Sugared Cranberries

I’ve been wanting to make these pretty little gems since I first started seeing them pop up on the internet a couple of years ago. They couldn’t be more easy, or festive – and they bring a nice little pop of color and sweetness to your holiday table.

Fresh cranberries are steeped for a few hours in a simple syrup, then set out to dry for a bit before getting a dusting of sugar to make them glisten. They’re sweet and tart, with a bit of crunch left. The perfect finger food, a gorgeous addition to a wheel of baked brie, or simply as a garnish for that special dessert or cocktail you’re having at your Christmas parties.

And, it’s the perfect thing to let your little ones help out with in the kitchen. They loved rolling around the cranberries in the sugar, and then munching on them afterwards. This is one we’ll look forward to making again and again during the Holiday season!

Oysters Rockefeller

Now that the Holiday season is officially in place (squeal!) we can talk about fancy appetizers. As I mentioned before, oysters are in season here on the Eastern Shore. So naturally they’re something that we always turn to, to enjoy at all those festive and special holiday gatherings!

This is my twist on Oysters Rockefeller. A plump oyster baked with a creamed garlic spinach, garlicky bread crumbs, and a pinch of Parmesan cheese. They’re a breeze to throw together once you have the oysters shucked, and are so darned impressive. I mean, how good do they look just served on a simple wooden cutting board?

The couple of batches I’ve made already this season have been gobbled up in a matter of moments! Looking forward to making these a few more times before New Years! I hope everyone is having a good time decorating, and getting ready for the holidays. We went and got our Christmas tree this past weekend, and I can’t wait to get it up and decorated. Happy Holidays, everyone! 

Oysters with Mignonette Sauce

There are two things that our little island of Chincoteague, off the coast of Virginia is known for…Pony Penning, and oysters. Since we are a barrier island next to Atlantic Ocean we have extremely high salinity (salt content) in our water, making for some extra-salty and delicious oysters. They ship them all over, to the fanciest restaurants and oyster bars in the country – and people pay top dollar for them. Chesapeake Bay oysters are also world-renowned, but for their sweetness from the brackish waters (part salt, part fresh) as opposed to the briny saltiness. I find it so interesting that they can taste so different, but still be so delicious in their own way…

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – I’m so thankful to call this little stretch of land between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean my home. While we have things like clams and blue crabs to look forward to in the summer months, the cooler months is the time for oysters. The rule of thumb is any month that ends in “ember” is the best time to enjoy them.

My best friends aunt has an oyster bed, and dredged up a half a bushel for me on Saturday morning. They are always covered in marsh mud, and require plenty of scrubbing – but they smell of the sea, and to me that’s one of the best smells in the world.

Now, it’s pretty much blasphemy for anything to be served with “Chincoteague Salts” – as they contain so much flavor from the salty brine found inside. But for any other oysters you’ll commonly find a mignonette sauce served with them. It’s a simple vinegar based sauce that usually includes minced shallots, black peppercorns, and fresh herbs.

It’s an extra special appetizer during the Holidays, something that’s easy (provided you have a good fishmonger or husband who is prone to shucking!) and so impressive. If you have access to fresh oysters, even if they aren’t from my neck of the woods, pick up a dozen and give them a try. And if you are lucky to have access to them in abundance (or you are more into cooked renditions of oysters), make sure you check back here in the next week – I have two other oyster recipes coming up that will knock your socks off! 

Antipasto Chèvre Spread

This weekend I took a trip to Annapolis to meet one of my oldest girlfriends, and go to a Giada book signing (more on that next week!). Afterwards, I couldn’t resist a trip to Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s to stock up on goodies. My stockpile here had dwindled over the last couple months. It happened to be a Saturday – so there were all kinds of tasty treats to try and sample…

One of which was this absolutely delicious goat cheese spread. I’m embarrassed to admit that I kept circling the floor to get another taste until all the Melba toasts were gone. At that point I realized I had a problem, and put a tub of the fresh goat cheese in my cart. I’d not really tried it before, always was too scared – thinking it would be too funky for my taste. I couldn’t have been more wrong! Creamy deliciousness, with just a hint of a sharp bite. I picked up some tapanade and chopped roasted tomatoes from the olive bar to mix into it – just like they’d done at Whole Foods. I also added some roasted red peppers that I’d chopped up in as well, just to make it a little more antipasto-ish. And, that was a good call on my part.

We gobbled it up on Sunday afternoon as our football munchie, and both couldn’t get over how delicious it was. This is one I’ll be making again and again…for Holiday parties, for friends who stop by for an impromptu visit, or just for me – just because. I’m also looking forward to trying it in some recipes too. Like maybe stuffing into a chicken breast and then roasting? It’s definitely my new favorite thing, and I know it will be one of yours as well. Enjoy!