Sunday, December 25, 2016

On the Homefront: Rustic Gingerbread and Pine Trees Christmas Table

Santa Paws the Dalmatian wishes you a very merry Christmas!

The Christmas table in today's post is the one I set two years ago, but ended up not posting then because our poor Dalmatian Gia was hit by the mail truck in our driveway on the day before Christmas that year (we lost her a month later, not directly due to the accident but to an unusually aggressive cancer instead).  Since I just did a post about our Winter Solstice table, I decided to use these photos from the past rather than setting a new table.

The inspiration for this table started with a tutorial about folding napkins to resemble Christmas trees on the blog Between Naps on the Porch.  I already had plenty of tableware with a northern woodlands theme collected when we lived in Colorado, so I mostly used what I had for this table setting.  I added just a couple of new items to enhance the theme (the flatware and teddy bear ornaments).  The table turned out quite nicely, so it was a shame that it never got put to use.  Maybe some year I will set it up again for the holidays in memory of our beloved Gia.

For some reason the photos came out very dark, probably because the
weather was overcast.

Dark green pine tree placemat (from The Cupboard in Fort Collins, Colorado, many years ago); cream-colored Great Ideas Embossed Pinecone Dinnerware soup bowl and dinner plate (from Target many years ago); dark green napkin (see instructions for the Christmas tree napkin fold here); teddy bear miniature ornament (from Walmart two years ago); Pine Cone Pattern Flatware (from Bass Pro Shops two years ago); pale green goblet; Ned Smith Game Bird Old Fashioned Glass (gift from my dad eons ago).

I've had this Christmas moose cookie jar for many years
(I think it came from Target).

A better look at the cream pitcher and dessert plates as well as the
pine cone pattern tea cozy.

A giant pine cone candle set in a bed of tiny pine cones serves as
the table centerpiece.

Pine cone salt and pepper shakers and a pine cone-embossed
bowl which will hold the mashed potatoes sit at the front of
the table.

The menu for this Christmas dinner is simple to make and very tasty.  The original soup recipe was embellished slightly with the addition of nutmeg and sherry, which complement the cream and the mushrooms, respectively.  I am not fond of salmon, and the honey mustard version is the only way I will eat it and actually enjoy it.  I halved the gingerbread cookie recipe but otherwise made no changes.  Do be sure to keep that cookie dough very cold or you will have to deal with a sticky mess!

Rustic Christmas Menu:

Creamy Mushroom and Ginger Soup*
Sautéed Spinach and Baby Kale with Garlic and Lemon
Chewy Gingerbread Cookies**
Coffee or Tea

The soup is topped with a sprinkling of grated nutmeg and
a scattering of fresh thyme leaves.

*Creamy Mushroom and Ginger Soup

3 T. olive oil
2 shallots, peeled and minced
1 T. minced or grated fresh ginger
2 lbs. cremini mushrooms, roughly chopped
4 C. vegetable stock (I used unsalted)
salt to taste (I used 1 tsp. salt)
1/4 C. sherry
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/2 C. heavy cream

Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the shallots and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes until the shallots are soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5-10 minutes, stirring often, until they release their liquid.  Add the stock and bring to a boil.  Reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Purée the soup with an immersion blender until smooth.  Stir in the sherry, nutmeg, and cream.  Taste for seasoning and add more salt if needed.  Heat (but do not boil) and serve.  Serves 6.

**Chewy Gingerbread Cookies

1/2 C. butter
1/2 C. brown sugar
1 egg
1/4 C. molasses
1 1/4 C. flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tsp. ginger
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/3 C. sugar

In a large bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Beat in the eggs and molasses.  Stir in the remaining ingredients except for the sugar.  Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.  Place the sugar in a small bowl.  Shape the very cold dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the sugar.  Place the balls 2 inches apart on the cookie sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or just until set and soft in the center.  Cool for 2 minutes.  Remove from the cookie sheets to cooling racks and cool completely.  Store the cookies tightly covered for up to one week.  Makes 30 cookies.

Note: This dough is easiest to handle if kept very cold (the molasses makes it very sticky).  I chilled the dough overnight, then shaped it into balls (the cold dough is very stiff) and chilled those as well.  I baked a dozen balls at a time, rolling them in the sugar just before baking.  Normally I have the cookies on pans waiting to bake in the oven, but for this dough I found it was better to let the oven wait for the cookies rather than vice versa.

A woodsy vignette on the credenza, with gingerbread-scented candles
on the ends, pine tree-shaped candles in pine cone-shaped holders next
to them, and a platter with a design of cardinals in birch trees in the center.

A closer look at the pretty platter.


🎶 We wish you a Merry Christmas,
and a Happy New Year! 🎶

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