Cookies! and menu planning

Once again my annual Cookie Swap is over and as usual I forgot to take photos of the cookies.  Normally, Mom and I alternate making soups (3 different kinds) or I make a pot of spaghetti for food, but since I had a hectic week prepping for Christmas, trying to finish the basement renovations and getting ready for Jose’s parents’ visit, we decided just to have everyone bring an appetizer.  It worked out really well.  Very little food for me to prep although I did make my traditional bacon wrapped dates (YUM) and herbed cheese stuffed mushrooms rolled in panko and baked (YUM TOO).  So I had to settle for taking a photo of the container of cookies I collected instead of the spread of cookies (which took up 2 tables).

We had about 22 people in the house all eating, talking (boy, teachers can be loud!) and swapping cookies.  I really love this tradition we started five years ago.  We’ve talked about having one in June too, so I’m hoping that someone does decide to do it next summer.

So I’m doing a little menu planning for this week and I’m going all out since we have visitors.  Our plans are to have lunch out somewhere each day and come back at night and cook dinner here.  It’s very cold this week and we don’t want to be out at night unless we have too.  For Christmas Eve, we traditionally have beef tenderloin (filets this year) and my special Christmas Eve mashed potatoes.  Everyone loves them, but they are so rich that I limit making them to one night a year or a really special occasion.  They are caramelized onion mashed potatoes.  I’ll take photos and post this as my next recipe.  I’ll also make the same mushrooms again and probably a salad with dried cranberries and goat cheese and candied pecans (which I still need to make).

Also on the menu is a recipe my friend Karen gave me for Hoisin beef braised shortribs. It sounds intimidating, but it’s the easiest recipe in the world and fairly foolproof too.. it’s from the Food Network of course!  My only edit is that I only use half of the hoisin the recipe calls for otherwise I think it too sticky.

Beef Stroganoff (one of my favorite dishes in the world!!)  Our friends are coming for dinner for this one.  I hope I don’t screw it up.  I don’t use a recipe for this…so every time it’s a little different.  The last time I made this it was the best it’s ever been, so I’m hoping my cooking karma comes through.

Stuffed shells and meatballs and maybe some SenBread (a friend’s recipe for garlic bread with provolone cheese)

After Christmas, three of my school friends are coming for lunch and a movie (Tale of Despereaux) next week.  It was my holiday gift to them. I’ll cook some Italian food and then we’ll go to the movies.  Not sure exactly what I’m making, but most likely baby shells in a marinara/beschemel sauce.  It’s very easy and tasty.  I’m going to try to make panna cotta too, which will make Jose very happy.

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