With the holidays in full swing there are plenty of occasions you might want to serve an impressive dinner, but if you’re the host – it can be particularly hectic and stressful to get those celebratory meals on the table. So, here’s my Christmas gift to all of you – my Special Occasions Menu Plan, so you can make the bulk of those meals in advance, and have time to relax and enjoy them with your guests.

Christmas present

Christmas present

If you enjoy the Personal Chef Approach to saving time and money, I hope you will join us, and give the gift of time this holiday season with our Gift Certificates. The infograph below demonstrates how the Personal Chef Approach works in a glance, or please watch the video at the bottom of this post for more.

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How to cook like a chef, and party like a rock star!

Other member-only benefits include our Custom Menu Plan Tool which allows members to customize their weekly menus by simply clicking on the recipes they plan to enjoy, then both grocery list and heat to eat instructions will automatically generate along with the custom menu plan. In addition, members can enter the number of servings needed right on the recipes themselves to scale both recipes and grocery list, and we offer one click conversion from standard to metric measurements for our international subscribers.

Christmas present

Christmas present

This menu plan would be akin to what you would find on the quicker Weekly Menu Plan I do for my members (so they don’t have to think about a menu – just print, shop, and cook). You might want to add an extra side dish or two, so I have made suggestions on each entree recipe. Since you are unlikely to make more than one of these meals at a time for your guests, I have not included a ready-made grocery list (it would be more confusing to have to find and cross off all the ingredients for the others). All you have to do is copy the ingredients list, double the ingredients if cooking for more than four people, add any ingredients for extra sides, and cross off anything you already have in your fridge or pantry. Voila! You’re ready to shop, and enjoy your Christmas future.

Bon Appétit and Happy Holidays!

Jewels xo

 

PCA logo menu plansSPECIAL OCCASION MENU PLAN:

Roast Beef with Roasted Mixed Vegetables
and
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

Seared Duck Breast with Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce
and
Stir-Fried Cabbage, Carrots, Peppers & Mushrooms
and
Cinnamon Rice Blend Pilaf

Apricot-Pecan Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce
with
Maple Glaze Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Hash
and
Smashed Carrots Tinged with Orange & Herbs

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Roaste Beef & Vegetables

Roast Beef with Roasted Vegetables

One of my favorite memories of my first trip to London as a teen, was of having a proper Sunday lunch at Simpson’s on the Strand. The famous carvery was known for it’s succulent roast beef, perfectly crisp roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding, all smothered in a rich, silky gravy. Although there are so many comfort foods associated with English cuisine, I always think of roast beef first. I’m not alone, for nearly a century now, the English have sarcastically referred to the French as Frogs (frog legs are quite common on menus in France), and the French have responded by calling the Brits ” les Rosbif ” (roast beef). This is my interpretation, not strictly the classical way they would make this well-known roast.

Servings: 4-6

Ingredients:

2 onions, quartered
4 large carrots, peeled and sliced
4 parsnips, peeled and sliced
4 stalks celery, cut into 3 inch pieces
6 large cloves of garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
2 teaspoons fresh Rosemary, finely chopped
4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 pounds eye of round
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup beef broth

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 475° F. Remove meat from the refrigerator 20-30 minutes before roasting.

2). In a small bowl, mix together the garlic, thyme, Rosemary and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.

3). In a large bowl, mix 1/2 of the garlic-herb mixture with the last 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions, carrots, parsnips, and celery and toss to coat. Place the onion, carrots, parsnips and celery in the center of the roasting pan to create a cradle for the meat.

4). Using clean hands, rub 1/2 of the remaining mixture over all sides of the beef and place in roasting pan. Season everything well with salt and pepper to taste (I like lots of fresh cracked black pepper on mine).

4). Roast in the preheated oven for 10 minutes (to sear in the juices) in the hot oven, then reduce temperature to 350°F., use a spatula to turn the vegetables over to brown evenly, and continue roasting for another 25-30 minutes, or until a meat thermometer registers 135° when inserted into the thickest part of the roast, for medium rare. If roasting a larger piece of meat, add an additional 20 minutes per extra pound roasting time.

5). Remove meat from oven, and let rest 15-20 minutes, tented with foil to keep heat in, before carving. Don’t carve unless serving right away, otherwise cool, package and store until ready to heat and eat.

6). Meanwhile, deglaze the roasting pan with beef broth over medium heat, stirring up any gooey bits at the bottom of the pan, and bringing to boil for a 2-3 minutes to make the au jus. Package au jus separately from meat if storing until a later date.

Serving Suggestions:  Serve the meat hot or at room temperature. The vegetables and au jus are best served hot, and with horseradish mashed potatoes. I also like some sort of steamed green vegetable to add color to the plate and round off the meal.

Note: Traditionally, you would make a brown a gravy with the drippings from the roast beef, but after habitually watching my caloric intake for many years, I am partial to just spooning the naturally rich au jus over the meat for a little added moisture and flavor.

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Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes

A hint of heat from the horseradish takes these creamy mashed potatoes to a whole new level as a perfect accompaniment to most beef recipes. You can of course cut the calories and saturated fats considerably by using a little less butter, and skim milk in place of the crème fraiche or heavy cream, but why not a little splurge for the holiday?

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

2 pound Yukon gold or russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup crème fraiche or heavy cream
1 tablespoon prepared horseradish
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup milk (a couple tablespoons at a time until desired consistency is reached)

Directions:

1). Add the potatoes to a large saucepan, cover by 1/2 inch with water, and bring to boil over medium heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until tender when pierced with the end of a knife. Remove from heat, drain in a colander, and add back to pan.

2). Add the butter, creme fraiche, horseradish and season with salt and pepper to taste. Mash, adding milk as you need it to adjust the consistency, until smooth and creamy.

Serving Suggestions:  Serve with roast beef, roasted vegetables, and Steamed green vegetable of your choice.

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Seared Duck

Seared Duck Breast w Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce

Why not make something a little out of the ordinary, festive, spectacularly yummy, and deceivingly simple this Christmas party season? Your guests will think your were slaving away in the kitchen all day! You just smile and say “thank you” when they rave

Servings: 4 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon peanut oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
1/4 red pepper, finely diced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 cups Pom pomegranate juice
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 cup cherry preserves
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon five spice powder
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon water
4 duck breast fillets
Salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped to garnish
1/4 cup pomegranate arils to garnish (optional)
3 green onions, thinly sliced to garnish (optional)

Directions:

1). Heat oil in a small saucepan over medium –low heat. Add shallots and red pepper; sweat until softened, about 6-8 minutes. Add ginger, and stir until fragrant, 30 seconds. Add Pom juice and cinnamon stick, increase heat to medium, and bring to boil. Continue to boil for 15-20 minutes, or until liquid is reduced by half.

2). Heat remaining teaspoon of oil in a large sauté pan over medium- low to medium heat. Score the fat of the duck breasts and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add breast to hot pan, fat side down. Let brown for 10 minutes, turn and allow browning an additional 8-10 minutes (depending on how well done you prefer your duck). Remove from pan, tent with foil to keep warm, and allow duck to rest for 10 minutes before slicing thinly lengthwise.

3). Once sauce is reduced, remove cinnamon stick, strain the sauce into a medium size bowl, discard the onion and pepper bits, and add sauce back to pan. Place pan back over medium-low heat; add preserves and brown sugar, stirring until preserves are dissolved.

4). Mix cornstarch and water in a small bowl until all lumps are gone. Add to the sauce, stirring constantly until thickened, about 1-2 minutes.

5). To serve, fan the duck slices out on the plates, drizzle sauce over the top, and sprinkle with mint, pomegranate arils, and green onion. Serve hot.

Serving Suggestions: I like to serve this with cinnamon rice blend pilaf, and stir-fried cabbage, peppers, carrots, and mushrooms.

Variations: This sauce is divine over lamb too.

 

PCA logo menu plansStir-Fry Cabbage

Stir-Fried Cabbage, Carrots, Peppers & Mushrooms

This Asian accented stir-fry side is versatile and hits all the right notes to accompany everything from my Seared Duck Breasts in Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce to my award-winning Jewels Turkey-Jasmine Burgers. Feel free to omit or add vegetables of your choice.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 teaspoon Safflower oil
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 head of Savoy cabbage, thinly sliced
1 cup carrots, shredded
1 red pepper, seeded, deveined, and thinly sliced
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, and diced
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1). Heat oil in a wok or large saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and red pepper flakes, stir until fragrant, 30 seconds.

2). Add cabbage, carrots, red pepper, mushroom, and soy sauce. Stir-fry until cooked but still crunchy, 3-4 minutes. Stir in sesame oil and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.

Serving Suggestions:  Serve with Seared Duck Breast in Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce, and Cinnamon Rice Blend Pilaf.

 

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Cinnamon Rice Pilaf

Cinnamon Rice Blend Pilaf

Since the cleanse last summer I’ve been trying to incorporate more flavorful whole grains into my diet in place of processed starches. The cinnamon adds an exotic aromatic dimension to this side dish, without overpowering the naturally chewy, nutty texture of the rice blend and almonds.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 red pepper, finely chopped, optional
1 large shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cinnamon stick
1 cup rice blend (see note below)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1/2 cup almond slices, toasted
1/2 teaspoon Chinese five spice, optional

Directions:

1). Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add red pepper (if using) and shallot. Cook until softened, about 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic and cinnamon stick, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.

2). Add rice blend, stir to coat rice well and let it toast in the oil for 2-3 minutes, stirring frequently.

3). Add vegetable or chicken broth, stir once, and bring to boil. Cover with lid, and reduce heat to low; cook for 15 minutes.

4). Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 5-10 minutes.

5). Discard cinnamon stick, mix in toasted almonds and five spice (if using), and stir to fluff.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with Seared Duck Breast with Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce and Stir-Fried Cabbage, Carrots, Peppers & Mushrooms.

Note: I used Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Blend here, but Royal Blend also do a wonderful quick cooking Texmati white, brown, wild, and red rice blend I adore.

 

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Pork Loin Roast

Apricot-Stuffed Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce

The sweet and savory stuffing with just a hint of crunchy texture dresses up this relatively inexpensive cut of meat quite elegantly for any special occasion. Once sliced, it makes a beautiful presentation as well.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, minced
3 slices pancetta, finely chopped
2/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds or thyme
1 teaspoon rubbed sage
2 cups day old baguette, cubed
1 egg, beaten
2 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons Cognac (optional)
1/2 – 1 cup chicken broth, plus more if needed
1 (3 pound) pork loin roast, roll cut (see note)
½ cup apricot preserves
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon low-sodium soy sauce
½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Directions:

1). Preheat oven to 375° F.

2). In a large skillet, heat 1 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallot and pancetta, cook until shallot softens, 5-6 minutes. Add apricots, pecans, fennel and sage. Cook until fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and gently stir in the bread, egg, butter and salt and pepper. Add the Cognac and chicken broth gradually until everything is moistened. Allow stuffing to cool completely.

3).  Fat side down on the table (meat side up) spoon the stuffing down the center of the pork, horizontally, and spread evenly until 1/2 inch from edges all the way around. Roll the pork over the stuffing, jelly roll style, ending with the seam down and fat side up. Lightly score the fat with a sharp knife, in a diamond pattern. Tightly tie the pork roast up with butcher’s twine, season it with more salt and pepper.

4). Heat remaining oil in a large (oven proof) skillet over medium heat on the stovetop. Sear the meat to seal in juices and get some color on the roast. Transfer pan with roast to the preheated oven for about 90 minutes, or until a meat thermometer inserted in the center reads 160° F. Remove from oven (using pot holders – handle will be hot) to a carving board, and let rest 15-20 minutes tented loosely with foil to keep heat in.

5). Meanwhile, while meat is roasting whisk together the apricot preserves, Dijon, garlic, soy and Worcestershire sauces in a small bowl; set aside.

6). Once meat is transferred to the carving board, add the preserve mixture to the hot pan, scrapping up any brown gooey bits from the bottom of the pan.

7). Carefully slice the loin, widthwise, into 3/4 inch thick slices.

Serving Suggestions: Serve pork loin hot, drizzled with Apricot Sauce, (or with sauce on the side) accompanied by Maple Glazed Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Hash and Smashed Carrots Tinged with Orange & Herbs.

Note: Ask your butcher to roll cut the pork loin for you. Otherwise, click on this link to see how to do it yourself.

 

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Brussels sprouts & Pancetta Hash

Maple Glazed Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Hash

I may be biased, but I think this is one of the yummiest side dish recipes I’ve ever written. So much so, I have been known to eat an entire batch on my own as my meal. YUM!

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 pound Brussels sprouts, outer leaves peeled, and sliced into
1/4 inch thick slices
1 teaspoon canola oil
4 slices pancetta (you could substitute bacon if you can’t get pancetta), chopped
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1). Heat the oil in a large sauté pan and add the pancetta, cook until crisp and browned. Add the butter and Brussels sprouts, cook, stirring frequently, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.

2). Add the maple syrup, and continue to cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Taste and adjust seasoning to balance the sweetness of the maple syrup and saltiness of the pancetta. Serve hot.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin Roast and Smashed Carrots Tinged with Orange & Herbs

Variations: See the Vegetarian section of the recipe library for my vegan version of this Holiday favorite!

 

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Smashed Carrots

Smashed Carrots Tinged with Orange & Herbs

Orange brings out the natural sweetness of the carrots, while the spices and herbs anchor it in the savory realm. These smashed carrots are a great low-carb alternative to mashed sweet potatoes, and are festive enough for an enticing holiday side dish.

Servings: 4

Ingredients:

1 quart vegetable broth
1 large orange, quartered
4 cloves garlic, whole
3 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs rosemary
1 pound carrots
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon cardamom
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1). Bring the vegetable broth with orange, thyme, rosemary and garlic cloves to a boil. Add the carrots, adding water if necessary to cover, and continue to boil until softened enough to smash, about 40-45 minutes. Turn heat off.

2). Drain in a colander. Remove herb stems, and all but one quarter of the orange, setting the saved quarter aside to cool slightly. Add the carrots and remaining bits of herbs and garlic back to the pan along with the butter and cardamom. Let the butter melt.

3). Chop the remaining piece of orange, peel and all. Add back to the carrots, season to taste, then smash with a potato masher or roughly with a hand blender until desired consistency, there should still be some small, but solid bits of carrot.

Serving Suggestions: Serve with Apricot Stuffed Pork Loin Roast and Maple Glazed Brussels Sprout & Pancetta Hash.

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Heat to Eat Instructions:

Remove food from freezer and place in refrigerator for 24 hours prior to serving unless you plan to eat the food immediately after defrosting, in which case you may defrost in the microwave on the defrost setting, before heating. If food is not completely thawed prior to heating or finalizing the cooking process, or if you choose to heat food directly from the freezer, you will need to increase the cooking time given here. Under no circumstances allow food to defrost at room temperature. All instructions are given for thawed food unless otherwise noted. I always give my preferred method of heating first, but give you a second option as well as a back-up. Unless otherwise noted, everything can be made a day or two in advance (or longer if cooled then frozen).

Roast Beef with Roasted Mixed Vegetables: Vent lid of container and heat sliced meat in microwave on 50% power for 3-4 minutes, turning slices midway to distribute heat evenly, then heat vegetables 2-3 minutes on high; or place the whole roast and vegetables back into a roasting pan and heat in a 375 ° F. preheated oven for 15-20, or until just heated through (careful not to over cook). Serve with Horseradish Mashed Potatoes: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly, until heated through; or heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

Seared Duck Breast with Cherry-Pomegranate Sauce: Prepare the sauce up to 3 days in advance, and sear duck breasts off just before serving; or vent lid of container and heat the cooked breasts on 50% power for 3-4 minutes to avoid overcooking. Serve with Stir-Fried Cabbage, Carrots, Peppers & Mushrooms: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 1-2 minutes, stirring midway; or heat in a large saucepan over medium heat, 5-10 minutes on the stovetop, and Cinnamon Rice Blend Pilaf: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring midway; or heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally 10-15 minutes on the stovetop.

Apricot-Pecan Stuffed Roast Pork Loin with Apricot Sauce: You can certainly prepare the stuffing and roll the roast a day in advance if you please, but I recommend roasting a 1 1/2 – 2 hours before serving; or you can heat the sliced pork loin roast in the microwave on 50% power for 3-5 minutes. Serve with Maple Glaze Brussels Sprouts & Pancetta Hash: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly; or heat in a large sauté pan over medium-low heat 5-10 minutes, and Smashed Carrots Tinged with Orange & Herbs: Vent lid of container and heat in microwave 2-3 minutes, stirring midway to distribute heat evenly, until heated through; or heat in a large saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 10-15 minutes.

All of us here at the Personal Chef Approach want to wish you a Yummy, Safe, and Happy Holidays!

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