Time To Get Cooking!

unnamed-1We are quickly approaching that time of year where people are planning their big holiday menus.  Thanksgiving is two days away, followed with holiday parties, big family dinners, and New Year’s parties.  For who those love to eat, it is a glorious time of year. For those of us who love to cook?  It is a great time as well, although also stressful….

In preparation for this stress, I thought I would share some ideas for those of you who may need to prepare a dish for a party, or might be looking for something different to do for a holiday dinner.

Herb-stuffed tomatoes

I grew up with a mother who was an amazing cook, and loved to host dinner parties.  I learned to love cooking through her.  In my family, we have always served up the traditional Thanksgiving meal.  My mother prepares the turkey, and we all share responsibility for the side dishes and desserts.  We have the traditional mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pie.  We also have one non-traditional (outside of our family, that is) dish: herb-stuffed tomatoes.  My mother and my wife love them (I have to agree they are very good).

To make herb-stuffed tomatoes you will need the following:

  • 4 medium size tomatoes
  • 3 tablespoons of melted butter
  • ¾ of a teaspoon of seasoned salt
  • 1 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon of ground coriander
  • 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
  • 1 cup of dry bread crumbs

This will make 4 servings.   You can prepare them a day before the event too.

  1. Cut off the tops of the tomatoes, and scoop out a small hole in the top of the tomatoes.
  2. Combine all of the other ingredients in a separate bowl and mix well.
  3. Spread the mixture over the top of the tomatoes, filling in the holes.
  4. Place them in a single layer in a shallow baking dish, then cover and refrigerate until you are ready to cook them.
  5. When you’re ready, take then out of the refrigerator and let them sit for 10 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
  6. Bake them uncovered for 30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

Bacon-wrapped, stuffed dates.

unnamed-2One of our neighbors has a Christmas party every year that we love to go, and they always ask everyone to bring an appetizer or a dessert.  A couple of years ago I made some bacon-wrapped, stuffed dates for this party, and because they were such a hit I have been asked to them again this year.  For anyone looking for an idea of something to bring to a pot luck dinner party, I highly recommend these, you will be sure to get a lot of compliments.

Best of all, you only need four ingredients:

  • Dates, preferably ones that are already pitted.
  • Bacon.
  • Blue cheese.
  • An almond (but you can use a pecan or walnut instead).

Additional tip: instead of blue cheese, bacon, etc, you can also make them with chorizo and chopped parsley, or Monterey Jack cheese and a sliver of jalapeño (if you want something a little spicy).

  1. Take each pitted date and slice it along the length.
  2. Mix your ingredients (blue cheese, or one of the additional options noted above).
  3. Stuff the sliced date with your stuffing ingredients.
  4. Wrap a half of a slice of bacon around it and secure it with a toothpick.
  5. Place the wrapped dates on a baking sheet and bake for about 20 minutes at 425 degrees F, until the bacon is brown and crispy.

Beef Fondue Bourguignonne

unnamed-3Unlike Thanksgiving, our family does not stick with a traditional menu for Christmas dinner, and instead we try to find something different each year.  For those that are looking for a unique idea (and food-activity), I recommend my all time favorite meal made by my mother when I was growing up: Beef Fondue Bourguignonne.   It’s a great meal for a small dinner party of up to 8 people, but it can be prepared for more if you have multiple fondue pots, etc.


  1. Obtain a fondue pot and fondue skewers.
  2. Start with a beef sirloin (trimmed of excess fat), and cut into cubes about an inch in size.
  3. Marinate the sirloin in Teriyaki sauce overnight (but at minimum at least two hours).
  4. Once the marinating is done, dry the meat by blotting it with paper towels.
  5. Put the cubes into a serving bowl for the table and your guests.
  6. Fill a fondue pot half-full with peanut oil, and turn the heat on to get the oil hot.
  7. As the oil gets hot, carefully add a stick of butter to the hot oil (this helps with flavor, and helps prevent the oil from splattering during the meal).

Note: Make sure that you have a fondue pot designed for hot oil fondue, as not all fondue pots are.  Ceramic or stone pots should not be used for heating hot oil. 

Once the oil is ready you can pass the raw meat and sauces around the table.  Each guest will take a cube of meat, but it on a metal fondue skewer and then cook the meat in the oil for a few minutes depending on how well they like their meat cooked. Once cooked the meat can be dipped into the sauces

WARNING: The hot oil and the metal skewers are going to be very hot, and your guests need to be careful with them.  Touching the metal on one of the skewers can cause a serious burn.  We ask everyone to take the meat off the skewer and eat it with a normal table-fork, and to only use the skewer to cook the next piece of meat.  This is not a meal for unsupervised kids.

My mother always made five different homemade sauces, and it took her a lot of time (but you can also use store-bought sauces like A-1 steak sauce, barbecue sauce, and ketchup).  Now days it is even easier to find a wide variety of sauces to use.  Some of our favorites have been Bernaise, Roumelade,Picante sauces, and (more recently) recently a Chimichurri sauce (additionally, you can find a variety fondue recipes online on Bestfondue.com).

I love sharing menu ideas with friends, and I encourage everyone to do the same.  It is a great time of year to spend some time in the kitchen.

Rob Simpson
Project Manager

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