked sausage. Use: > 1 1/2 tsp. salt > 1/2 c. green peas (or 1 TBS. parsley, for color) > reserved, cooked sausage
  10. Let rice finish cooking, until fluffy and moist. When done, turn heat up for half a minute or so, to lightly toast the bottom layer of rice. Serve with a side of lemon wedges.

 

Apple Dutch Baby: Special Occasion Breakfast Recipe!

A favorite family memory has been enjoying a giant apple pancake at The Original Pancake House in Birmingham, Michigan (after standing in the very long line).

My sister was trying to duplicate this years ago, before the internet. More recently, I’ve scoured the web and tried countless variations, finally concluding that this particular recipe comes pretty close to the pancake house recipe. Whew! I wasn’t sure how many more of these we could eat! (We really suffer for our art, ha…)

Popover Batter, Caramelized Apples & CinnamonA popover-type batter rises up as it bakes in the caramelizing apples. And it can be convenient to serve for company, since the batter can be prepared ahead of time.

Serves 3-4.

INGREDIENTS

  •     3/4 c. flour
  •     1/2 tsp. nutmeg (fresh-grated is nice)
  •     1/2 tsp. salt
  •     3/4 c. milk, room temperature
  •     4 eggs
  •     1/3 c. butter
  •     1/3 c. brown sugar
  •     1/3 c. sugar
  •     2 tsp. cinnamon

PREPARATION

1. Make batter the night before, if possible. (Or let it rest at least 10 minutes.) For the batter, whisk milk into the flour and salt in a bowl (small lumps are OK). Use: > 3/4 c. flour > 1/2 tsp. nutmeg > 1/2 tsp. salt > 3/4 c. milk

2. Add eggs one at a time: > 4 eggs

3. Refrigerate the batter overnight, or let rest (up to several hours) at room temperature.

4. The cinnamon and sugar can also be mixed together ahead of time. Use: > 2 tsp. cinnamon > 2/3 c. sugar

5. To prepare the pancake, bring batter out of refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

6. Peel, core, and slice the apples. Use: > 3 c. sliced, tart apples

7. Turn iron skillet* on medium high heat and add to the pan: > 1/3 c. butter > 3 c. sliced, tart apples > the cinnamon/sugar mix

8. Stir the butter, apples, and cinnamon sugar for 2-3 minutes, until apples have softened some and the mixture is bubbling.

9. Pour the pancake batter on top of the apple mixture.

10. Bake for 20 minutes or so, until lightly browned.

11. To serve, turn upside-down onto plate; sprinkle with the remaining cinnamon sugar.

*If skillet isn’t available, use a Pyrex pan and heat the butter/apple/sugar mix in the oven for 10 minutes.

Castle Cake: Great Fun for a Boy’s Birthday!

This was a really fun cake to make for our grandson Benjamin’s fourth birthday. A picture’s worth a thousand words, right? So… you can use the picture below for ideas.

Castle Cake- Use Cones for TowersWe got the whole family involved. We scavenger-hunted at various stores for the supplies (mainly the frozen yogurt shop, and Trader Joe’s). Here are the goodies we used to pull this together:

  • We got this catapult on Amazon, which worked great with chocolate malt “cannon” balls
  • We got both kinds of cones from the yogurt shop- cake cones for the base, and pointy cones for the top
  • We were also able to get rock candy at the yogurt shop
  • We got Panda licorice at Trader Joe’s, to use for windows
  • We had some Trader Joe’s rosemary crackers on hand- a piece of that was perfect for the castle door
  • And graham cracker crumbs worked for the “dirt” pathway

I’ve since lost the sheet we did the math on, to have a larger square of cake for the foundation, plus the smaller squares of cake on top of that. But you can figure it out!

The non-baker (my husband) worked out the math with our older grandson, while the bakers (my granddaughter and myself) baked the cake. And everyone was able to help decorate! A memorable birthday. And birthday cake, haha…

PS We used a simple chocolate glaze for frosting. Warm the mix again after adding the chocolate chips to the melted butter, if necessary. Also, cool the frosting, if necessary, to get it to the right spreading consistency. Use: > 1/2 c. butter, melted > 1 c. chocolate chips (stirred in until melted)