CELEBRATE A WHITE CHRISTMAS AT THE TABLE

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

A beautiful main dish, this trio features a tasty grain as the base, topped with a hearty serving of vegetables. The final topping is a snowy white, ultra creamy walnut sauce garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and a sprinkle of parsley.

While it looks complicated, it’s really quite manageable with good planning. The bulgur, vegetables, and the sauce can each be made a day ahead and stored in a container that can be gently warmed in the oven. You don’t even have to warm the sauce–just enjoy it at room temperature and it will be delightfully creamy and delicious.

This is a fun dish to serve because it lends itself to inventively creative presentations. Assembling the dish will tap into your innovative notions and allow you go be as expressive as your inner artist allows. If you prefer simplicity, that’s totally OK and your family will still enjoy a luscious and healthy whole grain dish complete with vegetables and a unique, walnut-based sauce that’s white as snow to top off the White Christmas Trio.

To fill out the meal, I would also add legumes, a side vegetable, and a gorgeous salad. Of course, a delicious appetizer makes a great start to the festivities. Perhaps the Yin Yang Thanksgiving Paté. A lighter choice might be the Smoky Garlic Stuffed Endive. I’ve posted some fun choices for your holiday dessert and will let you explore the many recipes by clicking on Desserts.

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Bulgur Wheat

1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur wheat or Basmati brown rice

3 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup raisins

Walnut Sauce

3 cups walnuts

3 cups vanilla soymilk

1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon organic sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Vegetables

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

2 large zucchini squashes, coarsely grated

1 large yellow summer squash, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, crosswise

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Garnish

1/2 to 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

TO MAKE THE BULGUR WHEAT, combine the bulgur, water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 12 to 15 minutes (steam Basmati brown rice 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender).

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to plump them while preparing the remaining ingredients.

TO MAKE THE WALNUT SAUCE, put the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will thicken when standing. Set aside in a saucepan and warm gently before serving.

TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, combine the carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, water, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables. Adjust seasonings and add lemon juice to taste.

Drain the water from the reserved raisins and add them to the vegetables and toss well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:

  • Mound the bulgur wheat onto a large serving platter.
  • Spoon some of the walnut sauce over the bulgur, leaving a 1-inch border of the bulgur showing.
  • Form a ring of the cooked vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border of bulgur wheat around the edges.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and parsley over the top.
  • Serve the remainder of the walnut sauce on the side.

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LET’S SET THE HOLIDAY TABLE!

Thank 2012Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or welcoming in the New Year, the holiday gatherings center on joining with others at the table and enjoying a meal of festive foods. Some love bringing bountiful platters and bowls of food to the table and passing them from guest to guest, while others prefer the more relaxed buffet style of serving.

Here, there are no rules, no correct or incorrect way to set the table. It’s all a matter of family preferences and putting creativity and enjoyment at the forefront.

Table Linens

With either serving style, everyone ends up at the table for the feast. Let’s set the table to look special for your guests. You might rarely or never use a tablecloth for most meals during the year, but for the holiday table, making it look special is a must.

Th. LinensXmas linensBegin by covering the table with a tablecloth to match the holiday–whether you choose paper or a cloth table cover is a matter of choice. The tablecloth and napkins don’t have to be cloth, but cloth does add a pleasing charm and elegance to the holiday ambiance.

Thanks 2008_edited-1You may prefer placemats and have collected enough of them for each place setting at the table. You may even choose to mix and match two or three different placemat sets if the colors coordinate with your dishes.

Hanukkah placemat settingIf you choose paper napkins, invest in a package of elegant, thicker napkins available at most grocery stores or party shops. During the holiday season, you’ll find paper napkins with appealing autumn colors and holiday designs that add inviting warmth to the table.

Candles

Haul out the candlesticks and choose the candle color that fits the occasion. Even more dramatic is to use two or more sets of candlesticks. They can be matching or completely different in style, color, materials, and heights. Because some candles drip wax as they burn down, you may want to use a bobeche with each candle to protect the tablecloth. A bobeche (pronounced bo BESH, with accent on the second syllable) is a glass or metal collar that rests on the top of the candlestick to catch the melting wax.

bobechebobeche & candlesticksYou may prefer the plump candles that sit on their own special flat dish in place of candlesticks. Have fun choosing just the right ones for your table from a very easy-to-find selection available throughout the season.

Decorate with Pumpkins and Santas

A table festooned with splashes of color quickly invigorates the holiday spirit. Choose a centerpiece that has the flavor of the season or special significance to the holiday. The centerpiece does not have to be a formal, expensive floral bouquet, though it does lend an appealing elegant touch. Potted chrysanthemums in autumn shades of rust, gold, and burgundy make a gorgeous floral display for the Thanksgiving table, but so do pumpkins, squashes, and autumn leaves.

Thanks 2012 Even the colorful fruits and vegetables of the season look great on the table. Perhaps a basket of colorful squashes, or a combination of pomegranates and persimmons would create the right effect. Accompany the basket with a few fresh leaves from your garden, or purchase some artificial leaves in autumn colors.

Because I often put two tables together side-by-side for a large crowd at Thanksgiving, the center of the table becomes quite spacious, providing the ideal spot for a bed of fresh or artificial leaves. Then, heaped over the leaves I arrange squashes, pumpkins, gourds, and pomegranates, with colors ranging from orange, golden yellow, and green to bright red. None of the edibles go to waste, because I cook them one by one throughout the winter season.

Christmas tableAt Christmas, there are many options for dressing the table in holiday splendor. If a luxurious arrangement from the florist is affordable, it truly sets the holiday table apart. Perhaps flowerpots of perky red and white carnations appeal.

I know of families who collect Santa dolls and loves to use a cluster of the smaller ones asChristm centerpiece table centerpieces. Another friend fills a shallow basket of Christmas handmade tree ornaments with sprigs of pine and pine cones as the focal point on the table.

My neighbor’s creative use of her novel collection of candlesticks and various sizes of candles may be just the perfect thing for your centerpiece. She places the candles artfully in a colorful grouping of varied sizes, heights, and thicknesses that bring grace and elegance to the table.

People cherish family heirlooms and often save them for special occasions like the holiday table that serves as the ideal place for those conversation pieces. Families revere these annual traditions that serve to bond memories

Whatever you choose, keep the centerpiece a comfortable height that won’t block the view of guests sitting across the table.

The Table Setting

Arranging the dishes and silverware on the table needn’t feel uncomfortable or overwhelming. Here are a few basics. You can choose how relaxed or formal the settings ought to be for your celebration:

Xmas placemat settingCenter the dinner plate in front of each chair about one inch inward from the edge of the table. If you’re serving salad, place the salad plate on top of the dinner plate.

Th place settingIf using a bowl instead of a salad plate, put it on top of the dinner plate.

A more formal approach is to put a salad plate underneath the salad bowl and put them on top of the dinner plate.

If there is an appetizer course served at the table, a smaller plate may be placed on top of the salad plate or served individually after everyone is seated.

Place the dinner fork to the left of the plate and the salad fork to the left of the dinner fork. If there is an additional fork for an appetizer, place that to the left of the salad fork.

The knife is placed to the right of the dinner plate with the cutting edge facing the dinner plate. The soup spoon, if needed, is placed to the right of the knife.

The dessert fork or spoon, or both, is often placed horizontally above the dinner plate.

The water glass is positioned just beyond the tip of the knife, while the wine glass goes to the right of the water glass. The bread and butter plate, if used, goes just beyond the top of the forks with the butter knife laid horizontally across the bread and butter plate, if using.

When the salad is served European style after the entrée, the salad fork can be placed directly above the dinner plate lying horizontally or placed directly left of the dinner plate. If there is room at the table, the salad plate is placed to the left of the forks. A less formal plan is to bring the salad plate and forks to the table at the end of the meal.

Napkin Folding

Napkin folding and placement can be wildly imaginative or strictly formal. The traditional approach is to fold the napkins in half, then fold them in half in the other direction, forming a square. Fold the napkin squares in half and place them horizontally on top of the dinner plate. Less formal settings place the folded napkin to the left of the forks with the folded edge facing outward to your left.

Thanks 2006_edited-1However, it’s far more fun to explore different napkin folding techniques and place them on the plate in some unique way or tuck them into the water glasses for a more dramatic color effect.

Thanks 2008_edited-1Be sure to bring a pitcher or two of water to the table and include salt and pepper shakers for those who never seem to get enough of the stuff.

Serving Buffet Style

If you plan to serve buffet style, place the dinner plates on the buffet table. The forks, knives, spoons, and napkins can remain in place settings on the dinner table or placed on the buffet table.

Thank 2012Don’t overlook an attractive centerpiece for the buffet table. The placement of your buffet table may play a role in determining the height and style of the table décor. When the buffet table is against a wall, the wall itself can become part of the design and provide the perfect background for a tall centerpiece.

If the guests will be filling their plates by walking all around the table, consider something as simple as a tall vase with autumn leaves, or a tall Santa surrounded by a few Christmas ornaments.Thank 2006

One year for Thanksgiving, I packed a large, clear glass vase with tangerines and cranberries and filled it with water. Then I surrounded it with small pumpkins and autumn leaves.

For the Hanukkah table, consider a pair of candlesticks with blue candles, a sprinkling of mini dreidles, and Hanukkah gelt (chocolates wrapped in gold coins) surrounding the candles.

Hanukkah table setHoliday knickknacks and decorations also add color and festive flair and can be fun to coordinate with the holiday. The holidays are often those rare times when you can often call on other members of the family to pitch in and offer ideas. Kids love to express their creative side and might even come up with something surprising and delightful in table decor.

Here’s the very informal buffet that concluded one of the holiday cooking classes my husband and I taught this year (2014) at the Glendale Community College Community Services. The class was held in the home economics classroom in a local middle school. To make that plain white service table come alive, I brought along a few holiday props to make it feel more festive.

Holiday Table_edited-1Most of all, have fun with the holiday preparations. Take joy in making the festive table an inviting place for family and friends to eat a delicious meal and make lasting memories together.

Desserts 2006