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Would you please comment on this vegetarian Christmas menu?

c
cimui Dec 14, 2009 10:24 AM

I'm hosting a number of vegetarians for Christmas this year and figured I'd try to do a fully vegetarian holiday meal for the first time. What do you think of this menu? Is there enough protein and is it otherwise well balanced? Should I add another dish? I know it's not the most exciting menu, but there are a few non-adventurous eaters in the group and I don't want to scare them too much.

Pre-Dinner Noshing:
- spiced nuts
- olive medley
- white bean dip with harissa

Dinner:
- quiche (tomato, roasted red and green pepper, broccoli -- all made with gouda and white cheddar)
- mashed potatoes and mashed Brussels sprouts, swirled together
- potato gratin with chives (or maybe a sprinkle of red paprika)
- caprese salad
- oven roasted cauliflower and broccoli
[Possibly also a salad of roasted red beets, chevre and green lettuces, but I think maybe not necessary with the caprese salad]

Dessert:
- cheese plate (Cantal, Tomme de Savoie, Ubriaco) with homemade crackers, pears, apples
- yogurt panna cotta with strawberry / ginger compote, garnished with mint leaves

  1. p
    pemma Dec 14, 2009 10:40 AM

    Everything sounds pretty good, but I think you need one big central dish. Maybe a vegetable lasagna (plus is it's a do-ahead, too.) Then you might want to lose the potatoes. I don't know where your located, but here in Boston I would hesitate to do a caprese salad at this time of year because it is hard to get quality tomatoes. I might to some sort of spinach salad instead. For a first course, you could do some sort of vegetable soup.

    2 Replies
    1. re: pemma
      c
      cimui Dec 14, 2009 10:45 AM

      The soup's a good suggestion, but given the number of people, I think I'm going to steer clear of courses. (It's turned out to be a bit hectic in the past with me and the SO scurrying around to clear the salad plates / soup bowls.)

      Also great point re: good tomatoes. I normally wouldn't serve it outside of summer time, but it's one of my SO and FIL's favorite dishes and they are both picky eaters, so I figured I'd make them this concession. (I do know a few places in my city that sell pretty nice hothouse tomatoes...)

      Do you think lasagna is more main coursey than quiche? I was kind of conceiving of quiche as the nominal main.

      1. re: cimui
        c
        cheesecake17 Dec 14, 2009 11:05 AM

        I would make the lasagna and the quiche. Or a baked pasta item and the quiche. You didn't say how many people you're having... so maybe serving both isn't too much food.

        Consider serving the beet salad too...especially since you're serving the caprese salad mainly for your SO and FIL

    2. f
      fourunder Dec 14, 2009 10:41 AM

      Dairy items? Butter, milk/cream, eggs and cheeses okay for all attending? If so, I would opt for one dish a little more substantial, like Baked Pasta. Eggplant Prmigiana/Roasted Eggplant or Lasagna.....really boring stuff, but loved by most.

      3 Replies
      1. re: fourunder
        c
        cimui Dec 14, 2009 10:49 AM

        >>really boring stuff, but loved by most.

        =) yeah...

        Ok, two votes for a pasta dish. I will consider this...

        All the vegetarians are lacto ovo so all the dairy should be fine. Thanks, four!

        1. re: cimui
          f
          fourunder Dec 14, 2009 11:05 AM

          You can get by the the Caprese Salad by using Cherry or Grape tomatoes.

          If you don't want to do a lasagna, try a roasted vegetable baked pasta. I've had dishes that included eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, peas/fava beans, broccoli, cauliflower.....I've also had things like spaghetti squash, acorn squash and root vegetables.

          http://images.google.com/imgres?imgurl=http://www.womansday.com/var/ezflow_site/storage/images/wd2/recipes/roasted-vegetable-pasta/155654-1-eng-US/roasted-vegetable-pasta_slideshow_image.jpg&imgrefurl=http://www.womansday.com/Recipes/Roasted-Vegetable-Pasta&usg=__Bd0AQWi-UCuY7NZOD6d0MwTkEM0=&h=400&w=320&sz=33&hl=en&start=31&um=1&itbs=1&tbnid=05x5rUgXlPp33M:&tbnh=124&tbnw=99&prev=/images%3Fq%3Dvegetable%2Bpasta%2Bbake%26ndsp%3D20%26hl%3Den%26sa%3DN%26start%3D20%26um%3D1

          http://images.google.com/imgres?imgur...

          1. re: cimui
            r
            ral217 Dec 14, 2009 11:32 AM

            i agree with a baked pasta dish... and you could assemble that the day before. you could do a butternut squash/sage lasagna alongside the quiche

            and if you want to cut down on the starches, instead of a potato gratin, you could do cauliflower. I've done this and it is delicious. http://foodandstyle.wordpress.com/200...

        2. Cherylptw Dec 14, 2009 11:04 AM

          In my opinion, you shouldn't do two potato dishes, unless one was sweet potato (which would make a great starter soup, by the way) nor should the menu be dominated by cheese..If you want to do a quiche with cheese or a lasagna with cheese, you shouldn't offer a cheese plate as a dessert. You are also serving repetative vegetables, i.e. broccoli in your quiche, broccoli in your roasted veg and all of your veg is the same family.

          Also, if you want to go for the caprese salad, I'd roast the tomatoes instead of serving fresh to bring out the sugars, but a roasted beet salad is more seasonal and a little crumbling of goat cheese would be okay if you're having other dishes with cheese.

          You could do a veg lasagna with a bechamel & marinara sauce; you could make the bechamel with silken tofu if you're worried about not having enough protein. Add some other vegetables for texture and color like baby carrots, parsnips, squash, etc. If you're serving cheese, I assume that your vegetarians eat dairy, so why not just serve one dessert, with your panna cotta, add toasted sponge cake or use ladyfingers for crunch.

          I'm not trying to be hypocritical, just pointing out what I see.

          3 Replies
          1. re: Cherylptw
            ChristinaMason Dec 14, 2009 11:23 AM

            +1 to all of this. better than i could have explained my same reservations.

            1. re: Cherylptw
              c
              cimui Dec 14, 2009 11:32 AM

              I think you're right about the two potato dishes. I was brainstorming white/red/green dish ideas and got a bit carried away. Rather than doing a broccoli quiche, I think I'll choose another green vegetable to include -- probably spinach.

              Unfortunately, a few of my vegetarians have a violent dislike of tofu, so none of that -- and bechamel might be too heavy for the diabetics / dieters. I'm really liking fourunder's roasted veggies baked pasta idea right now. Do you think that would fit in with the rest of the menu?

              You might be right that there's too much cheese...

              1. re: cimui
                Cherylptw Dec 14, 2009 11:40 AM

                The baked pasta is perfect, and I only threw in the tofu because of the protein thing but seriously no one can tell there's tofu in the bechamel because you're using silken; traditionally bechamel is not made with tofu...and I like lollya's salad suggestion, but you could improvise it with spinach, your roasted beets, the clementines, maybe some dried or fresh berries and a mandarin orange vinaigrette (mandarin oranges pureed with a balsamic vinaigrette) and perhaps the nuts and goat cheese; serve with toasted crostinis

            2. ChefJune Dec 14, 2009 11:06 AM

              I would have a REAL vegetarian main dish (not quiche) -- such as Soupe au Pistou, Meatless Moussaka, a Rice and Beans dish or a Lentil dish. Vegetarians like to eat "meaty" type foods too, and most of them do so.... except when they dine with friends who aren't vegetarians.

              It's important that the dinner not be comprised only of side dishes.

              1 Reply
              1. re: ChefJune
                c
                cimui Dec 14, 2009 11:33 AM

                I think the variety of sides might work for this group, actually (a bit like thali / tapas style dining, which they're familiar with). Quiche isn't really my favorite idea, either. I'll look into some other alternatives and appreciate your suggestions.

              2. wowimadog Dec 14, 2009 11:07 AM

                i would suggest adding in some greens; it's seems a little starch-heavy for my taste (been a vegetarian/vegan for almost 20 years). perhaps subbing out the potato dishes for something with kale or another seasonal green? something with a little acid? also, a lovely winter salad would be high on my list. lately, i've really been into this one served at mozza (it can be easily made vegetarian-friendly): http://tinyurl.com/ydt3hjw. unsolicited tip? i usually just find recipes/menus that work together and make them meatless. i am sure your guests will really love a meal where they can eat *everything!*

                4 Replies
                1. re: wowimadog
                  lollya Dec 14, 2009 11:23 AM

                  I have a couple thoughts...

                  If you were trying to do comfort foods, a nice macaroni and cheese with good gruyere and cheddars might be fabulous with a nice homemade butter-crouton'd topping (little smoked paprika), a seasonal salad with fresh berries and clementines, walnuts and goat cheese with a berry vinaigrette, your roasted cauliflower...all the apps sound great, i'd add in a cheese for the crackers to side along the bean dip...

                  sorry, i got carried away. :P

                  1. re: lollya
                    c
                    cimui Dec 14, 2009 11:42 AM

                    your ideas all sound fabulous, lollya! if i didn't have such picky eaters / eaters with restrictions on hand, i think i'd take them all. as it is there are a few anti-mac & cheese types there. i think i will have to sneak in that seasonal salad with greens tho... the berry vinaigrette would be pretty and add a nice, acidic touch. great idea!

                    1. re: cimui
                      lollya Dec 14, 2009 12:48 PM

                      :) glad to help! i usually use olive oil, a bit of strawberry jelly, touch of grainy mustard, some balsamic, and salt and pepper. good luck!

                  2. re: wowimadog
                    c
                    cimui Dec 14, 2009 11:38 AM

                    Things do tend towards the creamy on my menu, huh? (I usually do make my caprese salads with the non-traditional balsamic, but more variation in the flavor profiles would be nice, I agree.) I think I will sub out the potato gratin with something else. I personally love kale and acid, but I think it's too identifiable as a vegetable for my FIL. Hmm.... Maybe kale could go in a pasta dish....

                    Good ideas, wowimadog. And great handle. :)

                  3. Peg Dec 14, 2009 11:48 AM

                    My random thoughts...
                    The nibbles all sound lovely. As per other comments, to me raw tomatoes are a summer/autumn vegetable so I'd skip the Caprese. As for the potatoes, I'd personally prefer the mash - but a gratin will be easier to keep hot in the oven till you need it - gnocci might work too. The beet chevre salad sounds luscious (though served with the gratin you could omit the chevre). I'd add some steamed greens (spinach or savoy), and if something 'solid' is wanted perhaps a terrine of some kind, maybe including aubergine and nuts? (NOT 'nut roast'!).
                    Panna cotta is made with gelatin, so you may like to rethink that one (agar will give too firm a set I think).

                    4 Replies
                    1. re: Peg
                      c
                      cimui Dec 14, 2009 01:25 PM

                      Oh, I love gnocchi, but I make such a tough version that I couldn't possibly subject my guests to that. I think I am going to do that beet salad after reading everyone's comments. Even if some folks don't like it, it should be easily avoidable on the table, since we're eating family style.

                      Terrine... aubergine and nuts sounds really, reallyinteresting. Have you made one before? (I'm wondering fi the aubergine is too wet for terrine.) I'd love a recipe if you happen to have one to share! (But no pressure. :)

                      I've actually done the panna cotta with vegetarian gelatiine, before, so it should work out ok, I think. Like and appreciate your thorough vetting, though.

                      1. re: cimui
                        Peg Dec 15, 2009 09:29 AM

                        Sorry - I have no terrine recipe - I was just musing out loud what I'd do. Maybe layered roast aubergine with pine-nuts, grilled peppers (red and green for festive colours) in a garlicky eggy mixture? Or even a roulade - so a souffle omelette made in a rectangular pan, rolled up round a roast veg filling? Hmm - now I'm hungry!

                        1. re: Peg
                          c
                          cimui Dec 15, 2009 11:10 AM

                          Phew, that makes me hungry, too. Definitely time for lunch!!

                        2. re: cimui
                          chef chicklet Dec 15, 2009 11:25 AM

                          Patricia Wells -Paris cookbook has a lovely egglplant, tomato and parmesean gratin.
                          I doubt you could go wrong with that.

                      2. f
                        fourunder Dec 14, 2009 11:59 AM

                        cimui,

                        Risking the possibility of taking heat for this....I really don't care what others think and I hate the idea of wasting food because no one has touched something that was put out on a special occasion date or party. Here's a tip I do when I host or help friend at parties with the cooking

                        I generally always have a Crudite Platter with cheeses and dips. I usually put out only half of the vegetables pre cut and add if necessary. I take into account how I slice and dice the vegetable for later use.....which in this case for a vegetable pasta, I would roast all the leftover vegetables and then combine them with the pasta for sides or dinner. This accomplishes three main points......avoids waste, saves time in preparation of cutting amount of vegetables and reduces the overall cost. No one is the wiser and there is always a nice vegetable medley as a side.

                        for the record....I discard any vegetables that have had a bite taken out of it and all the vegetables are washed before using.

                        8 Replies
                        1. re: fourunder
                          ChristinaMason Dec 14, 2009 12:05 PM

                          I don't understand why you would take heat for this unless you are recycling "untouched" food from people's appetizer plates (i.e., not just leftovers on the serving tray)...?

                          1. re: ChristinaMason
                            f
                            fourunder Dec 14, 2009 12:12 PM

                            CM,

                            You would be surprised of the food phobias people have......my thoughts were I would make a preemptive strike on my position, just in case there's one person who thinks the idea of reusing something that has been put out and possibly touched by others as gross.

                            1. re: fourunder
                              ChristinaMason Dec 14, 2009 12:18 PM

                              LOL, ok, you had me worried there when you mentioned "rinsing" and rejecting any food with a bite taken out of it. I'm all for creatively using leftovers, so long as there's no health risk involved.

                              That said, I might recycle them into a meal I served the next day instead, just to avoid same-vegetable-fatigue with my guests.

                              1. re: ChristinaMason
                                f
                                fourunder Dec 14, 2009 12:22 PM

                                vegetable-fatigue.......with vegetarians? Is that possible?

                                :-)

                          2. re: fourunder
                            c
                            cimui Dec 14, 2009 01:21 PM

                            >>for the record....I discard any vegetables that have had a bite taken out of it and all the vegetables are washed before using.

                            =P

                            That's awesome, fourunder. Awesome, I like the crudite plate idea. I might have that around for myself even if my guests don't like/eat it. A lot of them don't really do the raw vegetables thing.

                            Re: vegetable fatigue, my vegetarian FIL actually kind of hates vegetables, except when I cook the shiznit out of them and they're well disguised. He's a (usually fun) challenge to cook for. (He's also a diabetic, hates all non-Indian Asian food and ingredients.)

                            1. re: cimui
                              ChefJune Dec 15, 2009 09:08 AM

                              <A lot of them don't really do the raw vegetables thing. >

                              Who said crudites had to be raw? Most caterers blanch most of the veggies, then ice them down and dry thoroughly when creating a crudite presentation. The colors are brighter, and frankly, many raw vegetables have an unpleasant bitterness that is erased in blanching.

                              Personally, the only veggies I ever serve completely raw are celery and scallions.

                              1. re: ChefJune
                                f
                                fourunder Dec 15, 2009 09:24 AM

                                Personally, the only veggies I ever serve completely raw are celery and scallions.
                                ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
                                Without getting into a fruit vs. vegetable debate, I would serve the following completely raw:

                                Pepper Strips
                                Carrots
                                Zucchini
                                Yellow Squash
                                Cucumbers or Pickles
                                Cherry Tomatoes
                                Green String Beans
                                Broccoli
                                Cauliflower

                                I could see blanching the carrots, string beans, broccoli and cauliflower......but the thought has never entered my mind. I'll have to consider giving it a try next time, but I think I would miss the crunch/crisp factor.

                                1. re: fourunder
                                  m
                                  MakingSense Dec 15, 2009 02:52 PM

                                  Except for the cucumbers and tomatoes, the others benefit from blanching. Some of them actually seem to get crispier.
                                  We're talking about 10 seconds or so in a lot of rapidly boiling water. Then scooping them out and chilling them immediately in water with ice. They lose none of their "crunch/crisp factor."
                                  This stops the deterioration of the starches and actually sweetens the flavor. It also intensifies the colors and makes them as bright as magazine photos.

                                  The best part is that you can do all of this a day ahead and the cut veggies stay very fresh and crisp. They never get that tired look on the buffet table that so many crudite platters get about half-way through a party.
                                  We even do this at home with fresh veggies to keep on hand in the fridge. They stay appetizing for days.

                                  Shirley Corriher recommends blanching veggies that are going to be sauteed - but for a bit longer than above - to set the enzymes and colors. Then the chilled veggies are sauteed. works like a charm for perfect flavor, never bitter, always very bright.

                          3. j
                            JudiAU Dec 14, 2009 12:14 PM

                            I don't think there is much of a theme to the menu and nothing really says christmas.

                            So...

                            I would add a salad with some crunch in lieu of the creamy chevre salad. Maybe beet and thinly cut fennel with nuts or pomegranite seeds.

                            I would skip one of the potato dishes. Too much white starch.

                            I'd skip the caprese. The tomatoes won't be worthy of it and it isn't seasonal at all. You can sometimes get a good cherry tomato now so how about making them an appetizer. Cherry tomato, leaf of basil, piece of fresh mozzerella on a skewer with the appetizer. Not very seasonal, again, but if you are trying to please certain people that might be a way to do it. You can add a little dipping sauce.

                            I'd swap out the quiche for something else. I like the lasagna idea or something bean-y,

                            Panna cotta sounds great but I don't think it is a good companion to a good cheese plate. Either add cookies to the cheese plate or skip the cheese if you want the dairy rich dessert.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: JudiAU
                              c
                              cimui Dec 14, 2009 01:19 PM

                              Yeah, so many people are anti caprese that I think I do need to do a seasonal spin on it -- maybe with roasted cherry tomatoes -- or ... gasp ... omit it. Re: the Christmas theme, everything's red, white and green, which is sort of Christmasy, right?

                              Maybe panna cotta and cheese plate are overdoing it. I wanted a sweet and savory, another source of protein for anyone who wants it -- and I think the panna cotta might be sugar free to make it diabetic friendly. These cheese plate is pretty much set in stone, but I guess I could have it out before dinner, instead. Would that work, do you think?

                              1. re: cimui
                                c
                                cheesecake17 Dec 15, 2009 06:44 AM

                                You could put the cheese plate out with the appetizers and veggie plate. Let everyone pick at it, and if it seems like it's a winner, leave it on the table throughout dinner.

                            2. ChristinaMason Dec 14, 2009 12:20 PM

                              p.s. I think your "noshes" sound really delicious. I love all three!

                              1. f
                                Fiona Dec 14, 2009 12:54 PM

                                Last yeeat I had an all veg (vegan) Christmas dinner and had stuffed peppers for the main course. I used an equal number of red and green peppers to make it look seasonal. It was very much a hit.

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: Fiona
                                  ChristinaMason Dec 14, 2009 12:57 PM

                                  great idea. quinoa would make a nice, protein-rich filling for those, too.

                                  good luck to the OP accommodating the picky guests though...

                                  1. re: Fiona
                                    c
                                    cimui Dec 14, 2009 01:15 PM

                                    Oh that's funny. I think I suggested this dish on someone else's Christmas meal thread, actually. I really do have extraordinarily picky guests and I know for a fact that quinoa wouldn't fly with them and a rice stuffing wouldn't work for the diabetics. But good idea, obviously. ;) I personally love a quinoa salad made in a style similar to tabouleh.

                                  2. g
                                    GloriaSwansonsTVdinner Dec 14, 2009 01:39 PM

                                    Everyone is giving you such a hard time about the Caprese salad.

                                    Use these tomatoes they're absolutely wonderful:
                                    http://www.camparitomatoes.com/

                                    I agree that nothing beats a warmed-by-the-summer-sun-ripe-tomato out of granny's vegetable garden, but those Campari tomatoes come pretty darn close. Ping pong ball sized but really tasty. And easy to find at almost all grocery stores.

                                    Lovely menu, by the way.
                                    Let us know what you ended up serving and how it went.
                                    Happy holidays!

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: GloriaSwansonsTVdinner
                                      c
                                      cimui Dec 14, 2009 04:16 PM

                                      Oh, I love those, Gloria. I do use these every time I need tomatoes in the middle of winter and actually just bought some seeds to plant after the winter solstice / holiday travel. Thanks. :)

                                    2. c
                                      cimui Dec 14, 2009 04:10 PM

                                      Ok, revisions based on all of your very helpful comments, below. We'll have 10-16 guests.

                                      Pre-Dinner Noshing:
                                      - spiced nuts
                                      - olive medley
                                      - white bean dip with harissa, with beet chips and pita wedges for dipping
                                      - cheese plate (Cantal, Tomme de Savoie, Ubriaco with homemade crackers, sunflower seed brittle, pears, apples, and berries)

                                      Dinner:

                                      - individual roasted acorn squash vessels with a white bean and kale stew inside (I think I can probably take the tops off and 'relid' for serving; roasted acorn squash to be made ahead in oven, stew made on stove)
                                      - quiche (just one kind: spinach and sundried tomatoes with aged gouda; made ahead in oven)
                                      - mashed Brussels sprouts (stove)
                                      - potato gratin with chives (popped into the oven shortly before guests arrive)
                                      - roasted cherry tomatoes with ciliegini mozzarella and crisp fried basil, dressed with olive oil and sauteed garlic (tomatoes roasted on stove ahead of time; basil fried when guests arrive)
                                      - oven roasted cauliflower, broccoli and roasted red peppers (made ahead and revived when guests arrive)
                                      - roasted red beet salad with chevre, pecans and frisee lettuce (or another lettuce if that's what turns out to be freshest at market, closer to the dinner; beets and pecanse roasted ahead of time)

                                      Dessert
                                      - creme de menthe (white) panna cotta garnished with mint leaves
                                      - storebought chocolate truffles (I hope from Kee's)
                                      - roasted chestnuts! (can roast during dinner after everything else is out of the oven)

                                      I really appreciate the collective brainstorm! If you have additional suggestions, please do tell. I have a pretty thick skin, so please don't worry about hurting my feelings. :)

                                      16 Replies
                                      1. re: cimui
                                        LNG212 Dec 14, 2009 05:31 PM

                                        Cimui - gee I go out for the evening and I miss commenting on a vegetarian thread! Your revised menu sounds just lovely. I "urge" or "invite" or "request" (beg, really) that you post your white bean and harissa dip recipe over on home cooking for us!

                                        I love the acorn squash idea. I'm glad you chose something with kale. I wash going to suggest the Winter Greens Lasagna recipe that's on this site and made with chard and kale together. But your stew sounds great.

                                        My one hesitation/question about the menu is dessert. Isn't panna cotta made with gelatin? I know when I tried to sub a veg version (agar, for example) I had a terribly hard time. The solution ended up being kosher vegetarian for passover gelatin substitute (I got it at Super Sol on UWS).

                                        It all sounds terrific. Good luck!!

                                        1. re: LNG212
                                          hotoynoodle Dec 14, 2009 07:50 PM

                                          personally not a fan of a cheese platter before a meal -- it dulls the palate -- especially when 4 out of 7 "mains" also have cheese and you're serving a creamy dessert. i'm getting a little mucous-ey thinking about all that lactose.

                                          quiche to me does not spell holiday dinner and i was a vegetarian for a long time, plus you have tomatoes elsewhere. i would do either the beets or the tomatoes, not both.

                                          i'd keep the cheese at the end of the meal and do a citrus dessert instead of the panna cotta. nigella's clementine cake always gets raves and can be made several days ahead.

                                          1. re: hotoynoodle
                                            c
                                            cimui Dec 14, 2009 08:31 PM

                                            Oh dear... I suppose you're right that all this is a little mucousy. We'll try to do all our caroling beforehand, I guess!

                                            Can you help me think of a diabetic friendly dessert that will be compatible with a cheese plate? My ulterior motive for making something without wheat is also so that I can eat it (I'm wheat intolerant), but honestly I'd be happy to eat cheese, instead, anyway, so wheat free is not a must.

                                            I was a vegetarian for about eight years and have to confess that I was a bit of a quiche junkie. I'd be open to alternatives, though. I just want to have another option other than the acorn squash dish, which I suspect some guests won't like, and was trying to steer clear of a traditional lasagna, which is probably sort of overdone where vegetarians are concerned, too.

                                            Do you think a winter ratatouille (i.e. http://www.waitrose.com/recipe/Winter...) inside the acorn squash would work? (That way I might be able jettisson the quiche completely... tho I still might serve the ratatouille topped with a sprinkling of grated parmesan -- sorry. :)

                                            Thanks for your thoughts, hotoyN.

                                            1. re: cimui
                                              hotoynoodle Dec 15, 2009 07:04 AM

                                              i think the acorn squash as vessel idea is great -- a "wow" presentation for sure that i would keep. instead of the quiche, what about portobello caps stuffed with a warm grain and herb salad? bulgur with mint, parsley, roasted peppers maybe? you could add chopped toasted almonds or pine nuts for extra crunch and preserved lemon or lemon zest for zippiness.

                                              http://www.genaw.com/lowcarb/index.html

                                              this site, which is actually a low-carb site, has lots of stuff. is splenda ok for diabetics? i confess i don't know. i know splenda does lend itself well to custards and puddings if so. but then again you'll be making something creamy and soft, which i'd try to stay away from.

                                              the clementine cake i mentioned is wheat free, using almonds as the binder, but has a TON of sugar.

                                              1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                c
                                                cimui Dec 15, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                Oooh, if it were just my side of the family, we'd be all over those portobello mushrooms, but my SO's side of the family all seem to hate mushrooms for some reason. (Maybe a genetic mutation? ;)

                                                That cake sounds pretty fabulous -- if not for this meal, then for future reference! I'll take a look. Also heading to the bookstore on the way home to check out some seasonal cooking magazines. One of my guests actually offered to bring dessert, which I might take her up on since I'm a pretty sh*tty baker (thus seeking last resort options requiring little skill in that department like panna cotta). The whole measuring thing in baking gets me every time.

                                                1. re: cimui
                                                  hotoynoodle Dec 15, 2009 09:54 AM

                                                  instead of mushrooms stuff roasted red peppers with it.

                                                  that clementine cake is a snap and improves if it sits a day or two at room temp.

                                                  1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                    c
                                                    cimui Dec 15, 2009 11:11 AM

                                                    does it involve measuring? ;)

                                                    1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                      ChristinaMason Dec 16, 2009 03:02 PM

                                                      Could I please have the clementine cake recipe? I have lots of both almonds and clementines here.

                                                      1. re: ChristinaMason
                                                        Caitlin McGrath Dec 16, 2009 03:31 PM

                                                        http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ni...

                                                        If you search Chowhound for "clementine cake," you will easily find a dozen threads all about it, as well.

                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                          ChristinaMason Dec 16, 2009 04:07 PM

                                                          Thanks, I had no idea it was so famous around these parts :)

                                            2. re: LNG212
                                              c
                                              cimui Dec 14, 2009 08:27 PM

                                              Hiya LNG, I'm glad to have your feedback! I actually bought (maybe inherited?) some kosher vegetarian gelatin maybe three or four years ago that I really need to use up, anyway. I hope it's still good... (Does the stuff ever go bad? Maybe I should do a trial run just in case?) Last time I used it, it resulted in a panna cotta with very nice, creamy texture.

                                              The thing I'm a little more worried about is substituting artificial sweetener for sugar. I want to make a diabetic friendly dessert, but (1) I'm worried the non-diabetics will hate the taste; (2) I'm worried it'll make the panna cotta too liquidy; and (3) I have a niggling memory of having read on Chowhound something about how a lot of artificial sweeteners aren't actually diabetic friendly for some reason or another. My FIL says Splenda is ok for him, but he also claims that white flour-based pizzas from the Hot & Crusty are "healthy", so I have my doubts.

                                              Maybe I should just do what hottoynoodle suggested and make a cake for my other guests and make my FIL eat chestnuts and berries for dessert. I just hate feeling like I've deprived him of something delicious, though...

                                              I'll argue with myself some more on this. ;)

                                              Re: the white bean dip. It's really a very standard recipe that I hardly ever bother to measure anymore (like making hummus -- you just add a dash of this and that until it tastes / looks about right). It contains lemon juice, parsley, olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper (white, black or cayenne). If you add enough parsley, it takes on a pretty light green color. You can use other herbs in place of parsley, too, and some recipes have you add some lemon zest. My harissa recipe is more up in the air. I made this one a while ago: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... ... but I might experiment with a few others before I pick something to use for company. My thought was that I could dallop some harissa into the white bean dip and swirl the two together a bit -- almost like what you do when you're making cheesecake brownies. So no *real* recipe. I think I might actually be clinically incapable of following one. :)

                                              1. re: cimui
                                                JungMann Dec 15, 2009 07:54 AM

                                                I use Splenda for my panna cotta at home and have never found the end results liquidy. I don't think the sugar affects the stabilization of the liquid as much as the gelling agent. If you are flavoring the panna cotta with creme de menthe, I don't think you need worry about any chemical taste from the Splenda, though for my own part, I don't taste anything artificial when Splenda is combined with dairy.

                                                1. re: JungMann
                                                  c
                                                  cimui Dec 15, 2009 08:53 AM

                                                  thanks, jm, that helps! my (supposedly) diabetic friendly cheesecake made with splenda was the strangest, watery texture....

                                            3. re: cimui
                                              s
                                              soupkitten Dec 15, 2009 08:15 AM

                                              i'm weighing in late. the first menu looked (to be frank) totally, un-appetizingly cheese/lactose heavy to me, and i eat a lot of dairy! the revised menu is very much improved, and looks delicious, but is still a little heavy on the dairy for me. i love the noshes--would add a few crudites, would leave cheese for post-meal noshing too. love the idea of the soup and the beet/chevre salad. if the meal was served to me personally, i'd find myself searching for a hearty grain, like a wheatberry salad with cranberries and roasted winter squash, to cut through all the rich cream. or maybe another simple green salad (no cheese), topped with citrus-- would blood orange work for your color theme? even fresh fruit somewhere on the table? red berries? maybe this is just me?

                                              on the hosting front, i would not want to be frying basil last minute, or juggling chestnuts during the dinner-- but otoh these both do sound lovely, and if you have a great hosting partner and don't think you'll be too overwhelmed with minutia, hey whatever works-- just keep it low-stress.

                                              possible wheat-free, low-cal alternative to the panna cotta dessert: (very delicious) baked custards with raspberry sauce from this book by nick malgieri: http://www.amazon.com/Perfect-Light-D...

                                              1. re: soupkitten
                                                c
                                                cimui Dec 15, 2009 09:06 AM

                                                NEVER too late, soupkitten -- well, unless it's after Dec. 25. :) This is why I appreciate feedback because I probably wouldn't've conceived of my menu as being so mucousy / lactose-heavy on my own. (I must really eat a lot of lactose when left to my own devices!)

                                                Mmm, I might ditch the mildly schlocky red, green and white theme in favor of having a more balanced flavor profile -- I do love those clementines and it reminds me of a Christmas story I read in grade school about a little girl in Alaska who gets an orange once a year and how delicious that orange tastes to her..... But I digress.

                                                Re: grains and everyone's suggestions for pasta, maybe I could have options wrt what goes inside the acorn squash, even... something grainy or those of us who like it and something tame and noodly for the boring, er I mean other, guys.

                                                Appreciate the thoughts.

                                              2. re: cimui
                                                shindiganna Dec 15, 2009 03:13 PM

                                                It sounds great! Good luck

                                              3. h
                                                HillJ Dec 15, 2009 09:00 AM

                                                great suggestions. I liked the veg lasagna suggestion as well. You could avoid the casserole version by creating rollinti or lasagna rollups that serve easy, more side dish like. Good luck, cimui!

                                                1 Reply
                                                1. re: HillJ
                                                  c
                                                  cimui Dec 15, 2009 11:09 AM

                                                  That sounds so pretty. Thanks so much for the well wishes, sweetie!

                                                2. Caitlin McGrath Dec 16, 2009 03:36 PM

                                                  I've never heard of mashed Brussels sprouts, cimui. How do you make them?

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: Caitlin McGrath
                                                    c
                                                    cimui Dec 16, 2009 05:36 PM

                                                    It used to be my dish to eat "when no one's watching" a la that Chowhound thread, but it turned out that others seem to like it, too. It's rather ghetto, so please don't judge. ;)

                                                    Boil Brussels sprouts until very soft (the kind of Brussels sprouts British housewives might've made in the 1950s). Mash / whip as you would a potato, adding butter and / or cream, salt (smoked salt if you have it) and pepper, Parmesan cheese. The end.

                                                    1. re: cimui
                                                      hotoynoodle Dec 16, 2009 07:04 PM

                                                      i think margarine and canned cheese would make it ghetto. ;)

                                                      1. re: hotoynoodle
                                                        c
                                                        cimui Dec 16, 2009 07:30 PM

                                                        Don't give me any ideas. =P

                                                        1. re: cimui
                                                          hill food Dec 13, 2010 12:59 AM

                                                          how is that "ghetto"?

                                                          I do wish CH had an "OLD THREAD" alert at the start if the last response is more than 6 months old. we just get lazy and don't look sometimes. if you're doing this again, I'd move the broccoli into the mashed potatoes and move the B sprouts into the roasted vegetables and add pistachios.

                                                          but either way, I'd eat that. (that's become my mark of praise BTW.) were folks happy?

                                                  2. mamachef Dec 13, 2010 05:24 AM

                                                    Hi cimui: I rec'd a great suggestion (thanks, Harters) about a root veg. stew with lentils and a cheese-herb cobbler topping. I might switch something like that in in place of one of those potato dishes, and stick with the quiche for a singular, delicious and pretty protein; or you could make something like veg. Moors y Christianos (Black beans and rice) with a beautiful red-and-green salsa, and top them with a little cotija. I do think a crunchy green salad, with beets or not, is a neccessity here. Enjoy your lovely dinner, family and friends.

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