Wednesday, December 21, 2016

On the Homefront: Winter Solstice Table

Crystal the Dalmatian always looks forward to the start of winter,
her favorite season!

We are not really in the holiday mood this year, but I am always happy to see the shortest day of the year end, so I decided to set a table celebrating the Winter Solstice.  My inspiration was the Winter Horses Plates I purchased recently.  The wintry color scheme of brown, black, and white depicted on the plates was used on this table, with a few very subtle touches of red (the bows on the Dalmatians!).

Dark brown wooden bead placemat (from Target ages ago); square white dinner plate (from HomeGoods a couple of years ago); black napkin; Winter Horses Plate; white-handled flatware (from Target ages ago); black-stemmed wine glass (from Target ages ago); Gallop Tumbler Glass.

A closer look at the Winter Horses Plate, to be used as a dessert plate.

The square white plates in the foreground will be used for the
bread and dessert.

A very simple candle centerpiece.

Frost and Snow, two winter-loving Dalmatians sporting red bows, and my
 favorite Japanese white ceramic horse sit at the head of the table.

The vase is filled with branches strung with tiny white lights.

A simple but hearty meal seemed appropriate for the cold temperatures we have been experiencing lately.  The muffins are just a variation on a Beer Bread recipe.  The original recipe for Northwoods Pie was made with ground beef, regular bacon, and baked beans with added bacon.  Since I am allergic to beef and pork, I substituted ground chicken, chicken bacon, and vegetarian beans.  The result was very good, but if you prefer red meat just refer to the original recipe.  I love caraway seeds with cabbage, but if you do not like them you can leave them out.  The only change I made to the bar cookies, other than halving the recipe, was the addition of ground cinnamon.  If you cannot find the cinnamon chips in your local stores then leave them out, or substitute any chips you like (white chocolate would be tasty) and/or your favorite nuts.

Northwoods Pie plus Sautéed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds

Winter Solstice Menu:

Beer Bread Muffins*
Northwoods Pie**
Sautéed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds†
Maple Cinnamon Bars††

*Beer Bread Muffins

3 C. self-rising flour
3 T. sugar
1 can (12 oz.) beer
3 T. melted butter

In a large bowl, combine the first three ingredients, stirring until the flour is completely incorporated into the liquid.  Spoon the batter into a lightly greased muffin tin, dividing evenly among the 12 cups.

Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and brush or drizzle the top of each muffin with the melted butter.  Bake for an additional 5-7 minutes, until the tops are crunchy and golden brown.  Serve warm with butter (these muffins are best when eaten the day they are made).  Makes 12 muffins.

**Northwoods Pie

2 T. oil
1 lb. ground chicken or turkey
1 small onion, diced
3 oz. precooked chicken or turkey bacon (I used Al Fresco Fully Cooked Uncured Chicken Bacon)*
1 can (28 oz.) vegetarian baked beans
2 T. maple syrup (optional)
2 C. shredded mozzarella cheese

Heat the oil in a large skilled over medium heat.  Add the ground chicken or turkey and diced onion.  Brown the mixture, stirring to crumble the poultry, until cooked through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Remove from the pan, draining off any excess fat.

Lightly grease the bottom of a 2-quart casserole dish or a 9-inch square pan.  Add a layer of half of the poultry mixture.  If desired, stir 2 T. maple syrup into the baked beans.  Top the poultry layer with half of the beans.  Sprinkle on one cup of the cheese.  Place half of the bacon slices over the top.  Repeat all of the layers.

Cover the pan with foil.  Bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.  Remove the foil and bake about 5 minutes longer to brown the cheese, if desired.  Cool slightly before serving.  Serves 4-6.

*If you prefer, you can use 8 oz. of uncooked bacon (any variety).  After removing the cooked chicken and onions from the pan, add the bacon to the skillet and cook until halfway done (about 5 minutes).  Place on paper towels to drain any excess fat.

Sautéed Cabbage and Baby Kale with Caraway Seeds

2 T. oil
1 bag (14 oz.) shredded coleslaw mix
1 bag (5 oz.) baby kale
1 T. caraway seeds
2 T. butter

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat.  Add the coleslaw mix and sauté until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the baby kale by handfuls, stirring into the cabbage until wilted before adding the next handful.  Stir in the caraway seeds and butter.  Continue to stir and cook until the butter is melted.  Serve immediately.  Serves 4.

These Maple Cinnamon Bars are absolutely delicious!

Maple Cinnamon Bars

1/2 C. softened butter
1/2 C. sugar
1/4 C. brown sugar
1/4 C. maple syrup
2 eggs
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. maple extract
1 1/2 C. flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. cinnamon (or more to taste)
5 oz. (1/2 bag) cinnamon chips

Line a 9-inch square pan with foil and spray with baking spray (leave a 2-inch foil overhang).

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugars together until fluffy.  Stir in the maple syrup, eggs, vanilla, and maple extract until well blended.

In a medium-sized bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon.  Beat the flour mixture into the butter mixture until well combined.  Stir in the cinnamon chips.  Spread the batter evenly in the prepared pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack for 15-20 minutes.  Cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars.


This Dalmatian-shaped tin was a recent purchase from

Happy Winter Solstice!

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